Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: Both
She knew better, but put on the goggles anyway. Instantly the burned out shell of a room was furnished in leather with thick drapes hanging at the window. A man sat behind a large oak desk, writing a cheque.
“Dad?” she whispered, careful not to break the illusion the goggles had created. It was her father, as he had sat at his desk two month ago, days before the end. His secretary came in and leaned over the desk. Her father looked up, and Lori recognized the gleam in his eye, the one her mother had said meant only one thing. She didn’t want to stick around to see what they did next.
She grabbed the brass handle on the door, but her hand kept passing through it. Panic rose, until she remembered there was no handle, no door. The building was barely a shell in reality, but the goggles made everything look as it once had. That was the danger in wearing them. Anyone, anything could sneak up on her, kill her, while she lived in a fantasy. She didn’t care. She’d been the last in this cell to succomb to the elements or the radiation. Each one had worn the goggles to escape the pain of reality for a few precious minutes. They had had someone else to watch their back. Lori was alone.
Walking through the open door, Lori blinked several times. The sun was so bright! When was the last time she’d seen it without a mask of haze, fine particles swirling through the air and never settling. The sky wasn’t dusky, wasn’t grey, it was blue, crisp and clear. She laughed, unable to hold back her glee. There was the canal, the park. There were even people in it, joggers, picnics, mothers with babies. Lori sat down in the grass next to one, watching the little boy as he stumbled and staggered and laughed. Although the goggles had no sound, Lori could hear him laugh and the happiness in it filled her chest.
“Fool girl! Take those off.”
The goggles were torn from Lori’s head and she scuttled back over gravel and grit, away from the hand that held her moment’s reprieve. The goggles were still on, a soft light coming from them.
A woman stood over her. Her face bore scars and pocks, the former from an animal and the later a sign of the radiation. She had a rifle slung over her shoulder but squatted, which made Lori a little less frightened. It put the woman off balance, made them a little more equal.
“Where are your friends, girl?”
“Gone,” Lori whispered. “All gone.”
The woman nodded. “So are mine. We need to get out of here. It isn’t safe this close to the center.” She dropped the goggles in the dust. “Let’s go.” Her hand took Lori’s elbow, warm and real. Lori almost cried to feel the touch of another person again. Standing with the woman, she turned her back on the dream, on the past, and hoped to find something real worth living for.
Like what you just read? Have a question or concern? Leave a note for the author! We appreciate your feedback!
Kimberly Gould is the author of Cargon: Honour and Privilege, and it's sequel Duty and Sacrifice. She can be found most places as Kimmydonn, including Kimmydonn.com