By Lynn Clement
Gable woke with a start. He was at that part of his recurring nightmare where his parents were being battered with a hammer. He was grateful to be awake and avoid the pools of blood. It was banging from next door’s pod that had woken him, whilst he was taking a nap after his long shift at the carbon mine. The noise got louder; Gable wondered what old Soma was doing in there. He had a lot of time on his hands since he was laid off by the mine for being too slow at 35 years old, maybe he was busy doing up his pod. Gable coughed. He eased himself up from his chair to tap on the gauge attached to his wall. He rubbed his hands to get the blood flowing again, he couldn’t afford to show any signs of ill health, or he too would be laid off by the mine.
The hammering in the next pod became steadier until there was a sucking sound and a whoosh followed by voices. Gable strained to hear what they were saying; something about Bill and Jen he thought. He drained what was the last ration of water for the day and held the glass up against the wall, then put his ear to the other end; a trick his mother had taught him when she was listening for traitors to the polisnazers - before they turned on her.
Soma was pleading; ‘please don’t’ but there didn’t seem to be any reply. The lights in Gable’s pod flickered and the familiar hum lessened. Gable’s eyes closed as he realised what was happening.
Next door, two men were standing over Soma watching his death throes. He was clutching his throat and sucking as hard as he could, but his lungs would not inflate. One of the men turned away not wishing to see the blood spill.
‘You’re getting soft in your old age,’ said the other.
They threw Soma’s body onto their hover-cart, ensuring none of his limbs got caught on their suits and pulled out any plugs. They re-sealed the door on pod number 5064 and painted a red X on it.
‘I always find that bit funny,’ said man number one. ‘X, do you get it? X- gone, deceased, dead.’
‘It’s a cruel way to die,’ stated the man who’d turned away.
‘Yeah, well he should have paid his oxygen bill,’ said number one, with his hooded eyes on his workmate.
‘Yep you’re right,’ said number two, hoping his pal wouldn’t whistle-blow his thoughts to the polisnazers.
‘Let’s get out of here and get drunk,’ he said climbing into the vehicle.
Gable went to his pod screen to watch them float away. He took a deep breath and held it for as long as he could.