Out of the Chocolate Box (61)

The Red Poppy

[Episode 61 of a spin-off from my novels The Hitch-hiker and Mission of the Unwilling.]

I awoke, refreshed having enjoyed having a real dream; one that throws in all the elements from the previous day or weeks, mixing it together like a tossed salad.

I hadn’t slept so well in two months.

As we sat eating our porridge, I said, ‘Thank you, Commander, your herbal brew really worked’.

‘That’s good, dear, we have a big day ahead of us.’

‘Just out of interest, do you know what “hoons” and “panel vans” are?’

Driver raised an eyebrow. ‘No, I have no idea. Why do you ask?’

‘They were in my dreams…I’ve never heard of them before.’

‘You must’ve made them up in your mind.’ Driver stood up from the breakfast table. ‘Come on, we have to be on the move. I’ve had word that Boris has landed on the planet. We have to get out before the IGSF forces attack and destroy this planet.’

‘What about the mutants and morphans?’

‘Yes, the IGSF are coming in to help with the rescue—hurry, we haven’t got much time.’ Driver grabbed my hand. ‘We have to go to meet our officers. We have to show them where the mutants and morphans are hiding.’

We hurried up the three rickety flights of stairs leading to the outside.

I had an uneasy feeling about my dream. It seemed just a little too real, like I’d lived it once. Must be a dream.

***

‘We must make haste!’ Driver lived up to her name, driving me down the streets of Boris World. ‘The time is now. The Mother Ship is waiting for transport.’

I stumbled along behind her.

‘Schnell! Mach schnell!’ Driver urged. ‘The refugees are ready! No time to dawdle! We must hurry!’

I hugged the invisibility cloak around me. My cloak stank with mould and was little more than a large blanket. The hike back to the shuttle was too far and long to maintain invisibility without an aid—especially where I was concerned. To take the shorter route would have risked the refugee’s lives so Driver had explained.

Commander Driver resembled the Grim Reaper. Her black cloak possessed a hood and she clutched a crook shaped like a sickle. I recalled Liesel once saying that Driver was lethal in a fight and had hacked and slashed her way out of many a sticky situation with the enemy.

Along the way we gathered the mutants and “morphins” like we were collecting stray animals off the street. They clung to Driver in simple trust she would cover and protect them.

As a precaution, I stuck the vial of melon virus up my nose as instructed by Fritz.

In the predawn, we pushed through the mist. Our feet crunched on sheets of frost iced over the bitumen. The roads were as empty in the early morning as when I had arrived the day before. We herded along the hidden alleys in one black mass. I believed Driver knew the plan and thus we followed her guidance.

One sun emerged on the horizon. The black of night turned a dirty shade of grey.

Dilapidated structures periodically leapt out of the mist. As we retreated from the city, the buildings shrank in stature and progressively deteriorated until we passed stunted hovels and humpies of the slave settlement; once the homes of our fleeing mutant refugees. We kept out of sight by deviating through bush, grass, and rubble.

We tramped along the gravel path away from the city smog. We tripped over lumps of rubbish that pitted the road as if it were a garbage dump. The smell of rotting food and other dead and bodily waste choked my lungs. The still warm air caused the putrid gasses to hang over the wretched land threatening to suffocate anyone who dared to linger.

Driver pointed at swamp land. ‘Here we are—just over the rise, and we’re there.’

The escape so far had gone like Swiss clockwork. Only one kilometer stood between us and the shuttle.

The scarlet red poppy shimmered on the gravel. We were some distance beyond civilization at this poppy point and there appeared no enemy threatening.

I dropped back and examined the poppy. ‘Wow! Imagine with all this death, there’s still life!’

My cloak slipped. A dank draught ruffled through my hair. The poppy swayed, and then shivered into stillness.

The group blurred into the distance, but I was sure I’d catch up.

The eerie calm of the morning had not perturbed me, and I knelt down to admire its delicate petals…for a minute…

[to be continued…]

© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2019

Feature Photo: Poppies © L.M. Kling 2009

***

Yearning for adventure? Space adventure?

Click on the links to my novels below and learn how this war on the alien cockroach Boris began and will continue…

Mission of the Unwilling

The Hitch-hiker

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