Grandchildren returning.., p.6
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       Grandchildren Returning Their Spoils, p.6

          
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Chapter 6 – Mercy…



Ben sat upon that stool perched in the center of the glass chamber.



The cold made him shiver. Pain throbbed in his arthritic joints. He was a broken man, a long time shattered in both body and spirit. Yet he still didn’t collapse. He didn’t need to depend upon Butch to prop him upright upon his stool. In the end, Ben hoped he could take at least a little pride in that.



Ben hardly recognized Mallory when the door in front of him opened to reveal a thin, shunted girl confined to a wheelchair. Ben sighed. The world’s many illnesses worked quickly after they took hold, and Mallory looked nothing like that young, smiling child captured in the colorful photograph Ben hid between the cushions of his cot.



He couldn’t determine if Mallory grasped any kind of a weapon. He suspected that Butch might’ve concealed a gun or a knife in some pocket of his blue frock. He imagined Butch intentionally hiding it from his sight, trying to toy for one last time with Ben’s anxiety, even at the end trying to make Ben squirm. Ben didn’t care how they might choose to kill him, didn’t care how they made Mallory an instrument of their execution. He didn’t care what type of carnage they would harvest from his body, or how they would turn his death into a spectacle they would force Ben’s friends to watch. Ben cared only that they would end his hurt.



Mallory lifted her head, and her chin trembled as she addressed her grandfather. The glass walls strangely amplified her voice.



“Is it true?”



Ben nodded. “All of it’s true.”



Mallory stiffened. “I didn’t expect you to answer me so honestly. I didn’t expect you to answer me so quickly. I would’ve preferred if you’d just lied.”



“We’ve all lied to ourselves for far too long, Mallory.”



Mallory stared at her grandfather. “So all the things the gallery said were true. Your generation really did ruin the world. Your generation was warned. Your generation was shown all the evidence and proof, and your generation chose to simply ignore it. It was true that your generation labelled those who tried to save the world as the enemy. It was true that you called all the science blasphemy. Your generation really did employ all of those excuses listed in the gallery, and it was true that all of your time closed their eyes and ignored all the symptoms. All of you cared more about the stock market, and jobs, and cars, and comfort than you cared about the world. All of you chose to just let the world rot so that none of you would have to sacrifice. So what the gallery says is true, that all of you did nothing while the world fell to ruin so that all of you could hold on a little tighter to all your comforts.”



Ben almost cried. He thought of Clara, and of all the times she claimed that no one ever told her. Just like the rest of them, Clara did nothing so that her dream of a three-car garage and a five-child family might never need to be altered. Ben knew. Ben had owned his own pleasures for which he had sacrificed the world.



“We all knew, Mallory, and we all did nothing. I knew, and I did nothing.”



Mallory quickly wiped a tear from her face. “The doctors suggested all kinds of ways that I might punish you for what your generation made of the world. The orderlies showed me all kinds of weapons. They said they would help me use any of them against you. They all told me that it would make me feel better. They told me over and over again that revenge would help send away some of the pain. Maybe it will. I’m only a girl. Maybe I should trust them and do what they say.



“But I’m tired. I’m too weak to try to choke you with rope. I’m too afraid of guns and knives, and blood would make me sick. The doctors tell me that I can ask any of the orderlies to murder you in any way I choose. But, grandpa, I don’t really think any kind of killing will really make me feel better. I don’t think any kind of revenge will make me healthy.”



Ben’s voice cracked. “I’m so sorry, Mallory.”



Mallory shrugged. Her eyes scanned the faces of all those elderly residents on the other side of the glass.



“I have a different idea, grandpa,” Mallory continued, “and the doctors have told me it will be a fine kind of a punishment. I don’t think I can give you any kind of punishment that will bring the world back, but everyone tells me I have to do something to make you suffer for what the world’s become. So I’ve decided that I’m going to let you live. The doctors promise me that they can keep you alive for a very long time. I’m going to die very soon, but I want you to go on. The orderlies can take care of you here. Maybe you’ll still be alive after all of your neighbors have died. Maybe you will survive until the very end, just to make sure the last girl or boy might still be able to ask why your generation ruined the world. I think it’s best if someone one from your generation survives long enough to watch the last child perish.”



The closing door echoed in Ben’s mind when Mallory departed that glass chamber without raising a hand against him. He never felt so alone. Finally, after so many years in that center, after so many rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, Ben Cane’s legs failed him, and he fell to floor. He had only a moment to cry before he felt Butch’s fingers dig into his shoulders. He didn’t resist as Butch dragged him out of the glass chamber. For Ben Cane believed he deserved each day remaining to him in a dead world.



* * * * *

About the Writer

Brian S. Wheeler resides in rural, Southern Illinois with his wife Erin and his young daughter Kate in a home shared with three German shepherds and a small cat named Izzy. Brian has worn many hats to earn a living. He has worked as a high school English teacher and community college composition instructor. For many years, Brian worked as a marketing manager and a graphic designer for a very successful auction company. Brian has also freelanced as a designer and consultant, and he has just completed vocational training in the welding trade. Writing is Brian’s favorite activity, and he works to one day realize his dream of earning a living by crafting stories of fantasy and science fiction.

The rural Midwest inspires much of Brian's work, and he hopes any connections readers might make between his fiction and the places and people he has had the pleasure to know are positive. When not writing, Brian does his best to keep organized, to get a little exercise, or to try to train good German Shepherd dogs. He remains an avid reader. More information regarding Brian S. Wheeler, his novels, and his short stories can be found by visiting his website at https://www.flatlandfiction.com.



Visit Brian S. Wheeler Online

Find Brian S. Wheeler’s newest short stories and novels online by visiting his website at www.flatlandfiction.com. Brian always welcomes feedback and thoughts sent to his email at letters@flatlandfiction.com.




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