Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Caged Bird #WEPFF Flash Fiction My Terms

My story is controversial and may contain subject matter not suitable for all readers. So I'm sharing this Aerosmith song which also has a lyric about a caged bird, for those who would prefer that.

🎵 "I think that you should let your caged bird fly." 🎵

Story content / trigger warning: dystopian future, pro-choice, mass-shooting, suicide, genocide. 962 words NCCO

My Terms 
by Jamie

I was there when the shots rang out in the Capitol Building. Screams accompanied a stampede. More shots echoed as agents yelled for people to move or to get down. Three women left in handcuffs within minutes. I arrested one of them.

"We are the last of the Female Assasins. Killing those who destroy society is encouraged, rewarded even. It is not a crime," the oldest looking one tells me. Her short, gray hair blows back and forth as the interrogation room fan hits her. She doesn't seem to mind, unlike me, who can already feel my neck stiffening.

"We are time travelers. We have no peers in this time. Therefore, you cannot put us on trial. Not that we've committed a crime, as you insinuated."

There isn't enough coffee in the world for me to do this job. What is it about Mondays that brings out the crazy?

"In fifty years, there is only the Unwanted left. They are infertile, by choice or birth. We are the last three Female Assassins. No males remain with which to breed. We came here to kill the ones who made choices that end humanity."

I rub my temples. "Fifty years from now seven billion people are dead?"

"Some were cooked. But most were starved by the Unwanted. They are not peaceful or reasonable. We three Assassins survived because we killed to live. The Unwanted control all the remaining food and knowledge. We kidnapped one to learn time travel. They do not use this technology. And why should they? The world exists for them."

"Why are they called the Unwanted if the world exists for them?"

"You once called them foster children. But the system was overrun, about ten years from today. Millions of them. They rule a revolution. Within eight years they sterilized themselves. Then there's the drug in the water, which causes any new ones to be born unable to breed."

I chew on my pen cap as I try to keep a straight face. "You expect me to believe this?"

She scratches the back of her wrinkled hand. "We didn't come here to be believed. We came here to prevent a problem."

I nod. "See, the thing is that you created a new problem. Murdering some high valued targets in plain view, being seen doing it, means I have to deal with you. Not the best assassins, are you?"

"This was a one-way trip. We accept death. Or you can send me back to prison. At least this time, it will be for a choice."

I lean back in my metal chair. "So, you're in the system?"

"Not yet. Next year the version of me from your time will be. She's going to miscarry. And as she lies screaming on the hospital bed, blood still wet on her legs, someone like you will arrest her. Three point five million prisoners by next year."

"There's just over two million right now. Lady, we can't house that many."

She laughs. "You'll convert old shopping malls, abandoned apartments, even some schools. In five years, female prisoners become the fifth-largest export. You can't kill them here. So they're sent off to be tortured to death elsewhere. That's when the second wave of the rebellion commences."

I look at my empty coffee mug. Bourbon would be better. "Second wave, hmm? What's the first?"

"A few days from now, the My Terms riots will commence, that becomes the first wave. A string of three-way suicides sets it off."

"Three-way suicides?" She's obviously planning to plead insanity.

"A pregnant 19-year-old rape victim is first. A fist full of pills, arteries sliced open, face down in a bucket of water. The words My Terms scrolled in blood on her college dorm wall."

Guess that's how you make sure you die.

"The second is a 13-year-old, pregnant by her step-father according to the autopsy. Hung herself after downing pills and shooting enough drugs to destroy her heart. Same words, though she wrote them with lipstick."

I'm grateful I haven't eaten recently. Need to remember I'm talking to a crazy old woman who just shot up Congress.

"A mother of three is next. She left a note. Couldn't get treatment while pregnant. She didn't want her children to watch her suffer, nor would she land herself in jail when her cervical cancer inevitably resulted in a miscarriage. Signed the note with the phrase My Terms. Drank drain cleaner, then shot herself while leaping from a tall building."

"You're telling me a bunch of pregnant women are going to kill themselves, and that's why you opened fire in Congress?"

She scratches the back of her hand, breaking the skin this time. "I am telling you that's how it starts. They die, and then people riot. Hundreds more die. Thousands are arrested. More women go to jail. More people riot or protest, also landing in the big house."

"Do you want a tissue or a bandage for that?"

"There are those who will not become caged birds. My Terms means dying your own way, taking triple precautions to ensure it. Like a time-release poison capsule, having an organ sliced so you're bleeding internally, and having a cardio-wire that can be tricked into stopping your heart."

I look at her hand. She touches a wire sticking out where she was scratching. A moment later, she's face down on the table. I curse, my chair falling as I bolt up and rip the door open. "Help!"

Two other interrogation rooms are open. I hear someone yell, "Clear!" A stretcher is beside my desk. My boss runs toward me with the defibrillator from the breakroom. The television behind him shows a reporter outside a college campus, the caption under her reporting the suicide of a pregnant 19-year-old.




  1. What can I say. I put Aerosmith on and started to read. And scrolled back up and turned it off because I didn't want anything to distract me.
    Wowsers. Nasty, and all too believable. On dark days I believe that we are lurching down a very similar path.

  2. Wow. Seriously scary - because the potential is there.
    Well written!

  3. Does this imply the babies who are currently in cages might grow up with some anger issues, and team up with the boatload of foster kids (there are already too many, and always were, I'd know), and take over the world?

    Why is this a short story and not an entire book???
    And there's a main character who is old! You know how I feel about books where the pro or an 'tagonist is a little old lady! <3 Grandma gonna knit you a better world!!

  4. In my opinion you painted a picture of what happening now in societies all over the earth.
    For me personally, it is sad to think that it is happening but it is.

    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

  5. A well done exploration of the "caged bird" theme, that is shaped by the modern world and the troublesome politics that rule it. Well done.

  6. An interesting take on the theme Caged Bird. I can well believe that the former foster children started a revolution. The entire system is horrible.

  7. What Jemi said. Seriously scary - because the potential is there. Certainly encapsulates the theme in a powerful way. That pregnant 19 year old motif was creepy. Hopefully, not the entire foster system is terrible. Great eye opener Jamie.

  8. Thank you for writing this. With the rulings being made to take away women's reproductive rights in states like Alabama (and with more states trying to follow suit), thought-provoking pieces like this are necessary.
    I am one of those people who wouldn't have gotten an abortion under most circumstances (the exception being a severe defect to the fetus) but who would fight to the death for reproductive rights to be upheld.
    Several of my more conservative companions were spreading rhetoric on Facebook claiming that the law passed in New York to protect the right to late-term abortions meant that a woman could waltz into a Planned Parenthood clinic a day before she was due to give birth and demand an abortion. I usually stay out of abortion debates but had to chime in on that one and inform them that the law protects women for whom a late-term abortion is a medical necessity. It doesn't mean that someone can have a full-term infant aborted because they decided at the last minute that they don't want the baby.

  9. Hi Jamie - yes I could see this happening in the world we live in today - not now ... but I would hope out of my lifetime - but equally soon. We are creating some really odd scenarios ... excellent and different take on 'caged birds' - well done - cheers Hilary

  10. Sometimes we are sure one domino away from it happening, and with many lives in the hands of rich douchebags, it could easily be done. Hopefully never does though. Great ending too, not that one would ever want to triple go in any way.

  11. A story for our time. Seems like a dark future awaits. Let us hope it is all fiction. Well written. Love the reaction of the cop.

  12. Very plausible, very scary. Too close for comfort. Well done.

  13. The policeman is sceptical, as was I, until I read it through again - my heart says nothing like this will ever happen, my mind says - oh my, perhaps it could. Thank you for making me think hard on this piece, good stuff.

  14. A frightening view of the society already emerging. In so many ways - from women's reproductive rights to the environment - there are the warning signs and those who see that non-violent protest is being ignored; a few have already taken the next step with some justification.

  15. This is scary and powerful and so well thought out. I couldn't stop reading. Fabulous piece of writing.

  16. This is a scary scenario indeed, but I can see how such a thing could happen. This is definitely a timely story, and thank you for sharing it with us.

  17. Wow! This is powerful stuff. And love that it's an old lady who is behind it all. No one suspects the little old ladies...

  18. This seems to be scary. Especially the last part.

  19. Scary, nasty, and all too plausible. Kind of reminds me of The Handmaid's Tale.

  20. Stunning work here. I kept reading because I had to, and that means you had my attention. Thank you for some good writing.


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