Find the challenge details here: Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenge: Corporate Abuse
La Vie en Rose
Gilles had been hunting for hours. Caroline wrapped the ragged fur around her shoulders and cupped her hands in front of her mouth. Her breath did little to relieve her frozen fingers. She stared longingly at the fireplace, but only a few logs of firewood remained and they couldn’t be wasted during daylight.
Caroline’s rubbed her swollen, growling belly and persuaded herself to remain optimistic. There was food, Gilles just had to catch it.
She heard a bark outside, and peered out over the crumbling windowsill. A German Shepard, strong and muscular, stood outside the house. Her heart raced as she climbed to her feet. The dog was healthy, well-fed. It had a food source. Caroline smiled and opened the door.
The dog ambled in and sat by her feet. She knelt down to pet him. He sniffed at her fur and balked. He knew what kind of fur she wore. She threw it across the room and fell to her knees. The dog sniffed her hair, then licked her cheek. She wrapped her arms around him and said, “I’m sorry. Toby was a good boy, but we had no choice.” The dog’s soft fur was a harsh reminder of the pain of losing her dog, and what they did to him after he died. Gilles said his fur should remind her of his noble sac
Tears trickled down her cheeks.She wrapped the pooch in her arms rubbed his back. It felt so good to be close to something, to feel another heartbeat contradicting her own steady rhythm. The dog closed his eyes and licked her throbbing fingers.
An hour went by before Gilles returned with a rabbit over his shoulder. Caroline screamed in delight, scaring the dog from her arms. He barked in wild circles around Gilles, who kicked him away with his boot.
“Looks like I’m not the only one providing dinner tonight,” he said.
Caroline’s face went red and she burst into tears. “I won’t let you eat him,” she said. “He’s healthy, look at him.”
“You think this fox is going to feed us? We’re dying, Caro.”
“I know,” she sobbed, “but I’d rather die than kill him.”
Gilles raised his eyebrows, but kept his mouth shut. He built a small fire in the hearth, then skinned and spitted the fox above it. The beady black eyes followed Caro around the room, like Toby’s blank eyes boring into her soul as they roasted his flesh. Caroline shuddered.
“Promise me you won’t kill the dog,” she said, staring deep into his eyes.
Gilles nodded, then said, “I promise” in a low growl.
She sobbed again, and sank into the dog’s warm fur.. Gilles sang to her as the fox cooked, “La Vie en Rose,” and Caroline dreamed of a perfect life in pink.
Gilles had been right, the rabbit did little to fill their bellies, but the warmth of the fire brightened Caroline’s mood. When she woke, the crystals collected in Gilles eyelashes twinkled in the bright morning light.
She rubbed her hands across the taut skin on her belly. Her stomach was so hard and dense, like it was made of bone. Maybe it was strong. Maybe it would survive.
She shook her head. She mustn’t think such thoughts. It would likely die, so there was no reason to become attached. It was not a person, just a growth that would be removed in time.
She turned to find Gilles studying her from their nest on the living room floor, with a strange smile on his face. He stood in front of her and ran his hands down her stomach, then met her gaze with tears forming in his eyes.
“Boy or girl?” he whispered. “Do you feel him move?”
He nodded, steaming tears releasing from his frozen lashes, then he disappeared out the back door. Caroline searched for the dog, but he was no where to be found. She wrapped herself in the furs, and waited for them to return. Gilles returned just before dusk dragging a large skinned animal behind him, its blood smearing a ghastly trail through the house.
“What is that?” she said with a tightening throat.
“A wildcat. I found it in the woods.” Gilles pulled out the animal’s innards and placed them on a roasting pan over the fire. The smell of the burning flesh made her mouth water, but her stomach churned.
“Where’s the dog?” Caroline focused on his face, to see if he was lying, but he kept his eyes on the the knife in his hand.
“I don’t know, Caro,” he said. “I thought he was with you.”
An accusation was forming on her lips when a sharp pain jolted her. She felt warmth between her legs and looked down to see a pool of bloody mucus by her feet.
Gilles rushed toward her. “It’s coming?” Caroline cradled her belly as the first contraction hit. Gilles carried her to their nest, then dumped their only remaining logs of firewood onto the fire and knelt by her side.
After hours of labor, cursing Gilles and God and everyone in-between, the arrival of their son was announced by his high-pitched wail. Caroline couldn’t contain her happiness. She laughed and cried and nuzzled the sticky, slimy infant against her breast. She couldn’t imagine a more perfect creature. She never knew she could be this happy.
Caroline fell asleep with her son cradled in his arms.
When she awoke, it was dark, and Gilles and the baby were gone. Caroline called out for Gilles, but there was no response. She stumbled to her feet, clutching her sore stomach and screaming for her husband. The fur fell from her shoulders and her heart sank. The baby was gone. Did he die? He must’ve been weak. Malnourished. Maybe Gilles was burying him now. Or worse, maybe he wouldn’t bury him after all.
She screamed a fierce guttural cry. Gilles couldn’t – he wouldn’t – not his own son.
A loud knock on the door scared her out of her skin. She waddled to the door and held her face to the wood. “Who’s there?”
“Good evening, Ms. Armand. I’m with the HumaniTEE Corporation. Your husband invited me here to enroll you in our LifeSource program.”
“Gilles, where is he?” She pulled the door open to find three people in haz-mat suits outside. Caroline struggled to understand what was happening, but the loss of blood from labor coupled with fatigue discombobulated her mind.
“Your husband sacrificed himself to ensure a future for you and his son. His donation should give you comfort.”
“No, he wouldn’t. He hated you people. That’s why we left.”
“Ms. Armand, you left because your husband lost your job, and without a job you are not entitled to the benefits of living in a city.”
“He lost his job because he refused to torture and murder people in the name of science. And these benefits you’re withholding, they’re entitlements. Every human being is entitled to food, water and shelter. You’re treating us just like you treat your donors, torturing us until we die of starvation or exposure.”
The woman in the suit shook her head. “Ms. Armand, if you ever wish to see your son again, you will come with us. Your husband is gone. He is all you have left.”
After Caroline collapsed, they dragged her into a van. She’d have a life now, and a home in the city to raise her son. But at what cost? How could she bear to look at her son, knowing the price his life had cost?