Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month, the task is “Valentine.” It could be something upbeat related to Valentine’s Day, or any other story with a character named Valentine.
Today’s post comes from Phil Yeats. In December 2018, Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) published his most recent novel. Tilting at Windmills, the second in the Barrettsport Mysteries series of soft-boiled police detective stories set in an imaginary Nova Scotia coastal community is available on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Tilting-Windmills-Barrettsport-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07L5WR948/ He’s currently working on a climate change dystopia set in the immediate future.
At twenty hundred hours on Monday, February fourteenth, 2061, my afternoon shift had just ended. My environmental decontamination team was already inside. I’d checked the equipment and the next shift had taken charge. I could venture inside, get some sleep, and repeat the whole damn exercise in eight hours.
After dumping my hazmat suit in the decontamination chamber receptacle, I stood while the robotic arm checked me for toxic materials. The green light cleared me for entry to the field station, and the interlock snapped open.
Inside, I encountered Melanie Montieth, the only member of the station’s fifty-five-person crew I considered a friend. My relationship with the captain and the remaining crew members was strictly business, but I occasionally socialized with Melanie.
“Valentine’s party tonight,” she said as she followed me to the dormitory wing. “One beer before you pack it in for the night. I’d appreciate the company.”
I stopped in the entryway to the men’s bunkhouse. “Hotter than Hades out there tonight, so I’m desperate for a shower. Meet you in the mess for a quick one, but God, I need sleep.”
I avoided getting close to anyone, but Melanie and I became casual friends, mostly because station operations threw us together in a way I believe she found erotic.
I was an engineer, the leader of Field Team Alpha, and responsible for solving operational problems occurring on my four to eight watch. When I was off watch, I was one of three engineers on call to address mechanical problems inside the station.
Melanie was an inside worker responsible for monitoring station operations during the night shift from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. If an indicator flashed red, she would rouse one of the on-call engineers. She frequently appeared in my tiny ‘room’ and gently touched my shoulder to wake me during those hours between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. when I tried to get some sleep.
After my shower, I found Melanie sitting by herself near the operations room’s open door. The other night shift monitor would signal her if anything happened.
“You want something to drink?” I asked.
“A beer, a red one,” she replied.
When I returned with two red ales, alcohol free beverages because the station was dry, she snuggled beside me, resting her head on my shoulder. “I know you dislike these attempts to make our life easier to endure, but tonight I really needed someone to talk to. You’re doing me a big favour, so I’ll call out another if we encounter problems before four.”
As I sipped my beer, I considered Melanie’s success subverting my resolve to avoid social interactions during my enforced stay on the decontamination station. I’d arrived four years earlier when a confrontation with the oligarchs running our frontier town went spectacularly wrong. I was exiled with no option of migrating to another town. My only choice was to join the staff of a station dedicated to cleaning up the toxic mess the chaos of 2049 generated. Year one was not a serious infringement of my freedom because everyone between eighteen and twenty-five faced one year’s conscription as soldiers in the battle to reverse environmental degradation. But one year became two and then three when the oligarchs refused to authorize my return. I could remain as a poorly paid outpost worker or take my chances in the outside world without protection from toxic dust. Life on the outside was a death warrant—none survived for an extended period without elaborate air filtration.
Melanie’s situation was simpler. She was six weeks away from the end of her year’s forced tenure as a station ‘volunteer’. She could soon return home and resume the life she suspended a year earlier.
“I’m staying here for another year,” she said when I placed my empty glass on a table.
“What… I thought you had a partner and a life to return to.”
She sighed before finishing her beer in one gulp. “Thought I was a lucky one who could bear a child. I was pregnant when I arrived, part of our grand plan. I’d be here for four or five months until the baby became obvious and they sent me home, the rest of my servitude forgiven.”
“But it wasn’t to be. Your body absorbed the fetus, like the other victims of the asinine scheme to control global population.”
She sighed again. “Yup. We were together because we both wanted a baby so badly. When he realized I was one of millions of infertile women, he found another. Their baby survived its first trimester, so it’s probably safe. I’m left alone with nothing to return to.”
“But why stay here? Shouldn’t you return to civilization and start over somewhere with better opportunities than on this stupid outpost?”
“Civilization,” she snorted, “I wouldn’t call our frontier town, or any of the other communities in the pathetic country that evolved since the chaos, civilization. And here, I have one nice guy who buys me a drink on Valentine’s Day.” She reached up and pulled my head down until our lips met.
“What brought that on?” I asked when she finally released her grasp.
“Thank you for you bringing me a drink. And it’s Valentine’s Day. Kissing is what lovers do on Valentine’s Day.”
“Lovers? I didn’t think our odd minutes together when we didn’t have commitments qualified.”
“Perhaps not, but I sneak into your room and wake you with gentle caresses whenever we need someone to fix something. And now that we’ve broken the ice, I can add kisses.”
I pulled her closer and returned the kiss she’d offered earlier.
“Must return to work,” she said, minutes later. “When this party heats up, and they blow every fuse in the pantry, I’ll remember my new protocol for rousing my favourite engineer.”
I returned our glasses to the galley and locked the electrical box on the way to my room. Wouldn’t want to have rowdy partiers spoiling Melanie’s fun by resetting any circuit breakers they overloaded.
I fell asleep rather quickly and dreamed about waking to kisses and caresses.
The Spot Writers—Our Members:
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com/
Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/