This story has been published here on Fictionspawn Monsters earlier as three posts. It’s been edited and cut down to fit the one post format
Today was Tanya’s birthday. The last of the many gifts was a teddy bear. A brown one, with a red band around it’s neck.
It’s the best present of them all! She said, giving both her parents a big hug.
It’s a rat! Mika said, exited. Go ‘round, get it!
Malak jumped over the barrel and stuck his pointed stick down behind it. Got it! Proud he held the rat in the air. It was still shaking.
Malak and Mika hadn’t seen the world before the automation. Before the great war. They said people worked in the factories and on the fields back then. People were needed. Now things were changed.
They said there were other lands far away, on the other side of huge walls and on the other side of the sea. Lands where they used the things made in the factories, ate the food grown in the fields. Here there was nothing.
Mika opened the little hatch to get into the underground tunnels. Sewers, they were once called. Now they were homes. Mika’s mother was waiting.
Look, we caught a rat!
Thank God, she said. One rat weren’t much food, but at least it was a big one. She started the electric oven. Lights went out.
Not again… She got a torch. She went through a door and down a hallway. She came back with a dark look on her face.
A piece of the generator is broken, she said, looking at Mika. Your father got into the factory and stole it, but it was a lot less guarded back then. Now it’s even more difficult than when he…
I’ll go, Malak said.
You..? You’re just a child. It’s too dangerous.
You’re so nice to me. I want to help. And I know how to get into the factory.
Mika’s mother said nothing, just looked at the little boy who had arrived so suddenly, all alone.
Besides, I’m not as clumsy as you grown ups! He laughed. She didn’t, but it was settled. Malak would go into the factory. Without electricity they would be doomed.
Goodnight little princess. I hope your new teddy bear gives you sweet dreams.
He will for sure! I love him. He’s the best present ever.
The rest of the presents were lying in a big pile in the corner. Tomorrow she would store them with the other toys. She had a lot of toys.
It was dark, but the dry sand did not give much shelter. Malak heard a metallic sound nearby. A robot. It walked on two legs, had guns for arms. Grenade launchers. A killing machine, hunting humans. Malak had seen them before, many times. In a distance he could see the flying ones. He was more scared of the walker, even though the others were more dangerous. The walkers moved almost like humans.
He got closer to the big factory building. He moved low so the robots would not see him. Some had lights in front, they were the easy ones to avoid. Others could see in the dark. He got in where the cotton entered the building, jumped onto the assembly line.
Today Tanya was going to the park with her mum and dad. They did that a lot. People mostly did what they wanted, no one hardly worked any more. There was no need.
She brought her little teddy, her new favourite toy.
There were knives cutting the cotton. They were getting closer. Fast. He crawled the opposite way, but not fast enough. A gap on one side passing by, just for a moment. He jumped in.
He came out under the lines. There were robots everywhere. Some seemed harmless, working, moving things. Others he knew from before. He moved under the lines until he found the machine Mika’s mother had told him about.
He started screwing off the screws. Removed a plate on the side. There it was, the piece she had shown him. He got it out. The machines stopped.
Alarm. He hurried towards the hole he’d come in from. A robot was blocking his way. Two drones were moving in under the assembly lines.
The park was as beautiful as always. Kids playing, adults chatting. Life had become so easy. Tanya was sitting on the bench watching actors doing a play. Real art, art created for the art itself, not to survive, not to make money. Her teddy was lying on the bench beside her. She was laughing, applauding.
Malak got up between the assembly lines. Gunshots. He ran, stepping on toys and things going down the line. Through the opening at the end he could see the cotton fields. Where there once had been people living, cultivating food for their families, now there was cotton as far as the eye could see. Enormous machines were harvesting. Any living creature entering would be killed.
Far below he saw transport vehicles going in and out through the highly guarded gate. The fall was too high. He turned, wanted to run back. A machine gun pointed straight at him.
He fell over the edge.
I forgot my teddy bear!
We can’t go back now, there’s no time. Grandma’s waiting.
But I really liked him…
Don’t worry, sweetheart. We can always buy you a new one.
Mika’s mother was standing by her kitchen. Tears were running down her cheeks. If the poor child wasn’t back by now, he probably wouldn’t be. How could she send a child on such a dangerous mission? She shook her head, looking down on the floor.
She turned her head fast. The hatch was opening.
Malak came in. He had scratches and wounds all over, and his clothes were even worse than when he left, but he was whole and alive.
He had a metal lever in one hand, the piece to the electricity generator. In the other he held a teddy bear.
A brown one with a red band around it’s neck.