This year, I'm writing a pseudoscience-punk alternate-history story. I don't know that many people have tried to write pseudoscience-punk, but we'll see. It doesn't hit into the punk part of it in this first section. I'm still setting the stage a bit. Let me know what you think in the comments. Currently it's untitled, but as things develop and I reveal more about the story, I'll start asking for ideas on that. I'm awful with titles. And names. But that's besides the point.
Anyway, I'll put the writing in after the break, so as to not clutter this page up too much. I hope you enjoy!
A shell thundered into the earth, and the entire bunker shook. The front wasn't some distant line anymore – it had come all the way to this, a bastion of shockingly advanced science and technology, a research and development lab that should have been protected. Had been protected, to the last man. The Third Reich had simply run out of men.
Professor Schnitter frantically worked his console. He had to finish before the soldiers got in. There was one last chance, if he could just get the weapon aligned. He looked into the sealed chamber. It looked like little more than a compact radio, but it was the most advanced piece of technology humans had ever developed.
Schnitter chuckled. Not that human technology had been used to make it. Or that it was meant to be used to kill humans. Ironic that the greatest weapon of Nazi science only existed to save the world, to free it from conquerors. But it would never be able to do so if they got their hands on it first. He had to get it working, and get the battery inside it charged before-
The bunker shook. One of the concrete walls cracked. Dust fell on the console. There was no time left. There was a blue glow from the sealed vault of the device as it tried to draw in ambient energy from the air.
Schnitter heard distant screaming. The shelling stopped. Schnitter ran to the door and slammed it shut, locking it. He backed away from the heavy bunker door. He adjusted his glasses and wished for the hundredth time that he had his pills, but the supply had run out a week ago and the supply lines had been cut off for even longer. The few injured and scientists left in the base might have a chance to survive if they surrendered, but Schnitter himself knew too many secrets. They'd disappear him to somewhere beyond human comprehension.
One minute passed. Then two, then five, and the device still refused to charge. Had he misaligned the alternating plates for the capacitor? Was the reification matrix broken? There was still time to get it working. If Schnitter could just-
The steel door exploded inwards. A rush of flame and shrapnel ripped through the room. Schnitter gasped as his chest flashed hot and then cold, a wet feeling spilling down his front as something ripped through his ribcage. He looked down. Red. Dripping. Something twitching inside him. He fell to the floor, staring up. Everything started to go dark.
Soldiers walked in the door. One in a uniform with officer's stripes. He looked down at Schnitter. The last thing Schnitter saw was a nictitating membrane blink sideways over the officer's eye as his pupil turned into a slit.
Tilda yawned as she woke up. She looked at her clock. The antique coo-coo clock had run down during the night. She groaned and reset the hanging weights that powered it. Tilda opened the windows to let the light in. The early morning sun made her blink with its intensity. The low buildings of the city, with their careful hand-painted signs stretched out into the distance. Bicycles skimmed through the streets.
A loud rumble roared in on the wind. A truck. That was rare. Usually there was only the delivery truck on Mondays. Must have been a special delivery for someone. She yawned and scratched her head, then stretched. Her joints popped. She smiled happily. There was nothing quite like a good stretch in the sun.
“Still got time before work...” she muttered, glancing at the clock tower. Even if her clock had run out of power sometime during the night, the city clock tower would still be right. Mister Heinrich was strict about being on time. According to him, even a few hours was the difference between fresh meat and useless shit. She didn't like being a butcher much, but it paid well. And the blood didn't bother her, for some reason. Lifting slabs of beef all day was a good workout,, too. Tilda had never been in better shape.
There was a knock on the door. Tilda turned around, confused. As she did, there was a crashing sound and the tinkle of broken glass. The framed picture of her grandfather had fallen to the floor. She picked it up. The glass had broken, and she couldn't see his smile through the cracks. She sighed. It'd cost a bundle to get more glass. They didn't make it in the city anymore.
The knock at the door came again. It wasn't an urgent knock, just a polite knock that clearly meant that the knocker wasn't going to go away anytime soon.
“I'm coming!” she snapped. “Who the hell is it this early? It had better not be that creepy guy from next door!” At least it wouldn't be her landlord. That old bitch would just unlock the door with her master key and walk in yelling. Tilda couldn't remember her knocking even once. Tilda opened the door and stopped, blinking.
“Good morning,” the woman at the door said, smiling. Tilda wasn't sure what to say. It wasn't every day that a total stranger knocked at her door. She knew everyone in the neighborhood by name. And it was certainly the first time anyone had come to her door in a wedding dress. The white of the dress was so bright and clean... it couldn't have been made in the city.
“Good morning,” Tilda replied, as a reflex. She blinked. “Who are you? Why- If you're selling something, I don't want to buy it.” She started closing the door. The woman put a foot, in a dainty white shoe, in the door.. Tilda frowned.
“I'm not selling anything. I don't want your money.” The woman gently pushed the door open with a surprising strength. It didn't feel forceful, just somehow inevitable. Tilda swallowed. She couldn't see anything of the woman's expression behind the lace veil she wore. The only thing she could see were the woman's lips, pressed into a hungry smile.
“I have to get to work. You have to leave.” The woman looked around Tilda's room. Tilda suddenly felt embarrassed. Her room was almost bare. Aside from a few mementos she had inherited from her father, there wasn't much to it.
“I see...” Tilda wasn't sure what the woman saw.
“Look-” She tried closing the door again. The woman relented, a little “I don't have time to deal with this. Whatever you want, you can talk to the guy next door or our landlord in the main house.”
“I could,” the woman admitted, with a nod. “But they don't have anything I want.” She took a step back. “You are much more interesting. A wonderful surprise.”
“I...” Tilda blinked. “What?”
The woman laughed. “I'll be back.. You're interesting.” She turned and walked away. Tilda watched her go. Tilda shook her head, still confused. It was already a strange day.
Tilda had almost forgotten about the woman by the time she got to Heinrich's butcher shop. She rode her bicycle around to the back and locked it to the bike rack in back. The clock tower rang out over the town. Heinrich was standing in the open door frame. He raised an gray eyebrow.
“Cutting it a bit close,” he said, in his heavy German accent. Tilda sighed.
“Yes, sir. Sorry.” She ran a hand through her short black hair. “I-” He shook his head.
“I said cutting close, I did not say late.” He took a sip from his ever-present flask. “There is a difference. You are a good worker. We have meat to get cut, eh?” Tilda nodded. Heinrich offered her the flask. As always, she politely declined with a shake of her head. She walked in after him and got ready for work, tossing on an apron.
“Mister Heinrich,” Tilda asked. “Are you going to go up to the big city and vote in the election?” The older man shook his head.
“It's just the federal election. I do not have two days to waste going on a train to vote for someone whose decisions will never effect me.” He shook his head. “The state election next year, that is much more important.” Tilda nodded in agreement while she wrestled a side of beef to the carving table. Heinrich checked the knives as she got the beef ready, smoothing out the burrs.
“Yeah. I don't even see why we have the Federal government. It just seems like a waste of time and money-” Heinrich smiled and shook his head. “What?”
“It was not always like this.” He sighed. “You children do not know what things were like before the Collapse.” He watched Tilda get the meat into position.
“Of course not,” Tilda said, rolling her eyes. “That was more than fifty years ago. And you could help me with this, you know.” She wiped sweat from her brow.
“I hired you so I would not have to do that,” Heinrich said, with a laugh. “And my back... it is not so good. You would not have a job if I had not thrown out my back.” He helped her as best he could, though, even as he complained. “You kids need a better appreciation for history.”
“I'm not a kid. I'm twenty.”
“You are young enough to be my grandchild. I can call you a kid all I want.” He started cutting into the beef. “When I was your age, we didn't complain about hard work.”
“Only because you were too busy complaining about fallout.” She helped sort the pieces as he butchered the meat. “I mean, yeah, things were bad back then.” Tilda shrugged. “But things got better pretty quickly, right?”
“Things do not get better quickly after nuclear war.” Heinrich was half-distracted by cutting. “Even a small one.” He was quiet while he cut the rest of the beef. Tilda swallowed. Whatever Mister Heinrich had experienced during the nuclear war and the Collapse afterwards, he didn't like to talk about it. He finished butchering the side of beef.
“I'll put that out in the cases,” Tilda said. Heinrich nodded. Tilda carried out the trays and put them in the empty cases, moving the old meat to the day-old section. She usually just bought the day-old stuff herself. Heinrich gave her a big discount at the end of the day, and otherwise it'd probably go to waste. Tilda returned to the back room. Heinrich was cleaning off the knives. He always cleaned them between sides of beef.
“You can carve the next one.” Heinrich hung up the knives. Tilda raised an eyebrow. That wasn't something he usually did.
“Are you feeling okay?” Tilda put down the empty trays and gave Heinrich a closer look. He was a little pale.
“No,” Heinrich admitted. “It is not a good day. There is something strange in the air. It reminds me of the bad years.” He waved a hand. “It is nothing. I will be fine. You need the practice anyway. The last time you cut, you did not make steaks the same size. They must be the same thickness!”
“Yes, Mister Heinrich.” Tilda sighed. She really didn't want to hear all of this again.
“And be careful with the knives. You need to treat them with respect. You chipped a blade”. He pointed at her set of knives. He had been very, very insistent that she use her own knives. The last time Tilda had tried to use one of his, he had almost slapped it out of her hands.
“I'll be careful, sir.” He nodded, appeased. Tilda got to work.