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Crank

When Artur is not writing fiction, he enjoys writing really condensed summaries of his biography and then sharing them with the world. The last statement was a lie.

Artur could offer lists of places he resided in, hobbies he has partaken in, family members he values most (in descending order), or links to Artur's other online presence (which is more like online absence). But all that is just a granfalloon.

This is Artur's first appearance in Daily Science Fiction. He is grateful for this unparalleled opportunity.
Jimmy has no arms, see? Never had any. Was born like this. Almost every baby born after the war is missing parts. Some don't have limbs, like Jimmy. Some have bits of the face missing. Some lack internal organs. Those are the lucky ones. They don't live too long after the cord is cut. Less suffering. Jimmy, well... not so lucky.
His mother left him with us and took off, as soon as she could walk after the birth. Said she would look for supplies and come back. Said she knew where to find a good stash. We have never seen her again. Maybe she crossed the border, maybe she got shot trying to cross the border, nobody knows. I know she is not coming back.
So we raised Jimmy, just like we raised every other kid that was left here with us. Just like every other kid that will only remember the four walls of the shelter, and the ever-grey sky poking through the holes in the roof.
We taught these kids all we could remember. Most of the books were destroyed in war. They prefer visuals anyway. Like moving visuals. With sound.
We have some old laptops that still work. Hardware is not the problem. Power is the problem. Most batteries were completely fried unless your stuff was in the basement. In that case they were almost completely fried. Still good for a few minutes, but that's it.
I sit Jimmy up, back against the wall, put the computer up on a cinder block, sit down beside him, grab a hand crank battery charger and get cranking. In a minute or two the screen lights up and I can pick something to show Jimmy.
We watch old heroes saving Earth over and over, we watch animals long extinct frolicking like nothing could ever happen to them, we watch lovers falling out and mortal enemies become dearest friends, we watch regular people do their jobs with the skill and efficiency of finely-tuned machines, and we watch machines built by those people, in turn, outperform their creators.
And then we watch about war. Not the last one, of course. There will not be a film about the last war. At least not for a long time. Jimmy was scared at first, but I explained to him why this is important, and he gets it. He forgets to exhale sometimes, when we watch this. I have to remind him to breathe. He smiles and corrects his breathing pattern.
The show time is over. Scavengers return with food, mostly. Some overgrown mushrooms, oblong berries with pulsating veins and a subtle glow--"Devil's dicks," as we call them--a few rat corpses, and a two-headed rabbit.
None of the food is healthy in any sense of the word, but the choice between a slow, painful certain death of starvation and a slower, less painful and less certain death of slow poisoning is obvious.
As we sit down to eat, I think to myself: here we are, a bunch of broken scavengers, a kid with no arms, an old laptop with a drive full of random relics, a hand-crank, and me, the human battery. It's like we are trying to crank start a civilization. Sometimes I wonder, just how human will it be.
'Cause the last one sure wasn't.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, June 13th, 2018


I wrote this story after recent nuclear war scares. Can there be life after a global nuclear war? If so, is there hope for humanity, can the rubble of the old world be restored into a functioning new society, or will the final self-destruction occur, despite any and all efforts of the survivors? What would their efforts be? Although I attempted to answer these questions with hope, and not fear, sometimes the two go hand in hand.

- Artur Karlov

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