Sam lay back against the tree and looked up at the twilight sky. The first stars of the night were visible, or perhaps they were satellites. It had become difficult to tell in the crowded heavens. The exhaustion from his escape overwhelmed him.

He imagined one of the satellites trained on him, zooming in with a powerful lens. Instinctively he scratched the dried blood and scab on the side of his head where he had removed the tracking implant. The implant had been inserted at birth. It felt strangely liberating to know that for the first time in his life, no one knew where he was. By now, agents would have found the small device in the bottom of the dumpster where he had disposed of it.

Being outside the city walls didn’t scare him as much as he thought it would have. There were all sorts of folktales and scare stories growing up of those who had ventured out and never returned. Sam knew now that they were not myths or legends. It was how High Command dealt with agitators and defiers.

Previously, he had only looked down on the uninhabited landscape from the intercity transport shuttles. The green and lush grass and trees had filled him with a sense of wonder.

The quiet was the most unsettling thing. Gone was the constant hum of self-driving traffic. The persistent buzz of the delivery drones crisscrossing the sky was absent. There was still the odd one high above, taking goods from one city to the next. Whenever one flew past, Sam drew back closer to the tree, hiding in the shadows. High Command had access to all the cameras in the city, even those on the private mail drones.

He imagined he was in one of the old films his grandfather used to make him watch. A cowboy, out under the stars, living a life of stoic solitude at one with the natural elements. If only all he had to contend with was a corrupt sheriff or a band of outlaws. When the State came to tame the Wild West, the cowboys were powerless to stop them.

He eased back and closed his eyes. The cold bit into his skin, experiencing it’s first ever night without air-conditioning and heating inside the comfort of his housing cube. He drifted off to sleep.

The drone noise grew louder and closer. Sam snapped open his eyes. He saw the search lights sweeping the bushes and trees close by. He had to escape, but to stand up would be to reveal himself. He shrivelled up into a ball as tight as he could, praying the drone would miss him by some miracle.

There was a loud bang, followed by an explosion and a metallic thud as the drone crashed to the ground. Sam felt the warmth of the fireball on his face as he peered out. A strong hand grabbed his arm. A bag was thrust over his head and the gloom turned to pitch black.

‘Welcome to the resistance,’ a voice whispered in his ear. ‘Follow me.’ Other hands guided him away.

Copyright Sue Vincent

This is a response to the Thursday Photo Prompt curated over at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. Click on the link to read other stories inspired by the image.

24 responses to “UNDER THE STARS”

  1. Didn’t expect the ending! But oh man, drones and implants and a totalitarian society? I’d love to read more should you expand on this 😀

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you for the encouragement 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. No problem 😊

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Good one! Glad he fell into the right hands.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Me too. I sense he may still have a lot of difficult times ahead though!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. That really drew me in, Iain. Made me think of Soylent Green…

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks Sue, I really must see this film – I have had others mention it to me before in comments for other stories as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You must. It is a true classic…and it leaves a real mark.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Excellent; have you read the Mandibles by Lionel Shriver? it reminded me of that book

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you – haven’t read that one, sounds like one to look out for.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Any more to follow Iain? I’m hooked!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you – currently writing novel set in the same world for NaNoWriMo month, but with different characters – so it’s good to get positive feedback!

      Liked by 3 people

  6. What gripping tale! It sure needs to be continued as a full fledged novel Ian…

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you for the encouragement.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sounds like the beginning of a book 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. A great beginning you have here…

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Ah! Enjoyed this 🙂 He appears to be in good hands now. I can’t wait for the next bit!

    Liked by 3 people

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