My January 2018 short story of the month.
At first, we thought the black liquid was oil, that we’d struck it rich and that we’d be able to retire and live in leisure. We actually started writing down all the ways we’d spend the money. Our first choice was a private island. Actually, that was my first choice, my husband and daughter wanted other things.
sports car – probably a lamborgihni
MY HUSBAND’S LIST
pay off debt
retire and do nothing
OUR DAUGHTER’S LIST
lots of cats
She is eight and loves cats. My husband and I really just wanted a way to be out of debt. We were still paying off the fee that allowed us to have a child. The government closely regulated how many people could be born every year. Over population had almost destroyed our planet once, they weren’t going to let it happen again. At least, not without making money off of poor people like us first.
This discovery could change everything for us. The trouble was we weren’t sure how to let someone know without losing our rights to the liquid. If it was oil, we wouldn’t just be rich, we’d be set for life. Only 150 years ago, fossil fuels had run out. That’s right. Gone. We were warned it would happen, but most people didn’t do anything to prepare for the loss of oil as a fuel source. Since then however, people had scurried to set up alternative energies. Most people preferred solar.
Without oil, our world didn’t come to an end, but there were many years of hard times for the average person. It happened before I was born, but my grandparents talked about those times like they were only yesterday. The stories from that era were troubling. People got desperate, and when people got desperate, they did things they wouldn’t normally do.
We would have to alert someone about our findings in a way that wouldn’t allow them to just come in and take it from us. We deserved compensation. After all, this was our land. We made our living selling “clean” water from a spring we’d inherited from my kin.
But oil… oil was not water. Water paid our bills, but oil could shape our lives.
My husband worked from sun up to sun down monitoring the bottling process. He had good people working for us but water was still a commodity worth stealing. With him tied up all day, he was leaving it to me to decide how to proceed.
I debated calling my best friend, Amy, but if she told someone, word would spread and I would lose my chance to get my news out my way.
I didn’t call Amy, but I did call my momma. After all, she still owned shares in the family business. We would cut her in on whatever this discovery brought us.
I told her about the discovery. She didn’t believe me. I told her to come over in the morning to see for herself.
She said she’d see me then. I hung up and went about my nightly routine.
The next morning my momma showed up bright and early. We went out to the dig site and after looking at the black liquid, my mother stood very still and said nothing for a long time. I didn’t say anything. My momma was a hard working woman who ran the water business after my daddy left us. She didn’t speak a lot, but when she did, she meant every word of what she said.
“This is oil,” she said.
“I know,” I answered her.
“This is gonna change things,” she said.
I admit that at this point I expected a bit more. My momma didn’t usually state the obvious. I didn’t say anything again.
My mother interrupted, “Who’s that?” She was pointing behind me towards the road leading up to our land.
I turned around and saw several large trucks of various kinds coming towards my property. I didn’t know the purpose of all of them. I saw some vehicles that I recognized. What mostly caught my eye was that the trucks were being led to my land by a quintessential navy sedan.
“God damnit,” I said. “Momma, did you tell someone about this.” I was so angry that she would have blabbed.
“Calm down. I didn’t tell no one,” she said as she looked offended I would accuse her of such betrayal.
“Well, I didn’t tell anyone but you.” My mind was racing. How had our secret been discovered? There is no way that my husband had told anyone. He didn’t particularly warm to any government representative. They had a tendency to take what they wanted and leave nothing for the rest of us.
I ran back towards the house with my momma hot on my trail. I grabbed the radio as soon as I could reach it in the kitchen.
I yelled, “Honey, get up here now. The feds are here. We are about to have company.”
All my husband said was, “Yep.”
I went and stood on the front porch and watched all the vehicles line up outside my house. As they drew nearer, I noticed that several of them had men with weapons. As they parked, the armed men jumped off their vehicles and surrounded my front porch.
The person in charge got out of the front passenger side of the navy sedan. He buttoned his jacket as he walked towards me.
Before he could reach the porch, I said, “Something I can help you with?” I gave him my if I only had laser beams shooting out of my eyes glare.
“Ma’am. Please go back into your house.” As he said this, several of the armed personnel moved without saying anything and pointed rifles at me and my momma.
My momma grabbed my arm. “Let’s go, dear. Do as they say. It’s not worth it,” she said barely above a whisper.
We went back into the kitchen and sat down. Within seconds, I heard foot falls on the porch and then black paint started to appear on all the windows. “What the..” I said as I stood and headed for the door.
“Don’t bother,” my momma said. “It’s too late. We have lost control of this situation.” She seemed reserved and small; this was nothing like the strong woman who raised me. She would never have given up so easily. I’d never seen her go up against the government before and there was clearly fear as well as history there.
“Fine,” I said. I sat down at the kitchen table and folded my arms across my chest in an outright display of stubbornness. She sat across from me.
We had only been sitting for five minutes or so when the door opened again and my husband and daughter were thrust into the room. The door was promptly slammed shut.
My husband sat down at the table too. I looked at him expecting him to say something, anything really. He didn’t. We all just sat there looking at each other.
My daughter came over to me and gave me a hug. I told her to go play in her room while we figured out what was going on.
After about an hour, a large heavily armed group of men came in through the kitchen door and dropped off bottles of water. They didn’t say anything but left again.
Then the man in the suit who I saw get out of the sedan came in. I opened my mouth to yell at him and demand answers. He raised his hand to silence me.
I hadn’t even said anything.
“Just listen.” He paused and when none of us had anything forth coming to say, he continued, “You will remain in your house until you are told otherwise.” And then he turned and left.
Either from shock or just complete disbelief, we didn’t do anything. Not a single one of us thought to ask a single question. We just stood there.
After he left, we could here the people talking on the porch, but their voices were too muffled to be understandable.
At this point, we discussed if there was anything we could do. The consensus was that this was a no-win situation for us. We would just do as we were told for now.
Early the next morning we began to hear sounds like large equipment working on our land. I tried to look through the windows, but they had painted all of them black. We had no idea what they were doing, but it didn’t take a genius to figure it out. They were stealing our oil.
This continued for the better part of three weeks. The noises from outside were continuous. They would bring in water and food through the kitchen door and leave again without saying anything.
One morning when I awoke, I didn’t hear any noises. I went down to kitchen and walked out the back door. They were gone. That day my husband went back down to the bottling plant and starting bottling water again.