As the sun peeked above the horizon, Mia’s eyes slowly opened. She climbed out of her sunken bed, stretching to peek out of the small window in the corner of her room. Opening the hatch of the window, Mia looked outside to see the same, desolate landscape she had become accustomed to seeing. She had heard stories growing up about the way Earth used to be—when there were thousands of different animals, plants were green, there were more than just two crops, and people could live anywhere they wanted in the world. But now, everyone left inhabited the parched, lifeless desert that was New Zealand.
She heard the sound of soft padding behind her, and turned from the window to find her twin siblings standing in the doorway. Mia gestured for them to be quiet, then motioned toward
the kitchen. The children nodded their heads in silent response, and walked down the hall to the kitchen. Mia closed the bedroom door softly behind her, being careful not to wake her brother.
“Sleep well?” Mia asked, as she started making breakfast.
“It was okay,” Allie replied, “But Jackson kept me up for so long.”
“I needed to finish playing with my toys!” Jackson exclaimed.
“Okay, okay. Let’s keep our voices down, please.” Mia attempted to give them a scolding look as she turned back to the stove, but she couldn’t help but smile. Even though she was always handling the twins—settling their fights, helping them with homework, making them meals—she adored her siblings more than anything in the world. She was close with her brother Luke too, but she had always had a special affinity for the twins. Perhaps it was because she practically raised them, or maybe she just liked kids. Anyway, it didn’t matter to Mia. As long as her siblings were happy, she was too.
As she laid out small bowls of cooked quinoa and the last of the corn mash, her mother emerged from the darkness of the hallway.
“Good morning, children.”
Her mother was almost always cold. Mia supposed it was the long days she had to endure, and the lack of affection she received from their father. It didn’t bother Mia, so long as it didn’t bother her siblings, but sometimes she wished her mother could offer more warmth. Life wasn’t easy these days, and with more storms rolling closer things weren’t looking up either.
“Mia,” Luke whined, “I’m still so hungry!”
“I’m sorry buddy, there’s just none left. Mom and Dad still have to eat too.”
“But Mia!” the twins whined in unison, “We were hungry yesterday morning and the day before too!”
“I’m sorry. There’s nothing to be done about it.” Mia clenched her fists in frustration. She wished she could do something to change the situation. She couldn’t bear to see the twins go hungry yet another day. There were simply too many people and not enough food.
“Get ready quick,” Mia said to the twins, “You only have fifteen minutes to get ready for school. And wake up Luke too.” Allie and Jackson rushed out of the room, yelling for their older brother.
“Thank you for breakfast, Mia.” Her mother attempted to give Mia a grateful smile, but it looked more like a grimace. Luke and the twins came rushing back down the hallway, each wearing their state-issued uniforms and carrying their state-issued backpacks. When the storms first started assaulting the area, the government decided it would be best to allocate resources in case things became worse. Good thing they did, because the storms haven’t ceased since they began.
Everyone knew that the storms were due to humans drastically altering the climate, but no one dared to say that out loud. No one wanted to be responsible for the way life was now. The new climate brought storms, and these brutal tempests had forced everyone to New Zealand. All
of the crops had been destroyed other than quinoa and corn, and government scientists hadn’t been able to come up with a new species that could survive the climate. People still hoped that the other crops would magically return, or that the few government scientists that were still
employed would come up with a solution, but Mia knew these prayers were futile. Corn was growing scarcer by the day, and albeit the government tried to hide the food shortage, Mia’s dad, who worked at a farm nearby, continuously updated their family on what the real situation was.
As Mia’s mother and siblings left for the schoolhouse, where her mother worked, she heard creaking from down the hallway. Her father entered the kitchen, barely giving Mia a glance.
“Hi Dad.” Mia pointedly looked at him, burning holes in the back of his head with her eyes. He slowly turned around, sipping his coffee as if it were the only thing keeping him alive.
“How’d you sleep?”
Mia clenched her fists. “Good talk,” she said shortly. Mia knew her dad was under pressure at the farm. Whenever a storm came along the farmers had to stop work completely and return to their homes. And with storms rolling through every few days, this meant work at the farm was completely on and off. Even still, there was no need for him to be so impolite. She took
a breath. It didn’t matter how her father acted. She had made up her mind. Today was the day things would change.
Mia cleaned up the kitchen as her father walked out the door.
“Bye I guess,” she shouted. Her dad simply lifted a hand in response.
“Whatever,” she muttered to herself, pacing up and down the hallway. She decided to go to the general store to make one last attempt at getting some more food for the twins.
Her mind raced as she walked down the road to the store. The long dirt road looked never ending, like the desert could go on forever and still never reach life. She approached the entrance to the store, slowly unclenched her fist, and prepared herself for the failure that was likely to occur.
“I’ll take eight ears of corn, please.” Mia spoke to the woman behind the counter politely, hoping she would grant her forbidden request.
The woman paused to cough then replied, “Sorry, honey, you know each family’s only allowed five since that storm blew through.”
Mia bowed her head, feeling the tingle in her nose that meant there were tears just below the surface. This meant another week of not enough food for the family.
“That’s okay, thank you anyways.” She walked away with her allotted five ears, wishing she had more to carry.
While the woman didn’t take pity on her, Mia felt bad for her. She remembered the days when the old woman wasn’t shaking, or having a coughing fit every time she opened her mouth. It was the same for Mia’s own grandmother, until the family didn’t have the resources to sustain
her any longer.
She walked home alone on the deserted road, thinking about how peacefully her grandma had gone. It was so effortless for her, such a simple decision to make for the family. But that was back then. Today, things were different.
As she laid the corn down on the counter, the alarm began to sound. Another storm had arrived. Mia made her way down to the bunker, making sure to close the windows and turn off lights as she went.
She meticulously closed the door so there was just a crack of light shining through. She set up the bunker so the tools were on the right, where she was standing, and the few food cans that remained were on the left. She held her breath, waiting to hear the creaking upstairs.
She heard the distinct swinging of the front door opening. Then came the footsteps. Slow, steady. They’d been through this routine before. The footsteps made their way to the bunker staircase. Down one step. Then another. They paused as they approached the door. Mia clenched
her fists. It was time.
“Hello, Mia,” her father entered.
“Hello.” Mia stared at down at her white knuckles. “How was the farm today?”
“How are the other farmers?” Mia was trying to talk casually, as she knew what was to come.
“Fine,” her father said, turning around to face her.
“Any news on the crop experiments?”
“No, Mia. There are none.” Her father turned around again and began pacing back and forth.
“Has anyone heard from the government?” Mia talked slowly, prolonging the conversation.
“You know what Mia, enough of these questions. I’ve had a long day, and I have a lot to deal with. Why don’t you go set something up for the twins like you always do.”
“I’d rather stay here and keep talking to you. Anyways you must have so much to say. You have a hard life working at the farm,” Mia took a step closer to him, “I mean since it prevents you from spending any time caring for your family.”
“Enough, Mia,” he turned sharply. “Enough of this.”
“Oh but I’m really just curious,” Mia’s voice was rising and she just couldn’t stop, “how is it that you have two children starving and you don’t seem to have a care in the world about it. All you care about is your little farm. Well maybe, since you are a farmer and all, you should try to come up with a way to actually feed your family.” She stepped closer. “I have.”
“What exactly are you trying to say here. That there’s not enough food? Because I think we all know the situation there Mia. There’s nothing that can be done.” Now her father was the one with white knuckles.
Mia’s heart was pounding so loudly she could’ve sworn there was a percussionist living in her brain.
“Oh, but that’s where you’re wrong. Don’t you remember how we dealt with
Her father’s eyes widened as it became clear what Mia’s intentions were.
“Mia—” He lunged toward her.
It was too late. She grabbed the old rifle from behind her and shot. The twins would be hungry no longer.