Smugglers (The Maskheads Series, #1)

Prologue.

Source: Pixabay.

This is a speculative fiction series comprised of three books. One chapter will be released every Wednesday, with links to previous and next chapters when applicable.

My name is Andy, and I am the daughter of one of the last women on earth.

Okay, maybe that’s too dramatic a way to start this thing. But my name is Andy. Or Andrew, rather. And my mother was one of the last women on Earth for a good number of years. So I guess there’s no other way of really saying that other than the most dramatic way possible.

I’m writing this because I’m bored. More accurately, I’m being punished and have been sent to sit in this basement for a time. So I figure, best to get my side of things before everything gets out of hand. Even what “out of hand” means, I don’t know. But better safe than sorry.

I’m not sure what I can say that would convince you, whomever is reading this, that this all really happened. But I think if you read long enough, you’d realize that my story’s too messy to be made up. Every story I’ve ever heard about the government, or Home, or even about the last women of Earth was very neat and tidy. And they all ended up being bad stories.

Not wrong, just bad. Bad in that they didn’t truly talk about everything that happened during the time of no women. So I guess “incomplete” is the better word. So I’ll do my best in writing this story.

My first memories aren’t of Home, though I wish they were. It’s a much better place to make memories than the slum apartments in the Pacific Northwest.

Of course, I had no idea they were slums when I was four years old. That’s just where my memory starts in all this, so that’s where I’ll start writing. Someone has to record people’s real recollections of what happened, not just that bland stuff they’ll probably put in the textbooks.

You read those for facts, and you read stories like this one for atmosphere. You need that when you learn history as a little kid.

My first memory is of when Mama John cut my hair for the first time. Four’s probably an old age to have your first haircut, but that doesn’t matter. The curly nature of my hair made it look shorter than it really was for a long time. I was able to get away without having a haircut for a long time.

It happened so fast — I was building with blocks down on the big green woven rug. Back then there was a big television on the other side of the rug. It was so big that I could see my own reflection whenever it was turned off.

It was real glass, and I liked that. It was somehow novel to know that that screen was made of the same stuff as the window outside. I used to call them Daddy Glass and Mama Glass.

I saw Mama John cutting my hair on Mama Glass. I screamed at the sight: Mama John holding a lock of my hair directly horizontal, stretching the curl as long as she could so I wouldn’t detect the cut.

“Don’t cut! Not yet!”

“Andy, we have to cut your hair now. It’s been long enough.”

“No! I want my hair!”

“Andrew Morrison, you let me cut your hair right this instant or I won’t let you watch Lady Five’s concert on television tonight.”

“No. I want to have long hair.”

Mama John took my legs and turned me around. She was incredibly strong, actually — that was mostly how the nation knew her. She was the strongest woman out of the six that were left.

Thick arms, heavy breasts, the well-formed face of a woman of strength. Those were the phrases they used to describe her on television.

I expected her to be harsh, hold me down and cut my hair like she had done once before when I wouldn’t eat my oatmeal. But instead, she touched my hair gently. “I know it’s hard, sweetie. It’s okay for you to want long hair. I think it makes you look very pretty.”

“So why do you have to cut it?”

“Because it’s a dangerous world out there, and I want you to be safe. You wouldn’t like your hair to get caught on something when you’re running around with Justin, would you?”

“No, but…”

“And you don’t want any icky germs to get in through your hair, right? That would be gross, wouldn’t it?”

“No, I don’t want that.”

“Then we have to cut it, honey. I’m sorry.”

“I know, Mama.”

She kissed my nose. “You’re still a beautiful little girl, Andy. Beautiful and strong, just like all of the Six.”

I frowned. “I know. But I don’t want to cut my hair.”

“Do you want to wear your dress while I cut it?”

That perked me up. “Can I?”

“Yes, for a special treat.”

“Yay!” I ran to the closet and started digging through the dirty clothes. At the very bottom, a frilly green dress. Made from velvet, like an Irish dancer’s dress. But instead of green leggings, there was a poofy black skirt that spread out at the waist. It was connected to the top velvet part by a black sash, ending in a black bow in the back. It was so smooth, much better than the overalls I usually wore around the house. Even my dress pants couldn’t compare.

I had slipped off my overalls and left them on the floor. The dress still fit me, even though I hadn’t worn it in six months. My birthday and Mama John’s birthday. That was when I got dress privileges.

I sat up on Mama John’s big stool, a steel square thing she’d bought at a rummage sale. My bottom was cold, but this allowed all of the dress’ skirt to fan out around me. It looked so pretty in front of the vanity mirror.

Mama John looked at me and smiled. “So pretty,” she said. She was wearing her usual plaid shirt, rolled up to the elbows. This one was blue checked, unbuttoned just enough that you could see the top of her binding.

“You wear your dress, Mama!”

“No, Andy. Another time. Right now we have to cut your hair.” She made a move to roll up her sleeves, then realized they were already there.

The shears were on the vanity table, small but bright. We brought them to the blacksmith to be sharpened every month, along with all of our knives. Mama John said that even hair-cutting shears can be used as weapons if you need them to be. So we sharpened them.

At that moment, they were cutting off my curls one by one with incredible effectiveness. Longest first, then fine-tuning the shorter ones to make my cheekbones stand out even more. A few medium-length strands to downplay the size of my eyes. One or two misshapen curls that we could blame on boys being boys.

“Why do I have to have short hair, Mama?”

“I already told you, Andy. It’ll keep you safe.”

“But I don’t like it.”

“I know, honey. When you get big and strong, you can wear your hair as long as you want.”

“Promise?”

“Yes, honey. But for now, you have to have shorter hair so you can un away easier if someone tries to grab you. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, Mama.”

“Mama John, sweetie.”

“Yes, Mama John.” The last curls hit the dress’s skirt.

I was a boy again. I burst into tears.