Old Bones (Extended Version)

This story started as a nanostory written for a photo prompt. It was very difficult to get Liam’s tale down into 150 words. Ultimately, I felt too much was being left out and the story below expands the original into a more sufficient size.

The original can be found HERE.

The flag slapped hard against the wind. Liam was shocked to see it still in one piece, let alone in the same place he had tucked it many decades ago, in the side mirror housing of an ancient pickup truck. The red, white and blue colors of the flag were still radiant despite all the time spent in the sun. It was…unusual.

The flag was one of the older styles, lacking the three extra stars that were added in the early 20s, just before the war. This small corner of Nebraska was a rare spot in Old America left untouched by the devastation of that war—one that saw North America take the brunt of the world’s anger and frustration.

Liam ran his hands along the old truck, stopping at occasional bits of rust that struck at his memory. He felt almost as if he recognized the patterns of the rust. It all seemed too familiar to be true. How could this truck have survived so well while the rest of the country was turned into a wasteland?

He opened the driver’s door, which resisted his pull and squealed. Inside, the cab was dusty but unmolested. Liam remembered sitting on his uncle’s lap holding the steering wheel as the drove wildly across the empty fields.

Liam wasn’t sure how he had ended up in New London after the aliens had arrived; the rest of his family had not. The extraterrestrial arrivals had stopped the bombs from dropping. And they had cleaned up much of the mess—not all, priorities had to be made and Old America was mostly left to rot. It was all too practical, efficient. Liam had assumed he would never see the place of his birth again, but then he heard of this oasis. It was becoming a tourist trap. Who would have thought? His uncle’s small farm in the Nebraska back-country? Bah.

The aliens didn’t like people visiting places like this, remembering that time before them. But they couldn’t restrict people’s freedom and claim to be benevolent peacemakers at the same time. They claimed to have made things better in the New Cities. Liam didn’t know what could be better than having an explosive machine rumbling under your feet. The aliens would never know. But it was something his children and grandchildren would never know either. The past was being shut out in favor of progress.

On a lark, he turned the key. The ignition clicked but nothing more. He jumped down and lifted up the red rusted hood. The engine was clean, everything was connected as he remembered. Liam pulled out his pocket computer and scanned the battery; it was dead. With the push of a button he sent a charge into the old black brick. Then he returned to the cab and turned the key again.

There was a whine of old bones struggling to move,  a sound Liam could appreciate. Then the beast came alive. He felt the tremors beneath his feet, not unlike the tremors caused by carpet bombing. He smelt the burning of gasoline and oil, not unlike the sulfurous stench of gunfire. Despite the incessant nagging of the aliens—many of whom he had worked with, befriended, even loved—Liam could not let go of his past. It was what had shaped him into the man he was today. It was part of him.

Liam set his head down on the soft, sofa-like seat and closed his eyes, listening to the growl of the beast. He passed the next few hours alone in the cab of the truck, until the engine died for good.

*This story is set in the world of Storm Hamilton and the Seraphim. More stories can be found here:

Signs of a Past Life

Some Things You Can’t Let Go

That Which is Not Displayed

Green Food


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