This is the beginning of a piece I’ve been pondering over for a while now. Obviously, it’s a “to be continued” situation unless I hit a dead end or get bored with the project. The working title right now is “Camp 42” which is an awful title and will surely be changed.
My name is Aimee. Some call me Glow. I live within the walls of Camp 42.
The walls are built out of recycled titanium: the sides of retired aircraft carriers, the hulls of nuclear submarines, even the flack jackets foot soldiers used. It was all gathered, melted down and re-cast into 10×10 foot sheets three inches thick. These sheets were welded and bolted together to create a wall, twenty-feet high, surrounding our three square miles of colony. It was all done with precision: 6,336 sheets, every angle measured to the decimal degree, every bolt exactly six inches apart. I know all of this because my father helped built it.
I wasn’t born till after the walls were constructed. My mother was seven months pregnant during the Flash. She had to carry all ten pounds eight ounces of me, on swollen ankles, from my parents’ house in Fort Feynman to our assignment in Camp 42. Aunt Joyce nursed my mother in a military tent through the last two months of pregnancy while my father helped with the walls. The successful birthrate for a pregnant woman who lived within ten miles of a Flash event was 60%. Within five miles, 30%. Fort Feynman was 2.7 miles away from an epicenter. At that distance, the survivability of the average adult was 50%. No one bothered to calculate the birthrates.
My mother reminds me that I’m not supposed to be alive by kissing my forehead every morning. She’s a bit of a hover, as you’d expect, which used to bother me as a kid. For example: even though one of the first organizations arranged in C42 was a school for the kids that made it, my mother kept me home schooled. Finally, when I was eight, my father convinced her I needed some socializing. I adopted the name “Glow Baby” almost immediately when I was the only one who showed up in a bio suit. My classmates even made a fake “quarantine” area for me to sit in during recess. I held the tears in till I got home, which sparked a rare fight between my parents. Aunty Joyce and I spent the night hunkered down in her room, mocking up school outfits for the rest of the week. Eventually both my parents came in to apologize for fighting and for embarrassing me at school. Nothing could change it, though. The nickname stuck and I grew to accept it. I even started to like it when I made friends. Of course, I had to convince them to drop the “baby” part.
These days, I don’t mind my mother’s doting so much. I understand her stake in me now and the struggles she and my father have had just to keep me in existence. I am also acutely aware that I am probably my parent’s last and only. The fertility rate in C42 is about 65%. Since I’ve heard, over the past decade or so, through the wall, my parents’ frequent attempts to give me a sibling with no success, I guess the odds finally caught up to them.
Though we came from Fort Feynman, my father wasn’t a soldier. He was an independent contractor for the military, commissioned to work on temporary structures for use in the battlefield. His most successful project was an aluminum enforced igloo-shaped tent, which could withstand the blast from an RPG and be erected and dismantled in 20 minutes. It was one of these tents my family stayed in before our hut was built.
Due to his skills, my father was the foreman for the southern wall. For his service, he was granted first access to building materials for our hut. He used aluminum and thin sheets of rejected-grade titanium for the shell. The inside of the hut is insulated with wood and canvas. The simple materials work well in the sweltering heat of the day, and the cooking oven keeps us warm at night. Always the optimist, my father built me my own room even though I wasn’t born yet. Aunt Joyce even painted a mural on the ceiling of the city that stands ten miles to the east. She painted the city as it once was, of course. Not the ruins that it is today. She had to steal rationed paint to make it, so she only got away with blue. Yet even in monochrome, she took great care in detailing every structure. She taught me the names of each building and by the time I was six, I could’ve taken you on a tour if we were ever allowed into the city. Even now, 16 years later, the mural still remains. The blue has faded, and a there are a few chips and cracks, but I still wake up to that skyline every morning.
My bedroom sits between my parents’ and Aunt Joyce’s room. There is a door on either side leading to their rooms, as well as one in front leading to the living quarters. I don’t have a window, but I do have a skylight made from the windshield of an old jet fighter. It sits directly above the tallest building in the blue skyline. Aunt Joyce painted sunrays around it. When I was seven, my father cut a flap into the wall that I could prop open to get fresh air. This was only after the Camp lifted their time limit to outside exposure without a bio suit.
My father is one of the Camp’s most trusted handy men. On any given day you’ll find him fixing someone’s house, repairing a water pump or joining an Out-Wall salvage mission. With the work that he does, he always comes home with a new gift. Sometimes it’s a cooking pot from an engineer or bushel of hydroponic apples from the distributor’s station. Other times it’s a fresh haircut from Mrs. Edwards or a stumble and a smile from the Camp’s mead house.
In C42, a Contribution is expected from everyone to maintain citizenship. While there is no currency in Camp, goods are traded and services are given based on relative merit. In plain words, someone gets something if the giver deems him or her worth of it. In the case of grand goods, such as food, property and justice, the Camp Counsel acts as the merit judge and distributor. The Counsel is also responsible for handling sloth cases. These are instances of repeated inactivity or counter productivity. The most severe punishment for this, and other crimes, is banishment. I’ve only seen that happen a few times so far, though there are rumors that some are banished in secret.
Aunt Joyce’s primary Contribution is that she makes clothes. She also does a few odd jobs like helping out at the mead house or painting murals for the various churches. Before the Flash, Aunt Joyce was an artist. She specialized in painting on canvas, which apparently was more than just a building material. My mother once told me that Aunt Joyce even sold a few of her paintings for a fair amount of “money,” a concept I still find a baffling. Quantifying worth and putting it on pieces of paper just seems flawed to me. Yet some Pre-Flash citizens still have debates about going back to a currency based system.
My mother was a Hut Mom until I reached my teens. Now she makes clothes with Aunt Joyce and occasionally kid-sits for other families. My mother is not a perpetual hut dweller, though. I have spent a fare share of nights with Aunt Joyce while my mother met my father at the mead house or went to the Camp Center to watch a play. Once I was deemed Contribution Ready by the school, my mother even started to leave me in the hut alone.
I was given my Contribution designation when I was 14. Most people don’t receive them till they’re 18. Early on in my childhood I was labeled “advanced,” but really I’m just good at picking up new things. I have what some of the Pre-Flash generation call a “photographic memory.” I store memories like a digital eye; recalling everything I’ve experienced with near perfect detail since I was five. I didn’t realize how abnormal I was until I was seven when, for my first in-class project, I drew a map of C42 with all the distances between the huts accurately marked and scaled. I remember being surprised by my teacher’s praise. I simply redrew a map my father pinned up in our hut. As much as I tried to tell her it was nothing special, the next day I got to meet General Kane and some of the others on the Camp Counsel.