A Meal For Her Daughter
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It was Martha's birthday and for a year they had been able to have a quiet moment. That's why her eyes lit up and she smiled for the first time in months when her mother told her she was going to bring her favorite food. None of that synthetic crap they sold in the supermarkets.

Every day it was the same. Mary, her mother, would leave her daughter alone in search of resources. Sometimes she bought them for dollars, but every day they were used less and less until they were almost useless sheets of paper. The usual thing among the nearby settlements was to group together to raid supermarkets in abandoned towns and collect tin cans and other non-perishable foodstuffs. The only thing the money was good for was the antidote.

As she had every day for the past year, Mary recalled life in the city before the great famine of '86. With the exception of Clark County, which was suffering from a different set of problems, everyone in Nevada suffered from low blood pressure and fatigue, and there were rumors that people had jelly for blood. Then the animals fell. Their bodies rejected the antidote and it was not profitable to produce another one. Vegetables were scarce and too expensive for someone like Mary.

After three months, debts drowned Mary's family and they could not afford another dose of antidote for the three of them. Her husband became what they called a molten one, exuding blood and other fluids transmuted into jelly. Mary had no choice.

That resulted in Mary being charged with first-degree murder and fleeing with her daughter to the lawless deserts. From a timid woman, she became a battle-hardened survivor capable of carrying weapons and using them when the occasion arose. She was part of numerous raids on abandoned cities and intercepted antidote deliveries like one of the others.

On July 17, it was her daughter's birthday and she decided to organize something special. She needed a syringe, a spoon, a hammer and some jars.

By chance, she happened to be close friends with three people whose doses of the antidote were running low today. She convinced them to go to Tonopah and raid one of the few intact supermarkets. What had been a small town linked to the air force like Tonopah was now a monument to silence. The corpses of the inhabitants were more useful as sleeping bags than anything else.

Mary remembered from years ago the pretext they spouted: it was all for the good of the nation, the red peril is spreading, we must stand in the face of the tyranny of… Poorly thought out pretexts. The country had an idea of what was going on south of Tonopah or at Groom Lake.

But that no longer matters. It matters about family, day to day life and living.

They arrived at the grocery store indicated. Once inside, Mary set her plan in motion. Once they were separated, Mary snuck up on the first one and knocked him unconscious with the hammer. When another of her friends had noticed the noise made by Mary, she knocked the glass bottles off the shelves on the floor to lure him in and proceeded to do the same as with the first. Unfortunately, the last friend noticed Mary. But a mother's courage overcame everything and before he could defend himself, she knocked him unconscious as well as his companions.

It was a shame to have done all that, but they would refuse if they knew. Even if they knew it was for her daughter. She began to extract the genuine jelly and then scoop it into jars. When the jelly overflowed from their bodies, she used the spoon. With that, she filled the three jars and left them lying there like the other skins outside.

Mary closed the door of the supermarket so as not to leave suspicion and headed back home. It was the first time little Martha had seen genuine jelly and she cried with happiness. When they finished dinner, little Martha remembered that conversation before she was a runaway:

- Mommy, before we left home, did you hurt Daddy?
- No, honey. Daddy wanted the best for both of us. We were his little sweethearts.
- But I heard you yelling at the men in uniform. They told me they were taking me to a better place.
- They're lying to you. They just want to tear us apart and take you to a place full of bad kids, not like you. Listen to me because you're a good girl.
- I will listen to you, Mommy.

At that instant, both mother and daughter bonded in a heartfelt embrace for ten minutes.

As they went to sleep, Mary sighed with relief that her daughter understood her.

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