Sixteen Hundred

Author : Janet Shell Anderson

I saw the full moon last night, and it reminded me.

Jonathan has been gone a week.

Sometimes I hole up in Rock Creek Park; I know places in the woods, in the sweetbriar and holly and tulip trees where no one ever comes, hear mockingbirds in the twilight, owls in the dark. That’s all right. The water of the creek running over the stones is like a voice talking about the old days, when it was safe.

Sometimes I hide in big houses on Connecticut Avenue I know are empty. I haven’t seen Jonathan for a week or David either, and I told them not to do it, but of course they did.

They went down to Sixteen Hundred.

There’re all kinds of jumpers now over the wrought-iron fences near that place on 16th Street, all kinds of people in the shadows in the rose garden and the huge, cloud-shaped boxwoods. My Dad disappeared there, across from Lafayette Park. Sixteen Hundred. Sometimes it’s called the WH.

I’ll never go there.

The old, abandoned National Zoo’s a safe place, and the old P Street Beach, at night, the entrance of Rock Creek into the Potomac, all safe. I hunt down there. But Sixteen Hundred’s not safe. Not for most people anyway.

We used to live in Chevy Chase with Daddy, Kiki, and Ivan, who wasn’t our brother, in a big house that wasn’t really ours, but the owner disappeared and Daddy took it. We had all kinds of things, crystal, porcelain, silverware we ate with, even for rice and beans. I slept in a tester bed with real silk sheets.
I don’t know what my Dad did wrong, but one thing was, he knew where all the entrances into Sixteen Hundred via the tunnels for the AC and heat were located because he was a mechanical engineer and helped design the new bomb shelter. So all of a sudden Dad was missing, Kiki was dead, and David and Jonathan and I, as soon as we got home from our private schools and figured it out, we ran.

I don’t know where Ivan is.

Jonathan says Ivan’s in a wall where 16th Street takes a big dive down toward the Potomac, near Meridian Park, probably stashed in there with a couple of Senators and other Disappeared.

I have a nine-millimeter submachine pistol my Aunt Sylvia gave me, so no one can bother me. Getting ammunition’s hard. I know a certain store on M Street not too far from the river where I jiggle open a window, about two a.m., and take some. I think the owner must know and just lets it happen. A lot of people just let things happen.

I saw the full moon last night over Rock Creek, silver over the tree limbs and big boulders, and the voice of water running over the stones sounded like the time when everything was safe.

4 Comments

  1. Jae

    Just far enough off-beat to be chilling.

    Don’t think it’s entirely prescient, though – this sort of collapse would impact profits…

  2. M J R

    A well written story about a dystopian near future which America is in reality on track to become.

  3. SimonJM

    A gentle stroll through a place where it all, or an awful lot of it, went wrong – nicely done.

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