Author: Russell Bert Waters

Grandma isn’t well. Might be a stroke. Incoherent mumbles. Faraway look in her eyes.

What to do? What to do?

All the EVs in the Orange Sector are shut down today by remote signal. It isn’t our week to have the allotted four hours of driving time.


I speak her name softly. She pops into alertness briefly and then glazes over again.

Not sure if it’s a stroke, but something isn’t right. I need to get her to help.

I call the dispatcher to request an override.

“Central Control, what is your emergency?”

“My Grandma isn’t well, she may be having a stroke, I need to drive her to the hospital.”


“Eighty-nine…she just turned eighty-nine last we-”

The dispatcher cuts me off.

“I’m sorry, we only allow emergency transport allowances for subjects under 70 years of age. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“Please, I need to help my Grandma.”

The line goes dead.

When it all began they would only cut off vehicle usage during storms, and other emergencies. Then the emergencies became more frequent. Then the emergencies became constant. And now, regardless of circumstance, every vehicle usage is rationed. Everyone only gets four hours of driving time every two weeks, broken down by Sectors. You aren’t allowed to hoard your time either, it is a “use it or lose it” proposition.

Before my Father was taken away for thinking the wrong thougts, he had mentioned a friend he knew who collected internal combustion vehicles. He embraced The Old Way, the Selfish Way. He embraced the old-fashioned notions that the individual somehow mattered. Those were dangerous times, when people believed that way. Now we all pull together. Now…we all struggle together.

I know if I take my Grandma to the hospital they likely won’t treat her. She has “aged out” of viability. But she has done so much for me, I can’t just give up on her. I’m not supposed to even refer to her as my “Grandma” as that’s “gendered language” and it is one of the reasons my Dad was taken away; the usage of wrong language, wrong thoughts.

If anyone gives up on my Grandma it won’t be me. If the hospital doesn’t treat her, so be it. I will have done for her what she would have done for me.

I make a phone call.

The phone is answered by a gruff voice “what can I do you for?”

I explain my situation. He is all too happy to help, but he cautions me that there’s a penalty when they discover me with an old vehicle. Possibly even time in a camp. And I didn’t get the car from him, but he wishes me the best of luck. He says to give him ten minutes and he’ll bring the vehicle to me.

A short while later I hear the purr of an engine, and then I hear the engine cut off in front of the house.

I take my Grandma’s arm and gently lead her to the door.

“Come on Grandma” I whisper.

“Let’s get you some help. And maybe afterwards, I’ll get to see my Dad again.”