In the middle of it all, the occupation, a series of of posters appeared on the old telephone poles around the city. Nita, under the cover of an intense rainstorm that occluded the view of the cameras, stopped briefly and looked at one of the posters. It was hand drawn and the ink was running.
People come and go.
Are you okay with that?
It was all it said. There was no call to arms like in the early days. It was just a question, yet somehow it nagged and wriggled. Nita wiped water from her face and quickly carried on. "Nothing to worry about," she said to herself. "Not my problem."
She arrived home and unloaded her coat pockets of food. You were only allowed to buy what you could carry on you at anyone time. It was a simple way of implementing rationing. She took off her coat and shook it out in the communal apartment hallway. Then she wiped the excess wet from her hair with her hands. She closed the door and went to the bedroom.
"Momma?" she asked. The figure on the bed was breathing slowly. "I'm home. You alright?"
Her mother smiled and opened her eyelids a crack.
"I'm fine for now," she said. "But as for alright...well I don't know."
"Don't start that again, please," said Nita.
"This isn't my world anymore," said her mother, "but it's still yours."
"Don't you talk like that Momma."
"They'll come for me soon enough."
"No, they won't. I won't let them. Uh-uh. No," said Nita. She straightened her mother's covers, smoothing her hands over her mother's frail legs.
"You can't just shut this out. I thought I raised you better than this."
Nita stood up straight, and brushed hair from her mother's face.
"Would you like a cup of tea? It's one of the few things we have a lot of, but if you prefer, we could split a teabag between us."
Nita's mother sighed heavily and looked at the ceiling. She closed her eyes and didn't reply.
"Fine," said Nita. She left the room and busied herself with preparing the evening meal in the kitchen.
As soon as she'd put the kettle on to boil there was a knock at the door. Nita instinctively squeezed the handle of the kettle as her heart jumped. The knock repeated harder. Nita wiped her hands on her pants and ran of for the door.
"Who is it?" she spoke through the thin veneered wood.
"The officials," said a deep voice. "Open up."
Nita unlocked the door and opened it a crack.
"What do you want?" she asked.
"Excuse me?" asked the man in a black and white uniform of the officials on the other side. He pushed the door wide open and stepped on Nita's foot. "We have reason to believe that you are harboring an elderly individual. If this is true you will be fined two year's salary."
"Please, I don't know what you've heard--"
"Do you or do you not harbor such a person?"
"It's alright," said Nita's mother. She stood in the doorway to the kitchen. "Let them take me."
The official pushed Nita into the counter and she lost her breath with the impact.
"Stop!" said Nita's mother to the official. "What do you think you're doing?"
"I don't have to explain myself to you," said the official coldly to Nita's mother.
"Oh yes you do, you little twerp!" bellowed Nita's mother.
"You should listen to your little spawn," laughed the official. "You--" he prodded a finger into the back of Nita's neck, "are going to get docked another year's salary."
"I haven't got a job!" yelled Nita. "Thanks to your party's asinine economic policies, so there!"
"In that case, and adding in an additional charge of wilful sedition, I'm going to liquidate all your assets and reassign your living quarters," said the official, leaning into Nita's ear. He jerked her upright. "I'll be back with the paperwork later."
He crossed over to Nita's mother and grabbed her by the elbow.
"Careful!" yelled Nita. "She has osteoporosis."
"What does it matter? This body is going to be recycled."
"Do you even know what that means?" asked Nita's mother. "Do you even know the type of society you're complicit in?"
"Not my problem," said the official.
"What happens when your replacements come for you one day? Aren't you're curious about being recycled? Don't you ever wonder what that actually means?"
The official snorted and adjusted his suit, but he didn't keep pulling Nita's mother to the door.
"You do wonder," said Nita's mother with a hint of a grin. "You wonder if all the stories are true. You wonder if what the party official tells us about it. How could we possibly have the technology to repair an elderly human body back to a pristine state of health. How can we wipe the brain clean and replace it's contents with those from another. And then you retell yourself the stories of the monsters that had been rewritten too many times. The story of the brains that ate themselves. You think about it and you wonder, don't you?"
"Yeah. So. Everyone wonders about it. Doesn't mean there's any reason to doubt the truth of it."
"You admit that?" whispered Nita.
"Fortunately that time will be a long time off."
"Maybe, but what you're hoping for, the best case scenario, that you will get rewritten back onto your old body time and again, that you won't have to share your body with others. You're wishing, not wondering."
The official stared at Nita's mother for a moment, he's eyes stationary, frozen, belying that his brain was locked in a loop. Then he snapped his gaze.
"Come on," he said, pulling Nita's mother.
"Momma!" said Nita.
"It's alright," she said. She winked at her daughter.
Nita pushed the official and hugged her mother as tightly as she dared.
"It's alright," her mother repeated.
"No, it's not," whispered Nita.
"Then fight girl. Fight, because your life depends on it. And don't miss me. Don't you ever miss me."
The official pushed them apart and dragged Nita's mother out the door. Nita trailed behind, but there were other officials in the hallway and they held her back. She watched her mother's retreating figure. Many of the neighbors had poked there heads out their doors, and Nita wondered which one had given them away.