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Like Son Like Father

When Jedd Cole is not writing stories, one can find him brooding over the pages of other worlds both real and imaginary (but mostly imaginary), usually accompanied by his wonderful wife. This is his first story in Daily Science Fiction, and his fiction has also appeared or is forthcoming in the East Fork Literary Journal, New Dead Families, and Swamp Biscuits and Tea.

I always knew Felix was going to be a genius. In some ways I envy him.
It's been a long time since the wars ended. We need a way out of the smoke clouds and the vomit of mountain mouths and the black water seeping up from the earth with its rainbow sheen. And with only a fraction of humanity left alive, time has grown short. Felix knows that very well, always knew it, and he set to work early.
When he was three, I watched Felix playing with pieces of old garbage. Before the year was out, he had finished a miniature prototype for a refuge, a tower that could reach the stratosphere high above the smells of apocalypse. For his seventh birthday, we went out into the dead woods. Using twine and wood and scrap metal, he built a bridge across the gorge that had broken old Los Angeles during the earthquake of 2424. The merchant nomads still use the bridge. It's been five years since he finished it, and I think he's on to something big.
I watch him now with a smile parting my own face like that gorge. He comes home most days, when he's ready to rest, tired and smudged with oil and adhesive, scorched from torch burns, torqued by labor. He smiles back and I give him a cloth to wipe his hands with. His arms are huge. They always have been. I offer him some cold dinner.
He says eating is a formality, and we laugh together. Chip off the old block, I say.
Felix goes back to work before any of the rest of us are up, but I always peek out of the window when I hear the door close. I watch him dissolve into the gray brown fog at the top of the hill, dragging his sack of tools behind him. Later, if the world is quiet enough, I can hear the echoes of hammerfalls on metal, screeches of pressure drills, whines of electric spanners.
The world is especially cloudy today, as Felix wakes me up with a gentle nudge. He's the dirtiest I've ever seen him, but he's smiling with pearlescent teeth. I don't think anything in the world is that shiny anymore. I tell him as much. He wants to show me something, and we go outside, dissolving together into the mist.
I've seen the foundation of his latest project--I pass by it every day to go trawling--but I've never gone up to it. He leads me up its steps, and the steps keep going. Soon I can't see the ground, just the brown dust and smoke of fallout all around us. It smells stronger and stronger and becomes so thick after a few hours that I feel I can squeeze and mold it. I do, in fact, into the approximation of a dog. Felix chuckles.
Then we break the surface of the sky, and I can see below us only an endless horizon of mucky dark clouds swirling like poison water. He points up, and I look. It's a bridge we're on, a towering metal bridge. I look into the white, now blue, now black, starry sky, and I see the steel thickness ascending, tapering, reaching towards a distant white crescent.
I ask what it is. He says it's the moon. We'll be safe there, he says.
It's beautiful, Son, I say. I think you'll save us after all.
But inwardly, I'm not surprised. It's what I built him for.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Author Comments

"Like Son Like Father" was born out of a childhood full of lego creations and forts in the woods (my own childhood, to be exact). Having also been a child of divorce, it interested me to mix these themes of creation, family, and surrogacy in terms of a dark world that could represent the difficulties experienced in broken families.

- Jedd Cole
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