Ration by Cody T. Luff releases today in the Horror genre.
All the girls who live in the Apartments are forced to weigh their own hunger against the lives of the others living in the building. When Cynthia is wrongly accused of ordering an “A” ration, she punished by the other girls. Eventually, she’s is forced to leave the Apartments along with Ms. Glennoc, one of the former managers who has tormented and abused her for years. Together, they encounter a world of even more scarcity, but one filled with politics and intrigue. Cynthia struggles to return to the Apartments and help the girls who are still there.
Forced to reconcile her role in the destruction of these girls with the greater needs of society to find any sustainable source of calories, Ms. Tuttle makes one bad decision after another while she grapples with a mother who is growing more and more impatient with her mistakes.
Ration is a dark and forceful book, written in a surprisingly nuanced and accessible way. It combines the darkness and despair of The Road and The Handmaid’s Tale, but has notes of charm like Lauren Oliver’s Replica.
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The stairs speak as they climb. Bitter old wood, sour creaks chased by the occasional
sharp crack. Even from her Apartment, Cynthia can hear when girls moved between floors.
“Have you ever eaten a … B?” Cynthia whispers.
Imeld does not slow her ascent. “That’s a stupid question, Cinnie.”
“Oh,” Cynthia says. They turn the sharp corner on the small landing. A ration pouch lays
folded against the stair wall. The large A printed in faded maroon on the tan plastic face of the
pouch stops both girls.
“Somebody just left it here,” Imeld says.
“For anyone to see,” Cynthia whispers.
“They wanted us to see.” Imeld lets go of Cynthia’s hand and bends to pluck the ration
pouch off the carpet and bring it to her nose. “Oh,” she says and the smell hits Cynthia. Warm
spice, meat, ghosts that brought saliva flooding to her tongue.
“Why would they do that?” Cynthia asks.
Imeld opens her mouth to speak and a thin, silver thread of drool slips from her lips. She
drops the pouch and wipes her mouth with a palm.
“I,” Imeld begins, and her stomach speaks a high and needy note. She reaches out to
Cynthia and steadies herself on her friend’s shoulders.
“Are you all right?”
Imeld waits, her eyes locked on the ration pouch at Cynthia’s feet. Another groan courses
through her body, ending in a painfully loud gurgle behind her breastbone.
“How long?” Cynthia asks.
“I had a C four days ago,” Imeld says.
Shame rushes to Cynthia’s face, blood squirms at her temples. “You’re … so much
stronger than I am,” she says.
Imeld frowns, her fingers tightening on her friend’s shoulders. “Don’t say that.”
“Please. Just don’t.” Neither girl moves, the fluorescent light bolted crookedly to the stair
wall fizzing unhappily.
“Whoever had the A wanted us to know,” Imeld says.
“Why would they?” Cynthia asks. The last time a girl was discovered eating an A,
everyone on the second floor gathered outside her door. The girl knew, of course. She could hear
them out there, could hear the whisper of their clothing, of their feet. She did not open the door
when the first girl in line knocked. They waited for three hours before the offender had finally
opened the door, resigned to her punishment. They held her down in the hallway, rolling up her
sleeves to the elbow. Each girl in line stomped once, just once, on one of her outstretched hands.
Cynthia had been the one to hold the offender’s right arm, forcing the hand palm down on the
floor. She felt bones break after the first bare heel struck just above the wrist. The offender didn’t
scream until the fifth heal, tears coursing over the cheek that was not forced against the floor.
Cynthia was offered a turn after the line had dwindled to just a few girls, the offender, sobbing
weakly against the floor, no longer needed to be held down, her broken hands curled against her
chest like bloody bicycle spokes. Cynthia had passed. Imeld had watched from down the hall,
she hadn’t even joined the queue.
“Maybe they’re just that mean,” Imeld says. “They want us to know we have to pay.”
“But we always find out,” Cynthia says.
“No. We don’t.” Imeld turns from her, slipping Cynthia’s hand in her own as she does so.
She kicks the ration pouch as they continue their ascent.
About the Author
Cody T Luff’s forthcoming novel, Ration, will be released by Apex Book Company in 2019. Cody’s stories have appeared in Pilgrimage, Cirque, KYSO Flash, Menda City Review, Swamp Biscuits & Tea, and others. He is fiction winner of the 2016 Montana Book Festival Regional Emerging Writers Contest. He served as editor of an anthology of short fiction with twelve contributors titled Soul’s Road.
Cody teaches at Portland Community College and works as a story editor. He completed an intensive MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Cody grew up listening to stories in his grandfather’s barber shop as he shined shoes, stories told to him at bedsides and on front porches, deep in his father’s favorite woods, and in the cabs of pickup trucks on lonely dirt roads. Cody’s work explores those things both small and wondrous that move the soul, whether they be deeply real or strikingly surreal.
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