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News & Features » November 2017 » “The Unarmed” by Kathleen McElligott

“The Unarmed” by Kathleen McElligott

In October 2017 we published An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, a rare literary science fiction set in a future universe so gorgeously described and perfectly self-contained—and yet so harrowing and cruel—that its only parallel universe is our own. Solomon’s novel has inspired this speculative fiction series. We’ve been through the past, and we haven’t really learned from it. The present? We’re too busy attempting to survive it. So we’re asking you to provide us a glimpse of what comes next. Illustrate the essential choices we must make in the present that will lead us to your brilliant utopian future. Or, if you cannot anticipate utopia, provide us instead with your cautionary tale. Show us where we will fall if we—when we—fail to alter our course. Fri-SciFi stories are published on Fridays because we expect we’ll need the weekend to contemplate your vision. 

This week, the Unarmed require the help of the Armed…

The Unarmed
by Kathleen McElligott

“The Purge” took place in 2021. People were slaughtered randomly by criminals and extremists. The carnage became numbingly routine. Authorities stopped keeping track of the fatalities.

No one was safe; elderly, children, even babies were caught in the crossfire. Families armed themselves or went underground to escape the carnage.

Eventually, the massacre stopped. “An armed society is a safe society,” became the motto of the Autonomous States. People came out of hiding. In the new order, everyone was required to carry a firearm. Gun ownership was verified by implants, unlike the handwritten records pre-Purge.

‘Intruder Preparedness’ was mandatory after the Purge. Classrooms were equipped with a gun box positioned within reach of the students. When opened, a silent alarm was activated and video streamed to the office.


I wanted a phone for my fourteenth birthday. Instead, I got a gun. It was nestled in a pink satin pouch. Not only that, my parents informed me that I would attend New Hope Academy; a private girls’ school.

The students there were smart and the curriculum was difficult.

“Hi, I’m Natalie,” a girl said, stopping me after class. “Be sure to take Mr. Helm’s Social Justice Class next semester.”

“Thanks,” I said. Natalie giggled, revealing braces. She smelled of peppermint.

Mr. Helm was everyone’s favorite. Our first assignment was: Explain how carrying guns reduces violence. I sensed that he wanted more than a rote answer.


Natalie spoke at the first Social Action Club meeting. “My older sister went on a field trip to Kennison and met homeless people.”

“There are many homeless in Kennison,” Mr. Helm said, “but they’re nonthreatening, invisible. We’ll be bringing them clothing and blankets you’ve collected.”              


Mr. Helm approached while we waited for the bus to take us to the city. My jaw dropped. There was a bullseye patch on his jacket.  Mr. Helm was Unarmed!

The bus pulled into a trash littered lot near a crumbling viaduct. Mr. Helm handed each of us a plastic bag and together we walked toward the underpass. A figure emerged from the shadows.

“Hello, Juan,” Mr. Helm said. He motioned for us to follow. I walked gingerly as my eyes adjusted. Someone waved me over. Haunted eyes peered at me from an oversized hoodie.

“Hi, I’m Minnie.” She was scarecrow thin.

“I’m Mia. I brought some stuff.” She thanked me, then unexpectedly touched my cheek. I wanted to bolt. As I turned to leave, Minnie clutched my arm, “You’re an angel,” she said. “Don’t forget me.”


I couldn’t stop thinking about Minnie. Natalie and I lay across my bed, planning our next move.

“We can’t drive and our parents won’t take us,” I said.

“I’ve got it!” Natalie said. “Emma’s home on Christmas break. She can drive us.”


I crammed supplies into my backpack and waited for Emma and Natalie. I had my Glock—Natalie had her Ruger. It was dark when we arrived. I began searching for Minnie.

“Mia? Is that you?” A figure emerged from the gloom. “You’re back! I knew you’d come!”

Minnie graciously accepted the food and stashed it away.

I hesitated, then asked what I’d wondered about: “How did you end up homeless?”

“It was so long ago,” she said. “I was married. We didn’t have much, but we were happy. I had a baby. Things were good until Anne got sick. I found out that if I’d taken her to the hospital sooner she would have survived. She was only three months old.”

I fought back tears.

“Jim couldn’t deal with it. He abandoned me.”

“What about family?” I asked.

Suddenly Minnie stiffened.

“Mia, run!”

Someone grabbed me from behind. Before everything went black I heard, “Get her gun.”


When I awoke my head throbbed. “Where am I?”

“We don’t want to hurt you.” A man said.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“Your gun—and your cooperation.”

A woman walked toward me—Minnie.

“You’re in on this?” I felt betrayed.

“The homeless are easy prey, especially women,” Minnie said. “Rape, robbery, even murder. We need protection.”

“Helm knows. He’s helping us,” the guy said. I realized it was Juan.

“We need your help, Mia,” Minnie said.   

Something shifted in me. This was dangerous—and illegal, but I didn’t care. Mr. Helm was risking everything to help the homeless and I wouldn’t remain silent. He didn’t know it yet, but I was also willing to put my future on the line.


KATHLEEN McELLIGOTT writes about socially relevant issues. Her novel, Mommy Machine (Heliotrope Press, 2008), explores the difficulties an already shaky lesbian couple face while raising their adopted son. The novel takes place before gay marriage was legal. Her work appears in numerous anthologies, including the Black-and-White series by Outrider Press and Pedal by Pedal. She is an outdoor enthusiast (cycling, hiking, and kayaking) who cycled cross-country from San Diego to St. Augustine with a group of equally bad-ass women. Follow her epic adventure on her WordPress blog, www.kmcelligott.wordpress.com, and to contact the author about her work.


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Fri-SciFi series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines.

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a conceivable, not a fantastical, future. No dragons, please.
—With your byline, include the date or era OR galaxy or ship or planetary system in which your story takes place. Or both. But not neither.
—To be perfectly frank, we prefer dystopias. But feel free to surprise us.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words, and must be previously unpublished.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Accepted submissions to Fri-SciFi are typically posted 1–3 months after the notification date, and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Nov 17, 2017

Category: Original Fiction, Fri-SciFi | Tags: , , , , , ,