Hands are not easy to remove, but with a Swiss army knife, a hammer and a pair of electric wire clippers, it can be done. They were all I had anyway.
The woman didn’t need her hand anymore. As nearly as I could figure, she hadn’t been dead for long. The tell-tale greenish cast to the skin just about the ears and the nape of the neck contrasted with her bloodless pallor, but the moist heat of the Gulf coast seeps in quickly. Dead bodies seed fast. This one wasn’t crawling but would be soon enough.
I didn’t need the hand though I’d used fingers for the odd biometric scans that were still in use in some communities. I needed her ID braclet in tact, cutting the chain deactivates them. My own tag was worthless. I’d been issued it before the war ended and now it marked me as a transient refugee and I wasn’t going back to the camps. It was chipped as well, so I’d tossed it as soon as I could even though it was rare to run across SS outside the metropolitan areas and they are the only ones with functional scanners these days. If a person needed to cross a border however, which I did, chipless IDs were desirable. It said two things about the wearer. The first assured the border patrol the person had status prior to The Dissolution, and the second that he or she had never been detained. Detainees, who could be anyone from a simple refugee to a war crimes fugitive, were not allowed to travel freely between zones without papers. Visas were hard to get. Costly and nearly always attention attracting, I’d never bothered to try and obtain one even though I probably had connections enough still to do it.
The most important aspect of the bracelet was that, judging from its size and shape, it conferred citizenship on the wearer. I hadn’t seen one of the new IDs issued by the North American Alliance of States and Provinces, but it was similar enough to the old one that I was confident enough to sit in a ditch for two hours hacking skin and pounding bones to obtain it.
She appeared to have been thrown from a bike which I found a few meters off from her twisted corpse. I keep to the ditches when I travel the old major highways despite the paucity of traffic. It’s only marginally safer at any rate, but I exercise as much caution as I can now that I am alone.
I toyed with the idea of taking the bike too, but it would have made me a theft target and, being female I am temptation enough, so I left it with regrets. In the end I emptied her pack, keeping the useful or edible and then transferring my possession from the tattered Lululemon bag I’d liberated from a deserted store along with a few clothing items I’d always coveted but could never afford.
In the pack I found an old Canadian passport. Her name was Claire. I ripped the photo out and a couple of pages for good measure and stuffed them into a pocket of my light jacket. No one would question a beat up passport from before the war. Just having one at all was a coup.
I’d been heading west but now it was time to go north. I wasn’t sure exactly where the new border lay. The last I’d heard the NAASP extended only as far south as Missouri and just to the Mississippi, but the Confederacy had been in retreat all year and with luck I might hit the border sooner than that.
The heat settled around me like Lady Godiva’s golden tresses but in a sticky stringy way I’d come to loathe. It was not like the dry winds of the Emirate where I’d left my child in the care of friends when war broke out, trapping my husband in a disintegrating land.
The last word I had from him indicated that he was being relocated north. New Ontario maybe but more likely in the Nations. I was a long way from there.
Bracelet jangling loosely on my wrist, I climbed up the grassy hill to the road. Dusk darkened the horizon and dimmed the air all around. I hadn’t seen or heard a motorized vehicle for almost a week. The rough pavement made for faster travel and, with my new identity, I decided to risk the scant patrols.