Today’s short story is part of a series inspired while writing my science fiction novel. It’s a chance for me to explore what other characters in my world would be doing both during and post apocalypse. Hope you enjoy my free short stories. Please share, tweet, and talk about my work. I look forward to your feedback.
Each of these stories is inspired by a song in my post apocalypse playlist. I recommend reading and listening.
Rain on the window. Gentle, late spring rain. Soon school will be out.
She moves slowly through the house, bending to pick up her son‘s sock, her daughter‘s tablet charger. Just a morning filled with slow rain and a methodical woman who cleans the house incrementally as she makes her way upstairs to the kitchen, to the coffee and the radio.
At the table, she sits, the wide blue–black mug in hand, staring, without seeing, at the fridge. Photos and homework with stars, reminders and grocery lists. A cat magnet purchased for her by her husband at a farmer‘s market. It has lost its smugly smiling head.
The noise of the day will intrude soon enough. The news, bad and worse. The world spinning out of control. Disaster and doom and possibly even extinction.
But not yet. Not until the coffee is drunk away, leaving only bitter aftertaste.
For now, she holds these last moments, as once she had held her daughter, cupping her tiny head crowned with downy, black fuzz and smelling of sweet love and infinite promise. Silence as precious as her son‘s slow breathing in the night when she stands in his doorway.
She sighs and blinks, squares her shoulders and faces the day. Click.
The voices come to her, far off oracles muttering doom in tones filled with anger, panic, resignation and stiff professionalism. The reporters have determined to carry on and so must she. She rises and returns to the rooms of her children. She sends them again into a world they believe will ever be as it has been.
Through the day, she travels the small orbit of her home, gathering things with a gravity all her own. Two backpacks. Two first aid kits. Two small bottles filled with iodine pills. Two magnesium fire starters. Two compasses, the military ones with wire thumb loops. Two filtering water bottles.
There are the other things. The things which can‘t be taken, but which are too precious to leave. The photos and letters. The computer full of tiny messages from senders now unreachable. A closet full of clothes which still smell of her husband when she presses her face into them.
“Be safe, love, and take care of our brats. See you in a few months.” And he got on the truck and he never came back.
When her children arrive home she will tell them they must go. She can travel with them part of the way, but in the end she must send them on alone. She can only hope they are careful and brave and most of all, far, far luckier than she has ever been.
Today they will come home. Her daughter will sit on the swing on the back porch and cuddle with her boyfriend. Maybe they will kiss and whisper secrets. Maybe they will make unkeepable promises that they will never be parted.
Her son will watch her with his wide dark eyes, a little ghost of his father haunting her even as he gives her a reason to live. He will lean his curly head against her shoulder (when did he get so tall?) and he will sigh and tell her it will be OK. He‘s a liar, like his father.
Today is counted among the last days of a pregnant spring. Everyone‘s waiting, anxious for the news. Will summer birth disaster or catastrophe?
On the day the trucks roll down Main Street, thunderheads heap up in the west, rumbling their threats like a drunk getting ready to do violence. The parents bring their children to the school. Some cowards bring bags with them, deceiving their offspring until the last with promises.
“We‘re going on the next trucks. We‘ll see you in a few hours.”
She stands in the street and watches the trucks. Some won‘t let their children go. Better to spend what time remains together.
The mother can‘t do this. She can‘t keep this chance from her children so she throws them after their father. Perhaps she is weak. Perhaps she cannot bear to watch them as the end comes.
“It‘s for the best. It‘s the only way. They‘ll be chosen. They‘ll be saved.”
But everyone knows it‘s not true. They scatter slowly, hating each other for everyone‘s neighbor had a hand in this, yet they are desperate not to be alone.
In the empty house she waits, a ghost of herself, phantom of the life before. She waits.