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Last Breath

A final act short story

By BlueParoxPublished 3 months ago 3 min read
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Last Breath
Photo by Frederico Almeida on Unsplash

My chest burns as I barrel through the side alleys, scrambling between streets trying to escape its gaze. Even in the vacant alleys, the moon acts as a spotlight, giving me no hope of hiding. No matter the path I choose or the obstacles I leave behind, I can feel its weight on my back as I see a wall ahead. My lungs scream as I climb onto a dumpster to vault the chain fence blocking my escape, and as I stumble forward into a new street, I look back in hopes the beast is gone. Behind the fence I just avoided I can see the harsh yellow eyes of my stalker, persistent in its goal, and as I am trapped in its eyes, I feel my world tilt as I fall into the street.

As the sudden scraping pain runs up my legs and arms, I lose sight of the agony in my lungs. Looking down at where I fell, I see a patch of missing bricks in the walkway, and as my gaze rises, I see an empty. My eyes locked on the spot where the beast loomed, I rise to my feet as my weak lungs wheeze for help. Staring into the dimly left alley cluttered with garbage and walled off by chain link, I'm thrown to old memories of our quarantine camp.

Moving away from the alley I start walking down the brick path, bright streetlight watching over me. The humid summer air sticking to my skin, a slight electric buzz, and distant inaudible sounds take me back to the days when we were trapped in our quarantine, sick with the long-dormant virus. By the time the CDC had managed to isolate the cause over 100 people had been isolated, and without any known cure. The weeks spent in the tent were hellish with 7 of us crammed in, the most vulnerable to the virus. All kids, separated from our families and with underlying conditions, some of the least likely to survive. That was until after just over 100 casualties a cure was found, the applause we received, the sound of ovation as the surviving 6 left their prison and returned to normal life as if it were that simple.

The brick path came to an end as it opened to a small quart yard, faint lights illuminating the edge with the moon beaming down on a large fountain in the center. Staring up at the elegant designs carved into the sides of the fountain, I lose my breath as I break into a violent coughing spree, specks of blood flung on the water’s surface. The virus’s cure left my already weak lungs in shreds, as the searing pain floods my chest gain and I fall to a knee. As if sensing my weakness, the weight of the beast's gaze falls back on me as I look up through my fit and see the same yellow eyes staring back at me. Trying to retreat again my cough sends me stumbling backwards as I fall back into the fountain, the cool water rushing down my back.

Seeing the opening the beast wastes no time closing the gap, moving swiftly swaying side to side, as if unable to hold its posture. As it approaches the fountain its wispy arms grasp the sides and step into the water, the backlight highlighting its dark orange skin, pasty like a wax candle. As it reaches out for me I back away to the center pillar of the fountain, moments from meeting the same fate as the others.

As the flowing water rushes over its arm, the water suddenly stops, as the fountain comes to a halt. I remain motionless staring into the yellow eyes, close enough to see the dark dots in their center. Neither of us moved, remaining so still water showed a perfect reflection on its surface. I could see the moon shining above and standing in front of it, not the orange beast that haunted me the last weeks, instead, I see a child. A young girl draped in a handmade blanket from her grandmother, her skin tinted orange and eyes and dark yellow from her failing liver. It was no beast standing in front of me, but instead, it was our seventh, our friend that the cure killed.

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