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These Old Bones

An Apocalyptic Winter

By Alexandra ZellerPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
Photo by Tobias Bjørkli from Pexels

It was so desolate.

Adelaide rubbed her hands together. The wind whipped about, biting her face and chapping her lips. It was so dark. It was so cold. Ashen snow fell around her like tears. The earth was crying, trying to purge itself of the disease it carried.

She lurched forward as the wind suddenly changed direction, the cold eating away at her exposed face. There was only so much clothing could do against nuclear winter. Every flake of snow felt like acid burning her skin. Adelaide was desperate to find a place of respite. Each building she had found was either littered with corpses or teeming with people who didn't care how much radiation human meat carried.

It was so eerie making this trek. The sky was a rust-orange color, flickering occasionally with distant lighting. It was constantly like this- ever since the bombs blew most continents into oblivion the earth never slept. Daytime plagued every place she explored. It was never enough to enjoy the bright sun, and never dark enough for the peaceful respite of deep sleep. Instead, it was a milky sickness that continuously suffocated everything.

Step after step her body became more numb. This was how it was going to end, after surviving two and a half months Adelaide was going to succumb to a bad storm. She fell to her knees, the palm of her hands digging into the snow.

It felt like when her mother poured hydrogen peroxide on her wounds. It was always so cold, she never understood why. Her mom kept it in the hallway closet, and for everything, the hydrogen peroxide was pulled out. Clogged ear? Listen to it fizzle and get rid of the ear wax. Injured? She drenched your wounds. Dry feet? Soak it in some hydrogen peroxide.

It was like the one size fits all solution to their little household. Adelaide even thought of it as another parent sometimes. It was closer and more helpful than her father had ever been. He left fairly early on in her life and never returned. First, his weekly letters became monthly, then, after a couple of birthdays, he stopped sending anything altogether. Her mom told her it wasn't her fault, but it was hard to not believe she was the reason her parent's romance ended. There were stories about how outgoing and driven he had been. However, once he realized a child meant he had to give up his dream of being a musician it all began to fall apart. In the not too sly words of her family members, Adelaide had taken away his happiness.

She felt icy tears cling to her cheeks as she tried to brush off the burning snow. Her hands were tingly and numb as she stumbled towards a shadow in the distance. If only it had been the cold, stinging healing power of hydrogen peroxide. If only she had been happy.

The shape loomed, but where she would once find the presence dark and ominous, its foreboding size made her optimistic. Maybe, just maybe, she had found a retreat from the weather.

The icy wind whistled through the rotting boards, lulling Adelaide in as she approached the derelict barn. Its derelict raid paint clung helplessly to the wood. Adelaide understood its feeble attempts, despite all odds those cheap paint chips were fighting for survival.

Adelaide began kicking at the snow built up against the door. It had clearly been untouched for a while, and, best of all, the foul smell of death wasn't immediately emanating from it. She reached for the rusted metal latch and gave the door a pull. It resisted at first but eventually gave way to the dimly lit interior.

The pale orange light filtered through the cracks in the boards, the dead photographer within her stirring. Such a place would have offered an object of quiet, lonely suffering. She probably would've felt pity.

Glancing around the barn, nothing could be seen except rotting piles of hay. Adjacent to them, empty dirty pens. She couldn't help but wonder what animals used to call this place home. Cows? Horses? Adelaide ran her hand over the grains of the fence, splinters be damned.

A sudden coughing fit overcame her. She spluttered and heaved, falling to her knees. It was a sickening, wet sound. Even the most unintelligent people would understand that Adelaide was sick. She wasn't worried, this was just an early sign of radiation poisoning- it was only when a person began to spew blood was it advancing.

As she wiped her hands against her chest she noticed a crimson stain following her hands. Adelaide closed her eyes and lifted the palms of her hands in front of her face, only daring to open her eyes after a few deep, calming breaths.

Blood stained her palms, the sickly smell of iron tainting the damp air of the barn. Adelaide was dying. Her lungs were giving out. The intense cold of the outside seemed to crash in around her. Shivers wracked her body and strangled cries echoed forth.

But why did she fear death? The young adult had wanted nothing but the untroubled sleep of eternity since the world had been intoxicated. Yet here she was, facing her mortality. She had no mother to comfort her and explain why her favorite rose bush was withering, or why Nugget the Cat wasn't able to live forever. There was nothing but these old bones to herald her down the river Styx.

If only she had some hydrogen peroxide.

Short Story

About the Creator

Alexandra Zeller

A young adult still trying to find her place in this world.

You can follow me on all my socials!

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