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by Marie McGrath Davis 5 months ago in science fiction · updated 3 months ago

Thou art dust...

Her locket was his treasure


Emmett was finding that sleep eluded him, and he yearned for it as a salvo, an escape from the putrid stench and the frequent, foul blasts of wind. There were few places to take cover these last few days (or had it been weeks?) as the squalls of fetid dust and debris had swept away most freestanding structures and every vehicle in the parking garage where he’d first taken shelter. For what was beginning to seem an eternity, his only release from the reality of terror and filth that encompassed him was in the hour or two when it seemed the atmosphere paused to regain its ferocity. Then, coiled into himself – ready to spring – he would sometimes manage to drown in a pool of his own exhaustion.

It was never long enough. His fitful moments of sleep would end as he’d be jolted back to the hellish nightmare in which he now was forced to exist. Alone.

When the demoniacal days were first upon the world, Emmett and his friends believed themselves superior to those who had succumbed and surrendered in the first wave. Amongst the feeble, societies crumbled and their worlds collapsed upon them as the evil force swept the weak-willed from its path.

They believed themselves invincible, Emmett’s group and, for awhile, they seemed to have mustered the requisite strength, plan and resources to evade and, even, retaliate. They were an unlikely cadre of rebels that - in addition to Emmett and another mechanical engineer - included an accountant, two professors of English literature, an ex-Navy Seal and a smattering of office employees the initial rebel band had managed to dig free from the ruins of the collapsed Ameribond skyscraper. All but two were men. Most were younger than 40.

In groups of three or four, they searched for other survivors of Holocaustopia, as it had come to be known. Those few they located often were already in Stage I of the dystopic disease that was spreading across the globe. More often, they discovered corpses - all similarly contorted in the last agony of their horrific deaths – preserved in gelatinous yellow tombs. The smell of this apocalyptic death was unlike anything anyone, even Gerry, the military veteran, had ever experienced. And it was everywhere. The survivors would quickly wrap their faces in any scraps of material they could recover from the dust and debris before the next blast of funereal fumes could whip the cloths from their hands.

They had survived like that for what seemed to be a few weeks, eating whatever they could salvage from the wreckage that surrounded them. They were hungry, disheveled and filthy, what clothes they had ripped and tattered. If there were one thing in their questionable favor, at least it wasn’t cold. They had nothing to protect them should the atmosphere turn frigid, as it did in this part of the country where Emmett had lived with his mother his entire life. It was impossible to anticipate what atmospheric conditions lay ahead. There was no historical marker against which to compare the current world or to guide prediction.

Emmett felt the pain in his jaw that reminded him to unclench his teeth. His slender frame wore the sheer stress of the past months in its every pore. He knew it was mere luck, combined with grit and a wiliness of character that delivered him to his current situation, as the lone survivor of his group. He wondered aloud and often if he were the sole human left on the planet. Everything he had heard about the global anarchic pestilence broadly suggested that billions had perished. It was yet another unknowable among the many facets of existence now, each more terrifying than the last.

His mother. Sheila. As much as he missed her, he was grateful she had died before the cataclysmic events that postdated her passing by mere weeks. Accepting that he had been unable to save her from the evil onslaught of cancer and dementia had been difficult, and he had railed against the unfair god who tortured his beloved mum. Little did he suspect that the same god, or demonic miscreant, would soon dole out greater torment to the creatures inhabiting its domain. Yes. He was glad Sheila had been spared this hellfire and damnation.

Though now he could seldom allow his thoughts to wander beyond the immediacy and constant threat of annihilation, when the deep fatigue would take hold, his mind took him to a sunny day, in a lush field, birds singing and the faint lowing of cows in the distance. They were under a huge weeping willow, his mother and he, sharing a picnic she had packed early in the morning long before he had awakened. In his child’s mind’s eye, he remembered her leaning forward to hand him a cup of the lemonade she had made and the gentle movement of the heart-shaped locket she always wore around her neck. His father had given it to her, and she treasured it.

He looked at the small, golden heart in the palm of his hand. It was all he had left of her, and it was everything. In a world that threatened his every waking moment with unspeakable agony at worst and, at best, a tenuous existence in solitude, he had this reminder of her. And, no matter what fate awaited him, he would carry her treasure as his own.

The wind had worked itself into a raging blast, and he had little time to drop to the ground and curl into the fetal position that would, he always prayed, thwart this latest attempt to sweep him away. As he was bending toward the earth, he saw his muffler – the scrap of cloth to protect his airways – just out of reach. In the precious seconds before the force of nature was upon him, Emmett raised his head slightly as he extended his right arm to grasp the dirty rag.

It was then he heard it.


science fiction

Marie McGrath Davis

Old vegan, animal-rescuing, ex-corporate communicator with lifelong crippling shyness that made expressing myself verbally near impossible.So I took my weirdness to paper, then to typewriter and, now, to computer screen. I write all wrong.

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