A note: Since I missed last Friday, here's a special extra long story I wrote. The prompt is still from the jar but this took much longer than 10 minutes to write.
If she was crying, everything would be blurry. But she isn’t crying and she can see quite clearly that everything is falling apart in front of her. She can see in perfect technicolour high-definition crystal clear vision that this is when the world ends.
It doesn’t happen with a particularly large bang, just a few slightly muffled pops; she lives nowhere near the epicentre after all. The ground shakes considerably but not enough to displace anything more than a few plates. They’re still lying broken on the kitchen floor back home. She didn’t see the point in clearing them up.
Her big sister has cried every single night. She can hear her sobbing into their shared pillow. It’s kind of like a hugely disappointing remake of childhood, when she’d sneak into her sister’s room when she was scared or just didn’t want to sleep yet. Only this time it’s her sister crying and she’s doing a terrible job of reciprocation. Her sister used to hold her tight against her chest and stroke her hair, even when the problems changed from monsters under the bed to the real life monsters of school stress and bullies and boys. She holds her sister tightly but it doesn’t ever seem to help. She tried stroking her hair but it started to fall out in clumps that only made her cry more. She stays away from her hair these days.
In the day her sister smiles brightly and tries to make games for her children, they laugh and join in. Too young still. So young. Her nieces and nephew think it’s funny when they tug at their hair and come away with a handful. It doesn’t hurt so it must be a new game. She wants to cry when she sees them, almost as bald as the day they were born. She wants to sob into her sister’s bony frame like she used to. But her vision stays clear.
Her skin sags off her bones, pale and dry. Muscle and fat quickly absorbed as she gave in to malnutrition. Now there’s nothing much left for her body to absorb she can only subsist on the canned food that their father found for them. There are only twenty two cans left and 6 people to feed. Hungry children are impatient children, exhausted pale and confused children. They don’t laugh as much as they used to.
Their father is much too weak to move now. They can no longer scavenge for food together. He had been eating alone, saying he needed peace and quiet. He had been lying. He’d been sneaking the food back into the broken wardrobe they were using as a cupboard. He’d barely eaten in weeks when he’d collapsed and his ruse was discovered. He didn’t want his grandchildren to die before him. Her sister had cried and screamed and shouted at him, demanded he finally eat something because goddammit she didn’t want to lose him too. She had not had the energy even to scold him, but went scavenging alone these days.
The nearest two supermarkets were desolate. She knew this, but she tried them every time, like an old habit that wouldn’t die. They were still empty, vacant shelves like bones. There were people huddled on the floor. They might have been dead. She didn’t check. She couldn’t help them any more than they could help her.
She trudged for miles in dry desert air. It hadn’t rained in so many months she could barely remember what it felt like. She had been complaining that it had rained for 4 consecutive days before the bombs fell. Now she would be happy if it rained for 4 straight minutes, she just wanted to feel clean again. Just for a short while.
She marched through dried up fields, remembered what it used to look like. It was some old farm she’d visited in primary school. She’d seen a baby sheep and squealed with joy. She’d rushed home to tell her sister all about it. The farm was barren. Abandoned and rotting, stale death hung in the air.
She went home empty handed for the fifth day in a row. She couldn’t walk much further until she would be unable to get back before dark. Back before dark because then she wouldn’t come back at all.
Her sister was stood in the doorway of their old family home, arms crossed and eyes blurred with tears. She just didn’t stop crying these days.
“You almost weren’t back in time,” she whispers furiously, “I thought you weren’t coming back.”
It’s almost completely dark but her sister wants this argument now. Not in front of the children.
“You need to be more careful,” she’s quiet but accusing. Like she had been left in charge while their parents were away and her little sister had missed curfew. “You could die out there and we’d never know.”
She can hardly hear her anymore, she’s talking so silently. But the stare is still there, bloodshot eyes filled with tears.
She wishes she could cry. Wishes she could force some tears from her exhausted eyes. She wishes that she had the energy to just weep openly and loudly. Her eyes would unfocus and she could look away from her dying father, lying on the only mattress. She wouldn’t have to see her starving nieces and nephew curled up together on the floor, no energy to play. She wouldn’t have to see her sister slowly curling into herself, becoming twisted and broken and silent. She wishes her eyes would go blurry for just a second, so she wouldn’t have to see the world dying in front of her.
Tales written from a prompt in just 10 minutes.
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