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Friday Fiction – Asleep

6 March 2015 No Comment

A glimpse into a post-somethingalyptic, where going to sleep could mean you never wake up – but where the human heart still holds strong.


Excerpted from Milestone 6
© 2014 Jodi Lee & AugNoWriMo
All Rights Reserved

I’m not entirely sure where to start. It’s been too long since I sat down and actually wrote something out, too long since I held a pen and had paper to write on. It’s 2015, everyone has – had – keyboards and monitors.

Today I broke into the drug store and took what I needed. I can’t believe no one else has thought of this yet. Looting used to be the first thing anyone did in times of crisis. Maybe there aren’t enough people left here, or maybe they’re just too scared to come out of their houses. Either way, I needed some supplies, and the drug store was the only place I was going to find them. That’s where I got this notebook.

I also grabbed the rest of the case. Pretty bulky to drag around if I have to leave, but for now I think they’ll be a good thing. It’ll help the time pass to write it all out, even things that are still happening.

Mostly I went for the drugs. Nothing hard core, I left most of the Oxy and other pseudo-morphines behind. Well, I say that, but thing is, I hid them very well. I may need them in the future and I don’t want some wandering druggie to find ‘em and use them for their own fancies. I took as much penicillin, ampicillin, tetracycline and erythromycin as I could carry, and other things like sulphas, painkillers, asthma inhalers… things that will be useful in the immediate weeks and months to come. Everything that looked like it might be needed later, I stashed in a separate spot from the pseudo-morphs.

What people don’t know is how long this crisis is going to last, or who was behind it. All we know is that just over half the Earth’s population is dead, and another quarter are well on their way to dying.

I tried to help for as long as I could, but I’m only a practical nurse, I was never meaning to stick with the profession for long. I wanted more, better. I wanted to be a midwife. I was half-way through my training when the shit hit the fan, and I was stuck in that hospital watching everyone on the wards get sicker and sicker, eventually dying. Do you have any idea how hard it is to watch someone die? Especially from this… whatever it is.

That’s the other thing, no one seems to know what it is. Nothing shows in the blood work, no other tests ever show anything useful. A few people had elevated white cell counts, some had elevated red cell counts. Others had low t-cell counts, some had absolutely no symptoms, they just… faded. I watched a woman on the second floor go from weighing nearly 600 pounds to weighing 250 in less than a month. That in itself was unheard of, she should have crashed losing so much weight so quickly. She didn’t. She lingered, her skin puddling around her in the massive bed, her eyes sinking into her skull, her cheekbones sticking out. It was god damn awful.

And then she died. In her sleep, just like the rest of them. Always, no matter what, they wasted away and died in their sleep.

I thought it was the sleep that was doing it at one point, so I stayed awake for four days. Couldn’t hack the hallucinations and hyper-paranoia that came along with it, finally passing out on the fifth morning, just after dawn. In the cafeteria of all places. When I woke up, I had no idea how long I’d been asleep, but I was still in the caf, stiff as a board and freezing. It was dark.

And the hospital was dead. Right down to the last orderly, the last of the kitchen staff, the last doctor, the last patient. I was the only one left.

That’s what counts, right, in the end? I walked out. Didn’t go to my locker for my stuff, didn’t grab any supplies from the vending machines or the caf, didn’t even check to see if someone was alive and hiding or anything. I just walked out the front doors.

I’ve seen a few people here and there since I left the hospital. Mostly they run from me. If they recognize me from around town or from the hospital, they sometimes talk to me, ask medical advice. A lot of them are healthy, so I know there are other people in town still.

I’m not entirely alone, at least not yet.

This whole thing reminds me of the doomsayers. Always going on and on about how the world was ending, mostly in 2000, but some in 2012, some in 2013. Here it is 2015, and we seem to be pretty well culled. Perhaps the powers that be decided we’d all become settled again, quiet, calm… it was time to stir the shit and get us all… well, dead.

There’s those pillar things in Georgia. I think it comes down to those. How the earth needs to be maintained with a certain number of inhabitants, something like a half billion or less. Since we’d hit 12 billion before the wasting death, I’d say we were due. No one can stop every pandemic, if that is even what this was. I just don’t understand why I haven’t become sick. I’m not a doctor, I don’t know enough about actual medicine to be really helpful. I know the very basics, enough to get by. Honestly the practical nurse training wasn’t much more than what they teach for nurse’s aides.

Why would anyone pick me to live over like, you know, a real doctor?

I’m tired. I think I’m going to try sleep, but I’ve got to hide away all my stuff first. Maybe I’ll write some more tomorrow.

* * *

Spent most of last night locked in the basement. I could hear yelling and laughing – you know the kind, drunk frat boys – and figured my place was next on their hit list. They’ve been poking around the street for a while now, hitting every other house on the block so far, but mine is on a corner lot, and well… it looks like shit.

And shit it is, really. In the old days, it’d be referred to as a crack den I imagine. The outside is definitely in need of paint, as is the inside. The walls have holes and graffiti, the floors have some spots that are softer than others. I don’t go upstairs at all… I’m sure there’s at least one dead body up there, and for my needs, this works. I chose this place for a reason.

Years ago, I dated the former owner. He was a few years older than me, and at the time was living with his mother. She was pretty sick, and needed almost round the clock care. Sometimes I’d help out, nicking some drugs from the hospital pharmacy if they couldn’t afford them, bringing food in when Chris couldn’t go out.

When she’d settle for the night, we’d go down to Chris’ room, and from his room into a sub-cellar of sorts. I imagine when the house was built, it was meant to be cold storage, but someone in the sixties had made it bigger, and decked it out as a bomb shelter. Once the ‘door’ was closed, you couldn’t see it. It was that well hidden. I loved it in there; I was positive Chris’ mom could hear us having sex even if she was on the second floor and we were in the basement in his room. In that bomb shelter though, no one could hear us. We could hear her though, if we needed to; Chris had installed a one-way intercom, and he’d leave it on while we were in the shelter. The volume was always down low, obviously; no one wants to fuck to the music of his mother’s C-Pap machine.

And that’s why I chose the house; no one would know I was there, as long as I was careful. I could pop out the back from the cellar door if I needed to go out for supplies, and I was fully stocked with MREs thanks to Chris and his mild paranoia. I guess the paranoia was a good thing after all, come to that.

Thankfully the probably deceased current owner hadn’t found the hidden room.

Anyway, I was writing about the guys upstairs. They were pretty well cut by the time they got here, then kept partying on with alcohol from the cupboard in the kitchen. I don’t drink, so the current owner’s stash was left untouched until the rowdy boys showed up. From drinking they turned to pranking each other, and then smashing up the furniture (should have thought to bring some of that down with me, but oh well) and then the inevitable passing out. From arrival to snores was no more than three hours.

My father would have called them pansy-asses, if he’d survived the wasting. I had no idea; hadn’t seen him in ten years. The boys upstairs were much like him though, party all night, drink all day.

I carefully left the shelter, and inched my way across the basement floor to the cellar door as I pocketed the shelter keys. I had almost crossed the threshold when a rough voice wished me good morning.

I froze. I couldn’t even turn around. Even my breath refused to exit my body until I was nearly light headed.

“Hey, I said good morning. The least you could do is nod.” The intruder chuckled.
I turned slowly, raising my hands to show I wasn’t armed. The last thing I needed was some trigger-happy drunk taking aim and firing off a round or ten. “Good morning. Sorry if I disturbed you.”

The man was roughly 40, stubble-chinned and greying. He was quite well built, and very sober. “No worries. I was just waiting for this lot to pass out before I relieve them of their weapons and whatever they might have worth anything. Not that much is worth anything any more.” He regarded me closely, squinting in the dawning sunlight. “I’m Charlie Parker, and no you can’t laugh or make a joke. I’ve heard them all.”

Warily, I took his offered hand and shook it. “I’m Ness Smith. Nice to meet you, I guess. You’re not with the rowdy boys?”

“No. I’ve been following them for a while though, making sure no one gets hurt. They did some damage up by Center Avenue, and left a girl behind. She was pretty badly hurt. If something like that looks to happen again, I won’t hesitate.” Charlie pulled a gun from his waistband, indicating the rowdy boys would become an endangered species.

Couldn’t say I blamed the guy… if that bunch had raped or beaten – or worse, both – that poor girl, they deserved whatever they got. I smiled.

He smiled back.

And of course that’s the moment the rowdy boys decided to show up and be their rowdy selves.

“Look what we got here, boys! A fine little piece of gash and an old timer. Fuck off, old man. She’s ours now.” Dark haired and skeevy eyed, the one I assumed was the leader slurred his words as he attempted to frighten me. He didn’t seem to like that he failed. When I turned to him, crossing my arms and setting my stance, he grunted. He didn’t stop coming towards me, but he seemed to slow down, consider his options.

Want to read more? Click the cover above, and order a copy of Milestone 6, the final collected anthology from the August Novel Writing Month crew!

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