We’re a touch overdue for some fiction around here, so here you go. This was initially meant to be part of a ‘Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge’ ages ago (and if you don’t know what that is, I heartily encourage you to look it up), but I ended up submitting it to an anthology instead. Since the anthology has decided that my little story isn’t quite right for them (they sent me the nicest rejection email ever), I am now free to display it here for all you lovely people. It’s a bit weird, but I hope you enjoy it!
The world ended and nobody noticed. Cars drove chokingly by, spewing black gas down cracked highway streets. Coffee machines whirred and poured dirty coloured liquid into chipped and broken glassware. People arose from cold beds in draught filled rooms with pane-less windows and convinced themselves that cold was the new warm.
Crumbling skyscrapers reshaped skylines as they were filled with leaking water-cooler talk and flaking complaints about Mondays that resonated from the peeling walls. Phones were looked at, with their cracked screens and draining batteries, and it was wondered ‘how did we ever do without?’.
A young boy wandered the busy decayed streets, eyes wide, bewildered at the orange sky, and pointing up shouted ‘that used to be blue!’. Those who could hear him rolled their eyes, looked back down and marvelled at the ridiculousness of young children.
A young woman shared a picture of herself in her soiled floral dress, and was criticised both for the body underneath the ragged cloth and for the sexuality that body demanded.
An artist of no discernible gender grabbed their gun and wandered the streets, scrambling over ruins dubbed ‘construction’ and killed mutants, zombies and demons where they stood. Other people commented that the artist’s work was ‘important, but it’s not really very practical, is it?’ and constantly bombarded the artist with false admiration, condescending praise, genuine derision, and that never ending question ‘where do you get your ideas?’. As if the world were not crawling, scurrying, writhing with ideas begging to be made flesh.
An old woman hunched over her overworked laptop, googling her hopes, her dreams, repeating her mantra of comfort. ‘Just one more year. Just one more year. Just one more year. Things will change, if I just give myself one more year.’
A scientist found the cold dead remains of the very first microbe that held the very first spark of life. She shouted her discovery from the rusted rooftops and was sneered at for her efforts. After all how could a single cell ever become human? The metaphor of an endless tree, sprawling, branching, evolving, was invisible to those who had never seen the sky. Perhaps, it was suggested, if the scientist made an effort, did her hair well, wore something nice, put on some lip gloss, and smile sweetheart, then she would be taken more seriously.
The evening came. Burning orange to black, extinguishing the sun. The artist returned home to find their wife sobbing into her hands, soiling the pattern of her new dress with lip gloss and tears.
The young woman curled herself into a barren bed, satisfied with her fictional attention and sighed at a gush of chill wind through the empty window. ‘It’s so warm’ she mumbled to the threadbare mattress.
The old woman watched her grandson watch the night sky, and spoke a lie.
‘Things were better when I was young.’
The young boy turned to the old woman, his eyes full of stars and spoke a truth.
‘But, grandma, things have always been this way.’