The Median Days

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On days like today, I watch the rain drops. I remember when I was a kid and I could watch the rain drops all day. They would fall onto the cold white slabs of marble, some splashing back, trickling away.

Bad things are happening to the country, the continent, the globe. My brother says the sun won’t set anymore; the universe does not sleep. Things are turning differently. The universe drifts in-between two chunks of time, big and fat as planets. A new arrangement of seasons: winter tans aglow as shining chestnuts; summer snow as ominous as the bats that once filled our chimney, until father bought the shotgun. There were the blackest howls. The world drifts, never settling. Two fat planets. I don’t understand it.

Even still the rain drops fall. There was a song I used to play on the piano, slow with the intricate left hand melody. It built gradually, lilting and trilling on the higher notes. My right pinkie would pick the sharp like the best sour cherry from a paper bag. I imagine those notes floating on out into an empty room, the vast acoustics of some cathedral. Maybe my parents married here; maybe I will find myself buried, one day, here…

The summer snow is soft and yellow in the lamplight. I watch the shadows grow from the ash trees, still flowering, though barren of their red berries. I miss the rain drops.

Will they return?

I miss the slow rush of sugar in my blood, the afternoons lost to chip van candy. The man would hold his hand out just so, uncurl his fingers to take the coins. Strawberry chews that caught in your teeth, your gums. I slipped them between my lips all through maths and science, indifferent to the numbers being drawn on the blackboard. I suppose I should have learnt more.

But you can’t do much when the world changes. You watch the sky shift in colour, ebb between baby blue and flossy pink, phosphorylate. The cells of my body swell with the sugar. My throat closes up, stuffed. The thin lines around my eyes tighten.

Times like this, all you can do is watch the rain drops. They were letting bombs off on the news, watching them streak in flames through the air. The woman in the suit was laughing, laughing like she’d never before seen anything funny. In her laughter I try to pick out piano notes. Funny how they mix with the trills, though you can never really hear them properly. I could never tell my Bs from my Es, As from my Gs, minors from majors. I was as tone deaf as the last dead flower they folded into the ground.

I watch the rain drops, the summer snow. The world will end in seven days; there will be another time, another universe. I could spew a lifetime of sugar. Still, the white slabs of marble glow. Someone will come for me, alone on the plaza.

by Maria Sledmere

(Flash Fiction February prompts: liminal, journey, Aphex Twin’s ‘Avril 14th’)

The Preciousness of Water

A bright morning, something calling… though who knows what because for so long I’ve been alone, so long I’ve forgotten what it is to hear something – anything at all – that wasn’t my own two feet trudging upon soil. I was standing by the ocean’s edge, the sand etched in my toes, thinking how weak the sea looked; so still as if the moon had given up trying to pull it. It didn’t make the usual hush and shush that the sea is supposed to make. If it wasn’t for that distant pattering sound, I would think the accident had deafened me after all.

You get a kind of deja vu, standing here looking outwards with everything unfolding in the distance. Once these ashen lumps beneath my feet were tufts of grass and mounds of soft pink heather. There were sea-flowers and elegant sand dunes. Now the beach is blotched with the remains of fallout: blackish dust and fragments of rock that haven’t yet been swept away, like the tide’s lost its power to barter with the earth. The news told us that there could be more fallout to come, a shower of dark rain to fall in a few days or weeks or even months. That was before the screens flashed off and haven’t lit up again since. What I miss most are cigarettes and the smell of lemon shower-gel, the cry my baby made in its crib.

I was thinking about all these things when the noises grew louder. At first it sounded like the distant beginnings of rain, but then there was a clattery thumpiness to it and a rhythm you don’t get with rain drops. I waited and waited, hoping this wasn’t to be another explosion, though half wondering what it would be like to see that shattering of mushroom-cloud that first bloomed in America. A secret part of me longed for the shock, the cataclysm. I watched a storm breaking against the bay; handfuls of seconds being snatched from the world. The pounding got louder and louder and the ground was vibrating and I was about to turn round when the wind whipped past me with the force of so many bodies and there they all were: a band of wild horses torn from nowhere, galloping fast towards the water. It was all I could do to catch my breath, staggering backwards. They were magnificent creatures, all chestnutty-coloured and shining in the whiteish light. I hadn’t seen such beauty in so long. The horizon seemed almost to open to them, its silky jaws of melty yellow parting as they splashed into the ocean with their powerful legs. I couldn’t help but run closer to them; I ran and ran till I was touching the sea with my bare feet, knowing the water was full of radiation but still not stopping, not stopping till I was closer to those horses. One of them neighed like a wolf howling to the moon, and it shook its head dramatically like a proud actress. I was thinking how strange it was and wishing someone else was there to see it with me. I stood still watching the last of the horses bound deep into the ocean; they kept running through the delicate waves as easy as scissors ripping silk; they kept running till even their heads had dipped underwater. I wondered if horses could swim, but then I remembered that these days there’s no point doubting anything. It all could happen. All of it; anything. Maybe they had gills, and maybe there were other horses with wings. The water gathered in pools around my feet and already I was feeling the tingling.

You can see all the dead fish and crabs and other slimy things being tossed about underwater like any old rubbish. I leant down to pick up a starfish which was fossilised in a coating of ash. If you pull their limbs off, they grow back. I held it in my hand, the ash flaking off of it, a thing so precarious. Looking down, you could see the dull yellow glow coming from odd areas of the sea bed. I sighed and threw the starfish into the distance, watching it spin away like a frisbee. It made me feel a little freer.

I stood there with the radiated water churning its forgotten neutrons and fishy detritus and plastic litter; stood there until I felt the very sand below my feet begin to sink. As usual, the day would not come as it should. The storm’s aftermath of dark grey clouds bloomed in the distance and already I could smell the pungency of all their nothingness. The whole horizon was a plume of flowery mist.

I closed my eyes and remembered the time the baby and I were on this beach, making sandcastles out of soft bright sand and in the warm sun eating strawberries. I opened my eyes to blink. A veil of ash still covered the sky, cloaking the world with unnatural mortality. I closed them again, to stop the sting.

And now when I close my eyes, I think of the horses. I cry and cry, thinking of those horses; though water is too precious to waste, a memory of some ocean that’s light years away.

(Prompts: photograph of horses, mortality, fall-out)

by Maria Rose Sledmere

Yesterday

Sirens fall all around us. This is the place we were when it happened, when it began to happen. Where the roses bloom full under the unnatural moon, and stray dogs sniff about in the shattered concrete. The place where all was once safe and calm. I walk with you, not because you are a stranger but because you are the one that knows me better than I know myself.

As I write this there is a place in the solar system where a planet bursts like sunlight on the old town green, scattering fire and debris for millions and millions of miles; each tiny star of matter expanding outwards, growing huge with weight and heat, its surface coruscating with the white flicker of its infinity. I remember a time when the world was small, and it was an age to walk to the garden wall, where ecosystems flourished under my child’s paws. Snails with shells cracked by the boots of adults, woodlice hiding under bark, worms squirming after the rain. I think this must be the most beautiful world, almost as beautiful as the world of microbes, with their bubbles and tiny fibres swaying as if to some cosmic beat, inaudible to human ears; but pulsing, pulsing beneath the surface. Every particle surrounds me now, leaves me to my own unravelled being, my own devices. There is a story to what has happened. I wish in your pride you might tell me, O Stranger who has come here. What has happened? Why have I happened? The wailing remains in the cries of the night and I am frightened to admit that I am frightened.

I pass the school and then the fire station, where black chars cover the signs of what once might have been called architecture. Or maybe not architecture; maybe just a building with a roof and walls, a place to sleep. I find nourishment nowhere. Every step that I walk wastes my body away; I feel the flesh melt as a person feels their room melt when they fall into sleep. I have forgotten what sleep might be. There is just this darkness, this ever-enduring reality.

You hold me in the dark and for the first time I look to the sky. I am a child again and the vast depths of velvet smother me; I want to touch every diamond that offers me its sparkle; its sparkle growing closer and bigger, but I can’t, I can’t.  The sky holds its sway over me, just as I feel you fall away and crumple like the dust from whence you came. I look to the sky that is not my mother, nor my father; nor the brush of a whisper – these words that I pray. The roar of thunder comes and I know that it is happening; happening with the sad hour that hangs as a snowflake clinging to some precious tree branch that overlooks the edge of the universe… a final crystal cold, a final light with which to play. I close my eyes, I am awake. And this is yesterday.

Prompt: *choose a music lyric*

And I stare at the sky / And it leaves me blind / I close my eyes / And this is yesterday

(Manic Street Preachers, ‘This is Yesterday’)

by Maria Rose Sledmere

Flash

“I have your class test results,” the psychology teacher descends upon them from the doorway. Lucy looks over at her pal Kate.

“I know I’ve failed,” Kate whispers. Lucy knows this is a lie; Lucy knows that Kate is good at everything. The class fall into chatter as they pour over their papers; the teacher drops Lucy’s on her desk and she is absorbed in the big red F. Of course it was her fault, it wasn’t as if she studied. The teacher’s circled it and Lucy feels herself falling into that circle, the empty, biro-lined disappointment…

A scream. Several screams.

“The hell?”

Lucy stands up to see what’s going on. There’s Kate, prostrate on the floor, a slight trail of blood escaping her forehead.

“What happened?” Someone asks.

“Is she having a fit?”

Kate gives a sudden shudder, but then her body freezes stiff again, like she’d just got an electric shock. Her eyes roll open so that only the whites are visible.

“Oh God, Kate, Kate! Are you okay? Can you hear me Kate?” Lucy pushes past the other students to kneel by her friend.

“You mustn’t touch her,” the psychology teacher puts her hand on Lucy’s shoulder. She feels a hot lump catch in her throat. An awful retching noise.

Thick black sticky oil pours from Kate’s mouth. It drips and trickles down her chin and forms a pool on the floor. The class steps back in collective disgust. Lucy is frozen in fear and disbelief. She turns around to the teacher, but she too seems stunned with shock.

An oil rig, somewhere in the North Sea, a chilly wind ripping raw against their skin. They work hard at this; they don’t see their family for weeks. The lifting and the climbing carve muscles out their limbs. There will be a nice pay packet on the mainland, waiting for them. 

“What do we do?! What do we do?!” Lucy seems to be the only one capable of reacting. She ignores the teacher’s advice and gently shakes Kate’s arm, but to no avail. The oil keeps on pouring, streaming faster now like tar glugging from a mixing lorry. It was catching in her delicate blonde hair, congealing like melted gummy bears. Lucy steps over her to avoid the stuff getting on her shoes.

The report said it had been a safety check error; nothing out the ordinary would have happened if they hadn’t bothered with the check that day. If they hadn’t bothered with the safety check that day, it would have been okay.

Suddenly Kate lifts an arm and pulls herself up. Her eyes remain flicked back to the whites. A horrible gurgling sound comes from her throat, with the oil still flowing free.

“I wish, I wish, I wish…” she repeats. By now, everyone else has vacated the classroom. The teacher has disappeared to phone an ambulance.

“I remember…” Kate continues. Lucy bites her lip, tastes the iron tang.

There was a spark that went off in the safety area. The gas caught and fired then BOMB. 

“Kate, Kate what is it?” Lucy holds her hand out to touch her friend’s face but a drop of oil spills on her skin and it’s hot, ever so hot, and she doesn’t expect it.

“Just something I remember…”

The workers tried to get out, they really did. They carried each other and screamed but their voices were lost like the lives of the fish who were caught in the clammy substance that spilled from the ship. The flames burst in mushroom clouds, flaring in blazing tongues of yellow and orange that spread fast across the ocean’s surface. Birds fell from the sky, their wings still on fire. From the mainland, it looked like the end of the world. 

Something happened; the room shuddered. Lucy rubbed her eyes and looked down at the paper in front of her. She had to rub the surface clean because it was covered in strange black flakes, like ash…or…burnt plastic? She did not understand. She looked at the heading of the test: A Revision of Flashbulb Memory. She saw the green ink in the corner: she got an A.

Then she thought about Kate, who was in the corner, crying over her inevitable F.

Lucy remembered that it was ten years ago today, ten years since the tragedy with her father. It was admirable that Kate even turned up to class.

She closed her eyes and the vision came back to her, vivid from the telly screen, sharp as glass.

Prompts: oil rig photo, flashbulb

by Maria Rose Sledmere

Dreams in Cerise

He awoke from cerise dreams of her blushing cheeks to find the water had taken him at last. The sun bore down upon his bare chest, warming him with the sadness of a knowing mortality. He had been told that there were five days left, just as the trees in Arden had five leaves left, but the fact that he had been tricked by prophecy was of no consequence to him now. The forest was far away from him and so was she; with her voice becoming the wind itself, blistering his cheeks as they sank into the sea.

He remembers this moment with vague precision; as a string of words might assemble into a glitchy mass of pixels. He has written it down many times and tried to understand it. The tide of wireless has brought him streams of emails; emails from the time to come; messages that he might make sense of. In the small hours of the morning he types her letters about what has happened to him. He dreads being sucked into the past again; for the future is certainly a strange place, but he is only just starting to get used to it. He sees himself in flux and knows that she will be much older now. Dead, perhaps. He imagines all the particles of her earthly body slowly dissolving into the soil, mingling with the insects that take their homes from the filth and the litter left by humans. And all the time, the stars in the sullen sky echo a warning.

He lives in a world of barren land and beaten trees, of snowfalls that soften God into the molten endlessness of his oceans. The survivors who live on their tiny islands, connected only by their computers. In his heart he returns, frequently, to the wormhole which brought him to this future. In its memory he sees himself brilliant and glimmering. He cannot bear it: the pain of atoms tearing shreds from the world’s membrane, the layers of his skin. But he knows about the Sun: she too hurts, fading as she falls closer towards him in the whitening sky. Somehow, in his loneliness, he finds this presence comforting. For in the mist of her rays, and the bleeping dust, the signals are always reverberating.

(Prompts: ecology, technology, Shakespeare)

by Maria Rose Sledmere

Lonely Man

The daffodils grow on the western side of the lake, by the place where the ducks shelter beneath the arching branches of the ash trees in stormy weather. They are the brightest yellow that anyone has seen, and shiver like they have conscious lives when the frost awakens in the middle of April. Sometimes, it feels like it, too, when one watches them from the window across the path from the lake, and sees them move throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky, ambling, rambling, stumbling.

There is a face that sometimes appears in that window, a face of a kind-looking calm old man. His bright blue eyes sparkle like stars as they watch the ducks eating the large stale crusts that the public leave out for them. They snap at them, take them into the water, soak them, and swallow them. The man watches still, smiling softly at them as they move, wishing he could join them, desiring with all his heart, but it was impossible. For he is too old now, and the time has passed since he could walk outside.

The ducks still swim on the western side of the lake, despite the fact that the eastern side has become thick with sewage. There was a project, a number of years ago, to clear it, spawned by brief enthusiasm by ecological-conscious people of the outside world. But it was a fad, it faded past, and now the sewage increases. It will one day swallow the entire lake and bring about the apocalypse to end all apocalypses. Thick black will devour transparent blue, and each duck will die without hope. For there is none. And the old man will watch, sad and lonely, unable to do anything, but be lonely. No one can go into his house, he cannot come out. Though it is his desire.

Those are daffodils that shine once a year. This is his desire that will never come true. And that will be the apocalypse to end all ducks.

by Ailsa C. Williamson
What were your prompts?: daffodils, desire, apocalpyse

The Death of Spring

Each spring she came as sure as the rain, the cold sunshine and the sweet aromas of cut grass and new flowers blossoming on fruit trees.

There was something otherworldly about the girl – no one in the town knew her name, or, if they did, they called her ‘the Daffodil Girl’ nonetheless. And that was fitting enough, for each year, on the first day of spring, she would come floating through the dirty streets, bringing with her the vernal breeze and all the freshness and irrepressible life of the country, with a splendid mound of bright yellow daffodils bundled in a wicker basket, and balanced on her hip. Her wind-tangled tawny curls were pinned and twined and braided around her head with the same wilderness that she carried in her step, in the keen, roaming gaze of her dark doe eyes. Her dress was out of place in the town – she wore no starched lace or whalebone, no constricting silk squeezed her swaying waist and there were no intricate arrangements of buttons or beads. She was like a milkmaid of a lost age, as though she had wandered from a glorious alpine painting, somehow, into this hard and smoky English town.

The burst of yellow as she wound through the streets, the subtle scent of fine pollen the colour of sunshine, it turned the head of every fine lady, every stiff gentleman and gabbling fishwife, every merchant, beggar and drunk. And one man amongst them all was particularly drawn to her. For him, the entire season had but one purpose, one value: he could watch the Daffodil Girl in her strange, slow progress, her pilgrimage of spring, and let her soft shape and sweet scent, the mild hum of ancient songs, sooth the turmoil in his soul.

This morning, the first of march, he had woken late. He punished himself, positively flagellated himself for the error. He had not slept a full night, he felt, for many a year. Yet it was no excuse.

Disheveled and out of sorts, he left the room without his stick, half tumbling down the decaying staircase of the boarding house and limping up the street as fast as his tortured frame would carry him. Passersby muttered their judgements, scowling at the frightful sight of the crippled lunatic lurching along the cobbles, asking themselves and each other why such a creature could ever have need to hurry. Who could be waiting for a wretch like him?

He persevered, even as his whole left side began to ache, to scream for rest. And then, as he crested the top of the hill, he saw her – a spot of sunshine in his bleak world of winter. The sight gave him a second wind. He clutched his thigh, defying the pain, and ran. He had not run for seven years, not since the days he has laughed at death as bullets tore the air and mud and pitch flew up around his nimble feet like showers of confetti…

The yellow bloom grew closer and closer, until he could see the white flash of her stockings above the sturdy boots, the mud and dust on the fringe of her skirts, the infant daffodil she had wound into her hair…

“Miss!” He cried, but his voice was a thin rasp, a shriek of rusted metal on stone. “Miss!”

She turned, and he saw fear on her freckled face. The shock, the disgust was heartbreaking in the eyes of this angel. Surely that face could show nothing but heavenly benevolence, infinite, divine calm…

“Miss, please!” He gasped, reaching out to her, stumbling like a drunkard, clutching blindly. His hand closed around the handle of her basket.

“Leave off me!” She cried, her cheeks flushed with anger and fear. “Help! Won’t someone help me?”

“No, miss, no, wait!”

She tore away from him, running, skipping like a dryad in flight. He half thought she would vanish, explode into a shower of golden petals and float away on the rising wind. The thought struck him with an all-consuming fear, and he made a last attempt to seize the girl, to hold her close and tell her that she, she was his saviour!

She turned, her eyes wide, and fell, flying backwards, away from him forever. It seemed she would fall into the ground and into hell itself. There was a deafening roar, hooves and voices. A huge black horse thundered toward them…the black horse and black chariot that haunted his dreams! Doom! Doom!

Silence, screams. The crowd of the street parted; women sobbed, men shouted their useless outrage, taking off hats and shuffling feet. Someone with sense called for a doctor.

There she lay: white, broken. Her hair was splayed around her like a glorious pagan crown, her hand lay gently on her waist. And all around were yellow daffodils, scattered like funeral flowers, like tiny mourners falling at her feet, heads bent with heavy grief.

The crowd cried tragedy, but it was more than a tragedy for him. It was the death of spring, the sun turned to cold stone. It was his apocalypse.

by Rachel Norris

prompts: daffodil, desire, apocalypse

What Follows

Black peppercorns. She sat by the deserted roadside, popping them in her mouth and crunching them until her teeth blackened and her tongue felt on fire. Anything to feel real. Amy had found a tub of them in the burnt-out store cupboard of a restaurant where she used to work, years ago as a teenager. It wasn’t like there was much else left: the bars had all closed, the flats of drug-dealers were smashed in, barren. Newsagents had finally shut down, the windows once bright with tacky ads were now all boarded up. The people that were actually left tended to haunt the annihilated streets, their eyes vacant, their minds mad and starving. Sometimes Amy watched them as they clawed their way through the overflowing bins, stuffing rotting food into their dark gaping mouths like they were foxes, snuffling for survival. Their gaunt cheekbones shining in the sunlight, their breaths rasping where language had failed them.

Yes, there was a certain innocence to peppercorns, a tender potency. Peppercorns were like seeds, seeds that had been blackened by the lack of life to be grown. They sent torrents to the brain, they initiated painful fits of sneezing. On her empty stomach, the spice made her dizzy and sick and so she’d stumble about the burnt-out pavements, laughing hysterically at the scorch marks and the needles and old tampons and shit that spilled from sewers, and the festering bits of severed limbs, the coke cans crushed against cement. She kicked them with her bare feet and felt powerful, somehow (if only briefly) complete. She’d forgotten what had gone before; almost, at least. She ground the peppercorns between her teeth, lifting up a skull from a pile of smelly laundry. It felt huge and heavy in her hand. She held it at eye-level and gazed through its hollow sockets, wanting to see the elusive something that floated within. But there was nothing, nothing. She tossed it to the ground, relishing the crack.

It was like this for ages, before the rains came. Endless wandering days that never bled properly into nights. Sometimes Amy – if indeed her name really was Amy – climbed to the top of a rubble heap (the remainders of some suburb, perhaps) to watch the weird sunsets. As the failing sun dipped beneath the troubled horizon, it burst flames of savage violet; flames that melted like dark blood into the toxic clouds and the quivering mountains. A violent sublime. And sitting there, stuffing herself with peppercorns, Amy would stare and laugh. Her laugh reached out over the barren metropolis, the wasteland of the city, echoing and piercing the ears of every remaining soul, every last nook and cranny of whatever remained standing. It was a pure laugh, a laugh that cast scorn over the universe, that tossed its vivid poison over humanity. And she’d keep eating the peppercorns, hoping for something more, something different. Something to make everything whole again.

It was an ache that she could never prevent, that was only salved by laughter. An infinite need that went beyond hunger. She kept finding old bullets amidst the regular debris, bullets that were now starting to rust. With wild craving, she put them in her mouth and chewed at the solid lead, savouring the metallic tang of technologies past. She didn’t sleep, she couldn’t sleep; she’d forgotten how to sleep. She wandered the streets with the rhythm of futility. She was starting to see strange things, wondering if she was hallucinating: the skeletons of sheep floating past, trailing greenish wisps of nuclear waste; plastic bottles that talked to her in seductive whispers; pizzas in cardboard boxes that dripped with plasticky cheese and tomato paste. Her head throbbed constantly and her stomach tied itself into an impenetrable knot. What was a pizza? She saw a mass of mulch, of red and yellow grease that stood somehow as food. The image followed her, like a piece of sundered history. An evil charm. Repellant reminder. Standing in the shadows of alleyways she gnawed at her arm, desiring the iron flavour of blood, the clean toothmarks that cut out crescent-shaped flakes of skin. She had run out of peppercorns.

When the rains came, Amy was pretty sure that she was the last one left. There was a kind of beauty to this horror, this inconceivable void of loneliness. What was a voice, what was a face, what was a thought? Now there was only the rain. It fell from the mangled sky in thick droplets, the colour of mustard. As they hit the ground the droplets hissed with steam, and each time one touched Amy she felt her skin sizzle and putrefy underneath. The rains cleared away the last of the rubbish, the body parts, the miscellaneous debris. Walking, never staying still, Amy kept safe. Relatively. Greenish sores bubbled on her skin, but they would soon fade. The world had been cleared; it was almost clean. Without the seeping waste, the rain started to purify. Real, clear-coloured water spilled from the sky; tears from a guilt-ridden god. Amy waited as it penetrated the ground, watching it wash out the dark palette of the sunsets, stream rivulets over broken soil. She stuck her tongue out and let the cool drops nourish her arid mouth. She found herself sleeping (if it was really sleeping): disappearing for chunks of time, her body undergoing a kind of regeneration.

At some point, she awoke to find a world of nothing but boundless garden. She awoke to find all her sores had gone, and all her boils, all the scratches and scars that marred her skin. Flesh had gathered itself back on her formerly-emaciated ribs. Utterly confused, she stood and looked around, fresh as a spring chick, a child; free of knowledge and language. Wonder shimmered over her awakening eyes. Eyes that widened and misted with joyful tears. Everything new, everything dripping with life-giving green and the wet plenitude of rain. The first thing she noticed was a clump of radiant flowers, whose little heads emanated yellow flames. And as she gazed at them, something vital sprang back to her, burst and expanded inside of her – a kind of happiness.

“Daffodils,” she murmured, her word a song in the silence.

by Maria Sledmere

prompts: desire, daffodils, apocalypse

Cold Coffee

Monday morning and everyone is dead.
Even the doctors are dead. In the hospital clinic there are bodies, the corpses of the infirm and becoming sick squeezed into every space available. All seats are occupied, all beds are  taken, even the floors are littered with blankets and groups of family sufferers are crowded together.
Except all of them are not suffering anymore. All of them are dead. The juggling of the patients that the doctors and nurses had to go through during this epidemic does not matter any more, for they are all dead. Death has won.
She sits by herself on top of a counter, sipping a cup of cold coffee, looking around her at the state of the world now. All dead, all gone. It took one single disease to wipe out the entire human race in a weekend.
She blinks, and pauses, then sips more coffee.
Now she no longer has a job.

by Ailsa C. Williamson
What were your prompts?: clinic, coffee, juggling