Thursday, 4 June 2009

After it got bad and before it got worse

My last essay was handed in 2 weeks ago. My only exam is in 2 and a half weeks. I have nothing to do in the meantime. While this may sound lovely and relaxing to some people, i'm a creature who thrives on stress, is happiest when she's slightly overwhelmed. I'm so bored.
On tuesday, after spending the day laying on the grass reading McSweeney's Thrilling Tales, a book of genre short stories, sci-fi, adventure, horror, all in 1940s Dan Dare style, i went to the pub for a pint with my friend Tom and bitched about how bored i was (i know, it'a a hard life!). I mentioned that i was thinking of going to write club that evening, but hadn't written in ages, and Tom told me to write a story in the hour i had before write club started. I asked him what it should be about and he said something along the lines of "make it about animals whio escape from the zoo and then infect the human race so that they all die."
I took on the challenge, but twisted it a bit, and here's what i got. I'm acutally pretty proud of it, considering it took less than an hour.

After it got bad and before it got worse

Two days after they escaped it started turning up on the news. Joe and I were in bed reading the paper and he pointed it out; two more dead in London, on top of the seven yesterday. They didn’t say what it was, but warnings had been issued telling everyone to keep their pets indoors, just to be safe. We had no pets. I stole a sip of Joe’s coffee and whispered into his ear that my feet were cold, and we stopped reading the paper.

The day we went to the beach the death toll reached one thousand. The initial opinion that the deaths were caused by the uncommon heat had long since gone up in smoke. We knew it had something to do with the animals, but we didn’t know what. The sun was warm on my skin and the water was cool. The animals were in the city and we were safe and young and in love.

His father died, my brother died, best friends, cousins, nieces, but we survived. We joked that it was our love that kept us strong, the strength of it keeping us immune. I wasn’t entirely joking when I said it, and neither was Joe. What else could it be? 70% of the city was gone, the deaths were spreading across the continent, and almost everyone we knew was infected and killed either by the virus or by the extermination crews which roamed the streets. There was an armed blockade every mile dispensing food to the dwindling survivors. Their presence was an unnecessary comfort; we had all the protection we needed as long as we stayed together, our love a barrier against disease, a preventer of death. We would marry in the spring.

We no longer listened to the news bulletins, the lists of the dead and the dying didn’t concern us, they weren’t ours. We transitioned quickly and painlessly into life in this new abandoned world. Still went for long walks, though only during daylight, still went to the beach, but stayed out of the water for fear of the fish. If we saw an animal we’d shoot to kill and continue with our day. The sight of Joe with a gun in his hand, barrel still smoking, knowing he’d just saved our lives and our love was the most profound aphrodisiac I’ve ever known. The baby was due in the summer. With no hospitals, no doctors or nurses, and no drugs, I must admit I wasn’t entirely looking forward to the process, but I know Joe will see mw through. We’ll call her Alice and she’ll live in our wonderland.

I noticed the bite while we were in bed. Two semi-circles of red pin pricks encircling his perfect ankle. He didn’t tell me how he had got them, and I didn’t ask. My pregnancy was more difficult than we had expected and I stayed in bed most of the time. Joe looked after me as he always had, going to the nearest blockade for food parcels and information. After I noticed the mark Joe stayed with me in bed. In order to get food you had to undergo a full body exam to make sure you weren’t infected. If there was any suspicion, you were handed to the extermination crews. Better safe than sorry. The food ran out faster than we thought it would. Tap water hadn’t been safe for months.

Joe now spent as much time in bed as I did, a fact which bothered neither of us as much as it should have. We were still young and in love, and our love was still as strong as the locks on our door. The baby stopped kicking. We were both too tired to move. Curled together in bed, dirty pillows and crumpled sheets, swathed in each other’s stale sweat, shifting in and out of consciousness. We survived in our love when the world died. We would die, still in love, leaving the world together.

People who don’t understand, people who never felt a love like ours, might say we were foolish. They might suggest going to find food, going to the blockade for medical aid, splitting up to search for help. They might tell me I was weak for giving up, for allowing myself and my baby to die because I didn’t want to leave his side. What they’ll never understand is that doing that would defeat the point. Staying together had kept us alive this long, we had lost everything but each other and our love, and neither of us wanted that to end.

Joe died this morning. The starvation, the infection and the loss of little Alice proved too much for his strong, beautiful body to take. I took my pills an hour ago. The soldiers give them out with the food parcels and we had a stockpile of them. After it got bad but before it got worse we used to quote Tom Leher and contemplate poisoning some pigeons, if they hadn’t all been wiped out already. The real reason we kept them remained unsaid, though we both knew. How could either of us hope to survive in this empty world full of animals if our love, our safety net, our soul had left? I took them with a glass of wine and climbed in to bed next to him, together as only we could be, at the end of our lives, at the end of the world.

Opinions are, as always, greatly appreciated. I can tell what my obviuos influences for this story are, but i'm not going to say them, because i want to see if other people pick up on them. Tell me what you think.

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