Tag Archives: system

The Sickness. Short Story.

John walked down the empty street, his breathing was slow and heavy, each breath came with a wheeze. Occasionally he would stop and hawk up a lump of phlegm, spitting it onto the ground. He ignored the twin streams of mucous running from his nose. He’d been sick for two weeks now and it seemed like he was the last person left in the city. When rumours could still circulate he’d heard the other cities weren’t fairing much better, at this stage he could be the last man anywhere. He was tired, so very tired but he kept going. Around him the street lights began to grow brighter, it was dawn. He started coughing, each cough tore at his chest, his vision started to swim, John stumbled forward then dropped to his hands and knees until the fit passed. He spat on the ground again, ignoring the flecks of blood that streaked through the mucous. Slowly he got to his feet, that alone took almost all of his strength, but he was nearly there now.

He stopped outside the door, it was smaller than he remembered, less imposing, about eight foot tall and ten feet wide. John went to the small computer screen at the side of the door. He’d soon find out if he was right or not. He pressed a few buttons before he found the option he was looking for. He clicked open, a woman’s voice spoke from the wall, startlingly loud in the quiet “Opening the door will expose you to harsh conditions outside and may mean your death. Should the doors fail to re-engage it would mean the destruction of this city. Do you wish to continue?” he clicked yes. His throat was sore, each time he swallowed it felt like he was swallowing razor blades. He hadn’t spoken since Matilda died a few days before, he wasn’t sure if he still could, most people couldn’t at the end. A siren started blaring from the door as red lights began to flash, “I require identification from the highest ranking member of the community. Please look directly into the camera for your retinal scan.” John moved closer, here went nothing. The computer scanned him and quickly located his profile, “John Henry Adams, you are cleared to open the door.” he stared at the screen, he didn’t expect it to actually work. So it was true, he really was the last one left. There was a loud, high pitched whine followed by a deep grinding noise, the ground around him trembled as the door opened. How long had it been sealed? Someone somewhere must have known but he didn’t. He knew what had been outside, before the bad things happened. He knew that there had been life, animals and trees and plants but now there was nothing left but great desolate plains, filled with nothing but ash and death. Still, he wanted to see it, before he died, feel wind on his face, see the world that they had come from. Besides, what did it matter now? He was dead already, he was just waiting for his body to get the message. The door revealed a large room, thirty feet by forty, it was brightly lit by intense flood lights, empty biohazard suits lined the walls. He stepped into the room and as soon as he crossed the threshold the door started to close again. The voice spoke, “Warning: Once you leave the city limits you may not be able to re-enter depending on your level of contamination.” John ignored the voice and shuffled across the room to the final door, it was as large as the first, there was another computer pad here, “please confirm retinal scan.” John moved closer to it. He was feeling weak now, he didn’t have much longer. He leaned against the wall as the computer scanned him, “Retinal scan confirmed. Door will open in five minutes.” John let out a surprised gasp that turned into a coughing fit. Did he even have five minutes? He shuffled to the edge of the door and leaned against the wall, letting it support his weight. Slowly he began to slide down it, he didn’t have the energy to stop himself.

As he waited he wondered what outside would be like, no one had been outside since the city had been officially opened all those years ago, when the doors had been sealed and humanity had been saved. He could be the first human to go back outside since then, all transport was done underground via railway and they had everything they needed in the cities. A siren started blaring, startling John from his thoughts, had it been five minutes already? There was a rush of cold air as the door opened and the air flooded into the room. He breathed deeply then started coughing. His vision swam, darkness crowded the edges of it as bright spots of black and red danced across everything. Finally the coughing slowed, then stopped. He felt light-headed and dizzy, but he wasn’t done yet. He tried to stand, but his legs quivered and shook before coming out from under him. He waited for a moment, getting his breath back, he rolled onto his stomach and started to crawl. His hand reached outside and hit something cold, but surprisingly soft and slightly wet. He peered out at the expanse of green in front of him, it was magnificent. He dragged himself from the doorway, feeling the wind on his face, flowers dotted the grass along with trees, reaching towards the heavens. The sun shone down, warm and comforting.

John rested against the tree trunk, he couldn’t go any further, this was it for him. He ran his hand through the grass again, how long had it been like this? How long had they been kept cooped up in the cities? He wondered if anyone else knew but that didn’t matter, he wouldn’t be able to tell anyone anyway. He closed his eyes, each breath coming with a wheeze and phlegmmy rumble. Nearby he could hear something moving towards him, he was too tired to feel fear, what did it matter now? A large creature appeared, walking on thin, almost delicate legs. It had brown and white fur, large eyes and slightly pointed ears that stuck up form the top of its head, it leaned down towards him, sniffing curiously. Slowly, gently he reached out and placed a hand on its side, feeling the warmth of it through its fur. He smiled, then closed his eyes for the last time. A second later his hand dropped from the creature sending it bounding off with a graceful leap. John’s chest fell still and with the sound of birdsong in his ears and the feel of wind across his skin he slipped away into the darkness.

Lost. Short Story.

Joe had been lost in the blackness for so long.

It all started with a party in the woods. He had been looking forward to it after a stressful week of college. Amanda was organising it on her parents property, which was almost unimaginably large. The plan was simple, set up a few tents, start a fire, then get drunk. The plan was working pretty well too, People were having a good time, someone had brought speakers with them so they had some music. Joe moved away from the flickering fire light to go take a piss in the woods. It took him a minute to find a good spot, every time he thought he found one a gentle breeze would blow, shifting the branches or bushes, revealing the party. He knew he was getting turned around in the dark, after all he had walked away from the party to find somewhere to go. He wasn’t nervous about getting lost, after all he could still hear the music and people talking.

Finally he found a good spot, an outcropping of rocks, behind him someone yelled something, he felt his bladder tense. “C’mon. It’s fine. No one can see.” He released a breath slowly, but nothing was happening. He could feel his cheeks burning in the darkness. He moved around the rocks and saw a small opening. He smiled to himself, it was perfect. He slipped inside and got to work. Once he was finished he zipped up and turned around, the light was faint but he could just make out the crack of the entrance. He moved towards it but after a moment stopped. He had only gone a few feet into the cave, there was no way it would have taken this long to walk out. He turned, frowning. There was a faint light all around the cave.

He had walked for what felt like hours, hands on the walls, trying to find the opening. At some point the light had faded, then vanished. He had tried to find it again, but it was just gone. He didn’t know how long ago it was, it felt like hours, but it could have only been minutes. He stopped and sat down to rest for a moment, he was feeling quite thirsty, but there was no water. He had been slightly drunk before, but now he felt sober. He knew that in situations like this you were supposed to stay where you were until someone found you, but god only knew how far he had wandered, or how many tunnels and branches he had obliviously walked past.

Once he had calmed himself he stood, turned around and started walking. He had to get himself out of this, no one would find him here, they’d think he was lost in the woods, not some weird cave. He was pretty sure he was going in the right direction, after all he hadn’t gotten too mixed up, he had been walking with his hands on the wall of the caves for the most part.

It was maddening, moving so slowly in the dark, one had sliding along the rough, cold wall, the other waving blindly, sliding his feet along the ground so he wouldn’t trip. He started counting slowly in his head to help pass the time a little, and to track it. After about twenty minutes of walking he stopped again. There was still no light, what if he had gotten mixed up and started going the wrong way. He hadn’t gone that far in the total darkness, had he? He noticed how quiet the cave was. There was no sounds of water dripping, no animals scraping against the rocks, no bugs skittering from his feet. Just his breathing and his steady heartbeat. He strained to hear something else, but there was only silence.

Joe searched through his pockets again, looking for his phone. He knew it wasn’t there but he still had to look. It had probably fallen out of his pocket when he stood up from the campfire. He didn’t know if it would get signal in the caves, but at least he’d have a light to follow. He was starting to get panicky, he was lost in some caves, with no light, no food and no water. There wasn’t even a stream or puddles that he could drink from.

He took a deep, slow breath, waiting around wasn’t going to help, walking could make things worse, but then so could staying still. He sat down against the rock wall, this is what you were supposed to do. He’d sit and listen and if he heard people he’d start screaming. He felt around the ground for a rock, after a minute he found a sturdy one just larger than his fist. He banged it against the wall a few times, it made a good, loud sound.

Joe stood, he couldn’t sit any longer, he just couldn’t. He had been banging that damn rock against the ground every ten seconds for what felt like hours. He didn’t even know if the sound was carrying through the cave system. He had no idea what direction he had been walking in. He thought that he had come from the right, but he wasn’t sure. It was hard to tell in the darkness, and hard to remember if he had just sat against the wall or if he had moved around a little first. He could feel panic bubbling up in his chest, he tried to fight it down, he could do this. He would be fine. He had his hand on the wall when he sat down, he had been walking with his right hand against the wall, therefore if he put his right hand against the wall he would be going in the right direction. He smiled to himself, this was good, he knew what way he had been going, he just had to keep walking and he’d get out. No one talked about large cave systems in this area, he had probably just gotten himself all turned around.

Joe was tired, he didn’t know how long he had been in the place but he knew he couldn’t stop. Every time he paused for a rest he felt his head dipping and sleep edging ever closer. He knew he couldn’t sleep, if he did he could get all turned around again. He just had to keep going, that was all. Just a few more steps and he knew he’d see light soon. Just a few more steps.