Today I’ll be posting my self-edited draft, and all I can say is that I’m still not in love with this prompt, nor my story idea. This week anything bolded will be what I changed, or in the case of some misspellings, fixed from the original draft. In the end, it should be about 1,000 words, right now though it’s hovering around 792. I like that because later on, when I have critique partners giving me writing advice, I’ll have some wriggle room.
Standing on the edge of the known world took the breath from her lips. Below were the towns and cities she’d run through and escaped from, fighting free of present ruins with past ghosts.
“We were supposed to come up here together,” she admitted to the clouds. They hung low overhead, eager to touch, to hear from one of the little humans that had survived. “Bring a couple of camping tents, tell ghost stories, maybe even have some marshmallows burning in the campfire. But now…?” She sighed. “It’s only a dream.”
A nightmare, if she was being honest with herself. One country in power having a temper tantrum, releasing some nano-virus designed to infect and cause a debilitating illness; another country answering that with their own genetically modified virus targeting people over the age of eighteen. One wished to invade a country with no bloodshed, another wanted to plunge their enemy into chaos. Both had worked well. Too well.
In the water, in the air, in the very earth used to grow crops – the mutations had made contact and decided to be fast friends. The hybrid bastard (because no one rational had blessed this marriage) gained a killer instinct, singling out older people and shutting their bodies down through something as harmless as sleep.
The flare was set, and she waved it, letting it be seen as she hung onto the pole with one hand. It had seemed frightening at first, but now it was little more than an item designed to support her. She wasn’t afraid of falling. Not anymore. There were other things, other people to be afraid of.
The wild children that burned books to stay warm. The haggard remains of the elderly that shot or poisoned everyone younger than them in case the virus was hiding in their bodies. Every once in a while there was someone her age, someone who understood what was supposed to happen and that had what had been promised would never come. That family, the house, the job, the wine, the food… everything laid before her had gone up in a puff of smoke, a mirage that still flickered in her dreams.
Red light burned and the smell of gunpowder almost made her sneeze. Almost. That was key. She’d almost not made it up here at all, had almost been one of the many lying on the side of the road with no one to bury them.
“Please.” Her voice went unheard up to the sky. “I just want a companion. Someone to be with me.”
She yawned. Stretched out over the open gap of the world’s mouth.
Finally, the flare burnt out. She dropped it and it disappeared, either never to be seen again or to be that “what the fuck hit me, where did that come from?!” story for someone else. Schrodinger’s flare.
In one smooth motion she swung herself from one element to the other; air to earth. Beneath her bare feet she felt the arrhythmic beat of life.
“Do I wait here for someone to find me?” she asked a tree. “Or should I be on my way, at least for a little while longer?”
The juniper nodded, and its yellow eyes blinked.
“Merow,” it said, a small tortoiseshell cat jumping out of the mid-branches. It wrapped itself around her feet, hitting her with its tiny head.
“You’re my friend then? I didn’t think that would actually work.” An old “spell” from when she and her friends at high school had played at being witches. “Come, send me someone, send me a messenger” had been one sang around four burning candles at each of the directions.
“I don’t have much food,” she cautioned it, picking up the cat and holding it… a quick peek. Holding her close. The two of them made their way to the small cabin she’d found hiking up here. It was built to last. “Maybe there’s something in here that you’ll be able to eat.”
She opened the door, shut it, locked it behind her. Made sure all the windows were at least covered. For the cat, she put out a small tin of tuna. For herself, she laid out on the bed, suppressing another yawn.
“I didn’t want to be alone,” she said, enjoying how cool and clean and luxurious the sheets felt against her scratched and dry skin. The cat ignored the food and jumped up, creating a small circle on her chest. This time the yawn was bigger, louder, and longer. The cat batted her teeth with a paw and she giggled.
“Thank you. I opened the window. You’ll have to move the curtain.” She pointed at the one opening she’d left the cat, and then she was sleeping, tumbling from one world to the next.