Four Doomsdays – Doom Three: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Mushrooms, Otherwise known as Fungus by Randy Cockrell

“And in other news…”

I half-listened as I changed my three-month-old daughter, Becca. It was always bad news on the TV and I was too engaged with my first-born to care about whatever was troubling the rest of the world. My world was perfect.

Still on maternity leave, I took Becca down to the kitchen and poured my husband, Ron, his coffee and put it on the table at his place. This was his first day back to work from paternity leave. We’d had such a nice time this last three weeks. I was sorry that he had to go back to work already.

He came into the kitchen, adjusting his tie. “I’m sorry I have to put this thing on again.” He sat down at his place as I put a bowl of cereal in front of him.

“Then don’t. You don’t have to wear it.”

He shook his head. “No. If you want to get ahead, dress for two levels above where you are. That’s the CEO. He wears a tie, I wear a tie.” He scooped cereal into his mouth.
I shrugged. Ron was ambitious and I couldn’t blame him, so was I. But my system was still swimming in maternal hormones. At the moment, I couldn’t generate any sympathy. “Your call.”

I pulled Becca to me and pulled up my shirt. One of the best parts of the day was nursing time. I could feel her little mouth clamp onto my breast and begin to suck. I still couldn’t believe that I had a baby and I was feeding her. Me. Out of my own body. The wonder of it was still overwhelming. When I looked up, Ron was smiling at me. “I’m going to miss this.”

“I’m going to miss you.”

He took a deep breath. “Yeah. Oh. Did you see the news? Some sort of infection is sweeping through India. Killing babies.” He studied Becca, still going strong on my breast. “That sucks.”

I nodded but didn’t answer. What must those parents be feeling? I’d be frantic.

Ron scooped up the rest of his cereal and gulped down his coffee. “Home by six.” He got up, grabbed his brief case and kissed each of us on the head.

“Drive safe.” I was talking to his back as he headed out the door to the garage. He waved and was gone.

After Becca ate, she had a bath, clean clothes, and was down for a nap. Time for me to shower and dress. Then it was into the kitchen, the baby monitor on the counter, as I washed up the dishes and cleaned the kitchen. The TV cycled through to another news cast. I listened this time as the story about India came back on. “Just in,” the newscaster looked into the camera, face concerned. “It seems China has had a similar outbreak as India. The government there has been keeping it quiet but refugees coming over the border of Nepal have reported children dying by the thousands.
I shook my head as I dried my hands. Poor parents. How awful.

“The Indian government has called on the United Nations for medical support.” The newscaster went on to the next story and I turned off the TV. I was glad I didn’t live over there.

That afternoon, I met some other mothers at the park. Of course, Becca was too young to run and play but it was good to get her out into the fresh air. “Did you hear about India and China?” I asked as I sat down.

“Yes. What a nightmare.” Carol’s baby was the same age as mine. We were in the same room at the hospital. “I cannot even imagine.”

“It’s the conditions,” Margery said with a sniff. “The sanitation over there is non-existent. No wonder there’s disease running rampant.

“What if it get’s here?” Joan stopped talking to wipe her three-year-old’s nose. “I mean, with air travel, disease can spread around the world in no time.”

Margery shook her head as she watched her four-year-old son go down the slide. “The people with the illness are not rich enough to travel. We’re safe enough.”

We all nodded but I wondered. I took pre-med in college before transferring into computer science. Disease was no respecter of socio-economic classes. Look at the plague back in medieval Europe or the flu back in the 1900’s. Millions of dead. Europe lost so many people modern historians marvel that the continent recovered.

I mentioned it at dinner that night.

Ron nodded. “It’s all everyone was talking about at work. Apparently, there is something going around in the bigger cities.”

It felt like my heart was in my throat. “What kind of something?”

He shrugged. “Don’t know. Lot’s of kids sick. But it’s all a rumor. There’s nothing on TV about it.”

After dinner was cleaned up and Ron was watching a recorded game, I got on the internet and did a search. Pictures put up by private individuals showed grieving parents. YouTube videos showed anguished parents pleading with everyone to stay home and not go out in public. A fungus they said. Some kind of deadly fungus.
I told Ron.

“Can’t be. It would be public by now if there were that many cases.” He went back to the game.

I could hear Becca begin to cry over the baby monitor.

I went upstairs. The poor thing was screaming as I went into the bedroom. “That’s okay, sweetheart. Momma’s here.” I picked her up. Out of the spot where her skull met her neck, something white sprang out.

I screamed, holding Becca out from me face down in the crook of my arm, something long and white. Blood seeped from around the base of it.

Ron came racing in.

“Call 911. Something’s wrong!” I sobbed as Becca kept screaming.

Cordyceps, the doctor said. A new, virulent strain of fungus. By the end of two years, every child under the age of five was dead.

Words: 1000

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Four Doomsdays – Doomsday Two: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Monsoon River in my Back Yard

I watched from my backyard—luckily a high spot—as a storm cell, a super cell, formed to the south. The fifth one in as many months. Damn! I’d just repaired the roof. I went to the front yard and rang the bell I’d found after the first storm in a local antique shop.

Once, a life-time ago, my sister-in-law used a similar bell to call my niece, Nell, in from her explorations, for dinner. Why didn’t I just call the neighbors? The phones and internet went out with the first storm and were never restored.  Power went out the second storm. That did return but storm three killed it. Apparently forever.

I sighed. My neighbors and friends around town finally stopped claiming climate change was a hoax. Many of them, all over sixty, were dead. Like my husband who had been out looking for supplies, killed by one of the hoard of refugees swarming out of the big cities. Or like our friend, Rick, who was on the roof too long making last second repairs just before a storm hit. Dead. My neighbor to the left, the other side of the drainage ditch, was critically injured as super storm two drove a tree from the empty lot across the street through the front door of his house, right through his chest.

It was a struggle getting him to the hospital, debris littered every flooded road. When we got there injured crowded the emergency room and halls. There were too many injured and not enough staff or medicine. As a 20-year retiree from the Air Force, I could see the doc shake his head at the triage nurse. She made my neighbor as comfortable as they could but he was dead in half and hour. As the neighbor, I told his wife. She went pale. Then tears began to flow but she never made a sound. I sat with her all night, relieved by another neighbor in the morning. kShe died two weeks later. I’m not sure if it was grief or just that she’d run out of her diabetes medicine.

All of us worked together in our immediate neighborhood as best we could but at sixty-five I was the youngest. It was summer but none of us had real fireplaces or even wood stoves. We were cooking over campfires in our front yards with fallen branches and downed trees. There were certainly plenty of those. All of our houses had piped in gas. I’d gone down to the gas company after the first storm and asked how to turn off the gas. Once mine was off, I went to all of the neighbors and got them to turn theirs off. Three days later across town, a house blew, taking a block and a half of neighborhood with it.

Supplies were scarce as the highway up from the major city was blocked by landslides. Without power we were using hand tools to do just about anything. The local hardware stores were major hubs of exchange and advice. The newspaper was also a spot of major importance. They posted messages in their windows and amazingly, they had an antique press in the basement. Probably the only basement in town. They put out a paper a week with news from the state and federal government, what was left of them, information about deaths, where supplies could be located, and food. Food was very important.

My tiny vegetable garden had been ripped to shreds the first storm. The local community garden as well. People with food allergies, like me, were suffering. Many had died, just as those with severe injuries or major issues, like my neighbor’s diabetes. I had gotten some tips from an old-timer about snares. I’d gotten some rabbits. I’d hunt but my husband and I had never had gun. None of my neighbors did either. A small meat market had sprung up in front of the now defunct Walmart from local hunters selling their excess deer, elk, and javalina. Money was gone, it was worthless. Everything was by barter. Civilization as we’d once known it was gone.

How’d this happen? Simple. We’d ignored the climate scientists for too long. I’d demonstrated in front of our state capital for changes to environmental laws but the right in this state and others, was too strong. The arctic and Antarctic ice caps began melting at ever increasing rates. The Pacific current became warmer, as moisture from the melting ice caps not only flooded into the oceans but rose into the air. The heat and the moisture began making storms. Bigger and bigger storms. Then the tundra in Russia, Canada, Alaska and other northern places began to thaw releasing ancient carbon dioxide into the air. It has been a perfect storm, after storm, after storm.

It didn’t matter now, I thought as I went to check my backyard fence. The drainage ditch, twelve feet deep, flooded every super storm. My fence was washing out. There was nothing I could do about it. I worried about my house, at the edge of the ditch. Would this storm wash it out? Like the country and the world, I had to just survive.

The wind was picking up. As I watched the storm come in I realized, Mother Nature was doing what we wouldn’t do, fix the imbalance.

 

Thank You!

891 Words

 

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Four Doomsdays – Doom One: Flash Fiction Friday Post

meteor_by_brandonstricker-d6ai470 via DeviantArt.com

The social media feeds and the news outlets and the television and the radio had been blasting for weeks. Everybody had an opinion, but no one really knew anything. I know I’d been hearing about a nuclear attack since I was a child, hiding under our school desks, arms over our heads at the sound of the alarm.

I thought our leadership was nuts. The president, especially. Ranting one minute, friends with all the foreign leaders the next. The Congress was nearly as bad. It was all or nothing all the time. No one wanted to compromise. If a person tuned into foreign news broadcasts, they were calling us out of control.

I kept my head down and took care of my farm. What else was I going to do? I didn’t travel to a whole other planet to stand around whining. People needed to eat and I was good at farming, so I stuck to that.

This is, until the bombs fell. Well, not bombs, actually, just asteroids. I knew that they could be just as destructive, but, my brain, at least, never grasped it fully. Made sense, after all. Why contaminate the environment? The blast from the rocks hitting pretty much was the same as with nukes. Each one wiped out what it hit. Each one also threw so much dirt and dust into the air, the land was cut off from the sun. It got cold. The crops died in the fields. Survivors scavenged across the countryside like a cloud of locusts, stealing anything they could get their hands on.

Me and other farmers, we tried. Bert Spark lost his wife Ann when a mad pack of survivors attacked their farm. Ann was trying to keep them from stealing everything in the cupboards, she had kids to feed, too. But they overwhelmed her and took everything, including her life.

Bert was hurt trying to keep them from stealing the chickens. After that, we consolidated on my farm as it was the most defensible. Everyone brought their stock, any feed they had, food supplies, bedding, the whole lot. We were sleeping in every room of my house but the kitchen and the baths. It worked for a while. That is until the survivors banded together and raided police and army weapons caches.

We had shotguns, some hunting rifles, and were totally out-matched. They shot the livestock and took the carcasses. They surrounded us and wouldn’t let us leave the house. They had trucks and took all the animals they didn’t shoot. Then they raided the barns. There went all the small stock and the feed stores. We lost six farmers in all, four men and two women. I was surprised to see them all drive off without raiding the house. I guess they figured they didn’t need to. We were beat.

Winter came early and we struggled through that. We set traps and caught rabbits and game birds. There was a lot of thin soup. Spring was cold and wet, no good at all for growing crops with the seed we’d saved. We did forage but not much vegetation on this new world was good for humans to eat. We lost the oldest among us. I think she just gave up as we found her in her bed, dead. We lost a couple of the toddlers, too. They caught cold, then pneumonia, and there just wasn’t any medicine to give them. We had a nice spot on a hill, overlooking the farm, where they were all buried.

It never really did get to be summer. The dust in the air kept the planet from warming. The second winter was bad. We lost three more. I’m not sure if it was starvation or disease. Either one had the same outcome. When the calendar said it should be spring, we started getting messages from Earth. Surrender, the messages said, and there would be help coming.

We sent a message out surrendering. Hell, if someone would come and bring food, that was good enough for us. We kept a person on the monitors all the time. Some fool on the coast decided to put up a fight. Moron. That kept help from arriving. We still didn’t have enough warmth to plant. None of us thought we could make it another year.

Then a jet flew over the farm. Those of us outside just stood and stared, mouths open. Days later, military trucks came driving up the road. By the time they parked, we were all outside. Some young Captain got out and soldiers poured out of the back in full fighting gear. I sighed as they surrounded us. There was no point, really. We didn’t have enough strength left to fight them.

He read a long announcement about how we were conquered and were now citizens of Earth. A local planetary government would be established and we’d be taxed to pay for the war. We had to sign a surrender, then they gave us rations. I asked for seed and livestock for us all. We were ready to get back to farming. He said that would all be coming. LeAnn asked for more rations as we were starving. A couple of soldiers took a couple of cases from the last truck and handed them over. LeAnn started crying. The Captain signaled and the soldiers got back on the truck. We were reminded to keep listening to the broadcasts as he got into his seat. We all nodded and he and the convoy drove off.

I heard that there were pockets of resistance. No matter to me. When the seed and livestock arrived, everyone divided evenly and went back to their own farms. It was tough. The weather didn’t really get back to normal for three more years. It was tough to pay the taxes, but whatever. Life is just tough, isn’t it?

Words: 981

Next week, Doom Two

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The Doomsday Vault: Flash Fiction Friday Post

burned_out_building_by_chisatowatanabe-d8mdbcd via DeviantArt.com

I opened the Doomsday vault with shaky hands. Newly promoted to manager, it was my responsibility now to open the vault everyday and check expiration dates, and other things that were located inside. Then to replace as necessary.
Standing inside the massive door, I looked around. A hundred and thirty-two years, this vault had been in existence. Books lined the shelves in front of me. How-to manuals mostly as the planners assumed that there wouldn’t be power available for computers. I sighed. Those wouldn’t ever need replacing. But, the food would have to be replaced on a regular basis. Those shelves were clearly marked and I stepped over to them to check the dates.
As I pulled the expired boxes from the shelves I thought about the current world situation. Everything seemed good. After the Korean situation had been resolved, most countries became peaceful. There was the middle east, of course, there were still a couple of groups that demanded everyone convert to Muslim, but they were on the fringe, even in their own countries. Our group monitored them, of course, but in my morning briefing, they weren’t even mentioned.
I stacked the expired material outside the door and brought in the new foodstuffs. I marked the expiration date on them and stacked them neatly on their shelves. I made note on the inventory what I brought in, then walked over to the weapons rack. Someone had decided a long time ago that there would be some weapons in the vault, just in case of trouble. I wondered for a moment who the designers thought would be around to cause trouble, then put it out of my mind. I knew that most every country had some sort of doomsday vault. I’d been to a meeting last year as I was being prepped to take on the roll. There I met the other managers. As conventions go, it was pretty small, there were only two hundred and three attendees. Not every country had a vault.
It was fun, and I’d made some acquaintances. The British manager was an Irish woman and she’d been manager of her vault for twenty-seven years. If there was a doo-dad that helped with survival, she knew of it and had an opinion on the usefulness of it as well. I took another look around the vault. Everything was in order and I was reaching up to turn off the light when my assistant ran up to the door.
“Karen. Come quick. Terrorists have bombed the capital! It’s on the news!”
I hesitated. There had been no warning this morning of any unrest anywhere on the planet. What had happened? “Call security. We’re going to get a lot of people here in a hurry.”
She nodded and ran off. I pulled the emergency checklist out and began the initiation phase. Three hundred and twenty-two people were going to start arriving any time now. If they’d escaped the bombing. I had a lot to do to get ready.
All in all, two hundred and sixty people arrived. Tales of government buildings destroyed or on fire circulated around the arrival hall. The din was deafening. We weren’t supposed to but since there were empty spaces, I allowed my assistant and her children in. Then we closed the door. There was no telling how long we’d have to stay. The noise died down as everyone moved to their assigned rooms. The monitor in the lounge was on. Newscasters were giving reactions to the attack and showing pictures of the capital in flames.
A commotion in the hall pulled me away from the monitor. Two security officers were facing a man yelling obscenities.
“What’s going on?” I came out into the hall.
“I demand to know why my wife couldn’t come in. I had to leave her home.” He shouted the question at me, all red in the face and sweating.
I recognized him. He was the chief of staff for the vice president. New to the job. “You didn’t have your wife listed, Mr. Fairchild.” If he’d had brought her, I would have let her in. Like I did for my assistant.
“I was going to list her, but there’s just so much.” He looked around at the security guards, then made his case to the people who were gathering around, watching the drama. A few nodded. “I was going to get to it.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Fairchild. I truly am.”
“Open the door and let me out. I’ll go and get her.”
I shook my head. “We can’t do that until we get the all clear or we know it’s safe out there. Why don’t you go to the clinic and get the doctor to give you something to help you relax?”
“I don’t want drugs.” He was beginning to look wild eyed. “I want my wife!” He charged the security officers and the bystanders hurried off.
“Take him to the clinic.”
They dragged him off, him still screaming obscenities. I took a breath. The procedures mentioned that some number of people would not handle the emergency well. I wondered how many more there’d be. That was when I saw Mr. Fairchild running toward me. He had a gun in his hand. Where’d he get that? The security officers were running after him.
Fairchild pointed the gun at me. “Let me out!”
I held up my hand as I shook my head. “I can’t do that, Mr. Fairchild.”
“Yes, you can!” He fired.
I fell backward, hitting my head on the tile floor. It was hard to breathe, then he was standing over me.
“I told you! I told you!” He shook the gun at me.
I could see the officers take him down, wrestling the gun away from him and zip tying his hands behind him. I didn’t feel anything and I wondered about that. Shouldn’t I hurt? I closed my eyes and relaxed into a warm feeling of well-being. Let someone else work it out.
Words: 998

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