Edith Airey was quite sure she only had one interesting thing to say about herself: she'd managed to come out ontop as the only survivor of a world-spread virus. Too bad she couldn't impress anyone with that line, until...
Hello! This'll be my first ever multi-chapter story that I've dared to post on the internet since I was like, thirteen and socially dauntless. I hope you like it! Might end up classing this as "Mature" just because swearwords, and even though there's an angst tag in here I am going to try and make the overall theme banterous (that's totally a word) and attempt at using humour. ATTENTION: THIS ISN'T SUPPOSED TO BE A DARK STORY. Yes, it has a grim element to it, but I want it to be cute and funny at points. I do really hope I succeed at this.
So yeah, author's note over! I hope you enjoy reading this?
(Chapter's word count: < 3,000)
Does "Young Adult" cover people in their early twenties? I think it should, at least.
Edith stood on the water’s edge, looking out over the colourless landscape in front of her. The sea’s waves rolled in-and-out of the blanket of fog, its deep blue hue desaturated to a pale grey-ish white. She couldn’t see more than ten metres out onto the English Channel.
What was happening? The sky had been blue all day!
She’d noticed that it was foggy before she’d reached the end of the bay, of course. She wasn’t blind. But she did feel frustrated by the brilliant bad-timing of the weather, and had had to walk right up to the ocean’s edge to process it.
She looked over to one of the only boats left floating by the docks and felt her stomach twist nervously. Nope. No, she was going to have to swim.
‘I guess I can do this another day. Or week,’ She started, turning decisively on her heel and walking back into Dover.
Three hours ago…
The sun had risen a couple of hours back, so it was most-likely around 9 or 10 O’clock. It was one of those temperamental March days where it wasn’t clear what the weather would be like that day, as winter met the threshold of spring. The temperature was chilly – bracing, even – but you could see spring in the trees lining the roads; buds on every branch – even flowers blooming on some already – from the clean air; grass was greener and softer and the days were getting longer. Bold shadows were cast onto the service station floor by the bright day already unfolding outside.
It was 9:28am to be precise, but that was only if the mechanical watch on Edith’s wrist was accurate, which she couldn’t be certain of.
Not that it mattered at all, really. Who was she going to be late for if she postponed getting up any longer?
A growl of a stomach answered her internal rhetorical question, but it wasn’t her own. She sat up in her sleeping bag, glancing groggily around the service station until she locked gazes with a pair of soft green eyes. Edith smiled.
‘Wilson,’ she said, Irish accent stronger than usual from grogginess, ‘Are you hungry? … How long have you been staring at me like that?’
Wilson smirked at her from his seat on the edge of the cashier’s counter. He didn’t move, seemingly unfazed by her question, and only winked in response.
‘Cheeky bugger,’ Edith grumbled, wriggling out of her sleeping bag. ‘You know, you look so creepy when you just stare at me like that. It feels like you’re plotting to kill me. Worse, it makes me feel self-conscious.’
Wilson continued to look fixedly at her, silently daring her to challenge him.
‘What, is my hair in that much of a mess today? Sor-ry for not having access to a working pair of hair straighteners, or looking like Emma Stone when I wake up…’ she huffed, standing up. Wilson then finally broke his silence, squeaking as he jumped off the counter before mewling at full volume, winding his body around Edith’s ankles. The girl couldn’t help but chuckle, and bent down to scratch the silver tabby behind the ears. Wilson purred and mewled again, trying to coax his human to feed him.
‘Couldn’t you have just gone off and caught a bird? You’ve gotten so lazy!’ Edith cooed, eventually having to give in and search for a pets’ food aisle in the shops of the sizeable service station. She sat down on the linoleum, turning a freshly-opened can of cat food out onto the floor between Wilson and herself. The cat dove into the processed meal, happy to be eating wet food after days of the dry stuff Edith had been carrying around with her.
‘What kind of store sells tinned cat food but not tinned human food?’ She moaned to her companion, who now ignored her, much to her chagrin. She regarded him for a long moment before standing up to leave. ‘You know where to find me, I guess.’
Edith went to gather her things: a small pull-along suitcase filled with clothes, an (almost empty) canvas shoulder bag containing whatever food she hadn’t eaten yet and a deceptively heavy drawstring backpack. She decided to leave her sleeping bag to rot for eternity on its spot on the floor; it hadn’t kept her very warm last night and she could get a better one in the next town.
She clambered out of the broken window of the service station (which she had christened “the door” yesterday evening) and into the cool morning air. She breathed-in deep and could smell the aromas of spring, already all around. Edith had thought for a while now that this was something she would miss if everything could go back to the way it was: the clean air. No cars about, the air just smelt of wind and rain and green.
Wilson seemed to like it too, because he was purring as he walked up next to Edith.
‘Ready to go?’ She asked.
The two set off on foot down the motorway, continuing from where they’d left-off the day before. They were heading south, and it wouldn’t be too long until they reached their destination, now. Edith vaguely recognised some of the turnoffs they ambled past, and she started to feel a little nervous as the hours went by.
‘You’re being awfully quiet, Wil.’ The girl commented, stealing a tactful glance at the tabby padding alongside her on the tarmac. He didn’t look up at her, seemingly too content with walking to take notice. ‘…Hey, look.’ She pointed to a roadside, desperate to break the awkward silence. ‘If we head further west from here, we’ll end up in Deal.’ Still no reply. ‘I wonder if they were a gambling town. Maybe they all played cards and had to deal out their hands. And everyone made deals on money from betting.’
Wilson’s pace didn’t slow as he meowed up at her in response, chastising her.
‘I know it was an awful joke, but you gave me no choice.’
The silver tabby finally lifted his head up to meet her gaze and gave her a withering look. Edith supposed she deserved that. She looked back up to peer down the motorway, but her heart sank as she spotted an overturned vehicle at the side of the road. She could see it was a fluorescent yellow van, and as the pair got closer, the word “AMBULANCE” could be clearly seen sprawled in mirror writing in a dark green font across the hood. Edith dared to look back at the van over her shoulder as they passed it, and she spotted a skeleton pressed up against the half-broken windscreen. It was completely stripped of flesh by now (surprisingly, given the short time it must have been given to decay); the person it had belonged to had probably passed away along with everyone else about a year back. Edith flinched at the sight, its eye sockets were empty and devoid of any life, but they still seemed to manage an angry glare, silently accusing the girl who stood before them of cheating death itself. ‘Why were you allowed to get off easy?’ The skeleton asked, its voice venomous in her head. It hurt to look at them any longer, and Edith felt tears prick her eyes as she turned away.
‘This isn't easy.’
From Edith’s limited understanding (she’d never been that fond of the News), a vaccine in development-gone-wrong had ended up spreading right under the noses of the scientists who were developing it. It didn’t take long for seemingly everyone to start dropping, one-by-one. Edith didn’t like to think about it. She had flashbacks though, sometimes. She’d walk into a town and remember passing people on the streets of London: old people, young people, wives, husbands, children, grandfathers – all abandoned, kicked-out of their homes because their families were terrified of getting the virus. Edith had been terrified too. She’d avoid eye-contact and pretend not to hear their pleas, try to subtly steer her path as far to the other side of the pavement as possible.
It was a cruel decision on Edith’s part to detach herself and try to view everything objectively and practically, in her own best interests, as the world had seemed to crumble around her, but it was the only way of coping she’d had.
Edith had only visited Dover once before today: just under a year ago, to see the White Cliffs after she had decided to navigate her (and Wilson’s) way around England, Scotland and Wales to marvel at all their wonderful tourist attractions. She’d been fishing in Loch Ness, Scotland – climbed the mountains of the Lake District in England and… Visited the National Slate Museum in Wales… Name it all, they’d probably been there.
But, if her map-reading skills had any worth, then Dover seemed to be the point on the English coastline that was closest to France’s, and that’s what mattered now.
She could feel her heart flutter as they walked past the road sign that read “Welcome to Dover”. Wilson looked up at her as if to say, ‘Where do we go now?’
Edith grinned at her companion and looked up at the town, she could see the blue of the coastline in the (not-too-far) distance.
‘Wilson… This is it, we’re doing it. We’re going to France.’
Edith had been struck by this particular spot of genius when gazing across the sea from Scotland and realising how overwhelmingly visible Northern Ireland was from across the water. England had lost touch with the rest of Europe, the rest of the world even, so she couldn’t be sure if this plan would work.
But, if she succeeded in crossing the Channel to France then she would either:
a) Be able to see other humans again and still potentially live a normal life, if the virus hadn’t spread across sea
b) If the virus… had reached the rest of Europe, then at least she could move down to the Mediterranean and never have to worry about freezing to death in her sleep again.
All of this played on repeat like a scratched record in Edith’s head as she followed the road signs to Dover Bay, so when she reached the ocean, her thought-record snapped in half, the vinyl shattered and splinters exploded all over the room of her mind. The gramophone that was her internal voice seemed to have been completely silenced. Wilson sensed the change in her mood and looked up at her, not understanding what was wrong.
To be completely honest with herself, she wasn’t that bothered if she was delayed by a day to swim across the English Channel. She hadn’t swum in a while, and she guessed there was a chance that she’d drown out there. It wasn’t pleasant walking twenty miles in a day with no entertainment, so she wasn’t exactly looking forward to the endeavour.
That totally wasn’t the reason she was postponing her trip, though. That was all the fog’s fault. How was she supposed to swim to somewhere she couldn’t see? She might end up swimming towards the North-Atlantic Ocean and drowning from exhaustion (or ironically, dehydration).
Wilson kept his pale green eyes on Edith, apparently worried by her eerie silence. The pair had walked into the town’s centre and raided the supermarkets for more supplies, which had been successful.
Time seemed to fly as they scrabbled through preserved cans of Felix and Heinz spaghetti hoops, Edith building a fire in the middle of an empty carpark to cook the latter on. Wilson seemed to be smiling contentedly as he dug in on his pink plastic plate, and Edith herself looked around dreamily at the town as she stabbed at her food with an equally-fluorescent blue fork. The weather wasn’t too cold to be unpleasant, but the pressure in the air made it feel like there could be rain.
She was right, of course, despite how odd it was for rain to be following fog. It didn’t take much more than an hour of ambling about for the fog to have been replaced with fat drops of precipitation, and deep rumbles in the (not actually very distant) distance. They headed off up-hill, towards Dover Castle. That’s where they had stayed last year, because, as Edith had put it: ‘Everyone should be given the opportunity to stay in a castle at least once'.
There was actually something about the archaic structure that made both Edith and Wilson feel a little uneasy – jumpy, even. But Edith still adored the architecture and the décor, and could recall the delightful collection of vintage wines that were stored somewhere in the basement, so it was worth the visit.
The pair was chased indoors by the near-torrential downpour, and they entered the castle soaked to the skin. Edith sneezed, which immediately made Wilson jolt. She rolled her eyes.
‘You’re too jumpy, Wil.’ But then a flash of lighting, almost immediately followed by an incredibly loud roll of thunder reminded her to stay sympathetic – or she’d have to be reprimanded later by cold, judging cat’s eyes.
The Castle was the largest Edith had ever seen, and maze-like in structure. All she wanted was wine from the kitchens and then to find a nice, decorative, dust-covered bed to curl up in for the evening, maybe with the book she’d picked up from the supermarket, and Wilson warming her feet. What she ended up getting was the worst shock of her life, and probably ten years taken off it as a result.
She trudged down a window-lined hallway of the first floor, luggage all supported with one arm and Wilson trudging behind her. She’d picked up a tourist map from the entrance hall and was trying to find the bedrooms. Every rumble of thunder made the pair flinch exaggeratedly, and the tension didn’t ease as they walked deeper into the castle in search of the display bedrooms that would have made beds and working doors.
Edith abruptly froze when they were nearing the East ward of the castle. Wilson crashed into the back of her leg, making them both yelp in alarm, but Edith was still sure that she had heard a faint, malicious cackle over the near cacophonous sound of heavy rain against hundreds of window panes. She looked down at Wilson, who had quickly composed himself and was washing his face. Bless him.
‘Do you… Do you not hear that?’ Edith said, voice hushed, shoulders tensed and eyes peeled as she looked down the empty hallway. She couldn't be that barmy already, could she? She'd always expected to go senile when she was much older than... What was she now, twenty-two?
Edith most-certainly did not believe in ghosts. Nope. None what-so-ever. She certainly wasn’t intimidated by the implausible concept of their existence, and certainly didn’t whimper under her breath as the cackling seemed to be replaced by an aggressive, gratey voice. It was faint enough to make Edith doubt herself (and she prayed that she was just hearing things), but she was reasonably sure that she could make out a voice rippling through the walls and off the floor of the corridor.
‘I am… An antichrist…’
‘Oh, Jesus Christ!’ Edith cursed (not missing the irony). She backed away a step or two or three, and saw that Wilson was now looking fixedly down the hall at apparently nothing in that disturbing way cats do, and she groaned in distress. She wasn’t hallucinating; she couldn’t be making this up.
But just at that moment by some cruel move on nature’s or fate’s or something's part, a much closer door than anticipated burst open right as a flash of lightning lit up the corridor in a ghostly white light. The figure that had appeared was barely visible for a second, and all Edith could make out was their threatening stance, silhouetted against the faint light from the windows behind them; the figure’s arms were raised far above their head, feet spread apart as if they were ready to pounce. Wilson jumped about three feet into the air and Edith screamed at the top of her lungs.
In need of a better title, if anyone would like to help me?
Yes, Wilson's name might be a Cast Away reference. Please don't kill me.
Oh, if you decide to rate this under a 4.0, please can you tell me why in the comments so I can improve? Thanks!