Another story for my degree in Creative Writing. A little different from me attempting the humanist Sci-fi without a noticeable novum. Please let me know what you think.
The skin of Six, the last man left alive, was reddening. His nails frenetically scraped to douse the million microscopic fires beneath his freckles. Four, a woman with a raven waterfall of hair, died three hours ago. Four hours go her itching had started.
His computer screen flicked from Beta block’s feed, to the closed doors of Sigma block. The population slept behind thick iron doors. Nothing stirred. Six wished to be safe amongst the labourers that slept snug in their cells.
Only once had he visited the stone kiln where the emaciated hammered rocks and smelted ore. The foetid stench of sweat and shit made him empty his lavish breakfast over the cracked concrete. Six had clung to the chipped white railing, resolving never to disgrace himself in the population’s grey citadel again.
A rasping siren, and scarlet dialog box broke Six’s mournful ruminations. A final directive.
Pop quarantine in effect. Lock domiciles, Isolation imperative.
Await further direction
Click to [accept]
Every computer, in every row, simultaneously blared the warning horn. Every dead number had their directive. He shuffled his cushioned stool to where Five lay slumped over his keyboard. His pallid olive face lay in a gelatinous lumpy pool of orange and green vomit. A stiff string hung like stretched toffee over the desks edge. Six stared at his colleagues screen as the directive disappeared from view, leaving the feed of the Northern desert outside their fort.
Jaundiced grassed stretched forever into the fuzzy horizon. No wind or rain moved the bowing black weed. A sickly thin deer laid motionless, central to the picture. Proud antlers had crumbled now to ashen dust. Six hawked blood-speckled catarrh into his hand.
His own screen screeched. One of the populace had pulled their emergency alarm. Scuttling back to view his ochre dialog box, Six feared the virus had spread to the population.
[begin] comm [ignore] comm
Six clicked begin, and the screen displayed a square cell. A drawn woman stood three feet from her sink, and three feet from her yellow mattress. Centre of her room. Hollow eyes pierced the camera, her neck stretched from the bones of her shoulder.
“Good morning Eve, this is Number Six. Is there a problem?” Red and green spittle flecked his burning arms.
“It feels like breakfast. Why are the doors locked?” Her splintered voice was a legacy of the smoky furnaces.
“For the moment you are temporarily quarantined, until the Capital instruct otherwise.”
“You sound unwell. Have you caught it?”
His tell-tale gurgling cough, and rattling liquid throat betrayed any denial he may have made.
“How many of you are left?” She asked. Six remained silent. “It is just you isn’t it?”
“Don’t panic. The quarantine will be lifted shortly. I am sure.”
“So you’ll die soon and only the Capital can open our doors, is that it?”
“They will release you.” The faint crackle of static signalled her silence. Six watched the blond woman bite her bottom lip, eyes never leaving the camera.
“So the Capital have told you they are coming?”
“Not as yet but…”
“So you are locking us in to dehydrate because a computer told you to then.”
“It’s not like that it…”
“You are going to throw your rotting guts up and die, leaving us to feast on the hope the Capital will turn up and feed us.”
“Actually the capital is millions of miles away, safe from the plague to afraid to do anything but let us rot.” Six screamed suddenly. His arms were ablaze with a torrid burst of itches. He fell from the stool scratching at his chest and legs, scratching his back against the rough carpet.
As the pain subsided, Six wiped his hand across his face. His hand returned bloody. He knew immediately, for this happened to Nine, Seven and Sixty, his tear ducts were seeping. Six cried blood. He pressed his shaking arms upon the desk and pulled himself up to the screen.
“If I let you out, you could all contract this disease,” Six croaked.
“If you leave us locked in, we will die of hunger.” She stared stared back into the camera. “I have a daughter Epsilon block. She is five. I want to see her.”
“I can’t the Capital…”
“Have left you dying…” the feed was timed out. The picture returned to Sigma block.
The capital...no England demanded the quarantine. Each of the in their Spartan cells waited to go to the food halls.
A movement on Five’s screen caught his eye. The stillness was broken by a single wren lighting softly on the dead ground. The world was a spinning corpse, and yet a miniscule bird lived. Defying odds. Chirruping victoriously, the Wren called brazenly across the wasted earth, daring to live. HIs own screen sounded its melancholy siren:
Maintain Pop quarantine. Temp Capital shutdown.
Click to [accept]
The Capital had shut down? Six could feel vomit rising awkwardly in his chest. With two shaky keystrokes he pulled the feed into Eve’s cell. She was sat on her bed, fists clenched, tears whipping down her contorted face.
The Wren had approached the camera, Six could hear the melodious notes of liberty floating around the blinking tomb of computers.
Before vomiting his dissolved gullet onto his desk, Six unlocked the iron doors from his control panel. Just before Six’s gaze reduced to glass, the Wren stopped singing and took flight, seeking whatever lay beyond the murdered horizon.