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Fiction Teens & Young Adult

"The cold. The cold is the only thing I know. It crawls in my skin, infesting me, leaving a-"

Poetic, I smile.

A piercing ring cuts through the room. I jump to my feet, a backpack and filter in hand. The crash door sets in, sealing off the air. I grab Bailey by the hair. Unfazed, she grabs her backpack and reaches for my hand. I tap on the door, weak spots only, and it limply falls. We run. Jump, sprint, run. The map of the base spreads out in my head. Left Left, straight. We're greeted by a guard, "Walkers of the full moon?"

"Never truly leave their home."

"Lovely to see you," He growls lowly. He can't wait till it's our turn.

"Chamber. Now." We walk inside the waiting room, and Bailey grips my hand tighter. Funny, the girl who's lived underground her whole life, claustrophobic. The smoke pours in, shrouding the whole room in a musky, warm scent.

Three breaths in...Three breaths out. She quivers as I clench her hand, shaky and nervous.

"Exit." We head off to the wardroom. It's all made up of scrap metal, one of the only things to stop it. Five other people greet us. Two are missing. The room creaks, we turn. The window curtain lifts, revealing the glass room. We spot the two who are missing. And you can't see it, but we know they're already gone. They make us watch. To remember. To spot the symptoms earlier next time. To not make a mistake. The people inside are whimpering at opposite corners of their room. Death awaits them. Then the chutes come down. The heavy metal groans, echoing through the walls. I close my eyes. Bloodcurdling shrieks cry to leave, to let a peaceful death take them. Then, silence. The room is bloodied, but a body was not left behind. The intercom turns on. Seven of you left, please try to stay alive just a little while longer. Exit the room in a timely fashion. I try to imagine what life will be like once we can go to the surface. Once worries of this world leave. I press on our door number, and we head down the tunnel.


"I don't like it here."

"I know, I know," I murmur into her hair, kissing her lightly, and letting her hair dance around my fingers. I twirl my hand around my favorite strand. It is pure black and contrasts against a sea of blonde. We each dyed a strand of our hair black when our best friend passed away to it. We keep it as a reminder, and to respect them.

"What are you writing?"

"A poem." She picks up the paper.

"Enlightening," She hands me the paper back, "Well, are you going to finish it?"

"Maybe...if you help me." Bailey's art is her words. Her writings paint beautiful pictures of what she thinks is aboveground.

"How do you explain a lingering feeling simply?" She ponders off, 

"Think of when you run fast, and even when you sit down, you still feel your heartbeat going, and your head hurts. Something slow to end, whether good or bad."

"Good or bad, slow ending." I record it down on paper. A secondary alarm echoes through our room. Mealtime. 

The base is a dingy underground maze. I've lived here my whole life, and have had the pleasure to spend 17 of those years with someone I love. Ten rooms. Five people each. Of course, fewer and fewer people occupy the rooms. Morbus Aegrotatio, it took the lives of my parents, my friends, and soon me. I've heard it crawls into your brain, leaving the mind open and vulnerable. And it's always almost impossible to tell if you have it. Your thoughts blur together until you can't tell right from wrong. Until the world seems gray and meshed. My parents moved underground before I was born. While under here the disease rages as one of the mind and the mind only. Aboveground it runs as one that terrorizes your whole body, leaving you rabid. A monster. Promises of a vaccine and a clean, new, world arrived. One More Day. Stay alive for one more day. I grab my meal kit and sit with Bailey at a table in the far back of the room. She strays distant from me. People don't like that we stay together, it is considered dangerous. It makes me angry thinking that people keep us apart. My head flashes hot, and I grip the edge of the table, blinking off the pain. Bailey brushes my shoulder, indicating I'm making an episode. I pull myself together. And pull out my meal kit for the day.


The wall in our room is covered in scratch marks, giving off the look of a prisoner's cell. I usually wake up before Bailey. I'm extremely restless. I tell myself it's just nerves. I sit down at the desk and pull out some paper. Finally, my last day here. I grab a pen and begin scratching the surface. No ink comes out. This pen has no use. I grip the handle. Doesn't deserve anything. I chuck the pen, piercing the wall on the opposite side of the room. The noise wakes Bailey up.

"What is that?" She gets up to grab the pen. My shoulders relax,

"It's out of ink," I mumble. She chuckles to herself,

"We could have just gotten some new carts." She hugs me around my neck and looks at the paper.

"What are you planning on writing?" My tone darkens,

"A goodbye letter." 


The cautionary gate is the only way to reach the surface. It's the first way we noticed people had the disease. Aboveground has always been a death wish. The escape parties would kidnap people and dump them off there. Murder, it was declared. Comms from two other base towers drop off aircraft drops with small supplies every month. One of the bases reports no cases and a promising vaccine. That's where we'll be headed off, where they stay aboveground.

"Flowers." I glance over at Bailey.


"Flowers is what I'm most excited about." I mull the words around in my head.

"It sounds dumb, I know. But every book I've read talks about them in such a beautiful way. I can't wait to see one." I smile, but the feeling quickly fades. If the flowers still exist. We've gathered our bags, not that there is much to take with us, and head off. The feeling doesn't leave. If it happens. If you get there. If you live. If she lives. My head aches. My thoughts swirl. If you make it. If you're fine.

"Hey, you ready?" Bailey snaps her fingers, smiling, "You zoned out there for a second."

"Yeah just, nostalgic..." She takes a deep breath and scans the room,

"Yes, but we'll be headed off somewhere much better."

If, If, If...

"We don't want to be late." My bag is filled with memories, few that I want to keep. It's good to remember. Pain is memory. My pocket is gripped by a knife and a telecom. I'm ready to leave. Pain is memory. The hallway stretch tires me out. My breathing heavies.

"Hey, do you need to sit down?" Bailey's voice is drowned out, my headache worsening. I murmur a soft yes. I slump against the wall. "What's wrong?" Bailey's eyes fill with worry. Pain is memory.

And then, it clicks.

I unsheath my knife and grab Bailey's forearm.

"What's wrong with you?" She struggles beneath my grip, but my body surges with power.

"It'll all be over soon." She's scratching at my arm, but I pin her body down, using my weight to keep her still.

"Stop, stop! What are you doing?" I can feel her breath quicken, and when she tries to scramble, I lay my opposite arm across her collarbone.

"It's time Bailey."

"No, no, don't kill me. We're almost there. The last stretch." Her voice breaks off, she's begging to live. But I laugh, knowing she doesn't understand, but she will, soon.

"Please, please. A life, a whole life." She grips my hand, pleading. I look her in the eyes and plunge the knife through her stomach. I've killed the last person that meant anything to me. I hold her in my arms, watching her blink out the last of her life. But I'm not crazy, no. Morbus Aegrotatio made me see clearer. I'm not crazy to free someone of this world?'

Poetic, I smile.

March 09, 2021 06:45

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1 comment

Laurentz Baker
05:36 Mar 15, 2021

Well written, Melanie. A reflection of what might have been in the present day.


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