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General

High winds run against the building, as if the sky were trying all it could to blow our lives off the earth, as if we were each of us a candle.

 

It reminds me I can't linger.

 

Linger.

 

Linger.

 

I need to make this quick. Before it gets too dark out.

 

Blow on it and she'll stop crying, I said. I'll make another cool compress.

 

Get me the talcum powder in the drawer, he said.

 

No, no talcum powder. Do we have cornstarch?

 

A bag of dried fruit, a can of tuna, and a can of soup. There isn't much else left in the store except trail mix and nuts.

 

I'm allergic to nuts.

 

Are allergies passed down through genes? Could she be allergic to nuts like I am?

 

It's not always the case, the doctor said, but they can be. Why do you ask?

 

It's strange to be the only person in the market. Not even a clerk at the front, no one loading the aisles.

 

I've tried the last few days to have nothing to do at all with the word apocalypse, but it seems right now.

 

I'm guessing it's three o'clock.

 

I raise my head. There's a big digital clock above the front entrance; one of those loud, tacky things. Bright red numbers. You can read it from any aisle (even from the back, which is where I am).

 

Except when the power's out.

 

That's when I hear it.

 

Ruth, she's crying too much, we should take her to the hospital.

 

No, it's just a rash. She doesn't need the hospital.

 

Are you sure? She's burning up.

 

She doesn't need it, I'm sure. The book says -

 

I haven't slept much this week. The storm is on its third day with no end to think of. A week of white, and wind all the time, and solitude.

 

She's had this fever for three days, Ruth, I think that's a good reason to take her to the hospital.

 

I asked the doctor if allergies can be passed down, but I don't think that's what this is.

 

You called the doctor? Why didn't you bring this up?

 

I don't trust them, Dan.

 

Oh, but you trust yourself with this kind of thing?

 

They'll take her and tell us something's wrong, just like they did with my mother, remember? And tell us a bunch of stuff we can't understand so we can't ask questions.

 

Ruth, that doesn't make sense.

 

She was fine before we brought her to the hospital, and a week later she was gone.

 

Well, this isn't your mother, it's your daughter. And she has a fever.

 

It goes down when I give her Tylenol. Would you grab that? It's in the cabinet somewhere.

 

You'll give the baby Tylenol, but you won't give her powder?

 

I hear it again. A high cry, a ringing like a bell does. A -

 

I know something's wrong, Ruth.

 

And I know how to take care of my -

 

- baby.

 

I walk forward slowly, toward the noise. I grow afraid. Afraid when I get there, it will be nothing, nothing, nothing. Afraid when I get there, it will be something, a baby, will be dead.

 

"Wh-who's there?"

 

The crying stops.

 

"Hello?"

 

There's silence.

 

"Hello!"

 

I start to run like mad, like my life depends on it, like it does entirely. Aisles and aisles go by, all of them all but empty. I get to the front door. I rub my eyes. Rub. Rub.

 

There, right there, is a ball of soft white blanket. A baby.

 

The crying starts again. It isn't a cry for being sickly or anything like that. It's a fearful cry. A cry we've all made in a storm of some kind of life's.

 

The doctors are doing all they can, Ms. George.

 

She has a very high fever.

 

How long was she experiencing symptoms?

 

I bend over to see her eyes. I can't. They are closed and tight with wet.

 

"Oh, sh, sh, sh. Don't cry, don't cry, don't cry."

 

Just like that, the crying stops again. She has run out, I think, of tears.

 

I realize my hands are empty. I must have put my groceries down somewhere. All this, all the walking through the blizzard half a mile, and being scared, it all can't be for nothing.

 

I retrace my steps from where I was before the crying, to the crying, to almost leaving. I forget what I did before, almost like the crying erased it all.

 

I wander until I find my things on an empty shelf in aisle five.

 

Then, I hear it again.

 

Why didn't you bring her in sooner, Ms. George?

 

It all seems odd. All impossible.

 

I can't get her crying out of my head, Ruth.

 

I rush up and down the aisles for another person, anyone, there must be another in here. Me, the baby, and her mom. Or, me, the baby, and her dad.

 

I told you we should have brought her sooner. I don't know why I listened to you.

 

Hot. Everything's hot, dizzy, going-g-g-g-g-g black.

 

I've fainted times enough to know to get down right away. Slo-o-o-o-o-o-wly.

 

I lay there. I see a stray can of beans on the shelf to my left. I reach for it, put it to my neck.

 

I hear the crying again, the white, the baby.

 

I get up. I take the can. Maybe the baby has a fever.

 

By the time I reach her, she's stopped crying, but she does feel rather warm. The blanket is fixed so tightly on her, maybe that's it. That, and I worry she can't breathe.

 

I put down the beans. I pick her up.

 

The crying stops.

 

She looks at me. We stand there still, still, still, before the door at the whole white world. We hear the wind. We feel the cold through the cracks. It's cold, very cold. But it doesn't bother me how the cold mostly does, as if my splits, splits, and all my rifts from life and life and life are sealed; covered, in the moment, by a little white blanket.

 

I'm not sure how long we keep that way. A few minutes. A few hours. It feels like we are in our own little jar, our own little one inside a bigger jar. A big jar of something pleasant. Of milk, perhaps. We float there. I'm not sure how long.

 

Then, all at once, a strong wind comes against the building. The white, I remember, is a pit, an abyss. My depths are cold again. There is almost no food, I remember. People are dying outside.

 

This blizzard, they say, might be the most dangerous ever.

 

I walk up and down the aisles with the baby.

 

"Hello, is anyone here?"

 

No one.

 

The baby hasn't started again to cry. I doubt she will, by the face she makes now. One wholly -

 

She's gone, Ms. George.

 

and dearly -

 

She's gone, Ms. George.

 

at ease.

 

She's gone.

 

Something in me hards, very hard, like ice, and I don't like it, but I know what it is.

 

You're a horrible mother. Horrible. Horrible. She was only three months old.

 

I walk with the baby, rocking, rocking, rocking her.

 

My name is Brittany, I'm with Child Protective Services.

 

She is a good baby, I would have told her mother. A very good baby, if I saw her.

 

Maybe her mother's dead.

 

I'm investigating a report filed by your husband.

 

I find the aisle with paper products. There is one loose roll of paper towels.

 

I don't understand why he would do something like that.

 

Ma'am, would you mind answering some questions?

 

I make a small bed with it, and I lay her down.

 

I do mind.

 

She looks at me and her eyes start back with water. I take a step away, I take two.

 

You mind, as in you won't answer?

 

She squirms. She reaches out.

 

I can't. I can't. I can't.

 

July 27, 2020 21:30

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2 comments

Lore Ax Horton
03:25 Nov 22, 2021

Oh I'm 4 or 5 stories of yours in, and so far I like this one the best. I'm haunted. I feel alone. Devastated. Hallucinating? I dunno. I might be. I hope I am. I hope this blizzard takes me down- because I can't handle any baby or any truths about a baby. Yeah, I'm digging the rides your story is giving my mind. Keep writing, keep posting. I'm getting greedy for these trips

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Nix ♞
21:00 Nov 22, 2021

I appreciate your feedback, Lore Ax! I'll keep going!

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