So Long

Submitted into Contest #60 in response to: Write a post-apocalyptic thriller.... view prompt

34 comments

Drama Thriller

I sob when I see her.


I’m not a crier; I didn’t shed a tear during the Great War, not even when my girlfriend died in my arms. She was neither the first nor the last.


But I just spent the last decade peering into every corner of the continent. I stopped thinking the words “what if” around year five, and I started drinking my way through the looted liquor stores around year eight.


So, when the girl appears around the corner of the half-bombed grocery store, I fall to my knees and cry until there isn't a drop of liquid left in my body.


“Um—hi.”


She has short, uneven hair and a face covered in dirt. She wears pearls everywhere—around her neck, her wrist, her ankles, even on a pretty thumb ring. Her eyes are green and bright, and there’s something else there—panic? Fear? I can’t blame her. I probably look insane.


I think I am insane.


“I’m not sure you’re real,” she says, sitting down across from me and crossing her legs. “I might be talking to my imagination right now. Wouldn’t be the first time.” She laughs wildly and I wince; it’s been a while since I’ve heard the sound.


I wipe my eyes with the back of my hand and hug my arms around my body. I don’t want to meet her gaze, but I also can’t look away.


“It’s been so long since I’ve seen anyone,” she says. She speaks in a light, dreamy voice, as if she looks at the world in constant wonder.


“What’s your name?” I ask. I shouldn’t do this. They never turn out to be real. But she’s just so—so here.


“Pearl. Pearl Smith.” She touches her necklace.


“That's...fitting,” I say.


Her green eyes sparkle. It’s hard to look away from them. “What’s your name?”


I haven’t had a name in over ten years. “Um—John. John… Smith.”


She suddenly touches my elbow and I flinch away from her.


“Sorry,” she whispers. “I just—I don’t know if I’m dreaming or not.”


 “It’s ok. Sorry. Go ahead.” I swallow hard.


She slowly reaches forward again, toward my face, and her pearl ring glints in the sun. “It’s been so long since I’ve seen another person’s hair before,” she breathes as she runs her fingers through my hair. 


This has to be real. Nothing has felt that good since before the war. The fingertips sliding across my scalp—


“Ouch!” I yelp as she plucks a strand from the roots. “What was that for?”


“It’s just been so long since I’ve seen another person’s hair before,” she repeats in that light, dreamy voice. She holds the piece of hair so close to her nose she goes cross-eyed.


I shrug. “Well, you’ve got to be real if you can pull out my hair.”


She gives her head a small shake and tosses the hair to the side.


“Where have you been, Pearl Smith?” I ask.


“I live over there.” She points behind the grocery store. “People always wander through here.”


I stiffen. “P-people? You’ve seen others?”


“Only a few. It’s been so long since I’ve seen someone, though. A few years.”


“I haven’t seen anyone since the war.”


“Not one?”


“Zero.”


She frowns at me and touches her necklace again.


“Those are pretty,” I say, nodding toward the pearls.


She glances down as if surprised she’s wearing them. “I started collecting them after the war. I guess I just wanted something nice after all the—the ugly. These ones are from my mother. They’re all I have left of her.”


“I’m sorry.”


“Yes, well, everyone died eventually, so I suppose it’s not all that sad.” 


I don’t know what to say, and neither does she, apparently, because we both just look at each other.


“I guess I still don’t know if this is real,” she says. There’s still that fear in her eyes, so I smile at her.


“Wow,” she says, eyes wide. “It’s been so long since I’ve seen a smile.”


“I know what you mean. I don’t think I’ve smiled in years.”


“You should do it more. You have a very nice smile,” she says, staring with wide eyes.


“Um—thanks.” My cheeks warm and I laugh to hide my embarrassment.


It happens fast—faster than when my girlfriend was hit all those years ago, faster than the bombs that careened toward the cities. One moment she’s just sitting there, looking at me so innocently that a warmth starts to spread through my body.


And then she’s plunging a knife into my chest.


I scream. It’s burning, burning, burning more than the fires that came after the explosions. There’s a ringing in my ears.


“It’s been so long since I’ve seen blood before.” Her words bounce around in my head until they’re all I can hear. It’s been so long since I’ve seen blood before it’s been so long since I’ve seen blood before it’s—


She’s pulls out the knife, which only stokes the flames. I gasp and something gets stuck in my throat; I can’t seem to get enough air.


“You—you—” I choke out, but I don’t know what she is; all I know is that my chest is on fire, and I can’t breathe, and everyone I know is gone. Who is going to help me?


I press my hands over the wound and fall to my back. The tears start to fall as I stare at the sky.


“It’s been so long since I’ve killed someone. I wasn’t sure if I remembered how.”


She stands over me, planting one foot to my left and the other to my right. She smiles.


“Why?” I rasp. “Why?”


She kneels so she’s straddling my chest, right over the wound, and leans down until her nose is inches away from mine. The necklace swings forward and I stare at it—really stare at it. I scream again.


They’re not pearls. They’re teeth.


“My collection,” she says dreamily.


She shoves the knife into my mouth, and the world goes black.

September 24, 2020 23:41

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

34 comments

Molly Leasure
04:45 Sep 27, 2020

I was going along thinking, "when is this going to become a thrill-ohp!" What a brilliant, bloody twist! I love that the pearls were teeth and his mind was just so muddled he didn't notice. (Her name may have had something to do with his confusion too, which was a great throw!) You did a wonderful job with this piece. It gave me a right jolt, haha! I loved it! :)

Reply

Lani Lane
15:05 Sep 27, 2020

Thank you so much, Molly!!! I so appreciate your comment! I've been having a hard time writing between horror and thriller so I wanted to leave the twist at the very very end to move it a bit more into thriller--though I'm still struggling with the differences between the two!!

Reply

Molly Leasure
00:27 Sep 28, 2020

Haha! In my amateur opinion, I think thriller is more about the tension and the chase, and horror is more about gruesome qualities. Like, if you described his knifing in detail, or she really went for cutting him to pieces...that'd probably be more horror xD. But that's just me! So, I think you did thriller justice!!! :)

Reply

Lani Lane
02:29 Sep 28, 2020

Got it!! That makes a ton of sense and that's so helpful, THANK YOU!! I'll keep that in mind for my next stories. :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
S. Closson
12:50 Sep 26, 2020

Nice work on this story! You did a great job setting the background for John Smith. The story definitely didn't go the direction I had initially anticipated at all! Because of her last name being Smith too, I had though that maybe she was a spector of some sort, or perhaps his lost love or daughter, so you got me good when she went full Hannibal on his chest! The addition of having the pearls actually be teeth was downright eerie. I loved it! My one suggestion to make it flow better would be in the sentence, “It’s been so long since ...

Reply

Lani Lane
13:05 Sep 26, 2020

Hi Stephen, thank you so much for reading and commenting! That would have been a fun route to take with Smith--I just chose the most popular last name since they both hadn't felt the need to have names in so long, so the narrator just followed Pearl's lead! That's a good suggestion! I can't believe I didn't catch that. Sad that it's too late to edit. :( But I will keep that in mind! Thanks again Stephen!

Reply

S. Closson
13:39 Sep 26, 2020

No problem at all! It was still a really great story! Believe me, you're not alone. I was looking back on some of my other submissions earlier today and I was pretty annoyed at the *many* errors that had slipped right by me despite all of my editing! I was just like, "Gah, c'mon mannnn!" I would love to see a story about Pearl's backstory or maybe even a sequel set in the same area after the end of WWII, I bet it would be a killer follow-up, pun intended.

Reply

Lani Lane
14:02 Sep 26, 2020

Thank you so much!! I know what you mean. I feel like I find at least one error in all my past submissions. God, SO frustrating!! C'est la vie, I guess.... Oooooo, that would be fun! I'll definitely consider that. :) Also, I just realized your profile picture is a cat--so cute! I gather that's Bailey, from your bio?

Reply

S. Closson
14:56 Sep 26, 2020

Yup yup, it sure is! Thank you! I was gonna go with some random avatar, but my wife snapped that photo of Bailey and it was just too adorable not to use. That cat is spoiled rotten, but deservedly so. ^.^

Reply

Lani Lane
15:02 Sep 26, 2020

Hell yeah, I support that!! For sure, pets deserve to be spoiled. :D Don't have one myself yet (waiting for a bigger place), but I'm a fur-aunt to my sister's dog and she's my favorite thing!

Reply

Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Cal Carson
01:58 Oct 03, 2020

Great, haunting story! Loved every minute of it! I agree with Stephen, I would love to see a prequel or Pearl's backstory, or something like that. Love the detail of the teeth, too. I'd love it if you checked out my most recent story, I put some of your critiques on my "World From Above" story to use. :) Great job!

Reply

Lani Lane
00:27 Oct 05, 2020

Hi Cal! Thank you so much! I'd love to explore Pearl's backstory--I'll definitely keep an eye out for an appropriate prompt. I can definitely check out your story either today or tomorrow!

Reply

Cal Carson
03:31 Oct 05, 2020

Thanks! :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Julie Bissell
23:03 Sep 30, 2020

Wow... and John thought he looked so insane he scared her. The collected teeth are a nice gruesome touch, especially as John finds that she doesn't wait till the donor is dead!

Reply

Lani Lane
02:44 Oct 01, 2020

Thank you so much, Julie!! I so appreciate you reading and commenting! :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply

This is chilling, right down to the plot twist. Great job.

Reply

Lani Lane
04:27 Sep 26, 2020

Thanks so much for giving it a read! Much appreciated. :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Lina Ozz
02:09 Sep 25, 2020

WOAH. I love this! I think the dialogue is excellent, and this is very well-written. I can see how closely you paid attention to details in this piece. I think I might have anticipated the twist a little bit, so that could be something to think about. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing; with a thriller, I wonder if there's a way to show Pearl as "normal" until she's... not. Just something to think about. Also, I think you should italicize the last "so long" so as to continue the repetition of the previous phrase. AWESOME ...

Reply

Lani Lane
02:11 Sep 25, 2020

Thank you for your comment! You are so right--that's what I kept thinking the whole time. I don't know how to make the twist less obvious! Gr. Will definitely italicize the last one, thank you!!

Reply

Lina Ozz
02:21 Sep 25, 2020

I think you could maybe consider giving her more of a personality with the "so long" words, potentially. Such as a witty remark/comment here or there, or a "crooked smile"––something that could communicate that she's still "sound" despite some of her oddities. If that makes sense? I'm also not sure––that's such a hard line to balance and you already do a really great job. You could try experimenting with different attributes and such :)

Reply

Lani Lane
02:27 Sep 25, 2020

Ok thanks Lina!! I'll think more on that. I do want her to be crazy/loopy, but maybe I'm overdoing it a bit. I'll edit it throughout the day tomorrow!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Lani Lane
23:42 Sep 24, 2020

Really struggled with this one. Still need to go through and touch up a bit, but just wanted to get this posted before Friday.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Keerththan 😀
16:32 Oct 05, 2020

Creepy! This was really wonderful and the starting pulled me in. Nice title too. Keep writing. Would you mind reading my new story? Thanks.

Reply

Lani Lane
16:48 Oct 05, 2020

Thanks! If you’re talking about the Zombie Break Out story, I already read and commented on it a while ago, gave a lot of suggestions. Hope they help!

Reply

Keerththan 😀
02:02 Oct 06, 2020

Welcome! Yeah! Thanks for the help! I forgot that you read!

Reply

Lani Lane
02:15 Oct 06, 2020

No worries, I changed my last name so that might have made it confusing.

Reply

Keerththan 😀
02:29 Oct 06, 2020

Yeah, it was like Osmundson or something.

Reply

Lani Lane
02:30 Oct 06, 2020

Wow you have a great memory haha!!

Reply

Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
01:50 Sep 25, 2020

Hey, Leilani would you be kind to watch the first video it's on Harry potter. https://youtu.be/KxfnREWgN14 Sorry for asking your time, This my first time to edit video

Reply

Lani Lane
02:10 Sep 25, 2020

Good video! Were you just aiming for the music video vibe? YouTube is really strict about copyright, keep that in mind--your video might get taken down. I've made a few short films; one of my degrees is actually cinema production. Feel free to check those out if you're wanting to step more into the filmmaking/editing arena.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Andrew Grell
01:03 Oct 01, 2020

Well, you managed to surprise me, and I don't surprise easily! Good job!

Reply

Lani Lane
02:46 Oct 01, 2020

Awesome! Glad to hear it. :) Thank you Andrew!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply