Coming of Age Drama

There was nothing wrong with the people. Once you had scraped off their makeup, ripped off their ties, and broken their sky scraper heels, you realised they were just people. They had frown lines, bad days, and bits of spinach in their teeth. 

There was nothing wrong with the building, either. Sure, there was a coldness to the glass as it stretched towards the clouds but there was beauty too and tiny shops crammed under bridges, and warm homes. The buildings weren’t a problem.

There wasn’t even anything wrong with the job. The clacking of keyboards did echo in your head for hours but you were lucky to have a job. Lucky not to be one of those stuck on the side of the road, invisible to everyone.

Maybe it was me. Maybe I was the problem. The puzzle piece that didn’t fit no matter how hard you tried to jam it in.

I waited by the traffic lights and watched the colours light up, red, orange and green. The crowd around me moved like a school of fish, halting cars and bikes and big red buses.

I stopped by the cafe near my flat. The door jingled as I opened it. At this time of day, there were fewer people but it still seemed noisy. In a nice way though. The chatter seeped into my skin and warmed me up from the cold. At the counter, the barista I usually saw was lounging against the wall. 

“One hot chocolate, please.”

She looked up, flashing me an easy grin. “Ever gonna order anything else?”

Normally, this would be the point that people strike up a conversation. I could have explained how I loved hot chocolate cause it reminded me of being a kid. But the words stuck in my throat. Instead, I shrank into my clothing and shook my head. 

“Right, well, that’ll be £2.50,” she said, scratching the side of her face. The smile had dropped off of her face. I handed her the money and rushed all the way home. If you could call it a home. Gum stuck to the side of the staircase and you couldn’t get the grime off of the walls without a flamethrower. The bloody lock was always stuck as well. I pushed and pushed, wiggling my key left and right before it finally gave way and opened. 

I dumped my bag down onto the floor and kicked off my shoes. Boxes littered my floor so I weaved through them to get to the kitchen. Even after two months of living in London, I never seemed to manage to unpack. 

I ran my finger along my cupboard and tapped my foot. Deciding what to have for dinner was the highlight of my day. I picked up the pasta box. Macaroni cheese. Warm and comforting, in comparison to the dreary rain outside. 

After I finished eating, I sat in bed, scrolling through my phone. I ignored the messages from my mum. What was I supposed to say? No, I’m not settling in. No, I haven’t made any friends. Yes, I want to come home.

But I couldn’t. Because it would be like giving up and saying that I couldn’t cut it. And, my mum would drag me back home where I was suffocating anyways.

I stood up and opened the curtains. At night, the city seemed more alive. Lights dancing and flickering and noises of girls giggling. It felt warm. It felt like somewhere I could belong, if I ever managed to work up the courage to leave the flat.

I climbed into bed and switched the lights out. 

It was quiet when I woke up. No, more than quiet. Completely and utterly silent. And for a city, that was always buzzing with life, this was eerie. I threw open the curtains and looked outside. There was no one driving, no one walking, there was no one at all.

Something was seriously wrong. I chucked a dressing gown on and sprinted downstairs and outside.

It was empty. The street was completely and utterly empty. The air felt different too, like it was less clogged up with breath and sweat and people. A strange calm washed over me. Logically, I knew that I should probably be screaming about alien abductions. But it was like I had disconnected. Switched off from my body and I could just enjoy the peace.

I peered into the abandoned cars and buildings. I got a little nosy. Started entering my neighbours houses. You wouldn’t believe how many people keep a key under the mat. It was nice, seeing just a sliver of someone else’s life.

Flowers in vases and TV’s facing the wall, and photos and photos of family. After I had snooped around all of my neighbours houses, I headed towards the more urban area of the city. Maybe there I’d find answers.

But, even in the middle of the high-street, there was no one there. All of the shops that had been packed to the brim, were now desolate. And, I thought, I haven’t had any time to go shopping yet.

The automatic doors opened and I slid into the store. I spent an hour trying on clothes. Massive cardigans that made me look eighty years old, slinky black dresses that made me look a little too risky and the most expensive clothing I could find. Of course, I didn’t take any with me. I wasn’t sure enough yet that this was the post-apocalyptic world, and I was not about to let myself get arrested for shoplifting

Once I’d finished, I headed off to the museum of art. I’d always meant to come here, but somehow, every time I would back out and tell myself I was too busy. Well, if it was the end of the world, I supposed I didn’t have any more obligations.

The paintings were beautiful. My favourite one was of a landscape, out somewhere in the country. The artist had drawn elaborate trees and mountains and lakes that were unpolluted, safe, in fact, from human touch.

I wanted to crawl into the painting and live there forever.

Eventually, the sun began to set and it was time for me to leave.

The lights were off in the cafe. The warm amber lights that I had always seen on my way home had been extinguished. 

The door opened though, so I let myself in and made myself a cup of coffee.It tasted burnt and bitter on my tongue. And then , I started to cry. Big rolling tears that fell down my cheek. Something in me was broken and I didn’t know how to fix it. I wrapped my arms around myself, shaking the whole time.

“Would you like me to make it?”

I jerked my head up. Standing in front of me, the barista smiled at me, waving a mug in my direction.

I gaped at her. “What? What? I thought I was alone.”

“So did I.”

“And you came here...to make coffee.”

She raised her eyebrows. “So did you. Anyways, did you want it?”

I shook my head. “Shouldn’t we, you know, solve the mystery of why everyone’s disappeared?”.

"Hmm. I mean, i don't know about you, but I don't see what there is to investigate. People have disappeared, there's nothing to do. If you can work out what to look for, I'll follow you, sure, but I don't know what to look for.

"So what? We just stay here."

She turned her head towards the window. "It’ll be dark soon and I'll have to go home. End of my shift as well."

"Go home to an empty house?"

"Do you want to come too?" She asked. "I mean, misery loves company, right? "

I nodded.

She led me through the streets through the empty streets, and up into her flat. It was even tinier than mine, practically a shoebox disguising itself as somewhere to live. 

"Sorry about the mess," She said. Unlike in my flat, hers looked lived in. Clothes were strewn about the floor along with trinkets and memorabilia. The funniest one was a picture of the Queen with a unicorn horn. I picked it up.

"Joke shop souvenir," the girl said, sticking her head out of the kitchen. "What do you want for dinner?"

"It's up to you," I said. "Do you want me to cook?"

"Well, don't know about you but I think I can manage to microwave some instant meals," she said, holding up the boxes.

The instant meal was some curry that tasted like it belonged in a bin. And, that’s where it ended up going after the first five bites. I shuffled onto the sofa after eating and fell fast asleep in seconds..

An almighty HONK jolted me out of sleep. I fell out of bed, rolling onto my carpet. I was back in my flat. Outside, a truck beeped at a car that had gotten stuck in the road. Everyone was back.

For a moment, I wondered if it was a dream. And then I felt the burnt edges of my tongue. IT was still sore from drinking that scalding coffee yesterday. Plus, written on my hand was a message, scrawled out in black ink. I read it, blinking until the words registered in my head. 

I got dressed as quickly as possible and ran downstairs for the second time in a week. I didn’t stop running until i reached the coffee shop and flung open the door.

They were still setting up, unfolding chairs. 

“Uh, sorry, you can’t be in here this early,” the manager said. I ignored him and headed towards the counter.  

The girl turned around. “Hot chocolate, right?”

My face dropped. Did she not remember anything?

“Just kidding. You got my message, right?” She waggled her brows at me.

I looked down at my hand again.


“Does the offer still stand?” I asked.

“Only if you tell me your name,” she said.

“Liv. My name’s Liv.”

March 19, 2021 21:48

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Ash McD
04:12 Apr 01, 2021

Like the unexpected direction this went in! Definitely wondering what's going on in this world and what makes Liv and this mysterious barista special. Felt like the first chapter of a larger story rather than a short story. Kinda got away from the prompt of hating/loving a city itself. (But hey, that's all good! I've used this contest as an excuse to write weird fragments of things so far. Whatever works to get writing at all.)


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Eric Bell
01:26 Mar 25, 2021

This is the start of a great story. Overall, you have many sentence fragments and a little overuse of commas, but I really like your narrative style. Unfortunately, I feel like there is much more needed to complete this submission. This may have been an issue with the 3000 word limit or a time constraint, but the fact that I would like to know the answers to several questions this story gave me means that you've gotten my attention. I'd be very interested to see this idea fleshed out some more. Nice work. I'll look forward to seeing...


Kat Bador
10:06 Mar 25, 2021

Thanks for the comment! Yup, I'm not too proud of this one as I kind of ran out of time to fix it up which is why there's a few errors and some disjointed narrative flow but I'm glad you were interested in the basic concept of this! Thanks again for the feedback


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