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General

Trigger warnings: reference to drug use, suicidal thoughts

 

The sirens to take shelter had ended minutes ago. Hope sat huddled in the corner of the abandoned building not wanting to leave. There was no one else she wanted to encounter, no other place she wanted to be except here. Alone, with her thoughts, with her fears, with her apathy towards what would happen next. She no longer cared.

 

The lockdowns had been going on since March. At that time Spring was but a promise; a promise that had been broken by humanity. Oh Spring had indeed arrived weather wise about four weeks later, four weeks too late, four weeks to never. The birds sang, the grass bloomed, the sun grew warmer each day. But humanity didn’t cooperate.

 

Soon the sound of chirping birds was replaced by gunfire and screams. The grass was trampled upon, and turned from emerald green to blood red, any shamrocks of good fortune were decimated with angry boots and bullets that landed on the ground instead of into the life of their intended victims. The sun indeed remained in the sky, but was blackened with the poisoned aura of teargas and smothering smoke from raging fires. Summer had entered and was ebbing away; the beach-filled promises replaced by reenactments of a blitzed London, Normandy shores, and Iraq or Afghanistan deserts. Spring and Summer had escaped the planet. Autumn was closing in and soon the Winter of a world gone mad would be their latest discontent.

 

Hope would not endure this insanity another day. She had lost everything dear to her, all that made her very being want to exist in this world had been eradicated in a few short months. Life on the outside was a precipice on the edge of insanity. Today would be her last stance.

 

The stirring inside the building started quietly, not above a whisper of sound. The sounds of silence had been forever engulfing her after these raids. She had grown quite use to them. So this refuted any fact that it was her imagination. There was another crush on gravel and glass and a wisp of a breeze as the door slowly moved. Someone else was in here. She grabbed her gun determined not to be taken out of this world by some anarchic intruder. The two bullets left in here were for herself to use when she decided to end it all. No one would take that privilege from her. She alone would be her own judge and executioner.

 

The hinges on the door creaked, as hesitantly as the person entering. “Show yourself! I have a gun and I’ll shoot if you don’t come in, hands up in the air!” She reminded herself of some old crime series, police officer ready to take aim at a perp. “Don’t shoot! I’m unarmed" a weak voice replied. “I can’t see anything and I’ve been injured” It was a female voice, young, a slight accent from the Southern part of the country. Hope stood up from her corner shelter, and carefully walked across the debris layered room. As she stood looking into the doorway she saw a female about her age. She was bleeding from the arm and face. Evidently she hadn't taken shelter soon enough.

 

Hope helped her inside, still grasping the gun in her hand. She walked the stranger over into a wider space less covered with dirt and debris. “Stay there, don’t move. I have a few medical supplies in my backpack.” She carried it over and began examining the wounds. There was more blood then injury, but evidently her visitor was going into shock. “I’m going to clean these up and bandage you. You need to rest. I’ll get something to cover you up, you’re pulse is unsteady and you’re skin is clammy” What’s your name?”

 

“My name’s Mercy”, she replied. “I was on my way to the outskirts of the city, but I was attacked by a group and managed to escape after someone threw a smoke bomb into the crowd. It gave me enough time to run but I can’t see well because I lost my glasses in the scuffle. I was almost trampled upon, but managed to get away. I’m more shaken and scared than anything.”

 

“Well you’re be ok. We have to stay here because it’s getting darker. I don’t travel at night,” replied Hope. Hope explained that she had been a nurse and was part of the essential workers medical team when the plague had hit two years ago. The world never really got back to normal after that, but she was beginning to see a sliver of hope before March. That was when the outside forces took over and the purge on humanity had begun. She had survived living on the edge since then. She didn’t give any inclination to Mercy of the intentions she had held today.

 

Mercy had been a teacher, and was happy to finally have been able to resume classes when lockdowns were lifted, but they started again during the takeover this past year. Sometime after that she started looking into underground groups who were working towards a reestablishment of government around the country. That’s where she was headed when she was attacked.

 

Throughout the night they exchanged stories of their individual lives. Hope had grown up in the city and Mercy was a country girl herself. The life they each had lived differed in many ways. Poverty, opportunity, education, beliefs. Yet they each found in one and other a similarity.

 

Mercy had despaired the year she lost her mother to the plague. Hope kept fighting over many enormous pitfalls that had been thrown into her life. They had both bounced back through some inner strength. That is, Hope confessed, until today. She told Mercy of her desolation and intent to take her own life. The world was too much to handle anymore.

 

Mercy told her about the time in her life, after her mother’s illness and death, when she had overdosed. An EMT squad had arrived and taken her to an uninfected hospital ward. The nurses and doctors worked to revive her. When she woke up from her drug induced stupor, the first thing she felt was a gentle hand and a soothing voice telling her she was going to be ok. “Don’t give up hope" the voice had encouragingly whispered. She opened her eyes and looked at the medical badge on the nurse in front of her. All she could see before she fell asleep again was the name, the word “Hope".

 

They looked at each other with eyes that realized the miracle of life and serendipity, humanity and caring. Hope took her gun and put it back in her backpack. As she did so she caught a glimpse of her old medical badge with her name on it, "Hope". She placed the gun near the badge. There would be no need for the gun, except for protection, today or any other day from now on. The sun was rising. Outside she could hear the faint whisper of birds chirping. The air through the window had a touch of Autumn with a promise of Indian Summer.

 

“When you feel well enough”, Hope said, “I’d like to travel with you to that underground group that you mentioned.” “Why not”, Mercy replied. “There’s a lot of good people out there not ready to give up on this world.” The two new friends wholeheartedly agreed that the world could use both Hope and Mercy.     

August 25, 2020 19:06

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