22:23 Riverside, California, 72:25:49:05 till launch

Submitted into Contest #98 in response to: Start your story with a character having a premonition, but no one believes them.... view prompt

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Contemporary Drama Suspense

Caffeinated students hurried towards the main entrance of Rivera Library, clutching books to their chests as if their lives depended on them. Usually, finches were often found darting from branch to branch, in the courtyard trees, but no birds provided a chorus for the past week. As the weather started getting colder, and finals loomed on the brink of everyone’s horizons, another threat had begun to form. A threat that no person could fathom. 

In the distance she could hear the booming voice of Father Mackenzie. An addict once, who found god at the bottom of the bottle. Instead of shooting up, he spends his days terrorizing college students with his doomsday survivalist sermons. Deep down Ciara began to wonder if he was onto something about the end of times. It was this shadow of a looming threat that seemed to cloud the better judgment of one student in particular, sitting in the third floor of the Rivera library.

     On a long wooden table made for twenty students, the group of five packed in at the outer edge. Snacks, textbooks, computer screens, and sweating plastic cups of ice coffee littered the worn surface. In the group among Eli, Gray, Bianca, and Jasper there was talk of numbers instead of bugs. Beneath Ciara's notes about the hemiptera family, was a sketch of a symbol she saw the night prior- a large green snake consuming its own tail, making a perfect circle.Eli looked back and smiled softly at her. Her hand ran across his thigh underneath the table, squeezing three times.

“Hey, Bianca.” Jasper nudged her arm playfully. 

Bianca bit back her smile, “Jas, not now. I’m tired of your jokes.” 

Eli let out a sly little giggle. 

“Why did Kepler get fired from his janitor position?” Jasper smiled sneeringly. 

“I don’t know. Why did Kepler get fired?” 

“He only swept out the same area.” 

Tea sputtered out of Grey’s nose, pushing out a small clump of green mucus. Eli flinched back, as did Ciara. Jasper wheezed loudly. 

“I hate you!” Bianca groaned. 

Ciara sat before them with a blank expression. On another tab beside the search for “snake that eats its own tail”, she quickly googled “Kepler” on her chrome book, but her thoughts weren’t focused on their comments or the upcoming final.

“Ciara?” Eli asked in a soft voice, “It’s your turn to answer.” 

Ciara blinked rapidly, “Hm? Sorry, what was the question again?” 

“What medical properties do bot flies have?” Gray asked. 

“They’re used to treating dead tissue.” Ciara answered, “There’s a chemical in their saliva that gets rid of gangrene… So basically, it helps drain the infection.” 

Gray nodded, “That’s correct! Wow, for someone so spaced out this entire day, you did awesome.” 

“I’m sorry.” Ciara said, rubbing her eye, “My sleep schedule has been horrible these past few days. Last night was the worst because I had another nightmare.” 

Those six words filled everyone in her group with dread. She knew the pattern- the rolling eyes, the loud sighs. She set down her flashcards and leaned back in her chair, crossing the arms of her black sweatshirt over each other, feeling the chill of her icy superiors. 

“Oh, for god’s sake.” Jasper groaned, wringing his hands in his bright red hair. 

“Here we go again.” Bianca opened her hands, letting her highlighter fall onto some marked up notes.

“No, it was different this time!” She said, “Listen-” 

“When don’t you have nightmares?” Jasper teased, “Let me guess, your sleep paralysis demon came in the form of tails from sonic?” 

“No!” Sabi scowled. 

“Slender-man must have tried to get you.” Gray teased, “This is why you’re not coming to see another horror movie with us.” His joke was followed by a loud sneeze into a tissue, and a cough that made Eli cringe beside him.

“That’s… I’ve never dreamed that.” Ciara argued, “And why are you here? Don’t you have an ear infection to sleep off?” 

Grey shrugged his shoulders, “Greatness never sleeps.” 

Jasper stole a hot cheeto from beside Grey, “Too bad, because I do.” 

“You were being chased by a big spider!” Bianca laughed, “No, what about some really big ticks. Or were you just being chased in general?”

“No.” 

“Guys, Don’t be stupid.” Eli uttered.

“Let me guess… The virus came back and we were all stuck at home again, and you died.” Jasper teased.

“Come on, now you’re just being cruel.” Ciara uttered. 

“No wait, you dreamed about hooking up with both Jesus and the devil.” Bianca mocked, “You had a holy harem!” 

“That was just one time!” Ciara fussed. 

They all laughed at her, as they always did. 

Ciara slammed her Chromebook shut and stood up, turning to leave, “I’m getting coffee. You guys are annoying.” 

“Ah, Ci!” Jasper called, “Don’t take everything so seriously. We’re just messing with you, that’s all.” 

“Fine.” Ciara swallowed, “I dreamed that the world was ending.” 

Jasper, Bianca, and Grey all exchanged looks of amusement. 

Eli flashed them a stern look, then softened at Ciara, “What happened while you were there?” 

“Well…” Ciara stood, focusing her balance on one leg, “There was no sun. My family and I were the only ones alive. Everyone I knew was dead. There weren’t any animals around except for my dog.” Her eyes glazed over while recalling the nightmare. 

“Aw.” Jasper stuck out his lower lip, “That’s so sad!” 

Bianca and Grey snort laughed obnoxiously enough for other study groups to turn their heads. 

Ciara stood up and slammed her Chromebook down, “Forget it.” 

Jasper was on the brink of hysterics, “Wait, no, I’m sorry. It’s just the dog part was so funny, I don’t-”

“Finish the story!” Grey giggled.

“No, you always make fun of me when I try talking about these things. Clearly you guys don’t care. I’ll be right back.” the frazzled girl retorted.  

   The study group watched, laughing among themselves as Ciara stormed towards the elevator. Her boot heels clacking against the tile flooring followed by the aggressive swish of her dark hair reminded them of an angry horse. As she hurried past, her weak ankle wobbled in the heel. Jasper thumped his fist into the wooden table, chortling at her anger. Eli stood up and threw his jacket over his shoulders. 

“I hope you’re happy with yourselves.” Eli growled, “She already feels out of place here with us. You guys know math and science aren’t her thing. She’s an amazing writer. Remember when you guys had no clue what to write for your final essays? Who was there to help?”  

“She’s like a child!” Jasper said, “How do you expect us to act with all of her paranoia? She believes in dreams and fairies, What next?” 

“Yeah, she’s in our class, but she might as well be from another planet.” Bianca retorted, “She knows we’re joking right? She’s so emotional lately.”

“You have no room to talk about emotions when you don’t show any of them.” Eli snapped at Bianca. For a moment their amusement paused. 

“You’re my friend. But you have no say in our relationship like that. I love her. And if you don’t like her, I don’t see why you feel the need to be in this friend group. She has been nothing but nice to all of you. You should be ashamed of yourselves.” 

“Sorry.” Bianca said halfheartedly.

“I’m sorry too.” Grey said, “She’s very funny. It’s not what she said, it’s the way she says it.”  

“Maybe she’s a little stressed out.” Grey added, “It’s a different territory for her, maybe she’s just scared of failing.”

Eli rolled his eyes, “I’m going to talk to her. And when I come back, we’re going to actually work on this final exam.” 

“Fine.” Jasper muttered. 

Eli walked away, following after Ciara’s trail. 

Ciara’s delicate round face was beet red with anger, as her manicured fingertips aggressively beat the elevator button like a drum.

Eli wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his chin on her shoulders, “Baby, it’s not going to come any faster if you keep pressing it like that.” 

“I know.” Ciara’s voice cracked. 

“Then why are you doing it?” Eli asked, smiling. 

“Because I’m angry.” She said, sniffling, “And I don’t want to be here anymore.”

The elevator doors opened, and Ciara hurried inside. Eli followed after her, as she wiped a tear from her eyes. 

“Come here, baby….” He whispered, pulling her into his chest, “It’s alright. Don’t pay attention to what those assholes said.” 

Ciara sighed and hugged her lover, kissing his jaw. Eli leaned against her head and kissed her hair softly. 

“They’re your friends too, Eli.” Ciara sniffled, “And I just… I know my dreams are stupid, but this one really upset me. I couldn’t focus in there, and I felt like an idiot for not getting your jokes.” 

“You can tell the rest, if you want. You know I’ll always listen.” Eli said. 

He held her in his arms, soothing Ciara’s anxious body. Her stomach growled softly, a pang of hunger hitting her core. 

“The water was so hot it was undrinkable. There was a nuke coming for us to ‘reset humanity’. And my parents… They tried to pretend we were okay.” 

Ciara looked up, her eyes red, “My dad was playing Christmas music. It wasn’t even the holiday but he knew that’s what made me happy. And you were dead. I kept looking through my phone, and I was missing you.” 

Eli wiped her face, “Baby, I am so sorry…” 

The elevator doors opened, and Ciara held his hand. They walked out together out of the university library towards the coffee bean on campus. 

Ciara exhaled, “Better yet. In the dream, we woke up and the alarms were going off. Like storm sirens…” She looked down at the pavement, avoiding the cracks, “And we were huddled together. And my poor Petunia, she was so afraid. She knew what was coming. Dogs don’t know a lot but they know.” 

Eli nodded his head back and forth, “She’s a good dog, my love. She would do anything to keep you happy.” 

Ciara swallowed, “And she looked at me with those big eyes. Like she was trying to reassure me. My dad was cursing god for leaving us here to die. And In those last moments….I wanted you.” 

Eli scowled playfully, “Me?” 

“Of course I did.” Ciara laughed, as another tear escaped her eyes, “I always will. I knew I was one step closer to being with you again.” 

Eli looked up at the pale sky, “Well. I don’t think we have to worry about it anytime soon.” 

“.... It didn’t feel like that.” Ciara said. 

“What do you mean?” 

“It didn’t feel like a dream. It felt real.” 

“Honey… We’ve been over this.” 

“It’s just like the others!” She raised her voice, “When my university application was rejected and later I dreamed of being in my biology lecture hall. Or when I saw black hair and a red flannel shirt, and then I met you!”

“Yes, those are small things.” Eli said, “Very beautiful things, but small. This is different. This isn’t like predicting your exam answers before even taking the test, you’re talking about the fate of humanity.” 

Ciara stopped in her steps as Eli continued walking forward. 

“You don’t believe me either, do you?” Ciara confronted. 

Eli looked back, “Ciara…” 

She laughed bitterly, “I knew it. You’re always supposed to believe me. You always do!” 

“I do, it’s just-” 

“It’s just what?!” 

“Ridiculous.” Eli replied, “It’s ridiculous, you need to pull your head out of the clouds. Just like what happened upstairs… You need to stop running away from your problems.”  

“What, so I could be like your friends?” Ciara stammered, “What do you want me to do? Switch majors so I can understand your comments? Maybe I’d be less of an embarrassment in front of your good friends. ” 

“That’s not what I said.” Eli sighed, “I’m saying what you dream could be a source of anxiety. I’m asking what’s really going on, baby? With you. I know when you’re hiding something. Please, just talk to me."

Ciara’s expression dulled. 

“I’m late.” She said, 

“What? Class for you doesn't start till twelve-” 

“Not for classes, idiot!” Ciara seethed, “My period… It’s late….” 

Eli’s dark eyes widened, his stomach dropping, “.... What?” 

Ciara’s voice wavered, “My period is late. I’ve been getting cramps, but they’re not as bad as usual. And I was nauseous this morning…. I couldn't eat. I tried, but each time my gag reflex just got in the way. I don’t know if it’s all in my head either…” 

Eli’s eyes were still wide at the thought of having a baby now. Of course, he always wanted a family. Ciara was the love of his life, but he didn’t anticipate it coming sooner. 

Eli ran a hand through his hair, “Have you taken a test?” 

“I am. I was actually going to do it on my walk here…” She said, “But…. Now you know. I was scared to tell you. That if I was, you’d leave me.” 

Eli squeezed her hand, “I’m not going anywhere. Whatever happens, I’m going to be here for you.” 

“Really?” 

“Of course I do. I always will.” 

“Even if I’m more hormonal? Or, if I get rid of it?” 

“Either way, it’s your decision.” Eli smiled anxiously, “And if you change your mind, I’m graduating after this quarter! I’ll stay home with him. I’ll wait for you until it’s your turn to graduate.” Ciara sighed in relief, smiling up at him. He glanced down at her stomach, his brows raising softly, as Ciara revealed her small stomach beneath a camisole.

“Oh, so it's a him?” Ciara smiled, “A baby might not be in here, and you already know it’s a he?” 

A reassuring hand ran over her lower stomach, squeezing softly, “Just my gut instinct, gorgeous.” 

Even standing in line, time stood still. Eli’s hand clutched onto her lower stomach, holding onto her. Ciara leaned back into him and smiled at the comforting sensation across her cramping stomach. 

“Pick anything you want, gorgeous.” Eli whispered in her ear, “Maybe caffeine wouldn’t be a good idea for you.”

Ciara pouted, “But I want something to wake me up.” 

She turned back to look at him, planting a soft kiss on his lips. 

“I did say anything.” Eli chuckled.

Ciara’s phone started buzzing in her pocket. Eli pulled out his phone and refreshed his news feed. The dow, stocks, and news for the foreseeable market had plummeted. Eli scowled and continued scrolling through. 

“Hello? Dad?” She smiled, “Hey!” 

“Where are you?” 

“I’m at school, remember? I’m with Eli right now.” 

“Ciara, you need to come home right now.” 

“What? What’s wrong?” 

“I can’t tell you. Tell him to walk you to the parking lot. Something’s happening and I need you here.” 

“But dad, I have an exam today-” 

“I don’t care. You need to come home right now.” 

He hung up the phone suddenly. Ciara clicked her tongue. 

“Shoot, I think he knows.” Sabi said obliviously, “He probably found the pamphlet from planned parenthood in my trashcan. I knew I should have thrown it away.” 

“It’s not about that.” Eli said grimly, showing her the article, “You’re gonna wanna see this.” 

Ciara leaned in, her stomach dropping at a sensation far beneath her knees as she read the headline: “Nuclear Threat Targets the United States after Years of Political Tension.” It felt as if someone had stepped onto her rib cage. Now it didn’t seem to matter what exam to study for, or the words of Eli’s friends. Eli’s golden complexion faded to bone white with fear, as he looked down at Ciara. 

“I…. I was right.” She said softly, “Oh god, why couldn’t I be wrong…. Eli…” 

Eli looked at his beloved in shock, “No, that’s not….Baby, look at me. Breathe, we’re… We’re going to figure it out.” He glanced around, looking for the exit. 

She dropped the bag containing the unused pregnancy test, her books, and the books she had yet to write. This was not a child inside of her, but the labor pains of the end. Her hands began shaking, as people’s hurried voices filled her ears. Eli began to sweat, the perspiration glistening against his brow. 

A small cry escaped her throat, as commotion grew louder around them. People began running towards the parking lot, abandoning their books and boba tea. 

Eli grabbed her hand, “Let’s go. Like they said…” 

Ciara held onto his hand tight, knowing this would probably be the last time she’d ever see him. A burst of screams caught the couple’s attention, and they looked to see Father Mackenzie convulsing in the grass, clutching his chest.  

"Father Mackenzie!" Ciara shouted.

The weary old man let out a joyous, breathless laugh. Sweat clung to the remaining strands of long silver hair on his balding head. He pulled apart the thick black cassock with bare, gnarled hands. Cataracts covered his eyes, as did the hatred for his fellow people for so long. As he pulled the fabric apart from his breast, a cluster of tattoos littered his skin. At the center, on his chest cavity was Jesus pinned to the crucifix. Blood poured from his body, in red streaks down to his bludgeoned knees. A face of anguish wept bloody tears. The abused figure was framed by an ouroboros, exactly how she had seen in her dreams. He smiled at Ciara, with only three teeth left, in satisfaction. He knew the world was coming to an end, that he was safe.

“See you soon.” Father Mackenzie said, before laying in confidence. 

Ciara looked up at Eli. Her heaven had dimmed with his own personal fear. Doubt clouded his dark eyes, And Ciara reached out to them, for they were the only source of light in this sudden darkness, as it consumed her.

June 16, 2021 03:29

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4 comments

Mohamed Sarfan
18:37 Jun 17, 2021

Dear Writer, Dear Writer, For a moment I wondered how he could think of everything like this. Really, does this story happen in a dream? Or, a journey in search of shadows that transcend truths? My mind was constantly wandering into this story from beginning to end. While reading a magical story like the human beings flying like birds outside space of no one, a few times in my imagination appeared souls of and disappeared. Man's life is unstable. The philosophies of unstable life are obscured by something like death, like the state of snow...

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22:56 Jun 17, 2021

Thank you so much for your feedback on my piece, Mohamed! Thank you for taking the time to write this comment, I appreciate your thoughts while reading this work as well. Expect more submissions in the near future.

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Ruth Porritt
04:20 Jun 19, 2021

Hello Sabrina, I very much enjoyed reading this story. It feels fresh and new. The dialogue has a nice rhythm to it, and I just didn't see the pregnancy coming. (I was surprised in a wonderful way.) I also loved the way that the students talked--like actual students. :) (Many times, I have read books and stories where students talk in ways that seem unnatural.) I loved the elements of horror that you wove into the threads of this story--Father Mackenzie's appearances, especially. Anyway, this story was a genuine treat to read, and I ca...

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19:15 Jun 19, 2021

Hello, Ruth! Thank you so much for your feedback. I feel that dialogue is one of the most important elements in fiction, and there has to be a flow that you can "hear" as you read. I'm so glad you read my piece!

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