Author : Liz Lafferty
Three weeks ago, there were lights on the horizon. Solar lights from the small town to the south flickered in the night, reminding me that I lived within walking distance.
One day, I woke up and life was different. An eerie dark mist had settled over the desert region. Not the desert you’re used to. This desert was lush and fertile. Animals roamed freely in grazing herds. The area was desert because no one wanted to live here.
In my time, people are afraid to be alone.
The second night without lights passed without incident. My cat paced inside the battery illuminated walls of my earth home. I huddled on the floor, cushioned by numerous pillows, reading by a small lamp. I debated the merits of walking to town to find help or at least find answers.
The next morning, I opened the door and stepped outside. Except for the battery operated clock, I couldn’t tell the time. There was no sun overheard. I couldn’t even make out a glowing orb behind the mist, but it must be there because the temperature of the air wasn’t unpleasant.
I slid my hand through the darkness. I couldn’t see the tips of my fingers.
My cat screeched and shot into the darkness.
“Kitty. Come back. Kitty,” I said. My voice wavered. My ears hurt from the crushing silence of the mist. “Kitty?” I whispered.
I backed into the house and slammed the door. I stumbled through the front room, falling into the welcome arms of the cushiony pillows. I covered my head with a blanket and turned on one of the remaining battery lights. It flickered. Shaking it roughly, the glow came back.
Twisting the single braid that hung over my shoulder, I convinced myself that I should leave – take what supplies and lights I had and head toward the town. One day’s walk should do it.
I volunteered to live here. I had the misguided notion I could live alone, except I felt nothing but dread since the mist had settled over the land, suffocating the life out of me and everything around me. Had it only been four days?
The darkness seemed to invade my home. Slowly, one by one, the batteries dimmed than died. The clock on the wall ticked the seconds and minutes away with excoriating awareness. My ears hurt at the pounding. My psyche grasped at the only sound that made feel alive. Tick. Tick.
Would I have felt better to hear the grating sound of metal, the creaking sound of the house as it swayed in the wind, creeping things flitting across my floor?
I hadn’t moved from my spot for several days, except to find the gun hidden away in my closet. I horded the dry food from the kitchen and the water bottles were stacked next to me. In my head, I counted the clicks of the clock; with my hand, I counted and recounted the number of bottles remaining, before I had to make the terrifying journey to refill them.
Maybe once they were empty, I would stop. I could just stop eating. I could allow myself to die. Here in the mist. Alone.
I tried not to think of what was out there. Why they called this place the desert. It was both a place and a state of mind, I decided in one of my more lucid moments.
A sound, a new sound, pulled me from my lethargy. I gripped the gun.
Something pounded at my door.
The door rattled.
I pulled the trigger.