Author : J. Louis
The day Hell broke through the surface of the Earth was etched in his brain.
Sirens blared, signaling the air raid had begun. Shadows of zeppelins blotted out the sunlight, their engines roaring through the endless expanse of the sky. He looked at her, the woman he had always loved, but could never have, at her dark hair and blazing green eyes, wide with shock. The war had begun, all because they let the contagion of the century escape their clutches; a genetically engineered, air-born variant of the Black Death, under development for use in biological warfare.
That was six years ago. He was hoping that the rumors were true, that her hometown would be untouched by the plague. There is no known cure. It is uncontrollable, unstoppable.
When they arrive, her parents are already dead, and have been for some time. She runs into the deserted land, overcome by her loss. He feels it’s best to leave her be for the time being. Even in a harsh world such as this, there must be time to mourn. He reasons that she is a grown woman and can take care of herself.
The sound of rats flitting in and out of the decrepit wall wakes him up from his reverie. Outside the broken window of her home is a harsh landscape ravaged by nuclear war. The sun’s heat is amplified from the cloud coverage, resulting in a sweltering hot February day – easily 110 degrees. Such weather is normally considered mild for central New York after the war. A searing wind blows across the landscape, ripping bark off of the skeletal remains of trees.
The haze looks real nice today, he thinks.
He pulls a flower, a desert dandelion he found growing outside her house, out of his satchel. It wasn’t anything special, but it was her birthday, and he wanted to surprise her with something.
The half-light from the sky dissipates. A murder of crows flies by on fell wings. The sandstorm picks up.
Something catches his eye; a figure stumbling across the cracked soil, dark hair whipping in the wind.
Skeletons of rodents and their predators crunch under his heel. A blast of hot air sears his face as he opens the door. Huddling in his ragged clothing, he trudges through the blood-red sands, moving toward his target as quickly as possible.
He reaches her only to recoil in horror. Half of her face, her beautiful, sun-scorched face, is black with necrosis, and thick, bulbous sores coat her body.
He checks the pistol, noticing his already blackening fingers. One bullet remains.
He places the dandelion in the palm of her hand, then holds the .45 to her head. She opens her eyes – no longer the striking shade of green, but a sickening red. He lodges a bullet in her forehead, blowing bits of brain, flesh, and bone across the unforgiving sands.