Incapable

I can see my breath in the dark, green woods. Far behind me in my family’s cabin I can almost hear them counting down until midnight. I check my black checkered watch. Ten minutes til.

I pull my boyfriend’s hood up over my ratty brown hair.

Charcoal fills the air as I pass over a fallen, charred tree. My boyfriend didn’t burn it. No matter how many times I explain that to my family, they don’t hear me.

Just because Quin wears dark hoodies and skinny jeans doesn’t mean he’s a gothic bad boy. It’s just a defense mechanism. We all do it.

I “went to bed early”. Then I snuck out the window. My family thinks I’m pissy because they wouldn’t let Quin come to the cabin for New Years. I am pissy, but if we were a normal couple, then I’d just video chat him. With my shirt off of course. Not that I’d be showing much. I’m a stick.

Seven minutes and I’m not even close to the unmarked grave. It’s not completely unmarked. It has a headstone, but it’s unreadable. Two bodies share the grave now.

Once upon a time, Quin was normal. Or as normal as a math nerd could be. One day his alcoholic mother decided to make toast in the bathtub. Poor little Quin found her. His dad shipped him off to a mental institution. But Quin didn’t come back. My Quin came back. His dad assumed that Quin got worse. But he’s in a better place really.

Sarah’s story is similar. Me, Sarah, am doing pretty well. Other Sarah is with Other Quin.

Three minutes. I spot Quin through the trees. He has the oblong key in hand. Tonight we finish the transfer. Tonight we will belong to this world that has for so long rejected us.

His back is to me so I slip up behind him and cover his eyes with mine. “Amber,” he sighs. The name stings. I yank my hands back.

“Amber has been dead for centuries.” My best friend. His true love. The Other Amber killed her. A reminder that we aren’t invincible.

Quin’s face falls. “Your hands felt like hers.”

I know he sees her when he looks at me. He kisses her when he’s kissing me. We’re together because we are alone. Not because we are in love.

I put my hands over the key. “Once we destroy this, we will destroy her?”

Quin puts his hand on mine. “She killed Our Amber.”

The pain in his eyes breaks my heart. “But she will look like and feel like Our Amber. Can you kill her?”

“She has the hands of a killer.”

But we do too.

I hold up my watch. “Ten seconds.”

Quin lights a match. Nine seconds.

He didn’t even hesitate when he killed the Other Sarah. Eight seconds.

I put my arm around Quin. Seven seconds.

He dangles the key over the flame. Six seconds.

“Do you love me?”

Quin gives me a look. “What?”

Four seconds. “Do you love me?”

“Where is this coming from?”

Three seconds. Two. One.

The key catches fire curling and disintegrating into ash.

Quin’s eyes harden as he turns to me. “We aren’t capable of love.”

When He Leaves

Slippery greasy pizza folds up on itself inside the little plastic container. Stuffed between a container of PBJ balls and chunky orange-brown chili. The container tower topples when Tay opens the fridge. “He didn’t even clean out the fridge?” She kicks the runaway containers across the floor and the contents leak out. “Damn it.”

She grabs a roll of paper towels and mops up the food. Turning back to the crammed fridge she drags the trashcan across the kitchen and dumps the food, containers and all, into it. As she stares into the empty fridge, it hits her. In the heart and in the gut like these things tend to do.

She just needs a shower. Slamming the fridge she strips off the clothes that smell like him and drop them into the trash as well. The quiet pitter patter of her bare feet echoes throughout the little house. So she sings one of those songs about girl power that he hated.

The steam from the shower rises with her voice until she’s practically screaming. As she lathers body wash across her back, she can almost feel his hands. Her voice cracks. She shuts off the water and wraps in a towel. She just needs sleep.

Stepping out into the bedroom, the queen-size bed stares her down. She takes a running leap and sprawls out onto it. She tells the yawning gap in her chest to shove it. “I don’t have to share. The blankets are all mine.” She’ll get a dog tomorrow. He never let her get a dog.

Her eyes wander over to her dresser. He stares back at her from the pictures. He’s in every one. Why did they take so many damn pictures? Waltzing over to the dresser she lays them all face down. “I don’t need your permission to get a dog. Or do anything. It’s my house now.”

She turns back to the bed, but she isn’t tired. She just needs a girl’s night. Picking up her cellphone she scrolls through her contacts. But everyone is either busy or his friend. Plus it’s already 11 PM. Heart sinking she slinks back into the kitchen, grabs a carton of ice cream from the freezer, and plops onto the couch.

Cradling the ice cream and watching a dumb romance, her body sags into the couch. The ghost of his arms around her and his lips on her skin seeps into her bones. An unbearable ache that the ice cream can’t numb.

Yay, she got to keep the house. The house filled with their memories. Like cigarettes his scent lingers. So why would she even want it?

Rumors Never Die: Doll Face

Glass baby blue eyes stare back at me when I wake. I scramble back and she mimics me. Bloodied white curls swing around her head in a mangled mess. I turn to run. Those blue eyes gaze back. I lift my fist thrusting it at her. Glass shatters slicing my hand and arm.

As my heart rate slows I spin in a half circle. A half circle is enough to make my insides squirm. Mirrors reflect every inch of me from the eyes that aren’t mine to the hair that isn’t mine to the frilly dress that isn’t mine. I wipe my hand against my mouth, but the pink lipstick doesn’t smear. I claw at it until my lips rip open. Amusement gleams in her eyes, my eyes.

“Help! Jessy, help!” My throat aches and my head pounds and I have to get out.

I rip a frill from my dress and wrap the fabric around my bloody fingers. I stare down the “Not Me” in the mirror. Her eyes glisten. I dare you. Right between those arrogant eyes I smash it. Then again and again. Turn and smash. The mirrors explode in a rain of glass.

As the debris settles my hands run along the wall searching for a hidden door. But it’s smooth concrete. I glance up. The concrete ceiling presses down on me.

Pop! The fluorescent light burns out. A deep breathing, sightless dark fills the room. Cold hands clench my wrists and darkness swallows my scream.

Rumors Never Die: Jessy

“Jessy?” my voice quivers.

“I’m free.” She breathes jumping to her feet. “I’m free!” Her icy hands grab my wrists.

I yank my hands free. “What? What are you talking about? Is there someone else here?” The back of my neck prickles, but I can’t tear my eyes from Jessy’s face.

“No!” Jessy flings herself back towards the window slamming her fists against it.

Warm breath tickles my neck. My limbs freeze. Out of the corner of my eye I see a dark shape advance on Jessy. She claws at the shards in her eye sockets and I wish I could look away. The bloody shards clatter to the ground.

“Please! Take her instead.”

The figure whirls around to face me and I bolt. The steps bow beneath my feet. I hear the thing panting behind me. As I hit the main level I almost stumble in relief. Crisp autumn air filters through the open front door chasing away the awful smells. This will be one hell of a Halloween story.

Then the colors fade around me. The floor lurches to the right. My face smacks against the floorboards, and I watch as the barren trees bend in the breeze until darkness swallows it all.

Rumors Never Die: Halloween

Back in the woods behind Murray Fields a decrepit house crouches in the weeds. No one has visited it since I was little when my old babysitter decided to spend the night there on Halloween. No one has seen her since. Rumors spread that the inhabitants of the house had taken her. I bet she just ran away and her parents left her. They were mean to her anyway.

The rusted gates screech like cats as I push them open. With a pencil in one hand and a journal in the other, I cross through the high-grassed lawn. The jack-o-lanterns’ flickering faces smirk from the rotted wooden porch. I can’t believe I said I would write an article on this place for Halloween. I wish I had guilt-tripped my friends into coming with me.

A single light glows from behind a boarded window on the second floor. As I approach the porch, the light snaps off. Maybe the person inside saw me and will answer the door when I knock.

I gingerly place my foot on the first step testing its weight. The step groans. I skip the steps and leap up onto the porch careful not to touch anything. I tip toe to the door afraid to put too much pressure in one place. The stone head gargoyle juts out from the door. In its mouth squirms a serpent in the shape of a circle. Ignoring the creepy door knocker I rap against the wood.

No one answers. I raise my hand again. Bang! The door bursts open, but the entry hall is empty. “Hello? You’re door opened by itself. Should I come in?” I call out. No one replies so I step inside and close the door behind me.

I walk down the entry hall and poke my head into the first room that I come to. I take a breath in and choke on the acrid smell of cigarettes. Smoke hangs in the air of what I assume is a parlor. It clings to the velvet, black sofa and the heavy, dark, theatrical curtains. In the center of the room a coffee table sculpted from bone grows out of the carpet.

I wrap my arms around myself as the hair on my arms stands up. I clear my throat. “Excuse me, I was wondering if I could interview you for an article for the Murray Times?”

No response. With dread swelling in my stomach like a balloon, I start further down the hallway. At the next room I stick my head inside and gag. Dirty china plates are piled from floor to ceiling in shaking, swaying stacks. Huge glistening steak knives and butcher cleavers hang in a chandelier over the kitchen’s island. Farther into the room a banquet table is filled with rotting food as if in anticipation for a feast that never took place.

“Hello?!” my voice squeaks out. I pull my jacket tighter around myself. I wish I had brought gloves. I can see my breath. As I turn around I see a set of spiraling stairs and my stomach sinks. I have to check up there.

I take a deep breath and barrel up the stairs. Panic bubbles inside of me. I want to fling myself down the steps and out the door. But I force myself to slow down and I open the only closed door on this floor. The frigid handle burns my hand, but I turn it anyway. “Hel-OH!” I gasp.

Pink paint peels off of the walls. A rickety silver bed frame lays barren. The mattress is stuffed in the closet. Shards of broken mirror litter the floor dripping blood. My eyes land on a small huddled figure sitting by the window. A girl with stringy black hair rocks back and forth in a blood soaked nightgown. I try to turn away, but my body freezes.

The girl turns her head all the way around. Shards of glass reflect my face in her eye sockets. When she smiles her mouth leers full of needles. Her voice comes out familiar to my ears. “Did you miss me?”

One Way Ticket

“Please fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the plane ride to Middlanowhere, Kansas.” Margaret held in a sigh as she walked back to her flight attendant seat between the first and business class. Her last plane ride as a flight attendant for Starboard Airlines had just begun. By this time tomorrow she would be relaxing in her hot tub enjoying retirement.

As she passed by the lavatory, the handle was clicked to the locked position. Frowning, she rapped on the door. No one answered. Maybe her co-worker had closed it for take-off. Shrugging it off, Margaret plopped down onto the leather seat, kicked off her heels, and pulled her itchy blue skirt trying to make it longer. “These skirts are too short for women over sixty.” She huffed pulling out her compact mirror and examining herself. The silver roots of her hair shown in the glow of the overhead light and make-up creased into her wrinkles as the engines roared to life.

Her heart pumped to the speed of the plane faster and faster until the wheels left the ground. She patted her breast. “Better than liquor.”

Beep! Beep! The orange customer help button flashed on the panel before her. “First class flyers are so needy.” She grumbled snapping her mirror shut and slipping on her shoes. Before leaving her little nook, she plastered on a fake smile then started up the aisle.

As she passed the luxurious tan, leather seats of first class, a man with salt and pepper black hair raised his hand to catch her attention. His dark eyes were the color of melted chocolate. He had some wrinkles, but for the most part had aged handsomely. The seat beside his was empty. “How can I help you, sir?” She asked with false, high-pitched politeness.

“I was wondering if you could keep me company. I seem to have an empty seat beside me.” The man gestured giving her a dazzling smile. Margaret glanced over her shoulder. No one seemed to be paying attention. The business man across the aisle was engrossed in his laptop.

“I’m sorry. I’m not really supposed to…” She said.

“Ah, I understand. It’s no problem. It’s just…I’m afraid of heights and I could tip you generously.”

It was Margaret’s last day…”Alright.” She smiled a genuine smile and sat down beside him. “I think I sat on something.” She frowned and stood up to see what it was: a golden, shiny tube of blood red lipstick. “Is this yours?”

The man took it from her hand and inspected it closely. “No. That’s odd. Don’t planes get cleaned between flights? I’m sort of germaphobic.” He edged to the front of his seat scrutinizing his chair.

“I assure you, Sir, every seat gets wiped down and inspected thoroughly.” She took the tube of lipstick and put it in her pocket. “I’ll try and find the owner when I bring around the food cart.”

The man settled back into his chair. “So, Margaret, do you like champagne?”

“How did you know my-“

“Name tag.”

“Right,” She smiled. “Yes, I do like champagne. What’s your name, Sir?”

“Nicolas.” He reached over and pressed the flight attendant button.

Margaret started to get up. “I can get you champagne if you like.” He put his hand on her shoulder to stop her.

“You should be waited on like a lady.” He told her.

Margaret’s co-flight attendant made his way towards them. His eyebrows pulled together as he saw Margaret and the man seated together. “May I get you anything, Sir?”

“Two glasses of champagne, please.”

The flight attendant nodded shooting a quizzical look at Margaret. “He won’t tell, will he?” Nicolas asked.

“No, he’s a friend.”

“A boyfriend?”

Margaret nearly choked. “No. I live alone. I’m retiring soon. Today is my last day actually.”

“Then this should be a celebration.” Nicolas declared taking her hand with his. He raised it to his lips and something on his finger flashed in the light. A golden band encircled his left ring finger.

“Here’s your champagne, Sir.” The flight attendant handed Nicolas the glasses and Nicolas handed one to her.

“To your retirement.” Nicolas clinked her glass with his and took a deep gulp.

As the flight attendant walked away, Margaret hissed, “You’re married!”

Nicolas choked on his champagne. “I beg your pardon?”

“I see your wedding ring!”

His face turned stony. “Is that a problem?”

“Yes!” She gasped.

“I don’t see why as I’m paying you to be here with me.”

“I’m not a prostitute! I’m a flight attendant.”

“Same thing.”

“Where is your wife?” Margaret demanded.

Nicolas cracked his knuckles. “She’s just a little plane sick.”

Margaret’s eyes widened. She dropped her champagne glass shattering it on the floor. Leaping from the seat she ran to the bathroom door and yanked it open. A woman’s pale bruised body tumbled out into the aisle. Her emerald eyes were wide open and an empty pill bottle rolled out of her lifeless hand.

I Object

The best day of my life started with blustery August heat. My hair exploded into a frizzy mess of curls like a wig of poodle fur. The sudden heat wave killed all of the flowers in Manhattan so my Man of Honor picked up a plastic bouquet of waxy pink roses. My dress could barely fit over my fluffy head and my make-up smeared all over the inside of it. Luckily the outside was still white. As I climbed into my cab with my Man of Honor and our son, I pulled the divorce papers out of my puffy 80’s style sleeves and handed them to my Man of Honor aka soon-to-be-ex-husband. He pulled a pen from his suit pocket and signed the papers. Then he handed the cab driver a disposable camera. “Would you take our divorce pictures?” He asked. The driver grumbled, but took the picture at the next red light. In the back seat my son started wailing.

“Stop crying! You are seven years old! Seven year olds don’t cry!” My Man of Honor snapped.

Our son wiped his snotty nose on the sleeve of his white tuxedo jacket leaving a gooey green smear along the sleeve. My Man of Honor pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and threw it at our son. “Clean that up. You’re running your mother’s wedding day!”

“Michael, stop yelling at him!” I huffed. Even with the divorce papers signed, his presence suffocated me.

“I’m sorry, Jill. I just want this wedding to be perfect.” Michael said dabbing at his brow with the end of his blush pink tie.

“It will be. Were you this nervous for our wedding?” I asked.

“Of course! I picked out the flower arrangements and the cake and the ring and your dress which looked fabulous by the way. I stressed out for months about the venue and it still wasn’t perfect.” Michael ranted. I remembered. He wouldn’t let me do anything; he made sure that I never had to lift a finger…

“Michael, it was a very nice wedding.” I assured him. His smile made up for every one of his insufferable imperfections.

As we pulled up to the cold marble church, Michael exclaimed, “There’s your prince! How romantic! He’s going to open the door for you…Wait! He can’t see you yet! It’s bad luck!”

“It’s only bad luck for the first wedding.” I rolled my eyes.

My groom, Henry, stood prim and dapper in his pressed tuxedo with a navy bowtie. He had insisted that our wedding colors be navy and pink. The cab driver ran over the curb and Henry opened the door. My son hopped out and ran into the church. With Henry on one arm and Michael on the other, I was escorted into the church and down the aisle.

On one side of the church was Henry’s rich, stuffy family decked in jewels and pearls. On the other side was my fragile, bone-thin mother clutching a blue balloon with my father’s picture pasted on it and my second cousin Tonya, a nun who sleeps in the church. My pointy heels clicked on the tile as I made the lethargic walk down the lengthy aisle. Henry’s sisters were supposed to be my bridesmaids, but they had gone on a weekend trip to Paris. His brother was supposed to be his best man, but he had gotten in a car accident on the way to the church. It was a fender-bender. Nothing serious. I had wanted to postpone the wedding, but Henry had insisted. “Nothing will stop this wedding.” Henry, the influential business man, would never change his mind or his plans.

At the altar the dust, wheezing priest read the vows and had us repeat them. “If there are any objections, speak now or forever hold your-“

Bang! “I OBJECT!” Screeching from the doorway was an unsightly woman wearing a gothic black dress that trailed along the floor. Her raven black hair stuck up at odd angles and dirt smeared her face.

“Melissa?” Henry gasped. His family stood up and cheered. Whistling like they were at a sports game, they rushed forward and hoisted Melissa up into the air.

“Put me down!” She shrieked. They dropped her on the altar between Henry and me.

Melissa glared at Henry. “I read your obituary back in Seattle. I was attending your funeral as a grieving widow when the police stumbled across your wedding invitation and paid me a visit. How dare you do this to me!” Her shaking voice rose in octaves until it was piercing. Henry sunk to his knees cowering away from her. She wrestled the Bible from the priest’s hands and flung it at Henry. Dodging the book her ran and locked himself inside the confessional booth. Coiling like a cobra Melissa lunged at me and wrapped her sausage-like fingers around my throat.

The church erupted in screams. Curse words flew from my mother’s mouth, and she let go of my father’s balloon. Cheering and applause echoed from Henry’s family. “Beat her! Beat her!”

“Nooooo!” Michael jumped onto Melissa’s back and wrapped his legs around her. She stumbled under his weight, but didn’t yield. He fell backwards and crashed into Henry’s family. Henry’s father shoved Michael out of the way and the family surrounded Melissa and me.

“How dare you marry my husband!” Melissa clawed at my wedding dress ripping off the sleeves. Her hands found my neck again. Her face swam in front of me. Her eyes burst with rage. For a moment I thought I saw a forked tongue flick out of her mouth.

Then my mother smashed a basin of holy water over Melissa’s head. Her skin bubbled and she fell. I ran for the confessional booth. But it was empty except for the glint of Henry’s wedding ring and a croaking ugly toad.

Morality

The golden wing-shaped doors opened revealing an expansive indoor garden. Flowers of all shapes and colors bloomed like a rainbow. A crystal waterfall twinkled off to the right. Delicate glass angels decorated the greenery. Juicy red apples taunted Master Rufio as he walked past. Pine trees covered in pure snow made him suppress a shiver. But most magnificent were the roses. Rows and rows of them smelled delightfully like her. He greedily inhaled the scent until he got light headed.

A servant dressed impeccably cleared his throat. “It’s perfect.” Master Rufio declared. The servant’s face remained solemn as he beckoned Master Rufio through the roses.

As they passed, Master Rufio thought the roses began to fade, but he shook the feeling off. His garden was perfect and everything in it would be preserved, frozen in its perfection, immortalized. But as they got closer and closer to her, the roses not only faded but were losing petals. And the last row of roses were shriveled and dead.

Master Rufio took the last few steps up to the glass capsule that held her. Inside it, his love was perfect. She was youthful with smooth skin and lush dark hair. He followed her defined cheek bones and traced her full red lips. Her beauty brought tears to his eyes. He longed to hold her, but he knew that he couldn’t. Everything he touched, he destroyed.

Master Rufio made to turn away when something caught his eye. Two tiny wrinkles creased her forehead. He squinted hard believing it to be a trick of the light. Desperately he wiped the glass hoping it was just a crack. But the wrinkle stayed.

The servant appeared at Master Rufio’s side. “You can’t keep her forever.”

Icy fear forced the breath from Master Rufio’s lungs. He inhaled knives. The smell of the roses tickled his nose, taunting him. Hunched over the glass her clung to the capsule. And before his eyes her wrinkles spread.

Her skin withered deforming her features. Silver snaked through her hair. Her eyelids sunk into her sockets. All her color faded away. What was left was a wrinkled old prune.

“No!” The cry ripped from Master Rufio followed by tortured agonizing screams. The servant stood frozen, trying not to hear. But he couldn’t avoid the gaping wound that burned Master Rufio’s chest revealing a bloody beating eye sore, Master Rufio’s heart.

Musty Maps

As I reached up to pull the string and turn off the attic light, a pile of dusty papers rolled off of the shelf and landed on my toes. I hesitated with one hand frozen in the air and the other clutching a yellowing lace wedding dress. The top paper slowly uncurled and I got a glimpse of funny looking shapes surrounded by blue.

I hung the wedding dress on the end of the shelf and scooped up the pile of maps. In the far corner of my attic was a hideous hot pink and neon yellow lazy chair with several tears. Eyes trained on the map I made my way to my chair to examine the maps closer.

“North America, Europe, Asia, Pacific Ocean…” The names sounded familiar, but foreign like I heard them in a dream or stumbled across them in an outdated textbook. My grandmother was a teacher and her idea of toys were bulky textbooks. I got them every year for my birthday and most of them I read or tried to read.

I had heard the word “oceans” before, but I couldn’t recall the meaning. Creak! I glanced up and saw a shadowy globe in the corner spinning faster and faster. My spine tingled, and I jumped to my feet. “Hello? Jazz?” My sister must have been playing a trick on me. I was taking a long time to bring her Mother’s old wedding dress…

I approached the globe and rested my hand on top of it to stop the spinning. “Jazz, I know you are hiding up here.” I snickered.

Under my hand the globe began to spin again. My muscle tensed. Cold sweat dripped down my back. “Jazz?”

The smell of daisies wafted to my nose. My grandmother used to smell like daisies. A wave of calm crashed over me and I swayed back onto my heels. The globe halted. I examined it. Right in the middle of the ocean, a pin-prick sized blob labeled “Hawaii” was circled in red ink. Beside it was a sticky note. I read the scrawling handwriting aloud:

“Date: December 15th, 2016

Dear Future Generations,

I am Mika Theabe. I am originally from Hawaii which is a state in the United Stated of America. The United States of America is a country on the continent North America on the planet Earth. You might not know what any of these words mean because where I’m going there will be no continents, no oceans, no countries even.

I have successfully completed the NASA training necessary to go to Mars. They say we will be colonizing there so I assume I will start a family up there. Future family, this note is to you. I will take a photo album to Mars with me so that you will never forget the beauty of Earth.

Love always,

Mika”

Sanitized Testing

The classroom isn’t as full as it used to be. Sure, I haven’t been in a full classroom since Kindergarten, but today there’s three less people than yesterday. Three is a significant number when there’s only seven people. On the first day of senior year there was eleven of us. Now there’s only four and it’s only October. Once the cold settles in we are really in trouble.

Mrs. Sandfield picks up the attendance sheet. She knows all of us by name, but she still insists on treating us like a “normal class” or what was normal before the outbreak. “Gardner?”
“Here,”
“Parsons?”
“Here,”
“Dodson?”

Silence. Mrs. Sandfield chews her bottom lip. Her eyes glance up to Troy Dodson’s empty seat. She crosses his name off and just like that, the last trace of him is gone. “Peters?”
“Here,”
“Tremble?”

Silence. Mrs. Sandfield scratches her pen. “Vance?”

More silence sucking the air out of the room. It doesn’t help that the air conditioner has been broken for months. Mrs. Sandfield marks through Katie Vance’s name. “Weber?”

“Here,” my voice booms obnoxiously loud in the quiet room. Marie Gardner flinches and turns her stink eye on me. You’d think I was yelling at a funeral. She’s a drama queen.

Mrs. Sandfield sets down the list and automatically pulls her sterile smelling hand sanitizer out of her desk drawer. She used to have the fruity kind that girls would shove under their noses when the sweaty soccer team walked by, but the fruity sanitizer is long gone and so is the soccer team.

“Alright, today we are learning the quadratic equation…” Mrs. Sandfield picks up a bright red dry erase marker and starts writing numbers on the board. The internet and phone lines crashed down a few years ago, but the electricity is still running…for now.

As Mrs. Sandfield rambles through notes I count the dry erase markers resting on the board. There’s six of them. I wonder what will happen when they dry out. Maybe Mrs. Sandfield will drag an old chalkboard in if she can find chalk. Maybe by then there won’t be anyone around to teach.

Mrs. Sandfield drags through math, history, and grammar before finally letting us eat lunch. We have to bring our lunch since there’s no one around to cook it. We eat right at our desks since there are only four classes in the entire school. I’m not sure why we don’t just combine into one class, but I guess that’s how the plague spread in the first place. I tried to tell my mom that going to school would get me sick, but she wouldn’t have any of that. Even though half of America is infected, education is still clearly more important.

As I pop jell capsules of fruity artificial flavoring into my mouth, I nearly choke. Five little black spots dot my palm. My heart rate spikes as I clench my hands into a fist. I rub my eyes and look again. The dots glare defiantly up at me. “Can I borrow some hand sanitizer?” I blurt.

Mrs. Sandfield narrows her eyes and holds out her bottle. With a closed fist I stand up and take a step towards her. The world lurches under my feet. I barely feel the cool tile as I hit the ground. I see two Maries swinging out of her desk and jumping over me. Black dots dance in my eyes. “Help,” I croak even though I know they won’t help me. They can’t help me or they’ll get sick. They won’t ever use this room again. It’s contaminated.

The door slams shut behind them. The lock clicks. I can almost see the yellow police tape as the black dots blot out the world.