Oh I loved the entries this week! I had fun with this one and sometimes I’m really sweating it, you know? But that’s the fun of it.
Here are the finalists in no particular order.
Tauisha Smith – @shells2003
Here are their entries. Vote in the poll on the right of the page. Tonight’s winner will be announced at 9:30 EDT. Good luck everyone!
The thin spiral of smoke curled from the tip of Shelby’s cigarette, drifting into her eye. She squinted, then shooed the toxic vapour away from her face. She let the ciggie dangle from her lips and reached out to take her drink off the table. The ice clinked in the glass and she shook the liquid, enjoying the sound the cubes made against the glass. Taking another deep drag, she pulled the smoke into her lungs, then expelled through her nose.
Her nail were bitten down to the quick, she grabbed the cigarette holding it between index and middle finger. She pointed at the man across from her and said, “You’re a fucking cancer.”
“I’m sorry, Ma’am. What do you mean?” He adjusted his glasses, crossed and uncrossed his legs and then added, “I don’t understand.”
Shelby scoffed, and then she laughed, a gravelly chuckle that turned into a cough. When she regained her composure she said, “What don’t you understand?”
“I don’t know what you mean saying I am a cancer.”
“You,” she pointed at him again. “Her,” she said pointing to a girl on the other side of the recreation room. “Them,” she added pointing to a couple in the corner. “All of you. All of us. We’re a fucking cancer. We are a disease. We shouldn’t be allowed to do this.”
“Do what?” The man baited her. He knew she wasn’t ready, he could tell by the way she picked at the scabs on her wrists and rocked back and forth.
She raised her crystal blue eyes to look into his brown ones. Then she smiled, a sweet, almost loving, smile that caused a stir of desire to flare up within him.
“Destroy the world, Doctor Henderson.”
“And you feel we are destroying the world?”
She didn’t answer him, she simply pointed out the window. He turned to look even though he knew what he would see. The sky was on fire. It had been for days.
In a low whisper, Shelby said, “They say it’s the end of the world, but I think it’s just the end of humankind.”
“And what of the world?” the doctor asked.
“For the world, it’s a new beginning.”
Slowly the disease took us all.
We all waited, each of us that still lived, doing nothing but waiting for death.
And it came, inexorably, for each of us in turn.
Until I was the only one left.
I was only nine, and I wish I could say that excuses what I did, that I didn’t know better and am not to blame. But I did. And I am.
As I packed my bag, I could hear the voice of my mother, in the early days, telling us to keep away from the afflicted, lest the disease find us as well. But now my mother lay dead in her room, on the large bed beside my father, and my sister and brother beside them.
I burned the house behind me. I was too small to dig them proper graves, but I lit their funeral pyre speaking the prayers as best I remembered them.
That was only two years ago and I’m alone again. The bodies of the family that took me in–many villages from my own, not knowing where I came from or why–lay on the bed in the other room. As they probably do in every other quiet, cold house in this village.
This time, I’ll burn the entire village when I go. I wonder what tribute I’ll pay the next one.
“Step this way, sir.”
“Anything I can do to help.”
The outbreak had killed nearly half of Atlanta, and the CDC privately held concerns that it would quickly escape the South and make it’s way up the Eastern Seaboard.
I knew this because Jack Taylor, the gentleman in the full biohazard suit next to me had told me this.
Everywhere I went in the past month, I was met with death. Bodies covered in boils, oozing fluids that had no business existing inside the human body.
I’d never felt more disconnected from the human experience, until today.
It might have been the large, concrete, generic government building. Or the sterile surfaces throughout the inside of the complex. Perhaps most of all, I was the only one not encased behind a full containment suit.
I was the only one here that was part of the world, yet I felt like an alien.
The government had demanded everyone be tested for mutations of the virus. My appointment was unremarkable. They took some blood, some urine and some dead skin cells.
Then I got a call. They said I held the key to ending the epidemic. Something about how my body processed proteins.
So I came, and I found myself, alone. Jack Taylor had led me to a room and promptly left to get some paper work. One wall held a giant one-way mirror. Behind it, I could almost picture the scientists and government suits. Studying me, dissecting me.
Behind me, there was a hissing sound. An odorless gas was seeping into the room. I thought nothing of it, must have been the A/C kicking in. Atlanta was unbearable this time of year.
But then I started feeling lightheaded.
“Hello?” I said.
Then, louder. “Help!”
I banged on the door, the window, any surface I could. My lungs filled with cotton and I was gasping on the floor. Begging for air.
A voice came across the PA. “We’re sorry, sir. You are patient zero. We can’t have anyone else getting infected.”
Pins and needles went through my lungs, my vision, and my brain as my thoughts were stamped out.
I was part of the disease, not the cure.
I’m walking into the Coney Island on the corner of Main Street and Washington for a cup of coffee when I see her. She’s picking up a to-go order and I hear her confirm with the hostess a Neptune Salad and a Reuben, extra dressing. I don’t get a good look at her face as I pass, a face I think I know, but can’t quite make out. I slip behind her, she doesn’t see me, I think, and sit in a booth facing the doorway, trying to catch a full glimpse of her before she leaves. I watch as she checks the brown paper bag two more times, drops down a two dollar tip, which the hostess looks at quizzically, not used to them, I suppose, picks up the order and leaves, turning away from me. She’s wearing a long coat, black and boxy, no form to it at all, and under it I can see for only a second a simple black dress hanging just past her knees and black heels. Her hair’s done up in curls, big fancy curls, and I’m wracking my brain trying to figure out why she’s dressed up at eight in the morning, and how in the world I could possibly know someone like this.
Later I’m walking down Main Street deciding on where I would like to set up shop to grade the papers I’ve been lugging around in my satchel for the past week, the mid-term essays that are frighteningly (and perennially) terrible. Work like this demands a sort of public forum, as I can’t trust myself to be alone with these and not find some sort of distraction to guide me away from my duties. In a coffee shop or library, though, for some reason, I find myself forced to look at the poorly-constructed sentences, while enjoying an overly-priced beverage, making the most out of my time. I decide on a little coffee shop tucked away on Division called Bean Bean, of all things, that is rife with undergrads but still fairly quiet. The perfect place to whittle away the remaining hours of the already sweltering August day.
Inside the coffee shop I’m greeted by a blond-haired girl with dreadlocks who just looks dirty, not at all attractive to me. I order a small black tea and sit facing the front door, enjoying watching the customers filter in and out, engage in menial conversations that, for some reason, comfort me. I finally open up my satchel and pull out the rubberbanded heap of papers, and just as I set them down and prepare for the daunting task at hand, I feel a warm breeze hit my face. I look up and see a woman standing in the doorway, holding it ajar—the woman in the black coat from earlier that morning. She looks frazzled, still wearing the same ensemble, pulling a pair of large black sunglasses from her face. She meets my eyes, scans the room as if to make sure she doesn’t know anyone else, and begins walking toward me, slowly. Everything happens so quickly, as if there is no space between us at all, so when she’s pulling out the chair and seating herself it feels like an hour’s gone by. Finally, seated across from me, staring directly at me, the corners of her mouth twisting up at the ends, a mole on her right cheek, I remember her. I remember her from that night.
“I thought it was you,” she says.
“Wow,” I say, taken aback. “It’s…been a while, huh?”
“Yes. And I know we both agreed never to talk about that night, for…various reasons, but, seeing you, I just…well, I followed you, here. I had to…tell you.”
“It’s okay,” I say reaching out to touch her hands, finding them cold to the touch. “Tell me what?”
She pulls back and sighs loudly, then looks around the room again and reaches in her purse. She pulls out a neon-yellow piece of paper about the size of a playing card and fumbles it for a moment, finally sliding it across the table toward me. I can feel my heart in my chest, ready to burst through, already knowing what it says before flipping it over.
“Are you sure?” I say placing my hands on it, palms sweaty. Pleading.
“Y-yes,” she says, her voice shaky now. “I have to go but…well, you deserve to know.”
She gets up to leave as quickly as she came as I huddle the card in my hand. I look out the storefront window one more time and watch her disappear around the corner, then, finally, flip the card over. Printed along the top of it is the word DISEASED. Below it, in small print, are directions on how I should proceed from hereon out, where the nearest quarantine area is, and instructions on how I should inform those I’ve been in contact with that they too may have contracted “it.” I look back up and notice the whole coffee house has stopped, that everyone is alternately looking at me and the card, and sitting here, feeling utterly alone, I can’t help but wonder if I’ll see her on the other side.
Tauisha Smith – @shells2003
Distrust has got to be a disease with me. It spreads from my hair folicles to my toe nails.
It was injected into me by men everywhere. Oh, how I hate them!
Of course, this doesn’t make my friend, Erica, very happy. Pisses her off royally, actually.
“What is your problem?” she storms up to me one day, glaring.
I simply shrug. “Not sure what you mean.”
“Ben really liked you, ok?” she tossed her hands up, practically growling at me. “He thought you were great. I talked you up, and he enjoyed spending time with you.”
“And, all the things you did to him? Checking his cell phone that he accidentally left on the table-”
“-He shouldn’t have left it there-”
“-Randomly texting females in his phone just to see who they were-”
“-Ben knows way to many women. That’s not good-”
“-Glaring at the waitress when she asked him what he wanted to drink?”
“She smiled at him when she asked. She didn’t smile at me,” I defended. “Customer service 101.”
“Jen!” Her voice boomed, rattling me into silence. “You’ve only been on two dates! Are you friggin’ kidding me? Who does things like that?”
“If he’s going to be with me, he needs to know the rules.”
Erica chuckled cynically, shaking her head. “You really are sick, aren’t you? No wonder you’re still alone. All this time, I thought you were good. Seems you’re only screwed in the head.”
“And what is that supposed to mean?” I jumped up, totally defensive now.
“Exactly what I said, you psycho!” Erica’s finger was so close to my face, she could pick my nose. “Needless to say, Ben wants nothing to do with you. And after all he’s told me, neither do I.”
Wow. After all Erica and I had ever been through, I never expected this. Watching my best friend in the whole world stalk away from me (forever, it would seem) was the hardest thing it the world for me to do.
Yes. Distrust has got to be a disease with me. For the first time in my life, it’s shown me just how truly alone I am.