Flash Fiction Week: Above it All

Today’s challenge location takes us to a penthouse apartment overlooking the apocalypse.

Day One: First Times
Day Two: Ride the Time Vortex
Day Three: Finding a Way
Day Five: Among the Trees

Above it All

DL Thurston

Light shown through the heavy iron curtains drawn on each window as Madeline prepared her tea.  She opened the fridge, pouted, and slammed the door.  “We’re out of milk.”

“Have you seen this?” Howard asked.  He squatted next to where the light beam fell, and poked at the beam with the stem of his pipe.

“Where’s Lucinda been with the milk?”

“This isn’t good at all.”

“Are you even listening to me, Howard?”

“Yes, yes, dear.  Milk.  Lucinda.  This is important.”

“More important than my tea?”

Howard pushed the glasses up his nose so he could draw a proper bead on her.  “Yes, dear.  More important than your blasted tea.  Look, the floor is rather darker here than anywhere else.  Right where the light hits it in the morning.”

“If that Lucinda doesn’t bring us milk today–”

“I gave her the day off.”  Howard grunted as he stood, then crossed the penthouse with a soft limp.

“Day off?”

“She wasn’t looking good yesterday.  I fear she may have the sickness.”

“I don’t care if her arm is falling off, how can you just give her the day off without telling me.”

He keyed in his code to the door, then bent down for the retinal scanner.  “I’m telling you now.”

“Lot of good that does me with my tea improperly prepared.”

Howard rearranged their canned goods so he could extract some spare floorboards and the saw.  “Blast.  We’re out of floorboards.”

“Oh, so you care about your floorboards, but not my tea?”

Howard pulled out the Smith and Wesson hunting pistol and the box of ammo.  It was getting precipitously low, but he could still load his deadly silver darling.  He slipped five of the .500 caliber bullets into the chamber, spun it, and slid it into place.  “I’m going out.”

“For milk?”

“For floorboards.  Stay here, I’ll be back.”

Howard sealed up their storeroom, unhooked the three steel beams reinforcing their metal front door, then opened the door up to the world beyond.  “Thirty minutes,” he said, then closed the door behind him.  She put the tea down on the counter, put the bars back in place, and waited.  She hated this part.  She busied herself pretending the tidy the kitchen, occasionally complaining out loud to no one about this being Lucinda’s job.  Each time he went out that door, out to forage, she couldn’t know if he would come back.  If the sickness might get him.  If there might be another explosion.

The light wasn’t pouring through the curtains nearly so heavily now, but Howard always cautioned her to let them open themselves.  She didn’t like looking out there, anyways.  The old view of parks and buildings was gone.  Each time she looked out now, there was something different.  Hordes of people, or cracks in the earth, or flames reaching to the sky, or pale riders on skeletal horses.  She went to the only room without any doors out, any windows, and waited.  Waited like a silly school girl terrified of every noise, waiting for her parents to come home.

It had been thirty minutes.

Had it been thirty minutes?

She cursed herself for not looking at the clock before Howard left.  She checked now.  The shutters unfurled, and light poured through the penthouse, sneaking into the bathroom like a kitten.  She shook the pity from her shoulders, and reentered the rest of the apartment.  A large flock of something flew past the windows, looking in at her but continuing on their path.  Some got too close, triggering the proximity warnings and shuttering the windows again.  Fine.  She didn’t want to look at them anyway.  The apartment felt so much smaller when they were closed.  The agent showed them this place three years ago, and Madeline hadn’t believed how big it was.  That’s why she brought Lucinda on board.  To help, and to fill the place up a little more.

It was large for an apartment, it was small for an entire world.

She’d checked the clock twenty minutes ago.  It couldn’t have been less than ten minutes since Howard left when she first did so.  Could it?  He was late.  She sat in her plush chair in the library, tried to read a book she’d started and stopped two dozen times before.  She flipped a page back and forth, trying to force the words into order.  When she checked, it had been another ten minutes.  He was certainly late now.

This is when she took to pacing, stopped only by a muffled gunshot from the hallway.  She held her breath and waited.  A short series of notes played on the door chime, Howard’s own song.  She pulled the bars off the door, took a breath, and opened it.  He was bloody from a cut, and his gun still smoked, but he had a triumphant smile on his face and an armful of lumber.

“You’re late.”

“Couldn’t be helped.”

Howard walked in and stashed the wood in their storeroom.  “Did you get my milk?”

He held a small box over his head.


“Better than nothing at all, my love.”

“I suppose.”

She took the powdered milk, and shook it into her tea.  It clouded and settled into a deep tan.  She took a sip, and fought to remain above it all.  She would complain about Lucinda, about powdered milk, and about having to stay in yet again.  And thus pass just one more day after the end of the world.

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