(Flash Fiction: Every fourth Monday, I’ll share a flash fiction story.)
The cupboards were nearly empty, and within a few days, they would be.
Melody, sluggish from hunger, dug through the last cans of tuna and bags of stale chips. The electricity had died a couple of days ago, so she needed something she didn’t have to cook. So much for her dreams of culinary school. Filet Mignon and chocolate Chambord cake were things of the halcyon past.
Sighing, she settled on a bag of chewy cheddar popcorn a few weeks passed its expiration date. Lacking the energy to make it upstairs to her bed, she plopped herself down on the couch. She wrapped a blanket around her shoulders – the heat had wilted with the electricity, and it was nearing the beginning of winter. Soon, it would snow.
She had nothing to do but stare at the wall and a blank TV screen while stale seeds got stuck between her teeth. Her eyes wandered to the pictures lining the stairwell. Her mom, her dad, her older brother. The End had taken them away six weeks ago, and now their faces only existed behind the glass, flat and still.
Melody’s gaze watered without her permission. She clamped it shut while soggy popcorn sat on her tongue. Her days were as empty as the kitchen shelves. She cherished no one and nothing, and no one and nothing cherished her. She’d used up all of her sorrow and all of her fear…now her insides were as empty as her outsides.
Another Melody smirked at her from the photos, her eyes as bright as the summer sun behind her. That version of herself also remained only within wooden frames, as dead as the rest of her family.
Melody laughed, the noise leaving her mouth as if her lips had taken on a mind of their own. The girl in the photos had thought she’d had a future. So had the millions the End had taken. She’d –
A giggle echoed from somewhere outside her curtained windows. At least, she thought that was what she’d heard, before she realized she had to be mistaken. Her gaze shot up, her ears waiting intently with every expectation of disappointment.
But the sound came again, followed by a second joyful voice. It was muted, but she wasn’t mistaken. There were people. Other people. Other survivors.
Melody got up and ran to the door, her body reacting before her mind could. She reached out for the knob, sucked in a breath, and broke the seal protecting her house from the rest of the world.
Her eyes stretched wide when she saw them on the street. Men. Women. Children. She managed a noise – a wordless squeak – and one man looked at her, his arm wrapped around the shoulders of a young boy who eyed her curiously through sunny blue irises. Fellow strangers followed suit, and for the first time in weeks, she was seen in the eyes of someone else.
“Hello there,” the man stepped closer and held out his hand in greeting. “Didn’t think anyone else was still holed up around here.”
She saw something on his face that she hadn’t in a long while – a smile.
Melody fought back her tears. Her future wasn’t gone. All she had to do was seize it and start a new story.
She smiled, too.