So I know you're all desperately waiting to hear how I passed the rest of my time in hospital, however I stumbled upon this flash fiction challenge at terribleminds, and having wanting to get back into writing something other than a report card, was excited to take it on.
The challenge: choose three words from the list and incorporate them into your story. I decided on Moon, Scorpion, and Epidemic.
Here is my first story in over 15 years. Enjoy.....
The sun languishes slowly over the old farmhouse, the brilliant reds and oranges bouncing off the silo and hitting the great oak tree. In the distance the low hum of honeybees returning to their hive after a long day of work rumble. A warm breeze tickles the yellow daisies that line the stone walkway, carrying their sweet smells away with it. It is a beautiful summer evening by anyone’s standards, but the night ahead is foreboding.
It wasn’t always this way. Before The Bites most people paid no attention to the cycles of the moon. Even in the beginning, the Deniers were adamant that the epidemic was not caused by our celestial friend. According to them, The Swarms were sent by an angry God who was punishing us for our various sins. But as time progressed and the epidemic spread, the link became clear.
The Swarms always come during the New Moon. Millions of scorpions overrun towns, villages, large cities, devouring anyone in their path. The first Swarm caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. Some were fortunate enough to escape with only a few bites, but after a couple of days the fever took hold. The Bitten, as they came to be known, began showing signs of sickness 48 hours after being wounded by the insects. Their temperature rose to near-fatal highs and then the hallucinations started. Hospital wards were full of patients screaming at the top of their lungs, and though their words were unintelligible, were absolutely terrifying nonetheless.
Then one night all was still. The fever was gone, the wailings stopped, and the patients were nowhere to be found. Hospital staff, family, friends, neighbours, anyone who knew someone who had been sick joined together in the search. Media outlets quickly picked up the story and the world spent the entire day in a panic. Where did these people go? Would they come back? Are they dangerous? Millions of questions without answers – at least for another few hours anyway.
That night the Full Moon shone brightly in the sky. Already on edge from the events of the past few weeks people locked their doors and windows, trying to ignore the uneasy feeling that everyone shared. Some settled in for a restless sleep, others spent the evening glancing nervously around the house. But no matter where they were or what they were doing, everyone heard the wailing begin. It started as a low moaning and quickly worked it’s way up into an ear-piercing cry, one that made fingernails on a chalkboard sound like a lullaby. Just when you thought you couldn’t take it anymore, that the screaming would make your ears bleed, the wailing stopped. And then they attacked.
The scorpions were different this time. Most noticeably they were huge, much bigger than the average man. But that wasn’t the most frightening part. These scorpions weren’t all insect – they were human too. Some had human arms or legs, some had the body of an insect but the head of a person, and some were still wearing their hospital gown.
They came in droves, breaking down doors and windows, clawing their way down through the roof. The human-like insects were vicious in their attacks, devouring every living thing they came across. Once they got in there was no escape. People tried to fight them off with anything they could – few were successful. Those that were, found the only way to stop these monsters was with a couple of bullets to the brain. The Bitten would lie twitching on the floor, green sticky blood oozing from the holes in their head – and then they would vanish.
The lucky people, the ones who survived the night without being eaten alive, began to stockpile the next day. The world was in chaos. Looters took everything of value from anywhere they could find. Neighbours turned on neighbours. Families broke apart. Everywhere you went you could feel the weight of the panic, the way the air envelopes you on a hot and sticky day.
Some of us worked together. We formed groups and societies with the common goal of staying alive. We were ready during the next New Moon. The scorpions swarmed and fewer were Bitten – though we still lost far too many. And we were ready during the next Full Moon, but still people died. With every moon cycle we are more prepared, have better defences, more effective tactics. And with every cycle there is less and less of us.
It has been 7 months since the first Swarm and humanity has not fared well. It is estimated that only one twentieth of the world’s population remains Unbitten. We spend our days looking for answers, searching for ways to prevent the next attack. So far nothing has worked. We have tried isolating the Bitten before they disappear, tying them down, putting them in cells, but they always vanish. And so we look to the sky. Wondering why the Moon sent the scorpions, nervously awaiting the next attack.
And now it is time to batten down the hatches, kiss your loved ones, and cock your gun. Because the full moon is clawing its’ way up, and the wailing is about to begin.