This is my very first attempt at an online writing prompt. It was fun!
The above image is the March speculative fiction photoprompt from D. Wallace Peach at Myths of the Mirror. Thanks to Diana for the inspiration! https://mythsofthemirror.com/2019/03/02/march-speculative-fiction-prompt-moon-child/
On day three, the rats scatter Sheriff Nolan’s remains (and the contents of his pockets) enough so I can reach through the bars and snag the key to the antiquated jail cell.
It’s six-thirty in the evening. I’ve got half an hour before the summer sun sets and darkness drapes our little suburban town. I plan to be home in our apartment by then, barricaded inside with my wife. As I wipe the flesh and rat muck off the sheriff’s Glock and snug it into my waistband, I ignore the thought that’s been hammering my brain. Why hasn’t Tania come to see me in jail? The answer’s obvious, but I ignore it, too. My wife’s dead like all the rest.
I check the landline. Nothing. I don’t bother with Sheriff Nolan’s cell because we lost cell coverage last week as if the grid knew ahead of time. The partially completed paperwork on the sheriff’s desk has my name and offense, Matthew Cohen, 1:05 p.m., DUI. I could tear up the form, but why bother? It’s the truth.
My stomach reminds me I haven’t eaten in over two days. Raiding the sheriff’s desk, I find a box of energy bars which I devour like there’s no tomorrow.
And there might not be.
The first afternoon behind bars as the sky outside my cell window darkened, the probing red orbs appeared. “Light leaches” I called them in my drunken stupor, not realizing the eclipse is what actually stole the light. The orbs made a whistling noise like the electronic sound effects from an old, sci-fi flick. Sheriff Nolan drew his weapon but didn’t even have time to fire before he dropped like a slab of meat to the concrete floor. I scrambled about the cell in search of a weapon, but everything was welded into place. My fists were the only weapons I had.
I laugh now. Bringing fists to an orb fight.
Turns out I didn’t need a weapon. When the orbs traversed my cell, my birthmark—a brown thing shaped like a four leaf clover with a blood-red circle on one leaf, my “angel’s kiss of protection” my grandma used to call it—burned like hell. A freak-ass physics thing? I dunno, but other than the birthmark on my chest, the red lights had no effect on me.
That first night behind bars, I heard screams and sirens well into the A.M. The sheriff’s phone was ringing off the hook, but by then he couldn’t answer it, and sometime during the second day, the phone stopped ringing. Last night, well let’s just hope the quiet night meant people were hiding. Because if they weren’t hiding, they were already dead.
Did I wreck my car, or is it in hock? I can’t remember. I’ll have to hoof it. I swallow the last bite of energy bar and pull the pistol out, the knurled grip biting into my palm. Sure, bullets aren’t any more effective than fists against floating balls of light, but I feel safer with it. I bust out the door at full speed, heading down historic Main Street.
No cars, no noises. The quaint shops and pristine Craftsman homes are as silent as forgotten doll houses.
A corpse lies on the barren asphalt. Like the sheriff, killed but not for food. The body has been baking in the sun, and the poor bastard’s distended belly is about to explode.
I hang a right at Waterview Road. The city across the river is a black silhouette in the evening dusk. The thought doesn’t hit me until I pass old lady Campbell’s house. Why aren’t there any city lights?
My lungs burn, and I realize I’ve been holding my breath. I start panting and pick up speed. The storefronts and housing are denser here. Our apartment is coming up, another block.
Swaths of crimson and violet across the western sky remind me there isn’t much time left. My sneakers slap the pavement. The Glock is heavier than I expected, and my forearm cramps.
Up ahead, a kid walks into the street. A frickin’ kid, barefoot and in his swim trunks. He’s walking mechanical-like, a toy that someone set into motion by pulling a string on his back. It’s that Morton boy, the deaf one. I holler at him like an idiot, but of course he doesn’t hear me. It’s almost night. I can’t leave him out here.
Circling wide so as not to startle the kid, I come alongside and see his face. Wide-eyed, not blinking. He smells a little like chlorine and a lot like nervous sweat. Was he at the pool when the eclipse hit? My God, I only saw the sheriff die. How many deaths did the kid witness?
I kneel, catching my breath and trying to catch his attention, too. I finally do, but it’s not my eyes he looks at. It’s the gun. Put the gun away, Cohen. I motion to the boy that it’s okay and slide the gun in the back of my waist band.
My fingers grasp his hand. It’s cold. He’s in no condition to run, but if we hustle, we can walk the rest of the way to my apartment before the sky turns completely black. That’s when I notice his birthmark. It’s blue against his dark skin, but otherwise like mine, a four leaf clover with a red circle on one leaf.