The Last Goodbye

This is today’s FridayFlashFiction for Chuck Wendig’s blog

He said “I want the world to end, or be in the middle of ending in a way we’ve never seen before. The characters are to say “Whoa! We didn’t see that coming.”

The Last Goodbye    Louise Sorensen July15, 2011      shortlink

It started a year ago; women in countries where they were not valued began dying. In more than the usual numbers. Over six months, many were seen to hesitate in their duties, think for a moment, and drop down dead. At first the world couldn’t believe these stories; we all thought that they were a cover up for murders in countries where the woman were disposable. The death count rose until it hit half a billion. Then it eased off. The economies in those countries faltered, recovered for a few months, then began to collapse, as the many little bricks that had been holding them up them were gone.

We finally heard these deaths attributed to a sect called The Cult of Woman; a group that advocated death as a means of protest, change and peace.
“That‘ll never catch on,” my husband said one morning as he drank his coffee and watched CNN. Despite the many deaths, I agreed. But my faith in logic was shattered with a phone call.

“Kayley‘s dead,” said the voice on the phone. I couldn‘t believe my ears, and fell onto the nearest kitchen chair. The last time I had seen our daughter Kayley, she had been the most beautiful warm living creature on this earth.

“Who is this?”

“It‘s me… Justin,” said the voice. I didn’t recognize our son-in-law, with all the sobbing and the ringing in my ears.

“How?” I said. “Have you called the police?”

“No, I… she just… She saw the news about The Cult of Woman last night. That’s all it was. I thought she was happy. She said that it all made sense… and she didn’t wake up this morning… didn’t even say Goodbye…” The rest of what he said is a blur. That night on the news we saw that the world was awash in dead women.

My husband turned to me and said, “How is it that you’re still here, then?”

I’ve never been able to understand him very well, and I know he was grieving for his little girl, but that was another arrow of many piercing my heart. I kept silent.

The next item of news was delivered by the weather man; the female newscaster being no longer with us.

“Young men around the world have started following the Cult,” he said, his voice shaky and full of tears. I had been wondering what men would do when the last woman died. Now there would be no problem.

After that we stopped watching the news. Television stations showed endless marathons of old movies, where you could see healthy, happy women and the way the world used to be.

My husband went quiet. Ran longer than usual. Came in heaving for breath with the sweat pouring off of him. Weeded a vegetable garden already free of weeds. Tinkered with the lawnmower. I set food down in front of him and we watched old movies, swallowing without tasting.

As we had had difficulty sleeping since the trouble began, I had got in a large supply of sleeping pills, and we drugged ourselves to sleep each night. A week after our daughter died, I woke up to find myself alone in bed in the dark. I bolted up, grabbed my robe, and wrestled it on as I galloped down the stairs. The kitchen, the living room, the bathroom, were all empty and dark. Finally I found him on the porch, sitting in his rocking chair. He had no pulse; only forty four years old, and dead as a grave stone.

There were no neighbours visible on our quiet little street that morning. No lights showed in any of the neat little brick houses. The only sign of civilization was the glow of the street lights.

Daylight came, the street lights switched off, and still no one emerged from their houses. I couldn‘t bear the sight of him sitting there like he was having a nap, dark head bowed in peace. What had gotten into my strong athletic man? Why did he give up his runs and his skis and his rough kisses? Though there were times I had hated him, most of the time I had loved him. Now all I could do was miss him.

I leaned down and smelled his hair. Spice and musk. He had always had the most beautiful hair. I smoothed it with my fingers; he was stiff and unmoving. I pushed his chair a few inches at a time to the farthest corner of the porch where it was shady, and covered him with a blanket. Made myself a pot of tea and sat with him as the day flowed by.

The birds still sang. The sun was shining. Pale climbing roses released their scent in the hot afternoon. Nearby, I could hear the barking of dogs that had missed their breakfast. I thought of going to each house and releasing them. But how many houses are there in the world? I couldn‘t release them all. I reached out my hand to a stray blackberry cane that had escaped the bounds of the garden, picked a dark berry and put it into my mouth. Rolled the tart flesh and seeds around on my tongue. And thought about the Cult of Woman. It still makes no sense to me.

“How is it that you‘re still here, then?” echoes in my mind. Yet last night he had held me close and loved me so well.

The dogs have all gone quiet. This is the story, for anyone left to read. It is not the way I pictured it would be. I am going to sit on the porch, and listen to the bird songs as they fade into the night.

About louisesor

As I say in my twitter profile @louise3anne "I am a part of all that I have met..." from one of my favourite poems, 'Ulysses' by Tennyson.I believe that we are ALL a part of all that we have met. You can also find me on FaceBook.
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18 Responses to The Last Goodbye

  1. AJ Hayes says:

    Softly, softly, in the very back of my mind I heard Prufrock whispering, “This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends, This is the way the world ends: not with a bang, but a whimper.” Chills, you gave me, down my back and cold, in my heart. Superior piece.

  2. oldestgenxer says:

    Powerful stuff. You feel it as a distant phenomenon of interest…until it starts to hit home. Apocalypses—apocalypti?–are always personal.

  3. Blot says:

    Coming from a country where female infanticide is rampant, this story really hit home. I must admit the part about why the narrator didn’t drop went over my head, though, but I usually miss these kind of subtleties. 😀

    But the ending – from the point the narrator is alone, oh you’ve just wonderfully captured those moments. Much heart melting happening.

    • louisesor says:

      As a female, I am so sad when I think of how females are treated throughout the world.
      Females are the other half of males. Exactly the same, only a little different.
      Imagine yourself as one.
      I think the narrator didn’t drop b/c she had a story to tell.
      Part of it was ‘that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’
      Thank you for your warm insights : )

  4. tara tyler says:

    twilight zoney!
    great stuff!

  5. Jo Eberhardt says:

    Wow. This is breautiful.

  6. Jo Eberhardt says:

    Wow. This is beautiful.

  7. Lesann says:

    I love the aching sense of solitude in this – the questioning of why she (the narrator) is still there. I wouldn’t get it (the cult) either…and that’s rather cleverly done. I think being a survivor would be desperately difficult.

    • louisesor says:

      Thank you!
      I brought the memories of the Ice Storm into play. I remember staying awake the first three days on adreniline rush alone.
      We had to keep the fires going 24/7 to keep the house from freezing.
      Living in the country, 1000 feet from either neighbour, I remember looking out the window at the snow that had iced over the land and feeling like civilization might not be out there any more.
      They say sometimes in disasters that the dead are the lucky ones.

  8. That’s a powerful story. Aching, too.

  9. CMStewart says:

    Reminds me of the femicide going on in many parts of the world. They create their own slow apocalypse. You portrayed the confusion very well.

  10. Wow, creeeeeeeeeeeeeepy!! Shouldn’t have read this before bed!!!!! What a unique idea! Good job.

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