This is today’s FridayFlashFiction for Chuck Wendig’s blog www.terribleminds.com
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 http://wp.me/p1BAlV-J
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.