1. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Manchester, England

    Winner Wicked Short Story Contest 78: Eating Disorder

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Nov 8, 2010.

    It was a late hot summer night when the grasshopper found its way into Mike’s window. It hopped aimlessly around the room, its sleeping occupants oblivious to its presence. At one point, it landed on Mike’s face, before hopping off out through the open door and into the house proper.

    Mike waved his hand a bit to shoo away the nuisance, and went back to sleep, not even remembering the episode when he woke up later that morning. He washed his face, brushed his teeth, and stormed off to work after kissing his sleeping wife on the cheek.

    An hour later Penny, Mike’s wife, woke up. She briefly placed her hand on her round belly, feeling the 8 month old fetus moving inside, before getting up and fixing herself some breakfast. On the way back from the kitchen she briefly stopped next to the vase adorning the living room. Only yesterday it contained five splendid white roses, perfectly healthy and spreading a pleasant aroma, but now she frowned as she observed the two dried out husks that remained of them.

    “Strange” she muttered, took a couple of minutes to change the water in the vase, and went on to watch Friends reruns.

    In the meantime, Mike was hopelessly trying to concentrate as his thoughts were interrupted for the umpteenth time. His desk was littered with notes relating to the contract he was supposed to draft for a certain corporation. But every time he got into a proper work rhythm, he was interrupted by the loud police and ambulance sirens blaring outside his office.

    Eventually he just surrendered to the inevitable. He stopped his work and stared at the ceiling, dwelling on various things, such as the approaching birth of his daughter, and how they were going to move to a bigger house. His thoughts wandered from these topics as yet another siren wailed outside, and he started to wonder what the hell was going on. It seemed like the whole police and fire departments were rushing off somewhere in a great deal of hurry.

    At that point there was a knock at the door, and Mike’s colleague Steve poked his head into the office.

    “Mike, come here! You’ve got to see this!”

    As Mike was standing up to follow Steve, Penny had just stepped outside the front door. She headed for the folding plastic chair waiting for her in the yard, with a glass of orange juice in hand, but then suddenly stopped. The air was hot and humid, as befitting the place this time of year, but there was a dark, ominous cloud in the distance, hovering quite low above the ground.

    She squinted, but couldn’t see a lot of details, although the cloud seemed somewhat strange. She decided to trust her intuition and turned around. After she entered the house, she carefully locked the door behind her.

    She still needed to relax though, and if she wasn’t going to sit in the sun, she intended to do it by other means. And what could be more relaxing than a nice bath?

    As she was bathing herself, her husband was racing down the streets back for the house, running a couple of red lights in the process. He squeezed everything out of the Malibu as he reached the highway. Traffic was almost nonexistent in his lane except for emergency services, while to his left and over the barrier the road was packed full with vehicles slowly inching their way in the opposite direction.

    Penny just finished drying herself when Mike unlocked the door and burst into the living room, slamming the door shut behind him and locking it again.

    “Hi honey!” she smiled at him, but he did not respond.

    “No time… there’s no time…” he kept muttering as he ran frantically for the door leading to the basement.

    “Honey?” Penny was dumbfounded by his behavior. “What are you doing?”

    He emerged from the basement with several wooden boards under his arm. They were part of an old closet they disassembled and were intending to throw away, Penny knew. In the other hand he was holding a bag. He reached a window, lowered the boards and opened the bag, which turned out to contain a hammer and a jar full of nails.

    Now Penny’s heart began to sink.

    “Would you talk to me, God damn it!?” she shouted. She felt the baby react to her altered emotional state, kicking and moving uneasily in the womb.

    He pointed to the other window as he started to board up the one near him.

    She approached, and immediately a sense of wrongness at the scene outside enveloped her. Everything was lightly shaded, and she remembered the strange cloud she saw earlier. She couldn’t see it from this angle though.

    “Turn on the news, damn it!” her husband muttered as he finished boarding up the window, and moved on for the other one.

    She did as he told her, a feeling of dread building up inside.

    The cloud was plastered all over the news, surrounded by helicopters which were spraying something into it. It extended all the way to the ground, and flashes of red light marked the many fire trucks at its foot.

    The camera zoomed in, and under magnification the cloud dissolved into millions of tiny dots, vibrating madly and shifting about.

    Suddenly, there was a light tap at the window. She turned her head and managed to briefly glimpse something green and oblong pressing against the glass before her husband placed the final board and obscured it from view.

    The TV now showed pictures of a gray wasteland. It took Penny more than a minute to grasp that these were images of the countryside not far away, formerly brimming with green foliage and bush, it was now utterly dead and barren.

    “There’s enough food to last us up to three days” she heard Mike’s voice from the kitchen. It seemed muffled and far away. She realized her mouth was gaping open, and she felt the baby kicking around more violently than ever as she started to whimper quietly.

    Mike was by her side in a second, trying to talk her through the panic attack. The increasing tapping sounds from the boarded up windows didn’t help.

    Suddenly, something small streaked through the room.

    “I’ll be right back honey!” he said, helped her lie down on the couch and vanished. She raised her head to see him taping up their bedroom door, methodically closing the gaps between the door and the floor and ceiling.

    At that exact moment, her water broke…

    A day later she was breast feeding her newly born baby girl. Her husband, thankfully, helped her in her greatest hour of need. Not that he was sure what he was doing, his knowledge was based on books and TV shows, but it worked. After some excruciating pain, they were mother and father to a seemingly healthy baby, even though she was born two weeks prematurely. But under what circumstances?

    Two days of food remained. Steve called earlier on the phone and told them not to go outside.

    “You are in no physical danger unless you’re made of plant material” he chuckled. “But these things have a nasty habit of crawling into your ears and nose, and there are plenty of looters and criminals around”.

    “Thanks Steve”, Mike replied. According to the news reports they had to endure one more day of the onslaught, and they would be free.

    But a day later, the sounds outside the house did not stop. And a day after that, when they ate the last pancake remaining in the fridge, and with no end in sight, Mike was beginning to weight his options.

    “The news say this is the largest swarm recorded in written human history” he told his wife. “It already paralyzed about a quarter of the States, and it keeps growing as more swarms join in”.

    “What the hell could have caused something like this?”

    Mike shrugged. “Who knows? I don’t care. We are out of food now, and we have to live somehow. For her sake” he pointed to his three day old daughter.

    Hours later, their stomachs were churning. Somehow sensing their desperation, their daughter, now named Hope, was crying constantly and slowly but surely driving her hungry parents mad.

    Mike stood up, and turned off the news. They were not very encouraging. Their enemy proved to be highly resistant to pesticides, and global economy was teetering on the verge of collapse in the wake of the American one. Crops, forests, everything and anything flora all across the continent were gone, and because the vast majority of people were sitting tight somewhere they thought of as safe and didn’t go to work, almost all industries were paralyzed, the market grinding to a halt, Wall Street as eerie and deserted (and swarmed) as other places nationwide.

    The crops are gone. The economy is shredded apart. Soon enough, the whole of America, possibly Europe and other places as well, would starve.

    Mike tightened his fists. They would not die in this place. His daughter has to grow up, to experience life. Food wasn’t really scarce. It was abundant all around, if one were just to start thinking outside the box.

    Slowly but surely, he began to remove the sticky tape from the bedroom door.

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