Out of Our Misery (flash fiction)

Here’s a piece of flash fiction about a post-apocalyptic world and not giving up hope. It’s about 800 words and has an estimated reading time of 3 minutes. Let me know what you think!

Sarah needed to find food and shelter. She was also searching for Thaddeus. His chances of being alive were very slim, but she was always the type of person to take chances.

That’s why she was there in the wreckage of the place that used to be called Philadelphia. The radiation was enough to probably kill her; she knew that. She’d been in the disaster area for nearly a week and had only seen a handful of people.

Elijah was one of them.

“This can’t go on much longer,” he said.

The sun had been partially blotted out because of the cloud of dust and chemicals that hung in the sky. They’d been searching in the Southern part of the city for a few days; everything was quiet and dark. But it wasn’t pitch-black. It was more like a gray-reddish hazy light that bathed everything in a sickening glow.

“Just one more day,” Sarah said. “I realize how pointless this is. And, shit, nothing is recognizable here anymore. These maps aren’t worth anything.”

Elijah was a survivor of the blast, one of the very few. He’d managed to get down to his basement. The radiation hadn’t killed him yet, but it would eventually. It would kill Sarah now, too. This is why her search was basically a suicide mission of someone so deep in grief she didn’t care.

“What’s that sound?” Elijah asked.

In a big pile of debris, something was moving. Without any warning, Sarah sprinted over with her flashlight, dropping her backpack. Elijah was so weak and malnourished that he could do nothing to stop her. So instead, he weakly watched on.

“Hello?” Sarah yelled as she approached. “Are you okay?”

She was hoping for a miracle, caught in that frenzied early grief where everything is a bit unreal. What she found moving underneath the pile was not what she was expecting. Sarah removed the pile of rubble and saw the bleeding, whimpering German Shepherd. Tears were in the dog’s eyes; it could hardly move, seeming to have some broken bones.

Elijah fell to his knees from weakness and began to moan. “Put the thing out of its misery,” he said. “Take the gun and kill it. Then kill me. Please.”

Sarah felt the hunger pangs in her stomach and considered Elijah’s desperate plea for a few moments. The German Shepherd appeared half-dead, so Elijah had a point. None of them would survive much longer.

“No,” Sarah replied. “I can’t. I can’t take a life.”

“We’re dead already,” Elijah said.

Only God can decide that. I can’t – I won’t.”

Elijah, who had seemed so weak just moments before, exploded in anger. He sprang toward Sarah and wrestled her to the dusty ground. “Give me the gun! End this nonsense!” Sarah was not very strong, but strong enough to fight him off. Still, Elijah managed to rip the gun from the holster on her hip. He grabbed it and shot accidentally, hitting Sarah in the upper thigh. She felt an intense jolt of pain, crumbling into a ball with a primal cry.

The dog barked feebly. Elijah stepped over it and fired a shot into its head, stopping the barking. Then, he turned the gun on himself. “Don’t!” Sarah yelled through her clenched teeth. “Elijah, please!”

It was too late. He put the handgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger, causing the back of his head to explode with brains and blood. His corpse crumbled and, suddenly, after so much noise and commotion, there was an eerie silence punctuated only by Sarah’s crying. The light in the hazy red, radioactive sky dimmed; it would be nightfall soon. The wind kicked dust in her eyes, mixing with the salty tears and snot dripping from her nose.

Sarah could hardly walk, as it was clear the gunshot wound had caused massive trauma to her upper right leg. The blood poured out, and she tried to stop the outflow by taking off her shirt and pressing it into the wound. She already felt weak from the loss of blood.

Incredibly, even to her, she got back on her feet, collected the rations Elijah had been holding and trudged on down the street. Sarah felt some duty to continue the journey, though she didn’t know why. Everything seemed hopeless, but she was driven by some blind life force. She knew she’d probably be dead within a few hours, and she could quickly end it now with a shot to the skull. But something wouldn’t let her. Something compelled her to keep going. Whatever that something was, she prayed to it as she hobbled down the street, deeper into the flattened landscape of the destroyed city.

The End

(Photo by Artur Kornakov on Unsplash)

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