Sarah Jane Justice
"The Little Things" - Post-Apocalyptic Flash Fiction
Every now and then, I have an idea that I can't shake. I'm sure it happens to every writer at some point. Today, I decided to write down a post-apocalyptic scene that kept playing back in my head. Sometimes, we need to let ourselves mourn for the little things, regardless of what else might be lost.
The Little Things
It began with the cracking whip sound of breaking sky. Clouds tore apart in furious reds and yellows, while the horizon split into fading dust. There were those who had time left to scream, and those who fell with their mouths still open. All too quickly, the Earth was quiet.
Ollie had spent too long staring at the empty landscape, and he didn’t want to admit that it had become easier over time. It seemed wrong to know what was lost, and to go on living a single moment without mourning.
‘It’s so dumb,’ he muttered, ‘But you know what I keep thinking about?’
Aurora looked up, her shoulders twitching as if she had forgotten anyone else was there. She answered by facing him, a silent invitation for Ollie to tell his story. Ollie sighed, already embarrassed to share the thought that wouldn’t leave him.
‘Before it happened,’ he gestured to the world around them, ‘There was this game. It hadn’t been released yet, and I was so pumped to play it. I followed all the promo, all the hype. It looked perfect. I was on the edge of my seat.’
Aurora nodded, turning her eyes back to the barren land that stretched ahead of them. From the side of her face, Ollie could see the bittersweet smile of understanding.
‘I always had this rule,’ he blinked through the dust. ‘Just one that I set for myself. Never pre-order a game. Wait for it. I’d heard too many stories of disappointment.’
‘You pre-ordered it, didn’t you?’ Aurora’s voice cracked a little in the dry air.
‘I did,’ Ollie nodded. ‘The one time.’
He let out a huff of air, ignoring the way it stung his throat. Amusement was still uncomfortable, but for a moment, he allowed himself to appreciate the irony.
‘I’d give anything to play it,’ he shook his head. ‘It’s a feeling that kinda lingers under everything else. I was waiting for so long. On the edge of my seat.’
‘I get it,’ Aurora’s smile became more visible as she reassured him. ‘For me, it was a show I’d been watching. I binged the first few seasons way too fast, then slowed down when I realised how much I was enjoying it. I decided to savour it, knowing that it would be over sooner if I didn’t.’
Despite his own hesitation, Ollie laughed for the first time in an uncounted number of days.
‘I was so close,’ Aurora closed her eyes. ‘Three episodes left. I was enjoying them one at a time. Making a night out of each one.’
‘And now they’re gone,’ Ollie filled in the gaps. Aurora nodded, smiling through the sadness in her eyes.
‘I don’t know,’ she sighed. ‘We’ve spent so long mourning for everything that was lost. We can mourn for the stuff that never got to happen, right? Even those stupid, trivial little things.’
Ollie took a deep breath as Aurora’s words landed in his head. In the midst of such a painful sentiment, there was an underlying sense of relief that he hadn’t expected. He stood up, rubbing his eyes to avoid getting caught in a view he could have painted from memory.
‘I don’t know,’ he frowned. ‘It feels wrong. To make myself feel any better just for saying that out loud. It makes me feel…’
‘Like a traitor. I know,’ Aurora finished the thought on Ollie’s behalf. ‘What else can we do, though?’
She stretched before climbing to her feet, still staring into the rubble and dust that faced them. With his eyes aimed at the ground, Ollie waited.
‘OK,’ Aurora clapped the dust from her hands as she eventually turned around. ‘Let’s keep moving.’