Grey clouds of smoke twisted and curled over immense plains of darkness and cold. There were nothing but sand and smoke to be seen for miles. She began walking - in what direction, she didn’t know. She walked and walked. The smoke thickened and surrounded her. Suddenly, sharp rocks raised themselves from the ground, up to the sky, causing the ground to shake tremendously. In all of the confusion she lost control of her feet, and fell onto the dry and hard plain. When she looked up, she saw nothing but stone.
A tranquil voice filled the air with song. The sound reflected itself among the stonewalls, and made her swift into a dreamy condition, which made all her thoughts and worries disappear into the soft song. As though the voice had noticed her state of mind, and wanted her to be punished, it transformed and became a ruthless screaming; so high she thought her head would explode. It went on until she only could stand a few more second of this intense moaning. And, as suddenly as it had started, it stopped.
She crumpled to a lump of arms and legs on the rough ground – her mind slowly putting itself together. She looked up, and saw Jennifer, her four year old daughter, in a yellow dress with a yellow ribbon in her black, silky hair. Her face was calm with big brown eyes staring into the air. A breeze brought a cloud of smoke between them, and when it passed, Jennifer had disappeared.
“Mummy.” Jennifer’s tender voice echoed coldly from the mountains. “Mummy.” It seemed abnormal, with a doll-like, hollow tone. Fear started to develop in her chest, even though she knew it was her beloved child’s voice calling for her. “Mummy!” This time, the voice called loud and clear, desperately, as if she was in danger. There was no sign of her anywhere. She rotated, and ran towards a mountainside, hitting and scratching the cold stone. Nothing happened. “Help!” Jennifer’s begging voice was only a whisper now, as if the death ate itself into her tiny bones. She started crying. No sound came from her mouth. She tried to scream, but nothing happened. The helplessness in her heart grew stronger and stronger, until she thought it would burst. And in the second she considered to throw herself against the rocks, she felt a child’s hand grab hers, swinging it back and forwards. She looked down and saw the most horrible sight; Jennifer’s dress was stained in blood from open wounds in her arms and legs, her skin was pale as marble, her hair was gone, and it looked like she had been eaten up from the inside. The face had nothing but bones underneath, which made her eyes look like they were twice the size they originally were. She stood there as frozen. The look of her little child looking like this, made her feel like her task in life was torn to pieces, like she never again could call herself a mother, like a monster. Her eyes filled themselves with tears. She blinked to clear her sight, and when she opened them again, she found herself lying in her bed with her arms folded tightly around her daughter.
A wave of relief streamed through her, a loud sigh escaped her lips, and tears flowed down her bony face. Two weeks had passed since her husband had spoken to her about the radiation sickness which would ravage the country and annihilate them all. It all felt so surreal. She had watched him leave through her kitchen window, believing nothing was really going to happen. But as the days went by, the numbers of those who had been infected grew longer.
How could he? Her children asked her day by day why they couldn’t go out and play with the other kids and why they weren’t allowed to walk outside. Every time she refused them to do any normal thing amongst other people, she felt more and more blue as the seconds ticked on by. And he’d known what was going to happen, knew death would reach them; and still he’d left.
Neighbours and other friends was briefly taken away from them.
The dilemma hung upon her shoulders as a heavy cloak of tin. In that dream – when fear grasped her – she’d felt somewhat free to, not much, but like a hidden layer of relief. If she just got this over with, and (it was hard just to think the word) killed her daughter, would they finally reach paradise and happiness? Or if not, would she be doomed to go to hell for the sin she had done? How could she possibly figure out what to do?
Outside the rain poured down, making soothing sounds through the gutter. Where the moon was supposed to appear, there was now a faint area of light, and gloomy clouds drifted across the rainy sky, rumbling as they went. Jennifer sighed wearily next to her, glimpsed with her eyes and sat up. “Mum. Why aren’t you asleep? I dreamed about a bananaturtle, it was bad. Bad bananaturtle…it stepped on me…” Then she fell asleep once again. Mary pulled back a few hairs from her daughters face and smiled. Her hair smelled mildly of shampoo. She had roses in her cheeks. Her skin was soft as velvet and her features so innocent. How can I go through with this? I can’t…can’t! She already looks like a spectre to me… It all seemed so hopeless.
Then she came to think about the dream - or rather nightmare. Could it mean something? Was it a sign for her to do something about this situation? Maybe she should run. Somewhere…somewhere they might would be able to escape the disease. Just off the cut. If they took all the money they could scrape together, they perhaps had enough to get out of the country and rent a car or something. But it wouldn’t last in the length. And what about Peter? Screw Peter! He was the one who’d left them. But she knew deep inside they had as much chance to survive, as finding a needle in a haystack. There must be a reason for this, she thought, God has a plan for every single one of us.
She felt a sudden coercion to move. So she imperceptibly got up and put on her bathrobes, then she walked across the room towards the window. When she opened it, a wave of rain and wind hit her, making her robes curl and wind. But she didn’t care. What did anything care anymore? All she had left to care about was how she and Jennifer should die. She kept changing her mind about weather to flee or stay. Make an effort or not.
What a dismal world we live in. An we really can’t blame anyone but ourselves. Of course we’ve done our best to make it a better place, installing internet so we can spare time, improving the harassment of racism, spending money on electric stuff we ”need”. The world has turned out a lot more better, yet so dark and evil. We’ve become robots. Having machines to do our jobs, jobs people have done for centuries without further complaining. All that’s in our heads is power. All we can think about is ourselves, what’s best for me. No wonder it turned out to end like this.
For a brief minute, she began to imagine how the world would end, how everything just stopped existing. The moon would turn black, the stars burn into small dots of ash, the rain turn to rocks, the warmth would turn bitterly cold, the colours fade to grey and the hope dwindle away. So sad.
A white pigeon fought its way through the harsh rain, obviously fighting for life and death, but still not giving in. This was the first time Mary seriously thought of the bravery of a bird. She couldn’t keep her eyes off of it. Maybe this is a sign too…If this bird survives, I will try my best to fulfil my idea of escaping the disease.
After some minutes, the rain gradually stopped, and the bird flew happily on. Mary stood there, paralysed. So there still is hope. I will do this. I will gather money, and believe - we will survive.
The rain had stopped now, but the icing wind kept bounding through her window; so she closed it and headed down to the kitchen to get a glass of water. The wooden floor creaked underneath her feet as she carefully crept downstairs. Her shadow grew longer and thinner the nearer she came the moonlight shining in from the kitchen windows. Weird. I never thought of the shadow as a part of me. When people die, they still have the shadow brought with them to the grave. But once you’re reunited with the earth, it’s gone.
She looked around in the kitchen; at the large sliding doors made of glass and the wooden porch outside, at the corner where she and Jennifer used to bake cookies together, and at the dining table where they all ate breakfast with cheerful smiles on their faces. All of this would soon be gone. The confident resolution she’d gained , soon was replaced by even more sadness and melancholy. She turned on the water, and watched. People in continents as Africa and Asia dies every second from want of water. It’s unfair how some people are born into rich families, and grow up with the money in their laps, instead of working to earn it – to deserve it. If everyone just cared about the ones who must suffer because we demand a welfare state, I’m sure we could save millions of people. This sickness must be a blessing for those who’ve suffered every day since the day the were brought to life.
She turned off the water – it only made her feel cruel to drink it – and instead turned on the radio on the kitchen unit. A stiff and impartial voice spoke; “…and because of the widespread radiation sickness in the Northern Hemisphere, we must announce that there are no margins, I repeat no margins, to survive. We’re all in despair, and feel sorry for those who must be brought to piece by this…” She turned off the radio with a tug, and stared at it. No! It cannot be! How can innocent people be punished for something they haven’t been a part of?! Oh God…we really are going to die. Is this because nobody helps as much as they can? Or because people simply has become to selfish and greedy? I admit the world has developed to become somewhat unfair and dominated by ones status. And I can’t imagine that people who only bear goodness in their hearts suffer for this. So…I suppose we’ll go to heaven? At least I…I hope so…
In that moment a sort of hazy veil covered her eyes, and when it disappeared, she didn’t feel like herself. She didn’t feel like crying or moaning any more. She knew misery was going to overthrow the feelings of hope and joy no matter how hard she’d try to stay strong. She knew death was near.
Her feet carried her back to her bedroom, where she found Jennifer still asleep in her cute night robes with lace on. Her mind wouldn’t react upon the tens atmosphere growing in the room. A decision had to be made, and she would be the one to save them from pain. Jennifer was happy at this moment – unknown about the fatal faith which awaited her.
In her bedside table, she found the small, red box Peter had given her, slowly opened it, and took one of the yellow capsules between her thumb and her forefinger. She laid it in her mouth, careful not to chew it, and put the other one between Jennifer’s teeth. Her hands found their way to her beloved daughters jaws. She pushed them together, and felt the capsule break. She clenched her teeth, the tiny doze of poison spread itself, and she felt how the warmth left their bodies.