#187 Extinguished

by Jessica Alden

Stella dropped her match into the bucket of yellowed cigarette water—hiss. A tendril of black smoke curled over the lip.

Her boys played at the edge of the golden hayfield beneath a sky grayed by ash clouds. The boys were bone-thin already, but the brown of the sun still lingered on their skin. Even that memento would quickly fade under the oppression of perpetual dusk. For now, the boys were carefree, but how long would they remain oblivious?

One deep drag. Two.

Exhale.

She could hear the reverberating basso of a helicopter far off. It wouldn’t find her boys out here. Later, when the sweeps began, they would have to seek cover, but Stella had already dug a furrow at the base of the forest. She picked at the dirt still lodged under her fingernails.

Stella puffed her cigarette until ash burned her fingers. Relief was not to be squandered. When there was none left, she tossed the filter into the bucket and watched it grow waterlogged.

Then she struck another match. She envisioned the flame sweeping across the hay field, red consuming everything. Again.

Not now. Maybe when the boys were older. Maybe when it would be a gift, when it would end their suffering. Not now when it was only she who suffered.

Instead, she held the flame to the end of another cigarette, and then watched over the glowing tip as her boys chased locusts and reveled in the newness of freedom.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...
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JRVogt said...

Has a good post-apocalyptic feel.

Shona Snowden said...

Nice world-building.

Tricia S. said...

Great images, especially the first two sentences. I feel true sorrow for this character.