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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2215627-Life-in-the-Shadows
by Ned
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Sci-fi · #2215627
When the world as you knew it no longer exist, how do you go on? Contest entry
“Begin your day with a friendly voice”, her Mama always told her. For years, Lauren thought it meant to be around people who were upbeat and exuded a positive attitude. When interviewing applicants at her small, interior design company, she would try to imagine what sort of atmosphere each would create in the office. But it wasn’t long before Lauren realized that no matter how many friendly voices she surrounded herself with, the office wasn’t going to be a pleasant place to work if the boss was a grouch who was quick to assign blame but slow to give due credit. Lauren learned that she was the one who had to set the tone. Her voice decided whether it was going to be a good morning or a tense one. It was she who must be the leader with the friendly voice, the calming influence, the one who kept others feeling positive.

It was a good lesson and it could be all that was helping her keep her sanity in the dark. They had been hiding in the basement of this apartment building for more than a week. Lauren checked all the boards and blankets covering the ground-level window before lighting a fire in the wood stove in the corner. As if to thank her for the unexpected warmth it created, the seven-year-old boy who was curled up on an old mattress opposite the stove, murmured in his sleep. The peaceful look of contentment on his face puzzled Lauren as much as it made her envious of his youthful resilience. Billy’s parents were killed in the first wave of the invasion. Lauren had just barely managed to snatch him by his jacket collar and pull him into a doorway before the Cholkoyin Crawler swept the street, cleansing it of humans with its deadly laser.

The arrival of the Cholkoi began with the destruction of every governmental body and every source of power and water. Every grid went dark, then the sky went dark - the sun blotted out by the alien fleet of warships overhead. The world was in a panic, then it went silent as the Cholkoi began wiping out humanity. Soon, there weren’t enough people left to cause a panic. Amongst the crumbling skyscrapers and burned-out storefronts, only a handful of humans still lived. They existed in the shadows, hiding from the Crawlers, eating what they could scrounge from abandoned homes or catch in handmade traps. In the city, they mostly caught rats. The rats were too small and quick to trigger a response from the Crawlers, and were bolder in a world with nearly no humans. Their abundance was a key to the survival of these previously unrelated people - people who would never even have met in the world before the alien invasion, but were now closer than family.

Even with the alien ships filling the sky and the air thick with the smoke of fires that still raged throughout the city, there was a lifting of the totality of the blackness that told Lauren it was morning. She quickly emptied the two traps that had successfully lured and caught a nocturnal visitor. Only two rats but of decent size. She quickly skinned and deboned them in an effort to conceal the origin of their breakfast as much as possible. She still had a small amount of flour and cornmeal left from the raid on the neighboring buildings. She mixed up a batter that would produce a sort of hot cake that was flat and bland, but it would help fill their bellies. Lauren pushed aside the fear over what she and Billie would do when these supplies were gone. It was a world where everything was about today, how to survive just one more day.

Lauren remembered what her mother had told her about a friendly voice setting the tone for the day. It wasn’t easy to put hope and optimism in her voice these days, but she tried for Billy’s sake. She had to keep hope alive for him.

She called Billy out of his dreams somewhat reluctantly. She hated to disturb that peaceful state of mind and bring him back to the horror of their new reality. But they had to eat and make ready for an excursion out into the city beyond their block. There were other groups of humans still living, and they needed to band together if they were going to find a way to defeat the alien invaders whose death-dealing Crawlers were roaming the streets, their engines rumbling and humming a warning like a mystic rhythm.

Word Count - 760 words

Prompt: Start your poem or story with the following sentence - bold it for tomorrow's judge:

Begin your day with a friendly voice

and end your poem or story with the following sentence - bold it for tomorrow's judge:

...like a mystic rhythm.
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