Sunday, August 18, 2013

After the Ending by Lindsey Pogue




Cringing, I glared at the stinging, red paper cut on the tip of my index finger and muttered, “Damn hand sanitizer.” I’d always been a fan of good old-fashioned soap and water, and I was irked that my dissertation advisor had forced the slimy, astringent goop into my hands when I’d left his office.

Unfortunately, the compulsory germ-killing reminded me of Callie, my pathetically sick roommate. I’d driven her to the campus clinic first thing that morning. She’d been sitting on our couch in pajama bottoms and a purple pea coat, mumbling, “I’m going to the doctor right now…just give me a second…,” and staring at the floor. I’d immediately hustled her out to the car and zipped her to the doctor.

“It’s just a bad case of the flu, I’m sure,” the doctor had claimed, barely perceptible worry tightening her eyes.

Callie’s ashen coloring had been troubling, but not as much as the doctor’s instruction to take her to the hospital if her condition worsened…like the other sick students…dozens of them. I couldn’t believe a flu outbreak was forcing so many healthy people into the hospital. It wasn’t like we lived in a third world country or something.

The handful of students missing from my morning study group only intensified my concern—a handful is a lot when there are only eleven students to begin with. As I cleared the last crosswalk on the way back home, being careful to avoid the puddles left by the morning rain, I wondered if the outbreak would end up being as deadly as the Spanish flu was nearly a century ago.

I shook my head, dispelling my unusually grim thoughts. It’s just the flu, I told myself for the hundredth time. She’ll be fine. They all will.

As I entered my turn-of-the-century brick apartment building, I distracted myself with thoughts of how incongruous the classy exterior was with the 1980s-remodeled interior. The décor was tragic—pastel and gold foil abstract art hung on the walls, and the carpet was a tacky combination of mauve, coral pink, and faded turquoise…and that was just the beginning. The apartments themselves included worn blue carpet—no doubt covering handsome hardwood—stained linoleum, and appliances with chipped plastic. Such a waste…this place could be exquisite. But, at least the rent’s low…

I walked to my ground floor apartment, unlocked the door, and shifted my computer bag to brace myself for the impending “happy Jack attack.” Except when I opened the door, it didn’t come.

“Jack?” I called out, curious.

Following his whimpered response, I found the 120-pound, adolescent German Shepherd staring forlornly at Callie’s closed bedroom door.

“Hey, Sweet Boy,” I said, crouching down to scratch his shoulders and to let him sniffle my neck. “She probably just wants to sleep. Want a treat?

Jack wagged his way into the kitchen while I quickly peeked into my roommate’s bedroom. Inside, Callie snored softly as she slept. She’s fine.

After rewarding Jack’s amazing abilities to sit (“sit”), shake hands (“nice to meet you”), and play dead (“bang”), I plopped down on my bed and opened my laptop. Jack hopped up and settled in next to me, causing a bed-quake.

Cam, my adorable boyfriend, wouldn’t get home from work for another half hour. Rubbing Jack’s velvety ear, I decided to write a nice long email to my best friend, Zoe—she hadn’t answered when I’d called during my walk home nor had she responded to my texts. The woman worked like crazy, and we hadn’t chatted in days. Besides, writing to her would kill time and help me avoid doing anything productive on my birthday. Genius.

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Genre – Science Fiction

Rating – R

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