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A Story by Alice
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They had known nothing but the four walls of their dingy house for seven years. Everything appeared to disappear around them but life managed to go on without the need to leave their house.

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Sweat stuck in thick, dry layers to my skin. The heat was inescapable. My children shriek loudly. I pick up my youngest son Jesse, a toddler, and hold him close to my chest. He kicks and flails as he yelps loudly into the thick heat.

            He has been crying often. Nothing I do helps him anymore. The little food I have to give, he won’t eat. Nor will he sleep or eat. I press the back of my hand to his forehead. His skin burns, I’m not sure if it’s just the heat or if he’s also running a temperature.

            All the crying and restlessness on top of the loss of appetite has me worried that the boy is sick. Although we haven’t left the house since the lockdown started seven years ago, Jesse was bound to fall ill in this climate. Fresh air barely circulates the house; the air conditioner hasn’t worked in years, and a window left slightly ajar does nothing in the furnace that is my house.

I look at the front door as I rock my son back and forth in my arms. The door speaks to me, it moves closer and closer the longer I stare, telling me to open it. I look away. I can’t open it. It’s too dangerous �" it has been to dangerous to open it for the last seven years, since the third global pandemic started.

            ‘I’m so hot mum!’ screams my oldest son, Dillon, tears violently leaving his eyes.

            The children are hysterical, unable to handle the unbearable heat despite never knowing anything different than the four walls they live in.  

            ‘It’s okay boys,’ I say. ‘I’ll run a cold bath. How does that sound?’

            Dillon’s face immediately lights up. He runs down the hallway to the bathroom, the pitter patter of his feet prevalent even through the crying.

            By the time I reach the bathroom Dillon is already stripped of his clothes and awaiting eagerly sat in the bath.

            ‘Are you excited for your bath?’ I ask, unable to stop a small smile from forming.

            ‘I’m SO excited!’

            I put the Jesse on the ground. He immediately plonks himself down on his bottom and continues crying loudly.

            ‘It’s okay, sweetie. It’s okay.’

            I run the bath with the cold tap only. Despite the tap being turned to full strength, the water pours out pathetically. We must be near the end of our limit for the week. I kneel and hover the back of my hand under the tap and move it left and right. The water is warm against my hand, which is to be expected in this heat. I sigh. It’s at least colder than the warm air of the house.

            Once the water has reached a quarter of the way full, I turn the tap off. I strip off my clothes, pick up Jesse and sit in the water with him on my lap. He continues to cry but it becomes softer. The screaming ceases but the tears still leave his eyes. I move the water around with my hands and then scoop it up, pouring it down the torso of my son and getting his warm skin cool.

            ‘Mum,’ says Dillon. ‘Can you tell us about the beach again?’

            ‘Of course, I can. What do you want to know?’

            ‘Hmm, can you tell me about the fishies? And the birds? Oh! What are the waves like?’

            I smile. Thoughts of white sandy beaches and a clear blue paradise cross my mind. I settle back in the bath, cooling down my body. I remember the beaches, and I wonder if they are still there.

#

On Monday I receive the week’s rations. Each week is the same; a piece of meat, four hundred grams of flour, six eggs, one litre of milk, two hundred grams of butter and a sack of potatoes. At the start of lockdown, we received all sorts of food like bacon, chocolate, coffee, strawberries, broccoli and carrots. Every few months the food becomes less whether it’s the quantity of a certain item or completely taking away an item of food.

            Each week the food is delivered at 8am and put through a chute in the front door that lands inside the house to avoid any contact with the outside world. On Monday I cook the meat in the oven and slice it into thing pieces. I can usually make the meat last for four days by freezing the left-over slices until we eat the meat again two days later.

            I sit the children down for tea. Dillon eats the same as me, a slice of meat with a potato and some white sauce, while Jesse eats mash potatoes and with white sauce.

            I cut my Dillon’s meat up for him then begin to eat my own meal. I bring the fork to my mouth and take a bit of the meat. It takes sour, and unlike any other meat I’ve eaten before. It almost takes as if the meat is off, but I’ve never been able to place what kind of meat I’m eating as it doesn’t taste of lamb or beef, and it can’t be pork or chicken.

            We continue eating. It’s not a tasty meal but it’s all we have, and possibly all that we will ever have.

#

The kids sleep soundly in their rooms. The air is still thick with heat pressing down on every inch of my skin. I sit in my recliner chair. The chair creaks as it reclines, the old thing struggling to do as it’s supposed to. The cushion is soft and sinks, desperate to give out. I’m due to update it, but it’s no longer possible to do so.

            The evening news plays on the television on low volume. White noise fades in and out, matching the pixelated image displayed on the screen.

            A woman sits behind a desk and stares straight at me through the screen.

            ‘Fires still rage all through regional areas of Australia with fires surrounding suburban Adelaide. Government officials assure that the fires are under control and that residents are not at risk by staying at home.’

            I my back curves uncomfortably as I let my weight sink into the seat. I peer out the window. The sky is a bright orange tonight.

            ‘Leaving home will only put you at danger.’

            A large growl rips into the silent night. The woman clutches her stomach.

            ‘The fires are the result of global warming. By leaving the house you’ll jeopardise any chances of reducing carbon emissions.’

            Hoarse coughing fills the air. Loud, scratching and deep with force. My heart beats rapidly. I stand and run haphazardly down the dingy hallway until I reach my sons’ room. Jesse’s screams pierce the air. He coughs intermittently between screams. I rush over to him and pick him up. His pyjamas are covered in dark red.

            ‘Mummy what’s happening?’ asks Dillon.

            I hold my son against my chest. My eyes are closed as I rock back and forth.

            ‘Nothing baby,’ I say. ‘It’s all going to be okay.’

#

Eventually his coughing calms down. I sit in bed with my back to the headboard and Dillon curled up and fast asleep on my right. His facial features are soft and angelic. A tear runs down my face watching the boy rest so peacefully.

            Jesse is held close to my heart. After the coughing died down, I gave him a wash, restoring him to appear almost healthy. His breathing is shallow as his face presses into my neck. I know we don’t have long.

#

I dress him in his nicest clothes. Dillon refuses to leave my side despite me telling him to go back to bed.

            ‘Mum, why won’t Jesse wake up?’

            ‘He’s resting, sweetheart.’

#

Dillon sleeps next to me soundly. I brush my hand through his hair. It’s greasy but that’s been the new normal. He’s been asleep for hours while I play with his hair, resting soundly like the world isn’t falling apart around him. I long to be him; young and carefree, unknowing to the complexities of the world.

            I can’t sleep while Jesse lies in his room with the door shut, but I also have nowhere else safe to let him rest.

            The sky burns orange against the closed window. The house is so hot it feels like I’m constantly gasping for air. But opening the window means letting in smoke.

#

I carry Dillon in my arms.

            ‘What’s out there, mummy?’

            I stare at the door. The smoke is thick in the air. I take a deep breath, my body struggling to find oxygen in the furnace.

            ‘I’m not sure, sweetie,’ I say.

            I press my palm onto the doorknob, grabbing it. The white-hot metal burns my hand so I quickly turn the doorknob and pull it towards me. I stare out into the unknown. Dark layers of smoke weave through the streets. Screaming chaos is everywhere.

THE END

© 2020 Alice


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Added on December 29, 2020
Last Updated on December 29, 2020
Tags: dystopian, fiction, political, lock-down, family, home, short story

Author

Alice
Alice

WOODVILLE SOUTH, SA, Australia



About
From a young age I have always loved storytelling. I was first introduced to my love of reading and writing by reading the Harry Potter series as a child. I love investing time in characters and story.. more..