The Shopping List

I’ve still got her last note. Stupid really, keeping it all this time, it’s nothing more than a glorified shopping list but I can’t bring myself to let it go.

Don’t forget to pick up some milk and bread! You know what happens when I don’t get my morning cup of tea! 

xxx

I don’t know how I managed to hold onto it in all the confusion but somehow it survived, tucked out of sight in my old, beaten up leather wallet. I hate the fact that I can remember snatching the note up from the kitchen sideboard, the morning winter sun bouncing off the cold marble surface, but I can’t remember the sound of her voice anymore.

I shift underneath my blanket, it’s so full of holes I can feel a draft coming through it like wispy fingers; it’s a good thing it’s a warm night. My wallet is open in my lap, limply hanging across my thighs, bedraggled and worn out as if it’s run a marathon. I know how that feels. My wife’s face stares up at me, grubby around the edges and fading slightly with age and exposure to the elements. She’s got a brown tint that she never had before, marring her perfect pale skin and wavy blonde hair. Only her green eyes remained solid, colourful and piercing through the grime. Alysa, always perfect.

Our last day was so extraordinary, dull and average. Our screaming bundle of terror had woken us up at least 5 times that night, teething. I’d got a deep, gnawing pit of irritation starting up in the pit of my stomach as I sat at the breakfast bar watching Alysa shake a formula bottle agonisingly slowly, fatigue making her weak.

I spooned slow mouthful after mouthful of soggy, tasteless cereal into my mouth. The mush of bran squealching and wriggling across my tongue like a hoard of slugs. I swallowed the last bite with difficulty and offered my girl a watery smile.

“You don’t suppose they do refunds on these things, do they?” She said, jiggling the whimpering lump of snot and dribble on her hip.

“I think we’re way past the 30 day trial period.” I run a hand across my face and pull at my beard in frustration. My daughter’s chewing on Alysa’s hair, extra gummy, extra dribbly, making little snuffling noises whilst she does it. I should have got a dog instead.

“Damn. I guess we’re stuck with it now then.” She teases, kissing our girl on her sticky forehead. My smile reaches my tired eyes and the fatigue lifts from me a little, they look so perfect standing in the morning light; they were made this way, just for me.

Before I can lay a hand on my car keys and work file the TV blurts out a warning that demands my attention.

We are interrupting your scheduled programing to bring you this special news bulletin. An outbreak of a new virus has caused chaos across the north of the UK this afternoon. The highly contagious disease has symptoms similar to the norovirus and is spread in much the same way. 

Alysa isn’t really listening, still cooing over our girl; I lean over and turn up the volume. My wife comes over to stand next to me, even the baby is quiet as a pretty, young newsreader steps into view, her chocolate hair running helter, skelter under the bright red umbrella she was holding up against the wind and rain.

The Sheffield Teaching Hospital has been the hardest hit. Huge numbers of patients have been coming through thick and fast since the early hours of this morning. Staff here are overwhelmed. It’s been suggested that they currently have no working cure for this violent strain of the virus.

Alysa and I glanced at each other; a tiny frown appeared between her eyes. A haggard looking male nurse slid in from the side, he had dark circles under his eyes and something I couldn’t quite make out splattered across his scrubs.

We urge the public to stay indoors unless absolutely necessary. The norovirus is highly contagious and we want to minimise the infection field as much as possible. Symptoms you should be on the look out for are: a raised temperature, headaches, stomach cramps, aching limbs, sickness and seizure. If you feel unwell or think you may have contracted the virus, please, please do not leave the house and call the emergency services immediately. 

Within two weeks, 1.75 billion were dead worldwide. The dehydration hit thick and fast and no matter what the doctors seemed to do they just couldn’t replace the fluids the sick lost before they succumbed to death.  Before long bodies were pilling up in the abandoned streets, sunken eyes, staring out of gaping sockets, fingers clenched on cold hands as if they were still trying to grip to their weak, lost lives.

Naturally, we bolted like everyone else; loaded up the car with a few precious essentials and made for the coast. The boarder had been shut down long before we got there, it was just a seething, hot mass of desperate bodies wriggling and shrieking towards the military personnel charged with keeping the peace. After the first panic stricken shots began to ring out into the fray we decided it would be safer to hold up somewhere close by and wait for the hysteria to die down and the boarder to open up again. It never did.

“Dad.” The urgent whisper hits my cold ears like a jet of steam forcing unwanted reality down my throat. “Dad, there’s a noise. Something’s outside.” My daughter stands in the door way of the next room, the boarded up window behind her cracking a little moonlight across the floor. She’s the picture of my dead wife, even at twelve; the same yellow hair.

I reach for my gun with shaking fingers and stagger to my feet with all the stability of a drunk. I take a moment, just half a second to reflect on what our lives have become. My poor daughter, born into this now harsh reality. I’m sorry for that.

Suddenly I hear it; that banging on the door. Someone wants to come in.

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