Friday, 8 August 2008

Flash Fiction: Five Cigarettes

Five Cigarettes
by Nathan Ryder

“I thought you said that you were going to quit.”
She exhales and blows the smoke out, a small grin tugging at the corners of her mouth.
“Let me guess, they'll kill me, right?”
The cigarette is almost gone anyway, I don't know why I brought it up. Just something to break the silence.
“Well - ” I began.
“It's not really been top of my list, you know?”
She checks the pack while she takes another short drag.
“Only four left,” she says quietly.
We both sit in silence, and only speak again when we hear a faint noise, drifting through the night. That's the way it's been for the last few days, just talking until we decide to sleep.
“I'll stop after these are gone,” she says, “I'll make them last.”
A week ago there were six of us. Now there's just me and her.
“We can probably get some more from that shop on the corner,” I suggest. “It's no big deal.”
“No,” she says, taking one last drag and stubbing it out. “I'll stop after these.”
Something outside, closer than before, sends a long howling moan into the night, and once the noise stops we just look at each and blow out the candles.
Ben died two days ago.

*

We escape over the roofs, jumping from the edge of one building to the next.
They got in.
They're not fast, but the way we figure it, we need to get away and out of sight as quickly as possible. They've not got enough left mentally to chase us for long, they might not even “think” to follow us out of the attic...
There's just so many now.
We stop, out of breath. She points to the top of a petrol station a few stories down. We stop and watch the street, wait until we've caught our breath.
Nothing.
The flat's trashed, gone. And here there's empty streets.
We scale down a fire escape and then just run for it. We climb up onto the roof of a van and from there I can just about reach onto the petrol station. She boosts me up and then I reach down for her, pull her up.
We lie back, saying nothing. I realise after a few minutes that she's shivering. I pull the blanket out of my pack and drape it over her. She looks at me and smiles, lifts the edge of the blanket and I huddle underneath with her.
I wake at sunrise. She sits, her legs hanging over the edge of the roof, watching the dawn, smoke trailing up from the cigarette in her hand.

*

I hear a scream, drop the torch and then pick it back up again, run.
At the doorway to the shop there isn't a second's pause, and without thinking I find myself throwing the torch straight at the man looming over Jane. She's still screaming. The man stumbles back and I jump over her, falling forwards and taking me and him over to the floor. His arms shoot up and his dead fingers grip at my throat. I put my hand out, scramble and find the torch.
As he starts to pull me down to his mouth I bring the handle of the torch down on the man's face. He moans, growls again and his arms struggle again at me; I bat them away and smash the torch in the centre of his forehead. With something sounding like a sigh he stops moving.
I roll off him and look over to Jane. She's sobbing still, but looks like she's calming down, composing herself.
Something's wrong and for a second I don't understand.
Then I realise. I can't say anything.
“I was just having a smoke,” she says, wiping her eyes and nose on her sleeve, “I turned around and he was just there...”
She catches me staring.
“What?”
She looks at her hand.

*

“You promise?” she asks quietly. A thin plume of smoke rises from the cigarette in her hand. Since lighting it a few minutes ago she hasn't inhaled. She holds the other hand close to her, keeping it out of sight.
“I promise,” I say, hoping that my voice doesn't quaver.
She finally takes a drag. We used the last candle two nights ago, and the only light is from a pale yellow moon.
I don't know how long it is before she speaks.
“Where will you go?” she asks. I look at her, and see the light hitting her eyes. They're more distant than yesterday. I'll have to... I'll have to go when she falls asleep.
I want to.
But I promised.
“I don't know... Maybe the next town. Try and find some other people. Food would be nice too!”
“Yeah,” she says, “I think I'll feel better if I eat something.”
I look down, but know that she's looking at me.

*

Two days later I set out. She died peacefully, and then I waited.
She went less peacefully the second time.
I wrapped her in a bedsheet and laid her in a rooftop garden that I found.
I stood over her and smoked the last one out of the pack.
I'm glad I never started before but I don't think that one will kill me.

*
Creative Commons License
This short story is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works License. Feel free to repost and share it with others, so long as you credit me (Nathan Ryder, 2008) as the original author and link back to this page. It would also be nice if you dropped me a comment!

6 comments:

zero_zero_one said...

Not 100% happy with the typesetting... I might tweak this later for indentations etc.

mattiecore said...

I totally dig this!

Also, I have internet at my apartment now

zero_zero_one said...

Thanks Matt! Hope that you like my future output too; something new soon I hope.

kimz said...

Good job... I liked it. :D

Cyran Dorman said...

I love that line "She went less peacfully the second time around."

Cyran

zero_zero_one said...

@Cyran: Thanks, don't want to sound immodest, but I really liked that line as well! :)