An Essential Quest (Sunday Scribbles: Edge) #sunscribbles #shortstory

Welcome to Sunday Scribbles!

This week I started writing a serious story about Coronavirus, and ended up with a story about a writer trying to get by in a post apocalyptic world. I never was much good at writing about the real world!

An Essential Quest Apocalyptic Short Story

An Essential Quest:

Saphy cornered the leader of their ramshackle camp inside his tent. ‘I just want a pen! I’ll be careful!’

‘S’always the same with you, Saph. You imagine something, and you get it into your head that you gotta have it, no matter the cost.’

‘That’s not-‘

‘Storybooks, toy dragons, an’ now pens. Not the kinda stuff we need to forage for in the midst of an apocalypse! Wait for the trading party next week.’

Saphy stormed from the tent. This apocalypse was unlike at least half of the ones in her books. The cause? The 2046 Culpixa outbreak, a rapidly mutating virus that eliminated half of the world’s population in a single night. As deadly as a nuclear blast, but far quieter. Worse, some of the dead didn’t stay dead. Undead carriers, Culpixas, roamed the streets. Trips to the grocery store became raids on abandoned shops. Barter was rife between small settlements: Painkillers for antibacterial spray. Both were in short supply these days, but Saphy wanted neither.

She left camp, ran through the overgrown park, and crossed the street into the car park of the abandoned retail park. Once brimming with shoppers, only a few rusty cars remained, stripped bare, and a few Culpixas stumbled across the tarmac. Every step or two they lurched forward, before they seemed to forget where they were going and froze. At the edge of the car park, a Bargain Shop delivery truck lay on its side. She’d found her stuffed dragon hiding there last week, but she hadn’t been looking for pens. She peered inside the back of the truck. Nothing stirred between the metal cages, and they were bare of all goods. It’d been raided. Wonderful.

‘Please,’ a raspy voice cried from a dingy corner at the back of the truck. A slim hand, as skeletal as the cages, reached towards her, and a haggard man with greasy hair, no older than nineteen, emerged from the shadows. ‘I need water…’

Saphy took a step back, hand on the canteen strapped to her waist. War raged within her. Her heart ached for him, but if he lived outside a settlement he was contaminated. She fled across the parking lot, zigzagging around the lumbering Culpixas, and into the dilapidated Bargain Store. Empty boxes littered the floor. Shelves had been upended. Smashed fluorescent lighting dangled from the ceiling. She picked her way across the debris towards the middle of the shop.

The stationary aisle had been ransacked, but underneath an upturned basket in the middle of the aisle was a cardboard carton labelled ballpoint pens. Two Culpixas shuffled around the end of the aisle. Saphy took a few steps back, shook her head, and sprinted for the basket. In a moment like those she’d only written about in stories, she grabbed the box and slipped through their grasping hands.ย Chest heaving, she left the store and opened the box.

Empty. She crushed it in her hand. All for nothing, and Culpixas blocked the shop entrance. She couldn’t try again, not today anyway. As she neared the truck, homeward bound, she hesitated. They had water by the bucket-load back at camp. Her journey didn’t have to be completely meaningless. She knocked on the side of the truck. ‘I’m leaving a canteen outside, okay?’

The man emerged, and his eyes watered when he saw the canteen. He chugged the water. It dribbled over his chin, and he wiped it away. ‘Thank you so much.’ He held out a hand. ‘Name’s Evan. I’m in your debt.’

Saphy took a step back.

He faltered. ‘Right. Sorry. Apocalypse and all that. I’m not infected. Promise. Just grateful. Super grateful.’ He pulled out a pocket notebook, and a pen from behind his ear. ‘I ran out of water yesterday and it’s been three days since I last ate. Don’t suppose you can spare any food?’

He was so friendly, bubbly and hopeful even in the midst of all this. Exactly like Lira had been. Saphy didn’t hesitate. ‘Sure, but I want your pen.’

‘Oh. Oh of course. I have plenty more in my bag anyway.’ Bare hands tossed her the pen.

She grimaced and let it fall to the floor. ‘Don’t you know anything about disease control?’

‘Plenty, actually.’ He twisted to rummage in his bag and opened another notebook.

Saphy peered at the scribbled doodles. ‘What are those?’

His face brightened with a brilliant grin. ‘My dad’s notes. He was a scientist, trying to find a cure. Now I’m trying to find him. Which isn’t easy. But totally possible! Can you point me towards the river? After that I’ll leave you alone, I promise.’

She looked him up and down. He didn’t seem infected, and he had plenty of pens. ‘Okay, but we need to make a stop first.’ She led him across the street, into the overgrown park, and towards the camp that’d been her home since this started. ‘I’ll grab my stuff, and your food, and we’ll get out of here.’

Evan smiled. ‘You’re coming with me?’

Saphy nodded and strode to her tent. Helping this strange scientist’s son find a cure sounded much better than lonely days filled with arguments about the importance of stationary, fantasy, and stories. She crammed her notebooks, stuffed dragon, and blanket into her bag, and left without fanfare or goodbyes. Time to save the world.

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Thanks for Reading!

My pen ran out during lock-down, because I’m writing so much, and thus this story was born. Remember, essentials aren’t all about physical needs, be sure to take care of your mental health too. If that means buying books, compost, and pencils, go for it ๐Ÿ™‚

This week’s Sunday Scribbles Prompt is Edge:

Sunday Scribbles 10th May Edge

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Past stories: Sunday Scribbles Short Stories

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13 comments

  1. I really enjoyed this story! You did a great job. And, while this may not be the real world, it is certainly a possibility and you did a great job. I think it’s cool that you tried out a different genre and it turned it out awesome! Excellent prose. Nice job writing from the MC POV. Great work in showing what she saw. Wonderful imagery. Good descriptions. And I really like what you said about mental health. That is not appreciated enough. We all need to take care of ourselves, especially during times like these when anxiety levels are high and things remain tense. I also love how you show the importance of something we take for granted – a pen. While I do not use a pen often, I value it much more now after reading your story. Fantastic work, Louise! You rock! :).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Alex, my brain was half asleep yesterday so this was tricky to edit! (The first draft was double the word count ๐Ÿ˜† ) I’m sure if I continued this I’d add fantasy elements!

      Exactly, mental health is especially important at the moment. I was getting sick of people complaining on social media about people buying compost: If gardening helps someone cope with fear, uncertainty and social distancing, we shouldn’t be condoning it ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

      • Aww you did your best and you did great! ๐Ÿ™‚ What kinds of fantasy elements do you think you would’ve added?
        Wow, why were people complaining about others buying compost? I could possibly understand if it was toilet paper or soap, but why complain about others buying compost? I agree – if it helps one cope, then it’s good and people should not be judged :).

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚ I imagine magic or dragons. With me it’s always one or the other!

          Some people think the only essentials are food, water, and medication, and you shouldn’t get anything else from the store. To meet physical needs that’s fine, but people in lock-down need something to do to stop them going stir crazy too!

          Liked by 1 person

          • That’s rad! Imagine dragons in an apocalyptic story. That would be neat. I’m sure you’d do a fabulous job writing it, just as you have with this story!

            Yes, absolutely. And, by helping your mental health, you improve your overall health as well :). I agree with you :).

            Liked by 1 person

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