The Madness – A Daily Post Challenge Prompt

I have decided to have another attempt at the Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge. This story is to fill the November 4th prompt: Oh The Irony.

This piece of fiction tells a story of a person doing exactly what they were told in order to stay safe. However by following those rules so carefully they have inadvertently ended up with their life in danger.


The Madness

It’s grown dark. It’s well past curfew and I’m still waiting for Starla to return. She left hours ago to retrieve our rations, fighting her way through the dangerous and hostile terrain. The Last Great War left the world shattered, with only pockets of civilisation remaining. Civilisation is probably the wrong word for the existence we have left. The world has become a dangerous place, survival depends on cunning and stealth. Starla has become expert at making the long and perilous run to City Hall, avoiding the scavengers, the lepers, the ruffians and the disturbed. She is a master at slinking in the shadows retrieving our rations and returning unharmed to our makeshift home on the edge of the failing town.

She has never been caught out past curfew. After curfew is when the government built machines are sent roaming the streets annihilating anyone breaking the rules. It’s the only way the town officials can maintain any sort of order, and control the outbreaks of The Madness. The Madness is the name given for the highly contagious illness that was developed as a weapon in The Last Great War. Starla says that the afflicted mostly come out at night, the darkness is a balm for their incredibly photo-sensitive eyes. She told me that those with The Madness feed on the rest of us uninfected folk, causing the virus to spread like wildfire.

When Starla leaves to get our rations, she always makes me promise to keep the door locked and never let anyone in no matter what they say. She tells me that those who have The Madness will say and do anything to get to unaffected flesh. She says that no matter what, even if the creature on the other side sounds like her, speaks like her or acts like her, never to let anyone in.

***

A few hours ago, not long after Starla left, I heard someone knocking loudly on the door. The creature outside told me that she was Starla and had accidentally left her key in the kitchen. I shouted out that they couldn’t be Starla, because Starla made me swear that I’d never open the door to anyone. No matter what they said. The person on the other side of the door banged harder and insisted that they were Starla and I needed to let her in to get her key so she could get our rations before curfew. I resolutely refused even when the thing outside suggested I should check the kitchen for proof that the key was still on the bench.

The banging and shouting continued while I sat there waiting for Starla to return. When it finally grew dark, and the time passed curfew, the person screaming and banging became more frantic. In the darkness, I heard the machines whirring to life, and I continued to ignore the person who had become almost hysterical in begging me to let them in. With a flash as bright as the day and a horrible crunching sound the machines did their job and the creature on the other side of the door was destroyed. I remember thinking that Starla would be so proud of me, I didn’t let the creature in no matter how much it sounded like her. I have been strong, and I have been smart, and I have been saved from The Madness.

***

Now it’s gone quiet again, the machines have moved on towards the towns centre. My stomach has begun rumbling, I’m starving so I head to the kitchen even though I know that there isn’t any food left. Pale moonlight seeps through a crack in the boarded up windows. I notice a familiar shape glinting on the bench. I approach and curiously reach out to retrieve the object. The cold hard metal of Starla’s key slowly warms in my palm as I wonder how the creature outside knew Starla left her key in here.

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