Better

I knew this would happen. Granted I hadn’t expected it to be quite so soon, but I had expected it. And I told them. Repeatedly. I tried to warn them; tried to prepare them for this moment, but they refused to listen; refused to believe. I’m not so crazy now, though, am I?

I’m no longer the strange woman parents warn their children about; no more crossing the street to avoid me now. No. Now it’s “I always knew there was something to your theories, Mrs Kelly”, and “I never believed what they said about you, Mrs Kelly”. Oh no. The shit’s hit the fan and suddenly I’m the bees’ knees; queen of the hill; everyone’s best mate.

Markus is here. He wants me to take his rug rats. His Joan succumbed last week and he’s on his last legs, but he swears the children are healthy. Yesterday, it was Karen. “I haven’t eaten in a week,” She said.  “I’ve been giving my share to the kids, but even that’s gone.” Before that it was Rowan, wanting medicine. She’s gone now, along with her mum and brother.

It’s been like that since this whole bloody debacle began. It started out slowly. Nobody believed the initial news reports. Nobody wanted to believe. So they told themselves it was sensationalist crap; journalists blowing things out of proportion; lining Murdoch’s pockets by scaring the populace. Until kids started coming home from school with colds that seemed to linger; refusing to heal, just going on and on; steadily getting worse. A teacher died and suddenly the papers couldn’t sell fast enough.

The whispers of “She’s a nutcase” gradually became “She was right”. The paper’s stopped running stories about isolated cases and started talking about mortality figures and vaccines and quarantine zones. That is until they stopped printing altogether. Or maybe there was just nobody to deliver them. There hasn’t been a delivery of anything in a while.

Not that I’m surprised, mind you. People are holing up with their families. No-one wants to risk their lives driving the trucks. If the germs don’t get you the looters will. People are getting desperate, you see. Half the neighbourhood is dead. The rest are sick or starving. The few who are well aren’t advertising that fact.

Almost all of them have wound up on my doorstep at least once. I had tried to warn them, after all and it only took a few hungry days for them to remember me. A few of the meaner men tried to bully or threaten me into giving them everything I have stashed. They soon learned what a bad idea that was. One even tried to attack me. He’s currently fertilising my carrots.

Since then, there’s been a steady stream of people on my doorstep wanting what I’ve got. They always ask nicely, now, but they always ask. Recently, the stream has slowed to a trickle. There’s just not that many left alive. But they still come, and they still ask. No-one ever comes to check up on me. No-one ever wants to know how I’m holding up, if I’m OK, if I’m coping. They just show up, ask and leave.

If I were a lesser person, I’d tell them all to go to hell. After all, my warnings were ignored; after all the years of isolation; the years of stares and whispers and taunts; why should I help them now? Especially since, even now, they are using me; even now, when they know I was right, they come only for what I have, not for me.

I like to think I’m better than that, though; better than them. I refuse to sink to their level. I will go to my death with a clear conscience. So I give them what supplies I can spare. I ration them out so as to help as many as I can. I add a few extra sweets from my own ration for Karen and force her to swear she’ll eat her share. “You are all those kids have now. You have to live or they will die.”

I promise Markus that I will do everything in my power to make sure his kids survive. I raid the homes of the dead for children’s books, clothes and toys. I feed the brats from my meagre rations. I read to them. I soothe their fears. I do my best to teach them what they will need to survive, even if I do not. And, as I close my eyes and drift off to sleep, I try not to think about how I have never been happier than I am now, at the end the world.

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This week’s prompt was ‘I always knew this moment would arrive …’ from Lilydale High School’s Story Starters page.

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