**This post is part of Indie Ink’s Weekly Writing Challenge. This is my second week participating. Transplantedx3 was my Challenger. This was her topic to me: “It must have been the water.” I in turn challenged Beth Hegde. **
As she lay on her deathbed, Grace had little time to remember what had happened to bring her to this point. She was one of the lucky ones – she actually had the opportunity to die with some semblance of dignity. Many others would never have that chance.
Everything happened so fast. No warning, no nothing. It just happened.
She didn’t know it, but that Monday would be her last day… alive.
The week had started out just like every other week before. Grace got up, made coffee, took a shower, did her hair and makeup, and prepared to go to work. Her commute was 45 minutes and she always went the same way, without fail. She had plenty of time before she had to leave.
That Monday seemed normal…except it seemed strange outside. The sun was barely coming up when Grace, coffee in hand, walked out through the glass doors to the stairs leading to her back yard and garden. As she descended the stairs, she noticed the air was thick with a humidity that wasn’t normal. Looking at her lush garden, the colors of the flowers seem muted, rather than the brilliant multi-colored vista she normally enjoyed. No birds were singing and the cats were nowhere to be found. What an odd day, she thought, as she sipped her coffee. She stood there for quite a while straining to hear any sound. It was eerily still. It was almost as if someone had turned the sound to the world off.
Taking one last look at her garden, she turned and started to walk back into the house. Out of nowhere, she thought she heard a rustling in the garden. She turned and scanned the garden in the early dawn light. She saw nothing. The air was still thick with the strange humidity and it was dead quiet out. Must have been my imagination, she thought as she walked into the house and closed the door.
Looking at the clock on the coffeemaker, Grace knew she had to collect her things and head out on her commute. If she left any later than usual, the traffic would be horrendous. Grabbing her purse and briefcase, she headed for the garage through the door in the laundry room. As she headed to her car, she smiled. She loved her car – it was a convertible and it was fast. The top went down as soon as the spring weather allowed it and rarely came back up, unless it rained. Today, it was going up since it was so humid out. Grace got in the car, turned it on and pushed the button to raise the top. When she made sure that the top was secure, she opened the garage door, and screamed.
There were dead people and animals everywhere. There were a few people walking around – more like stumbling really. Some just crumbled to the ground, dead.
Grace sat stunned in her car. Do I get out and look around? Do I shut the garage door and go into the house? Think.
She was paralyzed with fear, unable to move. She just stared at the horrible scene in front of her.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, she got out of her car and tentatively walked out of the garage.
As she walked out on her driveway, she noticed the silence, it was deafening. She looked up and down the street stunned by the bodies that seemed strewn everywhere. No one moved. People and animals had literally dropped dead where they stood.
As she surveyed the horror around her, she felt the thick humid air again. She saw that the colors surrounding her seemed more muted than what she noticed in her garden, almost as if the colors were fading out. It also felt like it was starting to rain, but it couldn’t be, she thought. There was no forecast of rain, and they certainly didn’t say anything about the humidity.
“Oh my god” she said out loud, “what the hell is going on here?” I need to get inside and find out what is happening.
As she started back into the garage, she was brought up short as the pain started. It was a strange pain, a headache almost, but not quite and it passed quickly. She closed the garage door and ran into the house.
Running to the kitchen, she turned on the radio. Nothing but static. Grace frantically started scanning through the channels trying to find a broadcast of something, anything. She was starting to panic when she finally was able to get a channel that was broadcasting. She almost fainted on hearing the news, and from the pain that hit her head again.
“This is an emergency broadcast. This is NOT a test. There has been a serious incident at the launching pad outside of town and we are telling people to stay inside their houses or businesses, and to make sure all windows and doors are closed. Repeat, this is an emergency. Please stay inside where you will be safe.”
The broadcaster continued, “We have been told that a rocket that was launched pre-dawn, exploded just before leaving our atmosphere. It was carrying chemicals that mixed with the clouds it passed through and created a toxic gas that is slowly turning to rain on our town. This toxic rain has created the strange humidity we are currently experiencing and is deadly. You have at most a ten-minute window to get to safety. If you are exposed past the ten-minute window, you will die.”
“We are getting reports that people and animals are dropping dead in their tracks with prolonged exposure. If you have been exposed, please return to shelter. Do not attempt to drive to the hospital. Chances are you’re going to die.”
Grace stood there trying to figure out how long she had been outside. How long was I standing in the garden? How long was I standing outside of the garage? She searched her mind trying to add up the minutes, but in her fear, she couldn’t remember. She went for her purse and searched for her phone. She tried to call her parents and got a busy signal. She tried to call her boyfriend and it went straight to voice mail. She kept trying her parents. “Damn” she muttered to herself, when she was unable to get through. All she could do was hope that they were safe. She would try again later. As she put the phone down on the kitchen counter, her gaze once again went to the outside.
Slowly she walked to the glass door leading out to the backyard and garden. It was there she noticed the dead animals half in and half out of the bushes. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she remembered the rustling she had heard earlier that morning. The sound that made her turn back and look. They must have been dying then. Grace noticed that the colors of her garden had now gone gray. She rubbed her eyes and looked again. Nothing had changed. She was terrified. She wondered if she was going to die, alone in her house.
In her fear, Grace didn’t know that she was sick. In fact, she was dying. She did not know that the rain was affecting her brains’ ability to work and her body was shutting down. Grace suddenly felt the most excruciating pain running through her body. It was like razor blades running thru her veins and ending up in her head. The pain lasted just a minute and then was gone, leaving behind the worst exhaustion she ever felt.
I am going to lie down, just for a moment, she thought. Only for a moment, as she climbed into bed fully clothed. She thought of her parents and her boyfriend. She never got through to them – to make sure they were ok.
That was the last thought that Grace had. The toxic gas that turned to rain made sure of that.
The rain dissipated within 24-hours, leaving 5,000 people and untold numbers of animals dead. Her parents and boyfriend found Grace two days later.