It was another day in “paradise”. The water for the shower was always the right amount of hot, as was her cup of coffee. She stared out the kitchen window, holding onto her cup, watching a flock of mourning doves strut across the street in the orange of the early morning sunrise.

It was another day of the world being empty.

She watched the flock with boredom but ritualistically. It was the seventh month of seeing this flock cross the same spot. She rolled her eyes and turned away, a few moments earlier than usual. The flock stopped walking and turned collectively turned their heads towards her window and took flight. They started to screech, the commotion making her turn around. She started to scream when the dozens of birds slammed into her window. She dropped her coffee, the mug shattering and the liquid spilled everywhere. She fell back onto the floor, scrambling backward on the floor, watching these birds scream and end their lives in front of her. Her throat went raw as she kept screaming, blood from a previous bird being smeared by the next. The dark shadow from the flock slowly disappeared, and the last bird let out its last shriek, she wished she had a neighbor at the least, a therapist at the most, to talk to.

After the shock wore off, she shakily put on her coat jacket and boots, making her way out of her lonely home and to the backyard, where the kitchen window was. Her heart, and stomach, were in her throat. Her hands were clammy, sweat beading on her forehead. As she rounded the overgrown bushes, her knees buckled and she expelled her two sips of coffee and whatever was left of last night’s dinner before falling to her hands and knees. She started to sob. Expecting to see a pile of dead birds underneath her window, she saw nothing.

Back inside, she paced her living room, twisting the ends of her locs with her fingers, trying to figure out what happened. She made her way to the bathroom and splashed water on her face. She stared down the drain, the water still running. She splashed again. And again. And again. She tossed her head back, gasping for air. She stared at her reflection in the mirror after wiping her face dry with a towel. She stared into her brown eyes, trying to see if she ordered any more bags under her eyes. She leaned in a bit closer to the mirror, trying to see if her dark skin was getting pale.

She blinked and screamed, turning around and throwing the towel into the hallway. It landed on… something before the towel dropped onto the floor. She leaned against the sink, her eyes locked onto the spot, her eyes burning the image in her brain. Water touched her fingertips, snapping her out of her trance. She turned off the sink and stepped out into the hallway, looking around before looking down at the towel that had opened up on the floor.

WAKE UP

The letters seemed to wriggle and squirm and breath. They pulled together in the middle, creating a puddle of blue-black liquid that started to boil through the towel. The moment she took a step back, the liquid shot up and attached to her face. She cried out, trying to pull the liquid off her face. It felt like clay in her hands. Felt like live maggots in her nose mouth. She managed to pull it off and toss it aside, sprinting out of her home.

She didn’t look back, but she could feel–

The shadowed figure was hooded and the towel bounced off their chest. It had no eyes but silts of white that seemed to leak.

She tripped and stumbled but kept running. But she knew. Her chest started to hurt but she didn’t stop running. But the scenery didn’t change. And the dust didn’t kick up behind her.

Tears started to fall down her face as she felt that blue-black liquid run down her face. She dropped to her knees and sobbed, the liquid shrinking before swallowing her whole. She laid down in a fetal position, covering her head with her arms and squeezing her eyes closed.

Look.”

She shook her head, a whimper coming from her mouth. She couldn’t scream anymore.

LOOK.”

She opened her eyes and immediately started to squint. She was in the middle of the street and heard a crowd. She looked around and saw the shadowed figure from before standing in front of them. Behind the figure and to their left, the crowd she had heard was making its way down the sidewalk and up the stairs towards… city hall?

“I know this place…” she murmured, putting her arms down and walking in the direction of the crowd. The figure followed. She stopped and looked at them. They stopped and looked at her. With a blink, it was in her personal space, the weeping white eyes centimeters from hers.

Walk,” they demanded, their breath cold on her mouth. She nodded and turned around, making her way up the stairs.

The crowd was sitting in chairs now, facing a stage. She stood in the back, the figure still in their space, like a shadow. Someone walked onto the stage and behind a podium that stood in the middle of it. Her heart stopped and her eyes started to water.

“She looks so–“

–tired. You look so tired,” the figure whispered in her ear.

She clenched her fists together, started biting the inside of her cheeks, took a deep breath, and sighed before walking through the now empty chairs, knocking some over as she progressed. The version of her behind the podium was dressed for an interview but her face was one she had seen before. The mirror image she had seen in these empty months was always chipper, albeit bored. She smiled more than she frowned, laughed more than she raged. The version she stared at, the one she remembered, was tired and angry and–

The version of her opened her mouth and the crowd came back. They swarmed her, flashing their cameras and shoving their microphones into her face.

You can go back to your home or you can–

She didn’t allow the figure to finish. She tried to push her way through the crowd, but it seemed to get bigger and bigger and the version of her behind the podium was getting smaller and smaller. She kept trying until she was lost in the sea of people. She got tossed around in the waves, had to shut her eyes from the salty sting of the lights that would not stop flashing. The crowd grew taller and she started to drown.

She gasped, her body cold, clammy, and sweaty. She was still on the floor of the bathroom but something was different. She tried to sit up but her body was sore. Her breathing was raggedy and wheezy. Her eyes couldn’t focus, but she could see the shadows move in the light of the bathroom door. She smiled a bit and wondered how long she had been on that bathroom floor. The door opened and two people looked down at her, horrified.

She fell back asleep once the hospital staff hooked her up to IV solutions, blood bags, and machines, dreaming of nothing. She slept through the shift change, the many doctors poking and prodding her, whispering about her. She woke one morning, but her eyelids were still heavy.

“–never met a person who survived three months after dying–“

She started to cough and the gossiping doctors jumped, startled. The coughing didn’t stop. They tended to her, while still calling for more help. With one last hoarse cough, a glob of blue-black liquid shot out of her throat, out of her mouth, and onto her lap. She fell back onto the bed, exhausted. The glob hissed, bubbled, and burned through the blankets before boiling itself out. The shadowed figure stood from the door, watching the staff stare in silence at their patient.

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