Tell A Tale — Gothic Fiction

A Cough is a Threat By Claire Gee

In the unlit room someone coughed.

“Whose there?” the girl asked, sounding calm despite the tsunami of terror overtaking her. Silence answered, icy and mocking. She wanted to leave- to get as far as possible from any threat, no matter the magnitude, but couldn’t. One step outside would mean certain death (one that forces a cold grip down your throat). This was their fault; the governments. Oblivion was inevitable; human’s creating the end. Someone had coughed, painting contagion. The law decreed she had to intervene, so at least a small, a minute, amount of humanity might survive. The radiation outside made any other logic impossible.

“I said whose there?” she repeated, loudly. The room was just dim enough to see; it smelt of unwashed bodies, sweat and urine. There wasn’t a way to get fresh supplies, cutting society off. The room offered little in the way of hiding places, almost none. Her hand goes through her matted, greasy hair. Split ends reached across her back, knotted at the ends. Long ago, a life ago, she’d been beautiful, popular, had friends... Pain and death of everyone had changed her. That want a priority anymore. Survival was a priority, even if it meant getting rid of her jeopardising visitor.

Cities had been targeted first, London all the way to Washington DC. Her life, had been in the place where vegetables grew and nature was one with humanity. Oh, how she missed it. It’d been taken from her, ripped from people who flooded in escape, bringing contamination. They brought death’s embrace. It wasn’t their fault. It’s the government who launched the weapons, causing more and more retaliations. Another cough, louder and more horse. The girl’s eyes narrowed, she picked up the knife which had been assigned her, following the threatening sound.

Her eyes widened at what she saw.

He was no older than eight with wide eyes that looked up into hers with unrelenting fear. Pain cut into her. The law decreed she’d kill a child. She wished he didn’t show all the signs of contamination.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered, knowing it wasn’t enough. She brought the knife down through the soft flesh of his throat. A quick death. The childhood glimmer drained out his eyes. For a second tears had glimmered, then faded. The knife was pleased to be used, matching the missile attacks. . She retched, eyes on the mutilated body which was going cold.

Red ribbons ran down her skin. She wondered, despite the situation if her deed would remain stained on her forever. The old her would’ve never killed him. She didn’t want to. It might be possible, of course, that far from being one, we may possess two selves. The self she is and the self she has to be to survive. Still, killing to survive had never been in her antennary.

I am the girl. If you cough you’re contaminated. If you’re contaminated you’re a threat. And, sadly, the law decrees I get rid of you.


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