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Five Letter Word for ‘Reality’

Even through closed windows, I could hear their moans. Dozens of them stalked the streets day and night. I was one of the few left who wasn’t sick.

Doors of once-beloved homes left open during the ensuing chaos caressed their frames in the breeze, whispering the stories of their past residents. Unkept properties had overgrown, the greenery and wildflowers unhindered and flourishing. Cars wallowed in roads and driveways, overturned, crushed, or simply discarded when traffic became as deadly as the very things people were fleeing from, urging those brave enough—or perhaps desperate enough—to go on foot.

Not many of them made it out.

Their blood was strewn across fences, lawns, and concrete, and if any part of them survived, their screams lingered in the throats of the beasts they soon became. They lived on through the Sickness that devoured the world within months.

And instead of leaving like the others, I stayed and watched the world end from my second-floor apartment.

Gazing past the reflection of my wild, short hair and tired eyes, blinking away the sleep still blurring my vision, I spotted a red stain on the blacktop, the remnants of a man alive not long ago, now nothing more than scattered guts. I hadn’t watched him die, and I hadn’t witnessed what became of him, though it was obvious. The body was there one morning, the man already dead, and by the early afternoon, he had been ripped into. 

A passerby, its gnarled black hair like a snarl of vines, halted in my line of sight and sniffed the air. Thick, blackened veins snaked down its back from a swollen, angry bite wound on its shoulder, revealed on a torso exposed by tattered, muddied clothes. As if to vaunt what it had found, the sickly creature screeched, the straining sound eventually leading to a hacking cough before it dropped to its knees to lap up the week-old detritus. More Sicklies came soon after to join.

This was an everyday thing. And every day, with every lick, the proof of that poor man’s existence dwindled.

Jagger barked. It was more so to let me know he was leaving the room on official business. I glanced behind myself to see the small, white Chihuahua jump from the couch and scurry to the kitchen where the potty pads were. That was when a clatter came from the neighboring apartment, followed by the sound of shuffling…

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Cover art done by @cleysoncafe on Instagram+Twitter