Friday, September 30, 2011

A Cage Without a Key

The fog is like a cage without a key. - Elizabeth Wurtzel

Fog sat heavy on the horizon, a cloak of condensation hiding the secrets of the city, of its inhabitants, of its past. The streets were empty, the air silent. An outsider might have thought that something was amiss, but in this city, in this time, the scene was commonplace, more normal than not.

Within one of the boarded up buildings lining the abandoned streets, a little girl sat quietly at a small desk. She carefully traced the outline of her hand on a yellowed sheet of paper with a stubby red crayon. Over and over again, she traced, methodically, almost hypnotically, until the sheet bore the indentation of her ministrations.

The adults around her paid her no mind, interested only in their own affairs, but she felt no loneliness, no sense of longing or need. She just kept tracing her hand.

The building she occupied somewhat resembled a home but was a mere shadow of its former purpose. Furniture was strewn meaningless around the room, lopsided, upside down. The desk that the girl sat at was the only item that seemed to still have any sense of import, a relic from a different time and place.

Across the room, one of the adults ran into an upended table, the resulting sound that resonated through the largely empty house startled the occupants. The little girl finally stopped her tracing, dead brown eyes lifting towards the source of the noise. A thought skipped through her empty mind, a fleeting piece of her humanity grasping at anything tangible.


The woman who caused the commotion stared blankly at the table then grunted and shuffled away. But the little girl was mesmerized. Carefully, she put down the crayon, which was almost completely used up anyway, and rose from the desk.

She had grown used to focusing her broken mind on a single task, much like her tracing, so she managed to dedicate her energy to making her way across the room, motivated only by that single coherent thought.


When she arrived at the table, she pushed at it with her hand.


She tried again, this time pushing harder. A squeak resulted as the edge of the table scraped across the hard-wood floors.


A smile tried to work its way across the girl’s broken face. Her mouth twitched with the effort. Those nearest to her stopped to watch, forming a small and awkward audience around her and the table.

She lifted her leg a fraction and kicked the table with all her might. This time she re-created the sound that had initially startled them all. And this time she did smile.

Loud. Noise.

“Loud noise.” She said in a quiet voice that was rusty and hoarse from lack of use.

The adults moaned their agreement and went back to shuffling aimlessly.

But the little girl was awakened, as if from a dream. She remembered the day of the outbreak. The panic in the streets. The rush to quarantine the infected. She remembered being herded into the random house, being separated from her parents. The men in masks had shouted at her to “move it!” She had cried for her mother.

Once inside the house, there had been panic. Adults rushed around, yelling at each other, yelling at the men outside. The doors were locked, then immediately boarded up from the outside.

They were trapped.

And the little girl remembered that they had been trapped for a year or longer.

Reeling from the rush of memory and feeling, she looked down at her cold, gray hand and finally knew that she was dead.

Author's Note: This week we were to be inspired by one of two pictures for the Red Writing Hood prompt. I chose the picture below, which gave life to my zombie tale. New Orleans always sparks my imagination. :) This is the 600-word prologue of a longer piece. 

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