It has been a long two weeks. Crazy all that can happen within, what, twelve days. On the upside, these fantastic stories also show what is possible within the confines of 264 hours. With the world changing at the current breakneck speed, extinction is a regular occurrence, whether it be the extinction of a philosophy, a habit, or a species, many ways of life, of thinking are coming to an end. The stories this week take the time to pause and shine a spotlight on what it is like to be the last, whether it be a dragon or cupcake, the last to love or the last to see.
Please enjoy this week’s excellent collection from Linda M. Crate, Kelli J. Gavin, Sunil Sharma, and Katharine Brown.
Child of the Dragon
Linda M. Crate
All Five Senses
Kelli J Gavin
When I attempt to explain how it feels to be me, few understand. Actually, no one. The heft, the weight of my burden is more than anyone will ever experience. I don’t expect others to understand me or what it feels like, and I am afraid I have stopped trying to impress on them the difficulty I face daily. I no longer attempt to even drop hints that I can see them. That I can see them and they can’t see me. To be the last one left with vision is no longer amazing. It is so very heartbreaking.
Yes. Possessing all five senses is an actual gift, and I am fully aware that others wish they could be me. But to be the only one that has functioning eyes? I still do not understand how it is possible. I had intraocular lenses placed in my eyes in my late thirties when cataracts and glaucoma threatened my vision. For some reason, the plastic lenses protected me from losing my vision when the ocular virus started to spread. When I turned on the news and heard about the thousands of a people a day that would lose their sight instantly, I gasped as I believed that it was only a matter of time and I would face the same fate. That fate wasn’t mine. Every person I saw, every person I came into contact with, every person I love, lost their sight. And I visually witnessed it all. I never came to understand why there was an viral outbreak and why I was the only one immune to the globe crossing ocular virus. Now I believe, some things are better left unknown.
I would sit, silently, watching. Everyone who walked by me on the street would nervously pass me. Can she see? Should we ask for help? I was able to tell that they could sense my physical presence even when they could not see me. I had free reign of the grocery store until the food trucks stopped coming to town. No one stands in line for food when you can’t find where the lines are even being formed. People, desperate people, stumbling trying to find someone who can help, someone who can direct them to food and water. I was wounded severely once when I thought I could be the one to help a group of moms with young children. They clamored at me, reaching, grabbing, wanting my attention, wanting my help instantly. Bruised and bleeding as if I had been in an alley attack, I limped back home. I couldn’t admit to someone I could see. If I did, I would be risking my own life. I had the one thing everyone in the world needed. The ability to see.
When the phones, televisions and Internet stopped working, it was one thing. But eventually radio silence. Those that had the manual capability to reach out by transistor radio eventually stopped doing so also. Did they give up hope? Did the depression hit so quickly that they no longer saw a purpose in creating and fostering human connections? When staying home, in self confined jails became too much to fathom, the loss of life was no longer measurable. No one had the physical means after a month to even attempt to tend to the dead. So there they lay. Where they decided their life would end. Floating in the rivers. Rotting in their homes. Stretched out if napping on the stairs of the church where they once went to Worship on Sundays.
I knew that I needed to flee. I would risk my mental stability by living alone, rather than my physical life by staying where everyone would eventually want to take advantage of the most horrible gift anyone could possess. The gift of sight on a non seeing planet wasn’t a gift but a torment. I had every book at my disposal. I read and made notes and tore out page after page from the books left abandoned at the library. I would teach myself to grow food. To hunt. To build anything I would need. To possibly figure out if I was capable to create energy which could be turned into electricity which could be turned into light. I gathered batteries. I gathered wires, I gathered seeds and containers for water. I made time lines and plans as to what I would need to accomplish and when. My plans were foiled when sickness took hold. Maybe pneumonia. I am not really sure. I was about a week away from preparing to leave town when I was racked with severe coughing. There wasn’t a doctor that I could see, and I wouldn’t even know if there were medications nearby that I could get my hands on.
So here I lie. In my bed. Dozing. In and out of consciousness. This has taken me two days to write this down. Not sure who I am writing it down for. I know this sickness will end me. If this notebook is found, who will be able to see it? Who would read the words on this page and be so flabbergasted at the fact that I am the last person with sight? No, someone will find it by searching with their hands for anything that is useful. This notebook will turn into paper to fuel a fire. Fire to keep someone warm. Until they decide that the church stairs seem like a mighty fine place to…
Kelli J Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization and a small Jewelry Company. Look for Kelli’s first book of short stories and poems in 2019. You can find her work with The Ugly Writers, Sweatpants & Coffee, Writing In a Woman’s Voice, The Writers Newsletter, Writers Unite!, Academy of the Heart and Mind, The Rye Whiskey Review, Spillwords, Mercurial Stories, 121 Words, HerStry, Ariel Chart, The Basil O’Flaherty, PPP Ezine, Southwest Media, Otherwise Engaged, Pleather Skin, Paper.Li, The New Ink Review, among others. Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin
Blog found at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Last Romantic
As soon as he rushed into the compartment, breathless and disoriented, the train began moving across Vienna that looked different: A certain melancholia that attends the intersection of dusk and an advancing night.
Evening: In-between space characterized by a sublime mix of mellow darkness and dying light— divine works in chiaroscuro.
Forlorn and lost.
From the window- seat, he could feel the overpowering sadness of the hour. The offices were getting empty and streets filled up—fast.
Few seconds late and he would have missed the connection to Paris!
Once settled, he found her opposite.
Their eyes met and diverted—at the same time.
What quickly registered were a freckled face; the goggles on a disheveled head and an aloofness, typical of the solo female tourists.
That demeanor, oddly, was fascinating!
There were others. An Italian family—boisterous, chatty, loud—reminded of his family. The remaining travellers were on another planet—plugged into phones or lap tops.
He took out the book.
He looked up—into the smiling eyes of his co-passenger.
—Do you take Middle Eastern males to be savages?
She replied: No offense, please. Just curious.
The lilting tone soothed.
—Fine. No offense, either.
—I am Anne. Freelance travel writer. Boston.
—David here. Manager. Berlin.
The strangers shook hands. Train hurtled down.
—Travelling Paris? She asked.
—Yes. You? He asked for the sake of conversation.
—Yes. Doing a piece on Paris and Multi-cultural Perspectives.
—Your first visit?
—No. Come often. You?
— I, too, keep on returning. Paris beckons as a besotted lover. You cannot resist Paris.
She continued: Ayn Rand in the summer of 2018 is a revelation…
—That too in the hands of an Arab.
She smiled: Not that implication. Ayn Rand is not that popular these days but some iconic books have an amazing afterlife. And ways of turning up in strange places!
—Right. Once I saw Ibsen in an Indonesian village—in an old paper shop.
—Yes. I once saw Thoreau in a Shanghai house of a factory worker, dreaming of a passage to America.
—Globalization! He exclaimed.
—Migration and its sources of inspiration. She observed.
—In a way, border-less world, ideas travel faster and we develop standardized tastes.
—Yeah. We are all Potter fans. Believers in magic. Fantasy sells.
He nodded: Yes. Books can change beliefs.
—So does travel.
They talked best-sellers and movies and found a lot in common.
—Travel often? He asked.
—Hmm! Maybe. She said.
—Or searching for the nirvana?
—Perhaps. You? Searching the Exotic Paris?
He smiled: Searching for the soul of the city that once hosted Joyce and Proust.
She was floored: You are highly cultivated!
—A dark prince! A Moor?
She won his heart by that dimpled smile!
They reached Paris late as the train got held up due to some technical problem. Decided to spend more time together by exploring the nightly life. Crowds everywhere. The sidewalk cafes were full. They drank the best wine, ate dinner and leisurely walked down the river-front, enjoying the breeze and the spectacular scene. The Seine reflected the lights. Every nationality could be seen there on the boulevards.
Paris, the truly cosmopolitan!
—Certain things are fated. David said, holding her hands, on the bench, near a bridge.
—Indeed. Never thought I would have you as a companion!
He smiled: Frankly, I took you for a snobbish Yankee.
She was equally frank: I took you for a boorish Moor.
They both laughed.
—We have destroyed the power of stereotypes. Said David.
—Thanks to Ayn Rand and Paris. Anne said and added: Paris can cast spell on folks belonging to different cultures and make strangers into friends. Paris is heavenly!
—Yes. The cities can be mysterious. Deep South, such things are not possible. David said.
After a long silence, David said: There are strong coincidences. I cannot believe such things happening. But here we are—the Moor and his princess, in this city of love and romance, on a pleasant night, along a beautiful river. This is magical!
—Yes. Anne said, in Paris only, odd things can happen. The city has its own enchantment and can dissolve barriers. This mood can be best summed up by the immortal Rumi: This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.
David went lyrical:
For you, in my respect, are all the world.
Then how can it be said I am alone
When all the world is here to look on me?
Anne said; Indeed! A midsummer night’s dream coming true for us, the ones chosen by Cupid on this lovely night. So bizarre, yet true. Fated, perhaps.
David beamed. I am a hard-core Romantic, last of the tribe.
—Yes, you are. Anne confirmed.
They began walking towards the shadows.
Then it happened.
The cops swooped down and arrested David who did not offer any resistance. Took him in an unmarked van. No witnesses.
Next morning, David was the national headline:
Top Terrorist Arrested
Paris: According to the police, the dreaded terrorist Abu Hassan has been captured. Called the Lone Bomber, he has successfully evaded arrest by assuming identities. Going by many aliases, Abu—a chemical engineer—has been on the move across the EU, the recent one being David. He is part of a fringe group that targets Western installations by planting bombs. He is the most deadly bomber, working solo, responsible for some lethal attacks in recent history. The cops are further investigating his role in other bombings. The main role in the operation was played by an undercover female agent by the name of Anne.
Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.
Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:
For more details, please visit the blog:
I’m the Last
Look to the right, the long glass surface sits empty. To the left, my view is the same – vacant space accompanies me. Such a terrible feeling of sadness overwhelms me. Alone. Unwanted. Plain, dull, monochrome, of no interest to anyone. Not long ago, I had made a long journey surrounded by friends, family even. We had been assigned an incredibly important task. It was a sacrificial mission, but one of the most honorable and joyous kind. Our kind were born to die and we accepted that, looking forward to fulfilling our purpose for the good of others.
Had it truly been only this morning I had been brought forth in a dizzying whirlwind of activity? Given a post of honor behind the brightly lit glass walls? Chosen with eleven others to venture forth into the world from the safety of our glass abode. Oh! How long ago and far away the keen sense of excitement and adventure feel now.
The client came in wringing her hands, anxiety pinging in her high-pitched voice. Special. “They have to be special, and all different” she insisted to the man in charge of our fates.
And let me tell you just how glorious it was to be numbered among the special, to be packed tightly into the transportation box and bid farewell by all those left behind with faces pressed to the glass enviously. Pride welled up within me. You could practically smell the joy wafting from my warm insides.
It was a lengthy and jarring ride to our destination. I’ll admit a bump to my head caused me more than a little distress, leaving a mark. At last we arrived and were released from the confines of transport. Placed strategically, like sentinels on watch for the slightest sign of trouble, we began the wait for our end. One by one it happened: a painfully shy girl grabbed onto Red like a lifeline, an older woman snatched up Lemon like an old friend, Chip was hastily sent to rescue an upset toddler. On and on they went, but not me. Nobody sought me out though I waited patiently.
I held onto hope for as long as I could, but I grew tired and stiff. Beads of perspiration soon trickled down my head. It became abundantly clear – a mistake had been made. I was not special. I should not have been sent to this place.
I suppose, as you’ve been kind enough to listen to my woes, I should introduce myself to you. My friends, when they were here, called me Nilla. It is short for my given title, Vanilla Bean. I am a cupcake. The last cupcake. The last cupcake at a child’s birthday party. The only cupcake not sprinkled or colored or flavored enough to fulfill my purpose and bring joy. I am Nilla, and I am afraid. I don’t know what happens from here.
They are dimming the lights now. Several of the lowly bars and dips around me are being scraped, most painfully it appears, into large black bags. I can’t imagine transport in those would be at all safe or comfortable. Will they send me there too? No. No they have passed by my post. Suddenly, a small scrap of a girl in a pink tutu comes tiptoeing towards me. She glances around, then scoops me up and whispers around a giant grin, “Shhh, you’re going to be my little secret.” Then, she twirls in a circle and off we race from the room.
I am Nilla. I held my ground. I am the last cupcake. I am a secret prize.
Katherine Brown lives with her husband and step-daughter in Texas. A passion for books from the time she started reading led Katherine to dream of writing books and opening up a brand-new world for others as well. As a teen, Katherine discovered a new joy in composing poetry. Publishing her first two children’s books in 2017, Katherine hopes to continue writing long into her future and to inspire in others a love of reading for years to come.