AUTHOR'S NOTE: This nano-piece precedes the action of the novel and there are no spoilers. I wrote this story for Thursday Tales, a new weekly prompt site for writers. Go check it out, everyone, and write a Thursday tale of your own!
The night the street lights didn't come on was when she accepted what the pandemic had done.
Cassie's parents had been among the first to die, leaving her in shock. She no longer ate out of hunger but because she knew she should. She washed and dressed out of a sense of duty, even though her clothes didn't seem to match any more. She opened her school books to study, but the words made no sense and her teachers were dead, so what was the point of algebra?
She couldn't bear to watch television or listen to the radio because it was non-stop news about the pandemic. So she spent long hours sitting on her bedroom floor, staring at nothing, until the evening someone knocked at her door.
"Cassie. I know you're in there."
Maybe if she was still, Leila would go away.
Cassie got up and found her neighbor on the doorstep, eyes puffy and dark curls in a tangle.
"Natasha is sick."
Cassie blinked. She had assumed Leila's parents and oldest sister were dead by now because the pandemic retrovirus was lethal to adults. Natasha was the middle sister, eighteen and young for a Telo victim, but within the danger age. "You know there's nothing anyone can do."
Leila shook her head. "It can't be Telo. Do your cars have gas? I've got to get her to a hospital."
"It's dangerous out there."
"Cassie." Leila squeezed her arm hard.
Cassie pulled away. "Go home. I'll meet you there."
It took her a few minutes to find the keys. The electricity had been sporadic lately, and now dusk was falling but still there was no light. She finally found what she was looking for, figured out how to manually open the garage door, and backed the car into the street.
As she drove the short distance to Leila's house, she looked up at the darkening sky and realized the street lights hadn't turned on. It occurred to her then with a chilling calm that her nights would be dark from this day forward. She would have to light her own way.
Image courtesy of Luca-de-Bellis.