The End:An Apocalyptic Novel

By: Matt Shaw

For Marie,

I would travel the world and beyond for you.

A Mother’s Love

Sitting at the make-up table of what was now her bedroom, she looked into the mirror at her complexion. She looked like Hell. She remembered a time when her skin was a light pink colour. Pink for the many happy years before everything happened and then a little paler when the illness first manifested itself. Soon after treatment, a yellow hue with a disconcerting luminous tinge to it. And today - now there was no more treatment to have - it had turned a pale grey. It wasn’t just her skin colour that had changed though. Her whole appearance had.

She had never been the biggest of women. Her weight used to fluctuate between a size ten and a size fourteen - usually averaging around a twelve. Whatever her weight though she had carried it well. Her hair back then; long and dark to just below her shoulders. Her face - pretty in a girl-next-door kind of way; she’d look stunning when dolled up for a night out with her friends (not that those happened anymore) and she’d look pretty when her skin was bare of all cosmetics. Now though she was an unhealthy size eight; ribs clearly visible, collar-bone jutting out. Her hair was all but gone. A few dead-looking wisps here and there where it was trying to grow back but ultimately bald. And her face? Heavy black bags under her eyes and the eyes themselves somehow sunken back into her skull. Cracked lips and crow’s feet at the corners of her eyes.

She looked as she felt; dead.

A single tear rolled down her cheek, following the lines already etched into a poorly hydrated skin. She hated how she looked now, not that there was any reason to look any different. The world was as she felt; dead. The nights out with friends were gone, the school runs were a thing of the past, daily errands had changed to a simpler pattern; hide and forage. Most people, even the ones who weren’t rotting on the inside, lived similar lives following the same patterns.

Most people.

There were some who were carving a different sort of life for themselves, and the people they supposedly cared about. These were the people she hid from, and the ones she kept her son hidden from. At eight years old, he wouldn’t survive an encounter. Unlike most he still looked healthy although her constantly whispering demons told her it wouldn’t last. Like everyone else, he would get sick soon too. It was just a matter of time. In some ways - the sickness taking a hold would be a blessing. In some ways. It meant he’d look the same as everyone else. He wouldn’t stand out from the rotten crowds. He wouldn’t look as appealing as either plaything or food.

Those people and her own sickness were why she had to do this.

She wiped the tear from her cheek.

“Harry?” she called out to her son. No answer. “Harry?”

“Yes mamma?”

“Can you come here a minute please?”


A coughing fit suddenly hit her hard. They were getting more frequent now. More than half of the fits, lasting a few minutes each time, ended with spitting up blood and chunks of lung. She leaned forward and went with it. She knew she just had to get it out of her system, often clutching at her chest whilst it worked its way out. It didn’t help stop the coughing but it did help with the pain that each cough caused; an unpleasant burning sensation in what was left of her lungs. By the time she stopped, her son Harry was standing in front of her with a glass of water.

Like everything else in this God forsaken world the water was tainted; a slight brown tint to what should have been perfectly clear water. She drank it but wouldn’t let her son. He only drank from the sealed bottles they’d found knocking around; supplies that seemed to be getting more and more sparse - especially since she hadn’t been able to travel as far. Running out of things to drink; another reason this needed to be done.

“Thank you, darling.” She took the water from him with a shaking, frail hand. She drank it and coughed again; not a fit, just a reaction to the cold water hitting her damaged throat. She set the glass to one side and looked at her boy. He looked scared. She smiled at him and moved his dark fringe out of his blue eyes with her hand. “When did you get so big?” she asked.

“Are you okay?” he asked. It was all he seemed to ask these days. Are you okay? She smiled and nodded - the only answer he ever got to the question. She didn’t want to lie to him and yet - at the same time - she didn’t want to tell him the truth either.

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