The Morning After
by Lynda Clark

Sophia Pfaff-Shalmiyev             

            Shit babes sum fukin wierd shit is goin down. Call me ok?

            Shauna sighed. Michaela was always hooking up with absolute dogs. She tried to text back, but the message failed. No bars. Rubbing her eyes, she got out of bed. The guy beside her (Trent? Clint? Brent?) stirred, grunted, but didn't wake.

            She picked his shirt up from the end of the bed and put it on. It smelled of sweat and aftershave, but she couldn't face wriggling back into her corset dress. The underwiring cut into her armpits and it was difficult to zip up on her own. She slid a toe into one of her high heels, then thought better of it and picked them up instead, gagging as she bent forwards. She managed to fight the nausea off with some deep breaths. Picking her clutch up off the dressing table, she limped downstairs.

            All his keys were in a basket in the hallway. It only took a minute or so of stirring through them to find the one for the front door. The keychain had some weird little cartoon mushroom-head guy on it.

            She stuffed her shoes under the side table and stepped cautiously outside, her clutch gripped tight in the crook of her elbow. The air was chilly and the light was odd. Yellow-grey and misty, like it didn't know the time of day. She realised neither did she. Her phone still had no bars and the clock had stopped.

            She shrugged and fumbled through her clutch for her cigarettes. Took one, then hunted for her lighter, the cigarette clamped between her lips. As she dug through condoms and eyeliners and lip glosses and mascaras she slowly became aware of someone banging on a window.

            Brent-or-Clint-or-Grant lived in a nice little cul-de-sac, designed to look more suburban than it actually was. His next door neighbour was at the window, staring at her, banging on his double glazing wildly.        

            She gave him the finger. Fucking perv.

            Her fingers closed around her lighter, a neon pink plastic one from the market, and she lit her cigarette and took a much needed drag. The neighbour was still at the window, hammering away.

            She took a much needed drag, wondering if he was having some kind of attack. He was shouting something, but she couldn't hear at this distance. Sighing, she wedged her clutch in the front door to keep it from locking her out and picked her way across the paved drive to the neighbouring house.

            The guy didn't look too much of a perv. Mid thirties and wearing some kind of metal band t-shirt, but not a goth or anything. He had short greying hair and dark circles under his eyes, but otherwise seemed pretty normal.

            "What?" she asked, blowing smoke at his window.

            "You need to get back inside!" He yelled it so loud, she heard it even through the double glazing.


            He looked exasperated. "Don't you watch the news?!"

            He sounded so far away. She glanced towards his front door. Before she'd even fully formed the thought, he was shaking his head vigorously.

            "NO. NO. You are NOT coming in here. You're probably fucking irradiated. Go back to your own house!"

            And he shut the curtains. The dick actually shut the curtains on her. She stared dumbly at them as her cigarette burned down. Eventually she stubbed it out on his windowsill and went back inside.

            "Grant!" she called up the stairs, hoping she'd chosen the right name. "GRANT!"

            "What?" he sounded surprisingly wide awake. Maybe he'd been faking to avoid talking to her.

            "Your neighbour's a fucking racist!"

            "Eamon? Nah, he's all right."

            Grant appeared at the top of the stairs in a tiny white towel, still wet from the shower. He wasn't as good looking as she remembered - he had more freckles.      

            "He said I was Iranian or something. Racist arsehole."

            "Shauna, he's not a racist." She felt a stab of guilt that he remembered her name so easily. "Breakfast?"

            "Yeah," she eyed him warily, wondering if there was a catch, like she had to go to the shop, or make it or whatever, but he just nodded and came past her drying his hair. She followed him to the kitchen.

            He searched around in the fridge and came out with bacon, eggs and bread. The light in the fridge didn't work. That scared her for some reason. Or maybe it was the way the sky had looked. She felt she should go to the window and look at it again, but the thought made her sick. Perhaps she was still drunk. She turned on the small digital radio on the windowsill, needing the distraction.

            "... 6000 dead, fatalities rising..." said the  radio woman, "... everyone is advised to stay in their homes..."

            "Aww, you changed the station?" He complained, cracking the eggs over the bacon. "I like it on Kiss FM, put it back!"

            "I didn't touch it!" she protested. "You've made me miss what she was saying now."

            "... forcing the Prime Minister to step down..."

            "Good, it's well boring." He reached past her and turned the dial.


            He rolled his eyes. "Don't tell me you're into politics?"

            "No. I just wanted to hear-"

            "...North Korea retaliated with..."

            "Damn it!" he complained, "why won't it give me Kiss FM?"

            "...-ficial government warning to..."

            "Stupid thing's broken." He switched it off and returned to the stove to prise the bacon from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula. The smell made her queasy again, but she'd never had a man cook for her before so she didn't want to stop him, even if he was kind of an idiot.

            "Do you have a TV?" 

            "In the lounge," he indicated with a jerk of his head, before muttering under his breath, "'Do I have a TV?' Jesus Christ."

            She ignored him and hurried through to turn it on. The news man looked serious and exhausted. Lists of unfamiliar places and numbers scrolled along the bottom of the screen. Death toll, it said. In the top corner there were images of an enormous domed cloud, dirty yellow and swirling with grit and debris.

            "... outbreak of nuclear war," the news man was saying, his tone flat and sad, "the new government are advising everyone to stay indoors until military representatives arrive to properly brief them. Those in high risk areas will take priority. The rest of us will just have to sit tight." He said that with a little grin that was almost a grimace. "Please seal your doors and windows to help reduce risk. The Ministry of Defence estimate that radiation should drop to safer levels within two weeks assuming there are no further detonations."

            "Two weeks," she repeated aloud, "Stuck here for two weeks."

            "What's that?" He'd changed into an apron and looked even more stupid holding the plate of charred bacon and blackened fried eggs in a dinosaur oven mitt.

            "I'm stuck here for two weeks, Grant," she said softly, "And I might have radiation or something."

            "My name's Kent," he said absentmindedly, trying fruitlessly to change the channel.

Lynda Clark's short story "Frozen" was recently published in the Murder of Storytellers anthology Faed. She's also had short stories accepted and/or published by Drabblecast, Every Day Fiction and Fantasy Scroll Magazine. She's a mass of paradoxes: a working class dressage rider, a former Goth who's afraid of the dark and a woman who sees wearing make-up as doing drag. She can be found on Twitter as @Notagoth or on Wordpress.