This is My Plague Year (Story by Risa Peris)

At first, it was the rats that died. They cluttered the streets and alleys like putrid feces with fur. Their rotting bodies caused their mouths to pull back revealing their evil teeth. The city workers couldn’t keep up with shoveling them up and sending them to the incinerators. A major doctor in the city said it was a bad sign. He quoted Ray Bradbury. Something wicked this way comes. That was when the pigeons started dying. People walked around them on the streets. They thought the city was doing something remarkable with their pesticides. And yet the roaches kept coming. They were thriving like they had since life’s history. 

It was intolerable to constantly be spraying roaches in my apartment, so I went out. Beers. Burgers. There was no question of eating in my kitchen with all the poison I had laid down. I dreaded going back and sweeping up bug carcasses. One night, as I ate a mushroom burger I began to notice there were a lot of people coughing. It was like a hospital noise loop was playing in the background. 

“What’s with all the coughing?” I asked the bartender with a laugh. 

“I don’t know. It’s been going on for days.”

I set my burger down. “You been having a bug problem?”

The bartender raised an eyebrow. “You really want to know?” 

I set my burger down and ordered whiskey and another beer. “Any idea where I can get a net for my bed? I got a bug problem too.”

“Try Bed Bath & Beyond. Use one of those stupid coupons they always send out.”

Five blocks away and I snagged the last net. It was easy to set up and I slept with some comfort bugs wouldn’t join me in my slumber. Alexa woke me up with her alarm. 

“Alexa, what’s the news?”

“50,000 people have died due to some unknown illness. More deaths are expected.”

That’s when I heard a thunk in the hallway. I opened the door. Mrs. Cracken was sprawled out and still. She was dead. I called 911. 

The operator sounded exhausted. “It’s going to be some time. We got emergencies all over the city. If she was alive I could prioritize it…”

“She’s dead.”

“Then stay in your home and don’t come out unless you really need to.”

“I need to. The bugs are driving me crazy.”

The operator hung up. I got back in bed but not before grabbing my pistol. The news talked of an airborne plague with an 85% mortality rate. Stay inside. I had no food. I had a dead body in the hallway. I had bugs. But I had Netflix, Hulu, Amazon. They went blank though. The plague was spreading everywhere. I probably got it from Mrs. Cracken. I cradled the pistol. I wanted to use it on myself. The plague. I wasn’t going to stick it through. Humans were smart, but we were not like a roach with an absolute drive to survive. And maybe that’s our flaw. We can go to the moon, however, if the times get tough a lot of us give up or forget we’re human. Sympathy dwindles, breaks or it overwhelms to the detriment of the helper. My name is Antony Sala and this is my plague year.