“Bite me,” his sister whispered. “Come here and bite me…”
The boy put his finger to his lips. “Hush! You’ll scare it off! Besides, it’s my turn to get bitten.”
We’ll see about that, the glimmer in her eyes said. His mouth curled into a smile: challenge accepted.
The two children crept forward. Their suntanned arms were stretched out to a tiny dot on the wall, like compass needles pointing north. Their ‘north pole’ however had legs and wings, so flimsy they almost disappeared against the backdrop of flowery, yellowed wallpaper. It was a miracle he had spotted the creature. He didn’t dare to look away, afraid he wouldn’t find it again. He didn’t even blink.
Sunlight beamed through the walls as if they weren’t there, turning the room into an oven. Sweat beaded on his skin. Maybe it would help him: didn’t mosquitoes like the smell of it?
Suddenly, as if it had read his thoughts, the insect flew up. The boy couldn’t follow the mosquito’s movements - it flew so fast! - but he heard it buzz around his head. The volume changed with every turn the creature made. He was tied to that sound; when the buzzing became louder, the beating of his heart grew stronger.
Then it was quiet.
The boy held his breath. The mosquito had landed on his sister’s wrist. Her eyes widened, showing every shade of green her irises contained. Gods, she looked so much like mum when she did that.
The mosquito pierced her skin and drank her blood. The boy knew the creature gave something back too, something invisible, but strong. He had felt its power before…
“This one is good! It has so much Essence!” his sister cried out. She jumped with joy, but the insect didn’t seem to appreciate her enthusiasm. It pulled its needle out of her skin much sooner than it should and flew away.
The boy gasped. “Don’t let it escape!”
Too late. The mosquito’s buzzing went towards the broken windows and disappeared. His sister ran after it, leaned out of the window and looked around. The boy didn’t follow her example; he knew what he would find there. Empty streets, deserted houses: a city too hot for the small group of people that tried to survive here. Too hot for that mosquito. Too hot to live…
The girl sighed and lowered her shoulders. “I’m sorry.”
He shrugged. “We have what we wanted: you got bitten - again.”
She chuckled. “Because my blood is much sweeter than yours. You should eat more candy, then you’ll get sweet too!”
“It doesn’t work like that.”
“Hah! You’re just jealous I can do this!” The girl flashed him a teasing smile and ran towards the cupboard.
The boy followed her, staring at the piece of furniture with a frown. Plants used to stand on it, holding so many flowers they had turned the cupboard into a cascading rainbow of petals. Now the glass vases lay on the floor, broken: memories of an old life. He had to be careful; he might step on them and hurt himself.
His sister took a dried plant with one hand and rubbed the mosquito bite with the other. The hairs on the boy’s arms stood straight up, despite the room being too warm for such a reaction. Electric sparks prickled his skin as if thunder was about to strike.
The stem in the girl’s hands turned vivid green. The wrinkled leaves unfolded themselves, and a small bud sprouted from one end.
The boy smacked the flower out of her hands, snapping the stem in two. “Stop it! Don’t waste Essence on a plant we can’t eat!”
Her eyes became watery. “But mum will like it…” she whimpered. “And we used to do this all the time.”
“Not anymore. Mosquitoes have become too rare.”
“What happened to them?”
“They went away. The world has turned hot and dry, and mosquitoes don’t like that. They have moved to colder places.”
Or withered, he thought, like everything else…
The girl nodded, then picked up the newly sprouted bud. “I want to go to her.”
“Why? We can’t bring her back yet.”
She looked up to him. Her eyes, so much like their mother’s used to be, were begging. “Just to visit…” she said.
He bit his lip. He had promised mum to look after what was left of their family, and going to her now wouldn’t do them any good. But when his sister looked at him like that, he could only yield.
They went to the highest floor of the house, where the temperature was almost unbearable. Funny, how the arid heat had killed their mother, but also prevented her body from further decay. More intact tissue meant less Essence needed to resurrect her. ‘Less’ still was a lot, though. How long would it take until they had gathered enough to get her heart pumping again, fix her organs, and restore her memories? Years? Decades? The boy couldn’t say.
He unlocked the door of the sleeping chamber and opened it. Their mother lay in her bed under a window, bathing in light. The sun-faded blanket that covered her created a miniature landscape, where hills marked the contours of her body.
He swallowed, something he always did when he came here. Mum was so thin…
His sister’s reaction couldn’t be more different: she pulled back the blanket with a smile. Why was she happy? Mum was nothing but shrivelled flesh and leathery skin, stretched over her bones. The eyes didn’t resemble her daughter’s anymore; they were gaping holes, filled with shadows so dark even this sunlight couldn’t chase them away.
The girl laid the flower on the pillow and gave the corpse a kiss. “We’ll get you back, mum,” she whispered. “Wait and see.”
FFM 2018 - the kidnapper and the constable
To The Men Who Burnt Witches
It probably doesn't surprise you much that inspiration for this came from mosquito bites. I get bitten by the bastards often (except when my mother is around, she attracts them even more), but my boyfriend never gets a bite. So unfair. So I start wondering if a mosquito bite couldn't be a positive thing and boom! Inspiration! The idea for the insects to move north thanks to global warming came not much later, but the whole dead mother thing popped up pretty much during writing. The main characters needed a goal, and at some point, I began to wonder where their mother was. Then their mother became their goal.
I don't really do short stories. This thing had a 1000 word limit, it was a pain to stick to that... I prefer the +200k monster I'm working on
EDIT: oh my goodness, a DD! Thank you so much, I didn't expect that at all!