The Violet Hour

AFTER the torchlight red on sweaty faces
After the frosty silence in the gardens
After the agony in stony places
The shouting and the crying
Prison and place and reverberation
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience

–from The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot

Mary walked in the brittle grass on the side of the road, one hand resting on the bulge growing in her womb. She checked her watch; it was 8:15, and the sun had already driven the temperature from mild to uncomfortable. She needed water and food.

“For the baby,” she muttered to herself. “Have to keep going.”

If the homes around her were occupied, there was no sign. Empty windows observed her passing, some blown out and some still intact. Most driveways were empty, and the ones that contained cars, well. She didn’t want to know what might be inside those houses.

“Need to find a store.”

Her feet were tired, her back and head ached and her dizzy spells had gotten worse. The size of her stomach gave her a waddling gait, like a duck with its bulk in the front instead of the back. Not that she had seen any ducks in… weeks? months? Had it been so long?

There. In the distance, a big grocery store. The sight lifted her spirits and made the walk more bearable. Mary rubbed her belly and cooed at it.

“Soon, little Jesus. Soon we can eat.” She looked at her watch. It read 8:15.

As she neared the building, she saw the string of barbed wire around the barricade of cars that someone had erected in front of the broken glass storefront. A gang had taken this place. She stumbled and almost screamed in frustration. But maybe–no, surely they would have mercy on her.

A pair of what looked like men in makeshift metal armor raised their guns as she approached. Their skin was mottled with angry red patches, their hair mostly gone. She raised her hands to show she was unarmed.

“Please,” she said, unsure whether they could hear her. “Please, food. For my baby.”

One of them made a harsh choking sound that she realized was laughter. “No baby,” he said. “Can’t be.”

She turned sideways so he could see. “God’s baby,” she said. “Little Jesus, to save us.” Another wave of dizziness took her and she almost fell.

The men held a whispered conference. Finally, one of them ducked down and unlocked the doors to a car, beckoning her over. She had to crawl through the back seat of an old Corolla to get inside, and once she did the men touched her everywhere as if to be sure she was real.

There were only a handful of others in the store; some treated her with suspicion while the rest were kinder. They had each set up their own sleeping areas and helped her to do the same. The power had been out for so long that the place smelled musty and damp where it wasn’t smoky from the fires they lit at night. The aisles were littered with the detritus that had been left after the first wave of looting, and the second, and who knew how many more until the gang had settled in.

Still, there was enough food to fill her belly as it hadn’t been for some time, even if she almost threw it all up. She settled down in a nest of papers and tablecloths, warm and comfortable and safe.

They found her in the morning, a smile on her face and a hand on her stomach, stone dead. One man croaked that maybe they could save the baby, but when they opened her womb, all they found was a misshapen lump as big as two fists. Her watch read 8:15 and, for once, it was.

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17 Responses to “The Violet Hour”

  1. Jen Bee says:

    Wow! This is a fantastic story!! I’m completely blown away!!! I love [insert character name]…

    I haven’t actually read it yet, but I have absolute faith in your abilities. And now you have a comment. Suppose I should go read it then.

  2. A dark, depressing tale. Very well written. I was pulled down into the weight of the moment. Excellent job, Valerie.

  3. Jen Bee says:

    Whoa (I said that bit out loud). It and it was good, really good. Did not see that…well, I won’t say.

  4. Vandamir says:

    A dystopian piece filled with many possibilities and great sadness.

  5. Dark and quite an interesting world. At least she went out thinking she was the Mary of their world. Good story!

  6. J says:

    Had to re-read that twice. Wow. Not expecting that ending, and it was heartbreaking. So well done.

  7. Gracie says:

    Poor woman. I agree, very interesting world here. The writing is taut and smooth. I didn’t expect that ending at all. Well done.

    Excellent, harsh story. I have chills.

  8. Mari Juniper says:

    Very interesting indeed. I’d like to know more of how things ended up like that. Although it’s dark, I like the ending. It seems fitting.

  9. Marisa Birns says:

    Yes the ending is such a perfect one for this dystopia. Really scary how it was always 8:15.

    Life was very hard for her, but dying with a smile on her face? She found peace. Good.

  10. Amber Hunter says:

    Such a sad ending… Thinking she’d found safety for herself and her child, only to be found dead the next morning and the child she thought she was carrying a tumor. Also have to say that so much back story was delivered in such few words. Very well written!

  11. ganymeder says:

    You did such a beautiful job of painting this sad and desperate world and the woman’s plight. Absolutely riveting.

  12. Stacy Barker says:

    I absolutely loved this. Beautiful writing, wonderfully put together sentences, and a lovely dark atmosphere.

    I liked the repeating 8:15 – very subtle, no need to come right out and say that her watch had stopped but she didn’t want to realize it – or that the world had stopped but she didn’t want to realize that either.

    Gorgeous and full of meaning.

  13. A rounded complete tale. Ouch, trying to save the baby in a world without babies, and finding a lump. The broken watch works well holding it all together.

  14. Valerie says:

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. Glad you liked it. Seems to be a dark week around the Friday Flash world.

  15. John Wiswell says:

    Quite the perversion of the classic Mary story. I was amused by a pregnant woman cooing at the sight of a grocery store.

    The 8:15 thing reads very familiar. Have you used the broken watch trick before? I’ll feel embarrassed if this is an old story and I just don’t remember reading it on your site before.

  16. Laura Eno says:

    Well written, powerful dystopian world you’ve set up here!

  17. Helena says:

    What a sad story. Loved the last sentence.

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