Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Maggie and the Apocalypse - Short Story

I am posting my first short story, as I promised yesterday. In October of last year, I discovered a blog called: (check it out!). I was so excited to find tons of inspiration there. I also discovered that on Fridays, Chuck posts a writing prompt and his subscribers return and post their stories. I made a decision to participate right then and there and I hungrily awaited his next prompt.

This short story is in response to his first prompt of 2017, which was: "I don't want you to write THE USUAL APOCALYPSE. I want you to make one up you have not seen before. A rare, strange, unparalleled apocalypse. Unexpected. Unwritten."

Here goes, hope you like it.

Maggie and the Apocalypse
by Michelle Baillargeon

Harold T., Kansas
I suppose it’s not the worse thing; I mean, a person can do without this or without that.  It can be done, for a time, and if you set your mind to it. Willpower and such. Especially if it’s your choice, to cut down on that thing for a new year’s resolution or for “doctor’s orders.” But, knowing you can never, ever have a certain thing again…when you know it’s permanent and for sure and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it; well, I’m sorry, that’s hard to swallow. Pardon the pun. 

Honey! My precious, gooey, golden sweet nectar. What am I going to do without it? Sure, I have a small supply secreted away. We’ve all been hoarding one thing or another, haven’t we? Ever since the “scientific community” warned us. Bastards. Warnings are all they had; doom and gloom. They were too late to be helpful. Where were the reports  and headlines we’d all hoped for? “Issues reversed by scientific community!”, or even “Miscalculation - we were wrong!” We all would have been happy with that - a simple mistake. But no. What did they say instead? Nothing to be done. Act of God. A whole lot of nothing - that’s what they started with and that's what we’ve ended up with. 

Clover honey, that’s my poison; for others, maybe strawberry or blackberry preserves, or almonds. That one thing that you can't do without. At least some of these things can be stored long term, and those of us who planned ahead when the word came were able to put away what we could. Of course, they asked us not to hoard; make sure there’s enough for all. That’s rich. What did they expect - selflessness at the end of days? Since when is it human nature to share when the going gets tough? No. Human nature says “mine,” “ours” and “take,” and so we did. Secretly and ashamedly. Guiltily? Happily? Fruitlessly? Pun intended.

I have only a four mason jars left from my original hoard (there, I admit it) of three dozen. I was so proud of myself and so sure I could make it last for ever. I mean, we never really thought the day would come, did we? Something so preposterous. Maybe I was right, after all. If what they say is true and the end is near, maybe I did make it last for ever. 

Sally P. Massachusetts
I have been afraid of bumble bees practically my whole life. I’ve been stung twice and both times are permanently etched in mind. This fear that has been a part of my life since a bee stung me on my thumb when I was eight years old. I was exploring my back yard near the edge of the woods when I stirred up a nest. I ran back to the house and my mother, but I was too late. One of the bees (only one, mind you) caught me and that was it. Stung! It didn’t matter that it was only one bee and one sting. I was scarred for life, as they say. 

Evidence of the trauma I suffered stayed with me. To prove it, I would hold out my hand to anyone who would let me and proudly point to the site of said sting, swearing the truth as I pointed, “see, the stinger is still in there.” There was a small red dot and if I scratched my fingernail across it, I really could feel something in there. I can’t find that spot today, but I search for it every once in a while. I guess I’m a bit nostalgic. 

When I was in my twenties, I was stung again. On my face. Well, to be more precise, up one nostril. The left one. I’m telling you the truth; although, in this case I cant’t point to a little red dot to back up my claim. I do have witnesses, though; a whole picnic table full of family and friends. Family and friends void of sympathy; people who will laugh at another’s pain, suffering and fears (and only then, after they catch their breath, ask you if you’re OK). To be fair, my mother held out the longest. I give her credit for trying. 

Here’s what happened. A bee had apparently gotten trapped in the pages of a paperback I’d set aside. After lunch, I picked the book up to continue reading. The movement freed the trapped bee, who was pretty angry, mind you. It shot up and out of its paper prison and headed directly for me. My head flew back instinctively, but too slow. My thought is the bee, in its dazed state, thought my nose looked like an entrance to his hive. He was mistaken, of course, but not before stinging me in his desperation to flee this second, terrible trap. 

I’m still amazed at all I was able to process in the split second it entered my nostril: I knew I could not use my hands to fight the bee (lest it sting me on my hand!), instead, with my head tilted back, I took a huge breath in through my mouth and blew it out, as hard as I could, through my nose. It worked! He was gone - like a shot! We had parted ways, but not before leaving me with a little present to remember him by. My upper lip swelled for a bit and I did tear up, but I was able to join in the laughter. Eventually.

I can relax now that they’re gone. I know they’re not coming back but part of me is relieved. I‘ve spent my life dodging bees, fearful of being chased, veering away from flower gardens. 

I would go back to that time if I could, live side by side with the bees. And the birds, and the butterflies and the flowers and the fruit. They say you don't know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. They’re right. Soon, we’ll be gone, too.

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Magnetic Field - Status

The Earth’s Magnetic Field (dubbed “Maggie” by the media) has now reached is weakest state to date.

As you know, Maggie began to destabilize ten years ago when iron atoms in the Earth’s outer core started to re-align. Scientists could not explain why this happened, but were able to predict that the the re-alignment was leading up to a major shift in the magnetic poles. This meant that compasses would eventually point South. Not such a big deal, overall. It’s happened before. 

When the shift began, however, the magnetic field began to shrink at an unexpected rate. This was, and continues to be, the major problem. This means that the shield surrounding and protecting the earth is fading. Solar winds, which had been partially blocked by Maggie until now, are able to enter our atmosphere freely. Solar winds, which carry solar radiation, are no longer being deflected into space and incidents of skin cancer (already too high) will continue to rise. Satellites and communication systems are faltering, as have power grids in less developed countries. Our grid here in the US is holding its own, so far. Soon, the demands on it will overpower it’s ability to function under Maggie’s reign. 

Maggie’s effect on our planet’s animals, who once used the Earth’s magnetic field to assist with their navigation, has been devastating. With their internal GPS on the fritz, homing pigeons stopped going home and Monarch butterflies couldn’t migrate south. Who could predict that such a small, humble creature as the bumble bee would spell the end for us? 

With Maggie damaged, the bees were unable to seek out their favorite field of clover or even return to their hive. With bees unable to pollinate (eat), they died. Major crops went un-pollinated and they died. No more fruit, vegetables, nuts or honey. Simply put, bees were responsible for the majority of the worlds nutrition (approximately 70 out of 100 human crops) and now they’re gone. 

What remains? Previously lush farmlands are now barren, reminiscent of the Dust Bowl of the early 1900’s. Food reserves have all but run out, save for a few private hoards. With nothing left to steal, looting has been pretty much non-existent. Doomsday theorists predict that Maggie’s current state could usher in an onslaught of new global worries: earthquakes, tsunamis or catastrophic changes in the global climate. The scientific community doesn't dispute the possibility. Stay safe out there. In the meantime, we will post updates as long as we’re able. 

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