Note: Below you will find a rejected short horror story. The story needed to be under 600 words, feature a post-apocalyptic setting, and have a theme of love and loss. Though it was rejected I enjoyed the process. It was challenging but very rewarding. Enjoy!
The man who hated the world stared out the ash-covered window of his decaying house. Walking up to the house was a raggedy girl wearing tattered clothes. She was no more than 10 years old but she carried herself with great familiarity. The man pursed his lips in thought.
Why is she here again?
When the seas dried up and the sun faded to an ashy smudge, a sickness fell upon humanity. It did not take long for the world to start eating itself. The rule of flesh was all for one and one for all. So the man would forever watch from the shadows of the house to make sure these murdering madmen stayed away. But sometimes they sent children.
When the girl entered the house of ruination she did so without fear. The man, hidden in shadow, watched her with great curiosity. Careful to not make a noise, he followed as she gingerly walked up the broken staircase. That is when he saw the crude shiv in her pocket. She was surely one of the flesh-eaters.
He waited for her to reach the top of the staircase. Like she always did, she took a left and entered a room. The man gritted his teeth and followed.
In the past, he had allowed this little girl the freedom to explore and take, but now, after seeing the knife, he had to but a stop to it. He had to kill her before she killed him.
Before the greying of the world, he was a man of science and not a murderer of children. But was it not him who gave it to them? Thus, making him a murderer of worlds? The reminder sent a shot of anger and guilt through him as he reached the room upstairs.
He waited and listened carefully. Was she…crying?
Of course, thought the man. This little beast was well trained. She knew he was there. This was a trap. The man shifted his view so that he could peer through the crack of the door in hopes of seeing the would-be assassin. She wasn’t hiding. She was sitting Indian style in the middle of the floor, crying and holding something.
He should go inside and strangle her. That’s what he should do. Just get it over with. But, his old-world self could not find the strength to act. But why?
Her crying. It reminded him of what was and what could never be. The floorboards groaned as the weight of this thought made him shift with unease.
The girl stood up and looked back at the door. The man froze as he saw her dirty and tear-streaked face.
“Hello?” called out the girl.
Silence fell between them. The man dare not move.
“Are you there?” said the girl again.
A voice from downstairs interrupted.
“Rose, time to go!”
Before the man could move, the girl named Rose opened the door and walked through him.
Turning, she looked briefly towards the man. Her eyes searching.
The man, perplexed, watched her leave before turning to the room. It was a child’s bedroom.
His eyes moved to a moth-eaten mattress where a skeleton lay holding a rusted gun. The man’s eyes fell to where the child was crying. On the floor was a picture of him holding the girl called Rose in a field of summer dandelions.
Suddenly, he remembered the good: the smell of spring rain, the sounds of summer, the goodnight butterfly kisses.
But then he remembered the betrayal, the bullet, the loneliness. And suddenly the ghost of the man hated everything once again.