Flash Fiction – No Exit
This was inspired by the latest Chuck Wendig writing challenge, but those stories were supposed to be horror, and this deviates from that. It’s just me being silly with the idea of a disease caused apocalypse … and the disease is pretty underwhelming. (If the title doesn’t make sense to you, Google Jean-Paul Sartre.)
We knew the disease had reached our shores when the news anchor on channel five just gave up, mid human interest story.
He was talking about an otter that had befriended a goat, when he suddenly glared at the teleprompter like it was insulting his mother, and slumped back in his chair. “Whatever, I don’t fucking care anymore,” he said, as the adorable footage played on in a small square to the left of his well coifed head. “This is nonsense. All of this is fucking boring nonsense. Why are we bothering?” He looked flushed and sweaty, a muscle in his jaw twitching as the newscast suddenly cut to another feed.
It was called the Sartre virus, as its main symptom seemed to be sudden, intense ennui. It was fun for a while to watch people on the cable news channels trying to describe what that was, along with easier to grasp symptoms such as fever and lethargy. The craziest thing was how fatal Sartre turned out to be. Some people did die from hyperthermia, but many more just committed suicide, so overwhelmed with ennui they couldn’t function. Many more people wanted to commit suicide, but were simply too tired to get up and do it.
It was crazy. When it first showed up, it was treated as kind of a joke, because … wasn’t it? A virus that made you as sullen as an ill-mannered teenager trying not to fall asleep in homeroom. Compared to flesh eating viruses, ebola, hell, even the flu, this seemed like an elaborate prank. But then it became obvious what a safety hazard it was, and people stopped laughing. Pilots wouldn’t fly planes, firefighters wouldn’t fight fires, sandwich artists wouldn’t sandwich. People would spend days in an airport lounge, watching the same shitty Adam Sandler movie over and over again, and speaking of the death of the soul. It was kind of what I imagined must have gone on in Morrissey’s head.
Some people never did recover. They’d be sprawled over hospital beds like they’d forgotten how to use their limbs, and complain about how everything was pointless, and how tasteless the Jell-o was.
A few people, myself included, were immune to the virus. Ironically, we all seemed to be clinical depressives, so we had some symptoms of the virus normally. It was a world where we could all be listless and dissatisfied together, with only some of us dying at the end of it. It was probably somebody’s idea of a good time.
When you thought of a terrifying, lethal illness, you didn’t think of Sartre. You thought of people dying with festering boils, not people complaining ceaselessly about the emptiness of life until they passed away with a pout on their lips. The apocalypse was supposed to be the undead rising up to tear the living to pieces, not bore people to death. It seemed like kind of a rip off.
And yet it was pretty fitting that the end of the world didn’t come with a bang or a whimper, but with a whine.