Fiction: “Empty Souls”

Riley Farbstein, Writer, Pub

Her eyes are like a camera. She blinks. A photo becomes deposited into her mind. Blue soulless bodies. All she sees for miles is blue. Blink! She captures the crippling landscape. She closes her eyes and captures a picture of the darkness behind her lids. Every image has a piece of darkness.

December 12th, 6:45 am CST, 2050. RING RING! The cushion of the bed extends its comforter hands and grabs hold of Magnolia’s sleepy body. The hands grab hold of her and fling her up. As she gets thrown out of bed, an imprint of her body on the comforter disappears into a world of fluff. The hands iron out her crumbled blanket and force it taught. Within seconds, her bed is entirely made as if it could be found on the cover of Elle Decor. She stands for a moment. She looks at the seemingly untouched room. Before her eyes, the closet door opens and pulls her into a room of design. Any outfit ever dreamed of is right before her eyes. Before she can even touch her Gucci sweatshirt, the window’s voice interrupts.

“Goodmorning Magnolia, today’s weather is on the cooler side: 170 degrees and sunny.” announces the window in its sweet monotonic voice.

The closet spins her around while throwing clothes at her like a painter throwing paint on a canvas. The closet is the designer, and she is its muse. Once finished, the closet jolts her out of the world of clothes and lands her sitting on the side chair in front of the mirror. The mirror blinks its luminous eyes as it examines Magnolia’s fatigue face. Its delicate radiant hands apply heat resistant concealer, waterproof mascara, and semi-permanent blush to her blank face. After, heat protectant spray coats her platinum blonde hair.

DING! The bedroom yells the breakfast alarm. Downstairs her mother is filtering the water and making pumpkin spiced french toast.

“Mags! Hurry down to eat!” yells the toaster over the booms of the propeller swirling contaminated water.

She heads downstairs to find her mom slouching over by the filter and watching the large metal propeller swirling the water. Her eyes follow the propeller, like a puppy’s eyes following a treat. A huge tank throws around water like a blender to separate the toxins. Water from rainfall fills up from a bucket on the roof. After, the acidic water is dumped into the filter in order to be conditioned to drink. As she examines the filter, she becomes curious about her mother. Slowly, she moves toward her frail figure. Halfway to her, a plate of french toast gets thrown at Magnolia from the toaster. At time 8:30 on the dot, no matter where Magnolia is downstairs, her food gets thrown to her. The house is on a perfect schedule; everything is planned up to the millisecond. She catches her french toast and begins to eat the crunchy goodness. An aroma of maple syrup fills the dining room, which causes the toaster to smile with satisfaction. Her mom does not turn around despite her loud entrance and the sweet-scented room. The mother’s hazel eyes continue to trace the movements of the propeller slowly.

“Mom, what’s wrong with the water?” Magnolia asks.

In response, her body spazzes. Magnolia grabs hold of her mother to compress her spasmodic movements. Her hazel eyes are piercing. She blinks in order to capture the look in her mother’s eyes. Her skin is raw and pale. She attempts to open her mouth, but her body flops over as if she is a limp dead fish. Magnolia’s eyes rapidly blink in shutter speed in order to capture the whole moment in a series of still photos. While attempting to get a grip on her mother, the couch forces itself across the living room to catch her body. Side tables and house plants bolt out of the way to make room for the speedy couch. Her mother’s hazel eyes penetrate Magnolia’s soul as the couch props her feeble body upright.

“GLASS!” Magnolia screams to the cabinet.

A purple-tinted drinking glass gets thrown across the room and lands lightly in her hand. She jerks the nozzle from the filter up and fills the glass with the cerulean water from the filter. Steam exits from the glass as she fills it to its rim. She presses the purple glass rim against her mom’s chapped lips and forces the unnatural water down her throat. Her hazel eyes squint as she gulps down the water. Her mom always complains about the artificial taste of the water, but right now, she has no problem chugging it. She finishes the glass and places it on the nervous side table. Her body fills with water and plumps her body upright. Her lips open up to speak, but nothing but water comes streaming out of her mouth. Every word and syllable is water. A waterfall of water gushes from her chin and wets her Louie Vuitton shirt. Magnolia screams in fear of the water. Her mom grabs her hand and stares at her again with those hazel eyes like a predator hunting prey. Magnolia stares deep beyond her eyes and sees her mother trapped inside a body of water and illness. Suddenly, the spotlight behind her hazel eyes turns off as she releases Magnolia’s hand. Her mom flops over and stops moving. Her face turns blue. Magnolia grabs hold of her mother’s hand again and feels for a pulse. There is nothing but silence running through her veins.

In a moment of hecticness, she yells at the front door to call father. After moments of ringing, the front door announces he is unavailable. She yells again to call emergency services. Busy line. She yells to call her neighbors. Nobody is home. There is nothing to do except physically find help. Magnolia pulls herself together and decides to escape her safe house and venture for assistance. The front door gives a hand in putting on her massive metal protective gear. Polished metal covers her chest and legs. Over that, she covers herself with a custom made pink insulator coat to keep away the harmful UVs and the boiling temperature. Finally, the front door assists her in putting on her protective face mask. She feels like an alien under all the protective equipment. As she exits, she taps on the knob to open the door. The door gives her a hug and nods at her. After, the door opens up to a world of thick foggy heat.

She clenches hold to her outer layers in fear of the outside world. Outside, there are cars left unconscious at traffic lights. Black-eyed souls are left limp behind the wheel. Water is still dripping out the mouths of the soulless drivers. Across the street, her neighbor is in her Tesla CXV unconscious. She takes her metal shoe and kicks the side of the locked door in an attempt to wake her neighbor up. Next to her lays a branch from a smokey dead Aspen tree. She grasps hold of the branch and uses it to help break the car window. She screams as she tries to break the bulletproof glass. Nothing budges. The face of her neighbor is blue, and her eyes are full of ink. As she steps away from the car, she notices the vacancy of life around her. Everything seems ironically frozen as she blinks images of the dead streets. Pictures capture soulless bodies behind the wheel.

The sound of her metal boots caterwauls against the heat resistant concrete as she continues to walk down the silent streets. Every few minutes, she notices another body. She makes sure to stop and examine the body through her camera eyes. The bodies look identical as she sees the same blue face and haunting black eyes. As she continues to walk for miles, the sound of her footsteps is becoming overwhelming in a world of silence.

The houses bordering the road are dim and solemn like gravestones. When the owner dies, the house dies. The house has no purpose in life but to be a servant to the owner. The earth is like a dumping ground. Human activity destroyed the land, which caused dependence on artificial souls and artificial hands. As she observes the death around her, tears fall out of her eyes and evaporate into salty mist. The mask becomes foggy, which causes the film of her mask to have a white haze. The thick air resists her every step as she continues to search for a signal of life.

At the bottom of the hill, a lively pink glow diffuses from a small brick house. In excitement, she forgets about her fatigue and forces herself to the light. As she approaches the house, she notices a green mat that is melting to the concrete that reads “Home Sweet Home.” She rubs her metal boot on top of the mat to remove any built-up dirt from the sole. The cheap glass window looks up and down her body with confusion.

“It looks like she comes from the wealthy part of town,” gossip the window while looking at the sweatshirt under her protective coat.

She gently taps the doorbell, which screams to the rest of the house that a visitor is here. She peeks inside and sees no movement of real life. The house is living a life of its own. As she waits, her eyes leave the window and back out to the dead world upon me. Her head follows her eyes as her back begins to face the door. On the lawn, she notices one flower still alive upon a lawn of crunchy dried-up grass. Its fluffy yellow petals are brilliantly stunning. Her eyes capture an image of a beautiful life that is surrounded by death. Behind her, the door creaks open. Quickly, Magnolia turns around to face the house owner. At the front of the door stands a tall, pale man with twinkling emerald eyes. His bronze hair is perfectly swooped, which compliments his sharp jawbone structure.

“I, I am sorry I didn’t come earlier…I’m Aspen… I didn’t know anyone else was alive. Uh, come in,” said the man.
She cautiously steps into his judgemental home. A drip of sweat beads on his forehead as he gestures her to come in. Behind her, the door slams shut and twitches to lock. Then, the door removes Magnolia’s outerwear and hangs it up on the coathanger. The house is peculiarly silent despite the house’s chaotic movements. The living room is vintage and obviously worn. An old 50-inch flat-screen T-V sits dark in front of a small water filter. Her droopy eyes blink images of the house, which looks like an antique store. Bizarrely enough, the water propeller is not in action. The water lays still in the filter, which causes Magnolia to be confused.

“Would you like a seat?” Aspen asks in order to break the awkwardness of her eyeballing his rustic house.

Magnolia reluctantly opens her parched lips to speak, but tears fall in place of her words. Clear salty water stream from her eyes down her cheeks.

“This morning,” she tries to swallow her thoughts, “I found my mom haunted with what seemed to be a blue monster. I went to venture for help, but everywhere I looked… death haunted my vision. Everyone dead except––”
“–– it’s the water,” he interrupts.

Magnolia shoots him a look of confusion. In response, he bends down under the couch to pick up an ancient book. Her eyes glide across the title, Environmental Science. Although the book is beyond outdated, it is in perfectly good condition. He flips automatically to a dog-tailed page and shows the words to her. Pictures of information become engraved into her brain. The page is labeled Climate Change. Magnolia squints like a child learning to read in order to understand the foreign concept presented to her. Her eyes blur to focus on the page, trying to focus on the text in front of her.

“Read.” she quietly demands the paper, but the book shows no signs of life.

She waits for a moment for the page to speak back. Aspen stares at her in utter confusion.

“I don’t understand,” she confesses.

“It’s the end…” he mutters back.

“The end?” the lens of her eyes bulge open.

In response, he takes the book back from Magnolia and begins to read.

“Outcomes of climate change: change in living conditions, disease, and lack of UV protection. This disease was sparked by the insensibility of the human race. Climate change allowed this disease to live in harsh conditions and become deadly. The home of the disease is water. This disease is one that no filter can prevent, and no house can protect against it. The drinking water is killing us all!”

As he speaks, his fist is tight, and his poster is stiff as a metal pole. His dehydration is becoming more evident upon his face. Aspen stares at her with a look of genuine fear. The silence in the room is deadly. The air becomes thick, and the house creeks. Time seems to stop. In response to the silence, she plays with her gold necklace chain around her neck. Her delicate fingers unhook the chain from the clamp. The necklace drops to the floor. Light glimmers off of the piece of privilege on the floor. Aspen eyeballs her necklace and starts to bend over.

“Leave it,” she stops him from picking up the necklace.

A slight smile glides against his face. He realizes that Magnolia is letting go of her privilege. Their thoughts seem to be in synch. Magnolia stands up and stomps on her necklace. After, she paces the house. She creeps towards the window like a zombie. Her eyes blink at the landscape outside. Blue soulless bodies. All she sees for miles is blue. Blink! She captures the crippling landscape. Two stumps of rotting trees stand next to burnt crunchy grass. Steam rises up from the parched plants. While observing, she stops and realizes that this is the first time she has ever seen the outside world.

The back door of the house is less modern than the front. It lacks the assistant and safety features due to its oldness. The wooden door is orange with rot from the heat. Without protection, she opens up the door and submerges her body into the outside world. Aspen follows as a grain of salt falls down his cheek. There is no water to hold the salt in his tears anymore. Her body feels light like a balloon. There is no protective coat weighing her body down. The lack of weight is unfamiliar to her bare skin. She sits on the stump from an old Magnolia tree. Her body sponges up the heat and cancer rays. Aspen follows and sits next to her. Sweat begins to escape from her pores. She becomes increasingly dehydrated. She looks upon the world around her and sees that it is doomed. Nothing can be done to reverse the effects of humanity. She blinks a final image of the backyard and closes her eyes. Darkness.

After a moment in the heat, Aspen grabs her hand and guides her back into the house. The wooden floor creaks under their feet. Aspen enters the kitchen and manually pulls out two empty glasses. He reluctantly hands one over to Magnolia. His sharp jawline is tense like a rock. His eyes are hauntingly serious. He goes over to the dead filter and fills the glass to the brim. Magnolia follows and does the same. Clink! They touch their glasses, and Magnolia captures their final toast of the evening. Without hesitation, she chugs the water. There is nothing to fix this dead world. She sits on the old couch and leans her head back. The water flows into her body.

Her eyes are like a camera. Blue soulless bodies. All she sees for miles is blue. Blink! She closes her eyes and captures a picture of the darkness behind her lids. Every image has an element of darkness. Her images begin to develop a foggy blue haze. In response, she forces herself to fall asleep.

Minutes pass, and the light at the end of the hill ceases to exist. Another house is in the graveyard.