Prism

*

‘…rescue attempts are still underway in Australia and the surrounding islands. It has been three weeks since the last survivor was cut free of the Royal Navy warship HMS Mercy, although the remainder of the fleet are still, for the moment, unaccountable. With the total death count rising way past initial estimations, experts are predicting that we may never-’

The projected halogen screen disappeared as Jones swiped the pad of his thumb across his wrist monitor as he slowly crawled out of bed, but not before he automatically rolled over to his left to have one last cuddle with Frankie, except she wasn’t there… just another reminder of the devastation that had hit almost a month ago now. Never mind the news channel waking him up every morning with news that the death total had risen, again. Great way to start the day. The only way to start the day… he thought morbidly as he dropped into the press up position and routinely began pushing out close arm press ups. His shoulders cracked with each thrust as he completed his set and switched over onto his back and began bringing his chest to his knees. Doesn’t even burn anymore, he thought as he finished his exercises for the day and flipped the pad handle on the shower.

He streaked his dry palm across the steamed up mirror and caught, for a moment, the peculiar glimmer of colour from within the steam cloud that was funnelling, like a mini tornado, out of the ventilation in the ceiling. Has anybody named these colours yet? Resentment spoiled his thoughts as he struggled to remember what colour Frankie’s eyes were. I will never see them again. I will never see that beautiful shade of green again. I’ll never see green again. Looking at his own eyes through the mirror with a feeling of suspended disbelief, as the eyes that stared back at him seemed not his own, seemed alien. His skin hung on his bones in an odd pale complexion. Not like the comfortable tan it used to be, now it wasn’t any shade he could describe.

At first it was difficult even just walking down the street. Women covering themselves from head to toe, in outfits like the Burkhas Muslim women wore even before the change. At times he found himself thinking that maybe it was for the best that Frankie got caught. That she wouldn’t have to live in this horrible and terrifying ‘colour’. He heard the news again coming from the bedroom but chose to tune it out again with another dismissive swipe across the palm-side of his wrist. Why am I going to work? he asked himself in a moment of self-pity, whilst he donned his shirt and tie and collected his tinfoil wrapped sandwich for the day and left his empty apartment. Of course he already knew the answer to that question, to bring hope to the young, he had heard Frankie saying it the first time he saw her in the staff room. Of course things were different back then, much different.

The car stopped in the departure bay, magnetically at exactly one meter away from Mr Greenwood’s vehicle. Jones waited for a moment before exiting, watching as Mr Greenwood struggled to squeeze his huge gut out of the petite sports car before it whipped away to the secure parking bay below. His car, Bella, beeped at him as a gentle reminder that his journey had reached its final destination. Reluctantly he slipped on his brave face and stepped out into the bustling community of education at Hawking’s Academy of Intellect. Bella whizzed away to park and recharge as he waved his wrist monitor at the doors before him, instantly they swished back open and allowed him to enter. The halls were still quiet, but the noise outside was growing as the clock counted down to 08.00. Just a few more minutes, he sighed as he quickly made a beeline for the staff room to put his tinfoil wrapped sandwich in the fridge. Mr Greenwood had beat him to it and was already pouring himself a coffee as Jones entered the sacred area of respite.

‘Oh, errr… Jones, how, how are you? I, we didn’t think you were coming back… so soon.’ Sweat glistened of his plump face as Jones slipped past him and placed his sandwich in the refrigerator.

‘Yeah, well no good moping around is there?’ Jones politely, and sarcastically, retorted.

‘No, no, no of course not! Coffee?’ he asked holding the freshly poured cup out towards him.

Normally Jones would have declined, back before the world turned to a weird colour of shit, but not this time. He snatched the cup out of his hand and walked out of the staff room just as the bell rang to start the day. He half expected the strange looks from his colleagues as he made his way down to his form class, but not the students too. Why are they all looking at me like that? He thought as he found himself staring as well, at Aaron, the ‘was black’ kid. Obviously he had turned a different shade too, but his colour, it was almost luminous! Quickly he dived into his form room before Aaron could catch him staring.

The hum-drum died down instantly and Jones could feel a prickle tingle up his back as he turned around to find the students gawping, eyes fixed, in his direction. Though not directly at him, just to his side, actually. Instinctively he glanced in the direction they were looking and jumped in surprise as he realised there was a very dead looking girl stood beside him.

The class burst into screams and the girl put her hands over her ears then vanished through the wall. Jones responsively poked his head out of the door and then snapped it shut again just as quick. The foggy image of the girl in the blood stained white dress, lingering just outside the wall of his classroom wall, stirred something dormant deep within. Jones hesitated for a moment before turning back around and facing the future. Well, this is the new world, he thought as he turned around and attempted to bring his classroom under control.

The array of colours flirting around the room took him a moment to digest as he distractedly made his way behind his desk and picked up the register. He cleared his throat once, loudly, and most of the class quietened down. Another, this time very loud, brought the remaining chaotic students back under his rule.

‘Please be seated. Let me take the register, before we discuss anything else today.’ Their response was the sound of chairs sliding against the thick linoleum surface with elbows and hands hitting the wooden table tops. Well, at least that hasn’t changed, he thought allowing a furtive smile to creep into him. Carefully, as if for the first time, he began to read out the familiar names while checking them against their unfamiliar faces. Everyone is a stranger, even me.

*

Anthony Johnson
BA (Hons) Creative Writing

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