This short story, of under 500 words, was inspired by a writing prompt challenge issued by Sammi Cox. The task was to compose a short piece of writing centred around the starting sentence: “I’ve found the remedy”. This was an interesting word-count to be dealing with, and an interesting challenge, too. As ever, I hope you enjoy.
“I’ve found the remedy.” I heard the words leave my lips, but, even as they echoed back at me, bouncing off the cave’s sloped walls, I refused to believe them. How could I, after all that had happened? So much time had passed and so many sacrifices had been made since the virus had first reached the village. I’d had a mother then, and a little brother.
Now, it was only me.
I straightened up, staring hard at the small, leafy plant that I clutched in my sweaty palm. Part of me wanted to throw it to the ground and stamp on it, destroying with it the thought that I could have saved them. If only I’d been quicker. If only I’d checked this place sooner. It made sense, after all. The witch who’d visited us a month into our suffering, told us that the cure grew in dark, damp places; places where the light couldn’t touch it. Yet even then, even when the answer had been right in front of me, I’d never thought of these old caves, barely a mile from the village.
That didn’t matter now. All that did matter, was that I’d been too late. They were gone, all of them: the green-grocer with his lop-sided hat; the old flower lady that used to visit us sometimes; the doctor, herself, who passed barely a week ago; and, of course, my family. My smiling mother, with her open arms and dangling earrings that used to scratch when I pressed against her, she was gone now; and Freddy, with his cheeky little laugh and almost sycophantic grin, he was gone, too. Mother had been too old, they told me, although she was barely fifty, and Freddy – well he’d always been ill. His immune system was the poorest the doctor said she’d ever seen before. He didn’t last a week.
Nothing could have saved him.
Nothing. Unless, of course, someone had found the remedy. If someone had walked up to the old caves, and they’d stumbled around in the dark until their feet bled and they began to believe they would never find their way back, then Freddy might have survived.
No one had come to his rescue, though, and as he’d closed his eyes on that tiny little bed, there was no one fighting to bring him back. I’d failed him. I’d failed my mother and I’d failed every single person who I’d let die.
I threw the plant on the ground and turned away from it, tears pouring down my cheeks. I could blame their deaths on anyone; why was it me who had to find the cure? Surely anyone could? But only one person had released the toxins on the village in the first place. That hadn’t been the green-grocer or doctor. That had been me. I turned back to the plant. I’d caused it, and although it was too late for Freddy, I couldn’t let it be too late for everyone. I couldn’t kill again.