Alien Landscape

Winner of the Setting Fiction Writing Prompt Contest: Tammy Mack

Rachel Richey Writing Prompt Contest Winners

Last week, as a follow-up to our post on the importance of setting to science fiction, we asked writers to come up with a description of a surreal setting that has a profound impact on the lives of their characters. And we weren’t disappointed!

The winning entry comes to us from Tammy Mack, who wrote a bleak description of what it would feel like to live in an apocalyptic world. Congrats Tammy!

Setting is Everything

Tammy Mack

I sit. Solitary. The silence flows over me like a blanket … or more like a noose. It’s too quiet, and I’m far too alone. The backdrop is an ashy gray color. The same color it’s been every day since all hell broke loose. I would like to know how long it’s been, but I have long since lost track of how many days have passed. I know that it’s at least been six months.

It started with the plants. The trees began to wilt. Leaves falling away, never to bloom again. Stick figures is what remain in the absence of the luscious green that used to hang high above my head. I remember that day very well. I had been with my father in a small city overseas. He had been dispatched to help with immunizations in countries that had less than no health care.

Desert was all that surrounded us, so when I received an image from a friend back home, showing the dead trees, I felt an uneasiness hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like I knew what was happening, but I couldn’t figure it out. I just knew that something was wrong.

It was only a few days later that the storms started. Small at first. The locals had explained that it was normal to experience sandstorms, but to someone from a small city-based town, it was anything but normal. I had been frightened that first night, but my father explained that everything would be fine. That something had obviously happened to the trees back in our hometown to cause them to die off in the middle of summer.

I couldn’t explain it at the time, but I knew that my father was wrong. Suddenly, just a week later, as we were about to head home, another sandstorm blew in, but this time it was unlike anything I had experienced the week earlier. Even the locals seemed to have been put off by the storm. Some even running for shelter.

It was at this time that half the village we were staying in died off. Most from the extreme drop in temperature that night, and not having adequate shelter to strive off the extreme chill. As we rose the next morning, what had been a brown, dirt-covered desert floor, had turned white from a very unexpected snowfall.

That was when I knew my father was very wrong the week earlier. Deadly so. We returned home the next day to find that the home we knew was no more. Fires had sprouted up out of nowhere. For no known reason. Half the residents in our small, sleepy town, had died from smoke inhalation.

The trees that had died the week earlier were starting to decay. A disgusting sight for sure, but not the scariest part. The grass was brown from death … along with all the crops that were growing all around the town. None of it was right.

No more than a month later. I found myself alone in a town I barely could recognize. Those that didn’t die in the fires died from unknown causes. A rare, unknown sickness overcame most of the countries in the world. Violent illness that took the life of anyone that came in contact with it.

It wasn’t long before my father had gotten sick. He hadn’t wanted me to take care of him, but I couldn’t turn my back on him. Instead, I did everything I could for him until the illness took him from me. It was at that point that I realized that I was immune to whatever was wrecking havoc all over the world.

I watch as the moon rises, bright orange, a very off-kilter color, and know that it is time to seek shelter. As it happened back in the desert so many months ago. The storms come every night. Deadly while they rage on, and even more so after they pass by, leaving behind a deathly cold and a blanket of bright, white snow. By early afternoon the snow is gone, melted by the nearly scouring temperatures. It wasn’t long after it happened, that I realized what had started to happen. Something that had been hinted at in the past, was finally here. The sun was starting to die off, and because of that, everything on Earth was dying as well. I know that I’m not long for this life. I can only fight off the inevitable for so long. Most of the time, I don’t even care. A person can only be on their own for so long before they are ready to give in. I’ve long since reached that time. I sit for a moment longer. Taking in the eerie colors that the moon makes on the dust and dirt-covered ground, before I move to take shelter. I can see it coming, off in the distance. I pause for the briefest moment, and think of sitting back down and allowing the storm to wreak its havoc on me, before I hang my head and move toward the house that my father had died in. It doesn’t give much shelter anymore, the storms having torn half the roof off, but it’s better than no shelter at all. I hope that tomorrow is the day that I find at least one more survivor, at least then I’ll have someone to suffer with.

For the last two years, Tammy has been hard at work on both a novel and on a series of short stories. You can connect with Tammy on Twitter at @tjmack1986.

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