Five months, three week and six days
Five months, three week and six days. That was how long it had been since John had spoken to another human being. He thought about maybe doing something to acknowledge the six month mark, but then decided that he simply wouldn’t be able to bear it. Instead he’d plant the roses for Molly, like he’d promised.
In the first few weeks after the last person had died John had gone to bits it was true. Well anyone would; the blood, the screaming, the futile pleading and the terrible sounds of loss and suffering. He had done his best, but, in the end, he couldn’t save any of them any more than the face masks and hand sanitiser could.
With shaking hands he’d mopped mouths clean of blood and, when the painkillers had run out, he had done what he could with a heavy pillow and a the press of a merciful palm.
In the end John realised that the silence was worse than the screaming.
It started with a cold. People might feel a little breathless, but nothing to worry about. They might think about visiting the GP when the nosebleeds started, but by then it was too late. Soon after came the fever and the shaking, the blood flecked vomit, the blindness, the fear. Then the inevitable. John had watched it all. He’d grown almost numb to it by the end
He’d had to clear the dead from the streets when the smell became unbearable. What had taken his neighbours, his family, even his Molly may have spared him, but the clusters of flies and the creeping rot of the corpses carried their own dangers and John wasn’t prepared to survive this long only to die from infection brought by putrefying waste.
And so he’d rolled up his sleeves and blanked out his mind and got on with it. When he was finished, Rose Garden Terrace was clear and he could almost pretend it was a quiet Sunday afternoon, like before. In a moment Mrs Harries would walk back from the shops with her arms full of shopping, or he’d smell Brian Pugh’s garden bonfire on the autumn breeze.
Now, the only sounds were the brushing of wind through John’s garden. The radio stations had stopped broadcasting weeks before. John missed the cricket. He missed the whirr of the morning milkfloat and the sound of the neighbours laughing through the wall. He missed Molly.
John stared out of his window into Molly’s garden, stroking Mojo’s furry ears. He had kept it neat for her, learned what to do from her books and magazines and he thought she would like that. Today he’d planted a rose bush in the rough patch of soil that covered the hole he’d buried her in.
So it was almost with a smile that John wiped away the thin trickle of blood that ran down over his lip from his left nostril.