Summer Showcase: Pink Petals

Ayah's submission to the showcase is an excerpt of her short story, Pink Petals, depicting a gruesome dystopian future. 

Summer Showcase: Pink Petals

The roof would have to be my next move, but I was unsure of getting there. Quickly I looked around and pink petals danced in my gaze. I couldn’t look away. The petals. The leaves. It wasn’t just cascading from the broken roof but through a door. I followed the pink petals up a small stair and noticed the beauty of nature wrapped around the rusted metal handles. I run as it follows. A game of cat and mouse was about to end. 

It grabbed my leg and I fell colliding with the hard steps. Dust fills my nose and I kick the hand away. I shoot at it, a wail sounding, and I run.

One bullet.

I run and the game is on its final round 

I picked my brother up and ran. The teacher followed. She cried and screamed, eyes wide, pupils dilated in fear. Nausea threatened to spill out of my mouth at that moment and I could feel the tiny child in my arms shaking. His body violently shook as I forced his head into my neck, his hurried breath telling me he was alive. Alive and afraid. 

A man was behind us, and he had staggered towards us. The radio clicked into my head. Stay away, it had said. I stepped in front of my brother and the teacher held his arm. The man staggered drunk towards us, and anger raged war with my rib cage. How dare he be drunk when a nightmare had begun outside? If only he was drunk. If only he was drunk. He looked up and at that moment my body shook, frozen as my stomach flipped upside down. His fingernails were dug into his eye and with a plop, he dug it out. I blinked and he laughed. I blinked and he stared at me with a smile on his face. Blood poured out of his mouth, and he licked his lips. He dragged his nails across his face, the skin stuck under his nails and his head shook manically. He stared at me while licking his fingers. 

Stay away. Danger the radio had warned.

The man stopped. He froze before he opened his mouth wide, and fear hugged me. He ran towards us, and I blinked.

My first encounter with it and however much I wished, it would not be my last.

The teacher drove us to her home while the radio came on alive.

“Increased levels of carbon—rabi–mutation— I repeat increased levels of C02 has led to the mutation of- mutation of rabies that has caused aggressive and dangerous behaviour. Do not let them get near you. Their bites, blood or saliva is the way the disease transits to other live hosts. Do not let it get near you. We are unsure of why recent activity from the sun has happened, but it has sped up or activated the mutations to appea—...”

Quickly putting on the glasses and scarf to cover my mouth and nose, I clench my fist and slam at the glass window. I do it again, widening the spiderweb of cracks. Dust swims in the air, while pink petals fly in a circular motion as a tornado form outside and my hand goes through the window. Heat sprints through my arm while I reach for the handle. I retract my arm and swing the door open wincing as glass sits comfortably in my arm and colour dances in my vision. I grimace in pain, blood gushing too fast out of the wound. 

Grunting and moaning envelop me, and I run. Behind. It was behind. The roof edge. Edge. Pain. Blood stains the greyish dust on the ground and the shades twinkle as light tries to acidify it. The roof edge. Closer.

Closer. The roof edge. And for the first-time silence reigns as the edge comes closer. I see a shadow of what used to be a human arm reach out to my running shadow and duck under the wailing arms. I get behind it, sweat getting trapped behind my scarf ad clogging my glasses. But nothing deters me. I used to draw with my brother. I loved to show off and see his scrunched-up nose look at me, eyebrows downcast on his eyes. It was a beautiful masterpiece. I shoot at it.

Zero bullets.

It staggers to the edge and with a kick to its thin stomach, it falls from the roof. I can’t hear the fall over the sound of cars being eaten by the tornado. I take a pink petal and go back inside before the heat trapped in the atmosphere cooks for dinner. I crave an egg sandwich and watching eggs sizzle in a pan. 

I go inside, my body is used to the polluted air but welcomes the solitude and filter of the mall. 

I look at the pink petal in my bandaged arm. Burns from staying too long in the sun. The sun treats me like I am an egg. I sigh as I put it in my pocket. Now I keep the search going. I have to find something. Anything.

I miss the morning I held hot chocolate with an unblemished pink dress. I was on my way to an interview with a woman named Saskia, the future was bright and warm, unlike the air now that treats us like breakfast. Now I am in a mall alone with no bullets, the future glaring and unbearable promising my flesh to the lively yellow maggots who would enjoy their new marionette- one that will never be welcomed back to the Earth. 

The invitation has been set and the sick guests are coming. 

The sun judges me as its light gets brighter and blinding. It mocks the mortality I have but I do not rise to its trepidation. My bones lull at me with weariness and I clench the pink petal in my hand. My brother awaits.

And just maybe I could sleep tonight dreaming of the morning I held hot chocolate and remember what it tasted like. 

Judge's comment

"A very interesting read about what the effects of the climate crisis could lead to and showed how love still persevered during these trying times through a brother and sister dynamic. A touching read."

Pink Petals was submitted to the Experimental category of the 2022 Voice Summer Showcase
Anita Okunde

About the author

What attracted you to the artform? Was there a particular inspiration?

Throne of glass held me hostage and dumped me in the book world. I was forced to read it by my English teacher for reading time and down there my addiction began. But it took a while for me to start writing. Writing was different to reading. I didn’t think it'd go well so I abandoned it pretty quick, but it was a great way to destress from undergraduate and I needed every destressing method to get me to the next day.

How did you learn to do this artform?

 It took lots of practice, reading short stories and feedback from friends to understand how to structure a story or how not to overly write when the pace is meant to be fast. 

Were there any challenges, and do you have any tips for somebody else looking to get started?

My main challenge in writing was my own fear of strangers reading my work. I never told my friends where my work was being published as it was less embarrassing than strangers who would never meet or talk to me. I published one work and stopped for a long time as I couldn’t handle how embarrassing and self-doubting it made me feel. Undergraduate got more stressful and the books I was reading didn’t have the brutal death or deaths I wanted, and it put me back into writing what I want. That’s a tip for anyone who wants to start writing their own stories. You’re a reader first, writer second, so write a story you’ll read

Ayah Khan is on her way to re-watch the walking dead and will be studying international journalism soon. Hailing from London and addicted to boba. she loves reading sci-fi or fantasy books – with a certain obsession with assassins. Her reading addiction aided with English language attracted her to write her own short stories, especially when the books I was reading didn’t go the way she wanted them to. The books didn’t have enough angst, fighting or pain!



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