Poison in the Well

First, our dog died. It was hard, my wife and I had got him when he was a puppy. We had him cremated and placed on the mantel over the fire place. We told our three-year-old son Rayray that he had gone away to live on a farm. We thought the trauma was over. We were wrong.

Rayray spiked a fever. We tried everything to break it before taking him to the hospital. I had never seen the hospital so overwhelmed with patients, they didn’t have enough beds. We were lucky and got Rayray into a room. That’s where having expensive insurance paid off. It didn’t help, he died a few hours later. Nothing anyone could do. Nothing. How do you blame the hospital staff? There were so many, old and young with the same symptoms and they just couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  I’ve never cried so hard or hurt so much in my life.

The CDC came, they did all sorts of tests trying to figure out what was going on. They seized my baby boy, we couldn’t even bury him. My wife got sick a few days later. I took her to the CDC hoping they had been able to find something to help her. She died screaming in their tent. Or maybe she passed out and died in her sleep. That’s what I hope happened. I will never know. They refused to let me see her. After two hours of waiting someone remembered to tell me that she had passed away. The sudden loss of my family was a pain unlike anything I had ever felt.

I left my car at the hospital and wandered into a nearby bar. I woke up the next day in the police drunk-tank. The police cut me loose as soon as I could stand on my own. There was no room to hold me, not enough beds. They were being overrun with 911 calls; the riots had started. The National Guard was called up, those that would respond, those that could respond. But they weren’t any better prepared.

My car was gone. I walked home and boarded up the windows. All I had left were reminders of a life my wife and I had built for ourselves, I didn’t want anyone destroying it.

The news was bad, people dying in the streets and being left to rot. The city wasn’t prepared. How do you prepare for a catastrophe of such magnitude? We had never faced anything like it before, we didn’t have the resources.

I was one of the lucky ones, I was prepared. They labeled me crazy, a doomsday prepper. Well, it came in handy, because a few days later power and water turned off. That’s when the world outside turned dark for me. I lost touch, but at night I could still hear the screams and see the flames. No more emergency services. I heard from a fellow prepper over the CB radio (my wife told me it was a waste of money. I can’t look at it without my eyes tearing up.) that the hospitals had shut down too.

When looters came to my home where my family had lived, I showed them on their way. The ones that wouldn’t give up I buried outback. I couldn’t just leave their rotting corpses outside.

They figured out what caused the illness during the blackout. It was our water supply, a contaminant we were unaware even existed. It never occurred to me that it could be our water. It looked fine. Tasted fine. When my wife got sick she was so thirsty. I gave her water hoping it would help, it didn’t quench her thirst. If I had given her soda instead… would she still be alive?

 All this time, the very thing that was getting everyone sick was the water that we all trusted. I always thought that we would be destroyed from terrorism or a Nuclear attack, but never from our own water. There are some people who think it was an attack, I’m not so sure.

I’m left with two questions; How did this happen? And why didn’t I get sick? I had been drinking the same water.

12 thoughts on “Poison in the Well

  1. Because you are an Alien! From SPACE!

    But seriously though, as I read through this, I did like the suspension, I found that adding small details might have added to the tension. To give an example: “The police cut me loose as soon as I could stand on my own. There was no room for me there, not enough beds, and the cops had more important things to do. They were being overrun with 911 calls; riots had started in the streets. The National Guard was called up, the ones best equipped to deal with this madness. But they weren’t any better prepared, no more then we were.”

    I find that adding in small, little details helps build the atmosphere with these kinds of pieces. I hope this helps, and I look forward to reading more of your work.


  2. I like it! Good story, good glimpse at the inner thinking of your character. And this is not your typical ‘everyone is dying’ type story or ‘nuke disaster’ story…and not the trendy-type zombie story. It had it’s own thing going on. I WOULD have liked to have just a taste of what caused it…maybe the character heard a rumor…maybe a snippet of someone talking on the CB before their voice goes quiet.

    There seem to be a few comma errors, but I think I know why. You’re writing this as the character thinks or speaks. Nothing wrong with that. BUT…you have normal-written sentences, as well. So, it LOOKS like there are errors. This goes along with my other “critique”…that you seem to go in and out of character just a bit. As I said, it is fairly clear you are writing as the character thinks or speaks. Make sure you have in your head who that character is, how they think and speak, and stick with it.

    I will say this: Don’t change the character. I like him/her. Thoughtful type…down-to-earth…wise…didn’t care when people said they were crazy. Maybe give us just a touch more…maybe a bit more about how they feel about the wife…maybe some opinions on what he/she thinks happened…who did it, why they did it, how they did it. This character seems smart – they might be able to work it out a bit


  3. I loved this piece. It took me to a strained, broken possibility, where even emotions have been struck down. This guy lays it out so cold, the blunt admission of his tears actually becomes more distressing.

    His facts are so detrimental to his existence, we realise he’s no longer able to connect to them.

    While he’s telling you, the dread creeps over your skin. I said “oh no, oh no” in my head several times. Great feels! 😊


  4. Bleak, forlorn, tragic, and all too believable. The writing is just evocative enough that I see a movie in my head, voiceover on segments of pain, loss, and survival.

    And the questions. Bittersweet and mysterious.

    I love it.


  5. I found your short story captivating, edge of your seat and easy to read. It is a scary subject and I like how you described how the hospital and government wasn’t open to informing people on the situation and what had happened. Once again, the government agencies are covering up a health issue. It would be interesting to read a longer version to see how he copes and what happens as time goes on.
    Thanks for the opportunity.


  6. Those last two questions would probably have driven me to madness in short order. “The water killed everyone and I’ve been drinking it. Why am I not dead? Am I going to wish that I was? What’s in me now?” I just took a drink from my glass of water. That’s messed up.

    You get right to the point with the descent into bleak chaos, good read.


  7. Loved the character. Perplexed, confused and tormented by all of the complexities and loss in such a short time.

    I agree with some other comments. Elaborate to make the story flow.
    Add more to the description, explain so we, the readers become more attached to your characters.

    Did your character build an immunity to the water?

    Looking forward to reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

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