by Bryan Jones
The child needed more medicine. It was already late, but if the man hurried, he might make it to the pharmacy before it closed. He grabbed his coat from the closet and told his wife he would be careful. He took his pistol. The city was dangerous at night. He hurried out onto the narrow sidewalk. But before he had cleared the first block, the feather blizzard hit. Millions of white feathers dropped from the night sky. The feathers blanketed the rooftops of buildings and collected in vast piles on the streets or swirled in the air. Storm drains became clogged. Streetlights were hard to see.
The man swatted his way through the feathers, until he made it to the front steps of the pharmacy. He crashed through the door. From behind the counter, the pharmacist looked up at him over a pair of filmy glasses. The drug the man needed was expensive. The man still owed the pharmacist from the last time. The man would do anything at this point, even beg.
“Settle your account first,” the pharmacist said. There was no compassion in the voice.
“Please, the child is in pain.”
The pharmacist acted like he had heard it all before. He removed his glasses to wipe them with a cloth he kept behind the counter.
“This time you only get half as much.”
The man reached inside his coat and felt the cold handle of the gun. But something made him stop. He pulled his coat close and wrapped it tightly around his body.
The pharmacist partially filled a bottle with liquid and put it on the countertop. The man looked at the half-full bottle, but he swore to himself he wouldn’t use the gun. Not this time. The man put what little money he had on the countertop before taking the bottle and going outside to a city gripped in panic. Traffic was at a standstill. Horns blared at every street corner. No one could see beyond what was falling out of the havoc of the night sky.
Somehow, the man made it back to the apartment building. He went inside the dingy hall and knocked on his door. His wife let him in and then they went into the room where the child was shivering in the bed. The man opened the bottle and put it to the child’s lips. In the dim light, the child’s fingers touched the man’s in the exchange. The child emptied the bottle and soon the shivering stopped. The bottle had temporarily relieved the pain.
Then the man turned and saw his wife’s face shattered with worry and fear. “Why is this happening?” she asked him. The man looked away, but then he froze at the sight of the window. Their building was being buried in something like an avalanche. Through the narrowing space of the top three window panes, he could see the mounds outside growing deeper as feathers began to come down in even greater numbers.