Yellow Pollen #8
by Cherie Ann Turpin
(30 Stories in 30 Days)
Yellow pollen. Burning throat, swollen membranes. That’s what I remember it starting out to be, but that was before we stopped going outside all together.
Yellow pollen. Changing people, changing the animals, the plants.
It’s the same place, this hotel, only different now with the change. We do try to find ways of staying cheerful in midst of disaster, and nothing keeps me from joining a party with my favorite people, people I want to be around, not even that ghastly yellow pollen killing us slowly. I saw mostly men in suits, including Walt who eventually sat next to me after getting a refill of his cranberry and vodka, plus a retired athlete who seemed a bit shorter than expected but very welcome: he had whitish blonde hair, blue eyes, very warm—he knew me for some reason—I touched his shoulders and we hugged. I think this was a banquet of sorts, not a card game. He leaned over told me it was last call for drinks before the card game. I shouted out lemon vodka to the bartender, then corrected myself by saying, “I meant lime vodka.” He nodded, replying with “oh, yeah, right I know what you mean,” and started making it. I sat down at the table. This was what was one of a few fragments left of human civilization, or what I thought of as our few bright moments of pleasure before the inevitable cessation of our existence, at least on this planet.
Sometimes I like to pretend I don’t remember how it began, but I prefer to keep my lying limited to fooling my rivals at the card table. Truth is, I can’t forget it. The scars in my lungs, nose, and on my arms from the burns remind me of the spores that felt like pins of fire shooting through me and around me as it swirled into our atmosphere. We unfortunate few who are now left are all that remains after the small contingent who were selected randomly by the invading alien race departed in strange oblong ships.
The change started with what had been assumed to be tree pollen during late spring not so many moons ago. It rolled in like a fog, settling on every surface outside like a bright, thick carpet of snow. Asthmatics, pregnant women and the elderly were the first to be warned to stay inside; schools were closed, and people in general were warned to avoid touching this “pollen” that continued to fall from the sky, accumulating on cars, buildings, bushes, and just about any other outside surface left uncovered. Eventually, no one dared leaving their home without layers of protective clothes and masks. The shelters were packed with homeless people attempting to escape exposure to the outside air.
Some teenagers thought it would be cool to use their snowboards and skateboards to plow through the yellow piles of pollen like snow, only find discover to their horror the difficult and painful consequences of rolling through a substance that, upon contact with skin, felt like tiny needles of fire shooting through every nerve. Several young men were admitted to ER with chemical burns, and at least two died as a result of complications stemming from third-degree burns and anaphylaxis. A national state of emergency was declared after scientific discovery of what had been long feared to be a contamination of the environment by a biological substance of alien origin.
This was not pollen.