Slowly, Danny turned the door knob, his heart skipped a beat as he heard the click of the lock and then sucked in a deep breath as the he let the door swing open.
Deep down Danny knew what he was going to find, but he tricked himself into thinking that everything would be OK, throwing himself back in time, to when a small, childish Danny would make himself believe bad luck was only temporary, that when his mother took away his T.V. privileges that it would be alright, because some day he would get them back. So it was with Becka when he hadn’t seen her at her window. She’s OK, that voice said, tomorrow she will be back. And when she didn’t come back that hope still lingered deep inside him that he would walk into her apartment and there she would be. Maybe a part of the ceiling fell down and pinned her legs to the floor, making it impossible for her to move until her knight in shinning armor came along and rescued her.
Everything will be OK.
As the door swung open Danny did find Becka, laying on her bed, but everything wasn’t OK.
She had been one of the unlucky ones, the softness got her in her sleep and when she woke-up she would find that she was unable to move, or to get help. Over the following days she would grow weaker until she died of dehydration or starvation.
Becka laid on her bed, her head turned towards the window. Her eyes had fogged over and for the first time Danny could see that she had blue eyes. The skin had no creases or wrinkles where the joints or knuckles would have been, fingers, arms and legs took on the shape of balloon animals, smooth and round. Anything that used to be cheek bones or a jaw line melted away, replaced by a rounded edge.
As Danny stood there looking at her, he noticed that she seemed to be looking past him, across the street. As he looked out of the window he could see his room with a book shelf against the back wall and a poster of Jessica Simpson hanging over his bed. Beyond that he couldn’t make out much, which is why he couldn’t see her laying her on her bed from his room. Fom his room he could see a night stand in the corner and a Jonas Brother poster on the closet door, but not her bed and not her.
As Danny walked back across the street to his apartment he stopped again to look both ways before he crossed the street. No cars were coming and he saw nobody else walking on the sidewalks. The man that he had shot and killed earlier laid on the ground behind him and he wondered if this time he was now truly alone, if he was the last person left alive.
*I should note that the The Softness – a hypothetical disease that turns all skeletal matter into a soft material – was not originally my creation for a story backdrop. I read a short story in a collection when I was a kid and thought that the story was incredibly imaginative and frightening. I don’t recall the name of the author but I think the name of the story was Soft or Softness – a search on wikipedia failed to give any results. Anyway I’ll keep looking for the name of the author and where it can be found. This story – who’s characters and situations are of my creation – is my way of telling the author of that story thank you for inspiration an aspiring writers imagination and for making more then a few nights. . . sleepless.
**The name of the short story is indeed called Soft, written by F. Paul Wilson. I read the short story in a collection of horror and science fiction stories called Between Time And Terror.