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Out with the Old

Erica Ruppert lives in northern New Jersey with her husband and too many cats. She writes weird horror and dark fantasy, and her work has appeared in magazines including Unnerving, Lamplight, and Nightmare, on podcasts including PodCastle, and in multiple anthologies. When she is not writing, she runs, bakes, and gardens with more enthusiasm than skill. Her novella, "Sisters in Arms" has been released by Trepidatio Publishing in Summer 2021.

Outside, the cold night was broken with fireworks and bursts of laughter from the streets below.
"Have to see the New Year," the old woman gasped. "Have to."
"Quiet, Annie," Jess said, smoothing the bedsheets over her new patient.
The old woman's skin was like marble. She wouldn't last much longer.
Jess might still make the party.
Jess startled when Annie grabbed her wrist and pulled her close.
"Can't go yet," Annie rasped.
Jess could hear the rattle behind her words.
"Stop that," Jess said sharply, tugging loose. She glanced at the window as she filled the syringe. Bright music filled the room despite the glass.
"How soon?" Annie coughed.
"Soon," Jess said. She looked at the clock over the bed. "Ten minutes."
"Have to see," Annie wheezed. Her eyes were not quite closed. A thin rim of white showed through her sparse lashes.
"You will," Jess murmured, and sank the needle into Annie's arm. She depressed the plunger slowly, watching Annie's face fall slack as the morphine did its work. Annie's breathing slowed, stopped.
Jess glanced at the clock. Eleven fifty-eight.
Close enough, she thought.
The celebration outside grew louder with noisemakers and cheers. Jess pressed Annie's eyes shut and drew the sheet over her face. She heard the countdown reach its end, and over it the thin wail of a hungry baby.
Then she heard nothing.
Uneasy, she raised the window. Outside was silent, starless and dark.
There was no celebration.
There was nothing at all.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, October 14th, 2021


Author Comments

This story emerged from a strange mix of influences converging for me at the right time: The potential of a coming New Year, personal losses, the grind of the pandemic, many episodes of The Twilight Zone, and a bleakly funny piece by Stephen Graham Jones.

- Erica Ruppert
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