Editor’s Note: The editors at FewerThan500 are pleased to announce the winners of our Alternate History Flash Fiction Story contest. The contest attracted almost 50 entries from all over the world. The editors reviewed the entries based on a set of eight carefully chosen criteria and selected the top three stories for cash prizes. We welcome reader feedback on our selections.
By Ric Waters
Leah stood at her apartment window, her big, fluffy robe wrapped tightly around her against the cold. She watched snow falling on the streets of Miami, while the TV droned and the coffee maker bubbled away in the background.
As she frequently did, Leah wondered what had happened to her fiancé, Mark, who had stayed behind in New York City. He hadn’t believed what the scientists said, that President Lyndon Johnson’s decision to launch nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union would affect the United States. Besides, he was making too much money off the economic instability on Wall Street that the attack had caused.
Leah strode over to the coffee maker, pulled the pot out before the machine was finished and poured a mugful. The brew sputtered on the hot base before she replaced the pot. She resented others who had cream, which became unaffordable after the country’s cows died off by the millions.
It was nearly 7 o’clock and she was due in at the restaurant. Part of her wondered whether the manager would even open shop. She hated trudging through the cold and getting wet. She had hated it in New York, too, but then she had Mark and a great-paying job in real estate.
Then came the attack on the Soviets; the president had insisted that we had to strike first before they built enough missiles to hit us. The Russians never launched their weapons.
The scientists were proven right; nuclear winter set in shortly afterwards. Those who could get out of the country had fled; others crowded refugee camps along the Mexican border and the Gulf Coast. Leah had been fortunate, having contacts that secured this tiny apartment for her.
She returned to the window and sipped her coffee, pondering what she could do with her life, given the climate.
A knock came at the door.
Who could be out at a time like this?
She went to the door and looked through the peephole. A large, parka-clad person stood there.
Her breath caught in her throat; that voice was so familiar. She undid the lock, twisted the knob and opened the door.
The man pulled back the parka hood, the goggles and the woolen scarf from his head. His face was covered in a thick beard, but the piercing blue eyes and wide smile were exactly the way she remembered them.
Leah dropped her coffee as her mouth opened in surprise. “Mark?”
“Yeah! I made it!”
She threw her arms around him and kissed him passionately. He’d followed her!
After the kiss broke, Mark said, “I missed you, too. Mind if I come in?”
Leah felt embarrassed for not having asked first, moved aside and shoved the coffee mug aside with her foot. “Yeah, yeah! Come in!”
So there was a chance that they could spend their lives together after all. Only, that life was going to be much different than she originally planned.
Ric Waters is a writer and photographer from Aurora, Illinois. His interest in alternate history dates back to the 1990s cult-classic sci-fi series SLIDERS, which prompted him to write a dozen fan-fiction stories exploring other potential Earth histories with the original cast of the show.