She stared aimlessly at the gold hieroglyphic SEVEN embossed in the immaculate sole of the shoe for a good minute, before returning it to its shelf for the third time. Impressed at it’s gleam, she eyed its exterior. It was like the waxed skin of a grey strange fruit. She gazed pitifully at her own shoes; scuffed greying moulds of cheap leather, wet from the aftermath of an untimely and unseasonal blizzard. Two nights ago, an ageing, pompous weatherman had explained quite authoritatively on the weather segment after the news that despite the severity of the recent weather, that there was nothing by-and-large to worry about. What kind of weatherman says by-and-large in the context of climate change, Pheona remembered thinking. The store was sparsely populated with humans, illuminated blindingly by the artificial light above, like specimens within a laboratory. Having wondered in store as directed by a fluey delirium, Pheona had accepted the challenge of finding something to buy, without need nor budget. She waltzed across the immaculate tile floors, trailing an idle finger across the shapes and sizes that sat on their neat metal shelves, marble plinths and wooden stands. Coughing up a small pearl of phlegm, she bent down to handle a pair of red pumps, feeling herself temporarily exposed in the process. She turned to see if she if anyone had seen. A middle-aged man had his back to her, looking to the ceiling in surrender as his partner trailed the shops’ circumference. She needed her bed; or sex- it was not clear. She massaged her tender breastbone, as high above the shoppers, a digital clock shone 18:51 to nobody in particular, beneath which a young store attendant stood, yawning to himself. She watched his mouth abruptly close. She imagined the attendant handling her soggy tighted feet; sizing and tending to her— or that same mouth of his beneath her, her weight and motion keeping it ajar and eager. Him beneath her sickly duvet, mouthing softly, until she dozed off... She stared hypnotically, until eye-contact was made. She smiled briefly, before continuing around the shop, handling the pumps thoughtfully, swaying her head side to side with indifference. Being sick had made her strangely horny- whether it was the drowsiness from the cocktail of tablets and sachets she had routinely been taking, or whether it was her confinement to her bed for the last 72 hours, it was unclear. That fluffy pit of multiple duvets and unwashed bed sheets became so familiar; it’s growing stench at her not being bothered to shower, a collection of unread books littered beneath its surface. The grey bobbled patches of her own ejaculate, that dried to yellowy crusted ovals like dried lakes of sulphur. ‘I haven’t got all day’, a male voice sounded, limp and with attempted authority. ‘Are you coming, or what?’. Pheona turned, ready to answer the speaker, before realising it was the same man from before, now hovering by the doorway, calling to his partner. He was a weedy man; five foot six or so. He was balding, wearing a battered blazer, baggy cords and brown trainer-shoes. His partner, a fashionable, lean frizzy blonde with impractical white jeans and unseasonal green wedges stopped in her tracks abruptly. ‘Wait for me in the car’, she commanded with an air of calm and unflinching certainty at the fulfilment of the act, breaking down the syllables of each as word, like an examiner of a foreign language wanting to make sure every word was understood. The young store attendant took the sheer silence that followed as the perfect opportunity to inform the remaining patrons that the store would be closing in five minutes.
* * *
G flinched, before ashing her cigarette and flicking it down to the shadowy world below. Management had already told employees about the dangers of doing that. Pheona hadn’t the heart to remind her. ‘But you’re alright though- yeah?’, G asked with genuine concern. Pheona paused, cracked a convincing smile, before looking down at her feet once more sheepishly. Within her pumps, her feet were framed like slabs of meat; maybe Pork- Ham. ‘Girl, I’m all good’. G smiled, satisfied. ‘As long as you’re sure’, she sung, vacating the rooftop down to the ticket office below. Pheona gazed out the world and sighed. She had been ill now for ten days. Was it a superbug? Superflu? Was that even a thing? Somewhere down below within the ultramarine shadows of concrete tower blocks, pristine offices and megalithic overpasses, a police siren echoed. A dog barked insistently, each of its whooping calls booming through the densely packed urban landscape like sonic booms amongst clouds. The ambient collective rushing noise of human activity on this colossal scale whooshed gently through the air penetrating her very being like a cool breeze, as the red of the dying day crept into the blue of the sky. Although a week filled with lukewarm Chinese food, chronic masturbation, nature documentaries and online shopping (to then return more than half of what was purchased) seemed like heaven at the start, she couldn’t take it anymore and by the sixth day was ready to be around other humans, even if they were in the form of ridiculously stupid tourists needing travelcards or entitled city-boys who had lost their annual passes. She in turn killed her own cigarette, savoring its vapors before ashing it on the steel safety rail and binning it, before taking out her phone. After an intuitive click, Google’s home page stared back at her blankly, as if to say: seriously, what do you want now? She tapped in Superflu symptoms, and hit search. Then Super Flu. Then, Superflu bug Islington London. Then some six other variations, until her phone dinged and vibrated. It was a message. It simply said: