Aria caught the city bus as the sky donned a pinkish glow before the day’s final gasp. Her daughter Millie sat on her lap, gripping her wrinkled hospital scrubs — the ones with the cat patterns on them. Millie had entered that age where she often asked all the difficult questions of the universe. Are the sun and the moon friends or enemies? Do aliens go to the bathroom? Why do other kids have a dad, but I don’t?
“Here’s our stop,” Aria said.
After dropping Millie off at grandma’s house, Aria hopped back on the bus and waited for it to bring her to work. She gazed out the window and sighed. The city was winding down while she was just beginning her 12-hour shift. The bags under her eyes carried enough stories to tell to the stars. Sleep was just an elusive dream at that point.
As Aria exited the bus, she dashed past a group of five nurses who were relishing a smoke break. Aria always wondered why her fellow healthcare workers would pollute their pink lungs, but she wasn’t hellbent on judging. Stress is a pervasive beast. Paranoia is a sneaky shadow that never leaves you alone. Uncertainty makes your mind spin in circles.
The moment Aria strapped on her mask and walked through the hospital’s sliding doors, all she could think about was how she couldn’t wait to pick up Millie in the morning, then go home and change. In fact, she had a feeling that a lot of things were about to change. And that’s when she had to ask herself her own difficult question: Will tonight be the night?
Zach Murphy: "I am a Hawaii-born writer with a background in cinema. My stories have appeared in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Mystery Tribune, Rigorous, Emerge Literary Journal, Ellipsis Zine, Spelk Fiction, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Lotus-eater, Crêpe & Penn, WINK, Levitate, Drunk Monkeys, Door Is A Jar, and Yellow Medicine Review. I live with my wonderful wife Kelly in St. Paul, Minnesota."