On Writing - Archive - November 2014

  • After the Fall: Excerpts 9 & 10

    November 27, 2014

    It took him the better part of the day, but he found everything he wanted. His dad had an old camping backpack in the garage. His family had not set foot in the woods in over a decade, but his dad kept all the old supplies, dreaming they might one day go again. He grabbed a sleeping bag and his two man tent. From his room he took two changes of clothes, his pocket knife, his baseball bat, his cell phone charger, his tablet and its charger, and a pen and notebook. He looked through the fridge, but everything was going to spoil. He wanted cans, boxes, food that would last a couple weeks if needed. He was hoping it wouldn't come to that, but he'd seen too many TV shows and read too many comics to think this would turn out well. Plus, if his body freaked out like it had the other day, he'd need food, and he did not know where he would end up if he had to run again.

    Vance lamented that he had not indulged his father's vacation urges more often. They didn't own a single map. Not on paper. It was all stored away on his dad's laptop. It was old and couldn't hold a charge, more a portable desktop at this point. He'd take one from a convenience store. They still sold maps, right.

    He emptied his pockets. Left his keys. He ditched all the plastic and cards in his wallet, other than his driver's license and his money. He didn't know if the money would be useful, but he wasn't giving it up yet. He went through his parent's bedroom and took all his mom's small jewelry. The important stuff. The bracelet that her sister had left her in her will. The diamond earrings that dad had gotten her for their 25th anniversary. The pearl necklace her mother had given her when she turned 18. He didn't want to leave them. Didn't want them to end up with some other person that came along and broke in.

    It was dark by the time he got everything together. He thought of leaving, but thought better of it. He took another survey. He still had a bit of room in the backpack. He added some silverware, a roll of toilet paper, and all the drugs in the medicine cabinet. The bottles were too bulky, so he emptied all the pills into sandwich baggies, labeling each one in permanent marker, which he also decided to keep. He took a bottle of peroxide and a tin of band aids. He checked the garage again, taking a wrench, a hand axe, and a screwdriver. He toyed with the idea of taking the propane torch, but it was too bulky

    He went back to his parents room and dumped the remainder of his mom's jewelry box on the bed, drawers and all. He went back into the living room. He left the box on the couch and went into the kitchen to get a dustpan and brush.

    It was easier than he thought it would be. He swept up the dust in the recliner, depositing it into the box. He carried it down into the basement and did the same with the pile at the workbench. He set the box on the dining room table. It was too dark to see anything else, so he locked the doors and went to sleep on his parents bed, staring at the ceiling fan until he fell asleep.

    The sun was up when Vance woke up. He took the jewelry box and went outside. He looked around, finally setting on burying it under the porch. His parents spent a lot of time there in the summer, talking, enjoying the sunsets. He took a shovel from the garage and buried it a couple feet under the dirt. His parents had been religious, but he wasn't. He made the sign of the cross and hoped his parents were happy, wherever they were, then made the sign again and left the shovel.

    Next he debated between his car and his parents’ station wagon. Then he realized an entirely better idea as he spotted his neighbor's explorer sitting in their driveway. Ten minutes later he had the keys and checked the truck. Nearly full tank of gas, everything sounded good. Static on the radio. He went through their garage and found a full gas can. He also took a flashlight, some rope, and the winch for the truck.

    He loaded the truck up with his backpack and supplies, then decided he wanted to eat one last time in his house before leaving. He didn't know when he'd be back. He also hadn't decided where to go. But first stop was downtown. If the gas station didn't sell maps, he knew the library would have some.

    He turned the radio off as he drove. He wished the truck had a plugin for his iPod like his car did, but he'd manage. He kept a watchful eye out for whatever it was that had chased his the other day, but the roads and side streets were quiet. It looked like the wind had blown away most of the dust. Occasionally he would see a pile jeans or some shoes, but that was it. Other than all of the car crashes, it just looked like a vacant town.

  • After the Fall: Excerpt 8

    November 20, 2014

    The walk to his parents house was short, quiet, and without event. No signs of the beast from the day before. He skirted the intersection where he'd been attacked completely, instead sticking to the main roads and sidewalks. He'd pass the occasional pile of clothing lying on the sidewalk, realizing the wind must have blown all the dust away. He walked up the ramp, readying himself for what he'd find inside. He took his keys out, unlocking the front door. He closed his eyes as the door swung open, taking a step inside, then looking right, opening his eyes. There was his mom's favorite nightgown, lain out flat on the recliner. Layers of dust ran along the cushion and into the grooves of the seat. He blinked, then walked into their bedroom, but he saw no signs of his dad. He walked back through the living room, into the kitchen. He gave himself hope, until he checked the basement. There, at his father's workbench, he say the trousers, the smoking jacket, a pile of dust gathered around it. An unfinished table leg locked into a vice.

    He went back upstairs, sat down at the kitchen table, and cried. He sobbed. He'd never remembered crying so hard about anything. He didn't know what to do. There was no one. He was it. Nothing else. He felt the familiar dents and chips of the table as he sat there, his face against the surface. He lost track of time, but got up and went back through the living room, taking the stairs up to his bedroom. He sat down on his bed, took his shoes off, and curled up and hugged a pillow, and cried some more.

    He was staring at the ceiling when the lights went off. It was still daylight outside, but the lamp went out. Vance sat up, trying the switch. He noticed the power strip was out too. He went back downstairs, the rest of the lights were out. He poked his head outside. Seeing nothing, he walked over to the neighbors house, peering in their window. No one was about. No lights were on. He saw two piles of clothes and dust on the couch in front of their TV. He turned around and went back to his house. He locked the door, then went back upstairs to his room. He looked around. He needed to get out of the house. He could not stay here, not like it was.

  • After the Fall: Excerpt 7

    November 13, 2014

    Vance turned back to the fridge, throwing the door open. He drank the rest of the milk; the skim, the 2% and the whole. He drank the half and half. He went back around to the front and grabbed the bottles out of the cooler. He finished eight before he finally felt sated.

    ‟What happened to me?” he said, looking around at the empty bottles. He felt disgusting. He pulled his shirt off and wiped off his face with it, tossing it aside. He looked around, but couldn't bring himself to tug one out of the piles of dust. He tried to remember how he got here. The Starbucks was over a mile from where he'd seen the beast and he got here in what, seconds. It wasn't possible. He wasn't even particularly fast in his every day life. Trying out for track had never crossed his mind. He got winded after running for more then a few minutes. The city goes to hell and all of a sudden he's a gold medalist.

    He looked out through the windows. It was getting dark. He didn't want to make the trek back to his house at night. That thing was still out there. Vance got up, walking back behind the counter, checking for anything he may have missed to eat. He found a few croissants towards the front of the display, and some biscotti. He grabbed two soda bottles from the counter and went up the stairs to the second floor. He laid down on the floor, far enough so he couldn't be seen from anyone coming in, but close enough to see the street. He wasn't sure how long he laid there, seeing nothing. No cars drove by, no couples chatting, nothing. Not even a bird chirping. Silence. He was a little worried about leaving the lights on, but he didn't know where the switches were, and he figured every other business had it's lights on, so the Starbucks wouldn't stand out.

    It was light out when he awoke. He rolled onto his back and felt the cellphones he had taken from the grocery. He took one out. It was 11:32am. He scanned the downstairs, but if anyone had come in the night, he couldn’t tell. He ate the biscotti, then got up, stretched, and tried his phones again. All still with no signal.

  • After the Fall: Excerpt 6

    November 6, 2014

    Vance crawled over to the driver's side window and reached up to press the button that would lower the window, but nothing happened. Another jolt from the beast and he tried the door, which swung open. He braced for another push from the beast, then scrambled out and away from the car. He didn't look back. He got his feet under him and ran as fast as he could. He made the sidewalk, heard the beast yell. He rounded the corner. He ran. He saw the fire department, the police station, past the intersection to downtown. His mind caused him to stop running. He fell to his knees to catch his breath. Vance looked around. He was on main street across from the university.

    ‟But, how...?” Vance scratched his head. Then he doubled up on the road. Searing pains shot through his stomach, like it was collapsing in on itself. Hunger pangs unlike anything he'd ever felt. He thought he was going to pass out. He rolled onto his side and almost laughed. He could see the Starbucks on the corner. He dragged himself to his feet and hobbled over to the building. He pushed the door open. There were dust piles everywhere, but he didn't care. He dragged his feet, knocking piles of discarded garments and bags.

    He walked around to the employee side and went over to the counter. He slid the glass door of the pastry display aside and reached in, grabbing the first thing he could reach, and stuffing it into his mouth. Then another, and another. He sat down and started on a row of muffins. He was still hungry, the gnawing unrelenting. He finished the row of muffins, then the coffee cakes. His mouth was dry, so he looked around for the fridge, grabbing a gallon of milk and chugging the container, milk spilling down around his cheeks and dripping down his chin. Then he went back to the display. He ate the danishes, the chilled sandwiches, the brownies, and all the cookies. He was still hungry.