On Writing - Topic - After the Fall
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.
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.
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.
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.
October 30, 2014
He couldn't make out what he was seeing. There was what, a mountain lion, maybe a tiger. He scrunched up his eyebrows and leaned forward in his seat. Some animal was digging its head in through a crashed car at the intersection by the university. The beast’s shoulders were higher than the car, and it had its head down, rummaging through the driver side window.
‟Wait, how big is...” Vance's eyes went big and he leaned forward even more. That thing was bigger than the car. As he leaned forward, his left hand brushed too high on the steering wheel, hitting the horn.
‟Fuck, fuck,” Vance said, pulling back, spooking himself with the horn. He looked back up the street, meeting the gaze of the beast. He locked eyes with it, but he reassured himself it couldn't possible see him. He took a slow steady breath, once again reaching down to put the car in reverse. As he shifted, he saw the beast start striding down toward him, it's blackish orange mottled coat rippling over its muscled sleek body.
‟Bullshit, fucking bullshit,” Vance stammered as he pressed down on the gas, looking over his shoulder as he made his way back down the street. He looked back to see the bounding animal had already halved the distance. Vance wrenched on the steering wheel as he pressed on the gas, trying to fishtail the car around like he'd seen in so many movies. Instead he slammed the car into a sidewalk, upending the back of the car over a parking lot curb. He put the car in drive and slammed on the gas, but the back wheels were up off the ground, caught on the curb of the parking lot. He heard a guttural roar and looked back, the beast mere yards from the car. He was fumbling with his seatbelt when the creature broadsided the car.
In his panic, he fumbled with the seatbelt, which probably saved his life. The car went up on its side and over. Vance screamed. He felt his body strain against the belt as the car lurched, but he stayed in place. He felt the airbag briefly hit his head before the car went over. Cd cases and change fell to the ceiling, and he put his hands up to brace against the top. He heard the beast roar again, prodding the side of the car with its head, pushing the car across the parking lot. Vance reached up again, this time finding the release on the seat belt. He pushed and quickly used his hands to catch himself, falling onto his side. The scrapping of the car's roof against the pavement echoed around him. He looked to his left out the passenger window and say the beasts maw, its teeth gnashing as it continued to head-butt the car.
October 23, 2014
He paused, shaking his head, then walked back to where he was replacing the lights with Kelly. He hadn't noticed it at first, he'd been too distracted, but he saw them now. From under the pile of dust he saw Kelly's converse peeking out, her black work pants, the green uniform tee. He started to walk toward the pile, then stopped himself. He didn't want to know what she'd worn under her outfit. He felt sick again. He turned back to the front of the store, reaching into his pocket and taking out his cell phone. He wasn't getting any bars, so he walked back outside, but it didn't improve. He checked the line anyway, but couldn't send a message. He tried texting his buddy Chris, but that failed as well. He went back inside again, walking over to the checkout and kneeling down, going through the pants pockets of the two women, then checking their purses, finding their cell phones. Both signals dead as well. He got up and ran back to the office. He saw Gorgeous's pink studded collar sticking out from a little pyramid of dust next to the desk. He picked the phone up and nearly cried when he got a dial tone. He called up Chris again, but the number was not in service. He tried his parents next, but got the same result. He tried three more friends before he stopped, then realized he didn't know anyone that didn't use a cell phone.
‟Fuck it,” he said to no one in particular as he dialed 9-1-1. The line rang, but no one answered. He let the phone dangle from its cord as he stopped moving and sat down in Mr. Yorken's office recliner. He thought he was going crazy. He pinched himself a few times to make sure he was not dreaming. He could not concentrate. The dust pile of Gorgeous was creeping him out, that little golden heart with the engraved name poking out from the pile.
He went back outside, walking out to his car in the parking lot. Employees had to park in back, so thankfully no one had hit his car. He climbed into his beat up red cavalier, and let out a sigh of relief as the engine started up. The radio was nothing but static, but that was the least of his worries at the moment. He put the car in reverse, and then took a right, heading for home.
For once, Vance was glad he worked a Saturday morning shift. The streets were relatively free of cars. He saw the occasional accident, a car crashed into a guardrail, or into a tree. The worst were the cars that had gone off the road completely, smashing into the front of someone's house. Traffic lights still seemed to be working. He stopped at the first one, before he realized there was no point, and began cruising slowly through the empty streets. He kept to the speed limits, simply to be able to avoid any obstacles that cropped up. As he made downtown, he had to take a detour where a firetruck had somehow overturned, blocking the street he needed to take. He started up the side street when he came to a stop, following the view up to the end of the street that dead ended into the university.
October 16, 2014
Then, from outside, he heard several large crashing noises. It caught him off guard, spooking him a bit, causing him to slip from the ladder, managing to land on his feet, but slipping on a coating of granular dust on the floor, falling back and partially catching himself on his hands.
He winced, rubbing his elbows from the jolt, quickly getting up and running around to the front of the store. Car alarms were going off as he cleared the entrance. He saw cars crashed into the parking lot, a few collisions in the street, and other cars stopped dead in the road. But no people. The cars looked unattended. There were no screams of help. No one injured. No one anywhere. A grey haze filled his field of vision, one he thought a dust storm must look like.
‟What the fuck,” Vance slowly mouthed to himself, staring out into the street. He felt a shiver and turned back into the store, pulling the door shut behind him.
‟Kelly! Mr. Yorken! Eliot! Mrs. Yorken,” he called out, then stopped short, looking at the checkout aisle where the two women had been standing. He felt bile rise up in his chest, then braced against the door as he leaned over and upheaved the content of his stomach. A trail of spittle dripped out of his mouth before clinging to his chin, which he wiped away , then panicked as he saw he still had the grey grains on his hand. He smacked them off on his pants, kicking his legs and stomping his feet and smacking at his shirt and pants, knocking the grains from his clothes.
He then looked back to the checkout aisle. Amongst the piles of grains on the floor, he saw clothes. The shirts and shorts and shoes one of the girls was wearing, piled hastily on top of one another like someone getting undressed in a hurry. He stepped slowly, spotting another pile next to it, matching what the other woman was wearing. He peered closer, noting a lime green bra and thong under one of the shirts. He backed away from the piles, walking around the counter, seeing a cashier's apron and a pair of jeans and a button down flannel that looked like what Eliot showed up to work in this morning.
October 15, 2014
Alright, so I’m winding down on digging into the World of Grey we see presented in Fallen Throne. I’ve gone through the writing process, the places, the characters. I might do write ups on some of the more minor characters, or on some of the cities, but I’ll save that for another time.
What I am going to start doing is posting some of my other writing projects. Some will be unfinished. Some abandoned. I want to keep providing content for people to read, to keep up on my week to week progress. I’ll start next week with the first page of a story I was writing called “After the Fall” about four people who survive a world ending event, and are bestowed with weird powers. As far as they know, they are the only survivors, besides some unnatural animals that have sprung up. But they all have a mysterious calling, an ruing to travel to the west coast.
I also have some side stories I want to tell. Stories about Jenner that take place before Fallen Throne. Stores about Colette. The origin of how Havelin and Umbrunzwe met. Nothing particularly long, maybe just some short stories.
And lastly, the next book in the World of Grey series is coming along well. I’m a little ever a hundred pages in at this point, and plan to keep plugging away. I’m not sure if I’ll lend any insight into that story until its ready, as I like to keep it a surprise.
So I’ll see everyone next week, with the start of my side project, “After the Fall.”
October 9, 2014
‟Vance, so help me if you drop this on my head I will kill you assuming I don't bleed to death from all the shards,” Kelly said again, prodding Vance's hand with one end of the tube.
‟Whatever you say sweetie, Vance said, flashing her a pearly white smile and batting his baby blue eyes at her.” Kelly smirked, then sighed.
‟I already told ya, you're too young for me,” Kelly said, poking him in the ribs with the tube, scolding him.
‟Too old, we're the same age.”
‟Yeah, but you're a sophomore, and I'm senior. I can't help it if you're a little dim,” she grinned.
‟Oh my god, how many times have I told you. I didn't fail. I was out the entire semester with two broken legs.”
‟I'm not dating a sophomore, Vance.”
‟It's cool, it's cool. I know you're just intimidated by my youthful Brad Pitt-esque good looks,” Vance said, finally taking the tube from Kelly as he lifted it up above him, fitting one end into the fixture in the ceiling.
‟Brad Pitt? Lol, more like a skinnier Jonah Hill. But less funny.”
‟Um, thanks, maybe?” Vance said, shaking his head, snapping the tube into place. He then reached his right hand back for the next tube.
‟Any day Kelly, you were the one in a hurry,” Vance said, shaking his hand a bit.
‟Kelly, what are you doing,” Vance said, feeling a shower of something pelt his legs and lower back, like a gust of wind blowing up sand at the beach. He was further confused when he heard a sound like someone upending bags of salt all over the store. He looked around to see a white grey haze fill up the store aisles and around the checkout. Then he did a double take, scanning the aisles, looking to the checkout, then back to the deli, then down to where Kelly had been standing a second ago. Everyone was gone. The talking had ceased. The steady cadence of the meat slicer had stopped. And he no longer heard the terrier yapping away in the office. The only noise he could hear was the hum of the overhead lights.
October 2, 2014
‟Get me the fuck out of this bathroom.”
Vance looked to his left, hearing her scream again. It was definitely coming from the mill. He thought it had been abandoned for a few years. The paint was chipping off the exterior, and he could not remember the last time he had seen a train roll up next to the loading dock down by the river.
He checked the windows, but there was nothing to see. He heard another scream. She sounded hysterical. He stopped caring about caution and ran back to his truck, leaving the bag, putting the gun in his pocket, and grabbing his baseball bat. He ran back over and tried the doors, but they were locked. He went over to the window, and hit it with the head of the bat. It shattered, falling inward without flying everywhere. It had been two days since he had seen another living person. He was determined to see this one, even if it killed him.
* * *
‟Hey, Vance. Vance. Earth to Vance.”
‟Oh, hey, sorry Kelly,” Vance said, turning his attention from the two college girls at the checkout and back to his coworker at the base of the ladder.
‟Here, be careful with this, drop it and they shatter into like a million pieces,” Kelly said, handing Vance a long neon light fixture tube.
Vance and Kelly worked together at the West Side Market Grocery and Convenience store. One of the overhead lights had gone out and Mr. Yorken had volunteered Vance to fix it. The store wasn't much bigger than one of his classrooms at the high school, but he never realized how loud the place could be until he climbed above the aisles.
At one of the checkout's two girls he found to be quite hot were discussing which internships they were going to accept once their semesters ended. A overweight balding man over in frozen foods was trying to get his screaming 5 year old to calm down. Behind him he heard the buzzing blades of the meat slicer in the deli. And Gorgeous, Mr. Yorken's god awful annoying terrier was barking its lungs out in the office.