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James Bund woke at six when the alarm bells rang. He let them clang for a full minute. Then he blindly grabbed for the alarm clock. Deliberately, blindly, using his innermost animal reserves of unconscious power, he beat the clock to death against the headboard.
He lay still. The morning sun crept along the carpet through the jalousie windows.
Then Bund dragged himself half upright and coughed. He crawled across the .25 Beretta with the skeleton butt. Lying on his gun, Bund vomited onto his shoes. He retched and fell back into bed. He pulled a pillow over his face and groaned.
The phone by the bed rang. It was the direct line to headquarters. Bund shot his hand to the receiver. He raised it enough to clear the cradle. He dropped it home. He shoved the phone off the table and groaned.
That was the first day.
The Engineer of Storytelling
My Aunt Lyla would take us walking through the woods behind her home. The trees would move with the wind and slowly the leaves on the ground would rustle.
“Sh. Listen, they’re talking,” she’d say, kneeling on the ground. “The trees are speaking to one another, and if you wait, will you listen.”
“I don’t hear anything,” my younger sister, Elise, whispered, scanning for something, waiting to hear them speak.
“They’re language is not like ours,” my aunt said, her hair flowing in the wind. “Words are not the only thing one needs to make a language.”
“Who understands them, Aunt?” I whispered. She smiled at me, while glancing up. “Is there anyone out there who can?”
“Oh, there is one. He understands all languages, even the ones that are not spoken.”
“Where is he then?” Elise looked around, as if he might appear too, from among the trees.
“There are legends, but the one I believe is he’s trapped—deep in the forests, somewhere; he’s not been seen in ages. Since then, everything has not been right, almost…forgotten.” She grabbed our hands to return home.
“And what did he do, Aunt? Why is he of great importance?”
I remember her smile, her stare, as she walked. “My dear, he’s the reason why there’s anything at all to stand for. The natural world exists because of him, many creatures great and small thank him for all of it, and not to mention, stories—well, he invented them, of course.”
We were small then, young enough to believe fairy-tales, and old enough to know she spoke truth.
“What is he called?” Elise said softly.
“The Engineer. The Engineer of Storytelling.”
The trees moved in agreement, and the wind glistened in the fading sunlight, as we walked home, before darkness consumed the forest.
The sun was barely rising above Richmond. Cowering over the city, hanging mercilessly slow. Hovering as though it understood its place. As though it knew its part in it all. 16th street was silent. Horns honking in the distance. Somewhere far beyond the walls of The Jefferson a woman screamed, a child wailed as he was pulled from his peaceful slumber. The soldiers were ending their patrol. Silently wrapping up their nighthly sweep.
Inside room 262 a portly Englishman paced, back and forth, back and forth. Swaying slightly from side to side as he balanced himself against the wall and settled in. Three dark suited Gentleman sat around him. Staring forcefully, hopeful. “A Drink perhaps?” In perfect unison the dark suited gentlemen shook their heads. “This can’t be won.” He continues. “You, no doubt, have brought me here for my knowledge. But this cant be won sir.”
“I’ve fought wars my English Friend,” The superior suit rises from the sofa and walks closer to the drunken Englishman. “Dr Kyle, the times we are seeing.” He shakes his head. “they are the most desperate I have ever seen…WE have ever seen. But this is no war. The Priory sent you. They sent you because you know her. You’ve studied her. Somewhere inside you know how to stop this.” The Englishman laughs, a maniacal sort of sound against the quietness of the room.
She wore too much makeup and too little pride.
The evening air sank into silence and she sighed, sucking in the humidity and throwing away tears. She had forgotten why she had stumbled away from the club. She forgot his name and his advances, but she vaguely remembered him.
Hazy recollections of June lips and December eyes remained.
These flashes of forgetfulness blazed more often now, the present already slithering out of her fingertips into the forgotten.
Exhaustion gnawed at her brain. Her head sought comfort on the sticky seat of the bus stop bench and sleep soothed her cries.
As she fell, I stood up and wished I hadn't heard a word.
Last one left
I stare at my face in the mirror, perplexed by my complexion. I look like neither my mom nor my dad, with arching eyebrows and brownish hair. My life has always been a routine before this: get up, do stuff, sleep, repeat. I was never much of a dreamer, never wasted my time on wishes. I got used to the bore in everyday life; it became a comfort to me. I never thought it would come to this.
I still haven't been able to find anyone else left. I just woke up one Monday, and everyone was gone. After screaming till my lungs gave up, I decided to try to find people myself. I've been across 10 states so far these 3 weeks, hardly slept as I drove in my dad's old pick-up truck (the only car that seems to be left). At first, it was heartbreaking. Confusing. Overwhelming. What can I say? But I've learned to grow accustomed to the silent hum of nature. The animals are gone. I'm the last one left.
It won't be long till my fresh food provisions run out. Then, I'll have to live off cans, probably. I've been hoping to find someone else here, but like most things nowadays, it's pretty improbable. I stink like hell. This whole week, I haven't showered or even changed clothes. What's the point? I'm greeted by a sign that reads, "You've arrived in Montana". And from far off, I hear a hoarse scream that brings me to attention. It sounds oddly human. Hope restored, I step on the gas pedal as hard as I can and speed down the deserted road.
That’s Why I’m Here
It was half past midnight when Jenny Miller-Stevens parked her car by the curb and cut the engine, being sure to keep the radio playing softly in the background; otherwise, the complete silence might just drive her crazy. She sat there, with the music providing a low hum of white noise as she gazed at the house three doors down and across the street. She had a fairly good view from her car, a half-smile creeping onto her face as she studied the house.
On its own, it was a rather unremarkable house; not too big or too small, two stories tall, white with black shutters and a bright red door. Jenny’s eyes traveled slowly over each detail, her history with this house and its occupants giving the house an added sentimental value.
The front lawn immaculately maintained with the rich green grass trimmed perfectly, the flower beds in the left corner closest to the street displaying brightly hued flowers that were dulled only by the dark of night. Jenny smiled as she recalled the beautiful perfectionist who lived here and her insistence that a well-kept lawn was the first part of making a great first impression.
Jenny’s eyes moved to the windows and the translucent white curtains that allowed light in during the day while maintaining the privacy of the interior from the streets.
Jenny’s fond smile faltered as her gaze landed on the two car garage attached to the right side of the house. She lingered over the door on the left, taking a moment to admire the seamless repair job that had been done to it. If Jenny didn’t know first hand how it had been ruined, she would never be able to tell from looking.
I’m rewriting a novella I originally wrote 6 years ago...
It was 3:38 a.m. on a Saturday morning. The body was grotesquely pinned to the large juniper tree just off forestry road 240. He was a Caucasian male, approximately 6’2” and 200 pounds, with dark brown hair that was peppered with gray around his temples. The force of the arrow slammed his face into the rough bark, rendering him practically unidentifiable. He was clad in camouflage sweatpants and a hunter green sweatshirt; his feet were bare. The shaft of the arrow extended about ten inches from his right shoulder blade; the neon orange and gold fletchings splattered with blood as a nice pool of blood accumulated beneath him, soaking into the ground.
A pair of hunters who were spotlighting in the area looking for elk found the victim and called it in.
“Nice shot, huh?” reverberated the gruff voice of Sgt. Eddie Walker. Detective Obvious, my pain-in-the-ass partner. Who he had to fuck to make sergeant I will never know. Eddie was in his early 50's, about 5’9” and 200 pounds. His salt-and-pepper hair, brown eyes, and overall disheveled appearance reminded me of Peter Falk in “Columbo” sans the trenchcoat and cigar. Eddie was thrice-divorced with two grown daughters he barely knew with ex-number-one. We had been partners since I was promoted to homicide almost three years ago.
Being a cop is not conducive to successful relationships, despite the majority of pop-culture-television-legal-drama bullshit which suggests that law enforcement personnel can have happy and enduring marriages, or, at the very least, exciting sex lives with co-workers. I’m sure there are some, but in all reality, it’s a tough life and we are all married to our jobs and, to a lesser degree, our partners. Hence the high rate of alcoholism and suicide. And divorce.
My eyes crack open to sunlight. I feel well rested. It's nice... too nice. I turn my head to find the dead alarm clock. I've overslept, I'm late for work. I jump up and run to the bathroom, flipping the switch I find the light's dead too. Okay, power outage, I can't be the only one late.
I climb inside my car after getting ready, noticing the neighbors frantically stuff their car with backpacks. Must be camping or visiting. I wave to them but no reply, why the rush?
Reaching the stop sign exiting my neighborhood I remark how busy it is. Not only are the streets packed, but everyone seems to be pushing the speed limit. After merging my way in, I'm peer pressured to speed too by the wail of horns behind me. I never liked the speed limit anyways.
I arrive to my workplace to find an empty parking lot. Also my phone died overnight for not charging. Guess I don't work. I take a U-turn and head back for my house. I mean, I don't know what else I'd do with this free time. I'm not even awake yet!
Turning onto West Broadway it hit me what's going on. First I see the packed grocery store, which pulled my attention by the shatter of a window and people running in and out. Then I see the gas station backed up through the road with cars, with people screaming and pounding the doors.
Then I remember falling asleep last night just after hearing the radio buzz about "economic collapse."
I slow down, not sure what I should do. When stopped, I hear a pound on my driver window. I look left to find the muffled yells coming from a masked man pointing his pistol at me.
I first saw her as my husband, his friend, Dave, and I were chatting at his kitchen counter. "Don't you think, Bob," Dave looked at my husband but gestured at me, "that these wives of ours nag us too much?" Dave was always looking for a co-conspirator in ranting about his wife's many (as Dave tells it) character flaws. It didn't escape my notice that these rants almost always occurred in her absence. Bravery, if not fondness, increases in a loved one's absence. At least, for Dave. Perhaps for all men. Perhaps, for everybody.
When I saw her I knelt to her. She was just a tiny thing. Slight. Her dripping wet figure seemed to fold into itself in her yellow bathing suit. Dark hair clung to her forehead and framed her face. She held on to the entryway hall, peeking to us in the kitchen. I whispered. Full volume, I sensed, might scare her off.
"Hi, honey, would you like a towel?" Clearly, she was a guest of Dave's parents who were out enjoying the pool. She shook her head, but stayed staring at us. She was probably five or six years old. The air conditioner had been turned off, the screen door open to the pool area. Still, she was so thin. I shivered just looking at her. Just as I was about to insist on getting her a towel, Bob interrupted my thoughts.
"Who are you talking to?"
"That little girl..." I gestured toward the entryway. But, she was gone. The floor, where she had been standing, was bone dry. I was still shivering.
My Story - A Lonely Bibliophile
Although they are fake and insincere, she smiles to the librarians and walks over to her usual spot in the study section, the one place she feels welcome, the only place she can call home…
There are four green chairs accompanied with a gray, marble table. In the corners of the room are navy blue bean bag chairs. Sitting in one of the bean bag chairs is a little girl, aged between four and six. She has medium brown hair and green eyes. She’s wearing a white dress with pink polka dots and shiny red shoes. She jumps and sits onto the chair and laughs, holding If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. She has the biggest smile on her face as she points to the cookie and yells, “Cookie! Yummy!”
She wishes her smile was as genuine and heartfelt as that little girl’s. Her soul cries out, longing for the happiness that she never feels anymore. Did it leave? Did it get lost? Did it die forever? She sits in one of the green chairs and opens up The Outsiders. She exhales smoothly and calmly as she touches the worn out cover and the individual pages. She smells the book and a rush of euphoria fills her heart. Books: the only things that make her happy. Everything else in her life rips her body to shreds.