Regardless, I've actually been writing recently. Surprising, I know, considering all of the procrastination that has been taking up my time. You may not know it, but a procrastinator's schedule is incredibly busy. I mean, there's so many things I have to put off doing. You might think actually doing things takes time, but try not doing things. You'll be surprised at how long it takes.
It's hard to tell if written jokes will be funny. Sometimes, I think something will be funny, but as a writer, you never quite know what the reader will think, what they'll take seriously, or whether your sarcasm will actually come through the text. Or maybe the jokes are just terrible. I'm known for making terrible jokes, so maybe I'm being successful? Can someone be really good at making terrible unfunny jokes?
I'm getting off-topic. The whole point of this post was to put up a piece of the short story I'm working on. It's one I've finished, but I'm re-writing it. It's post-apocalypse, but the first draft didn't go into what the apocalypse actually was, so I've been reworking it. It's come to my attention recently that maybe there's something scarier then zombies or plagues or nuclear bombs. What do we do if the earth itself rises against us? We've seen what happens, even in Japan, a place as ready for an earthquake as any place could be, was devastated. What do we do against something like that? How do we prepare for it?
The earth groans beneath me, and I hope an aftershock won't follow. I walk over warped pavement, cracked and pitted. Abandoned vehicles fill the street, some flipped over, windows smashed and tires flat, some strangely pristine, like nothing had happened. The paved road isn't even close to flat, various plates of concrete rising above others, at strange angles, some rising so high I have to go around. Beside the road is mostly rubble, buildings of every shape and size collapsed, though some still stood, others leaned, and still others lay completely on their side, once organized structures reduced to chaotic hills of brick and mortar. I maneuver over the uneven landscape, boots crushing shards of glass and bits of debris, keeping an eye out. I don't see anybody in the town. Nobody alive, that is. That's the other thing, besides the cars, besides the smashed buildings and ruinous pavement, bodies lay haphazardly strewn all over the ground.
It's hard not to look and impossible not to smell. Rotten flesh. Crushed bones. A leg sticks out from underneath an office building's wreckage. Blue jeans. Bare foot. I shudder, turning away. Wind whirls about my face, briefly making the stench worse. I gag, nearly throwing up. I probably would have if anything had been in my stomach. I thought I'd gotten used to the smell. Maybe it's not the kind of thing you can get used to.
Ahead I spot a house still standing. It's leaning slightly, the windows are smashed, half the roof has collapsed into the second floor, but other then that, it looks stable. There might be something in there, if someone else hadn't already gotten to it first. I move through the open doorway quickly, eyes darting to take in everything. Foyer, long hallway forward, doorways on each side. I put a hand on the grip of the 9mm holstered on my right side. It, and the kevlar vest I'd snatched from a dead SWAT officer, reassured me. I make my way through the first floor of the house carefully.
My steps creak over the polished wooden floor, and I remember the earth groaning earlier. Once again, I hoped an aftershock isn't coming. There are large cracks in the walls, framed pictures on the ground, smashed and broken. In the living room, a bookshelf is toppled over, books strewn everywhere. A large flat screen tv that had hung on the wall now lies on its face on the floor, a glass coffee table had been reduced to shards. My feet leave brown carpet for green tile as I enter the kitchen. A large white refrigerator lay on it's side, door open, nothing inside. Cupboards were open, contents spilled everywhere, silverware, pots and pans. My boots crunch shattered drinking glasses beneath my feet. I spot a plain wooden knife block on its side on the floor. There are no knives in it anymore, and none that I can see on the floor, other then dull butter knives. The pantry door is open, a large walk-in closet. Inside, the shelves are empty, but the floor is clean. At the end of the pantry, a small half-door was open. It resembles the wall and if closed, would've been hard to find. A secret basement?
I unsnap the holster and pull the gun free. I quietly open the door all the way, revealing a rough wooden staircase leading down. It's dim down there, but there is a source of light, coming from something. I slowly walk down, my heart beating fast. One step at a time, wincing at every squeak, every low thud of boot and wood meeting. The stairs lead into a large dirt floor, cement-walled room, about half the size of the house. A large water heater was in the corner, pipes connected to it and leading back up into the house, though most were disconnected, snapped or broken in some way. A washer and dryer, both on their sides, lie in another corner. Light comes from a dim gas lantern hanging from the ceiling, near the far wall, where a thick wooden door stood ajar. Beneath the light, two bodies.
The gun shakes in my hand. I move forward, still slowly, still carefully. The corpses are fresh. A woman and a child, she's blond, eyes wide with fright, gazing at nothing. The woman's grubby shirt had been ripped open, baring breasts in a black bra. A large kitchen knife is in her hands, bloody. It's obvious what had killed her, a large hole in her stomach. Thankfully, it's too dim to see into that hole. At her side is a child, a young boy maybe twelve years old, messy brown mop of hair on his head. His eyes are shut, mouth open in a scream that would never come. There's a slit in his chest through his faded blue t-shirt, a stab wound, deep.
I close my eyes, sway, nearly fall over. I shake my head but it does nothing. I fall to my knees, and retch. I dry heave, only thick spit coming out, dripping onto the dirt.
The heavy wooden door moves suddenly and my head snaps up. Hand too, gun out, shaking. A man enters the room, shotgun in hands, barrel pointing at me. He's wearing a flannel coat and plain brown pants, black cowboy boots showing.
I can't stop myself from crying out, “What did you do?”
He shrugs, shotgun at ready, eyes on me, searching. “Nothing. She was crazy. I just wanted some food.”
There's a strange glint in his eye, a hint of something I can't identify. “She stabbed the kid and came after me. What was I supposed to do? What would you have done?”
“You're wrong.” He has to be wrong. I stand up slowly.
“It got to her, man. It's the end of the world and some can't take it. If I had been faster, I could've saved the kid.” He sighs as if sad, but it feels fake. Is he trying to hide a smile? I notice a bloody patch at his side.
“You're right.” The pistol in my hand is shaking less. “She did kill him.”
We stare eye to eye and then suddenly, I can imagine what happened.
The woman and him struggled, she stabbed him, but he had the gun. He could make her do anything he wanted, her and her son. He had that strange glint in his eyes, sick smile on his face. She told her son to close his eyes, not to worry, everything was going to be ok and then...
I can see the madness and just as suddenly as I know, he knows. We fire at the same time. I feel something hit me in the chest, hard, sending me stumbling backwards. I gasp for air, pulling the trigger again and again. But he's gone, back through the door. I fall to one knee, still gasping, gun still up, just in case. I breath in and out painfully, and struggle to my feet, holding the gun in both hands, steady.
“If you leave now, I won't kill you.” The man's voice comes from behind the door. His voice is shaky. I must've hit him.
“You sound hurt,” I respond as confidently as I can. “How about you toss the shotgun out here or I just stay here until you bleed to death? How does that sound?”
A minute passes. I'm back on my feet, ready, waiting. The shotgun comes out, hitting the dirt, followed by the man, hands raised. He's breathing deeply, blood seeping through his shirt at his right shoulder, one of his hands bloody.
“Now drop the shells and get the fuck outta here.”
He looks surprised, and then has the nerve to smirk. He really is crazy. “Not going to finish me off?”
“Do you really want to push your luck?” I snap. I could put a bullet in his head and end it right now. For some reason, I don't. Maybe I can't.
He shakes his head. “You won't last long.” He staggers to the stairs and up.
I keep my gun raised until I can't hear his footsteps upstairs anymore.
I move quickly, crouching down and shutting the woman's eyes, then to the shotgun. I snatch up the dropped shells, pumping them into the gun until it's full. I make sure to keep an eye on the stairs. I glance at the two bodies. There was nothing to do for them and staying any longer in this place was dangerous. I go through the big wooden door. Shelves on the wall are filled with food. Canned fruits and veggies and soups and more. It was enough to make my mouth water and my stomach grumble, reminding me how long it'd been since I'd eaten. I snatch the walkie-talkie at my belt and press a button. Static. “Bring the truck. I'll be outside. Watch out, there's a bad one running around.”
“Roger that,” comes a cheerful feminine voice. It sounds out of place, like it's from a different, happier world than this one. “Found something?”
I close my eyes, taking a deep breath. “More then I wanted to.”