Storytime?

How about I tell you a story?

There once was a man… He was just a man, not a great man, not an evil man, nor was he a good man. He was just a man, because most men are. It is hard to look at someone for who they really are. Many can see what you appear to be, but few can touch what you really are.

He stumbled through life, like most men do. He passed from thing to thing. He wandered from place to place and he lived from hand to mouth. He sometimes wondered where his calling was, why he was here, and what he should be doing, but not often. He watched his life go by bit by bit. He did not know such a word as destiny.

He lived and loved and he wore it all out. He drank too much and gambled with things more precious than he knew. He threw around love and life and youth like they were cheap stakes. He was tired a lot. Few people know what it is like to be truly tired. He fought all the wrong fights and never knew when to quit.

And when he lost, as he usually did, he’d sit in the open and still night and ask, “God, why does it always rain on me?”

And when the night was just as still and cold and no answer came, he would curse drunkenly and find some hovel to wait in until the sun woke him for another day. Another day to wander and watch pass by.

And when the Panic came he ran and wandered and lived hand to mouth. He gambled and drank and fought and lost. And through the darkness, fear, and hunger he would ask, “God, why does it always rain on me?”

And he would curse soberly the silence and wait for the sun to wake him for another day. Another day to fear and watch pass by. Another day to run; there always was running to be done.

The world around him crumbled along with the hopes and prayers of all those that he met. Even so, he managed to love and drink and gamble. With the days he lost his youth. With the drinking he lost his loves. He lost a lot of things.

He lost more than the young man he had been would have thought possible and he realized why he was there and what he should be doing. He understood the power he had all the time and the waste of his watching. He felt the loss, but that night as he lay beneath the stars he did not question the sky or curse the silence that followed.

When the sun woke him in the morning he felt strong and he left the protection of the fires and the walls to find this word called destiny. He left the gates to fight his monsters and the creeping death outside. He took it straight into their teeth. He was the unstoppable force and they the immovable object.

The immovable object, however, is a fact. The unstoppable force is a passing rage. The man who was just a man died that day and no one will ever remember his name.

You can’t fight the storm. You can never fight the storm.

I thought you always liked it when I tell stories?

They Lived, Felt Dawn, Saw Sunset Glow

In the field an old man toils. His back is bent and crooked. His hands are calloused and brown. His face is drawn and leathery. His body is broken but his arms are strong. He works among the grasses and the pale yellow flowers and the neat rows of bleached crosses. He raises a shovel and cuts into the dense dirt.

The day is cloudy and the sun is dim and the wind picks up dust from the dark empty pavement. It stings the old man’s face. It tries to undo his work. It makes the branches of a young apple tree sway. The leaves dance and rustle and mingle with the chink chink of the shovel biting the earth.

Behind him a gate is drawn open and armed men are leaving. The old man knows where he will bury them. He will plant them beneath the apple tree with the others who will file out that gate. The old man lays down his shovel and watches them disappear and the gate drawn shut behind them. He knows what they do not: that they are already dead.

Smoke is rising from small fires. The smell of roasting meat is on the air, dinner will soon be ready. Compliments to the chef. Kiss the cook. The old man knows where they will be buried as well. He has picked out a plot for each of them. Row on row that only he can see.

He picks up his shovel and digs and hears laughter. It’s light and sweet. It’s rare but it happens. Bless the children, the strongest of them all. Bless the children, he thinks. He knows about them too. They will fill the gaps. They are, after all, so small.

The old man bends low and lifts a large form, bundled tightly, onto his small frail frame. He lowers it gently into the trough and pours the soft soil over it with his hard hands. He pats the loose bits down tenderly.  He brings a large and oppressive stone and lays it upon the grave.

With a mallet he drives another bleached cross into the ground. He wishes he was better with words. He wishes he could say something pretty. He wishes he was a poet.

So it’s the End of the World

US Government Publication – Airborne Informational Leaflet (AIL) – 1A

The US Government, through FEMA, has enacted a ten-step plan to combat this new and rapidly spreading threat. Step 1 is this rigorous airborne leaflet campaign designed to combat the spread of Solanum and aid survivors of the plague through public awareness and preparedness. Unfortunately steps 2-10 never really quite got off the ground and all government and military personnel have been evacuated to secret heavily guarded bunkers in the Rockies. This leaflet is now the only line of defense – keep it close!

To weather this storm you have three options:

1) Hunker down and wait for the pandemic to burn itself out or for help to arrive.

2) Attempt to fight your way out of the infected area you find yourself trapped in.

3) Face facts, treat yourself to one last hurrah, and commit suicide.

Information on these options will be provided in plain and candid language (see reverse for Español)

Section 1: Batten down the hatches!

So you find yourself besieged by what may seem like limitless hordes of the walking dead? Don’t panic… Not yet, anyway.

The first thing to consider is the surrounding area – is it rural, urban or suburban?

In a rural area the population density will be much lower. Groups of the infected should only appear in dozens, not hundreds, at least until mass migrations from more densely populated areas occur, so enjoy this three or four day respite.

In a suburban area this placid time of impending dread will be greatly reduced. Swarms wandering away from major population centers should reach you in a matter of hours. Don’t let this dampen your spirits! Look on the bright side: at least you won’t have as much time to contemplate the inevitable, just like ripping off a band-aid.

For those citizens trapped in urban areas, this publication refers you to Section 3.

No matter where you live the prevailing wisdom is the same. Find as secure a place as you can to hole up in, barricade all windows and doors, be sure to lay in as many provisions as you can, keep plenty of duct tape on hand, and always have an exit strategy.

Well now, you’ve followed these directions and have gone unnoticed, but you’re running out of food?

Unfortunately you’re now only left with two options:

1) If you are part of a group, draw straws.

2) If you are alone or have lucked out and gotten the long straw, see Section 3.

Section 2: Familiar with the collected works of one John Rambo?

So you’ve read section one and aren’t too keen on it? You might be in luck. It was for just such occasions like the Zombocalypse, as it is colloquially known, that the Founding Fathers included in the Constitution the Second Amendment. Through the astounding foresight of America’s political leaders you have been able to keep and bear arms as a US citizen. So, stand up for your right and break out your legally purchased and licensed firearms.

While reading the previous paragraph you may have some questions or reservations, chief among these being:

Q: I’m a US citizen but do not own any firearms. What about me?

A: It’s your own fault for not seizing your constitutional right to gun ownership and the federal government may not be held accountable for any loses of property, limbs or lives.

Q: I’m not a US citizen. What about me?

A: Not our problem.

In any of these three cases you seem to be hopelessly outnumbered – see Section 3.

Section 3: Suicide–All roads seem to be pointing in this direction so get to it!

Well, it looks like they’re playing your song. It’s the end of the road and the only thing left to choose is the way you’re going to sing your swan song. Fortunately for you the state has you covered. The AILs will help you decide upon a method that fits your individually tailored needs. Unfortunately, since federal law and recent court cases involving intelligent design prevent us from comforting anyone with the serene and reassuring beliefs in a higher power, you’ll just have to make do with this brief list:

Self-inflicted gunshot – If you always wanted to go out with a bang, here’s your chance. It’s quick and painless and while it will leave a gruesomely disfigured corpse, there won’t be anyone around to complain. Yes sir, this is the Cadillac of suicides. Then again, if you had a working firearm with ammunition you probably wouldn’t be on Section 3. See what procrastination has gotten you?

Pills – The ever stylish overdose, for those of you who always dreamed of fame and fortune. Go out like a movie star! Just make sure you’ve got enough, or else you’ll wake up with a killer hangover and Zack gnawing on your foot.

Leaps of Faith – For those survivors living in urban areas, why not take a dive off a skyscraper? The perfect end for any thrill seeker, great for the extreme sports crowd, one last rush before you bite the big one. Gnarly!

Sunday Roast – This one is just great for those who want to drift off peacefully or those who loved to sniff glue as a child. Easy as pie; just insert your head in the oven, blow out the pilot light and au revoir. To avoid any embarrassment and wasted time be sure that you don’t have an electric range before attempting.

And lastly, we come to the abject coward who can’t bear commit to the real estate deal. There’s just no helping some people.

Eight Times Over Miss October

I hate Magritte. I never understood why until I was an old man, felt like an old man at least. Then I figured out just what a smug son of a bitch he really was.

When the outbreak hit I ran, like everyone else. I ended up deep in the mountains. I found a cabin. Taught myself to survive, to hunt, to fish, to trap. Then I grew a beard to go along with it.

I had a radio. I turned it on for a few minutes each day, to keep the hope alive. There are only so many days of static a man can take. I found a stray cat. Coaxed it in with scraps and named him Marlow. I went on with my life.

Weeks, months, a year later, in the fall, I went rummaging through the previous tenant’s attic. From out of an old and battered trunk I pulled out a crumpled pinup calender. October 1961.

And there she was, Miss October.
Continue reading ‘Eight Times Over Miss October’

Questions from K

We need to get more concrete details set down about the zone. I know one reason that I’ve been leery about writing more zone related stories is that there is too much up in the air right now. I think we have to make some decisions and stick with them.

Have we really decided on a final population size?

Where are the people living, the terminal, the parking garage, ramshackle huts, etc.?

Is the CC staying where it is, becoming more informal, or going under revision to a more militaristic format?

I think we need some reasonably solid answers to these and more questions like them before we can really start delving into the zone fully.

We can’t just leave huge structural issues like these up to a single writer to set in stone and then everyone else has to deal with it. I think we need a short discussion on each, then a vote or the admins need to step up and make a call.

About FNG and Other Issues

I would have just posted a comment but wordpress wouldn’t let me.

The story shows great improvements in terms of technical writing, you’ve made it flow a lot smoother, but I’m afraid that’s all the praise I can offer.

In terms of character development it only serves to make the character even flatter than he already was. Sorry, but if it keeps going like this you might have to amend the character profile to include psychopath.

In terms of greater Zone continuity the issues it presents are very serious. Meaker, I don’t know if you’ve been consciously building to this, but the way things are headed you’re setting up you’re character for a power struggle with the legitimate leadership of Brooks and Slater. This could have huge repercussions.

The biggest problem I think that the story brings up isn’t limited just to its content. It involves all of us, the authors. We’ve split into groups and are trying to bring Zyracuse in very different directions. While new and varied ideas are the lifeblood of any creative endeavor there is a point where they become too divisive.

Just recently, there was talk about the demilitarization of the CC and making it more informal. This story seems to do the opposite. If we can’t come up with a consensus on something like this we’ll never be able to really create anything concrete.

I don’t want to stifle anyone but I think there needs to be a great deal more discussion and cooperation on individual stories.

I guess what I’m saying is:

A zone divided against itself cannot stand.

Post

They were all stunned, she was really gone.

Mike sat slumped and glassy eyed. He was bleeding from a gash on his arm. The blood bubbled up from the wound and dribbled down his body in spurts. He did not bother to try to staunch the flow.

Charlie raged and screamed and frothed. He paced over the cracked pavement. Those who had rushed over to help the bloodied men stood back. They refused to meet his gaze.

Chesterfield just stood there. He was numb. Charlie shoved him and got no response. He shoved him again.

Charlie screamed, “You bastard! You god damned coward!”

Chesterfield swallowed and opened his mouth to speak. He found that he couldn’t. Charlie punched him in the mouth.

He stood over the older man and said in a slow shaking voice, “You just couldn’t let her go. You just couldn’t pull the trigger. You should have given me the gun. You let them take her.”

Chesterfield tasted blood but did not raise his hand to feel the split in his lip. Charlie walked away and collapsed at his brother’s feet and began to cry. He clawed at the pavement and wept.

There was no pain for Chesterfield. It would come, but only later. It was the thunderclap to the lightning. It would come.

It would come.

Continue reading ‘Post’

Stir Crazy

Buck crept through the dim bedrooms of his now sagging and decaying home. He placed each foot carefully, testing each step and spreading his weight heel to toe. He gripped the pump of his shotgun and dabbed the sweat from his nose before taking another step. He rested for a moment and listened to the bugs skittering beneath the floor.

A snail passed him on the ceiling.

Buck raised himself from his knees, took another step and fell through the damp rotten wood up to his crotch. He waited for a few tense breaths. The house was still quiet. He couldn’t even hear the bugs anymore. Buck braced his hands on the floor around the new hole and began to extract his leg.

He had it half way when he felt a hard pinch and blood beginning to fill his boot.

Continue reading ‘Stir Crazy’

Lucky Numbers

Sherman trudged through the iced over snow. The thin film crackled as his feet broke through it and sank beneath. He climbed over makeshift barricades and wound his way through the cluttered mess of slowly rotting vehicles. He wandered down the road careful not to tread on large lumps in the snow here and there.

The bodies.

Everywhere Sherman went, they were there. They lay where they fell, covered in ice, covered from the sun, sleeping beneath the cold.

Sherman placed his steps watchfully and made sure not to disturb them. He knew they would not wake. He knew that they weren’t sleeping.

He knew, but it was less for them than for himself. Call it what you will.

Past the abandoned ramparts he came to a Chinese restaurant. Its windows were dark and still laced with dead neon tubes. He pushed the door open and heard a sweet bell tinkle from above and the snapping of chopsticks from underfoot.

Sherman walked over to the dust-covered counter and found a single fortune cookie wrapped in plastic.
He cracked it open and pulled out the strip of paper. He examined it in the light and stared at the slowly melting icicles that hung before his eyes.

The red calligraphy read: “Wise man say, ‘Worry not, it will not snow every day.’ 6 26 67 33”

Not Yet

Fitz and Eve were meant for each other.

In another time they would have been…

Wait.

There’s no use in dwelling upon the could have beens or the should have beens. They are all gone, burnt up and laid low.

This was not another time. It was this time; the hard present, the cruel reality.

Fitz was bitten and then he rose. Eve ran and then she mourned.

Hush, hush.

Don’t cry yet, not yet, dear children. But for tragedy, you say, this should be enough.

Ah, yes but you forget: we cannot hide behind the should have beens and the could have beens. This is now.

Fate would not be cheated, Fitz and Eve were meant for each other.

After all, “When the gods give evil…”

Fitz and Eve found each other. He held her in his arms again. She sunk her nails in his back like she had so many times before. He bent to kiss her neck and breathed in her perfume. His teeth rested upon her skin.

And he stopped.

The thick glaze across his eyes seemed to brighten slightly, if only slightly.

And he waited. He waited.

Then he caught the scent of flesh beneath the sweet fragrance and bit down.

Paralysis

Anderson was a cripple.

He had lived his life in a chair.

When the dead came, the news said to stay indoors and stay quiet.

Anderson did as he was told. He couldn’t speak anyway.

A few days after the outbreak, the power died. The lights faded away, one by one till none were left. The lift running up the stairs of Anderson’s house stopped working with them. His home became a prison.

A few days after that the water stopped. It slowed to trickle at first. Then it dried up and flowed no more.

It was somewhere between the two when the rats moved in.

He stayed in his home and he stayed quiet.

Soon Anderson’s stomach burned and his lips cracked. He wheeled himself into his room and locked the door behind him. It was not long after when he heard the steps begin to creak.

He tilted the joystick forward and moved over to the window. The motor of his wheelchair groaned and its batteries failed. It rolled back into furrows it had carved in the soft carpet and came to rest. Anderson tried to ignore the scratching at the door.

He looked out the window and watched the world crumble.