Dark America, Part 32 – Old Memories

Continued from Chapter 31, here.

Sara ran through the house, and I followed a few steps behind. I don’t know what I hoped to find. Maybe there would be some message, somehow left behind, ink splashed on the walls or dust on the floor to spell out words. But there wasn’t anything. It looked almost as if Alexis had stepped out for the day, going off to meet with her friends for book club or a brunch where she’d listen sympathetically to their issues.

If I closed my eyes, I could almost convince myself that she would be stepping back in through the front door, any minute now. Continue reading

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Dark America, Part 31 – A Trip Down Memory Lane

Continued from Chapter 30, here.

“Are we there yet?”

It had been a few minutes, at least, since the last time she asked this question. I told myself that this was progress, tried to not grind my teeth together too badly.

“Just a few more miles,” I replied, making sure that my hands remained loose on the steering wheel of the truck. Don’t tighten them into a white-knuckled grip. Sara’s just anxious, probably like all twelve-year-olds get. Continue reading

The Woman in the Rain

“You’re late, Hansa,” called out one of the wags as I shrugged my way out of my coat. I glared over at him as I dropped the heavy, rain-sodden cover down on my chair, but he just shrugged.

“No respect,” I sighed, as the bartender brought my usual poison over to my spot on the bar. I scooped up the heavy tumbler of amber liquid. “And here I am, drinking. You know what I hate, Edo?”

Edo paused in his actions, left hand tucked inside a grimy cloth, formerly clean glass in his right. “What’s that, Hansa?”

“Liquid.” I pulled my lips back, looking down at my glass. “Fuckin’ liquid, everywhere. Rain outside, never stops. How long’s it been since we last had a sunny day? Eh? It’s permanent, now. Trying to wash us away.” Continue reading

Beyond Lonely

Sometimes, at the heart of night while the rest of the world slumbered, Ada stepped out of her house to listen to the emptiness.

The adults thought that she didn’t notice, didn’t pay attention to their hushed talk when they met for coffee or wine. She’d play in the living room as they gathered around the kitchen table, using foreboding tones to make predictions about how the world would look if the exodus continued, whether they were making the right choice for raising their kid. And indeed, most of the time, Ada kept her eyes on her dolls, not looking up or paying much attention.

But children are sponges, and Ada absorbed, if not the exact words spoken by her parents and the other adults of the neighborhood, their general gist. She felt that vague sense of foreboding, settling in at the back of her mind and making itself at home.

And it was that sense of foreboding that drove her, some nights, to step out of the house and climb to the top of the hill in the middle of their street, up to stand in the center of the road and gaze out at the world beyond their neighborhood. Continue reading

You Just Gotta Laugh

You know, looking back on the whole thing, it’s hilarious. Real gut-buster. And it’s pretty much our own fault.

I mean, we really oughtta have found the thing a lot earlier, huh? What kind of species develops sentience, builds great flying machines, but then decides to spend the next few millennia happily slaughtering each other over minor territorial disputes instead of venturing off their little ball of rock?

And to think, we found it on the damn Moon. Literally next door. It’s a little like murdering all your roommates because you can’t find your sunglasses, and then it turns out that you left them in your car the whole time.

Really, all you can do at that point is laugh. Or cry, I suppose, but I’m one of those guys that gets off on all that morbid reality. Find it hilarious. Continue reading

Running.

He stepped out into the mist, watching the swirls coalesce around him. He drew a deep breath into his lungs, tasting the moisture, the hint of decay that drifted from the massive trunks around him, craggy bark rising up into the sky to occlude the stars.

He stepped forward, blinking his eyes. All around him, the trees rose up – but out in front of him, a clearing opened up, pale moonlight shining down through the hole in the canopy. The dim light painted the scene in black and white and innumerable shades of gray, a monochromatic masterpiece.

The boy sighed, feeling tension ebb from his limbs. No one else knew about this clearing but him. He nodded when the elders warned him not to venture out too far beyond the limits of the village, not to stray into the darkness.

He nodded – but inside his head, he clung fiercely to this place, this private retreat.

His field. Continue reading

Night Express

Sitting on the faded fabric of the seat, feeling the familiar rumble of the car rattling over the tracks rising up from beneath him, Richard finally let himself relax. The effort came slowly, and he had to force himself to take the first few shaking, unsteady breaths, but he felt his muscles slowly begin to unwind.

This was all he needed, he told himself. A few minutes to relax. He needed to stop thinking about it all, how it was all falling apart.

Just relax. Continue reading

The Countdown

“Three… two… one…”

Counting under my breath, I ticked down the fingers, bracing myself against the crumbling stones. Just after I hit “one,” the ground shook beneath us, and a mighty roar filled my ears, leaving them ringing despite the earplugs I’d inserted. They said that we wouldn’t have much sustained hearing loss, but who believed them these days?

“You were early, I think,” Harry said next to me, after the ringing and echoes had died away.

Across from me, Donson nodded. “Yep. Half a second or so.”

“I’ll get it next time,” I replied, as we hauled ourselves back to our feet on the still-quivering earth. Continue reading

Flintholm

He walked up the path, his eyes hazy with clouded memories.

The weeds and grass had overgrown everything, but he still could see the lay of the land, recognize landmarks from when he shrieked and climbed and ran over every inch of the property. That was back before his knees hurt, before the War, before the bombs, before everything changed and his innocence fled, never to return.

The grass beneath his feet shifted, and he looked down at the cobblestone path that lay beneath. Many of the stones were cracked and broken. He’d found a snail, once, crawling along slowly between two stones, and he spent an entire afternoon building a shelter for the little creature out of sticks and leaves. Continue reading

A relationship is dying.

“You know, I almost laughed the other day.”

Her eyes focused a little, panned over to me. “Why?”

“Well, I was walking through the halls out there, just getting some exercise. Stretching my legs.” I gestured at the door to her room. It was propped open; she told me that she liked watching the nurses bustle about, running on their errands.

“And?”

Her eyes still looked bright, alive. I loved those eyes, no matter how the rest of her body shrank and withered. “Well, I thought to myself that I could probably walk through the hallways with my eyes closed, by now. I think I’ve memorized the entire layout of the hospital.” Continue reading