Some foreign feeling sweeps through her. Starvation. Thirst. Perhaps a combination of the two. Whatever it is that twists her stomach and makes her groan out loud, is as desperate as it is unnerving. Days have passed without food and water. She and her brother, Peter, are quickly dying. Judging by the marks scratched against her cabinet, it has been forty five, or forty six, days since the eruptions. She only remembers eating some canned goods that had been stashed in a neighbor's pantry. Cold mixed vegetables. A slice of candied pear. But how long it has been since that meal, she couldn't possibly guess.
Her husband, John, died only moments after the blast of ash passed over their home. The curse of being asthmatic, though she figures that his atheist attitude is to blame. He was never a religious man, and he had never taken her scripture seriously. He's repenting now, she thinks. From the cold pits of Hell, she hopes.
Left with only her brother, Maggie attempts to survive. Not many have. Radio frequencies have been destroyed. The television is white and black with, what has grown to be, a comforting noise. Somehow, electricity hasn't been completely destroyed. But, Maggie isn't an engineer or workman. She only knows that after trying several times to make different appliances work, some have and some have not. Peter, bless him, has been out on the deserted town trying to find food, water and entertainment. They played Yahtzee some time ago, and when they discovered that the Beaufords died, they took Chutes and Ladders as a way to pass the time.
But Maggie doesn't know how long they will have to pass the time. They're dying, of course. The destruction of their town, their city, and probably the entire county, was only a blip of the catastrophic events that had taken place. If it was any different, things would be very different indeed. Maggie knows the time has come. She is ready. But she knows to bide her time. Wait. He will come. And it will be He that saves her. As He has always promised.
“I found James,” comes Peters voice from the foyer of the house. He sounds breathless and excited. Like he's lugging around a pot of gold.
It’s painful for her to turn her head, but she does and sees that clinging to Peter’s taut frame is a boy in his teenage years. James. A welcome face in her household. A young boy who leads the youth group on Tuesdays and Sundays. A God fearing boy, much like her oldest daughter, Sara. She so hoped that they would marry one day. But now, there is no point. Sara has been missing for days.
He's bleeding from the head, an injury that is buried under his unruly, dark hair. Dribbling down the side of his face, a bold, crimson fluid that threatens to stain her eggshell ceramic floor. New found strength sprung her up from the sofa.
"Get a towel for his head," she snapped. Her voice is raw and dry. Peter is busy setting down James' obviously weak body. "Peter - get a towel!"
As she approaches the youthful boy, Maggie is reminded sorely of her departed husband. They had similar eyes; not exact copies, but the color was only a smidge off the same shade of blue. Big. Lined with dark lashes. Sara would have been happy with him, she thinks. Her legs allow her - by gift of God, she is sure - to squat next to James and place her hand on his feverish forehead.
"It's a gift to die now, James," she tells him softly, patting around his face to keep him awake. "You know what's to come."
James merely glances past Maggie's shoulder. Peter reappears at her side, brandishing an old, dirty towel. "Last one left," he tells them. "The others were used to disinfect."
Maggie offers a scornful glare. "Disinfect for what? Peter, really. We aren't going to die of the common cold." A sigh in response, and then boots were clicking against the floor. She hears James chuckle, though she can find no humor. "It's like he thinks this is just a coincidence."
"It always is, to them." The harsh voice he speaks with is not the same. Less boyish. More frightening. The voice of the dying. Like his last breath was lingering. "Skeptics."
Forty nine days have passed, and James is still alive. He is moving more, talking more and has even offered them solace in the idea of a clinic down the street. He thinks it's dangerous and refuses to go, and Maggie agrees. But, Peter leaves. He has a wound from a Rottweiler that escaped death. The Gregorys never did train that beast correctly. Maggie knew that if John were around, he'd shoot it and put it out of its eventual misery. Peter, however, cursed and made way to the clinic.
On day fifty, Simon arrives. Panting. Covered in sweat. A sunburn that has turned him red stains his face, his lower arms and the bit of neck he has showing. He is a fool to wear such dark clothing. The sun is hot - hotter than they can remember it being. In the dead of winter, the temperature has reached the highest temperature of the summer. Simon is a fool. Maggie never did like him much. Another skeptic. He was a friend of Peter's. An old, army buddy. They shared many life and death experiences. Funny, Maggie thinks, that it has brought them no closer to God.
"I've got ramen noodles and a box of freeze-dried apricots." Simon always has a bounce in his voice. Even facing this death, there's nothing that keeps him from being droll. Yesterday, a rafter from the church fell towards him, but he hopped away from it with a shining grin. Rubbed Maggie the wrong way. People should be fearful, not playful.
"Noodles," James says, extending his hand for the hard bag of food. "Might brush some of this gunk off my teeth."
Maggie stares at her last can of vegetables. Spinach. The thick, green, watery kind. She hates it. Always has. Her mom's voice rings in her head, eat all of your spinach so that you can be strong. "I'll
stick with the spinach," she says in a tetchy voice. It lost its dryness when James found unpolluted jugs of water in the Honer's garage. Another miracle from Him.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Watchers - Side Project
This is just a little experimental blurb on a short story that I'm considering turning into a novel. I started writing it for a horror anthology that was asking for submissions in regard to the apocalypse. It's not completely plotted out, but this was the beginning of Watchers. :)