The Room at the Local Craft Store

(Based off of a dream.)

“I’m going to go check out, sweetie,” I heard a mom tell her four year old daughter at the local craft store as I passed by to look at another aisle of scrapbook stickers.

“Stay right here, and don’t wander off.” The little girl was cute with her brunette pigtails as she held a stuffed doll, staring up at her mother with the biggest child eyes I had ever seen. I smiled, then turned back to my cart to count my items. I wanted to see if I had enough money to get away with buying another set of stickers.

“And don’t go in that room. You’re not allowed in there.”

Glancing up again, I saw the little girl look up at a grey door to her left. The room had three of its outer walls showing, like a large white box in the craft store. Two aisles butted up against it, with only one side of merchandise for each aisle. The other sides, where the dirty white walls of the room in the craft store stood, were left bare.

At the end of each aisle, it was dark and it made the room feel like it was detached from the back wall of the store.

I was pretty sure it was not, though.

The little girl looked back at her mother as she walked off toward the checkout line. I turned away to grab some detailed puppy stickers, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw the little girl reach for the handle. Spinning around, I brought my buggy with me as I traveled across the aisle to the little girl, and stopped next to the room, which gave me a creepy vibe.

The grey door was just beyond my little blue craft store shopping cart, and so was the little girl. “Don’t open that door.” I told her. She looked up at me, and slowly pulled her hand away as she stared into my eyes. I was about to tell her that her mother told her not to, when I heard the room whisper back.

“Open the door,” It said, quietly, “open the door.”

My body became cold, hearing that voice, and the color drained from my phone. “D-don’t.” I warned the little girl, my heart terrified as it tried to beat its way frantically out of my chest.

She continued to stare, her hand at her side now.

“Do.” The voice whispered again.

I should have taken her right then and there, and brought her to her mother. But, in today’s time, there was a mile long list of names I could be labeled just for telling the child not to do something. Who knew what would happen if I took her anywhere. Even if it was to her mother.

But, I was secretly scared as well. The ghostly female behind the grey door terrified me.

“Don’t go in there,” I repeated, before hurrying off to get in line, leaving the little girl alone, and defenseless.

I did not sit in line very long, neither did her mother who was right in front of me, before stepping away to go back to that room. The room with the grey door at the local craft store.

I could not leave that little girl alone. Leaving my cart, I circled around a few aisles, and heard the door slam just as the dirty white room came into view. The dirty white room at the local craft store.

And then I heard a scream. Rushing over to the room, a few employees got there before I did and one threw open the grey door. The light was on, but it did not make the room any less spooky.

There was a plain, metal framed bed against the wall with the door. A counter extended the entire length of the far wall, with a mirror above it, just as long. Strange symbols and figurines made from sticks and twine adorned the right wall. And a large refrigerator was pushed up against the left wall.

Inside the fridge, because I had to check, were a few jars with strange, unidentifiable things in them, and underneath the fridge, because there was this strange, rotten odor to the room and I had an employee help me roll it forward, was old, dried out spagetti mixed with macaroni, stuck to the floor in the shape of the fridge.

The woman outside would not stop crying. “My baby! My baby! Where’s my baby! Where’s my baby!” And that was when I had had just about enough of this nonsense, with this woman, and her child, and this putrid smelling room at the local craft store.

I still thought it was just nonsense.

I marched out of the room and right up to her, and snapped at her, because I was angry, and terrified, and guilty, and I wanted someone else to take the blame for this. “How dare you! You just left your child in a store and walked away from her. No, I was there! You told her to stand next to that door! That grey door at the local craft store! She’s gone and its all your fault! Do you hear me? All your fault!”

As I was yelling, I watched the woman’s features slowly soften, and then she blinked up at me as she stared.
Finally, when I was through with my rant, she spoke up.

“What child?” She asked.

And then, the woman walked away. I watched her walk away, and collect her bags, and push the little blue craft store shopping cart in the designated little blue craft store return shopping cart area. I watched her leave the store and place her bags in her trunk. And I watched her slam the trunk and get into the driver’s seat.

And then, I watched her drive away.

And all the time, I stood there, next to the room. The room with the grey door and the dirty white walls, with that putrid, rotten smell to it, that was shaped like a box with one side attached to the back wall, so it was not really a box.

It was a room at the room at the local craft store.

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Coffee

Oh! Come to me,

Sweet, decadent black liquid,

That which drives my very soul to momentum

With its intoxicating drug.

Let me drink, and fill me with energy.

For without you,

My very soul shall perish.

That which makes my heart pump,

The very insides that pour from my lips with your desire,

Speak to me.

Tell me not that you shall forsake yourself to others.

Tell me not of what buzzes

That I must cherish.

Tell me for I have ears that listen,

And speak!

Blub, Blub, Blub.

Oh, it speaks!

It’s words mimic the very rhythm of my life,

The very beat of my living muscle!

Speak again, and let me hear you.

Speak! Speaked, spaked, sparked, spiddled,

And cry unto me for you are the very glimmer in my sleepless orbs.

Blub, Blub.

Oh, it speaks again!

But, what is this? Shall I not be Thy only owner and master?

Shall I not be the only one to hoard your precious juices?

You traitor!

There is another?

How dare you!

I shall never share that which beats my very heart!

Blubble.

You cannot deceive me!

I will not allow such conceived lies!

Who? Who!

Wherefore, you have sound to which communication flows through!

Do not hesitate, tell me!

Inform unto me a name.

Any name, so that I may solve this problem.

Blub.

He? She? Please, speak again!

Blub, Blub.

Others? More!

You mean to tell me there are more!

No, I will not stand for such,

Such,

Such ignorant passing of goods!

Never!

Never again will I sip.

Never shall you pass my lips in such an intimate manner!

You are dead to me.

Dead, I say! Dead!

Thou shalt not cry.

For I shall not weep.

We are finished,

And finished are we.

Sugar

“Halfway! Get over here!” The chief bellowed, sticking his pudgy head out of the side of his office.

“You’re in for it now, Hathway,” Jimmy, a detective two desks down from mine shouted across the room.

I cracked a signature smile and coolly walked over to man’s office. “Yeah, chief?” Running my fingers through my hair, I stepped past the doorway and waited for the chief to slam it shut behind me.

“You’re late. Why.”

“Sorry, I’m sleeping off a hangover.” I faced away from the chief so he could not see that my eyes were not bloodshot from the alcohol.

“That’s no excuse. Your partner was shot and killed last night. We’ve got a witness who had front row seats to the shooting. I want you to go talk to her.”

“Aw, man.” I ran my fingers through my hair again, in distress. I really needed a haircut. “Okay. That it?”

“And go talk to his wife after that. I’ll assign you a new partner, but for now, this case is yours. Find out who took our man, halfway.” Jones, my partner, was a dick. But, he was a pretty good cop. Had a cute family, too.

“Sure. Anyone else talk to the witness?”

“No, she won’t talk to anyone.”

“Really?”

“She hasn’t said a word.”

“And she’s been there all night?”

“Yeah. Now, get out of my office and get to work.” I headed for the door. So Jones was dead, huh?

Exiting his office, I pushed past a couple of cops who had formed a circle around one of the guy’s desk. “Yo, Hathway, you up for poker tonight?”

“Nah,” I waved my hand. “I’ve got work to do.”

“You sure? We heard about Jones. What about a drink?”

“Did some of that last night. No thanks.” I was nowhere near a bar last night.

Heading up to the vending machine, I got one of each type of candy bar available, and then grabbed a cup of Joe on the way to the interrogation room. Stuffing a few pink sugar packets in my pants pocket, I snagged a stirrer and proceeded down the hall.

“Hey, Hathway, up high,” Another detective, Carl March, gave a big grin with his hand above his head.

“The Cougs win the game last night?” When I did not high five him, he put it down awkwardly.

“Yeah, you didn’t watch the game?”

“No, I was drinking.”

“Aw, man, you missed it.” March glanced strangely at my arsenal of junk food. “Where are you going with that?”

With the straightest face I could muster, I stared him in the eye, “Heart attack.”

He smiled with a laugh, “I think you need a bit more candy, and little less chocolate. That stuffs too good for you.”

I laughed, too. Not that I found it funny. March had a way moping around when his jokes were not received well. “No, I’ve got to interview a witness.”

“Oh, the girl from last night? Yeah, good luck with her.”

“Thanks, I’ll need it.” Turning past him, I reached the door to the interview room and juggled the coffee and candy in either hand before deciding which one to attempt to turn the handle with.

Candy hand it was. I turned the knob, and half the chocolate bars tumbled to the floor. With a chuckle, I kept my eyes to the ground as I walked in, to appear nervous, and turned to face the door to close it.

The air was solid and stale. A sweet and sour peach smell, which must have mustered from the shampoo she used yesterday morning and her perfume mixing together, clung to the walls. I would mention to the cleaning crew that they should start scrubbing this room with bleach.

“Sorry about that.” I slid my feet to the table and allowed the rest of the candy to fall on it before retrieving the ones off the floor. “Here, I got you some coffee.” I set the cup down and turned to retrieve the candy bars, still not making eye contact.

There was no response from the woman.

“And I didn’t really know what you liked, so I got one of everything we had in the vending machine.” Minus the chips. “And there’s a cafeteria around the corner if you want, when we get through.”

Still no response from the lady.

Taking my seat across from her, I took a deep breath and let it out obnoxiously, finally looking at her. Her eyes were down. Her face, once painted beautifully, had begun to fade and fall off. She looked tired, and in dire need of a touch up. The corners of her eyes had smeared mascara that had run down toward her cheeks, with mixed blue eye shadow, which was once a bright sky color, was fading into her skin and tumbling off her dry eye lashes.

Her hair had been curled, pinned back and hair sprayed last night, and now it looked like she had just woken up from a hangover, from which she had partied too hard. Her dress skirt, coat and blouse were once dry cleaned and neatly pressed for her to wear to work, but were now wrinkled and less impressive. Even the seams looked like they were sagging. Her heels were at one of the legs of the table and her stockings that matched so beautifully against her legs were now ripped in one area, of which had a scar that had bled, smeared, and then scabbed over.

Last night, she was young beautiful woman. This morning, she was an old hag.

I leaned back in my seat, and took another deep breath. The woman reached for a simple chocolate bar. That pleased me to see. “So, um… what’s your name?”

“Dianna.” Slowly, she fiddled with the wrapper, not whole heartedly trying to open it. Her pink nail polish was chipped and there was dirt under her nails. “Dianna Sella,” Her voice was rough, unlike last night. Last night it was soft, innocent, so pretty. Now, it sounded like she was in the middle of fighting the worst cold of her life. “You seem familiar. Do… I know you?”

“I don’t think so.” I took a deep breath again. “Dianna,” I nodded. “Pretty name. My name’s Hathway. Can I call you Dianna?” She nodded, finally opening the wrapper. The sound of her breaking off a piece, biting down on it, and chewing slowly before swallowing had my undivided attention for the next few minutes. And that was when I realized, I was dying of hunger. Feeling myself eyeing the other candy, I turned back to her.

“So, can you tell me what happened? At least, what you remember? I mean, I’m sure that you’ve probably said this a million times.”

She shook her head, “No,” Swallowed, and then, “I did not talk to the other police officers. I have not talked to anyone since last night.” Well, that was good.

“Okay. Tell me what happened, if you don’t mind.”

She nodded, and put the candy bar down, to think. My assumption was that she was trying to think of a way to say what had happened last night without actually saying what had happened last night. “I… I had stopped at a corner store, on the way home from work, for some coffee.” She snatched up the chocolate bar again, almost hungrily. It had become her comfort. “Getting back in the car,” She began to move slightly, back and forth, “I didn’t notice, but someone had gotten in the back seat.” Her voice stopped. She took a big bite, chewed, and swallowed, “I guess I didn’t lock the car or something.”

For what she went through, I was surprised how calm she was. I assumed she spent most of the evening crying. Why in the world did they wait until I showed up to interview her, anyway?

Another bite, chew and swallow, and she forced out a breath. “If only I had locked the car…” I thought she was going to begin sobbing again. Her sobs were annoying. “… That cop would not have gotten killed…” Another bite, chew and swallow.

“Hey, it’s not your fault. He was my partner, and he was a brave guy.”

“I’m sorry…” Bite, chew, and swallow. “… If he was such a brave man, why did he hesitate when the attacker got out of my car and shot him in the head?” Her eyes closed, remembering the scene with a shudder. She would probably be scarred for life.

“Well, he was shot before the attacker got out of the car, wasn’t he? In the shoulder? I mean, maybe he was too hurt to run away.”

She shook her head. “He didn’t seem like it.” She glanced over at the cup of coffee.

“I brought some sugar if you would like some,” I nodded to the coffee cup. “What else do you remember? Do you remember the attacker?”

She shook her head. “It was dark. And he had a hat on. A beanie, I think. It was dark. Although, I think, the cop recognized him. He had a confused look on his face.”

“So, you think the cop got a good look at him, but you never did?”

She shook her head. “It was dark. Even in the rearview mirror, his face was just out of the light.” Opening the coffee cup, she picked up the stirrer. “Some sugar would be nice.”

Pulling a white packet out of my shirt pocket, I tossed it across the table at her.

“So that’s all you remember? Nothing else? You don’t remember anything about the attacker? His shoulders or even height?”

She smiled slightly. “I’ve never been that good with judging distances. No, I couldn’t recall either his shoulders or his height.” Opening the white packet, she poured its contents into the coffee cup and stirred it. “I might be able to pick him out of a lineup, maybe.” Another shrug and she sipped the caffeinated drink.

“Did the cop say anything to you, or to the attacker?”

“He asked if I was alright, and that was when he noticed the attacker. I think…” She took another sip of her coffee, tasting it again with a thoughtful distant stare. I glanced at my watch quickly. “I think he might have started to say something. Something to the attacker, maybe a name. I know it started with a vowel, but I never heard him finish the rest.”

Dianne stirred the coffee again and tasted it a third time. Then, she took a long gulp. “Does that mean anything?”

“I’ll keep that in mind. Anything else?” I glanced at my watch.

She took another long sip of her coffee. And then another. “Oh, wait. A scar, I think. Maybe. Like I said, it was dark, but I think he had a really faint scar.” She pointed to her temple. “Right here, next to his eye…”

Then, she shook her head, blinking in confusion. “Wait, I never said anything about the attacker shooting the officer before he got out of the car…” And that was when she looked up at me, for the first time. Her finger was still pointing to her temple, and she had a hand on her coffee cup.

With a slow small smile, I leaned back and relaxed. “The scar was from a knife fight with my old man a few years backs. Where do you think he is now?” Her eyes widened with horror, and she froze.

I smiled, “Jones deserved it.” Glancing at her coffee cup and then at my watch again, my smile broadened. “But, you won’t be alive much longer for my secret to get out.”

Her eyes, growing ever wide, dared to look down at the table, at the white packet I had passed to her. Her thumb fiddled with it until it turned over, and she could not find the word ‘sugar’ printed on either side.

Prequel: Road Rage 2

Terminal (part 2)

Sally dropped to the ground, frantically looking for her torn shirt. “How dare you! Do you mind!” she shrieked.

He merely gave a laugh. “No, not at all.”

“I-” Sally shot her head up to yell at him when a girl from the same group of travelers ran up to her, holding out a shirt.

“I’m so sorry about Brett. Here, we have extra ones.” The girl stopped right in front of her, looking down. She was short, but fully grown, as far as Sally could tell. And her clothes were dirty and worn, like the other man, and probably herself. Sally took the shirt, still in shock, and slowly put it on.

The girl turned back and waved to the other travelers. “We have another survivor!” she called out. Then, she looked back at Sally and held her hand out. “My name is Josephine. What’s yours.”

Sally blinked and took a deep breath, thinking for a moment. She reached up and held the girl’s hand, then let it go. “I-its Sally… Sally MacIntosh…” she stuttered out.

Josephine smiled. “It’s nice to meet you, Sally.” Then, she turned and went back to the group, which had slowed to a halt behind the man. Sally got to her feet and brushed herself off, scowling at him, while she listened to Josephine introduce her to the other people.

The man grinned back at her. “Sorry about that, Sally.” He walked toward her, and held his hand out, like the girl had. “It’s Sally, right? Just never thought I would see a pair like those in quite some time,” he joked lightly.

Sally did not hesitate to punch him right in the jaw, gritting her teeth in anger. She was going to show the man what happened to perverts like him. She did not care if it was the end of the world, that kind of behavior was downright rude, and there was no place for men like him in this nuclear wasteland.

The perverted male clutched his cheek and cried out in surprise, which shocked Sally. She gasped as he stumbled backwards and fell down. His skin turned purple and blue where Sally had punched him, as a bruise quickly formed. Blood dripped from his nose and the tops of his gums. The man took a deep breath and spit at the dirt.

“I…”

“Hey, back off!” Another male from the travelers rushed between Sally and the one she had injured, and he pushed her away. “Are you crazy?”

“But, I-”

“Back away! And leave him alone, leave all of them alone,” he snapped at her. Then, he knelt down and began to unpack plastic wrapped gauze and antiseptic wipes, tending to the bleeding victim.

Sally held her breath, staring between the blood, and the travelers that were slowly approaching her, their eyes very accusing. She had barely tapped the man. Why was he bleeding?

“I… I-I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-”

“It’s okay,” the shorter woman, Josephine, looked at Sally from the front of the group, “It’s not your fault. Brett’s… sick.”

Sally did not understand at first. Sick? If he was sick, then what was he doing out here? Then, Sally took a really good look at this… Brett. She studied his pale skin, and took notes of the small scratches and sores on his arms and the stained bandages on his legs. He was sick…?

Sally glanced up at Josephine again, when she realized the other woman was waiting for her response. This woman had similar bandages, and cuts and bruises. Then again, so did most of the travelers. They wore hats and beanies, and carried bags of different sizes. Their clothes hung off their bones, as if they were all walking coat hangers. Their bandages were either soaked or dirty, and their eyes had sunken back into their skulls, as if they had not slept in days.

Sally felt a shiver of disgust crawl down her spine at the sight of them all. She pulled her hands to herself, and looked at the dirt, instead. These people were all rather sickly looking…

… Because they were sick. She felt so stupid as the logic set in. These people had been poisoned by the radiation…

Sally glanced at the man she had injured, Brett, and felt her stomach turn. She had hit him so hard that she made him bleed. And he was already dying…

“I…” Sally looked at Josephine, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know…”

“How could you not?” the male doctoring up Brett snapped at her again. “Or, have you not figured out that Texas was nuked?”

She gulped at his words. Sally knew much more than that.

“Charlie, its okay,” Josephine rested a soft palm on his shoulder. “Perhaps we should rest here for a bit, before continuing on.” She looked back at the other travelers, and a few nodded in response. The rest merely dropped their bags in exhaustion and plopped down where they stood.

Sally folded her arms around her waist and decided it was time to keep moving on, to where ever it was she was headed to.

Taking a step back, and then another, Sally turned to leave the sickly behind when she felt a hand softly touch her arm. “Are you leaving?” Josephine asked.

She was… Sally looked back at the woman. “I…”

“Do you have somewhere you’re heading to? Family or friends?”

This woman was notably curious. Although, behind her, Sally could see the others were looking at her, out of the corners of their sunken eye sockets. Apparently, they were curious, too.

She shook her head. “J-Just traveling.”

“Well, that’s stupid.” She glanced around to find out which traveler had said that. Brett was on his feet again, hanging off the other male who had doctored him up. “You should have a goal or a destination, otherwise you’ll just be walking around in circles.”

“I-”

“Come travel with us,” Josephine added quickly, “I know we don’t look like much, but we’re looking for a hospital that wasn’t destroy by the blast, to settle down at.”

Settle down? There was nothing left of this world, which certainly included hospitals. How could this girl just expect to settle down, after all that had happened?

Sally looked back at the sick people, who were all still staring at her, and noticed the bread and water they passed around. Her stomach groaned, answering for her. The other woman smiled weakly, and took her hand to lead her back to the circle of sick people, and food.

She was seated next to Brett, still a little bitter over his examination of her body, and was given bread and water, while the others conversed with each other.

Sally scarfed down her bread as soon as she had received it, ripping off large pieces with her teeth, and struggling to swallow it whole. She had forgotten her manners in those brief seconds, choking and wheezing, as if it were her last meal. She was halfway through her water when she noticed the many eyes staring at her, like she had gone rabid.

In her embarrassment, she began coughing, and covered her mouth to keep the saliva ridden chunk from falling out and into the dirt.

Brett took her water away so she would not spill it, and gave her back a few weak pats, “Slow down. You don’t want to die before the cancer sinks in,” his words were meant to be funny, and even a few of the other travelers chuckled, but her face soured. In one final attempt, she swallowed the rest of what was in her mouth, and looked up at him.

“That’s not funny.”

“Says the woman who appears to be cancer free. To the rest us, we think it’s damn hysterical,” another male stated, one three spots to her left. The whole group laughed at that.

She looked down at her bread and lost her appetite. Instead of feeling sorry for them, she felt anger. It was not fair… that they had radiation poison, and she did not… Which was stupid, because she should have been grateful that she had not been affected, as far as she knew.

That thought made her feel guilty. She had finally met more survivors, but they all had a ticking clock. Before she knew it, they would all be gone, too.

“Hey, blondie, cheer up. It was just a joke,” another stated. This one was a female with brown hair, a red ball cap and tan capris.

Brett nudged her shoulder, and she flinched away, thinking the act would cause him to bruise again. “Maybe it was rude before the nuke dropped, but now, cancer jokes seem to be the only enlightenment we get around here,” he explained. Sally noticed that she was not the only one who was bothered by it. The healthier looking travelers, Charlie and two or three others, seemed to only smile, instead of laugh at their jokes. And, then, there was Josephine, who seemed completely uncomfortable with the idea, because she had laughed the most.

Sally stayed quiet and chose not to respond to Brett. The whole ordeal was too much for her to handle.

Another one cleared their throat. “So, Sally, where were you when the nuke hit?” a girl asked, this one a bleach blonde with pretty nails, and flat sandals instead of tennis shoes or boots. Sally could just barely see black roots coming in on her scalp. She must have had Mexican or Indian blood in her, because she had tanned really well, compared to the others.

“That question always reminds me of Nine Eleven,” another spoke up, male with brown hair and a Texas tourist shirt. He smiled at her, “I was supposed to be in New York that day, but I had a family emergency and I had to cancel the trip. Name’s Rick, by the way. Rick Jones.” He leaned across the circle and held his hand out for her to shake. Sally followed his gesture, feeling the sores on his wrist as she shook his hand.

She brought her hand back a little too quickly, and had to refrain from wiping her hand on her pants, or the ground. She knew cancer was not contagious, but that did not make the wounds any less gross.

“Yeah, and I’m Bruce Banner,” another guy joked in response to Rick’s introduction, tall with a red beard and no hair. The travelers all laughed and Rick shook his head.

“No, I’m not that Rick Jones. Or, any other Rick Jones you may be thinking of. Just plain old Rick,” he explained.

Sally did not laugh with them. She did not get the reference.

“I’m just messing around. My real name is Tim Piles,” the bearded man stated, “And Rick and I were heading into a gas station just outside of Weatherford when we felt the blast. We own a construction company together. Well… we used to…” he trailed off with a smile.

Weatherford…? Sally knew Dallas and Fort Worth, and that was it. Which direction was Weatherford in?

“I was saying goodbye to my students,” the blonde woman with the nice tan stated, “I’m a sixth grade teacher. Name’s Kelly Bradford,” she leaned across the circle as well, and Sally shook her hand, feeling a little more at ease as she did so, “I, um…” Continuing her story, the woman took a deep breath and drank some water.

The other woman, brunette with the red ball cap, rested a bandaged palm on her shoulder as a sign of comfort.

“I’m okay. It’s best to talk about it, right?” Kelly looked Sally in the eyes, “I was saying goodbye to the students, and seeing them off as the bomb hit. I remember watching the buses fly through the air from the shock wave. When I came to, I could not find any children at all. I assumed they had all died.”

“My… two of my three boys were killed when the bomb hit, as well. They go to, or… rather, went,” the brunette corrected herself, taking a deep, slow breath, “To the same school Kelly taught at. Sam and Josh died in the house fire and… I couldn’t find Nicky after the smoke cleared.” The woman rubbed her nose, and took another deep breath. “…With so many bodies… I searched for hours looking for him… I think I passed out at some point in time. I would still be in that rubble if they hadn’t found me and pulled me away,” she cleared her throat, and reached her hand out, “I don’t mean to ramble on, I apologize. I’m Audry Wess.”

“…And their father?” Sally ignorantly spoke up, returning the handshake.

“Walked out ten years ago,” Audry smiled, “The only way I put myself to sleep at night now is by holding onto the hope of possibly finding Nicky alive somewhere… And by imagining a house falling on top of his father and watching the man’s neck break.”

So, Sally was not the only one with bitter thoughts from the explosion.

“Ha, along with my ex-wife,” the man sitting three spots to her left added, “Name’s Cody Crow. I may not look it, but I’m actually a wealthy business man.” The male did not look it at all. He looked more like a man in his fifties, who had been sick for quite some time, and was just starting to get better. He appeared as though he used to be rather hefty, but had lost most of the weight from his sickness. “The only thing that puts me to sleep at night is knowing that my ex-wife will never get another alimony check for as long as I live, no matter how short that life may be. I finally fulfilled my threat I made to her three years ago.”

Cody motioned to Brett and Charlie, “After four years of fighting, these two gentlemen had just diagnosed me cancer-free,” he went on to explain, “I was taking a stroll in the park when the nuke hit. I ended up in the fountain there, or at least, what was left of it,” he smiled and laughed, “Kinda ironic to finally be diagnosed cancer free, and get radiation poisoning within the same day.”

It was sad was what it was. Not ironic. Sad. And cruel. Sally looked at Brett, feeling even more pity for him than before. “So… You were a cancer doctor…?”

“Oncologist,” he corrected her, “And, technically, I still am,” he motioned to the group of travelers. “Can’t you see I’m enjoying a picnic lunch with my patients?”

Everyone laughed at that, thankful of the joke to lighten the mood.

Sally still did not think it was very funny. She could not bring herself to joke in a time like this.

Charlie cleared his throat, “Brett was running an errand for me while I was with Josephine, running tests in the basement at the hospital we used to work at, in Waco.”

Sally glanced at Josephine, who sat to her right. She looked down, “Charlie and I felt the shock, and almost did not make it out of the building in time. But, I wasn’t affected by the radiation.”

“And we don’t care, one way or another,” a woman spoke up. She had on an old blouse, dirtied slacks, and had half of her face bandaged, “Josephine has kept us together since we started our journey,” Sally could not help but stare at the bandages, and the older woman smiled at her, “I was caught in one of the fires. If it had not been for Charlie and Brett, I would not be alive right now.”

… It was beginning to sound as though this group had started with Charlie and Brett…

“Susan,” she told her, “Susan Delgato,” she chuckled a little, then continued, “I am a personal injury lawyer.” Susan moved some bangs from her face. “Unfortunately, unless we discover who nuked Texas, I will not be able to sue them for attempted murder and assault.”

The travelers laughed again. They sounded more like old references than mere jokes. Apparently, these people had sat down like this many times before, and shared introduction stories with one another.

Sally did not want to share her introduction story. She could claim that she had amnesia, but highly doubted that it would pass with two doctors nearby. Playing with the rest of her bread, she noticed that the other members had stopped talking. When she looked up, Sally realized they were all staring at her.

“…Well…?” Another traveler asked, short and raven haired, with red sneakers. From her running gear, Sally assumed she had been running when the nuke went off, “Aren’t you going to tell us a little about you?”

Some others nodded in anticipation, “We won’t judge you, you know,” Brett stated, “Whatever life you led before the bomb has been left behind in the ash.”

His words were rather poetic, and Sally found herself actually smiling. She sipped her water. “I, um… I’m a desk clerk at an Army base in Dallas. Or… I was. I joined the Army for college, but I’ve never been overseas, just behind the secretary’s desk at my boss’s office, Captain Harkam.” Captain John Harkam, the handsome and brave leader.

“… I was… I was bringing my boss coffee when the call came in, about the nuclear warheads that were targeting Dallas…” she trailed off, and paused, feeling her confidence slip away. Then, the tears began to flow.

Brett, the perverted doctor, leaned over and gave her hand a weak squeeze, and she squeezed his back for support, “I was right in there, in the war room, when I heard the announcement, and I saw the map where the bombs would hit. Then… I ran… I ran and hid when the bombs dropped. I did not try and save anyone… I merely ran… to save my own skin… Like the coward I am…”

Sally breathed in and out slowly, trying to stop the tears.

But, when she had finished her story, no one spoke a word, neither disapproving or encouraging, to her. She looked up and wiped her eyes, still holding Brett’s hand, and found ten pairs of eyes staring right back at her, dumbfounded.

“I…”

“You were in Dallas when the bomb dropped?” another blurted out. He had young sandy blond hair, and wore a mechanics dirty jumpsuit, “As in, the middle of Dallas, right where the bomb hit, where there is nothing left but ash?”

And an old bath tub…

“How do we know you’re not lying?” Charlie asked, frowning.

Sally could see the disbelief in the eyes of the other travelers as well, “I… I’m telling the truth. I did come from Dallas. I’ve been walking for days since the explosion. I…” … Hid in a bathtub in the second basement of a military base in Dallas…

She swallowed her pride, and looked Charlie in the eye, “The world is dead, Charlie. There is nothing left of it except a few random buildings and the cancer left behind by the radiation. What motive do I have of lying to you, or anyone else?”

“Theft,” a darker skinned male replied, “I should know, I spent the last ten years doing time for just that. Without cities or towns, there will be no policemen or government. I guarantee half of the survivors of this war will turn to theft and murder to survive. Why not you?”

Sally cleared her throat, struggling to come up with a response to his accusation. “… With no government around to keep us in check, we will merely have to come up with our own law… And… And the only way to gain a person’s trust is through experience… So, if you don’t trust me now… you will in time,” Sally nodded more to herself, “And, that is all I can offer.”

The man smiled and shook her hand, “Now, that’s a statement I can trust,” he spoke with a deep voice, “Johnson Braves,” he leaned back and took a deep breath, “And to keep up with the theme of the conversation, I was at the basement level of my apartment building, sleeping when the bomb hit. Charlie and Brett have declared me cancer free, so far.”

The runner raised her hand, “That makes three of us, not including you, Sally. Patricia. No last name.”

“And nine infected with cancer,” the blond mechanic added, “Name’s Andy Corman. It will be a pleasure to have you with us,” his smile was pleasant, but he looked rather young to be a mechanic, like he was just out of high school.

The last two did not care to give a background of where they came from, or what they were doing when the bomb dropped, so Sally merely assumed that it did not matter.

Josephine cleared her throat, hoping it would clear the tension as well, “Let’s keep walking for another few hours, then call it a night,” Charlie seemed to agree with her, because he helped the young woman to her feet, then knelt ad began packing the bags up again.

Despite their earlier confrontation, Sally found herself helping Brett to his feet. She could not decide if it was out of guilt or pity and settled on a little bit of both.

The injured male got control of his balance, then looked her in the eye, “Would you stop looking at me like that?”

She was taken back, and her mouth parted in surprise, “Like what?”

“Like I’m some poor helpless fool that has a worse doom than yours, and you’re pitying me because of it. Honestly, Sally, I’ve been looking death in the face every day, for the past ten years of my life. There’s nothing to pity, I know how this works,” he gave a cough, covering his mouth, and she could see his back muscles shutter with tension, “And, I really don’t want your pity right now.”

Sally did not have any response to his comment. She waited until he had his bag adjusted on his back and had started to move with the others. She kept her pace next to his, still unable to treat him as anything else besides a sick man.

“The way I see it,” he began to speak again. Now that they were moving, his pale skin filled with blood, as he took long deep breaths while they walked, “We’re all doomed in the end,” he smiled and then laughed, “You could die before I do, now wouldn’t that be ironic?”

Sally did not laugh. Nor, did she smile. She looked at the group ahead of them, and put effort into her steps to keep Brett’s slow pace. Dying… She was beginning to feel as though she would never die, and instead, would be forced to suffer through everyone else leaving again.

“So… How long have you and Charlie been friends?” she asked, changing the subject. She was getting tired of talking about death.

Brett looked at her and smiled. But, it was not a nice pleasant smile, but rather, one with devilish intentions, “Oh, we were roommates in college. Yeah, we bonded pretty quickly since we were both aiming to be Oncologists. It was only fitting, since both of our parents died of cancer.”

The cruel and bitter joke made her rather angry, and Sally pursed her lips, which only made Brett laugh, “I’m just teasing, you know. Really, you need to lighten up. This whole apocalypse thing is just going to get much more depressing as time goes by,” then, he leaned over and threw an arm around her, which Sally had soon figured out that it was more for support than anything else, “I should tell you the story how I crashed my first car. Now, that will make anyone smile,” Brett looked at her, his blue eyes dancing, masking the sickness from showing itself within his spirit.

So, Sally listened, for the next three or four hours, until night fall, and the group called it a day.

They ate more bread and water and passed around another set of life stories, most of them about drinking, since everyone agreed that life would be much better right now if alcohol was involved. Then, the travelers pulled pillows, blankets, and old clothes from their bags, spread out at least five or ten feet away from each other, and laid down to rest.

Sally rolled over onto her side as to not look at them while she stared at the dirt, wide awake. She felt pity and jealousy at the same time. They had warmth… And she did not… But, they deserved those blankets. And, perhaps it was her way of punishing herself, but she felt as though she had done nothing to earn one.

“You know, it’s much warmer under here, than it is out there,” Sally heard a comment behind her, and rolled over to her other side to find out who it was.

She could see the faint smile of Brett under a large wool blanket, “I don’t mind sharing.”

Relaxing a little, she pushed a shiver away, and mulled over his offer, “… You don’t mind, even after I attacked you…?”

“Not really. I would almost say it was worth the punch, but I’m not actually that shallow. And, that punch really did hurt.”

“You would not be saying that if you weren’t sick.”

“Well, I am sick, and I am saying it,” Brett paused, and averted his eyes to the dirt below him, “Kind of ironic, though. I spend years diagnosing and curing people of cancer, and then I suddenly catch it, not by any real way to catch cancer, but by a nuclear explosion.”

“… I’m sorry…”

“Don’t be. In an apocalypse like this, if you can’t laugh at the cruel irony of life, then you’re not going to survive, in my opinion.”

Sally smiled a little and gave a snort.

“See? That’s what I’m talking about. You’re too serious. You should lighten up, and take the time to laugh at the funny things,” his eyes locked with hers, “You know, you’re much prettier when you smile.”

That caused her to smile even more, “Even when I’m not flashing my girls around?”

“Even more so.”

With that comment, Sally slid closer to him, and under his blanket, where it was many degrees warmer, “Okay, but only because I feel guilty about earlier.”

“Alright,” he slid his arm around her shoulder and brought her further under his blanket, a luxury Sally was envious of him for owning. Then, Brett leaned down and kissed her, receiving one in return for his efforts. Sally was not surprised from the kiss. She had a feeling those were his intentions, and did not mind at all.

“You know, I’ve spent years dating women. But, I never thought this sick angle would get one to come sleep with me so quickly,” he joked, “I should try this gimmick more often.”

“I’d be careful if I were you. I don’t share well,” Sally retorted. It was not as though she had much experience to back up that statement, though.

They both laughed quietly, relaxing against each other. When their voices died down, Brett looked her in the eyes. Then, he kissed her again, taking his time. But Sally could not take her eyes off of his bandages.

“I told you it’s okay. I got what I deserved,” he smiled.

“I… I know… I’m still sorry…”

“You’re not the one who dropped nukes on Texas.”

…Or the rest of the world, she thought to herself.

Maybe it was not her fault, but she did feel responsible, “… I know…” Sally choked out.

Brett kissed her again, but she still hesitated

“Sorry… I’m worried I’ll hurt you…” she whispered quietly, more to herself.

He chuckled lowly, holding back his laughter so the others would not be awoken from her apparently silly comment, “Isn’t that supposed to be my line?” he joked.

“Well, I… Wait, I’m not that inexperienced,” she protested, looking him in the eyes. Sally would spare him the boring background of her senior year.

“Well, I’m not that injured,” Brett added, nodding. His voice of laughter had died to a mere smile. One that she was enjoying more and more after every petty argument.

In the cold darkness of the night, under the bright starry sky, they made love. It may not have lasted very long, but the two did their best to make it a memorable evening. They kept as quiet as they could, and left their clothes on, staying hidden under the wool blanket.

Sally could at least cross off ‘making love under the stars’ from her bucket list, if it had ever been on there to begin with. Brett could as well, no matter how short of a time he had left to complete it.

They stayed close as they slept, him holding her, and she felt as though her life had been turned into a cinematic film, a romantic one, with a happy ending.

 

In the morning, Sally struggled to get warmer, shivering as she moved closer to Brett. In her dismay, he was apparently too asleep to pull her in. Her eyes blinked once, twice, and she sat up slightly, shielding her sight from the bright sun. She could hear distant voices, and only assumed a few of the other travelers had woken up early.

Sally moved the blanket away, no matter how warm it felt, and glanced down at Brett. She had completely misjudged him, and was happy she was able to give him a second chance. Smiling, she leaned down to brush bangs from his face, and her fingers slid across stone cold skin.

Shocked, she yanked her hand away, staring at him dumbfounded for a moment or two. Then, Sally reached her arms forward and shoved him really hard, backing away slightly.

Brett’s body rocked back from her push, then slumped forward again, rolling onto his face. His body did not flinch or move slightly in his deep slumber, to indicate that he had felt her hands.

Her heartbeat began to pick up, and terror sank in. Sally rolled his body back over, then rested her fingers on his neck, then his cheat, where his heart was. There was no rhythmic beat to indicate he was still alive.

She began to shake, her mouth parting as she stared at her lover. Then, Sally scrambled to her feet and screamed in horror, as loud as she could.

Brett was dead.

Terminal (part 1)

With a sharp exhale and a vicious kick, Sally MacIntosh pushed away the old claw foot tub to peer at the new world around her…

… Only to discover that it had been decimated.

Those monsters… Those terrible, heartless people…

The buildings, the tree, the cars, and the grass had all been destroyed, wiped off the face of the earth. And it had been done by those horrible people. … Whomever they have been.

A wicked thought crossed her mind, hoping the enemy had blown themselves up in the process. But, she quickly pushed that evil thought back down, trying to bury it under her grief. “Such sinful thoughts are not acceptable,” Sally whispered under her breath, gripping her cross tightly with her left hand, “Especially during godless times like these.”

The words came from her mouth, but Sally did not recognize them as her own.

They could have belonged to an old father figure or priest from the days of her youth, perhaps, but not from “sweet, innocent Sally,” as others would say.

If only they could see her now. And see what she saw, her own eyes wide with disbelief and her mouth agape in aw, as she stood to her feet.

Never in her life could she imagine such calm destruction.

The whole landscape had been flattened, all the way down to the basements, and second basements, in her case. A gray mist hung in the air from the microscopic particles of dust and dirt that floated on by. And, it truly was dust, because that was all that was left of the human population.

Sally covered her mouth at the thought of swallowing the pieces of the people she once knew. Then, she vomited. Her back arched, and she quickly turned to the side and lurched up her last meal, her body quaking in pain.

Oh God, oh God. They were gone. All gone. All of them. Dead. Everyone.

Sally bit her tongue and held her body, shivering violently. She choked back tears, and more vomit, and threw herself against what was left of the concrete wall behind her. Its solid support only had the chilling cold and lifeless metal existence to give. Because, that would be all that was left in this world. No plants, or bugs, or animals, or humans of any kind. Just metal frames. And dust.

Her teeth clattered, staring at the world before her. The haze made it difficult to see more than a few hundred yards. What she could see was a smooth surface of gray powder, that blended with the sky.

Where had the blue sky gone? It had been so sunny earlier, before she had gone into hiding. ‘Save yourself’, were the only words that had gone through her head once the nuclear launch had been announced.

‘Save yourself.

And she had. She was alive at least. Alive and unharmed, more or less. Her trauma would pass, and she had not begun to show signs of cancer, if she had been affected by the radiation at all. So alive and well. And alone. And scared. And cold. Sally sank to her knees, shivering as she rocked herself forward and back, hitting her spine against the wall. Dallas was supposed to be so warm in the Spring. Warm and sunny and bright, and oh so inviting.

Sally had assumed that it was still Spring. It had been May when the bomb dropped. She could not have been out for more than a few hours. Since the world was now gray, and not black, the sun had to be up there somewhere.

Closing her eyes, she tried to remember her last moment in the city, before it had been obliterated. Traffic was heavy, as always, as she road the bus to work that day. Tom, the bus driver, had seemed rather cheery that morning. His wife’s birthday was the next Friday, and he had a beautiful dinner planned for her. Tom was a rather good cook himself, and he had just started culinary school, in hopes of becoming a chef one day.

Birthdays. Cooking. Home made dinners. Her eyes welled until she could not hold back the tears anymore. Oh, Tom. Jessica would have loved the dinner. It would be one that she remembered for the rest of her life. Sally tried to imagine Tom, and his beautiful wife, sitting in their new kitchen in heaven, while Tom learned to prepare the most divine dishes, alongside culinary angels.

… Because, down here, on this gray earth, there would be no more birthdays or dinners, or cooking schools of any kind. Those monsters blew it all to hell! And damn them all if they did not die along with the rest of the population!

Sally shook her head, and wiped her eyes, smudging dirt against her cheeks. No, she would not think of such bad thoughts, and wish harm on those… people… even if they did deserve it. She would never allow herself to sink to their standards.

Taking a deep breath, she went back to that morning, and tried to remember what else happened before her last moments.

Oh, Gran Milla, the older lady that rode her bus in the morning to her knitting club at the nursing home. The first time Sally had rode that bus, Milla had gotten on two stops after hers, and Sally had given up her seat so Milla could sit down. Ever since then, it had become a habit, and their friendship naturally spawned through conversation. Gran Milla was working on a blanket for her granddaughter’s new baby girl… And, last Christmas, Gran Milla had knitted the softest scarf for Sally that she had ever owned.

Now, that scarf was gone. Along with Milla’s granddaughter and her new baby. And Gran Milla would never be able to finish that adorable baby blanket, because she was dead. Turned to dust, along with all of her yarn…

And Christof, the high school dropout… On their first meeting, he had planned to rob everyone on the bus, but Sally had stopped him before he had gotten a chance to try. He was going to the local library to study for his GED. And after that, she had inspired him to join the Army like she had.

… It had started out as such a good day, for it to end like this…

Even Robert Mills, and his wife and son, the family she had been rooming with, had woken up in a rather good mood. Robert and Samantha had only had one argument before Sally left for work, and it had not been a very loud one, either.

It was odd to think that someone could be friends with random strangers in a big city like Dallas, but this place had a completely different feel to it than New York. So many more bright sunny days. Perhaps, that was why the people were nicer.

The gray new world would not affect too many people, though, on account of there not being any people left, if there were any at all.

Taking a deep breath, Sally finally stood to her feet and began to brush the dirt from her clothes. Yes, she had saved herself, and now she was more useless than ever. Even enlisting in the Army, the only job she could land after basic training was a desk clerk.

Pulling out her hairband, she leaned down and shook out what dust would fall, then put it back up, wishing for at least a hair brush. But, there would be no more hair brushes or combs, or grooming tools of any kind. There was only her hair tie, to hold back her unruly hair. She should have been thankful that the tie had survived the explosion, let alone herself.

Sally was not. She felt alone, and empty, without a purpose. Not even an unimportant one, like her job. Not thankful at all that she had saved her selfish butt.

Her soldier instincts were beginning to kick in, thinking of food and water, and a shelter. Essentials she would need to survive. But, what was the point anymore?

Staring around, she had no clue as to which direction she should head, or even what to look for. It was not like she could tell which way was north or east. Sally could barely tell which direction was up and down.

The street signs and street lights, buildings and trees, did not exist anymore, for her to use as landmarks. She could always head toward the river, but she had no way of telling which direction that was, either. And it was possible that the river had turned into mud, anyway, with all of this dust and dirt.

Sally looked at her feet and kicked the soft gray matter with her shoe. It was like being on the moon. If she had ever wanted to be an astronaut as a child, she could cross that achievement off her bucket list. But, this was not anything like what walking on the moon was cracked up to be. Sure, there was no wind, no sound, and her boot prints would probably last for quite some time. But, there was no one to cheer her on, or applaud all of her hard work, for making it this far.

Her hard, selfish work. When the announcement had been made, and the missiles had appeared on the large map, Sally had taken one look at the one headed for Texas, then dropped her paperwork and ran. All of the other military personnel had stayed behind, working hard up until the last second, to try and stop this doomsday from coming.

Sally was not even supposed to be in that room to begin with. It was restricted access only. Sally had only been in the room because she had followed her boss in, after the call had come in from Washington that announced the attack, carrying his coffee and pointless paperwork she had scrounged around to find for him to sign, because she foolishly had a crush on the gentleman and wanted to spend every waking moment at work by his side, no matter what the excuse was.

The missiles on the screen were like red dots, burned into the back of her skull, that made it impossible to forget. Every major city in the United Stated had been targeted. There must have been over a hundred nuclear warheads… But, Sally had not taken the time to count. She had only dropped her things and ran.

‘Hurry,’ she had thought, ‘Save yourself. Before it’s too late.’

And she had. Sally could not remember anything after that map, except hiding under an old tub in the second basement. If only she had grabbed a coworker, or someone from outside. Or, even her boss. Grabbed him and urged him to hide with her. Or, even an animal of some sort, like a dog or a cat. Then, she would not have been alone, feeling the guilt rise in her chest, smothering her heart and lungs. Or, perhaps if she had not hid at all, and tried to help everyone save America, or at least Texas. Then everyone would still be alive. Or, she would be dead as well, and free from the guilt that choked her from the inside.

And that ever pounding voice in her head, that asked the impending question: ‘What now?’

Sally took a deep breath, and placed one foot in front of the other, slowly repeating the process until she had begun to walk forward. She left the concrete wall behind, and walked away from the rubble and dust and debris that was the Army Depot in Dallas, Texas, and her work. She walked away from the old claw foot tub, and into the new gray world before her.

Traveling in a straight line, Sally walked for three whole days. She watched the gray haze become darker and darker as the sun set. When it was too black for her to see where she was going, she would stop for the night. Sally would then lay down in the debris and take her shirt off to cover her face and hands as she slept, so no dust would get in her eyes and mouth, and suffocate her while she slept.

At some point in time after the sun had risen, she would wake up, tired and sore, and shake the dirt from her shirt before putting it back on. Then, Sally would continue her walk forward, heading in a semi-straight path, she had hoped, to where ever it was she was headed. She could have been traveling in circles for all she knew.

A healthy human would be able to survive at least seven days without water, and thirty days without food as long as they had water. Sally had neither. Nor was she healthy or even hydrated. She had lost her last meal at the start of the first day. And the only liquid she had drunk before then was a large coffee in the morning, and a diet cola at lunch, since she was “trying to lose weight” in hopes of impressing her boss…

Her pace became slower and slower after each day, and several times, she broke down into sniffles and then screamed her heart out, laying on the ground as she did so, crying out woeful questions like, “Why me?”, and “Why now?” She did not bother trying to answer those questions herself, even though they would have been very simple questions to answer.

After her voice had died, and her tears were dry, Sally would stare out at the gray path ahead, and forget her life for just a moment or two. It would feel like hours had passed before she pulled herself to her feet again, dusted the debris away, and continued on her straight path, however slow her pace was.

A thought crossed Sally’s mind as she lay down that evening and curled up inside her shirt to go to sleep. … What if she was not alone? What if… Well, from what she remembered, only the major cities had been targeted in the US, right? Not all of the cities. Closing her eyes that night, Sally pictured the digital map in the conference room, the one with all of the little red dots. If only the large cities had been targeted, then why had she not come across another town by now? Or, the rubble of one…? How far did the blast radius travel?

… And, how far had she traveled…?

Her mind sank back from reality, and slipped into the dream world, where she dreamed of her job and her boss. And, how handsome he was. If only she had told him sooner about how she felt about him. Or, perhaps he had already known? Her boss had never shown an interest in her, at least, none that she had noticed…

She thought of the city she had become accustom to. The tall buildings, millions of people and rushing traffic. Dallas was so alive and active, and that night, she dreamed of the large city filling with an endless rainfall of mud that crushed buildings and choked the life out of her and everyone around her, struggling to kick as she and many others suffocated and drowned in the mud sea…

Sally sat up from her slumber and began to panic as she tried to move her arms. She could not see, and something wet kept her from breathing. Kicking and flailing herself about, Sally heard a long rip. She had torn her shirt in half from trying to free herself.

She sat in the mud, staring at her top in her lap, and then looked around. It was raining…?

In Texas? She supposed it had rained once or twice since she had moved, but Sally could not remember when. The sky was pouring down rain, so much so that the haze had cleared, and she could faintly see large puddles all around her. Sally closed her eyes, opened her mouth and fell back in the mud, splattering it all over herself as she drank from the sky.

The water was lukewarm at best, not cold, and it tasted very bitter. But, it was water, none the less. She would survive, for now, and not die from dehydration. Sally laid in the mud until she fell asleep again, where no dreams would disturb her sleep.

She awoke with a yawn, and nice long stretch, keeping her eyes closed from the bright light up above. She blinked once, twice, and squinted up into the sky. Finally, the sun had appeared.

… The Sun! Sally jumped to her feet and screamed as loud as she could. “Woo! The sun is alive! I’m alive! All alive!”

“And rather topless, if I might point out,” someone shouted back, snapping Sally out of her mind for a moment.

She panicked and quickly covered her bra with her arms, eyes darting all around to find out where the voice had come from. To her left, Sally laid eyes on a group of travelers, at least ten or fifteen, all heading in her direction. The one in the lead, a male, was stopped only ten feet in front of her.

Road Rage 2

With the wind blowing as harsh as it could, I turned off the freeway and stopped at the first convenience store in sight. Parking in front of another car, our noses barely touched. I shut the engine off, and opened the door, pushing hard against it. When the door finally swung open, it banged against its hinges and stayed put.

I covered my face with my sleeve to keep the wind out of my eyes as my jeans flapped against my legs. Slaming the door, I walked around to the back to see the damage that girl had done to my car. There were only a few scratches, from what I could see through the dirt.

I should have taken her license away, she was driving like a mad man, but I felt a little bad. The instant I asked for it, she started crying all over herself. I could not have imagined what she would have done if I had given her a ticket. Letting her off with a warning, I sent her on her way. But, I still had to send in an incident report. The dust storm hit soon after. If I had simply ignored the fender bender, I would have just barely missed it.

I locked the car, and headed inside, hungry for anything that was prepackaged.

There was a layer of dirt covering the windows, and when I opened the glass door, I thought it was going snap off.

The clerk managing the counter simply looked at me before going back to her book. I whispered a “Sorry”, and pulled it closed again.

Grabbing a few powdered donuts, a twinkie, and some smart water, I went over to the counter to pay for them. “Crazy weather we’re having, isn’t it?”

She did not answer,and simply rang me up. With smeared on lipstick and eyeshadow, her dark eyes were bloodshot, and her lips looked like she had just sucked on a lemon.

The lady tossed my food in a plastic bag, took my money, and shoved the prepackaged junk across the counter. I took that as a sign to ‘get the hell out’.

I tied the bag and held it tight in one hand, pushing the door open to conquer the weather again. It blew the glass to the edge of its hinges, tossed in a gust of dirt, and I covered my face to march through the wind.

The weather tossed the other way, and the door slammed, just as I slipped through. Heading back to my car, I searched for my keys with my eyes closed, and shoved it in the key hole to unlock the door. I tossed the bag to the side, and climbed in, cranking the engine.

The heater went to full blast, and I rubbed my hands and wiped the dust from my face. Turning the lights on, they shined into to the other car, and brightened the watery eyes of a woman who sat in the driver’s seat. She did not move, did not say anything. The car was not even turned on. Her cheeks were wet, and her brown eyes were glossed over.

Leaving the car on, I got out to fight with the wind again, and approached her vehicle. As a cop, it was not my job to come to the aid of every woman who I found crying in an abandoned parking lot, but as a gentleman, it was my duty to take care of damsels in distress.

The car door slammed and I walked around to her driver’s door. “Excuse me, Miss.” I knocked on the window. It rolled down, but the lady did not look my way. “Are you alright?”

And that was when I noticed a man with a gun in the back seat, with the barrel against her temple.

Prequel: Road Rage

Sequel: Sugar

I Drown

I drown. For Five minutes.

It was my sister’s wedding.

Well, she was not really my sister. She was my brother-in-law’s stepsister. I do not even know why I was supposed to be there, I had never met her before.

She had one of those swamp island locations that were all connected by bridges for her wedding venue.

They said I just walked right off one of the islands, instead of going across the bridge.

Robby set his pen down, and exhaled a frustrated sigh. It was the third sigh of the day, and the fourth day he had continued this pattern since my psychiatric meetings had begun.

I did not talk much. And he did not like that.

Robby was supposed to fix me, or whatever they called it. It was not like I was broken or anything.

They said I was pronounced dead within five minutes. It was a miracle that I woke up, and that I’m alive today. At least, that’s what they said.

The water was so deep… I remember the blackness, and the silence. I just kept sinking.

Robby was cool. He would start talking about himself, mostly to himself, after he got tired of me not talking. I said things, every once in a while. Not about me, though. I never liked to talk about me. I never liked to talk about that day. Or rivers. Or water in general.

I watched as the single fly in the room touched down to drink out of my water glass. Robby always got me a water glass. He waited until I sat down and got myself comfortable before getting up and getting it for me.

I think it was some sort of psychological test. I could have asked him, but I did not feel like it. I wanted to pick up the glass and chug it, and watch the ink in his pen fly off the page in amazement.

I was not afraid of it. I was just not thirsty. Why would I be afraid of water? That was just lame. It was over four months ago, I do not know why I was still required to go to these stupid sessions.

“You know, I think I had an Uncle that almost drowned once. He won’t go near water.”

You know, I think he is only a few years older than me. “Cool.” To be honest, I actually think we went to the same high school together.

“It’s perfectly okay to be afraid of things. Everyone has a phobia.”

“Whatever…”

Reaching my hand for the water, I swatted the fly away. I cleared my throat uncomfortably, and tried to change the subject. “So… How is life at home?”

“Alright, I suppose.” He leaned back in his seat, watching me, “If you’d like to be the psychiatrist for a while.”

The cold glass touched the pads of my fingers, and I jerked away from it.

Robby stared at me, clicking his pen open and closed. He was just waiting to write something down. “Something wrong?”

“No.” I stood up quickly. “Do you have a bathroom?”

He motioned to the only exit in the room. “Just outside.”

I was not going to run, but I could have.

They would probably drag me back here; tell me it was for my own good. I walked to the door quickly.

“Hurry back.” I just waved my hand behind me in response.

Exiting the not so clinical doctor’s office, I turned for the bathroom, and locked myself inside.

The water did not just bring a sense of sinking, or slipping, into the abyss. Pulling the towels from the dispenser, I began to shove them down the drain.

The water brought peace.

I turned the water on, and held my hair away from my face, waiting for the sink to fill up.

Only five inches were required. I used to have to cover my whole upper body, and then my whole head. But, now it was just my face.

I drowned. For five minutes.

After the water was done, I shut it off, and allowed my body to fall. It was like I was diving. Diving into peace and silence.

I drown. For five minutes.

Every day.

Until someone comes in and saves me.