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In the End

Part I

The Earth has died, but we are still here. Living.

What has been left to us is dust. Clouds of it erasing the distance and swallowing horizons whole. We have covered the windows and taped all the seams, yet the smallest of particles still find their way in. Piling in the corners and ensnaring bits on our bare feet.

The Sun has become more powerful. There is no longer a layer to protect us from it’s blinding rays, the power of it’s ultraviolet light altering everything in it’s wake. Within the Day the rays stretch over the land, piercing anything unblemished; radiation consuming the ground. Not even the dust can save you.

We have become accustomed to the Night. Only then is it safe to wonder beyond a door, be it armed with a filter mask, layers of leather upon your skin, and a heavy knife. Never forget your knife.

The oceans are incubators, filled with the toxic aroma of death. The shorelines stretch deep into the land, extending miles beyond their said origins. Storms rage upon them for weeks at times, creating acid rains and winds that pulverize any remains among the abandoned cities.

Humanity once cared for one another. But that care has been replaced with fear. This fear is not like what our grandparents knew. It is ugly and traced with anger, confusion, and blame. No one wants to live in this world, but no one wants to die in it either. Yet we are the ones who made it this way.

Just This Morning

I read the sentence three times. Again. Again. Again.

Life-altering injuries.

The words echoed in my head. I desperately sought to form them into something tangible. Something real. But right now they were just words on a paper. What did they mean? How much of life is altered?

My life?

Hers?

I sat the papers down and adjusted my glasses. Comforting was never the right word to describe a hospital waiting room. Stiff purple and black chairs with a grey carpet spotted with small yellow flowers. Sunflowers maybe? The walls were painted a dull white, littered with posters about heart disease and the latest wonder medications. And then one lonely window at the end. The shimmer of leaves moving just at it’s edge.

The soft clicking and murmurs from the nurses station caught my attention. I glance over and notice the surgeon bent over the desk, diligently directing a young woman about something. Every so often the woman quickly looks back at me as he talks. Her eyes feel like two black darts. I move in my seat, feeling the anxiety build once more.

The surgeon had been speaking to me a few minutes before. None of his speech had yet to register as he handed me the papers. My mind kept getting stuck on this morning. When we had both been at home, enjoying breakfast on the deck. The sun glinted on her hair and she was laughing.

What bothered me was I couldn’t remember why she was laughing. Was is something I said? Or her? She was so beautiful when she smiled.

But that moment rolled away as she left to run an errand.

Just going to the store, she said. She was going to plant some peonies today. They were just what they needed to finish the garden we had built up in the past year.

I have yet to see the car. Either of them. I now only what the sheriff told me. Head-on. Her car took the brunt of it. Ambulance to St. Josephs on 12th. They suspect alcohol was involved. The other driver had two priors.

I was screaming when I got to the hospital, at no one in particular. I just wanted to find her. Just the thought of her on a lying on a steel table, under the lights, her body relenting to the damage – it tore at me until my insides were on fire.

They have to let me see her.

I can’t wait.

She needs me.

I pleaded. I yelled. I cried.

I was wrenched with agony. They had seen it all before, I knew, but when you are the one breaking down, it’s hard to control any of it.

She has sustained life-altering injuries.

I shook my head, holding back the pain that once again welled in my chest. More of the surgeons words were coming through. The paper was beginning to make sense.

Shattered.

I held onto that one. Because the sum of this day felt wholly shattered. In seconds, my life was exchanged for another. And my wive’s stolen.

I winced and bent over, gasping for air as I began loudly sobbing once more. A flicker of movement on the edge, as the nursed dashed out to me. Gently, she moved her hand in a circle on my back.

“It’s going to be alright. She’s recovering now. Won’t be more than an hour before you can go back to her. I swear it,” she said.

I turned my head up, my eyes swollen and face aching from the tension. “She just wanted to plant some flowers. And now…n–n–now…n-n…” I stuttered and then stopped, unable to finish.

“It’s alright,” she repeated, “get it all out.”

I took a deep breath, feeling an emptiness rise within me. “And now she’ll never see them. Any of them.”

Corners

He is on the corner everyday. Eight am sharp. I’m sure to catch the morning rush. Even the homeless know something about customer volume.

Today, he displays the anything helps sign. The crude black letters stretch across a degraded piece of cardboard, the crease lines wearing through from months of folding it. Or maybe years.

I take a long draw on my cigarette, feeling the nicotine plugging into my nerves. Rolling down the window, I blow out the smoke, my mind briefly drifting back to the evening before. The smell of Jon’s cologne on the sheets and the light graze of a touch. My lips curl into a smile.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the homeless man starting to edge towards my car. In annoyance, I realized he had seen my open window as a signal that I hadn’t intended.

I glanced at the light, hoping the green circle would save me from an awkward interaction. But with no luck, I quickly stubbed out the cigarette and started cranking up the window, cursing under my breath about not paying the extra cash for automatics.

I gently shook my head as he continued to approach and mimed a “Sorry.” His dry face slowly morphed into a scowl. I looked back at him with a mixture of exasperation and guilt blossoming in my head.

He stared back; his volatile deep blue eyes seeming to pierce into me.

For a brief moment, I felt compelled to see if I could find change or something to hand over to him. His open scrutiny bared on me like a spotlight with every driver around me watching the show.

But that feeling soon vanquished at the sound of a horn blaring from behind me. I hit the gas without a second thought, relieved to see the bright green burning ahead. Once I made the turn, I could just put the whole moment behind me.

MEMORIES

Tell me again
those stories
of what is was like
years ago.

When youth was in
your favor
and summer’s were
a dream.

When nights seemed
unending
and time stretched
for your fantasy.

To grow up
running along dirt roads
and dreaming of futures
with the girl
you didn’t yet know.

The memories are distant
but it seems
with age
they just keep
coming on.

I like to learn
these secrets
of foolish childhood thoughts.
Even more,
I love the smile
it brings you
and the laugh
that warms
my heart.

The Seven: Before the Fall – 1

” Sarah?”

A pause.

“Sarah? Are you even listening to me?”

Sarah closed her locker door, revealing April’s wide-eyed, upturned expression. She leaned her head back onto the thin, grey metal door behind her. “Did you hear what I said?”

Sarah sighed and gave her friend a weak smile. “Yes, loud and clear.”

April puckered her lips. “Well being loud is one of my best traits.”

They laughed.

“But seriously,” April snapped back into her direct tone. “The party starts at eight. And everyone is going to be there. Everyone,” she tilted her head down as if to whisper, “including you know who.”

Sarah snorted. “How do you even know that?”

April tossed back her long, black hair over her shoulder. “I have sources. You know this.”

“God, April. Sally doesn’t know anything. That girl can’t tell you what she ate for breakfast – if she remembered to even eat it. She’d feed anyone a story so long as it kept you listening to her.”

April rolled her eyes and tossed her hair to the other side. “Well” she said, holding on the ell, “just let me know alright. I know Sally can be-” she paused, “-a little flimsy on her information, but I think she is right on this one.”

They started walking down the hall. The crowd getting sparse as the class bell loomed.

Sarah bit her lip. If he was going to be there, then she should be there. But if he wasn’t, it was just going to be another typical high-school party with lots of drinking. And lots of gossip.

“Okay,” she said quietly before they entered the science room.

April let out a squeal. “I’ll pick you up at nine on the corner. Lights out as usual.”

The Seven: Chapter One

The clouds break apart high in the sky, leaving frayed edges and trails of white behind them. A warm, red hue blankets the bottom rolls, reflecting the evening’s sun as it begins to dip beyond the horizon.

Sarah looked at the black illumination of the city’s skyline. Ribbons of towers and spires were like mountain’s themselves, like some kind of testament to the power of man over that of the Earth.

Her feet dangled off the side of the cliff while she sat. Hard, rust colored rocks surrounded her, no bigger than couch. A playfield of boulders, as some her friends had called it. But at the edge of the playfield was Marooner’s Cliff. A devastating – or beautiful – three hundred feet drop down into forest below. The lodgepole pines outstretched from the base with their slim trunks trying to meet the edge but falling still over two hundred feet short.

The sky began to take on the nature of fire, orange and yellow streaks slit across the view in front of her. Would this be her last sunset?

Andrew had found a space next to her. He had been noticeably quiet for a while now. She assumed he was giving her some space – a chance to think. Everything had happened so fast. It was all supposed to be a joke, a hoax. None of it was supposed to be real.

He stirred, moving to get up. “Sarah?” he asked, his voice small.

Sarah didn’t respond. She still didn’t feel ready.

He cleared his throat. “Sarah?” he asked again.

She turned her head steadily, meeting his eyes. “We can’t wait any longer. If we don’t do it soon, the sun will have set and then….then…” he shook his head. He looked down and traced his boot on the dusty ground, pebbles scratching the surface as he moved. “We would let them down,” he added.

“I know.” Sarah stood, taking in a long breathe. Her heart was beginning to race again. Could she really be doing this?

“Here –,“ Andrew fumbled with his pack and handed her a small container. The clear liquid sloshed around. “It’s pure, I promise. Picked it up on my way over.”

Sarah nodded; she would never doubt Andrew. He was someone to bet your life on.

“And yourself?”

He pulled another container out. “Covered. I think I’ll just leave my bag here.” He tossed it over one of the rocks to the other side. “I don’t think it would be a good idea to take it with me anyhow. You might want to empty your pockets, too. Anything to weigh you down a little less.”

“Right.” Sarah managed a small smile. Her heart began to feel like it was moving its way up her chest as nerves began unraveling all over her. With shaking hands, she pulled out her cellphone and wallet, tossing them down on the ledge. What would her mother think when they found them?

A pang hit her hard in the stomach. Her mother. Did she say goodbye?

“Ready then?” Andrew asked. He was trying to be brave, but his pallor had gone pale amidst his red-freckles. Poor Andrew, Sarah thought. She was the reason he was here today.

With as much stillness as she could muster, she popped open the lid and drank the liquid in one breathe. It was cold and hinted of metal. She supposed as any water kept in a copper basin would be.

Taking Andrew’s hands in hers they repeated those three sentences. Only twenty words. She had counted them repeatedly.

They both turned to the edge of the cliff and released hands. Taking in the world around her a last time, she stepped out.

Her body felt like a cloud as she fell – weightless and free.

 

PAIGE ANDERS CHRONICLES – 6

So there you have it. That’s how I met Janet and with a few good months and long conversations spent swallowed by the couch and gallons of ice cream, we became friends. She encouraged me to drop the dealing – which wasn’t too easy. Buster had got a little dependent on me being his top seller and all. But things worked out in the end. I needed a real, new job then. So Janet got me started at the diner.Tommy was always such an easy pushover that we both knew it be a good start for me. He was so giddy that some one else showed even the slightest interest in his business that he hired me on the spot. Not even a background check.

And now we circle back to today, where I had to force the poor guy to even let me go. I mean, I was terrible at my job, possibly even giving his diner a bad rep. But still….

Like I had said before, it was perfect timing. Even planned, some could say. Now it was time to plan out the easy stuff. The murder, right? You’re still waiting on the name. The one who I’ve been waiting to snap like a twig.

Maybe you think it’s Rodney? With all his corruption and dire need to see myself dead. But no, he’s still in jail and will be there for many years to come. Likely his heart will go before he even gets close to parole.

Tommy, maybe? True that I”m not a fan of hipsters, but I’m not that cruel.

Buster? Well, honestly he’s not much of a threat. Remember, I said it all worked out in the end.

Trevor, of course, is who you’ve got in mind now. He seems the easy pick. All the anger and downward spiral started with him. My ability to trust ended with him. My life was torn apart because of him. Sure, he seems like an obvious motive. One very good reason. But honestly, I don’t even know the guy’s real name. And in the end, wasn’t he just doing his job? Is the jeopardy of my life worth ending his?

No.

Let me help you out a little more.

I told you I made a lot of money for Rodney. A lot of money. I also told you I couldn’t spend it. I looked for a good launderer time to time, but no one really ever gave me the right feeling. Launderers are necessarily known for having clean hands. So most of that cash was just spent on the everyday things. Groceries, gas, clothes, etc. All the necessities of life.

Rodney couldn’t spend a lot of his amount either, so he entrusted it to me. To “take care of it.” In other words – hide it. When the Feds busted in that day, there was good amount of cash in the safe – hell – probably even laying out on the tables with the product right beside it. But that was by no means all of it. No, that half a million they looted was just a small percent. The rest of it had been carefully placed in a remote location for safe keeping, just as Rodney had asked of me. Even Trevor didn’t learn that secret.

They grilled me so many times about the rest of the cash. But poor, doe eyed me just placed it off to my distraught mother’s erratic spending and “I don’t know where he kept it – why don’t you just ask him?” Him being Rodney, of course. And the irony is even Rodney never knew the final location of the money since I had a habit of moving it every two weeks or so. He would always say I was the one who knew and I would say it was him. Neither of us put up a good case to believe, but it was enough to hold them off.

But you see? Being that the Feds never got the final answer,  they knew that it would still be out there somewhere. And I knew that they would continue to watch me in hopes that one day I would lead them right to it. Desperation is a driving force that will make people do a lot of crazy things.

And they’re right.

I am becoming desperate. Real life is hard. Even harder when you know your future could be so easy if only you could get your hands on even a quarter of what you have stashed.

Are you on to me now?

I’m the one that’s going to be axed. I need to disappear and my death seems like it’s the only way to give me the best options.

And imagine…a life started with a clean slate? A completely new me.