Sunday, October 30, 2011

He Ran

It was time. Thomas glanced down, checking one last time that his shoes were laced and securely tied. They were, and he breathed a slight sigh of relief, knowing how difficult it would be to tie them now. He inhaled, filling his lungs with a deep breath, and exhaled, watching the mist of his breath float serenely past the shelter of the overhang covering the front porch into the field of water pouring from the sky.

It was time.

Very suddenly, Thomas stepped past the dryness of the porch and broke into a steady jog, quickly crossing the entirety of the front lawn before stepping from the gutter to the rain-slicked street, his feet splashing up streams of water behind him. The run was oddly satisfying, somehow rewarding in it's own sake, and he increased his speed, jogging quickly past mailboxes and parked cars, his only company on the dreary gray day.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every fairy-tale ending that one person receives, another must endure tragedy. Very rarely had Thomas dared dream for the fairy-tale ending for himself, and thus, he was rarely disappointed. But tragedy...he had grown quite used to the presence of that haunting specter in his life. He had carried his fair share, and perhaps much more. Perhaps more than any man could bear.

So, he ran.

He rounded the corner, leaving the neighborhood, and continued his journey down the abandoned street. He passed a convenience store, it's bright lights promising a safe refuge from the gloomy weather, but he didn't stop. He continued jogging, his pace slowing a bit. He was already getting tired. He could practically smell copper in the air, mixed with the aromas of gasoline and rain.

Hope is a strange, fickle thing. You can live without it your entire life, and, though you may be a sad, pathetic thing for it, it's absence will not be terribly missed. But once you have had it, once that strange, fickle thing has lit inside your heart and filled your mind with empty promises, you'll find that it's quite impossible to ever live again without it.

So...he ran.

There is no pain in the world like the pain of the heartbroken. Many claim to have suffered such suffering, but they speak in ignorance. They've suffered heartaches, small fractures, but to have your heart truly broken, to have it unwillingly ripped from your chest and shattered before your very eyes, leaving not even a mote of dust left to try and fill the void within you—this is a rare thing. This is a thing that no man can ever truly recover from.

His arms began to hurt, but he blinked back the stinging tears that threatened to revolt against his will and picked up his pace, now sprinting down the street, as if he could outrun memories, agonies, and perhaps his own humanity.

A misnomer, perhaps. Could something bearing such unfathomable pain really be considered human? Could something so lost, so devoid of any driving force, even the basic evolutionary imperative to survive until the next day really be grouped amongst the whole of humanity?

Perhaps not.

And, thus, Thomas ran.

A car passed him, driving the opposite direction, causing a torrent of water to rise up and strike Thomas, as if it was offended by the dark stains growing on Thomas' clothing. He grit his teeth, expecting to be rewarded with more pain as the water slammed against his aching arms, but he realized that his hands were beginning to go numb, and he received no extra torment.

It was a hollow blessing. Physical pain is a fleeting, temporary thing. But emotional pain, true emotional pain, is an all-encompassing infection, an eternal curse, forever twisting the mind and soul of it's bearer, promising a future devoid of smiles, of laughs, of even the slightest shred of the possibility of a brighter tomorrow. It is a dark, hollowing thing, forcing the victim to turn his body into a gruesome puppet, able to fake cheeky grins and lighthearted tones while every cell of his body is screaming for release and relief.

Thomas's step faltered, and he unwillingly slowed to a walk. He continued this pace for a few seconds, before his fog-ridden mind realized what he was doing. It was growing hard to think.

He forced himself into a sprint, flying down the street, a crimson trail streaming behind him. His step faltered once more, but he caught his balance, once more regaining his frantic pace. He made it perhaps another ten seconds before he stumbled yet again, this time falling to the ground, unable to command his unresponsive hands to stretch out before him and break his fall. He lay there, exhausted, as finally some semblance of rest began to overtake him.

He was done running.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Reflection, Part One

Contains mature language.

The room was almost silent, broken only by the an ancient grandfather clock against the far wall occasionally ticking, accompanying each swing of it's dull bronze pendulum with an audible consequence, an infinite span of time trickling away between each extreme of the pendulum's path.

A half-dozen paces from the clock, a man sat on an aged oak chair, his elbows on his knees and his head cradled in his hands. The chair was an odd thing, clearly masterfully crafted and apparently made of a single piece of wood, but the varnish on it was worn, as if it had been left in solitude for a great many years before being sat in by the individual that occupied it now.

He stuck out in the room, a man wearing jeans and a faded green tee shirt, his long hair tied into a ponytail behind his head, and a grizzled face that was a clear sign he had neglected shaving for at least a few days. In a room that was the very epitome of timeless, with the few pieces of furniture clearly at the very least hundreds of years old, the sturdy door on the wall opposite the grandfather clock made of iron, an ornate mural etched into the metal that seemed blatantly simple and yet impossible to decipher the meaning of at the same time, the man, in his modern clothing and casual level of grooming, stuck out like a sore thumb, as if he was the focus of one of those 'One of These Things Just Doesn't Belong' puzzles you might provide a small child to keep her occupied for a few short minutes.

Finally, the man raised his head and sighed. He was suddenly stricken by how very thirsty he was, and he turned his head to be greeted by the sight of a beautiful, small wooden table bearing a filled crystal carafe next to a crystal goblet, the rim covered with a thin ring of gold. Slowly, he filled the goblet with water, before taking a long drink. The water was surprisingly cold, considering the fact that the room was the perfect temperature, neither even the slightest bit warm or cool, and the man had sat in the room for a very long time, now, during which the water certainly hadn't been refrigerated.

A quiet creak broke the monotony of the slow ticking as the door opened. There was the soft swish of robes on the marble floor, and then a voice spoke, a deep, rumbling voice that seemed more felt than heard. “Are you ready?”

He took another drink. “Is it time to go?”

Not unless you want it to be. You have time to reflect, if you desire.”

He set the glass down. “How much time?”

There is no limit.”

Can I leave this room?”

There is nothing for you outside of this room.”

I'm not ready.”

Very well.” The swish sounded again, followed by the creaking and the soft click of the door closing.

Time to reflect, he thought.

There exists certain roles that are forever manifested through time. The Hopeless, The Reaper, The Soldier, The Madman, the Philosopher, the Dreamer. Every man, every woman, every child embodies to some extent every one of these roles, along with countless others, but there are some rare individuals that truly come to become them.

The Hopeless—this Hopeless—was born in the year of 1990, into a small child, alone in the world.

Jack couldn't remember much of his father. He had fragments, here and there, often memories in which he knew his father was present, was around at the time the memory happened, but he couldn't recall his face.

His sharpest memory was arguably his last. The year was 1990, the month August, and his father was a Sergeant in the US Army. He remembered his father kneeling before him, the feeling of his strong arms wrapped around him, and the fresh smell of aftershave coming off of his cheeks.

Sergeant Clark Radden was killed by a roadside bomb. He was in a unit guarding a group of seventeen civilians, ushering them to the safety of a nearby town. And very quickly, Jack's world changed.

Chloe Radden, Clark's wife, had known Clark for nearly her entire life. The first 'date' the two of them shared was when she was in seventh grade, he in eighth, and it was an innocent thing that involved Clark joining Chloe's family on a trip to the movies. They had gotten married a few years out of high school, and had their son, Jack, named after his paternal grandfather, a few years after that.

Chloe found herself ill-equipped to the life she found herself in. She attended the military funeral two days after she first heard the news. She wasn't allowed to see the body—shrapnel, she had been told, had shredded through her husband, and the funeral was decidedly closed-casket. After the funeral, she picked up a bottle of alcohol, and began drinking. For the next few months, she neglected to stop.

Mommy?” Jack asked, tugging on her outstretched hand. She was fast asleep, sprawled face-down on the bare mattress, a mostly-consumed bottle of Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey held with loose fingers. She lay unmoving, and Jack tugged her again, until she finally groaned, her eyes cracking open, murmuring unintelligibly. Finally, she recognized her son, and sluggishly sat up, unscrewing the cap off the bottle and taking a sip.

Hand Mommy her cigarettes,” she said, gesturing at the green pack on the bedside table, her voice a low croak. Jack did so, and she pulled a cigarette and her lighter from the small box before lighting it. She blew a long stream of smoke out of her mouth, and Jack coughed.

We're out of cereal, Mommy,” he said, and Chloe sighed. She took another swig from the bottle before stumbling to her feet and walking to the bathroom, bringing her cigarette and whiskey with her. A few moments later, she emerged again.

Come on,” she said, walking past him with a heavy sway in her step.

The cupboards in the kitchen were mostly bare, and the refrigerator/freezer was doing an excellent job of mimicking them. Finally, she pulled a frozen beef patty from the freezer and put it on a plate before placing it in the microwave. “Hamburger for breakfast, honey,” she said, turning the dial of the microwave.

This was the life of young Jack Radden.

The next day, the same issue presented itself. Jack searched through the cupboards, the fridge, the freezer, but couldn't find anything to eat that wouldn't require cooking. Once again, he walked to his mother's room to find her sprawled across her bed, this time with a bottle of off-brand vodka.

Mommy?” he said, once again, as he began to tug on her hand. She didn't move, and he wrinkled his nose as he saw the vomit on the bed and the pungent aroma struck him with the force of Bruce Lee's famous One Inch Punch.

Mommy,” he said, tugging her hand a bit harder, and all of a sudden the fairly bright five year old realized that there was no gently snoring, no sound of breathing from his mother at all. The child experienced what felt like a large chunk of ice settling into his stomach. He tugged on her hand again, desperately trying to wake her up, but he knew that wasn't going to happen.


Jack sighed again, shaking his head. Once more, he took a drink of water, and he yearned for a cigarette.

He hadn't thought of his parents in a very long time.

He stared at the pendulum, slowly swinging back and forth, counting away seconds, minutes, hours, years, lives.

Just as a series of mountains can block the sun's light, so, too, can a series of tragedies block the light of humanity. It is quite possible for a person—particularly a child—to shut off emotionally, after enough hardship, sometimes quite permanently, as a defense mechanism. Of course, while it is quite an effective method of defending one's mental status, it also forces the person to grow in an...unnatural manner. Human beings are meant to have emotions. Even the struggle to overcome base emotions could be considered human, a noble endeavor to overcome anger, jealousy, pride, but if one's emotions are shut off entirely, then they are forced to grow without being able to feel happiness, or love, or the most basic shadow of hope.

And thus, the Hopeless was born. He almost certainly could have recovered from his father's death. His mother's death, following so closely after his father's, could have perhaps been something that he could eventually overcome, given enough time and love. Time, he was given plenty of. Love....

Well, no man can understand love. Not truly. Not in it's entirety. And, therefore, no man can truly say exactly how much love this Hopeless would have needed to heal, to become human. But, certainly, no matter how much was required, it was far, far more than what he received.

The force of the backhand literally lifted Jack off of his feet, seemingly temporarily nullifying gravity's effect on the boy. Jack fell to the ground, and his uncle was on top of him, fumbling in his pocket, and then there was a snap as he flicked his wrist and the polished steel blade of the pocket knife flashed in the light.

“You need to learn some fuckin' respect, boy,” Uncle Jeffrey said waving the blade in front of his face. “Or you're gonna end up just like your fuckin' father. You understand me?”

He had that acrid aroma drifting from him again, and his pupils were large, black pools of malice. This was the first time this had happened...this week.

Of course, it was only Monday.

Jack, you see, had taken out the trash. He hadn't been asked to, he merely saw that it needed to be done, and so he did so. However, he did forget to put a trash bag back in after he was done, completely disrespecting everyone else in the house, since he was, of course, purposefully attempting to make someone else finish a job he started.

He had lived with his uncle, aunt, and their three children for roughly five years. During that time, he had dealt with at least mild levels of almost every abuse conceivable—physical, emotional, sexual. He'd gotten used to it, or at least as used to it as one could. The physical abuse he considered earned. The emotional abuse he considered a pleasant alternative to the physical. And the sexual...well, it had happened, and he didn't quite see any point of complaining about it, so he didn't.

Jack wasn't cut that day—he rarely was. His uncle brandished the knife often, but it wasn't but once in every dozen or so times it was brought out that it was actually used.

It was an average Monday.


He stared at calloused hands and, not for the first time, he wondered how very different his life may have turned out if he had given into the daily temptation that began occurring at age eleven or so to sneak into the room of his aunt and uncle with a butcher knife while they lay sleeping and....

Well. The point is, he didn't ever do that, did he? He was too cowardly to take matters into his own hands. Too cowardly to stand up for himself. Sure, he could argue with himself all day long, I was just a kid! but at the end of the day, he knew that he was a coward then...and he was a coward now.

Because cowardice never really goes away, does it? No, it stays inside you, festering within, growing like a tumor, ruining what few good parts of yourself that you have left. Once you realize what a coward you are—and Jack did realize it, finally, after years, but still at a relatively young age, barely in the double digits—you are forever changed.

I am a coward,” he said, as if he had just come to the conclusion once again, and he flinched at the sound of his voice, and realized it had been a very, very, long time since he'd had company and spoke. He stood, began pacing back and forth, once again wishing very firmly that he had a cigarette. “I am a coward,” he repeated, and then, “a goddamned, fucking coward.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


November 21st, 2011

I don't know why I'm writing this.  I don't really see the point.  I'm expecting the power to go off any day, now--I'm surprised it's lasted this long--and then what use is this computer going to be?  I guess this is just my attempt to keep my sanity, in a world that doesn't make sense anymore.  And maybe one day, historians will read this the tale of someone who survived, at least for a while, after the Bombs dropped.

It was fall of 2011.  I can't remember the exact date.  Almost a month ago, I guess.  Too much has happened.  Ironically, it would have been a bad day, anyways.  My girlfriend, Gloria--an apt description for her, because, trust me, historian, she WAS glorious--and I were at a restaurant.  Nothing really fancy, it was just a mid-week lunch date.  She told me that she was leaving me.  There was someone else.  And then, almost as if God felt like emphasizing the blow, the flash came.

I don't know how many nukes were used.  Enough to basically level the country, and the ones that the Good Old US of A threw back were enough to level the world.  No cities left.  Not even a millionth of the people alive that once were.  The entire planet, gone in a series of flashing lights.

Somehow--grace of God, I guess--I survived.  I literally have no idea how.  I guess I went into shock for a while.  Finally, I realized that I was still sitting at the table of this restaurant, which was now in pieces.  Most of the wall next to the street was gone, the booths and tables demolished, in fragments strewn around me.  Somehow, my table was almost perfectly fine.  Rubble was scattered atop it, but it was still upright, and I was still sitting at it.  My food had disappeared at some point, as had Gloria.  I guess she's dead, now.  I don't know why I'M not.

I finally left the ruins of the restaurant and started walking home.  It was a long walk, longer than I'd ever walked before, but I finally made it, a few hours after dark.  My house was mostly intact, scarred here and there, and with all of the windows broken, but intact.  I climbed upstairs, went to sleep.

Over the next few days, I started to worry about survival.  I started scavenging around the neighborhood, and finally gave up and began the long walk to a Home Depot.  The place was in shambles, but there was still a lot of stuff around, ripe for the picking.  I loaded up on boards, locks, everything I would need, and began a very frustrating walk back home, pushing a shopping cart of tools and pulling a lumber cart loaded with wood behind me.  A few survivors were on the streets, and I got paranoid as I passed each one, knowing the new world we found ourselves in could turn very nasty, very quick, but no one bothered me.  The most I got were a few strange looks, people wondering why I was worried about nails and hammers when more important things like food were still easy to scavenge.

I got back home late, and began to board up every window in the house.  It blocked out all the natural light, but security was more important.  I started working on the front door, and installed six new deadbolts.  I was going to save the other four that I had for the back door, but I finally decided to just board it up, and I used the four deadbolts on the door to my bedroom, the place where I knew I'd be most vulnerable.

I'll continue this later.  I need some sleep.

November 23rd

Hello again, Historian.  Somehow, the power is still on, and I haven't had to use the generator I picked up a few weeks ago, yet.  I was honestly surprised to find it at the Home Depot--which, by the way, was a store where you could get home-repair type stuff, since I imagine they don't exist in your time--but it was there.  At the same store that I got everything else, ironically.  In fact, there were still PLENTY of generators, which is kind of sad.  I know that there are survivors other than me, I've seen them, but I guess very few of them have realized that eventually, the power WILL shut down.

I mentioned before that I'm trying to keep my sanity, but it's getting harder.  I keep hearing this ringing in my ears, at the most random times, and it's starting to really get under my skin.  I don't know if it's just something in my head, or if maybe it's because my hearing is damaged from the sound of the explosions.  Either one makes sense, I guess.  It didn't start right after the explosion, though, I don't think.  I remember the flash, the roaring sound in my ears, but the ringing didn't start until later.

I do know that I'm starting to lose it, though.  I'm hoping it's just shock, but I keep losing track of time, forgetting what I'm doing, forgetting what I've done.  Earlier today, I guess I had made up my mind to try and scavenge food, so I guess I trundled off to a grocery store to see if there was anything left to scavenge.  I don't remember making the decision to go, or even actually GOING, I just know at one point I looked down and realized that the wheel of the shopping cart I took from Home Depot was caught on a piece of concrete jutting from the street, and it was loaded full of stuff.  Canned goods, mostly, some toiletries.  The essentials, stuff that would last.  I got the wheel unstuck, took my stuff home.

I got almost all of the way home when someone came up to me, asking where I got it all at.  Wanting to know where I was, where I was going.  He was trying to distract me--he wanted my food.  I could tell.  Luckily, I started carrying a baseball bat, and I saw it tucked inside the cart.  I pulled it out, got it ready.  I didn't want to hurt him--I don't want to hurt ANYONE--but there aren't that many resources left in the world, and I couldn't let him take what I had rightfully found.  He finally got the message, backed off.  I kept turning back, checking on him, but he only stared after me, didn't follow, and once I turned a ruined corner, we left each others sight.

The ringing.  There it is again.  I can never tell when it's going to start, and I can never tell when it's going to stop.  Sometimes it lasts for hours, sometimes for minutes, sometimes for mere seconds.  Sometimes you think it's finally stopped, and then BAM there it is again, right out of the blue, driving you up the fucking wall.

November 30th

I don't know if the clock on this computer is messing up, or if I'm just getting worse.  If the date is right, and today is the thirtieth, then I've lost a few days, because it hasn't been a week since I last typed on here.  That was only three or four days ago, as far as I can remember.

I wish Gloria was here.  Part of me is glad she's gone, glad she doesn't have to go through the hell this world has become.  Every time I step outside, I know that I might not ever be coming back, and every time I lock the deadbolts behind me after I GET back, I know that I'm not entirely safe here, either.  There are maniacs out there, people who have taken this situation as a blessing to do whatever they want, no matter how wrong it is.  I'm glad Gloria doesn't have to live in a world this hopeless.

But at the same time, she centered me.  She always had.  I was going to propose to her, believe it or not.  I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, because she always made me better.  She cleared my head, she helped me focus.  Artists talk about their muse, the person or thing that is their inspiration in their work.  She was my muse in LIFE.

Now, all I have left of her is her memory.  She's the reason I carry around a baseball bat, instead of trying to find a gun somewhere.  She's the reason I try to go on.  As long as I keep her alive in my memory, she's not dead.

I went by her house yesterday.  It was a long walk, longer than the walk home from the restaurant so long ago.  All this walking is putting me in the best shape of my life.  I left before the sun came up, got there in the afternoon.  There wasn't anything left, just fragmented concrete that made up the foundation at one point.  There was almost nothing left in the entire neighborhood.  I stood there, staring at the gap in the universe where her house should be for maybe ten minutes before I finally left.

DAMNIT!  The Ringing is happening again.  Why won't it stop?!

December 18th

Everything is worse than ever.  The power finally went out, and I'm running this on the generator.  I'm almost out of gas for it.  There's lots of snow outside, too much to go out in.  Too much to go out in, there's no way I'd be able to scavenge anything and get it back here.

People keep trying to get in.  They pound on the door, the windows.  They try the doorknob.  I hide when I hear them begin their assault on my house, run up to my bedroom and 


It won't stop.  It KEEPS FUCKING COMING.

Anyways.  I go to my bedroom, lock the door, get my bat ready.  So far, I've been lucky, no one's been able to get in.  Yet.  It's just because there are easier pickings out there.  One day, they'll be REALLY determined to get in, and some fucking deadbolts aren't going to keep them away.

I had to turn off the heater to save enough of the gas to type this message.  I guess this is going to be the last one I can send, Historian.  My generator is going out, and with as much snowfall as we've had, there isn't any way I'm going to be able to get more gas.  It's already down to 40 degrees in the house now, and I turned off the heater, set to 65 degrees, less than an hour ago.  I'm nearly out of food, and I don't have a lot of blankets, and--the point is, I'm going to die soon, I think.  It's okay.  The ringing stopped, finally.  I'm going to save this.  Put it on a disc, and a flash drive, all the stuff I can think of.  Hopefully one day it'll be found.  And I'm going to go get in my bed, with my jacket, some heavy clothes, my blanket.  Stay warm as long as I can.  And when I can't take it any more, I have some Ambien.  They're sleeping pills.  I figure when it comes to that, I'll just pop some of them, and freeze to death in my sleep.  Better than being awake for it, right?  At least I'll get to see Gloria soon.

Goodbye, Historian.  I hope you're from a better world than the one I'm leaving.


"Babe, just give it up," Alex said.  "He hasn't answered his phone for, like, two months.  He's obviously not going to."

"I just want to talk to him," Gloria said, setting the phone back in the cradle.  "I'm worried about him."

"I'm telling you, he probably split."  Alex sat down on the couch and flipped on the TV.  "When he came by last month, he seemed out of it.  Maybe he just decided to get away from it all for a while.  I'm sure he's fine."

"That's so weird, though.  You should have talked to him."

"Babe, I'm sorry, but I'm not about to go out and talk to your ex when he shows up at your house.  Not to mention, he was creepy.  He just stood there for like twenty minutes, staring at the house.  It was weird."

"We had been together a long time.  He probably misses me."

"Well, I'm thinking he's missing you all the way in Maui, then.  I'm sure he's glad he got away before this damn snowstorm came in.  It's ridiculous."

"It's just...that's not like him.  I don't think he'd just leave like that."

"I know, Gloria, but we've been to his house.  His windows are boarded up, he's got extra locks on his doors, and his mailbox is full.  His porch light didn't turn on with the motion sensor, and the doorbell didn't ring, so it looks like he even turned off his electricity.  I'm telling you, he's split.  And I can't really blame him.  You're a lot to lose.  It'll take him some time."

"Yeah...I guess you're right."  She sat down on the couch next to him, and he reached over, playfully pulling her onto his lap.

"Now," he said, a smirk on his face, "what say we generate some body heat to fight off this snowstorm?"

She smiled naughtily.  "Why, that sounds like a lovely idea."


©2011 Cerebral Vomit DESIGNED BY JAY DAVIS