Short Story Sunday #1

  

Here is the first of many of the writings I would like to showcase here. I’ve always loved short stories. I have many I would love to share. So here goes nothing, let me know what ya’ll think!

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THE BEFORE/THE AFTER

 

Upon the fall of civilization, the world began to turn cold, dark and something unrecognizable.

There weren’t the fast paced machines, or technology that could connect you to someone in an instant. It became something more ruthless, more maniacal.

The world returned to its basic instinct of survival. Survival of the fittest and strongest and smartest.

Mankind became something to be feared. Fear is a drive that makes the most gentlemanly of men become cruel and inhuman.

When fear takes over, there isn’t anything anyone can do. People begin to act irrationally.

So long people have suffered. That fear just becomes a constant emotion that is used just as similarly to anger or happiness. Emotions are the drive humans use.

These emotions can take unpredictable turns.

A man stands alone on a precipice looking down on what was once a major metropolitan city. This city was known for its night life, its hunger for humanity, to ever be present.

Now, with dawn breaking on this once great city. It sits shrouded in darkness, in the quiet.

The man remembers what life was like in the before. He had been a part of this city. This city now crumbling in upon itself. The buildings, which this city took great pride in its architecture, now are just skeletons of what they once were.

The man remembers the before and now the after. The after now following the onslaught of bombs, and gunfire echoes constantly throughout his mind. He doesn’t sleep well, listening for any other sound of life. Any sound of human life.

Silence. The silence the man hears is deafening. Faintly, he can hear rocks, or brick fall.

The man has been alone for quite some time. For how long, he cannot remember. All he remembers is what once was and what now is.

Taking too long of a look at what sits below him, the man picks up his belongings. A rumpled and torn pack and sleeping bag are all the man was able to carry with him. The pack is full of what he has found along the way, a rusted knife, a copper bowl, torn t-shirt, and shorts, socks, canned items, seeds, half-used batteries, water bottles, and one photograph. This photo depicts a life that is now so far in the past the man cannot bear to pull it out and look at it like he did during the before.

The man, in his boots, ripped jeans, t-shirt, vest and jacket, turns and makes his way along the cliff, careful to not step too close to the edge.

There has to be someone out there, the man thinks to himself. I cannot be the only one.

A greyness of what once was daylight extends across the land around the man. He who walk in the shadow of death…repeats in the mind of the lonely man.

The man before experienced death. This kind of death now, he would not wish on anyone. It is an empty feeling. The man has not even had time to properly mourn. Not without all the facts.

These facts were so fast and incomplete during the before. He thinks on the news reports now. He focuses his thoughts on the memory of the women sitting at the desk. With her too done-up face and hair and a bright blue blazer that clashed with the background of the set.

Why would he focus on those aspects now? It must be the longing for human interaction. The reports stated unknown attacks were being made at governmental offices and had the workings of terrorists. The man remembers it started small and worked its way up through the rankings. All the way to the top. In fact, the first city to be turned to rubble was the capital.

The capital always held a kind of hope for the people of his world. It was where everything the man had known came out of. Now, with that solace gone, the world decided to turn against itself. The rest was not done by ordinary terrorists. What laid its foundation was fear.

This fear made humanity work in the opposite direction. Humanity was to stand alongside one another and not let the forces of evil rejoice and celebrate what it had done.

For too long the man was angry at what the others had done. How could they just give up? How can one nation just disintegrate until there was nothing left?

These unanswered questions keep the man awake at night. There is no purpose for him to be alive. But he is and he thanks fate or whatever action he can think of.

Continuing his journey, the man reaches a small ravine in what used to be a forest, now it is just stumps of trees and dried up plants. But in the ravine he sees water. The water is not from a well, lake or river. So it is clean. It must have come from the rain only a few nights ago.

The man fills his bottles and takes a hasty drink.

His loneliness stretches with each passing day. Hope. His hope is extinguished by every breath he takes. The punishment of being alive takes its toll, but he doesn’t stop in his pursuit. There must be someone. There has to be. 

But, as the sun sets, rises and sets again on the man. There is no one.

The man feels as though he is running on a treadmill, with nowhere to go and no destination in sight. It just keeps spinning and spinning.

The man sits, eats and drinks. What to do now?

Suddenly, the man hears a rustling sound and what sounds like a snort. He looks around but doesn’t see where the sound is coming from.

The man’s skin starts to prickle, knowing something is near. That dark emotion of fear creeps up his spine and signals something in his head.

Gathering up his camp, the man makes hasty work of retreating. He knows he is not strong enough for a fight and he knows the sounds he is hearing are not human-like.

There had been references of creatures descending upon the world just before the after. It almost seemed too unbelievable to be real. The creatures themselves didn’t seem too out of the ordinary. They were just animals one would typically see in a zoo or on the television. But as the world descended into darkness, the creatures, plants and civilization around them did too. Humanity seemed to be the most affected, just disappearing into nothing. Which is why the man, being alive and in this new world, was so confused.

Why him? Why was he spared?

Suddenly, the sound became real and a hideous dog-like creature surfaced behind a boulder just a few yards away from the man. The dog, a black-like color that looked like he had been burned walked around the large rock and began sniffing and snorting at the ground.

The man stopped in his tracks. Eyes focused on the creature that resembled a tracking hound, but from some unwelcome depths.

What was the man to do? All he had was a rusted knife that was too blunt to even carve a piece of wood.

It wouldn’t be too long before the hound noticed him. So taking a step back. The man proceeded to turn away from the hound. But, it was too late. The snarl, which raced up the man’s spine, sounded the alarm in the man’s head and, out of instinct, he began to run. A howl escaped from the hounds inner most pit and echoed off the rock, brick and mortar that surrounded the man.

Survival. The man knew the basics during the before. Go to work, make money, buy food, eat the food, and pay bills, again and again, over and over. There were no real threats other than the typical. Paying your bills on time so one would have heat and electric, buying food to feed oneself and family, being a respectable member of society.

Now the man had to hunt and gather for food, this food turned rancid in his stomach and the water from the rivers and lakes was tarnished from the chemicals that showered down after the explosions.

And now, running for one’s life was not something the man knew too much about.

Keep going, keep running, faster, was the mantra the man repeated over and over in his head.

The man could hear the panting of the hound getting closer and closer. Gaining on the man.

Life is too cruel, a thought the man could squeeze out from his bran’s sensors raced forward. Until the man hits and stumbles over a rock and falls. Turning over the man works to get up and begin his campaign of living once again, but it is too late.

The hound has descended upon him and cautiously walks over to him until his entire body is straddling the man’s. Looking down into the man’s face, the animal, if one could call it that, is breathing heavy. The breath is toxic to the man and through his breathing and gasping for air, the man gags on whatever could be possibly coming from the creature.

Death, comes to mind. This is now haunting the man. Does he want to die? If so, is this the way he would prefer to go?

Staring straight into the hound’s eyes he is paralyzed and doesn’t believe he is breathing but unknowingly feels his lungs move. His chest rising up, down; air moving through his body, in then out.

Centuries pass by between the man and creature. How long he must endure, the man thinks.

The hound doesn’t make a move to, well, do anything. He just stands there, panting, staring, and slobbering.

The man, begins the move and the hound’s body tenses. Not a good idea, the man thinks. The man is laying on his pack, bracing the upper part of his back so he is in sort of a sitting position/lying down.

The creature’s appearance triggers something in the man that he wasn’t able to pinpoint earlier.

It is a prickle in the back of his mind and now, with time and patience, he begins to bring it to the forefront of his brain.

Why is he here? Why was he the one to survive? Why is this creature here torturing him? What is he to do? These questions flood the man’s mind. The man begins to get light headed. Too much, too fast. The man begins to lose consciousness and soon just simply passes out.

Earlier that morning, the man was thinking about giving up the fight, letting go of everything. There is no one and there can’t be anyone to help him out of this fight.

Bells, beeps and whooshes flood his senses. The man moves his body, but remembers the hound is close so he doesn’t make too sudden a move.

He hears shuffling, and whispers? People? Maybe his prayers had been answered and other people, who might have been afraid, have come to his rescue.

The man tries to open one eye, but there is a blinding light overhead he shuts it immediately.

The man hears another male voice. The voice says something about him beginning to wake up and stir.

He has to show more signs he’s alive. His body comes into his brain’s wave length and suddenly the man is realizing he is in pain everywhere. The hound must have done a number on him.

The man lets out a gasp and then just opens both eyes and strains to keep them open. The light takes his breath away and he starts gasping.

Looking around, the man notices he is in a fairly large metal bed. His arm is hooked up to a machine which has fluid running down into his veins.

Further scanning the room, the man notices faces. Faces of people he knows and some he doesn’t. The photo. The memory of the photo comes rushing into his mind. It can’t be, they’re gone!

His family, his wife, his son, and his daughter are standing on the left side of the bed. A doctor and nurse on his right.

These people are just staring at the man not saying a word.

The man shakes his head and begins to get dizzy. This isn’t real, it can’t be. I saw what happened in the after. It can’t be. It. Just. Can’t!

The woman, who is his wife from the before, is talking.

“Are you alright honey? I know you didn’t mean it. We all love you.”

What is she saying? I don’t understand. Of course I didn’t mean to be where I was and I surely didn’t mean to come across that dog, but it just happened.

Upon further inspection the man notices his wrists are bandaged and his arms hurt suddenly. The man raises his wrists closer to his face, and with what must be an inquisitive look, the doctor speaks up.

“You harmed yourself, we had to do some extensive work on repairing your wrists, but they should be okay. You are going to be on psychiatric watch for some time, but with the proper help and medication, you should be able to go home in a couple of weeks.”

The man’s mind, stomach and entire body begin to roll. What. Is. Happening!

Soon, memories the man is not sure are his enter his mind. The man remembers loud sirens, being wet and being in and out of consciousness.

“But, the hound?” the man askes.

“You’re pretty out of it. It will take some time, but the hallucinations will go away.” the doctor says.

“I don’t understand” the man states, bewildered.

What is going on? He thinks.

The man lifts up his writs again and begins to unwrap them.

“Honey, don’t!” the man’s wife exclaims, with a look of horror on her face as she clutches the two children beside her.

“I want to see” the man states.

The doctor looks at the man’s wife, at the nurse and back at the man.

“I believe it will be alright if he takes a look, we can quickly bandage them back up.” says the doctor.

The man begins again unwrapping his wounds. Opening up the left hand’s wrapping, he sees the reason why the people standing around his bedside held the look of terror on their faces.

Deep, dark read wounds stretch up his arm. They are jagged. What are they, surely they are not…The man too shares the look of horror.

Claw marks? It just can’t be. This can’t be happening.

“We, eh..hem. assume you started with the razor and began using your nails.” the doctor says.

“Nurse, we should get new bandages, quickly we don’t want them to get infected.”

The nurse leaves the room. The man’s wife, who had taken their children out before the unveiling, leaves, trailing behind.

The man looks up at the doctor.

“What…um…no!”

“I know you are confused. It is the anesthesia wearing off and the pain medication. Morphine,” states the doctor, as though answering an unasked question.

The man doesn’t understand. These marks surely don’t look human. Can’t they see that? This isn’t right. This isn’t!

The man recounts his thoughts. I know I was unhappy. I was lost with no one. But did I want to end it? There was a dog. I know there was. The man closes his eyes and looks internally for strength and knowledge. Where did this dream, fantasy, memory come from and where did it go?

The truth is somewhere. It has to be.

The man drifts, unconscious.

Soon, the man feels his mind come back to reality and opens his eyes and the room, now in darkness. He can hear the quiet, minus the beeps and boops of the machines next to his bed.

The man hears a faint whispering near the corner of the room. He sees the figures of his wife and doctor in a serious conversation.

Again the man closes his eyes in order to fake sleep. He focuses on hearing what the two are saying.

“It is common in patients to wake from surgery to have had a horrific dream. That must be where the dog he believes he has seen comes in.”

“I just don’t understand. He was so frightened of what he saw.”

“I know, but with time he will be alright. He’ll need some therapy. Did he seem suicidal to you in the weeks before? Anything major happen at home, work?”

“I don’t believe so. He was so energetic and happy…”

The man’s wife trails off as though in thought. Of something that could possibly be the reason, but she shakes it off.

Suicidal? Surely that isn’t what happened…

It isn’t! The man silently screams in his head. I know what I saw and felt. It wasn’t me who did this.

Out of nowhere it seems, the man is transported back to his thoughts and is returned to that desolate place. He opens his eyes and standing over him is that gnarly, grimy, grisly hound staring at him.

The man looks deeper into the hound’s eyes. There is a layer of blackness and fear.

Fear? How could this animal be afraid of the man?

Deeper the man probes to see if he can decipher what the hound wants from him, but as he looks closer, he sees eyes that are familiar.

These eyes the man knows all too well. He had stared directly into them during the before. These eyes belonged to him. These eyes that are now part of the hound. These eyes that hold all the truth. These eyes that can only tell one thing…it is not the animal that is afraid.

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Thanks for reading!

Simply yours,

Nicole

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