The Earth will not cease to exist, but the world as we know it, will. There will be survivors.
Warning: Dreams sometimes don't make sense; don't have plots; don't have endings
When it comes
There will be cracks in the Earth so large it will split continents. In the cracks you will see the makings of Hell.
About the Stories
These stories were born out of completely different thoughts and only coincidentally fit together. You will definitely know what I mean when you read Part 3.
Apocalypse(Click on Title to go to story)
Part 1 – The AdjustmentPart 2 – Rug on the RoadPart 3 – Tavern ExperiencePart I - The Adjustment
An unprecedented adjustment in the atmospheric pressure due to a rapid geological
shift combined with an extreme drop in the magnetic field.
It sounds like a statement one might hear from some forensic meteorologist on the
six o’clock news, but it wasn’t. The electromagnetic disruption in the atmosphere
and the volcanic ash-filled ionosphere had shut down every television and radio
in the country. So where did I get my explanation for the near apocalyptic incident
that occurred across the Earth? At the street corner downtown.
George Cannery ran into former high school science teacher, Fred Stanton. I say
former because he doesn’t teach anymore. The school was partially destroyed and
one-third of the faculty incapacitated or dead. Stanton was on his way to town on a
bike to see if he could find flour, sugar and bouillon. Stanton was a good science
teacher, but I must say; now I am really impressed with him. I am even more
impressed with ole George for remembering that whole scientific-word filled
sentence long enough to tell me about it.
There had been earth quakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and nuclear reactor
melt downs. Fuel tanks exploded, and zillions of pressurized chemical and paint
cans detonated like bombs in houses and businesses. Many places, and in some
cases entire cities, burnt to the ground. Within five days, fifty percent of the world’s
population ceased to exist. Some people got lucky and made it through with little
more than ruptured ear drums.
It was Saturday, and I had walked downtown, to get what I have no memory. I remember my ears starting to hurt. Then they really hurt. I heard a car crash into a building behind me. There was the sound of glass shattering. The pain knocked me to my knees. I jammed my finger tips into my ears trying to keep the pain out. I heard a woman screaming, but I didn’t see her anywhere. I got up and ran, thinking if I got inside a building there would be less pain. I ran toward the agri-center building across the street. A propane tank on the back of an old Chevy pickup exploded. The truck had been waiting for the stoplight to turn green, but its occupant had already bailed out and disappeared. I heard popping noises. Like gunshots. Everywhere. A kid of about thirteen raced by on a bicycle. He rode along perfectly normal, but I could see his face was distorted to the point where it might just stay that way, like grandma used to say.
I should have put two and two together. The propane fill station was thirty feet to my right when it donned on me. Two twenty-pound tanks sat side by side on the curb. They exploded simultaneously. I remember half walking. Falling. Sometimes crawling. It got dark fast. Lots of smoke. The explosions continued. Debris and fiery ash fell from the sky. In my panicked mind, I headed for the river. I guess I thought I could dive in if my entire body suddenly started on fire. I remember thinking I ought to go home. But my right leg was in shreds. And it was twice the distance. I would have never made it. I had to survive first, if there were any chance of me helping my family later.
I remember very little of my first day in the river bottom. I had fallen in a small clump of trees. The smoke was thick overhead. I worried that the grasses around me would suddenly be ablaze. I thought I was dying. I wondered if my wife and children were dead. Then I prayed that if they were dead, that God would take me, too. Most of the time, I was unconscious. On the second day, I pulled my pants off and picked shrapnel from my leg. Then I ripped off pieces of my t-shirt, dipped them in the stream and used them to wash the wounds. Then I wrapped them. It took the entire day to do this. Several times I passed out. On day three, I ate a crayfish that tried scooting by in the shallows of the stream. It gave me energy. My ears no longer hurt, but I hadn’t heard the sound of a voice, a car, or even a bird in two days. I thought perhaps I was deaf from the explosion or whatever else had stung my ears so bad. My leg and side felt like shit. I decided to try and get home.
It was the darkness that really got me moving. The sun had come up that morning, but the sky never brightened. It only bruised; thick purples and reds like I had never seen in my life. I feared the world was ending. And if it was, I didn’t want to be alone when it happened. I needed to know if my family had made it, and if they did, I would experience the world ending with them.
I made a makeshift crutch from a thick branch that also could serve as a weapon if necessary. I had no idea whether there was another living soul in town, or what type of deranged society I might come across. My goal was to just get home.
When I first stood, I felt light headed. To be expected, I thought. But there was something else about the feeling I got. It was like my mind was making weird calculations of the environment around me, without me consciously thinking about it. And as I moved along, I kept getting out-of-body flashes.
My neighbor came running outside when he saw me hobbling up the street. Bill was the first human I had seen. And his house, and mine, was two of four houses on my block that still looked habitable. The town had been hit hard, he said. Too many people, too close together. They had buried thirty more dead that morning. They were running shifts out at the cemetery. No bodies were being embalmed, he added, because the mortician hadn’t survived. I was glad I could hear him talk, but I wasn’t listening to what he was saying. I stared at my house, too afraid to ask the question. It looked dark and quiet. My heart was beating fast. I felt that if I didn’t sit down soon, I would probably fall down. From my peripheral vision, I saw Bill shake his head vigorously as if disgusted with himself. “Sorry Brian. I didn’t piece it together, that you wouldn’t know. They’re okay. They’re all just fine. I checked on them right away. They are really worried about you.” I released a heavy, jagged breath of relief.
The hospital was closed, but two local doctors and a couple nurses had gathered supplies from the hospital and were running a clinic out of the drug store. One of the local doctors visited the house, and performed bedside surgery to remove the rest of the shrapnel from my leg. He also told me my leg was broken. That might have been a surprise to me earlier as I hobbled half way across town on it, but after my adrenalin wore off, that son-of-a-bitch really hurt.
I didn’t mention it to the doc, but I was still having these weird sensations. Sometimes I felt as if I were floating. I figured it came from the explosion; had something to do with my ears or the pressure on my ear drums. The condition came and went for the next two weeks.
One early morning, I hobbled downtown with a new set of crutches to get some exercise and try to strengthen my legs. I ran into George that day, and that’s when he told me about the geological shift and the drop in the magnetic field. I moved awkwardly with my makeshift crutches which were strapped to each bicep. And it wasn’t easy moving with all the debris in the road and on the sidewalks. No one had bothered to clean up. There were no city trucks to haul it anywhere. So, I tripped on shit all the time. I even ended up on the ground a few times. After trying it out, I decided I would try to make the trip daily.
Today was a bad day. I was so damn mad when I tripped for the third time that instead of falling, I did everything I could to keep upright. I stepped as fast as I could on that weak leg to keep up with my crutches, which had gone completely haywire. Those crutches had a mind of their own. And I remember wishing I could scoot along without my feet or the damn crutches touching the ground. Why that thought would even come to my head, I don’t know. But instead of falling, I moved faster. Then faster. The movement of my one good leg and the crutches got back into unison. At least I thought they were. I was moving along quite fluidly. I felt as if I were gliding. How could I be moving so smoothly, I wondered? And then I looked down. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was making all the motions of walking. My legs were moving. My arms moved the crutches, elbows pushing along as if they were rowing a damn boat. But no part of me was touching the street. Had I even woke up that morning? Was I dreaming?
I only made it work once or twice. I couldn’t quite get over the mental preparation which was a prerequisite to the flight. Which was, I had to get really damn mad.
It was just after I had gotten back to my feet after a big wipeout when something caught my eye. I turned to see this young man coming down the block towards me. He was a foot in the air. I thought son-of-a-gun. I’m not the only one.
I didn’t really have much to say to him. I asked if he knew any others with the same condition. He replied that he did not. Then he went on and on about how excited he was to have found someone else. I got tired of listening to him babble, said good bye, and tried to move quickly or fly away. But I was too tired all of a sudden, and just hobbled away on my crutches. I don’t know if he thought we were going to be flying buddies or what. That wasn’t the thought I had in my head.
But there wasn’t much I could do if he followed along. So, I just went about my business, and if he was going to follow, then I guess he was going to follow. A few businesses had re-opened, some as completely different businesses. There were very few vehicles on the road. They were mainly diesel vehicles that had not been so susceptible to the pressure. But with no additional diesel coming to the stations, the owners used them sparingly. To my knowledge, most every tank with gas in it had exploded. A few auto mechanics in town opened a metal working shop. The bank, which had been built with iron and brick, and had not suffered any damage at all, had been remodeled into a boarding house for those who had become homeless.
The mill was half gone, but two buildings and four grain bins still stood. It had been made into a railroad repair shop – that was one idea the locals had come up with in a meeting after hell had passed. They were sure trains would be the first mobile units to appear, so they went about making repairs to the railroad tracks. They even built two or three handcars or pump trolleys as I call them. They fixed the line and took the pump trolley to the next town. It was a smaller town, and I hear they were in just as rough a shape. But anyhow, I was impressed with the city’s railroad repair shop and its accomplishments. It was a bright spot in everyone’s day, and the talk of the town. And it just so happened that a good friend of mine was volunteering his labor there. He had invited me up this morning to see the operation.
Railroad tracks were a bitch with crutches, and I gathered enough anger to cross them. My young counterpart did the same. And when we got to the other side, I turned back and gave him a look that asked if he intended to follow me around all damn day. His head went down, and that pissed me off because then I felt bad for saying it. I grunted an okay. Then turned and headed for the door. I heard him kick a rock up inches behind me, so I knew he was following.
Dave was inside one of the bins that had been converted to a metal shop. The first thing I noticed was two huge metal tubs full of coins. One with pennies. One with dimes. Dave was grinding, but he knew someone had stepped in. He backed off the grinder, then turned to look. A slight smile came across his face as he reached over to hit the switch on the grinder. He grabbed something off the counter, and when he turned, he flipped it to me.
I caught it and rolled it between my fingers until I could get a good look at it. “What the hell is this?”
He gave me an I’ve-got-a-secret look and leaned towards me. “It’s going to be the new local currency.”
Well, I wasn’t sure what was wrong with the old stuff. He caught the question in my eyes. “Can’t be trusted,” He quickly responded to something I hadn’t even said. Then he stared at the roof of the bin in thought. He must have found what he was looking for, because when he looked down, he continued without missing a beat. “Can’t be spread equally amongst the people. We have got to start out brand new. Everyone at the same level.”
“All right,” I said. I wasn’t disagreeing, but my eyebrows rose at my next reflection. “So you’re taking a dime and a penny and fusing them together.”
“Yep. Then we grind the edges even, like this,” he said as he grabbed one out of a bin on the table and held it up for me to see. “The city will issue the same quantity to everyone; just like Monopoly. Mayor said every job is as important as the other, and anyone who works will get the exact same salary.”
“Sounds smart,” I commented, then added, “Then it’s all about how you spend it.”
Dave nodded in agreement. The young man had been eyeing up the room. Dave gave me a look that asked who he was. I raised my palms to the air and shrugged my shoulders. Then while the young fellow was still distracted, he glanced at the coin in my hand and nodded. I knew what he meant, and slipped the coinage into my pocket. It was unfinished anyway and had no value yet, but it was neat to look at.
Dave led us into the next room. The next bin over was filled with hundreds of items made of metal. The items were in piles, hung on racks and piled on shelving all around the room and high up on the tubular walls. Many items were brand new, but had apparently been labeled as useless to the new economy and had been gathered up for the greater good, to be melted down and made into something useful. Perhaps one of those trolleys outside had been made from steel from melted down barrels, auto parts, and even toys.
Back to TopPart II - Rug on the RoadMy leg healed. It still ached and I could feel shrapnel in it, but I could walk. The volcanoes had quieted down, and the ash eventually settled. Then there was sun again. Everyone in town planted a garden with the hope of surviving winter. The previous one had been tough. Many died.
The roads had deteriorated fast. With limited oil and fuel, bad roads weren’t fixed, potholes weren’t filled, and gravel roads weren’t graded. The gravel roads grew wild with weeds, with many turning into mere trails. Bicycles were the number one mode of travel, but spare tires were hard to come by. There were quite a few travelers on horseback, too.
Occasionally, a gas- or diesel-powered vehicle would show up in town. The locals would come out into the street, and then stand there for an hour after it had passed, talking about how the engine sounded or how pretty the damn paint was. In my opinion, all the damn fuel should have been stockpiled by the local municipality and used to take care of business, such as emergency services, to haul garbage out of town, and to bring groceries in.
The local grocery situation was pathetic. The city wasn’t doing anything, and nobody else did either. I heard they had good seed stock and groceries in Lester Prairie. I went by bicycle. It was common now to make longer treks to get the items you needed. Two weeks before I traveled forty miles to Chaska for two spare bicycle tires and an air pump.
Things looked different now. In the city, yards were overgrown with tall weeds and brush reaching four- to six-feet high. In the country, it looked worse. This area of the state was part of the Big Woods before the 1900s came along, and it appeared that Mother Nature was intent on nurturing it back. I arrived to Lester Prairie just fine by blacktop road, but it was the long way around. I picked up seed for next year (to make sure I had some in case they ran out between now and then), sugar, baking soda and whatever else was on my list. While shopping, I heard of a shortcut home. It was a route I was somewhat familiar with, but it was mostly gravel and I hadn’t been sure it was passable.
The first part of the trek turned out to be a rough path for bicycles; probably much better for horses. It took me up and down rolling hills, and with a load upon my back, it was not easy. I saw a building up ahead. As I came near, I saw a large rug rolled up and laying aside the path. It was lumpy looking. I knew what it was. I had heard about them, but this was the first one I had seen. Someone had died. Someone unknown. The locals would not bury the person right away in case a family member came along looking for them. So they would roll them up in an old blanket or rug and tie the ends tight with twine (tight enough to keep critters out) and leave it at the side of the trail for a week. If no one picked it up, then they’d bury it, usually near the road, with a simple wood cross that might identify the person’s hair and eye color, general build, etc.
As I passed, I wondered who it was. Maybe I knew the person. It could have been me. If I were to die here, right now, who would recognize me? I would be disposed of, and my family would never hear what happened. Oh, after a time, they would assume. Either I run off, or I died.
Shortly after passing the body, the trail cut into a farm yard near the road. It passed right thru the door of the barn. Inside, the property owner had set up a small shop, convenient to travelers. Who was going to say anything against it? I walked my bike through. There was nothing I needed; no repairs necessary to my bike. I didn’t even look at the owner as I passed, and out the other side I went.
I continued biking. At one point, I thought I might be lost. But eventually I made it home.
Back to Top Part III – Tavern Experience - 5 years down the roadPeople started to get ill. It would attack the lungs first, starting with a cough. Then a hacking through the night. A loss of hunger. And then, when the body weakened, it would go after the organs, shutting them down, one by one or sometimes all at once. The doc said it had something to do with the ash. I remember telling him, “Hell had come back to haunt us.”
My wife suffered for six months before she died two years ago. The only reason I can figure I didn’t get it, too, was because of all the damn bicycling I did. I just kept working and coughing the crud out. It never stuck in me. Neither of the kids had gotten it either. They were both out of the house now. After they left, things got kind of quiet around the place.
I drove the bike until the tire just plain fell off one day. The bearings had been going out for a time, and there wasn’t shit I could do about it. I was half way home with a light load of supplies. I waited for a young couple to pass on the trail and get out of sight, before I hid the bike in some bushes, just in case I decided to recover it later. Then I started to walk.
I was familiar with this trail. I knew I was only a mile from a popular road crossing. Like many entrepreneurial businesses that popped up along the trail, this corner was well known for its commerce. The resident who lived on the corner had torn down his barn and used the lumber to build a bar right on the road. It was common, as I mentioned, for people to build a shack near a popular trail where they would offer water, fruits, vegetables, and in this case, moonshine.
From a quarter mile out, I counted three horses, a wagon, four bicycles and two automobiles parked along the tar road. It was a summer bar, as we called them. Closed in winter due to the lack of insulation. The walls were so thin, the noise pushed through them like they would through paper. I could hear laughing and boisterous conversation as I neared the place. There was no doubt in my mind that I intended to stop, whether my bike had been broken or not. It was a nice place to wet your whistle after a long time on the trail. I also liked it for its frontier-like atmosphere. It had a reputation of getting a little wild at times.
The inside was perfectly square. A long bar ran along the far wall. There were four wooden tables in the center. Just to the right of the door, there were shelves built into the walls which contained odds and ends to remind people of the good ole days – the days before Hell passed. And to the left of the door, just as you came in, there was a stuffed bear. The bartender swore he had shot that bear right out the back door of the bar one night after closing. Nobody cared enough to argue. The floor was wooden, what you could see of it. It was covered in dust, peanut shells and spilled drinks. The only light was from two windows, and a kerosene lantern. A record player crackled out an old Willie Nelson song. I believe it was, Always on My Mind.
I talked with two ladies that afternoon. The prettier one was slim with short black hair. She had tattoos down her arms, but was dressed respectfully, and carried herself as such. She stood out against the normal bar crowd like a brand new bottle of booze - something rare these days. Now everything came in a jar. I was showing the young lady a statue on one of the high shelves. That’s when the problems all started.
In my trivial drunkenness, I decided to get it down for her so she could read the inscription. That’s when the bar bruiser came running up behind me. He growled out a warning, then assisted me in putting it back. I was too juiced to feel embarrassed about it, but I did get angry when I realized I had lost the attention of the brunette. She had faded off to another crowd so as not to be associated with the disorder. Hell, it wasn’t my intention to take her home anyway. I still had six miles to go and I was sure walking was not on her mind. I had only wanted to be a gentleman.
I soon forgot the brunette when a tall and full-figured blond grabbed my shirt and pulled me toward her. I caught my balance just in time to keep from colliding with her, and just inches from her nose. I looked straight at her big gray marbles with as steady an eye as I could muster. I could hear her talking, something about needing a ride. Well, I didn’t have a way to give her a ride. But somehow, out of my mumbling, she got the impression that I owned one of those automobiles.
She led me outside with a finger, and she was fairly convincing. I avoided walking towards the vehicles. She pushed me toward them. “I can drive, if that’s the problem.” She must have said that five times. She didn’t get the point, and perhaps I didn’t make it clear ... by not being overly specific one way or the other. Then she surprised me.
She wrapped her arms around me, and said, “Oh, I get it.” Then she slapped her big hands up on my rump. I coughed on my spittle a bit, which caused me to give her one of my big-eye looks. I was definitely being misinterpreted. She was thinking I wanted sex as payment for the ride. And without me saying anything, she nodded her head up and down in a very ridiculous and exaggerative manner and asked why I hadn’t just said so in the first place. I tried to explain myself better, but she just kept interrupting me with kisses and loud mouth.
She dragged me across the road and pulled me behind the wagon near the horses. She was grabby and quick with her hands, and before I could even stutter, she plopped down with her bare backside to the ground and pulled me along with her. It was around this time, I wondered what this good-sized woman was going to do to me when she realized I didn’t own one of those cars. I never said I did. Then an image of a rolled-up carpet bundle shot through my mind. Perhaps I was making a bad decision.
The second I was done, I jumped up, yanked up my trousers, and climbed atop the buckboard wagon. I am not sure if I intended to take off with it, any more than get away from her, possibly to a place where she couldn’t follow. But that’s not quite what happened.
The woman let out an angry scream. It caused the horses to get excited, and they jerked the wagon. I was about to grab the reigns but the movement caused me to lose my footing. I missed the rope and landed in the seat on my stomach. In that second, I saw she had her pants pulled up and an angry-woman-from-hell look on her face. As I stood, she screamed again. This time, the horses tried to take off. I hadn’t steadied myself and slipped backwards this time, back in her direction. It sent me catapulting off the side of the wagon. I thought this would be a good time to fly, but my head was spinning from the booze and all the bouncing around. I did fly, all right, from the buckboard to the ground, where I landed in a heap. I saw blondy headed my way with hands on her hips and decided, broken bones or not, I was going to jump up and run. And I hoped like hell that she wouldn’t follow.
By this time, several bar patrons had stepped outside to see what the commotion was all about. I was looking up at them when I just about got run over by a third vehicle pulling up to the tavern. It had a long-nosed hood that stretched the length of the car, twice as long as it needed to be. The orange convertible had two seats situated in front of the rear tires. It had no windshield, and there was a small space where a person might sit to the front of the car, near the motor. I recognized the driver as someone I had met years ago. I assumed he would remember me, and stayed near the middle of the road to meet him. I waved my hand, and called out to him. He waved back and shouted hello or something like it. I had a hard time hearing over the loud noise of the engine. He might have said, get the hell out of the way. I leaned toward him and asked for a ride. He looked about the vehicle as if he might have a spot, but with only two seats . . . I looked to the small department toward the front of the vehicle where only a young boy might fit. He saw me look, and said, “Sorry fella.” Then he revved up the automobile’s big engine, and tore off down the road.
I looked towards the tavern where even the bartender stood gawking. The blond woman stood in the road with a flabbergasted look on her face. Her halter top was twisted, and her hair all messed up. The brunette I had tried to impress earlier was on the step by the side door of the tavern. She glanced towards the blond, then back at me. She wore a look on her face that defined repulsion. There was no denying it. There definitely was not a gentleman standing before her today. Just a dusty and disheveled road bum with a mediocre sense of humor who had made a fool of himself more than once today. I really was better than that, but there was no convincing that audience. I took a final glance at the blond, whose nose was now turned up and twisted so tight, she looked about to spin like a top. I nodded my head at the patrons, most who were headed back inside. Then I turned and headed south down the road.
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