Going Postal, II

Continued from “Going Postal, I.”

Little Charli loved to watch the world from her front window.

On Garbage Day, the garbage truck came. On Not-Preschool Days, her big brother’s carpool pulled up and honked. And, every day, Santa Claus parked his white pickup truck at their street’s mailbox.

At least, she thought he was Santa Claus. He was old and had white hair and sometimes brought presents to the porch. Her mother didn’t show Charli what the present-boxes had inside, but she knew they must be something happy. Almost every box had a smile on the side.

Today was no exception. *Ding* beeped her touchscreen game. *Snip* *snip* went her mother’s scissors. *Oh, I know, Honey* said the lady in the haircut chair.

A blink of white from beyond the window reflected onto Charli’s game. Santa was at the mailbox again! She watched him ease out of his truck and shuffle to the back. Her hand hung poised over the screen as she saw him pull out a large present, heft it to a new position, and stagger toward her house.

Charli saw the usual smile on the package’s side. She had to know what Santa brought this time, before her mother took it. Glancing up to confirm that her mother was busy working, Charli set the tablet down and snuck to the front door. She opened it just as Santa arrived at the top of their porch stairs, huffing.

“Well, hi, little girl!” he said, smiling. He set the box down near the edge and leaned against the railing.

Charli smiled and looked at her feet. She didn’t know what to say, now that she’d finally met him.

Santa scratched his face. He didn’t have a beard. “Didja like the rain we got yesterday?” he asked.

She nodded, still looking down.

“Didja see the rainbow?”

She jerked her head up in surprise. He still smiled kindly at her. She saw his eyes were the color of the sky. “No,” she said.

He gave her a sympathetic frown. “That’s alright. You can see one next time it rains.”

Another nod. She ground a bare toe into the doorstep in a twirl. “What’s in the present?” she managed to ask.

“Hm? Present?” He looked confused, Then, his attention turned to the large box at his feet. “Oh! Well! …This isn’t a present-”

Charlie’s face fell.

“-Not this time!” he added, holding up a reassuring hand.

Her expression lightened, curious.

“Yep,” Santa said, “Looks like this big box is some fancy food storage for your big family.” He gave a soft chuckle.

Her mouth puckered and she scowled.

He laughed outright. “Ha! This’s some high-quality stuff. ‘Time’ll come, some people’ll kill for this stuff! -Now, run on inside and tell your mommy about it so no one takes it. ”

She nodded again, and scuttled back inside. Her mother liked knowing about packages. She didn’t like when Charli opened the door without asking.

 

©2020 Chelsea Owens

Going Postal, I

Ron was just your average sort of guy: tallish, wideish, oldish, kindish. He drove his reliable old pickup with the reliable old hardtop around the neighborhood every day; often, he drove around several times a day.

Some of the residents talked to Ron. Most did not. Most didn’t notice him or his truck, despite it nearly always being full to bursting with their latest Amazon packages and Domino’s pizza coupons.

One day, Mrs. Hempsworth happened on Ron at the exact moment she went to retrieve her mail. Startled, she supposed she ought to make small talk. “Oh. Um. Hello.”

Ron didn’t look up from sorting his elasticized mail bundles into various slots, yet his voice sounded cheery. “Howdy.”

“Lovely day.”

“Oh, yes.”

Mrs. Hempsworth didn’t know what else to comment on, and cast about for a subject. Her eyes fell on his overstuffed vehicle. “Lots of packages.”

Ron stopped his shuffling and turned her direction. His pale blue eyes met her paint-lined browns. His gaze shifted to his truckload. Back to her. He blinked, surprised. “Yes.”

“Erm,” Mrs. Hempsworth fumbled. “Does it take you a while to deliver them all?”

Another blink. “Yes.”

“Oh.” She paused, out of her depth.

Ron helped. “‘Course, it’s been worse lately.”

Now she blinked. “Oh?”

“Yep.” Ron went back to sorting. “Everyone’s been orderin’ toilet paper off Amazon. It takes up too much space.”

She blushed, but the mail carrier’s white whispy hair was bent over a bin. He straightened, proferring a medium-sized package that weighed less than it appeared. Charmin was printed across the top.

“11259, right?”

She nodded and accepted her delivery without her realizing it. The man closed up the community mailbox, locked it with a key, picked up his empty bin, and headed back to his truck. “See ya,” he called, without looking back.

Mrs. Hempsworth watched the battered pickup drive away, the shifting packages within it sliding against the open windows of the hardtop. She clutched her toilet paper to her chest in a paranoid gesture, then relaxed. What did it matter that the mail carrier knew about her orders? It was his job, after all…

 

©2020 Chelsea Owens

The Terror in the Suburbs, THREE

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Better late than never (I hope!), this story moved from Joanne the Geek’s Part I to H.R.R. Gorman’s Part II. Both are included, then continued, below:

ONE (Joanne’s Part)

One sunny afternoon Jennifer was happily walking along the footpath only to find a crowd of people suddenly run past her in abject terror. Mystified, she managed to stop one of them. They were pale and seemed terrified.

“What’s happened?” she asked him.

“This portal opened up and these creatures from another world appeared. They were huge with long tentacles and large legs like leathery tree stumps.” he exclaimed. Jennifer let him go, and he ran off in terror following the others.

“Right.” she said. Someone had to do something about this, she thought. She strode off home. She went into her bedroom closet and fished out her old battered cricket bat. “I’m going to hit those freaks for six!” She stomped out of the house.

Jennifer walked down the road until she could see a glimmering portal that pulsed with a bright light. Before it were either two or three creatures that were as tall as small office blocks. They had dark leathery skin, massive tree stump legs (as already mentioned), long protruding arms, and their heads were a mass of long writhing tentacles. Jennifer watched them, and instead of feeling scared, she felt angry. She walked towards them until she was sure she had gained their attention.

“Look I don’t know where you freaks are from, but I’m not letting monsters like you take over our world. We’re already have enough monsters here to deal with.” she told them while thinking of the current assortment of world leaders. “So be warned. I have my cricket bat!” She held her cricket bat aloft in front of them. The monsters stopped in their tracks, as if unsure with what they were dealing with.

Ge dthrth dltyz fkywfhg sdhtu!” the one closest to Jennifer said. As it spoke, from what Jennifer assumed was it’s mouth, the ground shook around them.

“Nope. Didn’t catch a word of that! Go back through your portal now, or I will take drastic steps!” she warned them. The ground shook around her again, as they all seemed to be laughing at her now. “Well I did warn you!” She gripped the handle of her bat with both hands and began running at them. As she ran the cricket bat began to glow…

TWO (H.R.R. Gorman’s Part)

The earth, which had shaken as the monster spoke, began to crack beneath her feet. Roots split and shivered as something beneath the ground pushed itself up.

Jennifer rolled to the side and held her cricket bat at the ready. The bat glowed even brighter now and tingled in her grip.

Once the earth had sufficiently broken up and the thing beneath the surface was visible, the monster pointed at it. Its tentacles writhed in a flurry as it said, “Ue kthgyn wysdht dhutyk!

Up from the earth rose a transparent sphere glowing a faint blue. Two humanoid figures stood inside the bubble, and one flicked his fingers to cause the bubble to dissipate. The man, robed in a smooth, blue cloth and a rosy sash, raised a slim hand against the monsters. The hand glowed brightly.

Wkusdth grnsthyk pyblsdth, shtrydk sythyd,” the monster said, somewhat morose and pleading. Some of the creepy eyes on the ends of tentacles looked to Jennifer as if begging. The monsters retreated into the portal once more, and the fantastical apparition disappeared.

A thin woman, her ears long and pointed like the man’s, stepped from the bubble she’s appeared in and put her hands in a prayerful position. She bowed to Jennifer, smiled, and said, “Chosen one, we have protected you now, for you will soon do much to save us from those creatures.”

The man stepped off after her and licked his lips. Though he possessed an otherworldly beauty, Jennifer noticed his teeth were all small and sharp. Or was she just imagining things?

“And just who do you think you are?” Jennifer asked. She still held up her bat, noticing it retained its glow…

THREE (Chelsea Owens’ Part)

In fact, the bat glowed the same faint blue as the slender beings’ orb. Jennifer wondered, briefly, at the connection between her beloved bat, the tentacled invaders, and these new, Vulcan-like humanoids.

“There won’t be a need for that,” the male’s voice said from a much closer position.

Her heart jumped and she looked up. His odd teeth appeared sharper and more menacing from less than a meter away. Of course, the menacing part might have been his hungry mien and continued advancement toward her.

Jennifer stepped back, once. She raised the pulsing bat. “Rack off, ya Smurf!” She swung at his face like an American gangster. *Thwack!*

The being stopped, shocked. A bat-shaped indent took up the entire side of his head.

“Chosen One?” the female asked. Jennifer heard the surprise in her voice. “What do you do?”

Jennifer glared, raising her only weapon again. “I’m not going to let you EAT ME!” she yelled.

A rippling sound of smothered grinding came from the female. It may have been laughter. “But, Chosen One,” she began, “Intraoral adherence is vital to defeating our enemies. It’s just one bite… ”

 

~~~~~

Don’t kill me, but I nominate Ruth to have fun continuing this story.

 

©2020 Joanne Fisher, H.R.R. Gorman, and Chelsea Owens

The Island Getaway, a Continued Story (My Part)

The Island Getaway

Teresa Grabs wrote:

As soon as Liam read the advertisement, he knew the place was for him. Three-story newly renovated home on private island in the middle of Hidden Hollow Lake. Owner motivated to sell.

“I will have it!” He scanned the ad for a contact number and phoned it immediately. To his surprise, the agent said the house was his as soon as she answered the phone. “What do you mean the house is mine? I haven’t even made an offer yet.”

She laughed. “Mr. Owens, I have been instructed to sell the home to the first person who called, and today is your lucky day. I can meet you on the pier in an hour with your keys.”

“Oh… okay… yeah! Today really is my lucky day, isn’t it?”

Liam rushed around his tiny apartment, threw a few items into a backpack, and caught the train to the pier. Halfway expecting this to be a scam, he was gobsmacked when a professional-looking woman approached him, smiling.

“Mr. Owens, I presume?”

“Um, yeah, that’s me.”

“Good. Sign here, please, and I can release your keys to you.”

His hand shook with anticipation as he scratched his name on the form.

“And here are your keys. That man will take you to the island,” she said, pointing to a man in a small row boat. “Thank you for your business.”

He watched as she walked toward the parking lot and disappeared into the crowd. “How’d she know my name?”

“You ready?” the boatman called.

“Oh, yeah. Sorry.” He climbed into the row boat and took in the beautiful scenery before him, forgetting all about the sales agent. “This is really pretty, isn’t it?”

The man didn’t respond.

“Ok.” Liam sat in silence until the island came into view. It looked exactly as it had in the advertisement. He rubbed his eyes and pinched himself, convinced it was a dream.

“Get out here,” the boatman said, sternly as they reached the shore.

“Well, thanks, I guess.” Liam stepped out into knee-deep water and shivered as it soaked his pants. “How do I get back?” he asked as the boatman pushed away from the shore.

“There’s a flare in the house should you need it,” he called back, shaking his head.

Liam turned around and saw …

Msjadeli wrote:

…first that a lush forest started directly behind the house and traveled the length of the island. Tropical birds were screeching and flying from branch to branch, their feathers glinting red, yellow, and green in the sun’s ample beams.

That’s funny, this isn’t a tropical location. What happens to the birds in when winter comes?

Liam walked the hundred yards from the water’s edge to the front of the house. He had been impressed with it in the photos and as they approached the island, but up close he saw that the home had the appearance of being vacant for a long time. Mildew had settled into the corners of the windows. There were wet leaves layered on the porch that were disintegrating. There were cobwebs covering the front door. Curiously though, there were what looked like large dog footprints that had worn a path around the front of the house and carried on towards the back of the house.

Liam walked up the leaf-sodden steps to the front door and pulled out the keys. Neither of the keys worked in the lock! He decided to walk around back to see if they’d work on the other door. As he got to the back, he noticed right away that a well-worn path led into the forest/jungle. Like the front, large dog-like prints littered the path.

Liam sighed in relief when the back door opened to one of the keys. He stepped into a stately home that must have cost a fortune to build out here on the island back in its day. Each room spared no expense. The kitchen had marble counters and ceramic floors. The dining room had a heavy oak table with 14 heavy chairs and regressed cupboards. The living room was big enough for large parties, where the centerpiece was a massive stone fireplace.

Over the mantelpiece, high on the stones, was a trophy head of a wolf.

I’m no wildlife expert but that wolf head is three times as large as a normal wolf’s head!

The sun was sitting lower in the sky, throwing shadows inside. Liam tried the light switch, but no power.

That’s right, I need to go turn the generator on in the basement.

Using the substantial oak staircase leading to the basement, he needed his flashlight which he pulled from his knapsack. Within minutes the generator was chugging and he flicked the basement light on. Looking around down there he saw a heavy iron door with a substantial lock on it.

I wonder if that’s what this other key is for?

Liam tried the key in the door, and it clicked. Pulling the heavy door took some strength. Looking in, a shiver ran up Liam’s spine. What he saw with his flashlight looked like the entrance to an underground passage of a cave that had been blasted or carved out of the granite. Liam could hear water echoing in the cave. Then he heard another sound. . . .

Padre’s Ramblings wrote:

At first he couldn’t quite make it out, but then as his ear adjusted to the echo of the granite passage it became clear.  It was the melodic singing of a woman.  It was husky, but somehow hypnotically alluring.  Almost involuntarily, he moved towards the voice.

The passage was a bit longer than he had anticipated, and took two unexpected turns making his ability to calculate his position in relation to the island almost impossible.  Was he still even “on” the island or was he under the lake?  The dripping after the first turn suggested the latter, but he was unsure.

Night had fallen before he reached what could only be describe as a subterranean portico.  As he approached the porch-way, his flashlight flitted across what seemed in gloom to be the nude figure of a middle aged woman, but when he focused the beam back on the spot where he had seen the apparition, there was nothing there.  Then there was a definite movement which he caught in his peripheral vision.  Something large, and dark shot into the forest beyond.

“What the f —,” he said aloud, jumping back against the passageway wall.  After steeling himself, he shot his light towards the cave mouth to the trees beyond.  Well, at least I’m still on the island, he mused trying to give himself some consolation.

Once he was sure that nothing was going to come in from the outside he began to systematically examine the porch.  There was a fair amount of tracked-in dirt on the floor, but it was clear that the surface underneath was tiled.  There was a marble bench and a matching marble table – on which there was a framed black and white photo of a young well-to-do looking couple dressed in a style popular just after the Second World War.

His light then fell on a small pile of neatly folded woman’s clothing placed carefully on the corner of the bench.  Under the seat was a pair of elegant shoes, which seemed to placed with similar care.  He stooped to examine the shoes, and as he did his flashlight illuminated not only small human footprints in the layer of dirt, but more of the huge dog prints almost everywhere in the chamber.

He nearly jumped out of his skin when one of the tropical birds called out in the night.  It was then that he saw . . .

Joanne the Geek wrote:

that Hank was standing there. He was a Facebook friend. One Liam had never actually met for real before. He wore a black leather coat and a dark wide brimmed hat. He was holding a Glock.

“Hank? What are you doing here?’ Liam asked surprised. Hank started laughing at him.

“Good to finally meet you in the flesh, Liam. You are only here because you have fallen into my trap! Everything that has happened to you was so we would eventually meet here at this spot.” Hank revealed.

“So you’re going to shoot me? Can I ask why? I thought we were friends.”

“No I’m not going to shoot you, unless I have to. I just want to humiliate you!”

“Is there a reason for this?” Liam asked totally confused.

“You made fun of one of my Facebook posts, and since then I have plotted my revenge!”

“I think I know the one you mean. I thought you were trying to be funny. I’m sorry about that.” Liam explained. The gun clicked, and Liam almost felt his heart explode out of his chest.

“It’s too late for that!” Hank shot back. “I want you to put on those women’s clothes there and start dancing and lip-syncing  to Britney Spears’s Oops! I Did It Again. I will record it on my phone and then post it onto Facebook with your name tagged on it. You will never live it down.” He started laughing maniacally. I really should have unfriended him a while ago, Liam thought.

He motioned with his gun and Liam began removing his clothes and then putting on the women’s clothes that were folded on the bench. Disturbingly, they managed to fit quite well. As soon as he had changed, Hank began playing the song on his phone.

“Dance!” he ordered. Liam began dancing and trying to lip-sync to a song he barely knew. Hank began recording it on his phone as Liam continued dancing. Hank gave some further orders: “Put some expression into it! Make love to the camera!” Liam began wondering if this was not so much about the need to humiliate him, but more about Hank’s own strange desires…

Then without warning, the largest wolf Liam had ever seen suddenly pounced on Hank. He screamed as the wolf attacked him. What the hell was going on here? And why am I still dancing? Liam wondered.

The wolf having finished with Hank, then turned to face Liam…

My part:

Liam paused, mid-hip thrust. The wolf’s eyes glittered against the verdant darkness seeping in from the forest. Its teeth glinted in the reflected glow of Hank’s cell phone, still recording. Liam could hear the echoes of Hank digesting, oddly melodic in the granite tunnel.

He swallowed. Quickly assessing his chances of escape, he shuddered down to sit across from the wolf. “Always die like a man,” Liam’s grandfather had said -strange advice to be telling a grandchild, and even stranger from a man who’d been found in drag…

The wolf laughed. Liam blinked. Then, before his eyes, the animal morphed.

“Eeeuragh!” Liam covered his eyes. Animal-shifting was clearly not like in the movies. He felt scarred for life at the grotesque, painful, obscene imagery he’d glimpsed before screaming. Between that and watching Hank be consumed, Liam’s therapist could count on three solid years of paid work.

“Mr. Owens.”

Liam peeked between his stiff fingers, then dropped them from his face. The cell phone now illuminated a professional-looking woman: the realtor. Also contrary to shape-changing in movies, she was dressed. “What the –”

“I can see you are surprised,” she said. She stepped forward, casually crushing the cell phone beneath a stiletto-ed heel.

Liam blinked, his eyes adjusting to the forest moonlight in the cave. He made out the realtor’s shape, her hand a few inches from his face in a helpful gesture. He took it and rose from the ground. She smiled wolfishly before turning to walk back up the tunnel. Liam followed.

“I own this place, you see.” She glanced back at Liam before continuing, “Rather, my family owns it. A few centuries ago, a man came and claimed it for himself.” They stooped under a few natural bumps in the ceiling, nearly to the door into the basement. Liam saw the realtor’s neat eyebrows contract in painful memory. “The man, the one who came and slaughtered my grandfather and put his head upon his own mantel -that man was Hank’s great-great-great grandfather.”

They entered the house once more and stood, paused, at the base of the substantial staircase. “I’m …I’m sorry,” Liam managed. To himself, he determined to use any means possible to get off the island and back to his therapist.

“Until you came along, I had no way of confronting Hank. No way of reclaiming our property.” She faced Liam. Her dark hair framed a sweet, vulnerable face. Her blue eyes, full of sadness and gratitude, were a startling contrast to her hair and black eyelashes. “I’m so very sorry for what I put you through, but also eternally grateful.”

Liam shrugged and tried to look away, but couldn’t. It’d been a year and half since his last relationship. He’d forgotten how beautiful a woman could be. How seductive.

The realtor stepped closer. “We got off to a …an unusual start, I know, but I’d love to show you my gratitude….” She smiled. “Upstairs.”

Liam thought. “Well,” he said, “I do need to get out of these clothes…”

 

FIN

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Rules:

  1. post the story as you receive it
  2. add to the story (or finish it, up to the writer)
  3. tag another person to continue the story (unless you finished it)
  4. Have fun!

 

Part 1 Teresa Grabs

Part 2 Tao Talk

Part 3 Padre’s Ramblings

Part 4 Joanne the Geek

Throwback Thursday: Wilhelmina Winters

In June of 2017, I posted the first of Wil’s stories. Unbeknownst to my small fan base at the time, and those who’ve joined since, I first wrote about Wil on Twofacebook and in the winter.

Wilhelmina and her story came to me three years ago. I knew what her family history was and what would happen to the mother she knew. Wil’s character is based on one of my sons, with (unavoidably) some of my own personality as well.

Wilhelmina Winters: A Grand Entrance

parking lot

The pavement sparkled moon white under store lights as the frigid evening air heightened reflections and sounds.

Her warm breath danced crystals in front of her face, and Wil decided that the ethereal effect was acceptable for admittance of someone of her social status. Wrapping her fraying scarf ’round with a flourish, she marched regally toward the busy front doors.

Patrons parted and bowed, and the very doors opened of their own accord to admit this grand sight. She was right to have condescended this evening and mixed among the rabble thus.

Wil deigned herself use of a wheeled carriage for transporting common goods, then turned and continued her stately tread down shining paths of fluorescent shelving. She heard the fanfare and stepped in time to their herald.

“I must retrieve a sacred flask of ale for my poor father,” Wil thought, referring to a few scrawled words on a scrap of paper. She held it importantly between her two mittened hands like a parchment roll. Milk, bread, and can of soup were also listed. Wil cocked her head and looked at the hanging signs above her.

“Excuse me, sir,” she enquired of a clerk stocking a nearby shelf. “Where might one find ale?”

The clerk, a young male of questionable heritage and understanding, seemed confused by Wil’s request.

“Your liquor, sir. Spirits; ale.” She sighed. “Beer!” She said impatiently.

“Oh.” Clerk drew the word out, almost sounding like she were the one not understanding the situation. “Aisle 10, in the fridges.” He turned back to lining up blue macaroni boxes.

Wil covered for her lapse in patience with a small sniff and she turned away haughtily. “Some commoners!” She thought to herself. “Give someone a job and he thinks above his station.”

Her careful promenade soon took her to Aisle 10, the Hallway of Doors. She watched herself stretch and break in each door as her reflection wheeled past. Behind each: a story, a mystery, a possibility.

Here, she found her father’s ale. There, she found her mother’s dairy flagon. The mirrors shut with slap-slaps as she hefted the cool containers into the basket.

Wil raised her chin slightly as she turned her carriage and headed toward another hallway in this mystical kingdom: Aisle 5, Preserved Provisions.

The wheels circled lopsidedly over some foreign object adhered to the front left wheel, and her boots spoke a soft squeak at each step. Still, Wil walked majestically on, her old scarf swaying slightly with each step toward her noble conquest.

 

Keep reading to Two.
All are listed here, though only in reverse-chronological order.\

©2016-2019 Chelsea Owens

Since the Bombs Fell: Six

Continued from One, then Twothen Threethen Fourthen Five.

Finn’s entrance into the fallout shelter was therefore not a graceful one. Their imminent pursuers, his rescuer’s voice, and her near-pushing him in order to secure the door befuddled him. Patrick was better at instant decisions; perhaps he would know what to do and wouldn’t be walking at near-gunpoint to a foreign elevator shaft.

Perhaps.

Finn stumbled again. “We ‘ave to get b’low,” his companion said. She activated the elevator, then gestured to enter once its heavy cross-doors opened. Finn nodded and went first. She followed, turning a key in the wall and pressing a red button.

They dropped to a chorus of pained and rusting gears. Patrick’d be able to fix those, Finn thought. And the entry. Thinking of his brother worried him. Even one leg down, the rash young man might go looking for Finn if he didn’t return. Muties made the surface dangerous, yes; but there were ways to get back if Finn needed. Not all the train tunnels lay in ruin nor all the rooftops proved unsound, he knew.

They stopped. The door ground open to reveal a dim and untidy living area. The layout resembled Finn’s, albeit in greater disrepair. He made a mental note to thank Mary, should he see her again, for insisting they fix up and clean their post-apocalyptic warren.

“Home sweet home,” she’d said, once things were in order. She’d smiled that charming smile of hers, the one she’d borne since Mother’d first noticed Mary wasn’t -as Father said- “Quite all there.”

After exiting the elevator, his companion sealed the door and punched at the filtration system. It whirred like a hoarse donkey, but worked. She then began extracting herself from her breathing gear. Finn shrugged and did the same with his. He felt this an odd game to play with a stranger; making himself more vulnerable, piece by piece. If she wanted to kill him, however, she could have shot him back at the hospital.

He set his breathing system on the counter. His helmet followed suit. He turned as the woman did the same, her auburn hair falling sweaty and loose. It rested in a disheveled braid and framed a pretty but scowling face.

“All right, then,” she said, setting her helmet next to his. She rested her right hand on her hip and studied him. Then her eyes widened. “Finn?”

“Aye,” Finn answered. He smiled a crooked half-grin at his former girlfriend. Of course she’d been skulking around the hospital; they’d first met there. He’d been a patient and she a surgeon. “An’ how you doin’, Livvy?”

Olivia Green could not reply. She looked at Finn again, who wished he’d shaved before surfacing. “Where …Where’s Patrick?” Olivia gasped. “Oh, no! Where’s Mary?”

Finn waved a calming hand. “They’re fine, though waitin’, I’d wager.” He smiled fully. “Would you like to go to them?”

THE END

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

 

Since the Bombs Fell: Five

Continued from One, then Twothen Threethen Four.

Ungainly, inhuman, unsettling; the Mutants roiled into the supplies room. A piece or part or person in the mass swung into the lower shelves; unseating bandages, dust, tins, and pills. Finn counter-balanced against the blows. The measure brought to mind that series of weeks only months ago, when he, Patrick, and Mary crouched together beneath the rocking world; when they wondered if they or the Earth herself would come out of it, and what they’d all look like then.

“Ooomph!” Something hit his shoulder. In the noise and tumult, he’d forgotten the person near him. Having gotten Finn’s attention, the stranger tugged at his arm. Tugged hard. Finn couldn’t tell where his companion thought to go, but the writhing ground was no longer an option. He nodded in the wristlight and followed.

Together, they squat-walked across the shelf top. Finn wondered if their attackers could climb. He felt certain they could, given the right impetus -say, like him. That thought and their howling and scrambling drove him faster.

His companion stopped and sheathed his gun across his back. Then, to Finn’s surprise, he stood. A second later, his legs and feet kicked the air before Finn’s face. He disappeared.

A sharp jarring beneath him galvanized Finn. He, too, shuffled to where his companion had stood. Rising, he found himself halfway within a wide ductwork. Probably the heating, he thought. Sheathing his own weapon and bracing against either side of the hole he’d entered, he pulled his heavy body up and in.

A dim light shone from down the tube and off to the right. Finn deactivated his, and followed. A reverberating *clang* of metal on metal, then a *clong* of metal on cement told him their shelf had fallen. The animal sounds seemed muted or leaving, but maybe it was he who left them behind. He had no idea where he crawled or if he crawled to safety; he knew only the bobbing glow ahead, and the scrabbling form attached to it.

A few seconds of eternity passed and he crawled out of the jagged-edged remnants of ducting and onto a stone ledge. The sun wavered at the tops of the mountains in the distance. Sunset.

The stranger in the suit pulled at Finn again. One after the other, they scaled a rough climb down the hospital’s remaining back wall. Once their feet touched the ground, Finn and his guide took off running. He still followed, mostly by instinct. What Patrick might say or do worried him, though not as much as what Mutants would do should he be caught.

Passing shadow, outline, foundation, and rubble; his guide stopped at a large manhole cover set in a cement-crusted tunnel. He dug a bit in his pocket, then removed an access card and panned it against the cover. The outermost access door opened.

“In!” barked the suited figure. When Finn hesitated, it added, “Now!”

Finn complied. He still felt in shock. The voice commanding him was clearly female.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

 

Since the Bombs Fell: Four

Continued from One, then Twothen Three.

Step, Finn told his legs. Step againJust there. Almost there. This mantra kept his stiff-suited body moving forward, till a Mutant rolled or made a sound. At those times, he had difficulty maintaining the rhythm. He felt sweat pooling at every joint. He felt his heart pounding against his ears. He felt his finger itching to engage the Laserlock’s trigger.

Yet, he gained the supplies room door, leaping the last mound of creatures to do so. Some internal sense or paranoia warned him to hurry; warned that their movements increased with each second he passed among them. He’d be a sitting duck if that were true. “A legless duck, like Patrick,” he whispered.

But Patrick canno’ get you, should that happen, his thoughts reminded. “Damn,” he said aloud.

Finn sheathed his gun to free his hands, looking right to left to back to front as he did so. He did not, however, glance up. Activating a small glow pack on his wrist, he clumped over to the nearest shelf of medical supplies. There, he found an empty case. Near it were scattered bottles and a few ashen strips of material. More bottles and spilled white pills, like gravel, covered the next shelf. Yet another held filthy surgical masks and some sort of tubing.

He pocketed handfuls of pills and gauze, small containers of what he hoped were ointment, and a few liquid-filled bottles. Then, his view fell on a dirt-crusted tin. He wiped at the top, revealing the words, “General Suture Supplies.” Bingo.

At that moment, he thought he heard a scrabbling. Turning, he pulled out the Laserlock and panned it at the doorway. Nothing appeared out of place: the hallway still twitched with random, mutilated bodies. The wheelchair wheel still spun. The ash and late afternoon sunlight still filtered into a decimated hospital entryway and foyer.

Finn let his breath return to normal patterns. Scanning the room once more, he returned the gun to his back.

As his hands closed around the precious tin of suture materials, he heard the noise again. Spinning and backing against the shelf, he arched his whole form in order to look upwards. There, in a hunched, firing position, perched another fully-suited person.

Finn’s shock and tilted helmet made breathing difficult. He backed farther away, arms raised, till he reached the direct opposite corner from whoever this other being was. This other, armed being.

They may have stayed forever staring at one another, had not a moan sounded from the hall. The person gestured sharply with his gun toward the tin Finn sought. Needing no more encouragement, he rushed forward and grabbed it. He scrabbled with a zippered pocket on his suit front, as he heard the distinct shuffling of many bodies. Get in, he told the supplies. He shoved at them and turned to face the doorway.

Like in a nightmare, he saw the creatures’ movements increase in intent and purpose. They were waking. Stretching. Sensing. Shifting.

Finn arched up to view his companion again. The other person had activated a glow pack as well, and seemed to be waving with it. Finn watched for a precious few seconds before realizing he was meant to climb up. He turned and scaled the shelving without hesitation. No need for, Step. Step again; he sensed a rising intensity that lent his limbs a frenetic adrenaline.

Gasping, he reached the restrictive summit. He squeezed in the space between top shelf and ceiling. The other person squatted right next to him, mirrored helmet lens to mirrored helmet lens. Thus, Finn nearly knocked into his new companion when the first Mutants sprawled into the room.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

 

Since the Bombs Fell: Three

Continued from One, then Two.

They were …sleeping. Hibernating? Congealing? Finn couldn’t tell what the humanlike creatures inside the shadowed hospital hall were doing. Since none rose; none joined with its brothers into the mass of bodies they preferred for attacking, he assumed their actions to be a form of sleep.

He found himself gagging; forced himself to breathe. He needed control. Control lent Finn whatever fighting advantage existed.

Once a master of that small, living part of himself, he studied them from where he stood. “I shoulda run scans,” Patrick’s voice said in Finn’s memory. “We coulda ‘least seen how the Muties work. How they live. …If they be livin’.” Finn lifted a hand to his helmet and activated the feed. Half his visor view blurred as controls panned across. He knew Patrick’s regret to be a stupid one. He wouldn’t have wanted the interference, had he had any time for something as trivial as recording them whilst fighting.

Blips of focus reticles attempted to lock onto recognizable body parts. You won’t be findin’ many faces in there, Finn thought. He switched the sensors to heart rates; then, after a few moments, to heat signatures. The creatures stayed as inert as they’d initially been, meaning that they twitched or convulsed without rising. The overall effect unnerved him. He kept his finger resting against the trigger guard; it twitched as much as they did.

One moaned and rolled into the wall. Ash crumbled and fell like snow. “Snow, Finn!” he remembered Mary saying. “Can’t we go play in the snow?” She was so young, even when she wasn’t. Patrick and his coarse descriptions hadn’t convinced her of what really fell outside the shelter.

What fell on these creatures.

Finn stepped back and deactivated the recording. He needed as much view as he could get. His solid boots crunched against the foyer’s detritus, yet the sounds appeared to have no effect on the horde. Maybe, he told himself, Just maybe.

He tried a tentative step forward. No change. He took another step. No change.

The gaping, torn doorway of a medical supplies room stood just beyond a pile of creatures. He needed that room. He needed it for Patrick. Continuing to breathe as evenly as he could, Finn stretched his leg over the first body. He did it again and again, telling his imagination that they were rugs, or bits of desk, or wall. Step by step, he performed the most intricate, deadly dance since the bombs fell.

And, twitch by irritated twitch, he knew: they sensed something among them.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

 

Since the Bombs Fell: Two

Continued from One.

“You are a paranoid skinny,” Finn said aloud. His voice sounded both muffled and loud. He felt like a stiff fish, swimming through the driest ocean of death ever conceived. Stepping over the crumbling wall before him, he skirted a pile of charred remains.

The remains stayed inert.

“But then,” Patrick’s voice came to Finn’s memory, “An arm moved.” Finn felt his heart rate rise; heard his recirculated air pass more rapidly through his mouthpiece. He forced himself forward while his eyes roved over every broken beam, body, and nuclear shadow. The emergency room entrance loomed closer, its automatic door frame hanging at a skewed and jagged angle. Its filthy and cluttered foyer stood in full sunlight, thanks to the shattered glass roof and upper floors.

“I ran over t’side,” Finn remembered his brother describing. “That was the wrong way, but I didn’t know. There were …swarms. Swarms of them everywhere, pouring out the door…”

Finn stood, hesitating. He knew they’d decided the front would be best. He knew his goal ought to be just beyond the foyer. Yet, he also knew how he’d found Patrick, gasping at the last of his air, struggling against a crippled limb, fighting them from within a fallen shack a few meters away.

Mary had saved him. When Patrick didn’t show, she’d looked round the shelter and commented, “Where be Patrick? Shouldn’t he be back now?”

A movement caught Finn’s eye from the hallway past the bright, open entry. He squinted and walked closer. His hand reached back and pulled down the Laserlock. The gun felt solid and reassuring in his arms as he walked. He ducked beneath a bent piece of sliding door. Paused. Did a full sweep. Now fully inside what remained of the hospital, he couldn’t help but feel trapped. He swallowed and forced himself on, toward the movement he may or may not have seen.

There, in the dim light and falling dust, a bent wheel spun atop a smashed, half-buried wheelchair. Finn found himself mesmerized by the spin. How could it do that in this silent, still world?

And that was when he noticed them.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens