Quiet

I waited, in the brush, invisible, silent. The forest was quiet, I heard nothing. Not the wolves, bears, or owls, although I knew they were around. I also knew they’d wait, and watch until I acted. They’d act when their selected leader acts.

I didn’t smile, although you might have said I did. My lips separated in a quiet snarl. The men were coming. I closed my eyes, and listened. I could hear them in the distance, getting closer.

Men. On their way to my home. My town. The town Jessica, Hannah, and Valerie started. The town we’d made from nothing. All of us were survivors. Wounded by what happened in the word. What happened when the veneer of civilization fell away. When the world went insane.

Men murdered my father. Raped my mother and sister, then murdered them. But what happened to me was nothing compared to what happened to Valerie, my love. To Kelly, and so many others.

I remembered when I found Kelly, what men had done to her. I remembered when Kelly and I rescued Jenny, Beth and the others from the stables. It was the first time I’d struck back against the chaos. I’d found more stables since then, with the wolves. We’d shut them down, freed the women trapped in them.

I learned to speak with the wolves, bears, owls, hawks, eagles, foxes. Jessica had them teach me their languages, their ways. Eventually, a bear told me, “You have found yourself.”

Now, I waited for the men. Quiet. Hidden. No guns, a bow and arrows instead. Something they wouldn’t hear coming. The wolves and foxes had taught me to move through the brush almost silently, like a predator stalking prey.

I waited for the men, noisy as they were, arrogant as they were. Them, and their guns. Not afraid of anything. Intent on sending a message to everyone, “You can’t stand against us!” My snarl said otherwise. The men were in for a surprise.

The noise they made grew louder, I knew they were nearby. We’d planned well, we’d watched them approach for days. We knew the path they followed, where they were going, how they would get there and when they would get there. They wouldn’t know we surrounded them.

I raised my bow, drew an arrow, and quietly waited for the first man to appear. I didn’t have to wait long. He stepped between the trees, breaking branches, kicking brush out of his way, acting like he ruled the forest. Right until the moment my arrow sank into the center of his chest. I quietly drew a second arrow and let it fly. Then a third. Three men down.

I had no need for noise. I quietly moved through the brush, patiently stalking the men, hunting them. I could smell the chaos and fear consuming them. I let three more arrows fly. Three more men fell.

They panicked, started shooting their guns at nothing, at shadows. The time for quiet had ended. I screamed the battle cry of the owls, causing them to take flight, followed by the wolves and the bears.

It was a short fight. Men screamed. Men shot at shadows, and anything that moved, at each other. Soon, there were no more men.

And the forest was quiet again.

Panic

I sat in the driver’s seat of my car, my left hand locked on the steering wheel, my right locked on the gear shift lever. My eyes raced between the cars in front of me, those beside me, those behind me. I checked my mirrors continuously. I looked over my shoulder to check my blind spots, though I’d carefully adjusted the mirrors to see what was in them.

I drove. In an endless sea of cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, vans, commercial trucks, and giant semis. In the pouring rain. I watched my lights shine on the back of the vehicle in front of me. I had no idea how much I was breathing. No idea what my pulse rate was, what my blood pressure was.

Three fingers on my left hand were numb, and they tingled. My palm felt like I was hammering nails through it. My right wrist ached. My thumb felt like I was stapling it to the lever. My head ached. My knees ached.

There was nothing I could do. Except survive. Except get where I was going alive. I maintained my death grips on the shifter and steering wheel. I didn’t care if my arms went numb from elbows to fingertips. I wasn’t letting go. You’d have to pry those things from my cold dead hands. I could see that, me dying in a car crash, and them having to cut me from the car. “He was still holding on to the steering wheel and gear shift.”

I thanked God for loud music. At least I couldn’t hear the noise of the ocean of cars that surrounded me. I found myself wishing the car behind me would give up, change lanes, and get around me, so I didn’t have to worry about being in its way anymore. I didn’t care if another one took its place. I’d deal with the next one when that happened. When it changed lanes, I took a quick breath, “Yes!”

Then the car behind it insisted on riding my ass. In the pouring rain. I knew there was no way it could stop if I had to slam on my breaks. It would plow into me without slowing down. Another Jeep, of course. “God, I hate Jeeps!”

I blinked a few times, quickly. My eyes felt better. I knew not to close them for more than a heartbeat at a time. I closed them, and I’d miss something. And that would be the end of the story.

“How long is it to the exit?” I prayed for a road sign. Any road sign. There, “Exit 258 B-A”! That meant I only had 3 miles left, then I could get off the damned freeway. I waited, my hands locked on the wheel and shifter. Hell, I don’t think I breathed for during that 3 miles.

As I exited the freeway, had to deal with the next problem. Merging into traffic on the road. I never knew what to do. Stop and wait for an opening? Floor it, and push my way in? Drive down the friggin’ sidewalk until I got an opening? Pray someone would be polite for once, and let me in?

Of course, once in, it was the normal race from stop light to stop light, trying not to get run over by the cars behind me, as cars cut me off to get where they wanted to go. If anything, my death grip on the wheel and shifter became tighter. My elbows started to ache, so did my right shoulder.

“Hope I don’t crack another tooth.” At least my jaw didn’t ache. Yet.

After a million lights, watching a million cars zigzagging between lanes, slamming on breaks and cutting each other off, and wondering if I was going to survive the trip to pick her up, I finally reached the parking lot where she worked.

I turned off the car. Put it in park. And sat there. Exhausted. Mentally, physically, and emotionally. Exhausted. And the thought of driving home after she got to the car was terrifying.

I sat there, resting my head on the wheel. “Don’t panic. Don’t panic. Don’t panic.”

I knew it was too late. I already had. And it wasn’t over yet. Not by a long shot.


It’s April 19th, and I’m finally catching up in the 2015 A to Z Challenge. This is the 16th of 26 pieces I’m writing in April. This one’s for the letter P. Monday brings the letter Q. I have no idea what I’ll write for that.

Obscure

Timmy sat at his personal computer. He still used a desktop, archaic and obsolete as it was. He liked using a desktop for many reasons. Reasons most people never thought about. With a desktop, he could upgrade various hardware components, and he had. He’d replaced the original DVD Read/Write drive with a Blu-Ray Read/Write drive. He’d increased the memory in his computer from the original four Gigabytes to 16 Gigabytes. He’d replaced the original 500 Gigabyte hard disk drive with a 250 Gigabyte solid state drive, and a 2 Terabyte hard disk drive. He’d installed a graphics card, and a 1000 Watt power supply. He’d made sure the power supply supported 70 Amps on the 12 volt rails.

“Do that with a laptop! Ha!”

He liked his desktop for other reasons. Like how he could shut down Windows features his desktop didn’t support. He didn’t have a touch screen monitor, so he turned off the touch features of windows. He didn’t let anyone login to his computer remotely, so he turned off the remote desktop features. He turned off Windows Mobility Center features, since his desktop was not a laptop, and didn’t need them. He turned off smart card support, since he didn’t use any smart cards or smart card readers.

Timmy was paranoid about his computers video camera and audio recording system. He disabled them, so no one could spy on him. He also ran Windows Professional edition, because it gave him tools to manage the settings of the camera, audio, smart card, touch, and other windows features that the regular version of windows didn’t have.

Timmy knew most people didn’t know about those things. He knew most people didn’t care about those things. For them, a laptop was perfect. Turn it on, and forget about it, just use it. They didn’t have to learn the obscure details of Windows, and how to manage it. They didn’t need to know the obscure settings for turning off remote access to their computers. He thought most people should leave remote access on, for when they screwed their computers up. That way, a tech could get access to their computer, and try to fix what they’d broken.

But, Timmy wasn’t most people. He didn’t need a tech to get access to his computer to fix it. He was a tech. He could fix it himself. He was familiar with the obscure features of Windows. At times he thought he specialized in learning obscure details, and how to use them.

He decided to see if there was anything he missed, so he ran the Group Policy Editor again, and examined the system settings for Windows. “Time to tweak. Time to tweak.”

Sure, he knew a lot of obscure details about windows. But, that knowledge paid the bills. So he’d learn any obscure detail he could. “Never know when it might come in handy.”


It’s April 19th, and I’m behind in the 2015 A to Z Challenge. This is the 15th of 26 pieces I’m writing in April. Today, the letter O. Later, the letter P. I have no idea what I’ll write for that.

Nothing

Billy couldn’t sleep, so he rolled to his right side, looking away from her. He wondered what had happened, what had changed, what got lost. Mostly, he wondered why. “There was a time we did so much more than cuddle.” He wondered, “Maybe she isn’t real. Maybe she’s a dream. Maybe everything’s a dream.”

He inhaled slowly, letting his lungs fill, then slowly breathed out. “Focus on now. Not yesterday, not tomorrow. Now.” His doctor called that mindfulness, but Billy had another description for it, “Turn off the brain cells, and just feel.”

He turned off his brain cells, and felt. He felt lonely, despite her being next to him. He felt hollow, like a shell of a person. Like nothing was inside him. He felt old, too old to love any longer. Just a companion. A friend to keep around. Someone to hug, and talk too.

He wondered, “If some hot redhead got naked in front of me, would I do anything, or would I just stare at her?”

Another long, slow breath, and more time spent trying to feel the moment caused him to kick his feet around as he tried to adjust the sheets, and blankets. “Stupid wrinkles.” He moved around until the wrinkles shifted position, and his toes and feet felt better.

Memories of the good times they’d had in bed drifted through his mind. Nights when they didn’t sleep. Nights they tried different things. Different positions. Different ways. It’s not like they’d decided to stop. Not like they got tired of sex. More like they ran out of things to try.

“Is that why guys fool around? To try something new?” It was a rhetorical question, but perhaps there was some truth to it. “Maybe they try different women trying to find something different?” He almost chuckled in the dark. “Once you’ve explored one cave, you’ve explored them all, but you keep looking for a different cave.”

“Maybe that’s why guys watch porn?” Because they wanted more, but couldn’t get more? Maybe they wanted something different, and had run out of new things to try with her, so they watched movies and imagined trying new things with other women?

There was that hollow, empty feeling again. Maybe he really was. Maybe he was nothing but an empty shell, drained of the joy of life. Like an empty gas tank. Nothing left for the motor to run on. No fuel. No fumes. Nothing.

He knew he didn’t need that Viagra, or Cialis junk. He still got it up when he wanted to. Still had his fantasies. Things he knew would never happen. And he knew what he’d do if they did. Like the fantasies of two women. Women, not girls. And he got to stick it in everywhere.

But they were only fantasies. Not real. Real was where nothing happened. Night after night. Where there was nothing inside him. Except emptiness.

Eventually, he grew tired enough he drifted to sleep, into the nothing of his dreams.

500 Words
@LurchMunster


It’s April 18th, and I’m behind in the 2015 A to Z Challenge. This is the 14th of 26 pieces I’m writing in April. Today, the letter N. Tomorrow, the letter O. I have no idea what I’ll write tomorrow.

This is also my entry into #FlashMobWrites 1×08, hosted by Ruth Long and Cara Michaels. Please, go read all the stories in this week’s challenge.

Monsters In The Dark

Frank felt sweat on the palms of his hands, and the back of his knees. He looked at the wolf to his right, and the bear to his left. Both looked at him, and nodded. Everyone knew, men were coming. Not men like Frank. Men like animals. Men who’d become monsters, hungry for everything. They’d kill him. They’d take the women from the camp. Rape them. Enslave them. And when they grew tired of them, kill them.

It’s what most men had become. Monsters stalking the dark, seeking prey. Prey they would not find. Jessica had taken the others into the woods. They were safe. Jessica left him with the wolves and others. “Show them the error of their ways, Frank.”

Frank would.

He held two fingers up, looked at the wolf. The wolf vanished into the brush. He signaled the bear and the bear vanished among the trees. His two animal companions had gone to speak with their packs, tell them how, and when to act.

Frank couldn’t see or hear the owls in the trees. They moved through the dark invisibly. “Owls, the predators of the night.”

They would come. The men would come. They would not be ready for what they found. They would not be ready for monsters in the dark. Frank checked the line on his bow. It was ready for the coming fight. “Let them come. We’ll show them who the real monsters in the dark are.”

He waited. “Soon, now. Soon.”


I wrote this for Siobhan Muir‘s #ThursThreads, Week 164. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are good reading.

L is for…

If love is the way,
I find myself wondering
Why do we have wars?

If life is priceless,
Why do we let people die
While we keep our cash?

If love is the way,
Why are there homeless people
Dieing on our streets?

Is there liberty
When we bully and abuse
Those who aren’t like us?

If love is the way,
Why do we jail people who
Steal food when starving?


I know, I know. It’s April 16th. I was out of town on the 14th and 15th, so I’m trying to catch up. With that in mind, here’s all I came up with for the letter L for the 2015 A to Z Challenge. This is the 12th of 26 pieces I’m writing in April. Next up is M.

Knowledge

Emile looked at his Facebook news feed and frowned. Sometimes, he wondered why he bothered to keep reading. “I could turn it off, and not come back. Ever.” Emile always laughed when he thought that. “No. I don’t give up.” So, he continued reading.

The posts were all over the place. Some of his Facebook friends were happy, even virtually giggling, or virtually dancing. Like Sally, “My daughter rolled over today! On her own! For the first time!” Or Michael, “I got a raise!” Then there was Amiee, “You guys! You guys! He proposed!”

Balanced against the happy stories were the sad stories, like Barbara, “We had to put Spunky down today. I’m heartbroken.” Jim told the world, “She left.” That’s all he said. “She left.” Suzie wanted to know if anyone in her part of the world could give her a ride to work for a few days, since her car had died. “I’m broke. I can’t get it fixed until payday.”

Then, there was the news people shared. From Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Illinois, Virginia, Arizona. The story of the US Senate approving a measure to abolish the National Parks System. The state senator who refused to waste her time talking with constituents who didn’t agree with her. Yet another rant against the US President, and how he was destroying the country. More stories about men being stupid, like the judge who reduced the prison sentence of a child sex offender, because the 12-year-old girl he raped was pretty, and he couldn’t help himself.

He remembered the words of his doctor, “Block it! Filter it, so you don’t see it.” Laughter, he found, was good medicine, so he laughed, “I’ve learned, Doc. I can’t. Because I have to read it to find it to block it. It’s a can’t win deal.”

Yeah, he said that. It’s a can’t win deal. But, he’d been learning that wasn’t true. He could learn. Emile had always been able to learn. He’d learned how to program computers, how to repair them. He’d learned to express himself in written words. How to wash dishes. How to fold laundry. He’d had fits learning to fold his wife’s undies. He’d gone from, “You’re not supposed to see these, let alone touch them,” to “You get to fold them and put them away so she’ll have them to wear during the week.”

Emile had parts of himself that always hurt. Not that anyone knew it. He didn’t show it. He didn’t act like anything hurt. He’d taught himself which aches and pains were normal, which ones were always there, and how they always felt. The pains that were normal didn’t matter anymore. His ankle cracked when he flexed it. He was picky which shoes he wore because if he wore the wrong shoes, it felt like someone was hammering a nail through his foot, into his ankle.

“I know how to do this.” That was his goal, to learn how Facebook was, and as long as it was how it that way, he would be OK with everything on his news feed. He’d expect the happy news. The silly news. The absurd news. The sad news. And the global stupid news.

“You’ll become jaded. Cold. Dead. And accept the awful things that turn up on your feed.” That’s what his doctor told him. But, that’s not what would happen. Emile wouldn’t become jaded. Or cold. Or dead. He’d be himself. He’d talk with his friends who were sad. He’d share news stories that pissed him off. He’d share science stories that excited him. Pictures he took. Stories he wrote. When he was happy. When he was sad.

He’d use everything he learned from watching Facebook and use it to understand the way Facebook and his news feed were. How they’d always be. What normal was on his news feed and he’d be OK with its contents, so long as it stayed nomal. When it changed, he’d notice.

That’s what he’d learn. That’s how he’d use what he learned. “It’s called knowledge. And knowing how to use it.”

With that, he resumed his studies of his Facebook news feed. It would take some time. But with each day, he’d figure a bit more out. And get better at recognizing how his worked. And when it was showing him something abnormal.

Because, to Emile, knowledge was everything.


It’s April 13th, the 11th day of the 2015 A to Z Challenge. This is the 11th of 26 pieces I’m writing in April. Today, the letter K. Tomorrow, the letter L? Even I don’t know what I’ll write.

Journey

Harry did his best to quietly close the front door when he got home from work. He knew she would be asleep, and he didn’t want to wake her. He hung his jacket on the coat-rack, pulled off his shoes, and walked to the kitchen in the dark.

“I should eat something. I haven’t eaten since…” He never finished that sentence. He hadn’t eaten since before he left for work, over 9 hours earlier. He was home, and he was supposed to be hungry. He was supposed to eat something. Something dinner like. A sandwich, and a salad maybe? He rummaged through the kitchen. “Everything takes work.”

Which is how he wound up with a can of beer, and four chocolate fudge cookies. “This’ll do.” It wouldn’t really. But he was too tired to care.

He carried the beer and cookies to the Family Room, where he sat on the sofa and turned on the TV. Harry took a chug of his beer, popped an entire cookie in his mouth, picked up the remote, and started surfing the channels. Surfing channels was always a challenge for him as he never knew what he wanted to watch until he found it. With five hundred channels, that sometimes took a while.

He finally settled on a movie. One of those action movies, with lots of bullets, fights, car chases, explosions, and a hero who got the girl. Harry liked action movies. “No brain cells required.” This was his time. His quiet time. His escape time. He knew, when he went to bed he’d wake to the noise of her alarm. He’d be awake until she left for work. He could take a nap after that, but then the laundry wouldn’t get washed, the dishes would sit in the sink, and he wouldn’t do his exercises.

He leaned back in the sofa, closed his eyes a moment, and realized closing his eyes was a mistake. It let his brain cells think. And his brain cells told him how tired he was, how much everything hurt. His knees, shoulders, back, ribs. Everything hurt. So he opened his eyes and resumed watching the movie. “That’s better.”

This was his life. Get up when she got up. Say goodbye when she left for work. Put in a workout. Wash laundry and dishes. Run the vacuüm. Mow the lawn. Whatever needed doing. Then, eat something for lunch, get a shower, shave, and go to work. She always got home after he left for work. She was always in bed when he got home from work. He knew she’d insist he eat something, so he always ate something. He watched a bit of TV, and unwound from his day at work.

Then, finally, he went to bed. This was his daily journey through life. “I suppose, as it goes, it’s not much of a journey, is it.” Sometimes he found himself thinking such things. When he did, he always heard that old song, “Shove me in the shallow water, before I get too deep.” It was like a danger sign in his head. “Stay away from this. It’s nothing but trouble.”

As he watched the movie, Harry stretched out on the sofa. God, it felt good to stretch out, to lie down. God, it felt good to let the day fall away. God, it felt good. Harry fell asleep, with the TV on, knowing the next day, his journey through life would continue with another endless day in a string of endless days. Where every day, and every thing, were always the same.

Harry never remembered his dreams. They just got in the way of his journey.


It’s April 11th, the 10th day of the 2015 A to Z Challenge. This is the 10th of 26 pieces I’m writing in April. Today, the letter J. Tomorrow, the letter K? Even I don’t know what I’ll write.

Individual

They keep me in this room, with no windows, black walls, floor, ceiling, and door., under fluorescent lights that never turn off. I don’t know how long I’ve been here. Here, there is no time.

There is an endless voice that always speaks of the good of the society, the body of humanity. Of how we are parts of that body, each part filling a need of the body. I know there was a time I didn’t believe. Now, I know someday I’ll believe every word.

I write with invisible ink, from an invisible pen, on invisible paper. I’m writing a book on the death of the individual, the rise of society, and the macro-organism humanity has become. I start over each time I write, for I can’t remember where I left off.

“There is no I. There is only we. There is no me. There is only us.” The voice goes on, endlessly. I stand in the middle of the room, hold my invisible conductor’s baton, tap it against my invisible podium, and conduct an invisible orchestra as they play Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. Or at least the small bits I can remember of it. I make up the parts I can’t remember as I go.

“Work for the good of all. Play for the good of all. Help all. Care for all.” Once I screamed for the voice to shut up. I put my hands over my ears, and sang songs to drown it out. I tried to tear my ears from my head so I couldn’t hear it anymore.

They tied my hands down. And the voice droned on. “The only joy is service. The only love is service. The only life is service.” I screamed. I kicked. I stopped eating, drinking, sleeping. I prayed for death. For release. For an end to the voice, the lights, the black everything. I prayed for freedom.

Until exhaustion captured me. Until it handed me to sleep.

Eventually, I stopped praying. I began to eat, and drink. I learned there was no escape. They freed my hands. And the voice droned on, “Like a body has cells, society has cells. We are those cells. Each with a different purpose. All working together for the good of the body. The good of the whole. For what benefits the whole benefits each part.”

I try sometimes, to remember the sounds of birds. The colors of flowers. The smell of a good meal. What it was like to walk beside the ocean. I always fail.

Someday, I will understand that voice. Someday that voice will take away everything I am. Everything I could have been. And I will become another cell in the body of humanity. Part of me sometimes wants to cry at that thought, as if something has been lost, though I can’t imagine what.

And all the while, that voice goes on.

480 Words
@LurchMunster


It’s April 10th, the 9th day of the 2015 A to Z Challenge. This is the 9th of 26 pieces I’m writing in April. Today, the letter I. Tomorrow, the letter J. I have no idea what I’ll write tomorrow.

This is also my entry into #FlashMobWrites 1×07, hosted by Ruth Long and Cara Michaels. Please, go read all the stories in this week’s challenge.

Her

I love her when she smiles.
When I see her smile
In her eyes.
I know she’s happy
When she smiles.
It shows in the way she walks.
The way she holds her shoulders.
The way her hips move.
How she shakes her head.
No matter how I feel.
No matter how bad my day.
When she smiles
Somehow.
Everything’s OK.

I hold her when she cries.
When tears fall from her eyes.
When she cries in silence,
From the things in life
That cause her heart to ache.
And I ask God above,
If he’s sure there’s not a way
My heart could ache
Instead of hers.

I kiss her cheek each night.
When I come to bed.
While she is asleep.
I hope with beautiful dreams
Inside her head.
“Good night, dear,”
Or perhaps
“Good night my love,”
I whisper in her ear.

Someone asked me once
If she was my soul mate.
I told them she was not.
I don’t believe
In that soul mate thing.

But there is something I know.
Of how I feel about her.
Of what she means to me.

She’s my Princess Bride
You see.
My one true love.

Isn’t that how love is?


It’s April 9th, the 8th day of the 2015 A to Z Challenge. This is the 8th of 26 pieces I’m writing in April. Today, the letter H. Tomorrow, the letter I? I have no idea what I’ll write.