Friday, January 13, 2017

FREE FRIDAY FICTION : Welcome to the End : Part 13 -- Rain

Hi, everyone.

We'll get to the story in a minute, but first I need to tell you about something else. I'm part of a promotion that you might be interested in. Here are the highlights. Seventy books from 70 authors, each for less than a dollar. They are all scifi and fantasy, so if you're a speculative fiction fan (and if you're here I assume you are) then this is perfect for you. Restock your Kindle on the cheap. Honestly, some of these books look great, and, if I had the money in the budget, I'd go grab them all. So check it out here.

Now, onto Part 13 of our serial story. Part 13 being posted on Friday the 13th. Just a lucky coincidence. We are still getting decent readership, but I'd always love more. If you're enjoying the story then send others over here so they can enjoy it.

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Welcome to the End//Part 13--Rain

The fat kind of rain patters against the window sounding like someone tapping the glass with their fingers. The drops get heavier and the rain falls harder as Caroline and I watch. The rain is a light tan because it’s not really rain. It’s mixing with the dust and dirt that’s been hanging in the air. It’s raining a mud puddle. Long brown streaks down the window obscure everything outside. We hear water start to drip through the broken cracks and smack the mirror in what was my bathroom.


Caroline turns from the window and looks back toward the closet.


“You don’t have a couple of umbrellas in there do you?”


The building groans and shifts. It may look solid, but it’s not as stable as we think.


“Unfortunately, no.” I grab the hood on the back of her coat and give it a shake. “But we do have these.”


The building groans again. The suddenly wet soil under the foundation has made the footing unstable. Everything shifts slightly, and I turn to Caroline.


“We should go.”


Her shoulders slump. “Ugh, fine.” She tucks her ponytail into the hood as she pulls it over her head.


“Where’s the stupid stove?” she asks and scans the room. I point to the red box leaning against the wall near the closet. She lets out a sigh.


I swing the now-loaded pack on my back and twist my shoulders to shift it to a spot that’s comfortable.


I open the door and Caroline heads out first, hugging the stove to her chest. The rain is roaring now, coming down in dark brown sheets.


I take one last look inside the apartment and see all of my stuff, my life. This is it. It’s literally closing the door on what life was. This is me saying that we can’t go back. Acknowledgement that life is basically a dystopian wasteland. I hesitate for a moment, taking all of it in, then pull the door tight behind me and lock it.


+++++


Mud rain stings. It’s falling harder and heavier than regular, clear rain, and every drop hitting you is like a tiny little fist. And with the rate this mud rain is falling we are getting pummeled.


Caroline pushes her shoulders up to her ears. She holds the stove above her head and, with the rain, it sounds like an out of tune steel drum.


I pull my pack up higher on my back. It’s bulging top keeps my neck protected, but I can feel the rain pelting my arms. I imagine them polka-dotted with bruises when we get back to camp.


After a block Caroline veers right and finds cover under a bit of wall that has fallen off an older building but hasn’t broken. It’s created a bit of a lean-to. And as long as the wind doesn’t pick up and start the rain blowing sideways, we’ll be covered.


“I’d had enough of that,” Caroline says as she puts the stove on the ground.


“Me too,” I say. “Smart call.”


We look out into the gloom. It’s getting hard to see across the intersection in front of us. Caroline sits down and leans against the bit of building that hasn’t fallen. At this rate, we will be here a while.


“I’ve never seen anything like this,” she says.


“No one has.”


“It’s weird, being in a world that’s new to everyone. I’m a kid. I’m supposed to have someone to look to for guidance, someone who has experience with all to this who can say ‘Here …” she pauses to hold out her hand. She looks to her palm, like she can see whatever imaginary object is sitting there. “... this was helpful for me when I was going through that.’ ”


She pulls her hand back and slips it into her jacket pocket. Along with the rain, the wind is starting to pick up. Coming from behind us, thankfully. Our bit of fallen brick should keep us mostly dry. It won’t keep us warm and whatever front that triggered this storm has brought cold air with it. I feel the wind lick at my ankles.


Caroline continues.


“Now …” She pauses again, staring once more at something that I can’t see. I’m sure it’s some mental picture of how her life was supposed to have unfolded. “Now, there’s no one who knows what to do. No one has been through this. We are all just making it up as we go. You, Mack. You I trust. I feel like you’ve got a good head on your shoulders, but even you don’t know what to do. You make your best guess. You use your experience …”


Caroline starts to cry. The tough girl is cracking. The rain is wearing away her hard candy shell, and what’s inside isn’t as sweet anymore. Someone who was ripe with confidence just a few minutes ago is starting to turn. I can’t let her core go rotten.


“Don’t say that,” I tell her. “It’s tough, sure. And it’s scary. But we’re smart. We’re adaptable. We’ll figure this out, and probably sooner rather than later.”


It’s not much of a pep talk. I recognize that as I say it. But it’s something. It’s an attempt. I just don’t need her thinking hopeless thoughts and giving up.


“I know you’re right,” she says. “It’s about determination. Are we going to let this beat us or aren’t we? But this rain. The dark skies that are quickly coming. The wailers …”


And as if on cue, one of them cries.

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