Friday, February 10, 2017

FREE FRIDAY FICTION : Welcome to the End : Part 17 -- The Start

Time for Part 17. We are about halfway through the story so far. Maybe more. I'm bad at estimations
like that.

I'm playing with covers and titles still, so that may change prior to publication. Not wholesale changes on the title. Just thinking about flipping the main title and subhead, Rubble and Ruin would become the series main title. That's probably a bit to inside baseball. All you want is the next installment, right? OK. Here you go.

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Welcome to the End//Part 17--The Start

Everything fell apart on a Tuesday. A late Tuesday to be technical. I was a few months into my life in Dallas and I was watching a repeat of the 10 p.m. news. I’d had a date with a woman I met through an acquaintance. She was nice enough. The conversation was pleasant. I was thinking back to something she’d said and was considering whether or not I should call it a quirk or a red flag when the first rock hit.
I didn’t know it was a rock at the time. It was just a crushing and crashing sound that drew me to the window. I opened the blinds in time to see two more streaks stream low across the sky and then, a moment later, two more impacts. Then another. Then more until it was raining these things, whatever they were. I ran out the door and into the hall. My neighbor was already there.

“Meteors?” she asked. She was in some sort of loose-fitting pajamas, her blonde hair pulled back in a pony tail.

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

I didn’t know her beyond friendly hellos as we were coming or going, but she began following me out to the street. We could hear more of whatever these were tearing apart anything that got in their way. By the time we got to the ground floor, fires were already burning. The sky was filled with crashing rocks, and she began to cry.

“What’s happening?” She wasn’t asking me, just calling out in confusion. She repeated her questions to no one. I wanted to do the same thing.

“Come on.” I grabbed her by the elbow and pulled her back up stairs with me. She cried the whole time.

She followed me into my apartment and we both stood in silence as we watched the TV. The local stations had broken into programming. Some poor late-night worker was in front of the camera stammering and stuttering his way through an incoherent update that didn’t tell me anything I couldn’t learn by looking out my window.

I was angry. Why didn’t they know more? Then the picture went black. I flipped stations, and we watched there. A real anchor this time. The information was delivered smoothly, but still of little help. The news here didn’t know what was happening besides it seemed to be raining boulders.

I flipped again, this time to a national news channel. They were reporting this happening all over. Dallas, Kansas City, New York. It was everywhere, but no one seemed to know exactly what ‘it’ was. My neighbor was balled up on my couch. She was rocking back and forth. The world continued to explode outside the windows.

There was speculation of the apocalypse. That’s what one of the reporters was saying with a straight face. It was hard to argue that it wasn’t a plausible theory. We watched for a few more minutes. Five? Ten? More? Probably more. Then we heard it. A close-by explosion. The light in my window went a bright orange-white.

“We should go,” I said.

“Where?”

“I don’t know, but this doesn’t feel overly safe. At least if we’re moving then we’re not sitting ducks.”

She hesitated then began to nod. “Wait for me,” she said as she got up from the couch.

“I’ll try. But no promises.”

“I’m Mack,” I said as she passed out into the hall.

“Nice to meet you” I heard her shout. I never got her name.

I pulled my coat from the closet and began reaching for some of the camping gear I’d temporarily stored there a few months earlier. That’s when a deafening crash came from the back of my apartment. Half of my building was gone. Light from flames began to peek through cracks and holes that hadn’t been there just a moment before. I turned and ran for the door. I stopped for a moment in the hall, hoping to see my neighbor. Her door was open. I stuck my head in and shouted that I was going downstairs. I waited a beat, then two, for some kind of response, but I never got one. I couldn’t wait.

I got to the street and slipped into the streams of people. Even in the chaos we managed to organize our mad scramble for safety. Everyone on the right side of the road headed one direction. On the left we headed in another. The explosions continued, several of them in quick succession. Like firecrackers popping on a string but turned up to 11.

People were crying and talking. Some, you know the kind, were already speculating with unearned confidence about what had happened. Some thought it was some kind of war, an attack from a foreign adversary. I didn’t know. Maybe so. Others thought it was judgement. Push God far enough, they said, but never finished the thought.

I didn’t say anything. I just kept walking. To where, I didn’t know. Nothing seemed safe. I didn’t know it then, but nothing ever would seem safe again.

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