Friday, April 28, 2017

FREE FRIDAY FICTION : Welcome to the End : Part 26 -- South

Part 26. We're flashing back again. A little more background. A little more foundation building. Hope you like it. If not, we'll be back to real time soon enough.


Welcome to the End//Part 26:South

I walked past that small park again the day after everything crumbled apart. It was even more crowded than when I’d left. There was a din of voices, all of them slightly raised. A general sense of worry pulsed from the place in waves. I heard tears.

I looked into the crowd. The small bunches from the night before were gone. It was now one big mass of people, an impotent little mob with nowhere to go. I did have somewhere to go, though. I was going home to gather things and to figure out next steps.

The air had taken on it’s now familiar brown haze, everything bathed in a light khaki. The amount of destruction was still shocking, and around every corner was another gasp—a familiar building or site left in a pile. All of this was stuff I missed in the dark and confusion of the night before. People were still on the streets, all of us looking at what had become of our city. Well, their city. Dallas was still too new to be my city. This still wasn’t home. It was getting there. I had started to find my spots. There was a pizza place a few minutes east of downtown that made this rectangular, cracker-crust pizza that it served on plastic lunch trays. It was an old place, family-owned spot that had been around forever. Delicious.

The coffee spot that was a block or so from my apartment. It was just a hole in the wall little place with a counter, a few two-seat tables. The lady who worked the counter in the mornings was cute, and she’d finally learned my order. I’d show up, get in line, and my drink would be ready by the time I got to the register to pay.

So I’d started to set my paths. I’d begun to find the routines that make life feel comfortable and familiar, those things that you miss when you’re away from home for too long.

The walk to my apartment took the better part of that day, but I hadn’t hurried. My path there was a little bit wandering. My curiosity had gotten the better of me more times than I should probably admit. I let myself go off course more than a few times to investigate what had happened to this location that I knew, or to see where a noise was coming from.

People were out sitting on curbs. They were head-in-hands crying. That or they were still a bit stunned, still in shock and not sure what to do next. Something down in me thought I should offer them some kind of comfort, but I didn’t know what I’d say. I couldn’t tell them that it’d be OK. That everything would get better. I didn’t believe it, especially then. I don’t know that I believe it now.

So instead of saying anything I kept walking and got to my apartment as the sun was about to set. I dug in a linen closet for candles I’d bought for a date. I was going for romance, but she wasn’t interested. But it was OK. Now I had light.

I placed the candles on the coffee table and lit them. The room glowed and I sat on the couch in an eerie silence. It was that quiet you get, the deep stuff, when you remove all ambient noise. I listened for neighbors, but didn’t hear any. Most doors were open in the halls, I noticed climbing the steps to my place.

The room got warm, and I got sleepy. I spun my legs up onto the couch and let myself drift off. I crashed fast and hard. It was the last good night of sleep I’d had until the scavenging run with Caroline to the doctor’s office.

I woke to chatter out in the stairwell. I went out expecting to find neighbors, but didn’t. It was two guys, late 20s. They had bulging black trash bags over their shoulders, each close to overflowing with things that clearly weren’t theirs.

I closed my apartment door and locked it. Looters.

I grabbed a loaf of bread from the pantry and half-eaten jar of peanut butter. I made a quick sandwich and waited.

A couple of moment later the door knob jiggled, then: WHAM.

I’m assuming it was a boot into the door near the lock. Trying to kick it in so they could rummage through my stuff.

“Occupied!” I shouted.

A muted “Sorry” from the other side, and that was it.

I finished my sandwich then started to gather what I needed. It was an unorganized scavenger hunt that I rushed through, spooked both by the silence and the looters. I grabbed too much of some things and not enough of some others, all necessitating a couple of trips back.

I stuffed my pack of full of everything I thought I’d need then headed back out, locking my door behind me.

I’d gone north and ran into a bunch of people interested in talking about the whys of everything and how it happened. Not enough of them were interested in how we moved forward. I needed people in the latter camp. Of course, I wanted to talk about the whys and what nows. But, more than anything, I needed people who were thinking about how we get to those why and what now conversations. If they weren’t north, then I’d try south.

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