Friday, May 26, 2017

FREE FRIDAY FICTION : Welcome to the End : Part 30 -- Piles

Thirty. It's a nice round number, and that's where we are. Thirty parts. Thirty weeks of zombies and aliens and Mac and Caroline. Probably five more parts to go. So Welcome to the End is coming to an end. I am in the middle of plotting a second part, carrying on Mac and Caroline's story past this. I like where it's headed. It's different than this story, but it'll move the story along nicely.

OK, on with the story.


Welcome to the End//Part 30 -- Piles

This life had started to feel normal. The wailers had seemed annoying but avoidable if you didn’t put yourself in situations where you were vulnerable. Living in an old fairground wasn’t a horrible thing considering the alternatives. And I had liked Maggie and Walter and Caroline. Life wasn’t anything like I’d ever expected, but it was feeling like it was becoming normal.

Then the rains come. Then the wailers stampede. Then everyone dies. Now, this fairground seems like the last place I want to be. I’ve never been to Oklahoma, but it seems as good a place as any now. Now that nothing feels normal again.

I get back behind the wheelbarrow and begin to push it back to the storage area where I’d found it. Then I stop. It doesn’t matter if it gets back to where it needs to go. No one is ever going to be here again.

I don’t know that, of course. Someone else could come here to Fair Park thinking that it’d make a good place to regroup. Maybe to call home. And I can’t say that they’d be wrong. It has been a good base to work from for the last month. Suddenly, a month doesn’t feel like all that long. Four weeks. That’s all we’ve been here. That’s nothing. It’s an inconsequential amount of time. One twelfth of a year. Just 8 percent of a 365 day cycle, give or take.

But this month, it feels eternal. That’s what happens, I guess, when the world comes down around you.

I go back to camp. Caroline is gathering her mom’s stuff--her bedroll, her clothes, everything that still says Maggie. She’s putting it all in a sloppy pile.

“What are you doing?” I ask.

“Cleaning up,” she says. “I’ve already got all of Walter’s stuff together.” She points toward a similar pile a few yards away.

“Want me to get Bethany and Britt’s things?”

She doesn’t look up from her work. She’s going through a box that Maggie kept by her pillow. Caroline cracks it open. It’s pictures. She pulls them from the box and starts slowly flipping through them, studying the faces on each one. A small smile sneaks onto Caroline’s lips, and I realize that I’ve lost her. She’s dived headfirst into each of the pictures.

Britt and Bethany didn’t have much with them. I take what they did bring and toss it onto the pile of Walter’s stuff that Caroline has made.
Caroline puts the photos back into the box and puts the box in her pack. These don’t go on the pile.

“What’s the plan for all of this stuff?”

“Burn it,” Caroline says. “All of it. Tonight.”

I nod. It’s a good idea.

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