Friday, May 5, 2017

FREE FRIDAY FICTION : Welcome to the End : Part 27 -- Fair Park

A short installment this week, but the story breaks pretty naturally here so that's what you get. As a make-good you get a new cover. This is what I'm going to put up on the book-selling sites when it goes live. This is what you'll look for when you go to buy your copy in a few weeks as a thanks for keeping you entertained for almost seven months. Seven months? Can you believe that?

Take a moment to marvel at that then enjoy the story.


Welcome to the End//Part 27:Fair Park

The streets a few blocks from my place weren’t empty, but they were close. I passed guys my age who seemed lost, still taking in the new Dallas. They were still mentally having those “why” conversations in their heads. I suppose I would have been too, but traveling actually helped me get past that part quickly. Not that I think missing a plane or a train or a bus is any actual equivalent to what had happened. I’m not dumb; it’s not close. But those moments when I had to suddenly reconfigure plans and shift travel arrangements, often in countries where I didn’t speak the language, had taught me to adjust and think on my feet.

That’s all I was doing here. I wasn’t thinking about what I’d lost (Everything). I wasn’t thinking about what I’d do long-term. I was just thinking about what was next, and that was to take another step. You’ve finished with your right, now swing out your left. Keep moving forward. A destination will reveal itself eventually, but wherever it is, it’s not behind you.

So that’s what I did. I kept moving, swinging rights and lefts until I found myself walking down the middle of Interstate 30. The highway was mostly elevated interchanges near downtown, and those had fallen in the initial assault. But just east of downtown, the highway—at least for a stretch—was still intact. I found my way to the middle of it. The sun was beginning to set and darkness was coming on fast. Wind rattled through the trees off to my right—those that were still standing. As the breeze separated the branches, that’s when I saw the fires that Maggie and Walter had set. They were like beacons, and because of their intensity, I expected to find them surrounded by dozens of people all congregating and consoling each other. I wasn’t in the mood for it the other night, but this evening, a little human interaction didn’t seem like a bad idea.

So I climbed off the highway and into the neighborhoods I’d been warned to stay out of when I got to Dallas. The homes were old, and many didn’t survive the barrage from a couple nights previous. My route to the fires was circuitous. By the time I got there it was full dark, and the crowds that I’d expected were non existent. Walter stood near the first fire, hugging a shotgun across his chest.

He dropped into his hands and let it hang loose in front of him as I approached. I raised my arms and put my hands up in front of me to show him that I wasn’t armed.

“Hello,” I shouted.

“Can I help you?”

“Saw the fires. Was hoping you guys might welcome another to your camp.”

“Well …” Walter tucked the butt of the gun under an arm and extended a hand for me to shake. “We have the room.”

He told me his name was Walter as he walked me down to the second fire and the women standing in a loose circle around it.

I introduced myself, saying hello to Britt and Bethany first. Neither seemed overly interested, but I credited that to the early-day shock that still hadn’t worn off for many. Then Caroline came over and shook my hand with a smile. And behind her was her mom.

“Hi,” she said. “I’m Maggie.”

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