Road Trip — Epilogue

The end of the end, isn’t that what he said?  And he was right, of course.  The end of the end begins after the beginning, which is birth.  Every moment following that is the end of everything, on an individual level, on a global level—it’s all a matter of scale.

And this was the end of the end in its most universal sense.  Billions of years of evolution turned to corpses and rotting flesh.  In eleven days, the population of the world—humans and animals—had been all but eliminated.  A few stragglers survived, owing more to luck than preparation.  But who could have prepared for this, the world becoming a global feed lot?  The creatures, those perfect killing machines, weren’t the true invaders.  They were like predatory sheep, fattened for an otherworld market.

In a few days, full of humanity, the beasts would be harvested and slaughtered to feed the hungry masses aboard an interstellar convoy headed for a destination a million years distant.  Along the way countless planets would be colonized and harvested to feed the vision of an alien Moses.  Nothing else mattered to them but the vision, not the populations destroyed, not the evolution interrupted, nothing—but the end of the end.

And here, on this tiny insignificant planet, lost among all the other planets and stars that make up all the galaxies and solar systems and universes that are, life will undoubtedly continue—although greatly altered.  No doubt a few humans will survive.  If they are lucky, they may even procreate.  Chances of this are mathematically unlikely, because the world is a big place with many dangers.

And while some of the traditional terrestrial predators may be enjoying extinction, a new predator—the harvest was sure to leave a few behind—roams the earth with impunity.  It is highly likely that, just as man evolves, so will they.

This is not to say that this story is without hope.  The post-apocalyptic Bronx or Los Angeles or Miami may turn out to be the new Eden.  From it may arise a new race with new myths and legends and heroes.  And no doubt they will eventually ascribe the events of today with some greater purpose, such as the prescribed purification of humanity, attributed to the very will of God himself.  Well, God did say that he would never drown the world again.  He didn’t say a thing about predators from outer space.

***
Happy Halloween.  Sure, you can say that the story is derivative, as the theme has been written about by many more talented than I.  But it was short.  And written quickly.  And it was for a blog, for heaven’s sake.   But I hope you enjoyed it.

Now go out there and score some candy!

©Copyright 2017 by Kevin Fraleigh

Road Trip, Chapter 2

Death is not an easy thing, I think, and I know a few things about death, don’t I?  But this, this horror is beyond the pale.

I find you beside the interstate, still clutching the wheel, as if somehow even in death you would keep going.  But there is no ‘keep going’.  For you there is nothing.  Deathly gray, covered by oozing lesions, and sweat soaked with our own blood and urine, you sit there still and google-eyed.

In the passenger seat is evidence of another rider, a woman, perhaps your wife.  She is, no doubt, one of those who insists on being made-up, even on the road.  And there is evidence of it on the cup.  Behind her are two child car seats and related flotsam strewn throughout the car.  But the wife and kiddies are missing.  They have, no doubt, run off to escape this terrible thing.  They may have even left you to face your last minutes of life alone, abandoned except for the terrible thing growing inside you.

And what is growing inside you, I could see it almost as clearly as my own reflection in the mirror.  It has yet to burrow through to the surface, but it won’t be long.  I wonder if I should wait to greet it as a fellow death-bringer, or take the wiser course, which would be to leave before I, too, became infected.

I think I might wait, just a while, to see what happens.  After all, it isn’t often I have the opportunity to see that which might mean the end of all, birthed.  And by the end, I mean the end of the end.  How fortunate it would be to see this first hand.

But how could I be so fortunate?  I would have never expected it.  After all, although I am very good at what I do, I can’t say that it has brought any particular praise from the public sector.  I admit that there are those who have voiced a certain admiration for the planning and surgical precision of my work, but if I had earned some special affection in the hearts of my admirers, how is it that I am walking along the interstate with only the clothes on my back and a few dollars to my name?

Well, that doesn’t really matter now, does it?  We are where we land and we’d best make the best of it.  And where I’ve landed there is—oh, what’s that coming.  In the distance, a police car, so I think I’ll just move off the road for a bit.  I’ll let him deal with it.  That should be fun to watch.

The state patrol vehicle pulls up behind your car.  The man is big, tall and probably pushing two-fifty.  With all his gear on he looks even heavier.  He approaches your door.  He taps on the window, then looks more closely.  He steps back and I can clearly see the look of horror and disgust on his face.  I wonder, have the police been warned that people are dying from this? That would be awkward.  If so, it doesn’t appear that word got down to this man, because he walks around to the passenger door to peer inside.

If he had just backed off, gone to his car to call dispatch, and report what he had seen, things might have gone differently.  Instead, he climbs into the passenger side to look the guy over and maybe get some an idea of who might have been with him.  That’s all it takes to lure the thing out.  It is still growing and it is hungry.

I watch intently, even moving a little closer to get a better look.  I know that this is unwise, because if I was identified, my knife would be no match for his pistol.  But I’m not concerned.  I don’t think that this officer will be any threat to me.  Not today.  Not ever.

The man screams—a delightful and terrible scream.  No, it not just a scream, a horrible gurgling fear-filled shriek.  The car shakes as the officer tries to pull loose, to escape, but it is too late.  The thing, the fellow death-bringer, has burst forth from with you, tearing through your abdomen and chest.  It burrows deep into the officer’s chest.  Blood covers the windows, making it impossible to see.

After a few minutes, the car no longer shakes.  It is feeding, gathering its strength.  I move even closer, for a better look.  I think to myself, hardly an efficient way to kill.  I can empathize with the violence, but it is far too messy and wasteful.  On the other hand, it is only just born.

I am now standing beside the passenger door watching it as it feasts on the officer’s bones.  I recognize it at once, it is like a child—small naked and hairless.  But the eyes, the eyes betray a noble intent.  The teeth are like razors and the hands like claws.

Oh, I think, you are a darling demon.  You are what has been promised to me, what I’ve been waiting for.  We shall make a wonderful team, you and I.  It is no threat to me now.  Its hunger is sated, for the moment.  And there is a whole world to know the pleasure of pain in.  And you, my little one, will I teach to be the great hunter.  And together we shall usher in the end of the end, together.

Glorious, how glorious!  But there is a greater revelation yet to come!  The beast stares upwards into the sky and I realize that he is but the first.  For from the sky like a cloud, bursting with rain come tiny parachutes, lighter than air, much like a dandelion’s plumed seed.    From the cloud above floats down new life—and death.  By the hundreds of thousands they come, enough to blot out the sun.

I open my arms and cry, welcome!  I have taken so many lives, I think, but nothing like this.  I offer my flesh to these, the rightful inheritors of the world of men.  I only ask that I may live to join the terrible crusade against the horror that is man!

And I look into the first one’s eyes and understand, that the end of the end is now.

©Copyright 2017 by Kevin Fraleigh

Before God

The first contact was quiet, obscure, and by any conventional standard quite unremarkable.  It required only a breath.  Whatever concept scientists, writers, and other visionaries of the ages may have had about the event, this wasn’t it.

I wouldn’t call it serendipitous, that first contact.  It was not, by definition, random or by chance, and it was not necessarily a happy circumstance.  Whether or not it was beneficial would be for later generations to decide.  But there was the fact that when contact did occur, it was carried on the wind to a child.  And that was the significant thing.

Children, especially very young ones, are non-binary. Binary thought is something children have to be taught.  Binary thought doesn’t come naturally to children, but it seems essential to adults.  The reason it is essential, of course, is that it helps adults establish the spatial and temporal boundaries in their lives.  Yes/no, true/false, in/out, black/white.  All ones and zeros.

The binary structure is carried on through all legal and religious paradigms.  Legal/illegal, saved/unsaved, living/dead, heaven/hell, start/finish, beginning/end.  To have a binary relationship, of course, there must be an incompatible opposite.  So if there is an alpha, there must also be an omega.

Furthermore, for whatever state we are in, we must have a beginning and an end, such as birth/death.  For this reason, the Bible begins with “In the beginning” and concludes with the end of the world.  In the same way, and for many of the same reasons, scientists developed the theory of the “Big Bang” and theorize about the death of the universe.  If the universe began, therefore it must also end.

Now besides having a compulsion to categorize their existence in binary terms, humans also share a compulsion to codify their categorization.  They did this first in the form of storytelling, then in writing.  So when they codified their understanding of the genesis of the universe, they rightfully attributed its design and complexity to something other than themselves.  This something other, they called God.

Because they knew that they weren’t capable of creating the universe, and they also weren’t capable of conceiving of an entity that was completely unlike themselves, the God they created was given human attributes.  God could be possessive, angry, jealous, creative, loving, gentle, forgiving, brutal, and even genocidal.  In other words, God is us.

And we look at the universe through the filter of “us”.  We search for planets like ours.  We hunt for alien life with characteristics from our own experience.  We have a difficult time conceiving of an entity or a space that is boundlessly infinite.  And yet.  There it was.

Lighter than breath and older than our universe, from before even God existed, it drifted down from the infinite cold of boundless space to find a mind that had yet to know its limitations.  From that moment, the girl was something more.

©Copyright 2017 by Kevin Fraleigh

What Would You Write?

At sometime during the night she had migrated to his side of the bed.  She clutched what she still considered to be his pillow, although he had not slept on it, had not shared her bed, for more than a year.  It was as if the sheets still held his warmth and his scent and drew her to him.  But he could not come to her, not any longer, not any ever.  He was taking a chance, a big one, just to watch her, if only for a moment.  He couldn’t stay any longer than that.  He couldn’t bear it and they would certainly know.  They, the others, the ones who had forced him to run, if not to save himself, then for her.

Then what?  Who is she?  Who is “They”―Mafia, Gestapo, aliens?  Who is he and how is he there, or is he?  What’s going on here?

Don’t answer right away, give it some time.  Go have a cup of tea.  Take a smoke break.  Let the words tickle your “little gray cells”.

There’s no wrong answer.  The words will mean something different to everyone who reads this and that’s okay.  I think I know where I would take this.  I think I know, but until I actually get it written down, finalized, and published, nothing is certain.  Nothing at all.

What do you think?  Where would these words take you?  What is the back story?  Where do they go from here?
© Copyright 2012 by Kevin Fraleigh.

Five Minutes To Midnight

Last week the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced that the dreaded Doomsday Clock was moved to a minute closer to midnight.  For reasons you can read here, the Doomsday Clock now stands at five minutes to midnight.  Midnight being defined as the end to everything.  We have been closer of course.  In 1953 we only had two minutes left, but humanity managed to pull pack just in the nick of time.  (Read the timeline here.)  The pronouncements about the Doomsday Clock remind us that, in reality, we don’t need God or zombies or aliens to destroy the world.  Or do we?

For a horror/fantasy writer, of course, that sense of imminent doom is what we really want to emphasize.  Whether it’s waiting for the clock to strike, the door in the dark hallway to open, or the guillotine blade to fall, it’s really all the same.  It’s about setting a scene where something horrific, something beyond the control of the protagonist, is going to happen whether they want it to or not.  In the real world (whatever that is) we often lack control over a situation.  That lack of control is often accompanied by a feeling of dread―awaiting the final bill for car repairs or a medical procedure, a call after midnight when your child is out on a date, or computing your annual taxes.  As an author I want my stories to evoke the dread he or she feels in real life.

How do you do it?  Set the scene, a situation from which there is no escape.  Build tension by establishing a sense of expectancy, the idea that something has to happen soon and it probably won’t end well.  Then make sure that whatever happens lives up to the expectations you’ve set for the story.  Nothing is worse than wading through a thousand pages of text that build up to the ultimate conflict, the big bang, only to have the story fizzle out in the end.  Your novel or short story should never end with the reader going, “huh?”.

A few months ago I started writing story with the working title of, fittingly enough, “Doomsday”.  The story is about two TV news reporters who are assigned to interview someone they assume is just another whacko predicting the end of the world.  They want to be with him at midnight to get his reaction when nothing happens.  To their horror they discover there is something worse than the end of the world.  What follows isn’t really a spoiler, it’s only the beginning.

1 – December 31st

“If you stand over here,” said the old man, “you should be able to see the very first indication of the new dawn.”

The old man hadn’t moved from his chair since the interview began nearly six hours earlier.  Now, suddenly, at precisely a minute before midnight, he rose from his rocking chair, animatedly pointing towards the window.  Milton Armistadt, his hand shaking, clutched his chair for support to prevent his frail body from buckling under its own weight.  Still, he had to see it, the new dawn, and he had to make sure the others saw it.

It wasn’t so much that the seeing of it would make them believe him, their belief didn’t matter because there was no way to stop what was happening, but he wanted to witness their understanding.  It was important to him that they understand, that someone on this miserable doomed, damned rock, understand.

Charlie Latimore whispered something that was supposed to be cynically humorous to Jerry Fisher, the cameraman, but his words were anxious, tinged with nervous fear.  Whatever Charlie had said, Jerry didn’t get it, not this time.  His concentration was fully through the viewfinder of the video camera, his focus, like that of the other two men, on the absolute pervasive darkness beyond the window.

Jerry almost dropped the camera when the ancient clock in the hallway, the one facing the door that might never again allow escape, chimed midnight with a terrific resonance.  And before the chime faded, the first plumes of the new dawn appeared against the horizon.  The camera was rolling.  Charlie wanted, needed, to say something, but he was empty.  The plumes, miles away, flew up in high arcs, alighting the sky, threatening to catch it afire, and it might have if not for the sudden torrents of rain. The rain brought floods of water which became bubbling, brewing seas as the earth shook violently and huge fissures widened, emitting a sizzling steamy vision of hell.

Flashes of lightening accented the conflagration, revealing the widening destruction.  Houses, trees, and all the other artifacts of existence were askew, torn, and rendered.  They all fell like dollhouse accessories caste down violently and trampled by some ill-mannered errant child.  They fell, everything fell, but as overwhelming as the scene was, it seemed somehow far away, distant, and removed.

They had been watching the scene unfold looking out through the window, on the same plane as the horror they witnessed.  Now their perspective was something other, as if they were somehow above the action, removed from it.  And the truth was that they hadn’t even noticed the change, the shift had been so subtle. When they did realize there had been a shift, a change, the terror of not understanding how that might have occurred swept through them.

Them, Charlie and Jerry, but certainly not the old man.  The old man was watching with rapt attention, fully aware and accepting of all that was happening.  The old man was there and yet…  Charlie stared at him, his face bathed in the reflected light of the awful destruction, and tried to grasp what had happened, what was happening.

The truth was that the old man was smiling as the world was ending.

Doomsday, waiting for that ultimate thrill of terror, is something none of us really wants to experience, yet there is something vital about the expectation of it.  The idea that at any moment something will happen that could end everything is what pulls horror/fantasy fans out of their mundane lives and puts their psyches in overdrive.  And the best thing about it is that when the story ends, when you’re still in the afterglow of that marvelous psychic rush, you’re still alive―and that’s a definite plus.

Shameless promotion: My novels, Any Tomorrow: The Calling and Any Tomorrow: The Curse, are available from leading eBook distributors such as Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble.  Watch for my latest short stories in eFiction Magazine

If you would like to share your ideas about what I’ve written, feel free to contact me here, on my blog, or using other social media.  Thanks.
© Copyright 2012 by Kevin Fraleigh.