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

Starting Out Right

Whether it be a novel or a short story, the opening paragraph is often the deal breaker. If the first paragraph, and especially the first sentence, doesn’t grab the reader’s imagination, no matter how wonderful the rest of the story is, chances are that the reader won’t be there to find out.

What I have for you today are five opening paragraphs from short stories and novels I’ve written. I wonder, do each of them fill the bill for a good opening paragraph? Do they grab your attention, spark your imagination and leave you wanting more? Or to they fall flat and make you want to move on to something else?  Leave a comment and let me know.

  1. From Cartersville:

The Cartersville Pioneer Days Festival was a reflection of a happier, simpler time in the history of the small town.  Main Street was blocked off and Memorial Park was filled with small booths and displays celebrating the town’s Florida Cracker heritage.  Despite the large crowds, Sheriff Matt Green was relaxed, trouble during the festival was rare.  The afternoon was clear and hot, the town band played soft melodies on the park gazebo.  It was a day for laughter and ice cream, sunshine and warm breezes. Matt stood in the center of it all, his crisply creased tan uniform valiantly holding its own against the humidity.  It was a perfect day made all the better by the sight of his wife, June, and son, Tommy, walking towards him from the playground.  Tommy was wearing his new Cartersville Pioneer Days Festival―Celebrate Your Cracker Heritage With Us―ball cap and tee shirt.

2.  From 1933:

The boy barely made it, he had to go so bad.  He dropped his overalls to the floor of the outhouse, quickly planted himself, and let it go.  Having survived the initial release, he grabbed for the copy of Weird Tales magazine his father had left there.  By lantern light, he paged through the twice read stories and was suddenly possessed by the thought that in his rush for relief he had forgotten the ritual of checking for spiders. Black widows are native to central Florida and fond of the moist darkness of the outhouse.  It was not until he finished though that he felt it.  He was about to stand, to wipe, and head back for the house when he felt a strange, terrifying tickling around the cheeks of his ass.  He tensed and propelled himself upwards, all the while expecting that inevitable, painful pinch.  The pinch never came.  He simultaneously swatted at his backside with one hand and thrust his other hand outward towards the latch that held the door shut, but could not find it.  His momentum unchecked, he fell forward, stumbling on the overalls around his ankles.

3. From: Any Tomorrow: The Calling:

From the oppressive heat of the South Carolina summer stepped a man, old, unnaturally old by his own reckoning, but not bent with age. His hair was a disarray of unruly tangles and his clothes looked like he had slept in them more than one night. He had. It had been a long trip from Princeton and he was more tired than he had ever been. His tiredness, however, was only partially to blame for his exhaustion. The true source of his exhaustion was the burden he carried with him, a dark secret even he did not fully comprehend.

4. From B-24:

It was in the summer before I first experienced stinky finger with Pretty Patty Precious, the prematurely large breasted daughter of the farmer who lived next door. It was the same summer we traded twisting our G.I. Joes and Barbies into ineffective pseudo-coitus for awkward, frantic, heavy petting. It was the summer everything changed. It was the summer I discovered the shimmering.

5. From The Last Pope of Antioch:

The red convertible flew down the dusty, empty road like flame seeking something to ignite.  The driver concentrated on his task.  Seeing far beyond his horizon, far past his destination, he stared out through the waves of heat reflected from the road surface, sunglasses wrapped around his face seeming to form themselves to the contour of it.  His face was angular, giving the impression of sharpness.  Although it had been days since he had shaved, his pockmarked skin, possibly an artifact of the ravages of youth, showed no sign of stubble.  The truth of it was that he had never developed a beard, so common in other men, and he counted himself lucky to be spared the razor, that dragging of sharp steel across unprotected flesh.

© Copyright 2014 by Kevin Fraleigh.

The Get Away

He had never done anything like this before. Not once in his sixty years on earth had he ever run away.  He had never even played hooky from high school or cut class in college. Yet here he was, pulling into the parking lot of a strange bar in an unfamiliar seaside town a hundred or more miles from home.

While his wife still slept soundly he had rolled out of bed, showered, dressed, packed his lunch and headed for the car like he would on any other work day. However this time when he pulled onto I-95 he headed north instead of south. He had a full tank of gas, a plastic card, and no plan. He just needed to get away.

And there was one other thing. There was the girl from the dream that told him that if he’d just go, be free for just a day, she’d be there waiting for him. So he took a chance, didn’t even give it a second thought. If he had thought about it he would have been overwhelmed by the consequences.

Because he didn’t think about them he was free. Today there were no consequences. There were no bills, no dead end job, no responsibilities or commitments. His forty year marriage, in which passion had been replaced with complacent resignation, didn’t exist.

Today there was sun and sand and surf. Today there was Jose Cuervo. Today there was the girl from his dream. Today there was whatever happened next.

© Copyright 2013 by Kevin Fraleigh.

What Is Your Inspiration?

I was coming home from work the other day when I happened to pass a woman driving an old station wagon.  What you would take away from that momentary observation is probably much different than what I did.  For her sake and yours, I hope so.  For the storyteller, inspiration is everywhere.  If you find your creative processes stalled, forget the outline and the mechanics, and take a look around you!

The Old Station Wagon

The woman driving the old Ford station wagon―that’s right, a station wagon, not an SUV, mini-van, or crossover―the kind with the simulated―not faux, because nobody said “faux” back in 1972―wood panels, looked drawn, worn thin by life but determined, her vulnerability tenuously protected by the shell of the vehicle.  She was not especially pretty, but may have been once.  Something or someone had taken that from her.  Now her hair was a little too dark to be natural, her face too old for her age, her features once soft were angular and cynical.  Her blouse, with its simple check pattern, was well worn, but not frayed, and her collar lifted and fell in the warm breeze from the open window.  Both the driver-side and passenger-side windows were open.  No air conditioning on a blistering hot Florida day.  It was the kind of day that no one would venture into without purpose.

The back seat that might have once held children―Sit quiet, kids. Look for the signs for South of the Border―was now filled with her entire world.  Clothes, shoes, photographs, Jesus, everything that was of any value to her she had crammed into the back of the old station wagon and fled.  Everything in there was from yesterday, and if she could have, if it had been practicable, she would have walked out naked, taking nothing with her but her own bones and flesh, leaving even the memories.  But she couldn’t do that.  One had to be practical.  She had nothing more than a little gas money and clothes are expensive.

So are memories.

So she filled the station wagon with what she could and left the rest.  And she supposed that when he awoke, with the pain of daylight cleaving his addled brain, that the reality of her leaving, of her complete divorcement would generate an anger so great that it would explode the walls of that terrible place.  She had thought about it for a long time.  All those wasted years hoping that somehow things would change, that Jesus was real and he would deliver her, but in the end she was on her own. 

All on her own.

And it took a long time for her gather all that gasoline, to rig up the igniter, to be sure it would work. When he fought the ropes that bound him, she hoped he would smell the gasoline, that he would hear the click and whoosh of ignition, that he would know that he was trapped in his personal version of hell. 

Periodically she checked the rearview mirror for a column of black smoke, but thought that by know the distance might be too great.  She was gone and so was he.   Really gone, finally gone.  Everything was gone except for his screams.  He was certainly the one screaming now, someone no one would come to rescue.  When she had screamed no one had come.  When she had cried for help no one had answered her.  She had somehow survived, but not this time.  He had never heard her screams, not him or the neighbors or Jesus, but she heard him.  He was screaming as the flames ate his flesh, screaming as his eyeballs boiled in their sockets, screaming as he cursed her name.  Her mind filled with his screams, screams that added to her own as the old station wagon drifted through the grassy median and into the southbound lanes. 

The driver of the Peterbilt, the one with a full load of concrete conduit, following the accident, swore that he had never seen anything like it.  The station wagon seemed to actually speed up before it hit his truck head-on.  The force of the impact instantly killed the driver and splayed the contents of the old station wagon along half a mile of the interstate.  The state police reported that the driver must have fallen asleep at the wheel.  But there was a more terrible truth that they might have discerned had they been listening.    Had they been listening, they might have heard the screams.

So what is your inspiration?  Could you turn this chance encounter into a story with an entirely different tack?  What’s more, could it inspire more than a short story, a novel?  Have you had a similar inspiring encounter?

Do you write based on serendipitous inspiration or are you the type of writer that needs more structure―an outline, a conclusion to write to, a carefully defined genre, and full market analysis?

There’s nothing wrong with either approach as long as it works for you.

Leave me a comment here, on google+, facebook, gather, linkedin, or goodreads.
© Copyright 2012 by Kevin Fraleigh.