Archive for January, 2010

Apocalypse by Mitch Learish

William breathed in and out quickly, sweat coated his broad forehead as
his shoes hit the pavement in a hauntingly quick rhythm that only got
faster as he heard the shrieks from behind him. He didn’t know where he
was going, which direction, anywhere was better than here. As far as that
went, he wasn’t even sure where “here” was. He could have been anywhere,
he could have been nowhere. He stopped briefly under a street lamp to
catch his breath. He hadn’t eaten in probably twenty-six hours. The
shrieking noises still echoed from the alley. He looked up at the moon,
still red, still full. The Bloodmoon, the soul harvest, evil that knew no
boundaries had set its sights on him. He kept running towards the center
of the city where there were no people, empty cars littered the streets
and fires burned in trash barrels. He hadn’t seen people in a month, maybe
more. He’d lost track of time at some point. He ran his hand through his
brown hair as he looked for a place to hide for the rest of the night.
He saw a convenience store next to a hair salon and forced the sliding
doors open, savagely seizing everything that was either vacuum sealed or
non-perishable. He sat in the darkness, eating what must have been some
sort of sugary disgusting chocolate treat from the looks of it, and a can
of peanuts. He looked around him constantly, sitting in the aisle, with
the door he had closed behind him in plain sight. He minded every exit in
case he had to run, the old man’s words echoing in his brain as they had
for the past month. “Everything is as it has always been. The human race
can survive no longer than any other race that has plagued the planet.
We’ve overstayed our welcome from nature. Our time has come.” He
remembered the corpse as he’d last seen it, lying there, helpless,
submissive to its fate. The old man had seen his time come and pass, but
William was not so eager to lay down his life. He had discovered an evil
in the world that had escaped from where it was once sealed, and it wanted
its revenge on the thing that sealed it there. The thing was clearly man.
Somehow, man had sealed it somewhere, but it wasn’t going to leave
William. It had gotten a taste of him, and it was going to hunt him like
wolves to a deer leaving a bloody trail behind itself in the snow.
He walked over to the refrigerator and opened the door. A single bulb
flickered and he saw the massive quantity of unconsumed energy drinks. He
took one from the row right in front of him, and as the others behind it
scraped down the row the electricity for the entire store came back
online, music, loud and irritating music in some foreign language was
echoing through the place, and the lights were on. “Damn.” He was gone for
sure this time. He hadn’t gone far enough away from the alley. Taking a
drink had never made the electricity come back on before. He had barely
consumed a sip, but he threw the drink down behind him and burst out of
the back door as he heard the glass storefront shatter behind him. He saw
black smog fill the place as the door swung shut and he ran into the
smaller alley behind the store. Four very large crows behind the door
scattered as he bolted up the fire escape of the building opposite, making
it to the roof as he saw the alleyway darken beneath him. There was
something evil even in the smoke preceding whatever it was that was after
him. He’d never actually seen what it was, but he’d seen what it could do,
he’d felt its bite, and that was enough for him.
He ran on, across the rooftops until he reached a point where he couldn’t
jump far enough anymore. He kicked in the door to the stairs and bolted
down them as fast as his feet could carry him. He ducked into a room, but
the dark fog followed his feet, wrapping around his ankles and dragging
him out of the room by the one leg that it managed to get a firm hold on.
He whipped around and kicked at the nothingness with his other leg and it
recoiled. He sprung back to his feet, running straight through the room to
his left and bursting through the window without regard of where he would
land. He felt the weight of his actions when he landed one story down in a
parking garage, on the hood of a generic model full-size truck.
He kicked the door to the stairwell to the apartment building open. As he
passed doors left and right leading to hallways, closets, rooms, he
skipped steps, watching the blackness overtake the stairs above him.
A pair of hands reached out and grabbed him as he reached the bottom,
pulling him into an old broom closet and covering his mouth. The shrieking
noise came closer and closer. His heart kept beating as the girl held a
finger to her lips. He nodded, and she let her hand down. He took in a
breath to say something, and her hand went back over his mouth even from
behind her. She turned and shook her head as the shrieking sound echoed
through their darkened section of the world. The black smog took out the
light from the street and the room beyond the door which he had used to
see the girl originally. Some of the smoke, that smell like rotting wood
and burnt rubber, made its way into the room. He could hear the sound of
something like an animal sniffing. He felt cold, too cold, like winter,
only this had all started in winter and every night had been progressively
warmer since, and there was no way it had been a year since this all
began, six months at most. William shrank inside himself and blacked out.
He felt arms under his, holding him up as he slipped from consciousness
and the shrieking faded.
She had only seen it for a split second as it darted past the hair salon
she had been waiting in, not enough time to even raise her gun, let alone
get a shot off. She had been hunting it since it killed her sister,
running after it, not ever seeing it up close, but feeling its presence
and being forced to run from it as often as she assumed it had run from
her. He had brought it here. It had followed him here.
He hadn’t dreamt since December. When he awoke, the young woman was
standing over him holding a candle. They were still in the broom closet.
“Why is it after you?” her accent was Australian.
“It met me once before,” he replied, pulling his shirt down over his
shoulder to reveal the four piercing fang marks. “News from around the
world said Australia went black after four days, how are you here?”
“I was a part of the refugee camp that ended up in Scotland,” she replied,
“Two days after the damn thing broke out in Greece I hauled ass for New
York. Then somehow I ended up here. Funny, I’m not even sure where this
is.” She was attractive. He hadn’t seen a woman since December either. It
must have been May of 2013 from what he could judge. The cold had left
him, and the sweat on the back of his neck had resumed making his collar
stick to his skin in an irritating way. Her brown hair had body around her
head, and it hung, curled perfectly, and highlighted. The job had been
done recently.
“Those look new,” he gestured to the highlights.
“That’s because I put them right before I saw you, and then I saw it, but
only for a split second before it disappeared into the store that you
turned the lights on in like an idiot.” His mind flashed back to the hair
salon standing motionless beside the convenience store. He hadn’t done it
on purpose. She had been in that salon and he hadn’t noticed. She’d
noticed him, and she didn’t seem to have had any intention on declaring
her existence before it became necessity or at least obligation to fellow
humanity to save his life, or maybe she’d have let it kill him before she
killed it. Her tank top clung to her ample chest, barely concealing any
bit of cleavage the large lacey bra was causing, and her bare flat stomach
flirted with being muscular. Her legs swelled outward, being
over-developed. His arms were more muscular. He usually climbed things to
escape it half of the time though, and most people just ran, as it was
clear she had for a long time. “How did you get here?”
“I was in New York just after Greece, and then I was in Colorado,” he
replied, “and I don’t know how I got to this city after that. The other
survivors went to some remote place they didn’t think it would follow, and
I avoided crowds to stay away from it.”
“You were in Colorado?” her eyebrows raised. “I heard horror stories
coming out of there, how did you survive?”
“My legs and my arms, I got bitten once, but I never caught a glimpse of
the thing.” William shook his head.
“I’m Citlali, but you can call me Cit,” she replied to this. It hadn’t
been a question, but there she stood holding out a hand.
“William,” he shook her hand, eager to make physical contact to confirm he
wasn’t hallucinating.
“I lost my whole family to this thing when I was nineteen,” she shook her
head. “I’m gonna kill it.”
“You’re insane,” he shook his head. “I lost my parents to the feet of
people trying to get onto the train in New York. They were trampled.
Everyone in the station was sitting ducks once blood began to hit the
floor. The very old would get trampled along with the very young. I
couldn’t bare it, and so I ran. I could see it looming in the sky over the
station like a white fog. Through pure determination and my will to
survive I made it to Colorado. I thought I’d be safer at higher altitudes.
The thing destroyed the train in Colorado as it headed towards California,
stopping it right on the track and heading back through the cabins. It
slithered on the air and bit all of the passengers. It seemed to have fur
as I ripped it from myself and threw it towards the door to the
compartment, but then it disappeared through the door, and I blacked out.”
“It ate half of my sister,” she shook her head. “It spared you after you
fought it. I’m not about to return the football.”
“How?” William asked.
“We’ve got to get it to come out into the open somehow,” Cit replied.
“The city’s no place for that,” William shook his head.
“Then we have to go,” she replied. “It doesn’t like the light as much, we
can go now if we want to get out of the city.”
They ran out of the building and city, seeking anywhere and everywhere
that was free of trees, but all they could find was highway. Walking all
day, they never encountered anywhere, then, as darkness began to fall,
they were finally approaching another place.
“This is the same city,” William turned back. The highway was the only
place that they might have stood a chance at facing the thing without
being killed. He looked at the machine gun by Cit’s side. “Do you know how
to use that thing?” A crow landed on the overpass that they were standing
on. He turned away from the city, noticing something, There was no way to
get to the road directly below this overpass from anywhere they had been
walking as far as roadways went. He saw a ladder down to the side, well,
more like rusted rectangles with one side embedded in the concrete.
“Yeah, I can shoot,” she was looking at him. He walked towards the ladder
and climbed down onto the road below. She followed, noting where he was
going. “We’re sitting ducks out here.”
“So is it if it approaches us,” he said as she mounted the ladder above
him. One of the rungs gave way to her as he approached the bottom, and she
fell. He backed up and broke her fall by catching her. As night crept on
they walked on down the road, away from the city they had come from. He
saw nothing but the road ahead, and the beautiful woman he was with. Trees
broke up as they walked on. They didn’t say barely a word as they walked
on. He was happy not to be alone anymore. She was happy that there was
still another living person if she died trying to kill this thing. “I was
nineteen in September of last year, I just hope I live to see twenty,” he
smiled in the red light of the moon as they walked on towards wherever
they were headed on this straight road. They saw a place, a town of some
sort at the very end of the road. At the center, there was a large clock
tower. It reminded William of some sort of fake old world Bavarian town
that might be recreated in an amusement park. He expected to hear yodeling
and accordion accompanied by some sort of goofy horn coming from the
center of the round place. Instead he heard three o’clock tolling by the
clock tower.
“What’s your full name?” he asked suddenly, as the sun began to brighten
three hours later and they could read the name of the town on a sign at
its apparent entrance.
“Citlali Maria Carcassonne,” she told him, “What’s yours?”
“William Eagle Narbonne,” he replied, “my family was into birds of prey.”
“Why did you ask?” she asked.
“I just realized I know more about this town than I do about you,” he was
pointing at the sign that said that it was The New City of the Sun. The
civilization that had been in the city had been victim to rapidly changing
laws and multiple conquerors. It was amazing how many times the sign said
the city had been captured. However many times it had been captured, this
was their city now. With all former residents gone or dead, this was their
city now.
They sat in this place, which seemed to be an impossibility. Then again, a
highway which led to the same city in two directions also seemed to be an
impossibility in itself. They looked at each other, they saw each other.
They almost didn’t need to speak, but they did. They talked through the
day. They talked, and they talked, and they talked. They looked for the
best defensible location. Neither had found someone who could make them
laugh and almost make the situation they were in not as bad. Everyone they
had met only ever told stories that came after the day that the black fog
that killed people had appeared. All of their stories were of fonder times
that came before the wretchedness. They didn’t want to complain about
their situations, to whine about their losses and what the thing had taken
from them.
“What do you think it is?” she asked.
“An old man told me it was nature getting sick of people, but I don’t
think that nature is a furry creature that eats people after blanketing
them in smog so thick they can’t see,” Will smiled. “I’m pretty sure it’s
something alive, and I’m pretty sure it’s something we didn’t think was
possible. You’re not sure that gun will kill it, and I’m not sure that gun
will kill it. I’m sure other people have tried.”
“So what’s the point?” she asked.
“I’m scared, you’re scared, we don’t want to die, but what do we have to
live for? What can it hurt?” he asked.
“Don’t you know by now?” she asked.
“Know what?” he turned as they walked up the steps of the clock tower no
one was maintaining, but which was somehow still running.
“Don’t you know?” she repeated, stepping closer, a bed sat at the center
of the room.
“What?” he spoke as she took another step towards him in the evening light
coming in through the face of the clock, its giant pendulum swinging away
the time they had left to live.
“Don’t you know?” she asked a third time, touching her nose with his, and
before he could ask what she was talking about again, their lips met.
Before he could be sure what was happening his head was spinning. He
didn’t trust her. He couldn’t trust her. She couldn’t trust him, but
surely he had died and was in heaven. They made the kind of love people
make when they have nothing left but each other, a cleaving impulse to
cling to what time they have left, the love they make when they don’t care
anymore, the kind that two people make when they know that they’re going
to die, and as the minutes rolled on past, and the hours fell away in that
bed, the two had each other to live for, and to die for. They made the
kind of love where the gun shifted around in the bed beneath them as they
could both feel the beast, the presence of the black fog moving closer
shifting over the New City of the Sun. Afterward they laid there, just
laid there, as what was probably the last sun they’d ever see, went down
behind the trees in the distance. They held against each other tight as
darkness fell on the New City of the Sun, and William felt the presence of
the fog creeping closer and closer.
Around ten he walked to the window, the fog was falling on the highway,
creeping closer, almost daring them to confront it outside their
watchtower. It didn’t seem threatening as it usually did. They felt strong
in their resolution to try and kill it. They certainly felt that they
deserved to live. William looked at his shoulder, and the four dots of the
bite began to bleed a little. That was what they saw, death, coming for
them, like storm clouds on a sunny day. They put their clothes back on,
and prepared to face it. Here brown eyes were steady, her hands, their
more powerful equal. She pointed the gun down the highway.
“Wait,” William put his hand on top of the gun and lowered it in the
window. The beast was about to come into sight. She wondered impatiently
what he was waiting for. It was small, couldn’t have stood more than four
feet off of the ground. It was something that moved like a dog or a cat,
definitely on four legs. It came into sharper and sharper focus as it
neared, and the fog began to creep towards the entrance to the city, he
kept his hand firm, pushing the gun down.
“I am not the one you seek,” a strange voice filled his head. It could
have been lying, but this animal didn’t seem right as what bit him. He
looked out at the beast in the moonlight. At the moment it crossed the
city gates it came into clear enough focus to see that it was spotted like
a leopard, only the spots were white and its coat was black. It wasn’t a
leopard though, and it wasn’t a dog. It wasn’t a cat. It was a black fox,
a black fox with white leopard spots and red glowing eyes.
“Let me shoot it,” she told him.
“It’s not the one we want,” he replied. “I think it’s looking for the same
thing we are.”
“Yeah, each of us wants the other dead, got it, now let’s kill it,” she
retorted.
“No,” he grabbed the gun from her, and he went down and outside to
confront it.
“William stop!” she cried after him, running behind him and trying to stop
him.
“Let her shoot, what’s the difference?” a new voice hissed inside his
head. The one they were looking for, maybe it was the bite, but somehow he
knew this one was the one they wanted. William walked towards the fox
creature as it came at a lazy jogging pace through the red light of the
moon behind the clock tower.
“Come and see,” the voice of the fox beast spoke, and William saw,
something was on the highway, waiting on the overpass, waiting for them.
The smoke around the beast seemed lighter tonight, and the three walked
beside each other in the darkness, Cit looking frightened to be near the
beast at all.
“Look at the teeth,” William pointed at the fox, “Now look at my shoulder.”
“What?” she looked from one to the other.
“That’s not what bit me,” he spoke as the clock struck midnight behind
them. This thing, whatever it was, was not going to hurt them. It wasn’t
going to betray their trust, this fox, this night leopard. It was
something good. William felt warm just being around it. It was trying
their hearts not to exact their revenge on something of the evil fog that
had taken everything from them.
“It was me last night,” it told him, “I gave you to each other. I drove
you from the city where it stays, without your lives to take, it was
nothing, it was wounded by your leaving, and now it waits for your
return.”
“Why does it want me?” William thought.
“It tasted your bravery, it tried your heart, just as she didn’t admit to
you that it tried hers,” the fox beast’s voice echoed in his head as he
saw the blood drip down her finger from where on her arm that her own
wound must have been bleeding like his.
“What is it?” William asked out loud.
“You’ll see,” the beast’s voice echoed in his head.
Worse fog covered the overpass, its edges creeping and slithering out
towards the three just out of its reach. They climbed what was left of the
ladder from when the rung slipped out. He looked over at her as he came
up; she was aiming the gun, prepared to fire. There, in front of them, was
a great snake, only this snake was feathered in white over every inch of
its undulating body. They were in its fog now. It coiled up, preparing to
strike, its feathers on the underbelly dirty from being dragged on the
ground. He told her to fire. The snake seemed annoyed by the bullets, but
little more.
“To kill it, you must equal it,” the fox told him. “It grew since it bit
you. You must puncture it as it punctured you. I will help.”
Then the snake lunged at them. They jumped out of the way. The fox was
running around behind the snake, daring it to strike. It took the chance,
narrowly missing the fox and knocking a section of concrete off of the
side of the overpass. William jumped up on the tail and began to climb the
snake using its feathers. Up further and further as he traveled on the
lunging snake, which switched between the fox and Citlali. He knew what he
had to do. He moved to the snake’s head as Cit shot it in the eye on one
side. He wriggled under its jaw as it began to violently throw its head
around.
“Get off of me, the other is deceiving you,” it told him in his head.
“You killed my family, you attacked the train, and you ate her sister.
You’re going to die now.” William bit into its neck four different times,
puncturing it in four different places, and the snake began to bleed. It
bled in black gloppy, pus-like fluid that covered William’s entire head as
he dove from the beast. Its taste was terrible in his mouth and he spat as
he rolled over and got up to run. It took what seemed like ten minutes to
lose all of its energy and fall to its inevitable death, but it wasn’t
quite dead. The head shot back up as the voice rang out in laughter in
William’s mind. The snake wasn’t dead.
“What do we do?” he asked the fox.
“Die,” the serpent’s voice hissed as it glowed as brightly as the sun on a
summer day, shooting cold out in all directions, a feathered serpent of
cold flame. Into the city they ran. They were in its domain now, but it
was the only place that they could avoid it. They ran to the other side of
the city and split up.
“Meet back up on the highway,” the fox creature called out. It waited for
the giant serpent, and when it went to strike, the fox darted out of the
way, sending the snake barreling towards a large open manhole behind it.
William watched from a rooftop as Cit ran headlong down the center street,
gun still drawn, good lord she was the fastest person he’d ever seen in
his entire life. He started to run to catch up, she was still gaining
distance on him, but then manhole covers started blasting upward behind
her. She started turning to shoot, and then in no time it seemed like the
last manhole cover was off. William heard three more pop somewhere, and
then before he could move, the building beneath him began shaking. The
roof burst upward under his feet and he was thrown to the next building,
but he landed it, and was forced to run. The snake was gliding on the air
again. He had to outrun it. He had to, but then he ran out of roof. Down
he went, jumping from level to level in a stairwell before finally
reaching the bottom. He could hear the building itself crumbling above him
as the snake burned through it. He ran straight for the highway, gaining
distance on the other two in his own amazement. He had to make it back to
the City of the Sun. There was something there, something that the serpent
had been avoiding. He had to get to whatever it was.
So back they ran, trying to outrun a flying serpent and succeeding, as the
closer they came, the more hesitant the snake became to follow. They ran,
what was the clock tower? Why was it at the center of the city? Surely it
was important. He had to get there. They’d be safe if he could get there.
“Stay here,” he told them as he ran up the stairs in the clock tower, what
was it? What was here? He had to figure it out quickly. He couldn’t
believe himself. He had left his friends, or at the very least his allies,
down at the base of the tower as bait. The serpent was coming. He could
see the light shining off of the minute hand on the giant clock. He saw
the light shining off of the edge of the minute hand, the silvery edge of
the wrought iron minute hand. The clock began to toll midnight and he had
no choice. He summoned all of his strength, and jumped through the thin
browned glass face of the clock, grasping the minute hand and swinging it
with all his might, and then he fell, holding the minute hand, eyes
closed, through the cold. He’d lost sensation, but he clung to the minute
hand like a child afraid to go to the next monkey bar. He felt his body
jerk downward as the clock’s hand made contact with the ground. He felt
his grip spin around, and he opened his eyes. He was hanging from the back
of the minute hand which was stabbed into the cobblestone town square in
the City of the Sun. A serpent laid, headless, bleeding, on the ground,
riddled with glass and clockwork mechanisms. The three walked out of the
city without so much as a word, and it disappeared behind them. The world
hadn’t righted itself totally, but they knew that the war was almost over
for humanity.
“I now award you dominion over the world, being its last two human
residents of consequence for the moment. Save the others and mankind
survives, fail to do so, and you, and your child shall die as the last
humans,” the fox beast said before turning to clarify. “The snake was the
first group of things to come out of Pandora’s Box. I was the very last
thing that came out of the box, and now I pass my gift to the child within
her…hope.” And with that, the beast trotted off, and Cit and William went
back down the ladder to the New City of the Sun, holding hands in the dawn
light of a new era. The battle wasn’t over, but the head of the snake was
severed, and the writhing body was sure to follow.

Miles Davis by Amanda Garner

He came through the waves

of the radio, dropping in

from somewhere above the world,

as if his body took form, covering

the gray coffee stains

on the seat beside me as I drove.

Reaching over, he placed

his hand on top of mine

where it rested

on the gearshift

that was soiled with the dirt

my hand had left behind.

He pulled it closer to him,

caressing the lifeline, fingering

the cracks of weathered pink

skin. Then the sun came out

from where it had been hiding

behind the clouds,

rays beamed through the slanted rain

that slapped my windshield,

and shone on the gray coffee stains

in the seat beside me as I drove.

Daddy Bear by Lauren Ramsey

If I shut my eyes tight enough

I can smell the fresh cut grass

I hear the fuzzy radio waves

dancing out from the garage

I feel the rough sidewalk,

hot beneath my bare feet,

the heat of the sun

baking my yellow hair

I can see the sweat dripping

from your red ice tea cup on the step

when I shut my eyes tight enough

I can see the lines on your tan face

as they fold into the warm smile I miss

the real one, the one that hides your stress

then its gone

and the cold wind clears my head

Make Believe by Lauren Ramsey

Lets pretend

its

summer again

and play until

it’s dark

we’ll run through the grass

in our barefeet

whisper secrets

dance in the street

hide in the trees

scrape up our knees

spill ice cream

down

the front of our shirts

play make believe

laugh till it hurts

Photography by Kelly Bailey