Short Story Mondays

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4/25/2016

Short Story - Darkness

Shelly leaned out her bedroom window. The sky devoid of stars, hidden by the light of the city. Her heart felt heavy as she thought back on the events of the day.

It started out as any other day, not unlike every other morning. The urge to throw the alarm across the room as the screamed out from her nightstand. The coffee maker, which should have long since been replaced, was again on the fritz. Her roommate had used the last of the hot water but she had grown accustom to the cold.

The gas gauge was on the wrong side of empty but the station was out of petroleum again. It would have to wait for tomorrow. Besides, she was late to work. She repeated her routine, each morning though she didn’t see the point. The shelves at the grocer, where she worked, were all but empty and they just received word that the militant commandeered the next delivery. It had been weeks since they had received fresh supplies. As some point, she was sure they will stop all together. The look of desperation on the faces of strangers and friends alike, were the same. She felt their pain but she knew they were the lucky ones. They had electricity. Most of the cities and towns across the nation were not as fortunate.

Not long ago, her small corner of the world decided to show their neighboring cities what a progressive city they had become. The next Redmond, Washington in the making. Solar power, the wave of the future, had been installed on every rooftop, complimentary of the mayor himself. Well, if you can call free access to the treasury office complimentary. Rich Bastard! It was a bit of an overkill at the time, but the idea had been to have the city at 100% renewable energy for every man, woman, or child. Free energy. His naysayer insisted that he had been wasteful with the city’s money. As she looked at the people below, shivering in the bitter cold, she was happy he had ignored them all. The warmth surrounding her reminded her, she had more than most.

Travelers were drawn to their city, beaconed by the electric light. The danger in the streets grew with each passing day as winter closed its grasp upon them.

How? How did they get to this point?

4/19/2016

You would think that the hard part is done...Manuscript written...check. Publisher...check. Edits...check, check. Now the hard part. You are suppose to write about yourself and let people know who you are. So you have two options as a writer, you are either a narcissist or way to honest about the fact that you spend all your time with your head in a book or at a computer. I hope I am the latter. 

But in all seriousness...writing about one's self is one of the hardest things anyone has been ask to do. Do you write about how you see yourself or how other's see you (you hope!)? Do you write about how your character's see you? I can think of a couple of my characters that may be a  bit pissed off. How your children see you? I think that may depend on their age. Mine are in their headstrong teenage years. I think I may wait a decade or so and then ask. 

My hope is that one day, I can write how my readers see me. I believe that is the dream of every writer.

Darkness 

4/25/2016

Shelly leaned out her bedroom window. The sky devoid of stars, hidden by the light of the city. Her heart felt heavy as she thought back on the events of the day.

It started out as any other day, not unlike every other morning. The urge to throw the alarm across the room as the screamed out from her nightstand. The coffee maker, which should have long since been replaced, was again on the fritz. Her roommate had used the last of the hot water but she had grown accustom to the cold.

The gas gauge was on the wrong side of empty but the station was out of petroleum again. It would have to wait for tomorrow. Besides, she was late to work. She repeated her routine, each morning though she didn’t see the point. The shelves at the grocer, where she worked, were all but empty and they just received word that the militant commandeered the next delivery. It had been weeks since they had received fresh supplies. As some point, she was sure they will stop all together. The look of desperation on the faces of strangers and friends alike, were the same. She felt their pain but she knew they were the lucky ones. They had electricity. Most of the cities and towns across the nation were not as fortunate.

Not long ago, her small corner of the world decided to show their neighboring cities what a progressive city they had become. The next Redmond, Washington in the making. Solar power, the wave of the future, had been installed on every rooftop, complimentary of the mayor himself. Well, if you can call free access to the treasury office complimentary. Rich Bastard! It was a bit of an overkill at the time, but the idea had been to have the city at 100% renewable energy for every man, woman, or child. Free energy. His naysayer insisted that he had been wasteful with the city’s money. As she looked at the people below, shivering in the bitter cold, she was happy he had ignored them all. The warmth surrounding her reminded her, she had more than most.

Travelers were drawn to their city, beaconed by the electric light. The danger in the streets grew with each passing day as winter closed its grasp upon them.

How? How did they get to this point?

5/2/2016 ~ Darkness #2

 

“Tabitha, sweetie, I need you to get ready for school,” Emily called out from the kitchen as she set about the morning’s routine. She was able to find a loaf of bread yesterday. It had been several months since they had such a luxury and she was excited to see the look on her daughter’s face when she saw it. The bread cost a fortune but Emily was hoping that a little normalcy might bring Tabitha back from the dishearten slump she was in.

Emily looked about the kitchen. She could have sworn she hid the last of the peanut butter for a special occasion but it wasn’t where she had left it or anywhere else for that matter. Sighing, she took the remaining can of Spam from the cupboard and opened it.

“Come on, sweetie! You are going to be late,” she yelled out again.

They were lucky to have a teacher close to them that was still willing to help educate the students. Most of the schools had closed their doors completely after the blackout. It was only one day a week but it was better than nothing. This was just part of the ‘new’ normal.

Emily opened the fridge to retrieve the milk for Tabitha’s breakfast. She was grateful for the electricity. However, their small city learned quickly that the solar energy they had come to rely on did not product enough power to heat everyone’s residence. The mayor had put forth a decree that anyone caught heating their homes would be cut off the grid. A few of her friends had not heeded the warning and were now without electricity for the winter.

Emily thought about the school as she prepared Tabitha’s lunch. Books had become the primary source of fuel to ward of winter’s bitter cold. The forest of brick buildings and cement streets made other sources of heat unobtainable. Mrs. Johnson, her daughter’s teacher, made sure to keep the school books under lock and key. She kept the key around her neck at all times in hope that the books would remain safe. The steel cabinet was only opened on Mondays when school was in session. She knew their time was limited, the steel cabinet would not deter people for long. It wasn’t yet December and the library was all but empty. Hoarders to be sure! It saddened her to think of all the words that would be lost forever.

To make matters worse, the local book stores had placed all their inventory under lock and key. The owners guarded their livelihood at gunpoint. More than one soul lost their lives trying to secure heat for their families. The proprietors had become greedy as the cold of winter approached and the cost of fuel was tremendous. Emily had never been so glad to be an avid reader.

The electronic age had made reading as easy as hitting a button on a computer screen but it couldn’t replace the smell and feel of having a story come alive in your hand. Emily’s collection of books was extensive and she hoped that they would have enough fuel to last them through the winter. A piece of her soul died every evening as she placed her least favorite into the fire. She hoped she would be able to find the time to read her treasures once more before they fed the flame.

Taking a couple of slices of bread out of the bag, she set about cutting off the mold from the corners. God, how she missed the smell of fresh baked bread. She could almost smell the aroma fill the room as she closed her eyes and remembered.

Her heart felt heavy as she placed a thin sliver of Spam on the slice before her. It was thin enough that she could almost see the bread beneath it. Before the blackout, she would have never eaten the salty meat-like substance but now... Emily shook her head, she just hoped there was enough to last them through the week. Hopefully another food shipment would come before then. Their cupboards were all but bare and ketchup was not a vegetable no matter what she told her daughter.

Turing her attention back to the present she called out to Tabitha again. “Tabitha! Quit ignoring me and get out of bed!” No response.

Emily placed the sandwich into Tabitha’s lunch pail and walked down the short hall to her daughter’s room. As she opened the door she saw the lump of blankets on the bed. Her daughter had taken to hiding under the covers at night. At five years old, the sound of the nightly screams terrified her. Most nights, Tabitha would sneak into her bed when it got loud enough to wake her but not last night.

A cold gust of wind hit Emily as she walked into the bedroom. Strange, Emily thought to herself as she looked across the small room. Tabitha’s window was open. They lived on the second story of the apartment complex but Emily still looked about the room to see if anything was missing. She could have sworn she had locked it as she did every night.

No…everything was exactly where she had left it. Closing the window, she turned her attention back to her daughter still sleeping on the bed. Sitting on the edge of the mattress, she shook Tabitha gently to wake her from her slumber. Nothing.

“Tabitha, sweetheart, it is time to wake up,” Emily whispered in her ear. Again, nothing.

Emily pulled the covers back from where they rested over Tabitha’s head. Her curly, blonde hair lay in ringlets across her face. She looked so peaceful sleeping there, a perfect angel. It was a shame she had to wake her and thought for just a moment, that she should let her sleep. Bending over, she gave her daughter a kiss on the forehead. Being a tomboy, her kiss usually woke the sleeping angel. I am too old for that mom! Stop it! She would always say.

Emily started. Tabitha was cold, too cold. She was going to need to nail her daughter’s window closed so she wouldn’t open it again. Whatever caught her attention last night was not worth her catching pneumonia or worse.

She shook her daughter gentling. “Tabitha…enough is enough, sweetie. You need to wake up!”

Emily turned her daughter over, seeing her face for the first time. The skin around her lips were blue. Her eyes open, her mouth forming a scream that would never be heard. Death had come for her.

Emily screamed.

 

5/9/2016 ~ Darkness#3

 

“Shannon? Shannon? Where are you?” Shelly called out to her friend as she entered her friend’s convenience store. She was worried. Keith and Toby were always standing guard by the door as they watched over the gas stalls but they were missing as well.  She walked passed the empty shelves and coolers and called out to her friend again. “Shannon?”

“Shelly! Hi…I didn’t hear you from the back room. Would you like some coffee?” Shannon’s eyes tinkled. Living in a suburb of Seattle, coffee was second only to breathing and it had become a rare commodity of late.

Her fear forgotten for the moment, Shelly’s perked up. “Coffee? You have coffee?”

“Would I have offered if I didn’t? What kind of friend do you take me for?” Shannon’s pout turned into a grin as she motioned Shelly to the back room.

“Where did you find it? I haven’t had a supply shipment in a month. Coffee is the only item that I keep a two week supply for myself and this last batch I stretched out for a month. Tasted like watered-down brown water but it was better than nothing. I just ran out yesterday,” Shelly exclaimed. 

“So is that a yes?” Shannon bated, turning back to face her friend, her eyes twinkling. 

“Yes…hell yes!”

Shannon opened the door to the back room. On a little table sat a Kurig machine with a box of little inserts next to it. “What is your poison? Hazelnut, French Roast or Columbian?”  she asked, taking a French Roast from the box and turned to face Shelly. “French Roast, if I remember correctly.”

Mouth open, Shelly couldn’t speak, just nodded. Shannon laughed as she turned back to the Kurig machine.

“Toby and Keith found it yesterday when they were foraging for more fuel.  There is a gas station about 50 miles out of town that looks like it closed right before the black-out. They never had a chance to clean it out. It is off the beaten path. I can’t think of any other reason it hasn’t been pilfered it before now,” Shannon explained.

“50 miles?” Shelly asked, her mouth watering in anticipation as she watched Shannon place a cup under the downspout and hit the button. The sound of the machine pulling the water through the machine was heavenly to her ears.

“Yea…it is getting harder to find fuel and with the blackout, nobody is drilling to get more.  I don’t think there will be any left after the spring. None close enough to make it worthwhile any way.” Shannon replied as she watched the brown liquid pour in to the cup.

“I was wondering why the boys were gone. What about the emergency stores? You still have that don’t you?” Shannon asked. Not many knew that they kept back enough for EMT and fire response teams. There was always a chance someone wanting to get out of town would steal it for themselves.

“Nope. Gave the last of what we had available to them three days ago. The boys were on their last tank of gas when they found this spot. There won’t be any more gas for the general public until we find another source.” Shannon said, handing the coffee to her friend.

Shelly breathed in deeply, enjoying the aroma of the freshly brewed coffee before taking a sip. “You are trying to butter me up for the bad news, weren’t you?” she teased.  “Ahhh… It is working.”

Shannon laughed, “Maybe…”

Sitting down on the breakroom floor, they talked for a few more minutes enjoying the first good cup of coffee they have had in months. Bantering back and forth about what they would be doing right now if the blackout had never happened.

“So…pre-blackout, who were you pining over? You never did tell me.” Shannon asked, thinking back to an earlier time.

“Pining? I wouldn’t have called it pining.” Shelly replied, smiling.

“Pining, eyeing, lusting…desiring? You pick. All I know is the twinkle in your eye gives you away. You still want him.” Shannon teased as she took another sip of coffee.

Shelly grinned whispering, “Toby…”

Shannon chocked on her coffee trying to catch her breath. “My brother?”

“Now you know why I never told you. It will never happen anyway. He has always been out of my league and I have always been his baby sister’s little rug rat. And now….” Shelly sighed. “Things are just too complicated.”

Shannon laughed until she snorted making her laugh all the more.

“I know you would be shocked but now, you are just being hurtful.” Shelly crossed her arms with a look of dismay on her face.

Shannon tried to get her laughter under control as she wiped the tear from her eye. “No…it isn’t you. Well it is you but it is him as well. You two have been going in circles around each other for years thinking that no one else could see it. I just never thought you would admit it to anyone, least of all to me.”

“What?”

Shannon smiled, “Toby has been wanting you since we were all in high school but has that strange honor code of his that he won’t date any of my friends. He didn’t want to come between us no matter how many times I told him he should ask you out.”

“High school…really?” Shelly asked bewildered. “High school?”

“Cat got your tongue? Yes…high school.” Shannon laughed again.

Shelly sat there for a moment thinking back to an earlier time. Toby had tried to kiss her once on a dare when she was a freshman. She had never kissed a boy before and was terrified she was going to mess it up. She had pulled away at the last minute and had regretted it ever since. Toby made light of it saying that a first kiss should be with someone you really liked and never spoke of it again. If he had only known. After that, he treated her like the rest of his sister’s friends or so she thought. As the years passed, they graduated and moved on with their lives. They had all grew close but…

“Really?” she asked in disbelief.

Shannon never had a chance to reply as they heard a commotion from the store’s lobby. Standing up from the floor, they both rushed into the other room. There was a trail of blood from the door leading behind the counter as if someone had dragged a body there. As their eyes followed the trail, they saw Keith, covered in blood, hovering over a body. Its leg torn as if by a wild animal.

“Keith?” Shannon left the rest of the question unspoken.

Keith lifted his head and turned around to face his sister, tears running down his face. Terror was etched on his brow.

Shelly looked on in disbelief as she saw the body for the first time. “Toby?”