Earth’s Survivors: Watertown

Publisher Description

What starts out as a drug deal quickly spirals into the first steps in the fall of the old society… Follow along as we step back in time and tell the tale of the beginning of the end…

The man moved more fully into the shadows. “You Gabe?” he asked in a near whisper.

The darker shadow nodded. “You…?” He started.

“Now who in f**k else would I be?” He asked.

The darker shadow said nothing. The other man passed him a small paper bag. “Count it,” he told him.

Gabe Kohlson moved out of the shadow, more fully into the light. “It’s a lot; I can’t stand here, out here counting it.”

The man laughed. “You asked for this place. It’s the middle of nowhere. I Googled it, it comes up marked as the middle of nowhere. Who in f**k will see you?” He laughed and then choked it off with a harsh cough. “Count it. No mistakes… You got the s**t?”

Kohlson’s head popped up fast from counting. “Of course I don’t… That wasn’t the deal.”

“Easy… Easy… Keep your panties on… I’m saying you got the s**t… You got access to the s**t?”

“That I got… I can get it out this Thursday at shift end…” He held up the paper bag. “A lot of this goes to greasing the skids… You know, to get it out,” Gabe told him. “This stuff.”

“Whoa right there,” the man told him. “Don’t say s**t about it. I don’t know what it is and I don’t want to know, see? I do a job. Take this thing there, that thing here. That’s all I know. Keeps my head on my shoulders when all about are losing theirs.”

“Uh… Lost me,” Gabe Kohlson told him.

“Just shut up about the s**t, man. I don’t want to know anything past what I know, okay?”

“Okay,” Kohlson agreed.

“I do know you got to get it out and I will be here to get it… Hey,” he waited until the kid looked up. “You know who I work for, right? You f**k this up you’ll wind up out at the county landfill… Gulls pecking out your f*****g eyes let me tell you. I will meet you here next Thursday night… Seven… Don’t be late… Don’t f**k this up… Don’t make me come looking for you…” He faded back into the shadows more fully, turned and walked down the shadowed front of the building. A few minutes later he found his car in the darkness: He waited.

He heard the kid’s s**t-box beater when it started. A few moments later he watched as it swept past him, heading out of the small park area toward the river road. He levered the handle on his own car, slipped inside, started it and drove slowly away.

https://books.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-watertown/id1086227131

Borderline

Borderline:

He had walked past the mouth of the alleyway twice already. There was someone in the car, just a suggestion of a someone, but someone nonetheless. Wasn’t there? Or was it his mind playing tricks on him?

The motor purred softly on the old Ford as it sat in the alleyway, the exhaust rumbling off the brick walls. Just far enough back so as not to attract a great deal of attention, but close enough that it had caught Billy’s attention. And the problem with that was it would not let him go. He had to know what the car was doing there.

He thought for a second longer, staring into the dimness, trying to see better. Checked the street; nobody, and then made his way down the alleyway. He bent and looked in passenger window. One man was toppled over into the floorboards of the car, blood pooled beneath him on the seat, and smeared across the seat back. The driver was dead also, he thought, slumped over the steering wheel, but a second later when he started to turn away a cold 45 was Jammed into his face.

 

Borderline and 16 other short stories by Dell Sweet.

https://books.apple.com/us/book/borderline-collected-short-stories/id934709430

HIS OWN

His Own

Just outside of Fort Drum; in Jefferson County New York, on the old Jeffery’s farm; buried under four feet of loose earth in a freshly dug grave. Joe Miller suddenly awoke, and began to claw his way out towards the surface. He no longer needed to breathe, he realized, as he clawed at the loose earth to free himself, and he really didn’t seem to care.

In a long tunnel, under the city of Watertown New York, hemmed in by large military trucks, Frank Morgan wondered over the luck he’d had at getting himself into the Army facility.
He had flashed his press pass, half afraid they would open fire or something, and instead the young guard at the booth had just waved him in.
He could not have known that just that day an open, though somewhat restricted, invitation had been given to a reporter who was on good terms with the new facility’s commander.
The plan, cooked up by the reporter and the base commander, was to write a carefully worded article about the storage facilities, to dispel the rumors that were circulating.
The young guard had simply waved Frank through at the entrance, when he had seen the press pass, not knowing he had allowed the wrong man into the tunnel. They had only told him to expect a reporter. If he had looked at Franks pass closely, he would have noticed that he was not from the Watertown paper, and he would not have allowed him to enter.

Willie LeFray sat slumped against a wall in an alley off Beechwood Avenue, in Seattle’s red light district. He had been dead for over six hours. The money he had stolen, had allowed him to indulge in his habit for over forty six hours with no sleep. The last injection had killed him.
The Cocaine he had purchased had been cut with rat poison, among other things, so that the hype who had sold it to him could stretch it a little further.
The constant hours of indulging in his habit would have killed him anyway, but the addition of the rat poison was all his overworked heart could stand, and it had simply stopped beating in protest.
Willie’s eyelids flickered, and his hand shot up to bat at a fly that had been examining his nose.
Twenty feet away on Beechwood Avenue, the prostitutes were just beginning to show up in force, and the descending darkness hid the white trails that sped across the sky.

Ira paused, and slowly set the checker that had been in his hand, to one side.
“It’s time, ain’t it,” he stated.
“Yes, I’m afraid it is,” the older man replied, getting up from the small table.
“Come on then,” the older man continued, “we have a lot to accomplish.”
Ira blinked…

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/his-own-2

Free short story and book links

This past week I left all of the work there still is to do on this house and kicked back and worked on video games. Sometimes I need a head break to just let stuff go. I had a blast. learned a lot more about the system I use and made progress on a game I have been working on for quite a while.. That gives me winter to catch up on writing projects and that should be fine.

What went on this week:

Monday night my cat kept me up all night long yowling. There was a female outside and when I let him out Tuesday morning, that was it. He never came back.

Tuesday I spilled a very small amount of coffee onto the keys of my laptop and messed it all up. How, you might ask, could I be so stupid as to spill coffee on my keyboard? I don’t know. Plain old stupidity… Half awake… A cup of coffee in my hands… All of the above. After determining that, yes, it was fried, I bit the bullet and headed to eBay where I found a replacement.

Wednesday I wrote code all day and into the next day (3:00 AM)

Thursday I did the same, and then tried to put together some computer parts I purchased. Failed. Realized I had bought a BTX form factor Motherboard (Advertised as an ATX), and even though it would not have fit the case I bought, I had not purchased the ATX case I thought I had, but a MATX case. Confused? So was I. After a gazillion hours trying to make it all fit I went online and looked for solutions. Ha Ha, I say that with the deepest sarcasm.

To fix the situation I needed to purchase a BTX form factor case, but I quickly found out a BTX case is hard to come by and more expensive than the whole combination I had bought. So, I looked for an MATX board to put the processor I had purchased on. But, a MATX board, at least the ones I found, would not hold as much memory, slots, etc. They were generally more expensive with less to offer.

Which begs the question, why? I have noticed that a lot of the last several years. Want to buy a dog? Well, a German Shepherd or a Malamute, both about the same size, will cost about the same price. But, a small dog, I won’t mention the breed, costs more than either of those dogs. Huh. Along those lines, as a dog, if a cat can kick your butt you’re probably too small.

Anyway, I finally decided to buy an ATX board and case. That worked except I was out more green. BTW, if you followed all of that you are probably as geeky as I am.

Friday I did some editing on Geo’s Smashword interview. Why is it that it is so easy to edit someone’s work, find all the mistakes and correct them, but not your own?

Saturday (So Far) site updates for SOTOFO and a few other sites. Writing, and eating Candy Corn. I have to admit it was great to get back to writing, but the Candy Corn was pretty good too. And, listing all of those computer parts I bought that I no longer need. Let’s see. I spent about $250.00 in parts that I didn’t use, and another $200.00 in parts to actually build the thing, plus the cost of another laptop (Used on eBay), a really good deal for $125.00, I would say this week the computers won. And the thing is, in this society, you can not do without them. I guess I’ll be happier on Monday when the laptop shows up, and in a week or so when I put my fast computer together and convince myself that I am not really an idiot at all, technology is just faster than it used to be… Did that make sense? No.

What did I learn this week?

#1. Cats are not very useful when it comes to making you feel good about yourself. I mean they take off chasing the lady cats and don’t even bother to come back. That is a direct hit to the old self esteem. Of course maybe he was kidnapped or eaten by a dog, or a Sasquatch. After all there have been a great many Sasquatch sightings lately on the National Geographic channel of all places. I hope he didn’t suffer. That is of course if he was eaten. If he did run off with a lady cat I hope she takes him for everything he has.

#2. Laptop computers really suck. I have spilled whole sixteen ounce Cokes on my desktop keyboard, no problem except the keys began to stick bad. Also, the laptop keyboard stayed screwed up, I had to plug in a USB keyboard to type with, until I bought the replacement laptop. Second, I looked up form factors with Google. Holy Crap. The odds of me getting the wrong parts are very high, especially since some of the people that sell them don’t have a fricken clue what they are selling. There are dozens of form factors. Let me geek this out for you. Form factor refers to a common build for a particular board, across different manufacturers. Same pin connections, width, length. Etc. The last time I built a machine I only knew of two form factors, ATX and MATX which is a smaller board, and then there were proprietary boards built by some manufacturers. Yeah. No longer. So now I think, spend the extra and have someone else build it to your specs. And, after I get through this fiasco I will do that the next time.

#3. Writing code is easier on the body than building a house is.

#4. I am no longer sure I should drink and keyboard. Coffee, Coke, it always ends up on the board before I am finished.

Other stuff:

The new Zombie Plagues Book at  Smashwords

The New Earth’s Survivors Book at Amazon

Earth’s Survivors News: The first Earth’s Survivors book, Apocalypse will remain free the balance of this year. After that it will be reevaluated.

The Zombie Plagues: The first book in The Zombie Plagues series is also a free download.

Everything else is in line and going well. Well, except computers, Cats and coffee cups.

I will leave you with a true short story…


THE DAM

Copyright Wendell Sweet 2010 All rights reserved

Blog Edition

This work is copyright protected. You may read it in it’s present form. You may not alter or transmit it by any means. If you would like to share this material with someone, please direct them to this URL. This is not a work of fiction. The people and circumstances really existed and I have faithfully reproduced the circumstances without excessive artistic license. I have changed names to protect innocent people.

Published by independAntwriters Publishing and Wendell Sweet


THE DAM


It was summer, the trees full and green, the temperatures in the upper seventies. And you could smell the river from where it ran behind the paper mills and factories crowded around it, just beyond the public square; A dead smell, waste from the paper plants.

I think it was John who said something first. “Fuck it,” or something like that,” I’ll be okay.”

“Yeah,” Pete asked?

“Yeah… I think so,” John agreed. His eyes locked on Pete’s, but they didn’t stay. They slipped away and began to wander along the riverbed, the sharp rocks that littered the tops of the cliffs and the distance to the water. I didn’t like it.

Gary just nodded. Gary was the oldest so we pretty much went along with the way he saw things.

“But it’s your Dad,” I said at last. I felt stupid. Defensive. But it really felt to me like he really wasn’t seeing things clearly. I didn’t trust how calm he was, or how he kept looking at the river banks and then down to the water maybe eighty feet are so below.

“I should know,” John said. But his eyes didn’t meet mine at all.

“He should know,” Gary agreed and that was that.

“That’s cool. Let’s go down to the river,” Pete suggested, changing the subject.

“I’m not climbing down there,” I said. I looked down the sheer rock drop off to the water. John was still looking too, and his eyes were glistening, wet, his lips moved slightly as if he was talking to himself. If he was I couldn’t hear. But then he spoke aloud.

“We could make it, I bet,” he said as though it was an afterthought to some other idea. I couldn’t quite see that idea, at least I told myself that later. But I felt some sort of way about it. As if it had feelings of it’s own attached to it.

“No, man,” Gary said. “Pete didn’t mean beginning here… Did you,” he asked?

“No… No, you know, out to Huntingtonville,” Pete said. He leaned forward on his bike, looked at john, followed his eyes down to the river and then back up. John looked at him.

“What!” John asked.

“Nothing, man,” Pete said. “We’ll ride out to Huntingtonville. To the dam. That’d be cool… Wouldn’t it?” You could see the flatness in John’s eye’s. It made Pete nervous. He looked at Gary.

“Yeah,” Gary said. He looked at me.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “That’d be cool.” I spun one pedal on my stingray, scuffed the dirt with the toe of one Ked and then I looked at John again. His eyes were still too shiny, but he shifted on his banana seat, scuffed the ground with one of his own Keds and then said, “Yeah,” kind of under his breath. Again like it was an afterthought to something else. He lifted his head from his close inspection of the ground, or the river, or the rocky banks, or something in some other world for all I knew, and it seemed more like the last to me, but he met all of our eyes with one sliding loop of his own eyes, and even managed to smile.

~

The bike ride out to Huntingtonville was about four miles. It was a beautiful day and we lazed our way along, avoiding the streets, riding beside the railroad tracks that just happened to run out there. The railroad tracks bisected Watertown. They were like our own private road to anywhere we wanted to go. Summer, fall or winter. It didn’t matter. You could hear the trains coming from a long way off. More than enough time to get out of the way.

We had stripped our shirts off earlier in the morning when we had been crossing the only area of the tracks that we felt were dangerous, a long section of track that was suspended over the Black river on a rail trestle. My heart had beat fast as we had walked tie to tie trying not to look down at the rapids far below. Now we were four skinny, jeans clad boys with our shirts tied around our waists riding our bikes along the sides of those same railroad tracks where they ran through our neighborhood, occasionally bumping over the ties as we went. Gary managed to ride on one of the rails for about 100 feet. No one managed anything better.

Huntingtonville was a small river community just outside of Watertown. It was like the section of town that was so poor it could not simply be across the tracks or on the other side of the river, it had to be removed to the outskirts of the city itself. It was where the poorest of the poor lived, the least desirable races. The blacks. The Indians. Whatever else good, upstanding white Americans felt threatened or insulted by. It was where my father had come from, being both black and Indian.

I didn’t look like my father. I looked like my mother. My mother was Irish and English. About as white as white could be. I guess I was passing. But I was too poor, too much of a dumb kid to even know that back then in 1969.

John’s father was the reason we were all so worried. A few days before we had been playing baseball in the gravel lot of the lumber company across the street from where we lived. The railroad tracks ran behind that lumber company. John was just catching his breath after having hit a home run when his mother called him in side. We all heard later from our own mothers that John’s father had been hurt somehow. Something to do with his head. A stroke. I really didn’t know what a stroke was at that time or understand everything that it meant. I only knew it was bad. It was later in life that I understood how bad. All of us probably. But we did understand that John’s father had nearly died, and would never be his old self again, if he even managed to pull through.

It was a few days after that now. The first time the four of us had gotten back together. We all felt at loose ends. It simply had made no sense for the three of us to try to do much of anything without John. We had tried but all we could think about or talk about was John’s father. Would he be okay? Would they move? That worried me the most. His sister was about the most beautiful girl in the entire world to me. So not only would John move, so would she.

He came back to us today not saying a word about it. And we were worried.

When we reached the dam the water was high. That could mean that either the dam had been running off the excess water, or was about to be. You just had to look at the river and decide.

“We could go to the other side and back,” John suggested.

The dam was about 20 or 30 feet high. Looming over a rock strewn riverbed that had very little water. It was deeper out towards the middle, probably, it looked like it was, but it was all dry river rock along the grassy banks. The top of the Dam stretched about 700 feet across the river.

“I don’t know,” Pete said. “the dam might be about to run. We could get stuck on the other side for awhile.”

No one was concerned about a little wet feet if the dam did suddenly start running as we were crossing it. It didn’t run that fast. And it had caught us before. It was no big deal. Pete’s concern was getting stuck on the little island where the damn ended for an hour or so. Once, john, and myself had been on that island and some kids, older kids, had decided to shoot at us with 22 caliber rifles. Scared us half to death. But that’s not the story I’m trying to tell you today. Maybe I’ll tell you that one some other time. Today I’m trying to tell you about John’s father. And how calm John seemed to be taking it.

John didn’t wait for anyone else to comment. He dumped his bike and started to climb up the side of the concrete abutment to reach the top of the dam and walk across to the island. There was nothing for us to do except fall in behind him. One by one we did.

It all went smoothly. The water began to top the dam, soaking our Keds with its yellow paper mill stink and scummy white foam, just about halfway across. But we all made it to the other side and the island with no trouble. Pete and I climbed down and walked away. To this day I have no idea what words passed between Gary and john, but the next thing I knew they were both climbing back up onto the top of the dam, where the water was flowing faster now. Faster than it had ever flowed when we had attempted to cross the dam. Pete nearly at the top of the concrete wall, Gary several feet behind him.

John didn’t hesitate. He hit the top, stepped into the yellow brown torrent of river water pouring over the falls and began to walk back out to the middle of the river. Gary yelled to him as Pete and I climbed back up to the top of the dam.

I don’t think I was trying to be a hero, but the other thought, the thought he had pulled back from earlier, had just clicked in my head. John was thinking about dying. About killing himself. I could see it on the picture of his face that I held in my head from earlier. I didn’t yell to him, I just stepped into the yellow foam and water, found the top of the dam and began walking.

Behind me and Pete and Gary went ballistic. “Joe, what the fuck are you doing!”

I heard it, but I didn’t hear it. I kept moving. I was scared. Petrified. Water tugged at my feet. There was maybe 6 inches now pouring over the dam and more coming, it seemed a long way down to the river. Sharp, up-tilted slabs of rock seemed to be reaching out for me. Secretly hoping that I would fall and shatter my life upon them.

John stopped in the middle of the dam and turned, looking off toward the rock and the river below. I could see the water swirling fast around his ankles. Rising higher as it went. John looked over at me, but he said nothing.

“John,” I said when I got close enough. He finally spoke.

“No,” was all he said. But tears began to spill from his eyes. Leaking from his cheeks and falling into the foam scummed yellow-brown water that flowed ever faster over his feet.

“Don’t,” I screamed. I knew he meant to do it, and I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“Don’t move,” Gary said from behind me. I nearly went over the falls. I hadn’t known he was that close. I looked up and he was right next to me, working his way around me on the slippery surface of the dam. I looked back and Pete was still on the opposite side of the dam. He had climbed up and now he stood on the flat top. Transfixed. Watching us through his thick glasses. Gary had followed John and me across.

I stood still and Gary stepped around me. I have no idea how he did. I’ve thought about it, believe me. There shouldn’t have been enough room, but that was what he did. He stepped right around me and then walked the remaining 20 feet or so to John and grabbed his arm.

“If you jump you kill me too,” Gary said. I heard him perfectly clear above the roar of the dam. He said it like it was nothing. Like it is everything. But mostly he said it like he meant it.

It seemed like they argued and struggled forever, but it was probably less than a minute, maybe two. The waters were rising fast and the whole thing would soon be decided for us. If we didn’t get off the dam quickly we would be swept over by the force of the water.

They almost did go over. So did I. But the three of us got moving and headed back across to the land side where we had dropped our bikes. We climbed down from a dam and watched the water fill the river up. No one spoke.

Eventually john stopped crying. And the afterthought look, as though there some words or thoughts he couldn’t say passed. The dying time had passed.

We waited almost two hours for the river to stop running and then Pete came across…

We only talked about it one other time that summer, and then we never talked about it again. That day was also a beautiful summer day. Sun high in the sky. We were sitting on our bikes watching the dam run.

“I can’t believe you were gonna do it,” Pete said.

“I wasn’t,” John told him. “I only got scared when the water started flowing and froze on the dam… That’s all it was.”

Nobody spoke for a moment and then Gary said, “That’s how it was.”

“Yeah. That’s how it was,” I agreed…


I hope you enjoyed the short story. Check out more here

See you next week, Dell

America the Dead: Survivors Stories One. Episode 5

America the Dead: Survivors Stories One

 Copyright © 2018 W. G. Sweet. All rights foreign and domestic reserved in their entirety.

Cover Art © Copyright 2018 W. G. Sweet

Some text copyright 2010, 2014, 2015 W. G. Sweet

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

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This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.


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March 2nd

New York: Watertown

Joel and Haley

Morning

Joel Morrison awoke to the sounds of birds whistling in the early morning pre-dawn. Birds, he thought, usually the sounds from the mills drowned them out.

He had made it home around 6:00 PM the previous evening. He was working the midnight to eight shift and had stopped into the Rusty Nail after work to have a few drinks with some other guys from the paper mill.

He had wanted to leave before the bar began to fill up. The Rusty Nail had gotten more than a bit rowdy as of late. Two years before, one of Joel’s good friends, Moon Calloway, had been killed in the bar. That had seemed to turn the tide. After that point the bar had become much worse, a proving grounds of sorts for the young GI’s from the base. Joel often wondered why he even bothered to hang around there at all. Last night it had seemed as though the rowdy element was showing up even earlier than it usually did, when Johnny Barnes had offered the ride Joel had accepted.

The house on Linden Street wasn’t much, but it was paid for, and Joel knew a lot of guys at the mill who either rented or were damn close to losing their homes to the bank. Times were tough in the old U-S-of-A, and at least he had the place free and clear.

He had practically fallen into bed once he had gotten home. He hadn’t realized how tired he was.

He’d been working all the short shifts he could get, along with his normal evening shifts, saving the money after he’d paid off the house, and today would be the start of his first real vacation in over twelve years.

Joel had grown up in the small city of Watertown, and had never left. It suited him, he liked to think. Where else could you see the seasons change so vividly, or take a quiet stroll through the woods anytime you felt, he often wondered. The Adirondacks were close by. The southern tier, where he hoped to be in just a few hours, he reminded himself, stretched away for miles. Forever wild lands, Lake Ontario, wet lands. And if he wanted the big city it was just seventy miles away down route eighty-one.

This is going to be one great vacation, he thought, as he got out of bed. Despite the damn birds.

The vacation he had planned was a three week camp out in the State Forest Preserve that started only twenty miles to the east. The preserve was nestled up to the military reservation and stretched from there all the way into Central New York. Joel had no idea exactly where he would camp. He had decided to just hike until he found a spot that suited him.

As he headed for the bathroom he noticed that the clock on the dresser was off. Not blinking, but off, and he could vaguely recall dreaming of waking during the night to some loud noise.

It had seemed at first, when he had awakened within the dream, as though the entire house had been shaking. He had passed from that dream into another, but the noise and the shaking had seemed to accompany him into that dream as well. It had to have been the strangest dream he could ever recall having.

At first he had been in his bedroom; the walls shaking around him, and the next thing he knew he had been standing on a stone pathway that overlooked a wide and deep valley that stretched away for miles before it hooked to the right and disappeared. Its forward path blocked by even higher mountains, with others lifting even higher behind that. He turned to follow the ridge lines back to where he was and the scene had shifted to the bedroom once more. He had found himself sitting up in bed, breathing hard, frightened, the room silent, wondering if this was just more of the dream or an actual waking. As he began trying to figure it out, waiting for his head to clear, he had found himself sitting on a bar stool in the Rusty Nail, Moon Calloway beside him holding down the other stool.

He tried speaking to Moon, but he either couldn’t hear him, or he pretended not to. In his dream he had still known Moon was dead, so it made sense to him that he could not speak to him. He turned to Mort to order a beer and Moon had suddenly spoken.

“It was right here, Joel… Right here. Bad place to die… Used sawdust on the floor… Soaks up the beer… The blood…. You know….”

He tried to turn as soon as he heard the voice, but by the time he turned the scene had shifted again. Instantly the bar was gone and he found himself standing at the edge of what he took to be a lake at first. The water stretched away as far as he could see. There was a tang of salt on the air; red earth crumbled away as the waves came in, taking more land with it.  He could remember the salt smell from a trip to Florida as a kid with his grandparents. The smell of the sea.

“This is the place,” Moon said from beside him.

He turned expecting Moon to be gone, but he was standing a few feet away staring out over the water. He turned and looked at Joel. “You see it?” Moon asked.

“Yeah,” Joel managed. The word was barely audible, lost in the sounds of the sea as it worked to take the red dirt away. “Where,” Joel asked. “Where is it? What place is it?” He turned when Moon didn’t answer, but Moon was gone. He blinked and he was back in his bedroom, in bed in his own house on Linden Street, talking to a priest that was sitting on the edge of the bed. He remembered telling the priest that he just wanted to go back to sleep. That had apparently satisfied the priest, as he had shaken his head and seemed to float away.

Joel shook his head, recalling the dream as he entered the bathroom. He picked up his toothbrush from the small plastic cup that held it, squinted into the mirror, and turned on the cold water tap.

Nothing happened. No rattle of the old pipes in the wall. Nothing.

“What the hell,” Joel said aloud, “frigging water out too?” He dropped the brush back into the cup and headed into the kitchen to start the coffee.

“Shit,” he said as he entered the kitchen and remembered the power was off, and that there was no water with which to make the coffee. “Now what?” He walked back into the bedroom and tugged on the pair of jeans and shirt he had worn the day before; he walked through the house to the front door, shoving his feet into his sneakers as he went, and opened it to retrieve the paper that he knew would be there. The ends of the untied laces clicked and bounced against the old hardwood floors as he walked. At least he could read the paper, maybe even find out what the hell was going on.

The sun was just beginning to climb into the sky as the door swung open. He bent down.

“No damn paper either?” he muttered as he stood back up and began to search the lawn.

His eyes rose from the lawn and fell on the Hubert house across the Street.

Something seemed oddly out of place, and he puzzled over it for a few seconds before his mind told him what it was. The entire house was leaning to one side. That wasn’t all though, the street in between dipped and rose in places, and the lawn over there had large patches of brown dirt. The snow that had been everywhere the night before was nearly gone. His eyes had skipped over it, lending an illusion of straight lines until he had looked closely. His eyes rose to the Hubert house once more and he realized what else was wrong, the lot looked too big: He could see more of the Hubert house because the houses on either side were gone. No trace. Jumbled dirt and clumps of grass filled those lots. A leaning Oak that had been in front of the Schuyler house for two hundred years: Uprooted and on the verge of toppling onto the fresh soil.

As he left his doorway and started across the street to get a better look, his eyes took in the devastation that had changed most of the street overnight.

Broken cobbles from the old streets poked through the pavement in places, and the broken pipes below street level bought him the sound of running water somewhere deep below. The reality of it hit him and he stopped and turned to look back at his own house. His mouth fell open wide as he stared. The entire house was leaning from foundation to roof, the gutters had detached and snaked down to meet the ground. Almost seeming as though they were holding the house upright. Small sparrows where pecking through the debris that had fallen from the gutters, and singing in the warming morning air. Joel’s mouth snapped shut as he stumbled back into the street and sat down hard.

“What the hell is this?” he asked aloud to the street.

“What the hell is going on?”

Joel believed in the tangible. If it could be touched it must be real, and so believing, he reached down to feel one of the cracks beside him in the road. The road tipped, tilted, had separated, and the other surface had dropped lower. His fingers came away with small chunks of asphalt.

“Feels real,” he declared aloud, as he stared at the road. He pulled at it and a small piece of the asphalt he held snapped off into his hand. He bought it up to his face to examine it closely; threw it back to the ground, and got up from the street.

He looked slowly off in both directions down the length of Linden Street. As far as he could see in either direction the roads and houses were similar. In fact, he thought, the street doesn’t even look like a street anymore. It was still a street because he thought of it as a street. His street. There was now more gravel, dirt and broken asphalt chunks than there was actual street. And in several places it was gone completely. No sign. Wide spots that were wholly devastated.

Joel closed his eyes and then reopened them. It was all still there. Nothing had changed. He stood and stared for a few minutes longer before he started to walk off down the street in the direction of the downtown area, three blocks to the south.

He looked over the houses he passed. Most were partly, and some were completely destroyed. He felt as though he were in a bad dream. He knew he wasn’t though, as he had closed his eyes to blink away the sights several times to no avail. He had also pinched his left cheek until his eye had begun to water. No good. It was still there. He had done acid once, but only once, back in the seventies, and he had heard about flashbacks, and this could maybe be one, and he had been drinking pretty damn heavily yesterday, and…

He spotted a young woman sitting on the curb three houses down and walked up to her. She tilted her tear streaked and puffy face up to him as he approached.

“Is this a dream?” he asked when he stopped.

“No, it’s no dream,” she replied as she slowly shook her head.

“Where have you been since last night? Didn’t you hear the noise? Didn’t you feel it?”

Joel recalled the noise that had awakened him during the night. The noise he had thought was only an extension of the strange dream.

“Well, I thought it was a dream, you know, but I did hear a storm, or something, but I didn’t think it was a big deal… you know, they can get loud sometimes, but… What happened?”

“Yellowstone blew up,” she said simply. “Didn’t you see the TV?”

Joel shook his head.

“Well,” the young woman continued, “anyhow that’s what happened. They cut in to the TV last night; I was watching… you know, and they cut in and said that the Yellowstone caldera was going to fracture because of how close the meteor came. I came outside to see, and, well there was nothing to see at first, and then the ground started shaking, so I ran to get back inside. But the whole bottom floor of the building was gone.” She shrugged.

The young woman broke into fresh tears, and buried her face back into her hands.

Joel sat down beside her and put his arm around her in an attempt to comfort her.

“Is your husband here?”

“Not married,” she said, “There was a guy… A few years back. He’s stationed somewhere in the Middle East,” she finished, as she looked at Joel.

“Sorry,” Joel said, “how long have you been out here?”

“I called this cop that had given me his card… He said the police would come so I came back out to wait, but they never showed up, so I just sat here. I didn’t know where else to go or what to do! I’ve been here ever since, just watching the street crack.”

Joel looked around at the street.

“It happened all at once?”

“I don’t know,” she replied, also staring at the street. “One second it was still whole, the next it wasn’t. But it’s still going on. Every little while a crack will just appear and then another section will tilt or drop a little. Sometimes there’s no noise, other times it’s this horrible groaning sound… Like it’s alive or something.”

“Is your power on?” Joel asked changing the subject.

“No,” she replied, “went off right after the ground started shaking.”

“Mine’s off too,” Joel replied.

“The power lines fell while I was out here, arcing all over the place. Scared the shit out of me too, and then they just quit… Went dead,” She said.

“Listen… I’m going to walk downtown… see if the police department is open, or see maybe if everyone is there somewhere. You’re the only person I’ve seen so far… do you want to come with me?”

“Sure,” she said, as she stood and brushed at her jeans, “no use sticking around here I guess, is there?”

“I don’t think so,” Joel said. “I think… you know that everyone else is probably downtown. Getting organized or something,” his eyes betrayed the worry he felt. He hoped that everyone was downtown as he had said, but he wasn’t convinced himself. We have to find someone though, he thought, don’t we?

He stood up and they both walked off down the street toward downtown Watertown.

“Joel,“ he told her. Talking to you for an hour and didn’t even know your name.”

She laughed, halfhearted, but it instantly lifted the mood. “More like fifteen minutes if that… Haley.” She told him.

They exchanged small talk as they walked and it seemed to help quell the fear they both felt.

They wondered about the rising temperature as they walked.

“I wonder if it’s some sort of fall out from the earthquakes? Can it be radiation, Joel?” Haley questioned.

“Maybe. I flunked science, so I really don’t know. I don’t think so though. I mean, if it was, wouldn’t we be sick? I think ash is a possibility, maybe if they triggered volcanoes? Makes me wish I had paid attention in science class, or physics, history, one of those.” Joel said.

She laughed again, this time a little more fully. “No,” she replied. “I don’t think so either… I mean the earth shook… like an earthquake. I didn’t know we could get an earthquake up here.”

“Oh yeah… Lived here all of my life. It’s more than possible, happens all the time… You from here?”

“No… Syracuse, before that Texas.”

“Ah, the big city… Well up here we don’t have a hell of a lot to do so they teach us about fault lines, earthquakes. We have a huge fault line that bisects this entire region and continues on south to the Gulf.”

“All the way to the Gulf?” Haley asked. She patted his arm. “Big city my ass,” She laughed. “ You should see Houston you want to see big city, buster.”

Joel laughed and nodded. “Seen Houston once… I mean, a long time ago. And then only the Greyhound station downtown.”

She stopped. “Get out, really?”

“Really.” Joel told her. “Very bad place too,” he seemed apologetic.

“Yeah.” her eyes had suddenly gone sad. “Very.” She started her feet moving again. She had come close to telling him just how well she knew that area of Houston, and had nearly bitten her tongue to stop the words. Emotional situations… You never knew the things that would just jump right out of your mouth, she thought. Leaving you all kinds of vulnerable too.

They talked back and forth as they continued down the street. When they reached Fourth Street they turned and walked the short block to Main, turned left this time, and headed into the downtown area.


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