Sunday, May 31, 2009
She had filled out a bit since the last time I had seen her and there were a fresh pair of scars running down one side of her face. But it was the same Rottweiler I had released at the pound. She stood on the bed just staring at me with her head cocked to one side. When she did not attack I relaxed somewhat.
I lowered the gun and waited a moment. She calmly laid down on the bed looking at me. I collapsed back into the bed not really expecting to wake up again.
I'm afraid I let the infection in my leg get a little out of hand. By the 12th it was so bad I thought I was going to have to cut my own leg off. I limped into the Walgreen's at Lees Summit and 23rd Street. But I don't think the Penicillin I found was working. The infection just got worse.
I remembered watching an old rerun of a medical drama that ran back in the 90's. One of the doctors used maggots to clean out an badly infected wound. The maggots they used were bred and grown in a clean lab. I did not have that luxury. There was a covered deck out back with a picnic table on it. I placed a piece of lunch meat from fridge there and waited for a while. When I came back there were a few neat clusters of tiny yellow eggs. I scraped them off onto the wound and carefully bandaged it with a thick gauze. I hoped that this would work. For the first day nothing. The infection got worse. But then, I don't know if it was my imagination or what, but I could feel them wiggling around under that bandage. I resisted every impulse to rip the bandage off and wash them away. On the third day my fever was worse, so I carefully removed the bandage to clean the wound. I was surprised that the wound looked better. The edges were less red and puffy.
The maggots had become big and fat feasting on the dead tissue of my leg. I washed most of them away but saved a few to finish the job.
That was yesterday. I think. The last few days have been a bit hazy, The only thing I am sure of is today's date. When I woke up this evening after my encounter with the Rottweiler my fever had broke. I was weak drenched with sweat. I removed the bandage and cleaned the last of the maggots away and put a fresh layer of gauze on it.
The dog followed me around the whole time. She was wearing a collar with a little silver tag dangling from it. I had not seen it before but I was not really looking that close. She came to me as I sat on toilet seat and laid her head in my lap. She was filthy and stank like a Chinese restaurant dumpster in July. I scratched her behind the ears anyway. She closed her eyes and let out a very human sounding sigh of contentment. Her tag read "Emily" Certified Therapy Animal. I still wonder how she came to be in the pound.
"Well Emily, if you are going to stick around, you are going to have to get a bath." I told her. She glanced over at the tub and then at me as if to say, 'Not today Buddy.' She was right. I am too wiped to do anything. Making this journal entry has exhausted me. I did lay out some dog food I found in the pantry. I wonder what happened to the Meier's dog. That was the name of the couple that lived here. Don't know if I have mentioned that. There were all the signs that they had owned a dog. A bed, bowl, dog food and a even some pictures of the Meier's and a big Golden Retriever. But no dog.
For the first time since the disappearance I think I will sleep good tonight.
© 2009 R. Keith McBride
Monday, May 25, 2009
When my nephew turned two he suddenly discovered a obsessive compulsive aversion to getting his hands dirty. He would go ballistic if so much as molecule of foreign material stuck to his hands. Finger painting (previously a favorite activity) was now out of the question.
My son is deathly afraid of fans. For him the attic fan is the Dread King of all malevolent rotary blade air circulators. The attic fan is directly over their bedroom door in the hallway. It does not even have to be on to invoke fear. So getting in and out of his room is like running a gauntlet. He also hates getting his hands dirty. Not to extent of his cousin, but it is compounded by a dire fear of baths.
My daughter is afraid of bugs in any form. She will come completely unglued at the sight of an insect that I would need a magnifying glass to even see. But she loves to play outside. She is not afraid of fans, but the vacuum cleaner terrifies her. She is afraid of the dark, but won't sleep unless she has her head burrowed under a quilt so thick that no light less than that of supernova intensity would penetrate.
I'm told that it only gets worse.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
I wrecked a motorcycle three days ago. Came around a curve too fast and found a car in the street where it should not have been. Laid the bike down and skidded under the car on my butt. Scraped up my leg pretty bad. The bike is toast. My heart rate did not even jump. But a few nights ago while watching the sun go down I felt fear. Even as a child I was never really afraid of the dark, at least not that I can remember. But I was in a near panic. I went through the house turning on all the lights. I made sure that every corner was illuminated. I knew this was a drain on the batteries and that scared me even more. During the day my fears seem distant like it is not even me. But still I went out to Lowes a got a couple of generators. From there I went to Tractor Supply Company and got a 50 gallon tank for storing gas.
I have never been a gun fanatic, but I did own a gun before Lisa and I got married. A little .22 Beretta. Lisa said it was "cute". I got it after I was mugged for a third time in KC. I have used it twice to scare off would be muggers. But I don't think could kill anyone with it. Not unless they were willing to sit stock still so I could get a round in through their eye. I sleep with a gun within easy reach on the nightstand. I have several now. And none of them would ever be classified as "cute".
I think my leg has gotten infected.
© 2009 R. Keith McBride
I was cruising round town in a little Smart ForTwo. The little Smart is small enough to maneuver around the wrecks most of the time and has a little more cargo room than a motorcycle. I was out gathering food. I don't do grocery stores. The last one I was in, the odors from the meat and frozen foods sections had permeated the entire store. Maybe this winter it will be ok to venture in but not yet. But a lot of houses have a pretty good stock of canned and dry goods. And as long as you don't open the fridge or freezer you're fine.
The basics of life are not a problem. Food is abundant, bottled water is everywhere and as far as housing goes, it's a buyer's market.
I was pulling into Milton Estates, just off Lees Summit Road when I saw a house with a porch light on. Many houses have solar powered lawn lights. I make a point of gathering those up. I had surrounded the perimeter of my house with them as well as a path out to the back yard where I had dug a latrine and another path to the garage. But as I approached the house I saw the large solar panels covering the entire roof on the south side. The door was unlocked so I let myself in. It was a nice house. The decor was somewhat eclectic but seemed to blend well. It was probably how I would have decorated if I'd had the money. I searched the house but found no vacant piles of clothes. In the four car garage, yes a four car garage, I found a pile of men's clothes under a vintage Chevy that was up on jack stands. A set of woman's clothes I found on the patio. I buried them in the back yard.
The house must have cost the owner about 500 to 600 thousand. It was designed to be completely off the grid. Solar power, rainwater collection and filtration system, super insulated. Heat and motion detectors in all the rooms to automatically turn off the lights and minimize climate controls to conserve electricity. I have all the amenities. The streets in the neighborhood are fairly clear so I can get around pretty easy.
I should be quite comfortable here for a while.
© 2009 R. Keith McBride
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
This is a good thing How?
I let them all out of their cages. One of the ungrateful curs bit me. Didn't break the skin, I had on new jeans and the dog was weak from starvation. They probably won't survive, but at least they stand a better chance now than they did in those cages.
It would be a waste of time at this point to check all the animal shelters. The only reason these survived as long as the did was a leaking roof let in just enough rainwater to keep them from dying of thirst.
The last one was a huge Rottweiller. A big, powerful dog. Even emaciated as it was I was glad I had brought my gun, a Beretta 9mm I had picked up recently. I opened the door and it she just looked me and wagged the little stump of a tail she had. At times like this I could understand why my sister had liked dogs so much. Most dogs will forgive any transgressions in exchange for a simple scratch behind the ears.
I eventually coaxed her out of the cage and out into the lobby where I had ripped open some bags of dogfood. This distracted her long enough for me to get back to my car.
In spite of the odds against it, I have a good feeling about her chances of survival.
Today was a good day. I haven't said that in a long time.
© 2009 R. Keith McBride
Sunday, May 17, 2009
To test this theory I even ventured back into the city yesterday.
The Jackson County Detention Center is located on 13th and Cherry. It's a large brick building made to look as bleak as possible. From the front looks like to octagonal towers melded together. The window are narrow, horizontal slits. These are not designed to illuminate or to offer soothing panoramic views. It was designed to be just a temporary holding facility for those waiting trail. So theoretically the people housed there were presumed innocent. But it was still not some place that I would expect to find many saints. Like most jails the security is designed to keep people in, not out so I had a fairly easy time exploring the place. Most of their security systems are dependent on either electricity or people. Neither of which were in evidence. I did almost lock myself in a section of corridor.
It was a warm day for April and the detention center had no windows that I could open. I had arrived late in the day so the building had all day to absorb heat. It was designed to be dependent on a massive air conditioner for cooling and without that it was almost ninety degrees inside. Come August it would probably get up to one twenty in there, at least on the upper floors. The heat was giving me a headache. I had brought a half a dozen flashlights with me just in case. I have become increasingly uneasy at night or in dark buildings. I carry a flashlight with me at all times.
The place was almost completely vacant. The detention center's sole occupant I found on the fourth floor. I opened a glass door and was driven back by the smell. The odor was alive and wild with decay. Even holding my breath it invaded my nostrils and breathing through my mouth did not help, it flowed over my tongue almost like liquid and I could taste it. I immediately closed the door. The smell did not instantly abate of course, there was no airflow to dissipate it. It clung to me and I was afraid that my clothes would forever have that smell to them. I vomited in a corner and although that did not help the smell any, I did feel better once I stopped heaving.
It appeared to be a property room. Shining my flashlight through the glass door I found the source of the stench. The body appeared to be an older man slumped back in his chair behind a large counter. I am only going by the fact that his hair was silver gray. I did not search his pockets for ID. A thick panel of bullet proof glass separated his booth from the lobby of the records room, a tray running under the bottom edge and a circle of holes at face level allowing conversation and documents to pass. As well as aromas. Rows of file cabinets were lined up in the room behind him and a computer screen stared blankly back at the corpse. Another glass door separated his booth from the property room. I stared for a few moments, then a movement of shadows caught my eye. I pulled out another flashlight and shone them both into the room. A ghostly, skeletal face suddenly leered back at me. I will have to admit that I screamed like a little girl and almost fell backwards onto the tiled floor. But then I was able to get both flashlights trained on it. A large black mylar balloon bobbed up and down secured by a silver ribbon just beyond the glass door behind the clerk's chair. The bony face of the Grim Reaper was printed on it with the caption "Don't worry I'm just hear for the cake" on it. I had got one of just like it for my uncle once on his birthday. The other side was something like "Uh Oh, it's the Big 5-0!"
I am proud of myself for the fact that I searched another two floors before giving up. I was fairly satisfied that the building was empty. Only my echoes had answered my calls at each floor.
It was not until I left the building that it hit me. There were two glass panels between me and the balloon. My assumption that my opening the door had stirred the air enough to disturb that balloon was impossible. Part of me wanted to investigate further. I even turned to head back inside but could not make my feet move.
The Rapture has not come. That much I know. But am I alive or am I dead? Is this some sort of private purgatory? One way I could test it would be to try to kill myself. If this is the afterlife I should not be able to. But then I might just wake up to find myself some place worse.
There is an alternate theory I have. Perhaps I am not real at all. I am just a character made up by some two-bit wannabe writer. I am a writer created by a writer, writing about his writer. Makes me dizzy just thinking about it.
© 2009 R. Keith McBride
Friday, May 15, 2009
Not that it really matters. Being the sole character in this narrative, that will probably never be read I could just say "My name is _____ " and my imaginary readers would not care.
I still don't know how I got down from the top of the Hyatt. Whenever I try to remember I just get a case of brain lock. I do remember looking up at the top of the hotel and not really recognizing it. The Hyatt is, like many late twentieth century buildings, a large glass and steel cracker box, with the exception of the Skies revolving restaurant. It squats atop the building like an ugly UFO. The food is supposed to be really great, but a bit pricey. Never ate there. Not that it matters now, because its gone. The entire restaurant was obliterated. Bits and pieces of burning debris were raining down all over the big circle drive. I ducked under the large awning in front of the hotel just as a monstrous burning tire crashed down on top of a still idling taxi.
Large portions of KC are burnt to the ground. Judging by the smoke, some fires are burning even as I write this. The rain that the channel 5 weather guy promised for that afternoon put most of the fires out but I still felt safer getting out of the city. Considering the plans I had started the day with I guess it is somewhat ironic that I was not worried about my safety. I saw two other planes go down over the city.
I thought about calling somebody, but who? If this was a worldwide phenomena then it would do no good to waste time calling anyone. If it was just local then sooner or later someone would notice without me calling them.
I walked home from downtown. The roads were just too clotted with cars to get through by car. It is about nine miles from the Hyatt to my apartment in Independence it took me most of the day.
On the way home I saw dozens, no make that hundreds of wrecked cars but not a single person. A couple of times I heard voices but those just turned out to be car radios Since none of them were buzzing about three planes going down in KC I assumed they were all prerecorded programs. I peeked in several car windows. I saw only empty clothes. In one I saw a prosthetic arm still clutching the steering wheel. A watch strapped to the ersatz limb counted the time. It was a solar powered watch and as long as the arm it was attached to remained exposed to the sun it would continue keeping time forever as far I knew. For some reason I found that depressing.
I was tired by the time I got home so all I wanted to do was just crash on the couch. But, naturally my upstairs neighbor had not been thoughtful enough to turn his stereo down before he had evaporated. So I kicked the door in of his apartment and using a golf club found by the door, I smashed his stereo to bits. Sure I could have just turned it off, but this was so much more satisfying.
I got to thinking about all the appliances that had been left on when everyone went away. Ovens, saws, blenders, refrigerators.
I helped myself to a beer from his fridge before going back downstairs.
Home was a simple one bedroom basement apartment. The apartment complex is called Vaille Manor. They borrowed the name from the Vaille Mansion across the street. Lisa loved that place. The mansion, not the apartments. I moved there after she died. It was cheap. Our house was taken back by the bank. They tend to do that when they don't get any money for six months. I could have easily paid the mortgage. Lisa had purchased a life insurance policy for both of us as soon as she found out she was pregnant. They had paid without protest. But Lisa usually handled the finances. It really just never occurred to me to pay it. Pathetic excuse I know, but that was just the plain truth. My boss was more patient with me than I deserved, but he had to give my job to someone else when I did not show up or call for that first month. It doesn't help when you just don't care.
I like the basement apartment because it is cool down there, even in the summer I rarely have to use the AC. When I woke up the lights were out. Nothing really unusual, My apartment shares the breaker box as the building's laundry room. Sometimes someone will get all four washers and all four dryers going at the same time and the master breaker will pop. The manager used to tell me that he would fix it, but never did.
With the intent of grabbing a flashlight in the kitchen and heading around back to check the breakers I stood up off the couch. And put my feet down in six inches of cold water.
I could hear the gurgling of water coming up through the drains. There is a pump that is supposed to keep that from happening, but with the power out it obviously was not working. I slogged into the kitchen to get the flashlight and a peculiar thing happened. I suddenly felt like I was being watched. I have never been prone to paranoia but with everything that had happened that day I suppose it was not surprising. Once I had the flashlight in hand I quickly verified that I was indeed alone.
I went outside and saw that lights were out everywhere. The only light was what little moonlight was filtering through the clouds. But I did not need to see to know that I could not stay in my apartment anymore. The rain was pounding down. I ducked back inside and quickly packed up my stuff.
Since Lisa and Chris died there is little that I actually possess that I give a shit about. I have an MP3 player and about two dozen memory cards for it filled with my favorite tunes, another bunch of memory cards with all my writing and photo albums. Lisa was not much into knick knacks, but she had a small collection of pewter animals. She sometimes joked about building a tiny pewter ark for them. But the most important thing was the urn. Not Lisa's. Her parents had arranged for her to be buried in the family plot while I was preoccupied with Chris in the hospital. I never forgave my father in law for that. Lisa had never completely lost her childhood fear of the dark or closed spaces. The thought of being buried terrified her.
The urn is Christopher's. It was just about the size of a chicken egg, It was made from polished brass. Inside was a pitifully small amount of ashes. A metal tag was stamped with a number so that if the urn is ever lost it can be identified through a national registry. The funeral home did not normally carry urns this small in stock. It was actually supposed to be a demo unit. The funeral director was one of those rare people that is in the career he was meant for. He had this uncanny ability know exactly what you needed to hear and was genuinely sorry for my loss. He even went so far as to donate the services of the chapel. I will always be thankful to him for his kindness.
Even with a few changes of clothes, I walked out of there with just one gym bag and a walking stick I have had since I was twelve. I took refuge in a house up the street. My reason for choosing it was simple. The door was open.
It will do for now.
Don't know how much longer I am going to be able to keep up this journal with the power out.
© 2009 R. Keith McBride
Monday, May 11, 2009
Soon the lights would go out, no one down at the old electric company to keep the generators running. No coal coming in to run them even it there were. All of mankind's clever works would come grinding to a halt and Begin the slow and inevitable decay.
Not something I really have to imagine. I am living it. If you are reading this then most likely I am dead and the Gods of Irony have brought everyone back. I hope you don't mind I stole your laptop computer, raided your fridge and jerked off in your kitchen sink.
I fully intend to delete this if the world does come back.
This story begins on the 19th. I was standing on the roof of the Hyatt. The view was terrific. I wondered what the final impact would be like. If I did it right I would not feel a thing. I wondered if I would change my mind on the way down. I have always had a fear and fascination with heights. I guess that was why I chose this. There are of course taller buildings in Kansas City, but I had a friend that worked at the Skies restaurant. Of course he did not know why I was really here, he thought I was just going to take a few pictures for a book I was working on. By trade I am a mechanic. But I'm also a writer. I have written about twelve books. Published one. You probably have not read it. Few people did. But I have not really written a word since Lisa died.
We were on our way to her mother's house when we were in a car accident. Technically it had been the other guy's fault, but I knew that it was really my own. We were approaching a four way intersection. For years there has only been a stop for Broad Street, but not Mechanic. but the city had just put up one making it a four way stop. My cell phone was ringing and rather than let it go into voice mail I pulled it out of my pocket. I was not going to answer it while driving. I am not that stupid. But usually when my phone rings I hand it over to my wife and let her answer it. I wasn't paying attention and just cruised right through it. The only reason I did not get a ticket was that some kids had stolen the sign the night before. The pickup that hit us was not going that fast. But it was a big 4x4 and it's bumper was right on level with the side windows of our little Ford Focus. My wife suffered a minor head injury. But at the hospital her blood pressure began rising to dangerous levels. The medications they gave her for that caused fluid to build up in her lungs. It was decided to deliver our son by Cesarean. I really can't remember the reasoning behind this and never got a straight story from the staff or doctors. Christopher was almost four months premature. Lisa died of a stroke that night.
A week later Chris died. Just like that. He had been struggling all week of course. Everyday is a struggle for a preemie. But one minute he was batting at the side of the plastic dome with the splint they had on his arm. My gloved finger was touching to bottom of his foot. It was about the only place that I felt safe touching him. He had wire leads and IV lines all over him. His skin was so thin and fragile. Then his back arched and his mouth opened as if to scream. Then his chest slowly sank. This took about half a second. Then the alarms started to sound and I remember a nurse shoving me aside as they tried in vain to save him. But I knew he was already gone.
That was five years ago.
I think a big part of me died that night as well. I never resorted to drugs or alcohol. I think what happened was somewhere in my brain a little breaker switch got flipped. I have not been able to feel anything since. I have put up a pretty good show I think, but it is just that. So really that is why I was up there. I was hoping that maybe on the way down I would jump start my soul again.
I stood on the ledge looking down. It was a cool day. It had rained the night before but the sky was clear. I was on the east side of the building, the wind was blowing up behind me from the southwest as if urging me to get on with it. The sun was shining through breaks in the clouds, and you could just feel it was going to rain again that afternoon. I was aware when people came out on roof to try to stop me, but I paid them no mind. I was watching the traffic below. Oak comes down from the north and then Y's off. To the east it becomes Locust and to the west Gillham and a short distance to the south they rejoin and just Gillham continues south. The effect is that in the center there is an almond shaped park. They had just put in a large fountain. This is Kansas City so they have to put in a new fountain somewhere at least twice a year. I think it is written into the city charter. So now it looked less like an almond and more like a gigantic eye looking up at me.
A Metro bus was coming down Oak. I remember wondering, if it turned down Gillham, if I could time it right I would land squarely in the center of the roof of that bus. I decided not to because that would hardly be fair to the passengers. But the bus did not turn down, Gillham, nor did it turn down Locust. It chose a third option that I had not considered. It drove right into park. A giant maple tree stopped it quite abruptly. And then another car flew into the park, followed by a city utility truck (from that height and angle I could not tell which utility it belonged to). Three more cars followed the utility truck. I looked around and I could see all up and down the streets no matter which way I was looking, cars were crashing into one another or running up the sidewalks. It was all over in a matter of seconds. Soon there were no moving cars visible. It was like all the drivers in the city just suddenly said "Fuck it" and took their hands off the wheel and foot off the brake. Fortunately, TV and the movie theatre are the only places you will ever really see a car hit a light pole and burst into a ball of fire. Surprisingly they are engineered specifically not to do that.
I half expected my would be rescuers to come to the ledge and survey the carnage below. there is something about a fire or a car wreck that just draws the eye. But I was once again alone on the roof. And there was no one milling about the wrecked cars below, no gawkers, good Samaritans or injured motorists. Not even a sicko taking macabre pictures with his cell phone to show his equally twisted friends. My curiosity has never really been snuffed out and it quickly won over my desire to throw myself off the roof and see what was happening and headed for the roof access door. That was when I heard the plane.
The battery is running low on my laptop so I will have to pick this up again tomorrow.
© 2009 R. Keith McBride
I will start posting a new work of fiction here based on a larger story I am working on. This is a separate but related work. I would invite readers (all two of them) to offer suggestions and critique.