Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day?

Today is Memorial Day. And wherever you go you will here people telling you to have a "Happy Memorial Day." Some of them mean well, but many of them are just trying to sell you something.

Happy Memorial Day.

Fuck That!

Memorial Day was not set aside so that we could party or have fun or save big at MegaMart on things we don't need. It's not to give us a nice three day weekend so we can take the boat out or go riding. Not that I begrudge anyone those activities. Memorial day was set aside to remember our fallen soldiers. Men and women who fought and died for our freedom, Most likely their final moments were spent clutching at wounds such as most of us see only on TV or the movie screen. They were in pain more severe than we could ever imagine. They were often in the company of other heroic men and women far from home but many times they were alone in their final moments. They cried out to God, they prayed, wept and longed to be safe at home with their loved ones. They did not set out with the intent to die for their country. Through an involuntary draft or their own need to serve, their country called them to service and they answered. They did this so that we could be safe and free.

So before you head off to that barbecue, out to the lake or to that big Memorial Day Sale, take a moment and think about them. Remember them in your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Future Darwin Award Winners

It seems like every other house in my neighborhood has at least 2 ATVs in the garage. Our street terminates in a dead end and there are no streets leading off the east for a few blocks. This means our street has less traffic than normal. So my neighbors look at this as an open invitation to race their ATVs up and down the street whenever the weather is good. I really have nothing against this but these idiots are going full throttle, rubber burning, front wheels up in the air. Being the father of 3 year old twins I have natural concerns, but I keep my kids inside or behind a fence and keep a somewhat overprotective eye on them. The thing is, these morons are not wearing a scrap of protective gear, no elbow pads, knee pads, goggles, or you guessed it, helmets.

I had decided to take a Darwinian view of the situation and keep in mind that with fewer idiots in the world there are more resources available for the rest of us. But now they are bringing the next generation into their world of stupidity. They happily send their preteen children out riding these ATVs without protection or supervision. And I am not talking about little detuned 50cc jobs either. These are full size machines (250cc and up). And these kids are in turn giving their friends rides, so there are sometimes up to four kids piled on one of these four wheelers tooling up and down the street. An hour ago I saw a Honda loaded with three kids headed down the street and come back thirty minuets later and all the kids were drinking from fresh QT fountain cups with two QT bags laden with various samples of junk food dangling from the handlebars. There are two Quik Trips close enough that they could have got there and back in the allotted time. One would involve getting out on a busy street during rush hour and the other would involve them getting out on an even busier street and crossing a highway.

The police were just out and talked to one of the younger riders and warned him about riding around without a helmet. Kid was bitchin' and moanin' about the cop harassing him when they left. Kid should feel lucky I was not the cop. I would have confiscated the ATV and made the parents and child both sit through a few hours of ER videos before giving it back.

I am not one of these wrap you kids up in bubble-wrap and keep them inside all day parents. I want my kids to be kids, have fun, take a few chances, live their lives. But is it too much to expect parents to take a few moments to make sure you kids aren't taking stupid chances. And if you can afford a brand new ATV you can afford a helmet.

As for the adults riding without helmets (motorcycle or ATV), I say that if you are that stupid, go ahead, just please don't reproduce and don't expect taxpayer money to keep your brain dead ass on life support for the next twenty years after you smash your head open on the pavement. I think we should have special "Idiot Licenses" for those people. They sign that they are aware of the risks involved and waive any and all state and federal aid to pay their medical bills when they end up in the ER. Let them and only them pay the massively huge insurance premiums.

But really, just ride safe, wear a helmet and make sure your kids do too.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Land of Shadows - Chapter XI: Sister Irene

The air was hot and dry. Within a matter of moments her mouth was parched and her throat was raw. Breathing was painful as each draw of air took more precious moisture from her body. Her nasal passages were dry and cracked. She had a brief nose bleed. It stopped only because the arid climate quickly sucked the water from her blood, leaving a dry crust. The valley was deep and steep sided and the air was as still and quiet as a Pharaoh's tomb. The sides were as far apart as the tallest mountain and it stretched as far as the eye could see in either direction. The floor of the valley was littered with what at first glance one would have assumed to be stones and dead wood. But Sister Irene knew them for what they were. Dry dead bones. Long leg bones, flat curved ribs, stony looking vertebrae, tiny little finger bones and large vacant eyed skulls that stared blankly at her. Bones so dry they would crumble at a touch. The grave of the world. The place where all the missing people had gone.

She climbed up to the top of a a large flat rock that has sheared off from the wall of the valley thousands of years before she was born. It alone was clear of bones. The sharp edges of the rock cut at her hands and feet and the sun baked stone burned her flesh.

As the lord commanded her, she stretched out her hand over the valley while His words flowed from her lips. "Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and I will bring flesh upon you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord."

And as she spoke these words a great noise began to rise up from the valley. A rattling and scraping, a grating and grinding as millions of bones began to seek out their mates and assemble themselves into complete skeletons. Sinew and muscle, blood vessels and nerves all began to stitch themselves around the skeletons covering the once dead and dry bones. Skin began to knit around the writhing bodies until at last, once again they rested, whole and perfect as God had made them. Millions of lifeless bodies lay about the valley. The eyes still stared just as blankly as when they were bare skulls. Nothing stirred in the valley except Sister Irene as she watched in awe and horror.

And again God spoke through her lips. "Come from the four winds O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."

As the last word echoed through the valley a sighing of wind began to sweep through the valley. It rose from a sigh to a roar from all directions as if a thousand tornadoes lay siege upon the valley. As with a tornado, the telling of it last longer than the actual event and it was soon passed. Silence once again reigned in the valley. For a few seconds at least. As one the bodies all took a first breath and that sigh was as the birth pangs of some unseen beast.

The bodies began to rise and and mill about. People clasped at one another to reassure themselves that they were indeed real. They walked and talked in hushed, fearful voices. At first they milled about aimlessly, but a panic quickly spread through them like a fire in dry leaves. The whispers rose to screams and hands that had just gently greeted and held neighbors began to pummel and tear at one another. They beat at each other and clawed and bit like animals. The atrocities committed against each other were beyond description. Men beat and raped the women and even the children. Women tore at the faces of their once beloved husbands and strangled infants they once cradled. Children swarmed on their elders like packs of wild dogs before turning on one another. But not all of those with the fresh breath of life in them had gone insane. A few sane faces showed themselves in the masses. Some tried to stop the madness around them and save who they could, but most simply tried to separate themselves from the seething madness around them. Soon only those calm few and some tattered remnants were standing. The insanity had consumed itself.

One final time God spoke to them, but though He spoke through her, His words were not for her ears. But those that heard His words fell to their knees and wept and she was glad she had not heard them.

She awoke with a cold sweat on her. She knew that there was an important task for her to do. She didn't know what it was, but whatever it was, God would guide her through, He always had before. She rose early knowing from experience that she would not be able to sleep anymore this night. She looked at the Baby Ben windup clock by her nightstand. By the faintly glowing hands of the old clock she could see it was three in the morning. She sighed and lit the lantern by her bed.

She hated when God cast her in the role of a prophet or saint from the Bible. It felt self-righteous and blasphemous, though she knew it could be neither, not if it came from Him. She opened her Bible and turned to Ezekiel 37, The Parable of Dry Bones. She stayed up till sunrise hoping to make sense of the dreams. She knew he was trying to tell her something important. Finally as she was fixing herself breakfast it came to her. She dropped her bowl and left it unheeded as she ran to the sanctuary to cry or pray or both.

They were coming back.

She didn't know when, but she knew this. As they were when they left, so would they return. All the billions of people that had disappeared.

© 2010 R. Keith McBride

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Delay due to technical problems.

I have been delayed again (obviously) in getting a story post done. My Toshiba laptop is slowly dying. It is just functional enough that I can delude myself into thinking that it is workable or salvagable, And Sunday night my DSL modem died. Nobody sells just a modem anymore so I had to spend $80 on a wireless DSL modem/router. I am trying to make due with my little netbook. I will be chaining myself to my computer and hammering out another chapter soon.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Land of Shadows - Chapter X: Elias

The host body sat up and opened its eyes experimentally and found them to be in working order. It was so good to have binocular vision again. It let the dual sensations and emotions wash over it. There was an additional strange echo to it though. It could be from an inherent mental instability. The host was healthy, but stupid and weak willed. Usually though smaller minds tended to be more stable. Like bulky old computer chips running lower voltages. Slow but reliable. The takeover had been easy. A black wedge shaped head nuzzled under the hand of the host.

Still wobbly from the transition it yanked the host around like a marionette in the hands of an amateur puppeteer. Three sturdy young wraiths stood guard over him, a fourth stood guard at the door to the small house they had fled to. It checked its reflection in the dusty mirror over the little dresser. The young man staring back at him was young and strong. Handsome by most definitions once you got past the cuts and bruises. Dirty blond hair and blue eyes and built like a gladiator. He should have no trouble luring women back to the nest. Well not this nest. Thanks to that little red haired bitch. He would take his time with her if he ever caught her.

He looked down at his former host. So weak and frail. He found it hard to believe he had ever been desperate enough to consider that a viable host. The belly and chest cavity had collapsed in on itself leaving it withered and shrunken like a raisin.

"So this is what it feels like to look down at your own corpse..."

He returned his attention to his reflection. The wound was a bit sloppier than usual, but should heal fine.

After cleaning up and raiding the closet for some acceptable clothes he left the house with wraiths trailing after him. There was work to be done.

* * *

Dee and Ally were once again on the road. Ally's bike was lost so she was riding in the Volvo with Dee, Bo and Duke. They had not even tried to clean her cloths, they had just gone into a local Wal-Mart and got an entirely new outfit and a few spare changes of clothes. She had lost everything when the wraith had jumped her on her Honda. They had gone back to the scene, but her bike was a complete wreck and her saddle bags were ripped apart. Nothing was salvageable.

Ally wanted to go back into the school to see if Jewels had made it out of the fire, but Dee stopped her by pointing out that the little blue Ford microvan was gone. The wraiths were not able to drive and that left just one known possibility. It had to be assumed that Mr. Fisher had escaped. The wraiths certainly hadn't gone off joyriding in it.

* * *

"That can only be Ally," the boy told her as he lowered the binoculars to the rail. Dotty looked at the red haired youth and back to the thick plume of smoke to the west.

"I suppose you want to go after her?" She asked tiredly.

"I gotta know and the radio still isn't working ... "

"I told you not to mess with it."

"It's an antique, it uses friggin' vacuum tubes, I was just
trying to tweak it a bit!"

"Yeah, well you're gonna fix it when we get back. But first you're gonna load the truck."

* * *

There was something missing, the man thought as he walked eastbound through Kansas on I-70. He had long ago become accustomed to the stillness and absence of people, so that was not it. It was not until he came across a huge Corn King sign at a farm that it hit him. Corn, wheat and sunflowers took up more farmland in Kansas than just about any other crop. He had seen some wild sunflowers and acres of untended wheat grasses, but no corn. He was born prior to the disappearance, and possessed a high level of education even by the standards of that lost era. But he was unaware of the draconian marketing tactics of the seed companies that commercial farmers were forced to buy from. The genetically modified seed corn these companies sold to farmers would produce big plump ears of corn, but not a single viable seed. So large patches of fertile farmland now just grew weeds.

He strolled into North Kansas City barely a head of a storm. The single storey cookie cutter houses on this street were run down as he expected, but he spotted one on which the roof and windows were all intact. He avoided the waist high grass used the broken sidewalk. The front porch was heavily eroded concrete, but steps were usable and he didn't have to worry about his feet falling through rotted stairs. He let himself in through the unlocked front door. The furniture was dusty and the place smelled a bit of mold. Fortunately he had never suffered from allergies. He un-shouldered his back back and his M-16 and set them down, grateful to be free of their weight.

He chose this house mainly because of the big brick chimney he had seen from the street. There was a small stack of wood and a few starter logs near the fireplace. He checked the flue and was not surprised when a shower of debris rained down but a draft of air told him that it was clear. He pulled some wood from the stack, being cautious of spiders. He had gotten a rather nasty spider bite a couple of years ago. Once he had the fire going he began the task of skinning the rabbit he'd snared this morning.

The rain that had been threatening all morning finally started as he set rabbit up to cook. The clouds just to opened up and began dumping water by buckets, He hoped that the roof was intact as it looked. In the kitchen pantry he found several rusted and swollen cans and some well sealed containers of dry rice, flour and sugar and an extra special treat, an unopened five pound can of Folgers Colombian coffee! He had been out of coffee for a couple of weeks now and looked forward to brewing some to have with breakfast tomorrow morning.

He paused in the kitchen long enough to light his propane lantern before opening the door that he suspected would open onto a set of stairs leading down to the basement. The man was just tall enough that he had to duck his head to avoid banging his head on the corner where the floor and ceiling met in the stairwell. The basement was dry now but showed evidence of past flooding. It probably would not stay dry long with this rain he suspected. Aside from the washer and dryer and the other necessary appliances the basement was mostly empty. A few plastic storage bins were stacked up on a wood pallet to keep them up off the floor.

There was a pile of clothes in front of the open dryer and tumbled over basket. He could picture the woman (or man he supposed, sexist of him to think only a woman could do laundry) taking the load out of the dryer, turning to head up the stairs before suddenly being snatched right out of their clothes by some unseen hand, the freshly washed clothes tumbling to the floor. He looked away from the mold blackened clothes and once again prayed for forgiveness for the role he had played in the destruction of the human civilization.

Doctor Elias Hood retreated up the basement stairs, closed the basement door and latched it. He was in no way responsible for the creation of the machine that had been responsible for the disaster. He had just been the first human test subject. But he still felt a terrible debt was owed. And it was not over yet. The worst was yet to come.

© 2010 R. Keith McBride