Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction: Day One

Every Friday Kurt posts a new piece of flash fiction. This week, it's getting apocalyptic...

Day One
Word Count: 600

By noon it’s apparent that no help is coming, so I decide to head home, despite the cold. I raid the kiosk for food, eat what I can, stuff more into my coat pockets. No one tries to stop me. I find my car in the lot and grab the tire iron off the jack. It’s only about six inches long, but it’s heavy and sharp at one end. I can use it for protection. I leave my gym bag and computer in the car and head for the highway.

Twenty-three miles doesn’t seem like much of a commute when you have a working car. I do some math in my head. At two or three miles an hour, I should be home by late evening. The temperature will have dropped by then, but I should be able to make it. Better than hanging around the office.

In twenty minutes I’m shivering. It’s going to be a long walk. There are others ahead of me and behind me, but we keep our distance from each other.

After a few hours I arrive at the bridge, where a group of thugs with guns have set up what they call a “toll booth”. They take my wallet, my tire iron, and all the food I have stashed. I don’t even fight back. I guess that makes me a coward. While they’re searching me, another man arrives, and he is not a coward. He is beaten, then thrown into the water.

At least they let me keep my coat.

I walk on, appalled at how little time it has taken society to break down. I wonder what the bomb had been aimed at, to leave the suburbs untouched by anything but the EMP wave. I hear gunfire in the distance. I shiver.

I sing to myself to keep my teeth from chattering too much. I see a gas station that has been looted and torched. I walk over and warm myself, but I don’t stay long.

Night falls, along with the temperature. I’m shivering more violently, but I have to get home to my family. It occurs to me that I might not make it. I might die on the first day of whatever this new era is, just trying to get home because I’d accepted a job with a twenty-three mile commute and always assumed that there’d be electricity, civilization, etc.

It occurs to me that, even if I do get home, we’ll probably all die soon anyway. We only have enough food for a few days, and I can’t imagine that the grocery stores will have much left. We don’t even own a gun.

I have to laugh.

Hours. Shivering. Hunger. I warm myself by another structure fire, then keep on moving.

I do finally make it home. Jenny is fine. Matt and Braden are fine. We’re all fine.

It’s nearly midnight. I know this because the clock in the living room runs off of a pendulum. It’s not super reliable, but we keep winding it because it’s quaint, just like the fireplace. Quaint things that will keep us alive for a few more days, until spring arrives, or help.

We’ll board up the doors and windows tomorrow. We’ll forage for food tomorrow. We’ll worry about how long the wood-pile will last—and whether to burn books or furniture first—tomorrow. Tonight we put a mattress in the living room and sleep by the fire. Matt thinks it’s an adventure. Braden can’t understand why we can’t watch a movie.

Frankly, none of us can.

I have to laugh.

Edited by Carolyn "A Lug Wrench Looks Nothing Like What I Expected" Abram.

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