The corpse was dead. It was dead for real. It was not the purple
intestines hanging from its stomach cavity or the missing left eye that assured
me of this. Nor was it the maggots writhing under its skin or the stomach
churning stench of rotting flesh. No, the only thing that gave me comfort, that
the dead man would not reach for me and moan for his brethren, was the
perfectly round mark of a bullet entry wound in the middle of his forehead.
“Jane! Stare at it too long and maybe it will get up and try to eat you,” a harsh, gravelly voice yells
from behind. “Is that what you want?”
“No, Sir,” I say.
“Then get to work!”
I drive my stainless steel drag hook into the corpse’s
soft flesh and jerk, catching hold of the clavicle. You learn in short order not to rely on flesh
and tissue alone. Only the recently dead have the tension required to stay
together; more decomposed bodies tend to fall apart when you start to pull on
them. I drag the corpse across the field
to Lewis, where he's using a pitchfork to heave the dead into a burn pile.
“Hey Jane! Over here. Gimme a hand with this one,” Emily
I start toward the teenage girl. There are a dozen of us
out in the field on clean-up duty today. That’s what you get for being “useless.”
In my previous life I had been a public relations mouthpiece for one of the big
defense contractors. Before everything had fallen apart I would spin even the
worst of public disasters to look like they had been not only intentional but
also critical to national security. I had been held in high esteem for my
ability to save the hides of the powerful and I had been well compensated. But
that was a different time and my silver tongue hasn’t gotten me out of clean-up
Lewis had been a lawyer. Sam had been an HR director. Tom
had been a Senior VP of something. Chris, John and Carson were accountants and
MBAs. We had all been someone important, but now none of that mattered. We
had no real skills so we were relegated to the dirty work. Somehow we had
managed to survive the initial outbreak, mostly because we had a knack for reading
personalities and hedging our bets with the right people. But once the rules
were defined and some semblance of society was regained we found that social
status had been reshuffled and we were no longer at the top. There was no place
in this new world of death and survival for legalese and buzzwords.
At the top are the real leaders, those that are honestly
capable of inspiring followership and creating innovative solutions to terrifying
problems. The next tier is made up of what had been the blue collar workforce:
welders, electricians, mechanics, plumbers, farmers, and anyone else with a
useful trade that could actually produce something. Below the doers is the soldier
class, those that can wield a weapon or fire a gun. Technically, eventually,
all of us fell into that class but some are better at it than others; some did
it for survival, while others thrive as warriors. And then at the bottom are
those without skills and those without bloodlust. We, who had once run the
world, are now the grunts.
“Big one,” I say to Emily and hook onto a bloated
“Fresh, too,” she grimaces.
A body is heaviest right after death. First death, that
is. After a corpse has bled out, its organs putrefied, and its water weight
lost, there is little left to a body. Obvious as it is, this is something I had
never considered prior to being assigned to the clean-up crew.
Together we haul the corpse, making small talk and
avoiding thinking about who the man had been.
“Have you decided who you are going to apprentice with?” I
“Ma wants me to go with Carolyn Thomas.”
“She does beautiful work. Lewis has one of her sweaters.
It’s rare to find that these days.”
“Yea . . .”
“But you don’t want to work with her?”
“It’s nothing against Carolyn. She’s great. I’m just no
good with needles. I can barely sew my own buttons back on; much less make real
clothes for people.”
“Emily, don’t worry about it. That’s why it’s called an apprenticeship.
She’s going to teach you what you need to know, not the other way around.”
“Yea . . .”
“So what do you
want to do?”
The girl sighs. “I always thought I would be a writer. But
. . .”
“Hey someday we will need writers again. We will get this
mess cleaned up and we will have newspapers and books and all that stuff.”
“We will. Look at how far we have come in just two years.
Most of us were still running from the dead, fighting to survive. Now we are
part of a community again.”
“In the mean time, go talk to Keith.”
“Olsen? The engineer?”
“It will be technical writing but he’s been looking for someone
to help him with his notes and writing up repair and maintenance instructions.
You’ll get plenty of hands on mechanical experience but he also spends quite a
bit of time designing improvements. A little creativity will go a long way
working with him.”
“Huh, I hadn’t really thought about doing something like
My next thought is interrupted by an echoing gunshot on
the edge of the field.
“All right kiddies, that’s our cue to GTFO. Lewis, torch
off that pile. The rest of you get back behind the fence,” the clean-up boss
Emily and I finish dragging the corpse to the now blazing
fire and quickly but carefully make our way back to the safety of the fence,
leaving the gunners to drop the approaching herd of cadavers. Job security for
the clean-up crew.
“Emily, whatever you do, make sure you learn a skill that
won’t earn you a permanent spot on the clean-up crew.”
Merry Christmas. I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season. I know we are all very sad that we survived the apocalypse and that there haven't dead corpses running around looking for some face to chew on, but I do have to say that I have had a nice couple of days. I did a little skiing. Good food. Good friends. Good family. We even had a little bit of snow today. But the best part? Check out what Santa left in my stocking.
Merry Christmas! I hope Santa brought you something as violently delicious.
People are wicked excited about today, the 21st
day of December in the year two-thousand and twelve. Me? I’m not so humstrung;
I play with the idea of the apocalypse every day. In fact, I’m pretty sure that
the apocalypse actually began the day I graduated college and became a “real
person.” But I have decided, just in case the world does explode into the fiery inferno of hell and this is my last opportunity to write
something, I should make the most of it.
My friends Apples (short for Appleton) and Molly are
hosting an Apocalypse Party at their house in the middle of nowhere. Upon
leaving town (some of you might even consider “town” a stretch) you drive
thirty minutes through cow country and then turn onto a small but paved road.
After a few minutes the pavement disappears and you will turn onto increasingly
smaller dirt roads until you are on little more than a goat path through the
woods. Though these roads are relatively short in distance, less than two miles
in total; they are, paradoxically, excruciatingly long and it will take you no
less than twenty minutes to reach your destination. The potholes are like
craters and boulders reach up out of the gravel. So, unless you have a death
wish; hate your automobile; or have four-wheel drive, a lift kit, brush guard,
and all-terrain 35s; you take your time and pray that you don’t meet another
Once you arrive at their home you will find yourself in a
large field with a log cabin placed in the middle. Behind the cabin is a bog
where only the beavers and the black-flies go. In front of the cabin is the
more sanitary and usable pond. The other two sides of the field are bound by
pines thick with puckerbrush.
Tonight, I will be driving out to this party to ring in
the apocalypse with a bonfire, debauchery, firearms, and possibly snowmobiles
(there is a blizzard currently scheduled). And so, the following is a series of
8 flash fictions, or perhaps non-fictions, depicting ways that tonight could go
horribly wrong, or horribly right (depending on your perspective). The setting
will be constant, my friends’ party; as will be the cast of characters: Apples,
Molly, Fish (me), Clark (my roommate), Tony (my brother), Alison (Tony’s
girlfriend), Laura (my best friend), Gary (Laura’s husband), and a few other
expendables who are on the guest list but I don’t actually know.
So without further ado, I bring you The Apocalypse in 8 Acts.
Act I: Disgrace
The party goers stared in awe at the angel or demon, whichever
the case may be, standing before them. He was lean, muscular, and stood a full
head above even the tallest in the group. His jet black hair was swept back
into short spikes. Giant, black feathered wings sprouted from between his
shoulder blades. When he had arrived his massive wingspan has blotted out the
moon. Their expanse and inky nature seemed to suck all luminosity from the
scene; not till he had landed and neatly folded them, did the light return.
He stood proud and dominant, seemingly unaware or
unbothered by his nakedness. Perhaps it was the scythe that he carried with him
that kept him from feeling shame or humiliation.
“Tell me what great deed have you done for humanity?” His
voice boomed and the mortals quaked as they felt his words reverberate within
“Who, among you, can step forward and lay claim to having
made the greatest impact on this world?”
His questions go unanswered.
“Are none worthy?”
“Then tell me this; who, among you, will do a great deed
for humanity? Which of you, if given the chance, will create something beautiful,
discover something profound, or become a great leader?”
Still, his questions remained unanswered.
Anger and disgust flashed in his eyes and his powerful
wings spread wide. “Mortals! You have been given the greatest of gifts and you
ignore them. You have no desire, no will, no pride, and no confidence. Take
heed and fear my words, for all of you shall feel my wrath before the night is
“You have one hour to unanimously produce the most
promising among you. I shall allow him to live. Fail to produce him and all
With a whoosh of
air, he alighted and disappeared into the winter sky.
Act II: Abominable
“Apples, how the hell are we supposed to have a bonfire in
this shit,” Fish asks as she pops the top off another beer.
I look out the window. The second real snowstorm of the
season is showing no signs of letting up. “Don’t worry about it, kid. Fire
melts snow. Best possible time to have a bonfire.”
“Whatever, let me know when you get it going. I’m staying
here where it’s warm,” she says and plops down on the couch.
“All right pussies, let’s get this started,” Gary says,
“Clark, get the whiskey.”
Clark grabs the bottle of Jameson from the kitchen table
and we put our coats on.
Outside, I curse as I try to get the pile to light. I had
spent the better of the week prepping for the fire and stacking up brush from
around the yard. It had been brown and tinder-dry, ready to go up in flames
without warning just this morning but with a mix of snow and rain sleeting down
everything had become wet and nothing was going to behave.
Clark bends down next to me and takes the lighter from me.
“Let me try.”
“Be my guest.” I step back and take a swig off the bottle
of whiskey Gary hands me. “Shit, it’s nasty out here.”
“Good night for an apocalypse,” Gary laughs.
“True story, bud,”
“Fuck! This paper is all too wet. There is no way we are
getting this thing going.” Clark gives up and reaches for the whiskey.
“Screw it. The girls had the right idea,” I say.
“No shit. If this is the apocalypse, they’re gonna’
survive while we’re out here dickin’ around in the snow and ice,” Gary adds.
As I head back toward the cabin, I pause at the sound of a
branch breaking. I stare into the woods, looking for the source of the sound.
“It’s heavy snow, branches break,” Clark says.
“I think there is something out there. See, next to that
birch tree.” I point into the shadows. The sun sets early this time of year and
with the storm there is no moon.
“I don’t see anything,” Clark says.
“Just give me your flashlight,” I demand. He hands it over
and I flick it on. The beam settles on the birch and persuades the mysterious
shadow to move as it dodges the light.
“What was that?” Gary gasps.
“I told you there was something out there.” I swing the
flashlight in an arc trying to locate the shadow.
Suddenly, the ground begins to rumble and shake. An
earthquake? No, it’s not the ground. It’s a growl. As the realization hits me,
the beam of my flashlight finds its target. The light reveals a creature
covered in white fur that must stand at least nine feet tall. Its eyes glow red
from a canine face. It lets loose a shrill howl that echoes throughout the
night, only slightly muffled by the snow. Seconds later, the sound of falling
snow is broken by three more howls, each from different points around the
“GTFO,” I yell at my friends. Without waiting for a
response from them, I spin around and sprint towards the cabin. The deepening
snow makes it difficult for me to run; each step is fought by slush and ice.
Behind me I hear a scream and then a savage wet ripping and cracking.
I don’t look back. I keep running, but the heavy, sloppy
mess around my feet makes the distance to the cabin impossibly far. I hear
another shriek of pain and angst, quickly silenced by more ripping and
shredding. My throat burns as I fight down bile. In my panic, I slip on the
greasy ground and fall hard to my hands and knees. Howls let loose all around
me and I know that I am next.
Act III: Delayed
“Give it up, Tony, you’re lost,” Alison says from the
passenger seat as we bounce down the ever narrowing dirt road.
“I’m not lost. We’re almost there. I think . . .” I say.
“Just stop and ask someone.”
“Stop and ask someone? Who the hell would I ask?” I take
my hands of the wheel and gesture to the woods around us. “Maybe you want to go
back to that junkyard where oldsmobiles go to die?”
Just the thought of the
place makes me shiver. We had seen the last sign of a neighbor back a mile
where there were dozens of oldsmobiles, all in rough shape, parked haphazardly
in the woods. There had also been a half-assed fence that couldn’t possibly
keep anything in or out and I, for one, didn’t care to find out which purpose was
“Chicken? Bok buk buk bok,” Alison clucks at me.
“Look we’re here,” I say as we pull into the clearing. The
fire is roaring and it looks like there are quite a few people standing around
it. “My sister is already here.”
“Hey guys! I brought the good stuff,” I say and wave my
bag of homegrown as I approach the fire. It is eerily quiet except for popping
and crackling of the bonfire. There are a dozen people staring into the flames,
standing perfectly still with their shoulders slouched and arms hanging by
From a distance, I recognize a few people: Apples, Molly,
Clark and my sister. No one turns to greet me. No one acknowledges me.
I put my hand on my sister’s shoulder. “You high or what?”
She turns around slowly to face me. The fire flickers and
casts shadows on a gaunt and hollow face. Her eyes are blank and unintelligent;
a loan moan escapes from her lips. I step back without taking my eyes off from
her, my movement seems to snap her from her trance because she lunges toward
I take another step backwards and stumble into arms that wrap tightly
around me from behind. My cry of surprise quickly turns to a shriek of pain
when my hidden captor clamps onto my cheek with his teeth and then rips away
the soft flesh. It is only then that I notice the inconspicuous bite on my
Act IV: Tongues
“Dude, she’s speaking in tongues,” Gary says.
“She’s just drunk off her ass.”
He shakes his head. “Look at her.”
I look at Fischer, she sits cross legged on the ground less than a foot from the fire and stares intently into the flames. After a moment I notice her lips moving ever so slightly.
“Hey, Fish! Who ya’ talkin’ to?” I ask.
She ignores me and continues her discussion with the fire.
“Face it, man. Your woman has lost it.”
“Yea, it’s probably time to get her into bed,” I say with a sigh. It looks like it will be a long night of taking care of Drunky McDrunkerson. I rise to my feet. “C’mon kid, it’s time to get you to bed before you hurt yourself.
As I approach, her head snaps up. She is more alert than I had thought. In a single fluid and agile motion she hops from her crossed legged position to a low crouch that makes her look like a hunting feline. It gives me pause. Her eyes glint in the light of the dancing flames. She is beautiful and feral and, in that moment, I want nothing more than to embrace her, and love her, and be loved by her. And then, in the fraction of a second that it takes to blink, she is gone; I am left staring at an empty patch of dead grass next to the fire.
Act V: Snowmageddon
“It’s a good thing you guys planned to stay here anyway,”
I say, looking out the window. The snow has piled up quicker than any of us
No one acknowledges my remark. The bonfire and all other
outdoor activities had been quickly postponed by the weather. No one even
wanted to go play around on the snowmobiles; the wind is whipping and the
bitter cold has driven any motivation from our souls. Instead we sit around
playing cards and drinking spiked coffee and hot chocolate.
Around midnight the snow is halfway up the window. Four
feet. That is some serious snow. Maybe Alaska gets snow like that, but we do
not. It takes a winter full of storms to get this much ground coverage. I have
never before seen it in a single storm.
At two in the morning, a high pitched screech jolts me
awake. I run out of my room and look down at the main living space from the
second floor balcony; Molly follows close behind. Below my friends are waking up
bleary eyed, scattered about in sleeping bags. The large picture window has
cracked from the weight of what has to be more than eight feet of snow behind
it. The window groans and fights against the mass. I watch in horror as the
window finally gives way, shattering in glittering shards on the floor. The
snow immediately begins to pour in, seemingly joyous at its space to grow.
Gary and I scramble to the basement where we grab a sheet
of plywood, some sheetrock screws and my screw gun.
With the window blocked and all of us wide awake, we sit
around listening to the creaking of the house as it holds back the elements.
The power goes out and it begins to get cold in the cabin. Another window breaks
under the strain of the relentless storm.
Molly takes a swig off a bottle of Jack. “It has to stop
Act VI: Heat Wave
“I thought it was supposed to snow?” I ask. The sun is just
setting and it is unseasonably warm. It must be my imagination, but it seems to
be getting warmer as the sun sinks lower and lower and the sky darkens.
“Molly, no complaining. Just be thankful we don’t have to
stand around a bonfire in a blizzard,” Alison says.
“I’m not complaining; just commenting,” I say.
“Wow, that fire is hot!” I say, stepping back from the
flames. The distance does little to calm the slight burning sensation on my
“It’s not the fire. It’s fuckin’ hot out,” Apples says,
walking towards the fire. He has changed out of his jeans and hoodie into a
t-shirt and shorts.
“Babe, are you crazy? It’s the middle of December,” I say.
“And it’s fuckin’ hot,” he replies.
I look around the fire pit; our guests are backed well
away from the flames and have stripped off their outer layers. Beads of sweat
are forming on my own forehead and I can’t shake the burning tingle of my skin.
Apples hands me a fresh bottle of hard cider, I gratefully
accept it and take a drink to quench my parched throat.
“Ugh! Why didn’t you get me a cold one out of the fridge?”
I force down the rest of the bottle; it is piss warm, as
if it had been sitting in the sun all day.
Sitting around a dying fire, kept alive only for its
light, we sweat in the heat. The thermometer on the tree outside the kitchen
window says it is ninety degrees. We have stripped to our underwear and are thoroughly
blitzed from chain drinking every liquid in the house and then promptly
sweating out the water content.
“That’s it! I’m going swimming,” Alison squeals. She runs
towards the pond shedding her bra and panties as she goes. The rest of us are
quick to follow. She dives in with a splash and her blood curdling scream stops
us in our tracks. We watch in revulsion as she drags herself from the water
onto land and her flesh sloughs off in large sheets; leaving behind wet tissue,
glistening in the bright moonlight.
Her screams stop and she collapses in a heap. Apples and
Tony rush forward; Tony grabs her under the arms and Apples grabs her by the
feet, together they carry her to the cabin
Suddenly, it is unbearably hot. So hot. I can’t remember
ever being so hot. The tingling burning sensation on my skin has escalated to
the feeling of being on a spit. My lips are cracked and my throat dry; my head
throbs from the heat, alcohol, and dehydration. It hurts to think and it is
hard to breath. I’m not even sweating anymore.
I am vaguely aware of Fish as she comforts a sobbing Laura.
Then, I remember Alison. Is she ok? Where is she? I remember her being carried
from the bank of the pond. How long ago was that? It seems like it was hours
ago, but it could have been only seconds. Turning towards the cabin, I catch
sight of the pond; it boils violently in the silver light of the moon. And then
I am enveloped in suffocating blackness.
Act VII: The Hunt
The flames of the fire double in height and turn green as
they give birth to a demon sent for malignant purposes. The creature is slight,
only three and a half feet tall, with long sinewy arms and legs. His thin scaly
tail, nearly as long as he is tall, whips and flicks about, reminiscent of a
cat’s. But don’t be fooled by the creature’s diminutive stature because his lizard
face reveals clever eyes and hides a devious mind.
The demon looks around and frowns, momentarily disappointed
that his spectacular miracle appearance went unnoticed; the party goers are all
out of sight, refilling their refreshments. His mood quickly brightens as he
sees one of the humans emerge from the cabin. His thin lips spread to a wide
smile and expose a mouth full of jagged, needle-fine, teeth that reflect the
light of the moon.
flames revert to orange and yellow, the demon mutes his own scales to a matt
black which allows him to vanish into the night. His hunt has begun.
Act VIII: Last Call
“It’s kind of beautiful in a morbid we-are-all-going-to-die
kind of way,” Molly says.
I take another sip of my margarita. “Yea.”
“How long now?” Laura asks.
“It’s interfering with my cell reception. Weather.com said an hour about forty
minutes ago,” I say.
“I’m gonna need a re-fill,” Laura says with resignation.
I pick up the pitcher of the green liquid and pass it to
my friend. “This is the best part about drinking in the winter. The snow keeps
your drinks cold without ice.”
The still of the night is broken by the high pitched whine
of snowmobiles approaching.
Clark pulls up and lets the engine idle. “Wanna do it?”
“Sure,” I say as I climb on behind him. We fly off into
the darkness, towards the cabin for one last tryst before the end of the world.
I don’t bother to say goodbye to my friends who remain reclined in lawn chairs,
drinking margaritas in the snow, and staring at the giant ball of flame
hurtling in the night sky towards the Earth.
Over the last few weeks I have been slow to post. I have been focused on promoting my book and as a result I have not written as much as I would have liked. This morning I got up and said "Fish, you're going to sit your ass down and work on something. No advertising, no selling, just writing." And that was the plan.
Plans change. My plan changed. See, the thing is, I write horror. I dream of the apocalypse. I create monsters. But today we do not need horror. Today, I do not need to create a monster. Today, we are faced with real life horror and tragedy. We are faced with a real life monster. It just doesn't feel right to create something gruesome and grim when it already sits in our backyard gnashing its ugly teeth.
I couldn't do it. I couldn't bring myself to add more fear to the world on a day that has already seen more than its share.
I love my genre and I rarely consider the work of my peers and heroes gratuitous. Horror has its place. It provides an escape. It allows us to explore the deepest and darkest depths of our imaginations. It allows us to create something that shouldn't be possible. But I can't go there today. I need to be in the light.
And so, I have a challenge for you. Do something beautiful. Create something from love. Create a smile or laughter. Do something that brings this whole damn apocalypse of a day to a screeching halt. Counterbalance the monstrous deed. Do something in the light.
My thoughts are with the families in Newtown and the religious fence sitter in me hopes that there is something else waiting for those little kids, maybe even a second chance.
“You have a very promising career right here. You know
that, don’t you?” Mr. Philips says. He sits behind his desk with his hands folded
neatly. His phone rings but he ignores it, he doesn’t even steal a glance to
check the caller ID.
I am the one to break eye contact and I divert my eyes to
the window behind him. I focus on the greenery and blooming spring trees, they
are at odds with his stark white office. A squirrel scampers out onto the limb
of the nearest tree. It is thin from the long winter but it is energetic and full
of life and freedom. It brings a smile to my lips.
His voice brings me back inside and my smile vanishes as I
lose my connection to the fuzzy critter outside. “Yes, Mr. Philips. I know.”
“There are going to be excellent opportunities in the very
near future. You just need a little patience,” he says. His brow is furrowed
and the intensity with which he stares at me makes my stomach flip-flop.
The dread that has been building in the pit of my stomach
makes me want to give in. It makes me want to surrender and say ‘yes, I’ll be a
good little powder monkey,’ but I can’t. Not now. I have come too far.
I take a deep
breath. “I know. But this isn’t about my career. It’s more personal than that.
I feel like this is the right decision.”
Mr. Philips frowns and finally drops his gaze to his
folded hands. He unfolds them and tents them, tapping his fingers together.
Suddenly he looks ancient and tired. His thinning hair seems just a little bit
thinner. The grey seems a little bit greyer. His bright eyes, always ready for
a challenge, look cold and dull. “I understand, I just . . . I had hoped you
would be my replacement.”
My shoulders slump under the weight of the guilt that is
piled high. “I know, Mr. Philips. I feel terrible about this.” I feel like I
have betrayed him, like I have abandoned him. “I want you to know that
appreciate everything that you have done for me.”
He nods but continues to look like a broken man.
“I feel like . . . I just feel like I would regret missing
an opportunity like this.”
“Yes, Kate. I understand. Since it seems like you have
made up your mind, I wish you the best of luck.”
“Miss? What would you like to drink?” the flight attendant
I am slow to respond. I had been staring out the window at
the endless clouds, re-playing the conversation with my boss over and over
again in my head. “Uh, I’ll have a Coke. Thanks.”
“You can’t be serious about this?” my mother screams. She is
furious. Her face is beet red and a vein stands out in the middle of her
forehead. Tears stream down her face.
I stand in front of her with my arms crossed defiantly. But there
is nothing defiant about me; I can’t even bring myself to speak.
“It has just been the two of us for so long and now you’re
going to leave me?”
I had promised myself I would stay strong and stand my
ground but I can feel my resolve breaking apart as the tears begin to well.
“Aren’t you going to say anything? Or are you just going
to stand there and stare at me?”
My throat burns as I try to hold back the emotion and I
try to make the words come out. “I have to do this,” I whisper.
“Ma, I have to do this. I want to see the world.”
She glares at me, deadly fire dancing in her eyes. She
rakes her hands through her dark hair and shakes her head.
“Ma, I’m afraid I’m gonna spend my whole life in that
office, just working. I want to do something crazy. I’ve never been anywhere. I’ve
never done anything.”
“It’s just two years?”
The fire in her eyes dies to a smolder. She crosses her
arms and shakes her head again. “I guess you’re gonna do what you wanna do.”
Her voice cracks and sounds weak. I have never seen my mother lose her fight,
I awake to the ding of the plane’s intercom.
“This is your captain speaking. Please return to your seats
and put on your seatbelts. We are approaching a little weather and may
experience some turbulence. Thank you.”
“What do you mean you don’t want to get married?” Andrew asks
as he rolls out from beneath his jeep.
“I can’t marry you,” I squeak.
He jumps up from his creeper and stands in front of me wiping
the grease from his hands on his coveralls. “Is this about that damn job? I
told ya if you really wanted to go, I’d go with ya.”
I shake my head ‘no.’
He wraps his arms around me. “Baby, I love ya. I’ll do
anything for ya, even if that means movin’ half way around the world ta’ live
with them China people.”
His arms are so safe and secure. His words are so
comforting. He does love me. He always has. The tears flow freely as I nuzzle
into his shoulder. I have caused so much disappointment. How can I do this to
him? How can I do this to the people that love and trust me? How can I just
walk away from everything I have here?
I push away from his embrace and cross my arms to keep him
from trying again. “I have never been alone. I have never been on my own. I
have to do this. I have to find out about myself.”
His face falls flat as he realizes I have made my
decision. “I’ll wait for you. It’s only two years. I’ll wait for you.”
“You don’t have to,” I say, letting my eyes drop to the
“I’ll wait for you,” he says.
My eyes snap open as my stomach drops and there is a
collective shriek from the other passengers on the flight. I am jostled about
as the plane shutters and shakes from turbulence. The little yellow masks have
dropped from the overhead.
“Ladies and gentlemen we have experienced a rapid drop in
cabin pressure, please put on your oxygen masks and remain calm,” a female
voice says over the intercom. Despite her request, she sounds anything but
I reach for the mask and place it over my face. I turn to
the man sitting next to me and I see his eyes are wide and filled with fear.
Children are crying and the woman behind me is sobbing. The plane groans and
creaks. It dips and pitches. The plane sounds as if it is going to rattle to
pieces. A man begins what sounds like a prayer in some foreign language; he is
quickly joined by others until it is a panicked chorus, pleading to whatever
god they follow.
I have abandoned my family. I have left everything I have
ever known. I have left my only home. I am all alone on this plane that surely
seems like it will never meet its destination. But somehow I am calm. There is
something oddly reassuring about this horrific situation, as if it is
validation that I needed to experience more; that I needed to be my own person
and find my voice. Well I have found my voice and if I make it safely through
this, I will make sure to use it.