Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Dialog Two: Go or Stay? Feedback Requested



“What do you think it will be like?” Ashlee’s voice sounded small in the night. They were camped out on top of the resort’s gym after wrestling two mattresses onto the roof and a few sleeping bags. The northern lights danced above them and even in April it was cold. They could hear bears wandering the streets, smelling the air, sensing there were humans here again, and therefore, food. But the doorway to the gym’s room was barricaded with weights, many of them, so both women felt reasonably safe.
“I’ve thought a lot about that.” Frankie whispered, knowing what Ashlee had asked. They held hands in the darkness and watched the sky ablaze in color and light. A falling star flashed around the sky and it broken into pieces right before it disappeared. Both women squeezed the hand holding her own and both smiled.
“I’m useless except as a sex toy, if it’s up to us to repopulate the world” Ashlee spoke louder, as if she were warding off sleep. Frankie had spent nearly twenty-four hours a day with this person for the last nine months. She could sense fear in Ashlee’s voice.
“It could be very bad, Ash.” Frankie agreed with the unspoken thought. “But do you think we can stay up here forever?” And there it was, in the open, for both to examine. Now that one of them had said it aloud, they were going to have to speak about what the future held for them, as a couple, as partners, as lovers, and as women.
There was a splash in the lake and both women realized their hearing had become more attuned to the sounds of the night. Instinctively, they squirmed a little closer together, shifted their bodies as they had thousands of times in the last nine months as they sought love or warmth, or both. But the question had been raised and after a winter in the Canadian wilderness neither woman was a cowed by hard questions.
“If we make the crossroads and there’s no one there, or just a few people, how do you think they’ll feel about us being lovers?” Ashlee asked the question they had both wondered about. “Do we have an obligation, do you have an obligation, to reproduce?” Ashlee turned over on her wide and touched Frankie’s face with her hand, and felt the chill on both their skins. “What do we owe the human race right now? Do we owe it to our families to go looking for them? Randall said two years. We don’t want to try to walk out of Canada in the fall so do we leave in the spring? Do we leave a year from now? What’s it going to be like if one of us gets appendicitis? Almost any mistake we make out here is going to kill us. We go back to civilization and if the rape culture was bad before there were laws what do you think it’s going to be like when anyone with a gun can do anything he wants?”
“Yeah, I know.” Was all Frankie could say, and there was nothing else to say. Stay? Go? How long before one of the two of them broke a bone or got sick? What if…? The ways to die in the wild never stopped stalking them. Yet they both knew if civilization had failed women would bear the brunt of a lawless society. They held hands in silence.
“I have to pee.” Frankie said and went to the edge of the building to relieve herself. They had grown accustomed to having no plumbing but always designated a place for that purpose so they would not step in it accidently. Hand sanitizer was something they both carried, doubly paranoid while in the resort, but Randall said if it was a bio weapon it would have to be designed to die off as quickly as it killed. The men in the lab who built it wouldn’t want it to survive very long or it might make it back to its owners. Still, even once harmless diseases were potentially fatal now.
“I don’t want to go back.” After an hour or so, Ashlee spoke again. Both women had learned a lot about patience during the winter. “Do you?”
“We have a year to think about it.” Frankie replied. “And no, I’m not putting the question off, I’m really torn about it. I miss my family. I miss Georgia. I miss the heat. I miss people, a little, and I want to know, I think we have to know what happened, how bad it was, and if there’s people out there who need us. We’re going to starve to death if we can’t grow some plants to eat and we’re going to die of something up here sooner or later, even if we try really hard, we’re bear bait as soon as the ammo runs out.” The words came out in a rush.
“So what if our worst fears are realized and we’re trading bears and cold winters for men out there who don’t give a damn about rebuilding the world and are just looking to tie us up and use us until they get tired of it or kill us? If things have gotten truly bad out there we might wind up being sold on a block or simply beaten into submission. You’ve heard at how bad it is for guys in prison. The guards turn a blind eye to everything that happens and long as no one tries to escape and no one is killed. This is how the weaker prisoners are forced to live for decades sometimes. I know, I know this is worse case scenario for us, but we have to consider that going back is a lot worse than dying together up here.” Ashlee started crying and she realize she was close, they were close, to having their first real fight. This was a disagreement that mattered more so than anything else they had ever spoken about. “Tell me you love me.”
“I love you,” Frankie said as she took the smaller woman in her arms, “you know I do.”
They held one another without the promise or thought of physical passion and Ashlee finally spoke again. “Let’s agree to talk about this once a month. We will write down the good the bad and the ugly and we’ll leave one year from today, if we are going to leave, and we will agree to wait another year, if we both don’t agree to leave.”
“That’s fair, Ash.” Frankie said and she felt as if they had weathered the storm, that compromise had been offered and accepted, and they still had to survive another winter. But this time they had a long time to build up their fuel, and they had more food, and more weapons, and they were getting very good at killing bears.

More later,

But what do you think? Stay or go? You have all the info they do.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Dialog: Part of a scene I'm writing between two women in a post-apocalyptic world.





“I knew my parents were heading for a divorce before they did,” Ashlee said in the darkness, “but they held onto the wreckage trying to keep us all together. If it had been just Chad, my older brother and me, I think they would have still bailed but when I was ten mom forgot to take her pill or dad forgot to pull out, or maybe they just thought they were too old to have another kid, but mom turned up pregnant. They were both in their late thirties at that time so I considered them ancient and my brother was already in High School. Chad left a month after graduation and joined the Navy. He came back a couple of times after that, he was home for Christmas, but he fell off a boat somewhere in the Pacific and we never saw him again. Sorry, your brother fell off a boat, and that’s that, but that was how it was. That seems so odd. Cause of death: Fell off a boat. Dennis was just five at the time. I was in High School but Dennis was already the kid everyone was paying attention to.” Ashlee proper herself up on one elbow. “Am I boring you to death? Do you really want to hear this?”
“Yes” is all Frankie could say, “I mean I want to hear it.”

“Dennis was a strange kid.” Ashlee continued. “He couldn’t learn to read or write, and he spoke in bursts, not babble or anything like that, but there seemed to be days he could talk and there were other days it seemed like he wanted to talk but nothing was there anymore. It was like he had the ability every third day or something like that. He broke things. All of our windows were boarded up before he was out of diapers. He threw things at windows, mirrors, and he threw anything that would break. He cut the shit out of himself one time with a broken bottle and after that we stopped buying anything that could break. Dad had to get Plexiglas for the windows. We ate off plates made out of metal. I mean, there were nice looking but when company came over there we were with our metal plates and heavy duty plastic drinking glasses. Mostly, when it was just us we used paper plates and those red cups. I had to put a padlock on my bedroom door to keep him out. I think they would have split up even if Dennis would have been normal, or even partially so, but having a kid around that, you know, we had to keep him doped up most of the time. Either that or have someone sitting right there with him to keep him from destroying something. We got good, I mean damn good, at hooking up the television and DVD player so we could watch movies. That kind of stuff Dennis would demolish before you could get to him. So we stashed it in my room, or in the garage, a place we kept him out of because of the cars, and when his meds kicked in we’d drag everything out and then after the movie stash it back again. We were like a pit crew with  electronics. I got a job at Best Buy because of that kid. I could install anything in less than a minute.
Mom took us out for ice cream one day, it was a year to the date that Chad went missing, and I knew that they both had lawyers and I knew they were trying to figure it out. But mom told us, told Dennis really, that they had come to an agreement, it was really strange she had put it that way. And that she was going to take Dennis and go live with grandma for a while, and I was going to stay with dad ( they didn’t bother to ask, they just knew I wasn’t going to change schools this late in life) and I was watching Dennis when she told him. I wondered if he would know what she was saying. He did. I saw it in his face. He looked at me and said, perfectly, “I did this to us didn’t I?” and I had to leave. I just got up and walked out and kept walking. I sat down in someone’s yard and just lost it. Here this kid is, a host of issues no one even knew how to address, and now he’s blaming himself for a divorce. I knew he would never be right after that.

I called mom on my cell and told her I was walking home and she knew better than to try to stop me. She had to try to put that fire out that she had set in that kid’s mind but we both knew all the ice cream on earth wouldn’t help. I saw a sign advertising a yard sale so I walked over to it and it was this tiny run down house that had like a billion racks of clothes in the even smaller yard. All of the clothes were kids’ clothes, but there was only one kid around. There were three adults there, one guy who looked about twenty who also looked stoned out of his mind, a woman that was about his age, twice his weight, and covered with homemade tattoos, like she had fallen into a pit with needles and ink while having a seizure. And there was an older woman, I’m guessing the inked up girl’s mother, who was just as fat, and she didn’t stop talking the entire time I was there. All three were smoking, and there was this little girt running around and she kept pulling on the handlebar of a Harley that was propped up on a tree. There was a sign there that said, “Best offer” but I could tell the guy wasn’t really trying to sell it. A guy came up and looked at it and the owner guy told him, ‘Ain’t no fuckin’ reason to take it for a test drive if you ain’t gonna buy it,’ and the grandma screamed at him, ‘Give that boy the goddam keys, Freddie, you let him drive if he fuckin’ wants to” and they talked this way, screaming at each other, about everything. The little girl was pulling on the handbars and the other guy just walked off without test driving, which was what the owner wanted, I’m sure, but then the smell hit me. The smell of dog urine was coming out of the house once the younger woman brought out a fan. So all three of them say on the front porch steps, crowed around like some sort of weird animals trying to stay warm even though it was already hot as hell. They were all smoking, all of them were screaming at each other, cussing, screaming at the little girl, and I just walked off. That was just four years ago. I decided right then and there I was going to go to school, get good grades, and find a way to make a life that never included having kids. Most girls want to go on a cruise or go to the beach or Disney or something on graduation. I decided to have a hysterectomy.”
Ashlee sat up and put her hand out in the darkness and found Frankie. “That’s why I never want to have kids.”
They sat in silence and waited. There was no point in worry or nervous talk and they knew it. Finally, Ashlee spoke again, “You think you would have done the 2.5 kids and a dog in the suburbs with Wes?”
“Yeah” Frankie was surprised she admitted it. “The band was the only thing I ever did off the tracks. My high school boyfriend was killed in a wreck, I told you that...”
“Uh huh”
“…and after that I just kinda went along for the ride. When I was a little kid I was an only child so I spent a lot of time playing alone. They put me through piano lessons but they never took. I always was good at singing I just never thought I was good enough. Until now.  That one gig in Valdosta made me start thinking that maybe we were, maybe I was, or maybe just plain luck would pull us through. I felt alive again. Playing in front of that many people did something to me and something for me. Now it’s gone. How many people do you think are left, Ashlee?”
“If what Randall said is true then there won’t be many survivors.” She sighed. “I hated that son of a bitch but he was hardly ever wrong. We have to believe him when he said don’t go back for two years.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“But we do have to plan for it.” Ashlee continued. “We have to think that someday we’ll have to walk out of this place, maybe do the sixty miles back to the last crossroads and see what’s left there. I mean, who knows? Maybe whatever it was, the ‘bioweapon’ left some people in some places and that might be one of them. It’s remote enough.”
Ashlee felt Frankie get up and move around the bedroom. The heat wouldn’t kick on until the temperature dropped below zero for an hour. It was incredibly cold, always, but they knew the fuel had to be saved for those days it was cold enough to kill them. Above them, they had firewood stacked up inside the cabin they hoped would get them through a month, maybe even longer, but the wood was green and freshly cut so they hoped to not use it until the next winter. Both women knew the edge between life and death was thinner than a razor’s.
Frankie had always liked to sing and Ashlee encouraged her. In the darkness, Frankie would singer to Ash, and Ashlee would in turn write songs for her to sing. But the days were filled with woods cutting, sawing, chopping, measuring the snow, and trying to find food that would supplement their meager supplies. Each night it got colder and colder. The frost on the walls of the cabin became thicker and they knew as soon as they used up the fuel for the heaters they would die. Yet the basement of the cabin was thickly insulted from the story above it. The ground kept most of the cold out and there were no windows. As bad as it was, they both knew as long as it didn’t get below freezing, and stay there for a very long time, they would survive. December fled before the cold wind and snow and January fell in behind it. January was a frozen hell for both women but they saw February come, and then slowly go, and they had hardly used any of the fuel at all. March blew in and they began to wonder if Spring had died along with the rest of the human population, but then one day the sun came out and as they tried to shovel a path to the outhouse, the y felt the first real warmth of the year.

Still, winter fought back and it was the last part of April before they were truly able to move around the outside of the cabin. They saw their first bear a week later. 


more later,
Mike


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Great Danes and Wisdom Teeth





The night began poorly, and the usually stable Tyger Linn wanted out, and then back in, and then out again. She would stand up and whine at the darkness for no reason I could discern. The Cousins will follow her out, Marco Ladakh especially, and I had to leave the back door open to finally solve the problem of the revolving dogs. But Tyger Linn stayed restive. She would join me on the bed but then ask to be petted, or she would whine softly at something out there.

My dreams came in fragments, like ancient scrolls that dissolve in the wind before they are red completely. I had been in an accident of some sort and I had some sort of injury to my head. That much was clear. I felt something odd on the back of my head, and like a pimple that bursts when touched when I searched the back of my head for the sensation I pulled a tooth out. One of my wisdom teeth, in fact. My older sister was suddenly there and she told me that it had happened to her too, that she had been hit in the head and it caused her wisdom teeth to get knocked into the back of her skull and there they exited after a while. It was no big deal at all, she explain, it happens all the time. I dug three more teeth out of the back of my head and looked at them in the palm of my hand. The teeth were bloody but shiny white, as if they had just been polished.

Tyger woke me up yet again, and this time she was excited about something and she had led the Cousins in to tell me about something. I got up to close the door, hoping their energy had been spent, and laid down in hopes of sleep. I drifted in and out of a dream that involved a building I had been in before but the dreamscape refused to gel. The roof was red tile, I remember that, but there was nothing else to reach out and grab.

I was going back and forth from a car and an office, each time remembering something and having to go back, and then it would be gone, and something else would be forgotten and had to be retrieved. I woke up during this process and wondered what the objects were but nothing existed except at the moment I remembered it, retrieved it, and then it was gone from my hands and my memory.

There was a sound, the sound of movement in the dark, the moonlight poured into the room and Tyger was standing at the window, on her hind legs, looking out into the black and silver night.

There was an office, and there was a television that was locked onto an info commercial but it never stated what the product was. The man next to me began talking about the commercial and I realized he was giving me a sales pitch so I moved. I realized that I was in a doctor’s office, but I had no idea why. (My teeth, maybe?) And again, someone sat down next to me, and began giving me a sales pitch. I moved again, and this time a man who was dressed very nicely sat down, but his mouth was covered with brown tape and he had odd markings on his face as if he were trying to predraw a tattoo. I went up to the receptionists and asked her how long it would be before I could see the doctor and she said the commercial had to run three more times before the doctor would see anyone. Two very large Great Danes came in and sat down beside me and they acted as if we had met before. One was male, the other female, and both had tiny scars on their bodies as if they had lived very hard lives before this time. They were tan and black Danes, more colored like GSDs and both of them wanted to sit in my lap. I moved to a short sofa and they both moved with me and no one else bothered me as the commercial played on and on. One thing all of the people I had spoken to had said to me was “Hang in there, it will be okay” but I have no idea what they were talking about.

A woman came in, someone I know slightly, and she asked me to help get move something out of her house. We walked outside and her house was in the parking lot. We went up a very long flight of stairs and there was an empty room with wooden floors with sunlight speckled with dust floating through it. The woman began drawing on the bare wood walls and talking to me about how hard it was to find someone to help move stuff. I wanted to take a couple of steps forward and perhaps see what she was drawing but there seemed to be something compelling me not to move and I couldn’t tell what she was drawing or what she was drawing with at all.

There was total darkness and there was a woman, I had no idea who she was, with me, and it felt like she skin was on fire with heat. There was no light, no sound, except our breathing, no sensation but that of touch and I felt her surrendering to pure animal passion and I could feel her nails on my back and her teeth on my neck.

I awoke with a start and the moonlight had shifted yet still came in through the windows. The dogs were milling around the backdoor and whining so I got up and tried to sift through the dreams to find some meaning in them. Thirty minutes later I tried to sleep again and this time, if I did sleep, there were no dreams to haunt me, and the dogs finally awoke no more.

Take Care,
Mike