There is no Soul in his eyes. They’re dark, blank, flat, Void.

They don’t see me. They see atoms making up a form of paling colors; they meet blue eyes half-veiled by dark hair; they pull at my own Soul, knowing they have none of their own and knowing only Absence, only Wanting, only Needing.

We scream in the Void, let our tears fall into it, but it still seeks, still thirsts, still needs all that makes Souls, Souls. It knows as his eyes know. It knows its own Absence but cannot find its own essence to diminish its Emptiness.

His Soul might be waiting in Limbo or Heaven or Summerland or right next to me but unable to interact, to pull me away before the eyes he once had finish pulling out my own Soul wisp by wisp.

All I know is that he, as the Gods know Him, is gone, leaving only him, this body, this husk, that only Wants and Needs and Feeds on Souls to fill its Void.

All I know is I long to follow –

But instead tear my eyes away and run.

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The (Ir)Replaceable Girl

“There.” The mechanic sighed. “Please be more careful.”

The wrinkles around the mechanic’s eyes deepened.

The girl looked down at the floor. “Yes, Mother.”

The mechanic didn’t like the girl calling her ‘master’ or ‘maker’ or ‘miss’ or ‘ma’am.’ The formal ‘Mother’ felt more compromise than truth.

“I know I make a lot of rules,” the mother said as she tipped the girl’s head up so their eyes met, “but it’s because I care. I don’t want you getting hurt or – Lord forbid – lose you.”

“Because I’m your one and only,” the girl stated. It was an easy-enough line of logic to follow.

Eyes shining more, the mechanic slowly shook her head. “Even if I had many, I would feel a piece of me die if something were to happen to you. Go play, now. I need to finish making dinner.”

The mechanic left, and the girl stared out the door, which had been left open to let clean air move through the quaint home. She could hear the mechanic moving around in the kitchen, pots being moved and drawers and cabinets opening and closing.

The girl blinks and raises her arm to look at where the mechanic had welded the wound shut using tape that absorbed the oil she leaked.

She could not follow the mechanic’s logic.

If there were many others, why should her being lost matter? To the point of the mechanic feeling like a piece of herself had died?

She was only an object. An expensive one, yes, which meant as she continued to be updated and gather new information and skills, she was to use these to earn back her keep. Yet she seemed to have earned the mechanic’s love when she’d yet to do anything to earn it.

Standing, the girl did as ordered and went back outside.

When she reached the porch, she looked at her arm again, trying to see the flesh and blood and soul the mechanic saw but saw only metal and oil.

In the middle of shelving, the phone rings. The store’s small, I’m the only one here today, and the storm has kept customers at bay, giving me time to get things in order for them to fuck everything up again.

Yawning, I take my time getting to the phone. Hopefully they give up, and when the ringing stops, I pause and groan when it starts ringing again.

I’m already planning how long to sit in silence while I “check the back” for something we don’t sell as I pick up and say, “Taylor’s Tailors, Fabric, and More, how may I help you?”

The automated voice on the other end is easily recognizable before it even gets out the first syllable.

At least it’s not a customer.

Halfway through the automated voice’s let-me-sell-you-shit-you-don’t-need spiel, I’m about to hang up when static breaks through the voice.

Weird, and I bring the phone back to my ear as a new voice – a woman’s – calls out, “Hello? Hello?!” in a panicked voice.

“Ma’am?” True emotion slips into my voice now, adrenaline spiking through my veins as I dig out my cellphone from my apron pocket in case I need to call the police.

There’s this pounding in my head. Something bad is happening somethingbadsomethingbadsomethingbadsomethingbad

“Ma’am!” I call when there’s nothing but static on the other end. “Ma’am, are you okay?”

The static stops suddenly as lightning flashes outside. The lights go out without even a flicker of warning, and the woman’s voice comes back:

“Do you believe in God?”

My heart falls through my stomach from the war of relief and fury I feel.

“No.” My tone’s too forceful, but I don’t give a shit.

I’ve been dealing with evangelicals in this dead-end town since birth, even almost died when our old preacher convinced my mom to rely on faith healing before my dad finally took me to a hospital. I don’t need this, especially when there’s a breaker box I need to go find.

The woman’s voice is all around me now, the dead phone falling from my hand:

“Too bad. ‘Cause I quit, and you’re next.”

Radio Siren

Static shutters through the song as I hand the customer her change. She nods absentmindedly in tired thanks, and the jingle of bells alerts me to her departure as I go to fiddle with the radio’s dial.

The thing is old, and out in Bumfuck, Mississippi, only one station comes through with minimal static. If not for the shit my provider sells as coverage, I’d be listening to my Spotify playlist, but it is what it is.

The finicky radio is enough to make me want to turn it off some nights, but it’s never long before the kind of silence that only a rural area paired with darkness can create makes me choose static to keep me company. It’s better than the cicadas, muted by the walls, and the occasional rodent scavenging through the bins out back.

There’s always sound, but it’s the wavering white noise kind that can shove my anxiety into overdrive real quick, especially with caffeine replacing sleep – thanks to the shifts of my two jobs meeting to where time for sleep is hard to come by.

But sleep and sanity by damned; the faster I can get out of Mississippi, the better.

Continue reading “Radio Siren”

Infected

Post-apocalyptic films Lyn watched as a kid made the world look like one huge desert, but reality was so much colder.

The building (if it could still be called such, seeing as it was little more than rubble) looked to have once been a mall.

Lyn stood at the foot of the long-broken escalator, pick in one hand and knife in the other. The black steps were white and pale grey from snow and ash. Vines rebelling against the new order by daring to grow looked as though they blocked the escalator off – as though to tell Lyn to turn back and find shelter elsewhere.

There was no elsewhere.

Not with night only a half-hour (at most) away.

Breathing air through the thick, black cloth that covered the lower half of her pale, moon-shaped face, Lyn slashed at the vines and started climbing. The steps were not as slippery as feared, but she still needed to move slowly. An injury could prove serious, especially with it being cold enough that Lyn may not notice the damage right away.

Lyn swallowed. Her throat was dry.

She’d met with a nomad a week back. He’d talked about there supposedly being a settlement somewhere between ten and forty kilometers southwest of what was once Toronto.

The nomad was gone now, his hunting knife now helping Lyn protect herself. She’d been heading towards this supposed settlement since then, having to find shelter during nights to avoid Crawlers.

Shelter meant possibly running into one avoiding sunlight, rather than sleeping underground, but it was better than out in the open. They were more likely to hunt in packs in the open.

The steps were steady as Lyn climbed. She moved slowly, being silent as possible. She didn’t want others that may be nearby finding where she was. She hadn’t seen anyone around, but she had to be careful. There was no one watching her back anymore.

The Crawlers had gotten Axel a little over a month ago, and Lyn’s heart still felt like lead at the bottom of her stomach.

Not now, she thought, keeping her grey eyes ahead. Keep going. No mourning. Just surviving.

The plastic of Lyn’s goggles cast everything in a slight orange light.

Soon, she reached the second floor, built to overlook the first. The glass was shattered, much of it littering the dirty tile. The rest was buried somewhere below. The metal railing was bent and dented in most places, twisted or broken in others.

There was metal grating in the entrances of half the shops, though most were either rusted or sawed-through.

Malls and stores like Wal-Mart or Costco had been the favorite looting places. Nowadays, they offered only shelter. In some once-major cities, survivors held an unwritten code, where they would leave any supplies they could spare in old safes, lock boxes, lockers, et cetera.

Then the Crawlers happened, and it was every man for himself.

A clothing store to the right of the escalator had half the grating rusted and torn away. Lyn ducked and walked sideways through, knife out. Her goggles transitioned at the change of light availability, allowing her to see.

Racks were overturned, hangers by them or the wall. Shelves had been torn from the wall, and everything was covered in a layer of dirt and ash.

Lyn saw no footprints. She was alone.

Exhaling in relief, she went into the corner left of the entrance, by a decapitated mannequin. The glass wall behind her was cracked, a hole in the top corner, and it was opaque from grime.

If anyone came in, she should be able to see them before they saw her.

She took off her backpack set it in the corner. She set her ice pick aside, sheathed her knife on her hip, and curled up on the ground, using her backpack as a pillow.

Sleep was instant and light. No dreams. Never dreams. Dreams were for the few still uninfected by the virus.

The sound of glass breaking and crunching roused Lyn from slumber.

Before her thoughts could catch up, she was on her feet, ice pick in one hand and knife in the other.

The area was much darker than before, Lyn’s goggles adjusting.

Tongue clicks from outside, followed by more steps.

Crawlers were near-blind, relying on their hearing to get around. They used echo location, but there was every possibility that it had already heard her move.

Crawlers used to left the Infected alone, but with unaffected human numbers having dwindled over the past half-century, Crawlers went after anyone and anything.

Blood of the Infected greatly weakened a Crawler, but they were too hungry now to care.

The Crawler was hunched, twiggy arms bent up and hands ready to grasp. Its fingers were long and knobby, reminding Lyn of the Evil Queen’s hag disguise in Disney’s Snow White.

Its claws were dark from blood, same as its long, jagged teeth. Crawlers had two rows of sharp teeth too long for their mouths to close, and their jaws had to dislocate for them to chomp down and feed on prey.

Their bite Turned uninfected humans and killed the Infected. Saliva tinted with bright yellow venom dripped from its grey-blue gums over its fangs.

It let out a long, low hiss, tongue snaking out to taste the air. There as a long, thick scar that went over one of its eyes, making it milky white in color. The other was pale green, pupil spiderwebed with threads of the large iris’s color.

It still had hair, telling Lyn it had Turned recently, maybe a few months ago – the hair was thin and much longer on one side than the other.

Lyn felt a growl rise from the base of her throat, and her thin lips curled back behind the covering of her ski mask. She had only one row of sharp teeth, but they were not nearly as long as the Crawler’s. Her eyes glowed from behind the goggles.

The Crawler dashed forward, and Lyn rolled away and stuck out her left hand to slash at the Crawler’s Achilles heel. She severed the tendon and sent the Crawler tumbling. She then rushed forward, the Crawler shoving itself onto its back as it hissed and spat.

Before it could rise, Lyn buried her pick between its eyes. She then sheathed her knife and unsheathed her machete. It was strapped to her back, hidden by her coat. She decapitated the Crawler with ease, killing it.

Sighing, Lyn went back to her corner and cleaned off her weapons before falling back to sleep. It would be hours before the sun rose, and Lyn needed rest before setting out to find the settlement.

Crawlers weren’t the only ones who had been left hungry.

Night Train

I wait alone on the platform.

I have no luggage. Everyone always said I would not need any. All I have in addition to the clothes on my back is a large coin in one hand. It had been in my mouth when I awoke. It’s the size of my palm and looks like painted iron. Pomegranates are depicted on one side and glyphs I cannot read on the other.

My ebony curls hang loose and almost to my thick waist. My hair is tamer now than it ever was during the time I was alive.

The platform is glass, and each of my steps were careful. The spiky heels my brother chose for me look like they could crack the floor real easy.

Only, I don’t see anything but pale grey below. It looks to have the texture and consistency of smoke, but calling it smoke sounds wrong.

I look up from the shifting grey and catch my translucent reflection on the wall across from the tracks.

My charcoal eyes are no longer ringed with dark moons. My skin is deep copper, and I don’t see any of the injuries I should have from the accident. I’m wearing a red dress that falls to my knees and shows my broad shoulders.

The dress I’d always been too self-conscious to wear.

Of course Bodi had me dressed in this one.

I’m not sure how long I’m standing there before the train arrives. It stops in front of me without a sound, the doors opening.

I take a breath and step in, met by someone that looks more skeleton than flesh.

“Payment,” the person rasps, holding out a bony hand.

I drop the coin, and the person vanishes, doors closing.

Instead of sitting, I hold onto one of the frosted glass rails.

I left my ‘before’ life sitting down. I want to meet the ‘after’ one standing with my shoulders square and chin up.

Thunderstorms

Amelia sprinted up the slope, mason jar clutched to her chest. Her copper bangs were plastered to her high forehead, and her twin braids slapped her shoulders and back as she ran.

The grass was slick from rain, soil soft and shifting underfoot.

Mud sprinkled her tongue and teeth when she fell, sliding down the slope a few feet and mason jar forcing air from her lungs. She kept a close grip on the jar that, just this morning, held the last bit of marmalade. She’d cleaned it with soap and boiling water just for this occasion.

Light skated through dark clouds above, and jagged fingers of white slapped the Earth in the distance.

“Almost there,” Amelia huffed.

Her sneakers were coming untied, but instead of wasting any more time, she simply kicked them off and kept running, no-longer-white cotton socks squishing with every step.

Thunder clapped cymbals in Amelia’s ears, and her wide mouth curved into a grin. She picked up the pace, legs and lungs burning as her heart seemed to skip every other beat.

Finally, she was at the top of the hill, high enough that she could see hers, Momma’s, and Nana’s house down where she’d come. She unscrewed the mason jar’s lid, keeping a tight grip so as to not lose the top or the rim. She then held the glass up and stood on her tip-toes, not breathing.

Light flashed at the same time as the thunder’s scream, and Amelia was knocked back. She slid partway down the hill in a roll, stopping herself so as to close the jar.

Breathing heavily, she smiled wide, not noticing that the storm around her had vanished.

It was now in her jar, the angry, dark clouds screaming with light and sound that made the jar shake in Amelia’s hand.

Still breathing heavily, she ran home with her caught thunderstorm. She was the first in her family to ever finish this part of her initiation on her first try.

I’m going to be the most powerful witch anyone’s ever seen, she thought gleefully, clutching the jar to her chest and feeling the thunder boom in time with her heart.