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.

Lifetimes

“This place doesn’t seem…”

Rae trailed off as she noticed luminescent circles etching themselves in the cement above the scarlet door. There were two, disappearing soon as they came; she knew she was here.

The door yawned open a breath from Rae’s knuckles making contact with the wood. She blinked slowly, hand hanging in the air for a moment before she blew her too-long, pale bangs away from her obsidian eyes.

“Melodramatic,” she muttered, entering the townhouse and not even flinching when the door slammed behind her. “All of them.”

The wooden floor looked warped, like splinters might be the least she should worry about. Ahead was a staircase, starting wide and narrowing as it moved up to curve around the back wall and lead to the balcony above. A long tapestry hung over the balcony’s railing. Rae had to incline her head to see it, but with only candles on ledges and shelves that were built into the wall, the depictions were difficult to decipher.

Switching her bag’s long strap to her left shoulder, Rae brushed back her bangs and looked to the right. It looked like a sitting room, too dark to make out anything but silhouettes of cases and sofas.

To the left were closed French doors, time-yellowed curtains blocking her view through the window panes.

Ahead, the hallway was narrow due to the staircase taking up space, and something hung on the wall – a painting or mirror, Rae did not care to see.

With a huff, she headed up the stairs, picking up her feet to keep from tripping or getting the skinny heels of her boots stuck in any knots or holes.

Boards squeaked under her weight, and dust puffed from the long, narrow carpet in front of the first step. The flames all around the room seemed to dance higher, more excitedly, and buzzing Rae recognized from her years of apprenticeship plucked the hairs along her arms and the back of her neck, forcing them up straight.

The squeaks, first discordant screeches of age and wear, turned to tones, like a mermaid’s screeches turning to song as she dives beneath the waves.

“Of course,” murmured Rae, hackles up as she clutched her bag to her side. “You’re not clever!”

Continue reading “Lifetimes”

Powdered Death

Skin like ground-up ivory
Cheeks like stagnant blood
Hair of moonlit snow and tarnished silver
Memories fluttering about
And caught by those surrounding
Her lidded and eternal bed

Death coated and caked
A mask of half-hearted life for a moment
Death powdered and painted and perfumed
And life silent as the buried
Remembering, misremembering, loving, regretting

But knowing she’s with the god she loved
And continues to love in his kingdom

What My Church Taught Me

Lies saturate my lips and kiss my words with each breath
Carrying the scent of iced tea sweetened with Novocaine
Lit by a smile shoving back tears, snarls, and arguments
Rubbed smooth with “I’m fine, hon” and “Bless your heart”

Lies saturate my lips and kiss my words with each breath
Shrouding the doubts, pushing them into the far shadows
Hiding a tight heart and flipping stomach from prying eyes
Convincing half-closed ears that I believe their hate is love

Lies saturate my lips and kiss my words with each breath
Allowing me to walk and smile through every panic attack
Allowing me to smile and nod instead of scream or cry
Allowing me to live in hope someday, I can tell the truth