Saturday, August 10, 2013 Flash Fiction---The Injured Earth

 (Author's note: Trying this flash fiction yet again with the prompt being "isolated thunderstorms". The gods at Helium have not kicked the four-hundred word version off their site but after reading it I am very unhappy with the result. In simpler terms it's crap. Plus, somehow a piece of html code ended up in the text of the story. As for the inspiration, saw the movie version of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" yesterday. )

As I begin my journal entry the morning is quiet and serene as I leave the secure confines of my underground shelter and gaze out at the plains of Kansas. My calendar says it’s the middle of spring but all I see are dead and burnt fields that seem to stretch forever. As I check my gear for my hopeless quest I feel a breeze blowing from the northeast suggesting the weather will change soon.

The only sounds I hear come from the collection of rusting vehicles abandoned on the interstate. The wind whips through the twisted hulks producing a surreal concert as if a hundred demented ghosts decided to start playing tin flutes to pass the time after the end of the world. Only a few more years will need to pass before the weather, the sun, and time will reduce these relics to red stains on the crumbling asphalt of Interstate Seventy of western Kansas. 

You don’t survive as long as I have by keeping a sense of time. On my little strolls I just place one foot in front of the other and mentally shut down. At times a whole day can pass in a blink of an eye. However at some point along the deserted highway I realize I have reached evidence that a civilization once existed. Off in the distance is a cluster of ruins that were once outlet malls, national chain restaurants, and gas stations. As I gaze at the high point of my culture the wind surges and I turn to see a band of dark clouds coming my way. Lightning flickers at the edge of the storm front forcing me to seek refuge.

I reach the nearest structure just as the rain hits me. The thunder and lightning could almost be God raging against what humans have done to his creation. The joke is on him, except for me the rest of us are dead. Even the ferals are gone now, products of the Apocalypse they were in a sense the truest form of humanity. The collapse burned away all the civilized niceties and sophisticated pretensions humans had created for themselves leaving the most vicious and cunning animal ever to evolve on this sad planet.

At first the ferals roamed the land like locust scavenging the remains of civilization. During this time a few of the pretenses of small group organization and cooperation were kept, in actuality I’d have to say they had more similarities with a wolf pack if that didn’t insult those noble animals. Once the last can of tuna and box of corn flakes was ate, the ferals started feeding of each other.  The only thing worse than the screams from those being kept in the improvised pens awaiting their turn as meals was the utter silence that followed after even that resource was exhausted.        

Sitting under the roof of what was once an IHOP I wait out the thunderstorms as they come and go and as night falls I unroll my sleeping bag and make camp. During the night I keep my pistol close, although nothing in this dead world threatens me. If I was a better and stronger person I would toss the killing abomination as far away from me as possible. But like the rest of humanity, I continue to tell myself it has a vital purpose. For my now extinct species it was a fatal delusion, the realization of the supremacy such instruments gave overwhelmed both the weak who succumbed to the siren call of power and those who kept them because they wallowed in abject fear of the unknown.   

I try to sleep but my thoughts continue to plague me. With nothing else to do I step outside the burnt structure and look upon the stars. Both they and my silly childhood dreams mock me now. I do find some dark amusement when I think that Earth is now prime real estate for a more rational and successful species to colonize.

As the hours pass in the stillness I begin to hear sounds out beyond my shelter. The fear that madness has finally found me requires that I find out if the disturbance is real. With the beam of my flashlight burning through the darkness I see tiny glowing and curious eyes popping up from the ground.

Prairie dogs, a whole colony in fact! Relief floods my soul. At any other time it would be almost insane feeling such joy at seeing such a collection of mere rodents but I am overjoyed. I have finally found evidence that the earth still possesses such life and that in time the wounds humans have inflicted will heal.  

The melancholy that my searching held at bay for so long comes back like the thunderstorms from yesterday.  “The world is yours my friends. Take better care of it than us.” I say to the new masters of the planet. In response they rightfully fidget and scurry about in the darkness worried over the threat I represent.  

With my quest is over, I look at the pistol I clutch in my hand and realize it does have one last purpose. I will spend these last few hours before sunrise watching the prairie dogs go about their lives. As soon as the sun comes over the horizon I will place my pistol against my head and pull the trigger.


Slick said...

Whoa! Did not see that coming!

Pixel Peeper said...

Don't call this "crap." I am amazed at your skill to paint such a desolate and detailed picture with your words. The scene is so gloomy, that the decision on how to use the pistol almost seems like a ray of hope.

Very well done!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Yowza. Not exactly uplifting, dude. Good job.

Beach Bum said...

Slick: I abused the prompt, but that is where the story took me.

Pixel: The 400 word version stinks, and I have no idea how the html code got inserted.

Susan: Just playing around.