Short Story: Forsaken Nightmare

Sunlight fired like pulse-beams through patches of a missing roof. It ricocheted off shattered remnants of a former med-cabinet and splayed itself across the grime and dirt of an old bathroom. A once-white-now-black cast-iron tub edged the room, half-covered by glass doors inexplicably better-weathered than the room.

Grime was smeared like liquid feces across fixtures and walls; the floor a half-inch taller than intended from piled dirt, piled wherever possible. The bits of ceiling still remaining appeared dangerously contaminated, while something piled and rag-like in the tub appeared permanently oil-drenched.

Yet, this was a kind of civilization. A so-called natural one at that– certain as the sun shifting exposed rafter-shadows before altogether tripling its rays across the tattered and oily rag-pile.

It gave a tired groan, stirring enough to resolve itself into the small form of a female Human. She yawned deep, instantly regretting it, then hacked and spit a wad of something. A moment later, she was scrambling for a more-suitable place to vomit.

Or, one that wouldn’t worsen her vomiting, anyhow.

She tripped from a bathroom into a bedroom over a warped threshold. Cool air blasted her face over blinding light as she fell toward a dilapidated corner and wet-heaved. The former bedside table’s remains became the receptacle for her expulsion– to what would’ve been its one-time owner’s dismay.

A cross-wind blew from the home’s open front-face, doing its best to soothe her. She heaved graciously, if that were anywhere near possible. The rubble she’d seen coming in confirmed a few explosives had detonated nearby– probably IEDs from the war, she’d guessed before.

She wasn’t guessing much now; retching with bilious acid, tongue ablaze despite leaking pools of saliva. Gut-punch heaves left her on trembling arms, knees bent beneath her and whole being shivering from flash cold-sweats. Even through layered rags, it cut through her like knives.

She wiped her mouth with a quaking hand, still propped feebly on the other, and clawed her way up rotted lumber. It stank and felt slimy, making her stomach lurch again, but with nothing left inside it, she stilled herself. For now the slime anchored her mind to reality. Mixed blessing that was, it focused her.

Get up, Mal.

“No,” she said aloud.

GET UP, MALAYA!

She was on her feet. Somehow. Her legs were rubber and the rest of her numb, like the moment of death before the mind goes, but she was moving again. Slowly. Deliberately. Had it not been so dark when she’d reached the ‘burb, she might’ve searched the nearby homes for better accommodations. What that might’ve been, she couldn’t imagine, but in daylight, the place was worse than she’d thought.

Of all the former homes, only one other remained in any recognizable condition. The environment made the rest of the rubble obvious as homes, but the most that remained of the least-damaged was a lone, I-beam half sunken into a former basement.

It was as if the whole area’d sustained a direct hit with some sort of planet-sized hammer.

Really, Malaya knew, it was just conventional weaponry. The whole planet might’ve looked the same but she couldn’t be sure. What little she’d seen of it was never so bad physically, but neither was it anywhere near the concept of “good.”

Mostly, it was just “different.”

Malaya rummaged through the last two homes for anything of value but left the ‘burb empty-handed. Her belly roared beneath her soiled layers, wishing to know food as the ruins once had. Nevertheless, she started off on her rubber legs, half-limping from premature aches and an old wound.

She’d left the place she’d called home days ago, never to return. She’d hold herself to that no matter what anyone said. No-one wanted  to be there  anyhow; Bleaker didn’t earn its namesake lightly. It was an internment camp turned refugee shelter– and kept that way four decades too long.

What passed and was built in those intervening years, from a former concrete-walled tent-city, was nothing short of a hell-hole. Unfortunately for Malaya, that hell-hole had been her home– however equally it was also a prison.

She fished an unlabeled can from beneath brick-rubble. It’d probably expired a half-century ago, but she tore at it with the ferocity of a starved, wild-animal– had any but Humans still existed. Nobody knew what started the war anymore, but everyone knew which side lost.

Which? Obviously the one fighting to keep people from living like Malaya.

She wolfed down something stale, rubbery, and equally as frightening as the scent that’d made her vomit. It wasn’t the scent really, but that was beside the point.

She ate, trying to piece together the fifteen or so years of memory she’d collected, and search it for anything of value. A veritable lifetime already; hers. It returned in flashes. Here and there, bits emerging from the fog Bleaker’d kept them in.

They were kids; she knew that much. Too young by the old-world’s standards to be treated the way they were– used the way they were. Most times too, a few disappeared. Here and there. Faces she knew only vaguely, suddenly never reappeared. Girls. Boys. Didn’t matter which.

Now, she was beginning to understand why.

She finished her pitiful meal and began to walk again. Whatever it was she’d put into herself wouldn’t stick around. She walked harder, pieced a little more of the world together. Desolation wherever she went confirmed what little she’d heard as rumors, or was picked up from the kids or elders.

“Adults” were generations gone and more scarred than even Malaya.

Even then, she’d never have traded her life for anyone else’s. Especially when the next morning came, and with the vomited remnants of that terrible meal came something else. Something lower. In her gut, but neither of bowels nor bladder.

It was the greatest relief when she found herself utterly dripping black blood and uterine discharge.

She fell to the freezing ground outside another would-be razed home, and wept gratitude to Gods she knew did not exist. At the very least, she wouldn’t have to be responsible– guilty, for bringing another Gods-forsaken life into this nightmare world.

She wept joy, vomited blood, and fainted.

Short story: Blue Collars and No Dollars

I still maintain mental health care is the world’s number one issue. Either the lack of it, or the quality of it– or in most places, the stigma of it. Kind of ironic given the circumstances, but life’s funny like that. Un-life and the ending of life too. We– humans that is– always seem to recognize seconds too late the glory around us; mountain ranges behind misty-veils; ravines cut into sandy deserts; the moon and stars beyond light-polluted cities. We only realize the greatness after its gone… or we are.

Makes you think.

Well, not really, but it should. We should all think.

That’s the mantra of this dying one, anyhow. There’s ravines in me now; crimson rivers flowing through gray mists. Or I think so. I doubt anyone’ll blame me if I’m wrong. Even if they did, I’m as “out of fucks to give” as anyone can be, living or dead. That’s the great truth of my generation. We learned how not to give a shit so efficiently and thoroughly it’s killing all of us off.

That’s the meat of the thing, why I’m shuffling off this mortal coil. Even if I hadn’t finally decided to show myself the door, society would’ve. They’ve been looking for ways to throw me out of it my whole life. Like the billion and more other people, I’m just not quite up to snuff. Seems evolution went and decided brains and brawn weren’t necessary in any quantities for some, let alone equal quantities. Like the rest of my ilk, I’ve occupied a middle ground that can’t really exist in the world.

And now this…

Things have gone to hell. I’d mean that literally if I weren’t so certain hell couldn’t be this bad.

Bitch, bitch, bitch, right? The world’s rough, and you gotta’ be tough to survive, right? Right. So what am I on about? And why? What could possibly be bad enough to make a whole generation show themselves the door like I am?

Well that’s the thing; everything. Everything could be so bad.

From the housing market to the healthcare system, to the job prospects and the outright value of human life in society, it’s all bad. And bad in a way that makes dying preferable, and the only way to make a difference.

We can’t war. Not really. We could riot, and get gassed. We could raise arms, and be utterly run through by the National Guard and various militaries– our elder brothers and sisters, commanded by our parents and grandparents. But rather than resort to fratricide we’ve decided, more one-by-one,en-masse than as a group, that suicide’s the better alternative. The first few of us left elaborate messages and letters. Of course these were only revealed through hear-say and rumor, but ultimately the message was “what other options do we have?”

That’s the sad part of it. If there’s anything more distressing than the rest, it’s that. We have no options left. We’re facing death no matter what. Either by starvation, disease, exposure, or outright murder for daring to want better. We’re all going to die before our time– whatever the hell that means.

Or most of us are. The lucky few suckling the tits of their wealthy-elite parents, or those sycophantic and sociopathic enough to get into the closed circles, they’ll survive. But the blue-collars and no-dollars, in other words the vast majority of us? We’re fucked. Too bad it’s that same elite’s downfall too. In the end, the human race are the ones that’ll suffer most. Admit or not, they’re human too. Our great pain will be over when our great depression ends with us six-feet under.

All told, we’ll have the last laugh. Even if, by some ridiculous stroke of luck, the human race doesn’t end up killing itself off entirely in the wake, the majority will still have died out. Or let themselves out, however you wanna’ phrase it. With us go the hopes and dreams of a better future not involved in maintaining the status quo of wealth v. health, greed v. need.

In other words, gone will be the hope of healing Humanity’s current sadomasochistic streak. Maybe I’m belaboring things. Maybe I’m being vague. I guess that happens when the great beyond’s waxing and the great-whatever-this-is is waning.

My personal story isn’t interesting. It’s the same as so many others of my generation. I grew up poor. Got old, got poorer. Ending up on the street when you’ve been on your way out the door your whole life isn’t surprising. It’s especially not surprising when everyone from your president to your guidance counselors tells you you’re not going anywhere else.

Like I said, not interesting. Far from unique. We never believed we were special snowflakes, but Human Rights didn’t seem like so much to ask for. I guess we were wrong. They were.

So here I am; last train outta’ the station on a one way ticket. Theoretically of course. Trains don’t run anymore. Even if they did, no-one could afford to ride ‘em. We’re all stuck in one place now. We’d walk, but hunger makes us weak. That’s the way they want us.

Soon enough the stray-dogs will be full. For a time anyhow. Then, they’ll starve too. Probably some will survive. They’ll eventually move back to the wild and start hunting again. I’d say football season was over, but the truth is, it was never on. We were too starved to play. Now, we’re just soon-to-be dust in the wind, or blood in the water, as my case goes.

I chose a tub. A full tub of hot water in a hotel-suite. Middle of the night break-ins aren’t expected anymore. I had something of the rogue in my blood, now the water has it. Might’ve been a big timer if the other rogues weren’t all dead before “my time.” Now I’ll be joining ‘em.

But I digress. Warm water’s nice. Plus, less clean-up involved. The coroner’ll just chuck my pruny-ass in a bag and write off the ticket. A few days later, they’ll fry me up in the big oven down the road. Maybe then I’ll finally get to fly, smoke in the sky. You know how they always told you to learn to soar? Dreams and such… like we ever had ‘em anyhow. Now, I’ll be one. At least… the water… is warm….

Poetry-Thing Thursday: To Endure

In the streets the dead walk.
Around them, survivors scamper and scour.
Rats.
There are no dreams;
save death coming on swift wings,
rather than a long un-life.

Those alive wish they weren’t.
Wish they’d perished when it all set in–
or during the unrestful aftermath.
Now, somehow, they carry on.
Survival is more instinct than intention.

Rotting corpses shamble through shadows.
Their bowels drag. Leave trails.
Rot. Filth. Decay.
Groans fill darkness.

Gnarled and mottled feet,
tramp across a ruined civilization.
That which nature,
with her indifferent persistence,
intends to reclaim–
through her devouring,
swallowing more and more each day.
Forever.

But even through the despair,
the stink of hope is palpable.
but the dead find sustenance with it.
Seek those weakest to it.
Even still it remains;
a spark of life, infinity.

For among the mottled flesh,
the rotted bone,
there is an ever-present ticking clock.
An invisible pen,
which scrawls in time,
the tales of one species’ dwindling existence,
and of another’s wounded limping–
for even total war may be lost,
to attrition of a sterile species.

And to that,
it is said,
if there is one thing,
Humanity is known for,
it is its undeniable ability,
to endure.