Short Story: Not a Bad Day

The earth heaved with a frightful shudder. Laura’s feet felt the earth-shattering tear. Her teeth rattled. Cement split, cracked. She thought to leap for the sidewalk, but it lurched upward by the quake. A moment of inertia preceded a terrible rumble. It growled to a roar. Car alarms began screaming across the city. All was chaos. Skyscraper-chunks dislodged, tumbled through the air. A car was suddenly flattened. Laura tried to pretend she hadn’t seen the people there, couldn’t.

She’d been running through the park when it began. Her new, daily ritual had put her there. She’d only just found out her weight problem was going to become diabetes. If she didn’t get fit now, she might lose a foot– or worse. The future would only get more difficult. Fortunately, something had woken her up this time. Even though her breath was perpetually ragged that first week, she’d lost ten pounds. Now, breathing was much easier all ‘round.

Somehow those things so present in her mind dissolved when all hell broke loose. Moments ago, she was content, joyous. She should’ve known. She’d feared those emotions from the years of terrible happenings usually succeeding them. Her luck had been bad since childhood: when she first the wonder of life, her parents divorced. Her childhood home was sold off as community property. When she finally recovered, she got her first period. When that was over, the skies cleared just long enough for adolescence to become teenage angst. Cliques excluded her. Her grades fell. She was altogether depressed until college. The first rays of sunshine once more appeared when college dissolved the cliques gone. Even a few boyfriends came around, despite her “unattractive” physique.

Then the clouds parted, and a downpour flushed her hopes. A car accident forced her into traction, worsened her weight problem. Her then-fiancee stuck around long enough for her to walk again. Since then, her life was one series of disappointments after another and preceding more. Now, when the sun’s rays seemed most likely to shine again, the asinine happened.

She could’ve lived with a broken leg, getting hit by a car, or somehow gaining weight when she meant to lose it, but an earthquake? Really? This was absolutely the most unlikely thing to happen. Sure, the west coast got quakes, but here? In the middle of the park? At the peak of Seattle’s dormant period? And just when she was feeling alright? Seattle hadn’t had a major quake in almost twenty years. They weren’t “due for one,” either. This was a fluke. Of all the times… If she’d believed in God, he was laughing and pointing right now. Asshole.

Her body engaged. She leaped to the sidewalk. It shuddered, lurched. The ground split. A chasm appeared, widened. She bolted at a break-neck speed, raced splitting earth. Her feet bucked and trembled, bounced and skipped against the upheaval of concrete. She felt as if levitating, rather than running, feet never touching ground. Asphalt cracked. Car windows shattered. Something exploded far-off.

All the while the hot sun beat through a cloudless sky as if in a reality all its own of peace and serenity. Bastard.

She sprinted past falling debris, flocked with crowds rampaging the city. They were stampeding in every direction. Fleeing for nowhere in particular. Fleeing just to flee. They were no longer people: scared animals, directed and steered by crashes, cracks. The cluster around Laura grew larger each second. It became a gathering, an assembly, a stadium, so on until everyone in Seattle had joined them.

They fled together. Some manifested only panting terror, fueled by adrenaline. Normally Laura would’ve joined them– panting, wheezing, stumbling and eventually falling back to accept the inevitable. Being heavy and learning to run meant learning to breathe again though. If the quake had hit even a week earlier, she’d have fallen miles ago. She’d have been trampled to death by the crowd surging around her.

Now, she ran.

Her muscles ached. Joints burned. Her heart was a metronome set to insanity. Until now, she hadn’t liked the aches, the pains. Now, it meant she was still alive, intact, still running. She needed that. She managed to pass a few people, push nearer the mob’s front. She could jealous hatred around her:a fat girl outpacing them? Well they never! Jackasses.

Near an intersection, someone fell. People trampled him, unaware of his cracking bones in their terror-flight. He screamed, bellowed for help. Laura pushed her legs toward him, threw her weight around to shoulder and elbow people away. One strong arm pulled him up. His eyes and face were red, wet. He bawled “thank yous.” People tried to shove her away, force her along the current of bodies. Between her new muscles and still-heavy build, she was a boulder in the rapid.

Something exploded, forced them into a half hunch. A half demolished car careened out of control. It ramped off un-level asphalt, arced nearby. Its rear-end caught a fire-hydrant, tore it free. A geyser erupted the persistent swoosh of pure, liquid fury. The car punched through the front of a coffee shop, pinned a few people down inside. The man half-pulled, half followed her toward the still-running car. Its roof was dented from an impact of debris, driver dead. Laura’s adrenaline suppressed vomit and fear. They scrambled over shattered glass, angled nearer the pinned screams.

The man managed to kill the engine, the Earth’s trembling lessening each moment. Laura’s tone– “bitch” as it was often called by, at last count, everyone she met– rallied the people still standing in the shop. Together twenty-five people helped turn the car onto its side. The people still able to walk fled for their lives. Others merely moaned in pain. A few people helped to set bones over screams, a couple ending as their producers passed out. Jerry-rigged splints were fashioned from broke tables and various miscellanea. Someone even managed to loot crutches and from a drugstore nearby.

Laura turned to eye the man she’d saved. A doctor tended to him, an off-duty ER doc in from the street to check the injured. The rest were being carted off for nearby hospitals. The doctor assured the man he had a few broken ribs, some bumps and cuts, but otherwise was fine. The man stepped over to Laura, and as best he could, hugged her with thanks.

Then came a moment of almost total silence. Reality was still. The world had stopped. Laura swiveled: the entire coffee shop eyed her with gratitude. Someone said “thank you.” Someone else clapped. Another person whistled. Laura reddened. A line formed of people wanting to shake her hand or take pictures with her– even though her face was beet-red from exertion and bashfulness, her skin slick with sweat, and her hair wild.

The moment passed and the man pulled his savior aside to slip his phone number over sheepishly. “For, you know, if you wanna’ actually have coffee some time.”

Laura giggled. Then together, they laughed full on. Maybe her luck had changed. Maybe, it wasn’t such a bad day after all…

Poetry-Thing Thursday: The Species Human

A classic abridged,
s’like an empty fridge;
all potential courage,
but no porridge,
n’ dropped from’a ridge,
takes less damage,

for there’s nothing spoiled,
nor laboriously toiled,
and man a-foiled,
when reality’s roiled,
the would-be uncoiled,
to be re-boiled.

Humanity’s no dif’rent,
that much’s apparent,
sanity for-rent,
while ev’ry torrent,
of life goes unspent.

And empty are minds,
that should’a been fined,
by their own kind,
when forced to remind,
of the contract signed,
and battles they’d wined.

If not for facts,
we’d be without tact,
for solemn’s the tract,
which man does attract,
but when he’s in pact,
he uses his knack’t,

for wit and creation,
to seek out libation,
from life’s equation,
with hopeful elation–
sunny prostration,
and ocular dilation.

So may we rejoice,
with robust-like voice,
and plentiful choice,

in light of day,
with a better way,
where none can say,
that we didn’t try,
whether obvious or sly,
to use up, fly,

as one greater than kin,
or any name-pin–
the species Human.

Bonus Poem: We Are All Mutants

A hundred million years,
or more of evolution,
has made us all mutants.
From dull, single-celled organisms,
to complex universes of life and intelligence.

We came from the sea,
after a bubbling froth,
formed us in its foam,
and boiled over,
spilling us out,
into the Earth.

People,
hung up on monkeys,
so narrow-minded,
and refusing to realize,
how powerful is nature,
that it can outlast us so greatly,
and yet attune us so perfectly.

Science is no myth.
Evolution only a theory in name.
One is the process of confirming,
what the eyes see.
The other,
is the process of how they came to be.

So black, white,
red, brown,
or a color we’ve yet to meet,
We’re all the same,
in a way;
the universe forming itself,
through forge and fusion,
reaction and fission,
and chemical concoctions.

The end result?
No creature could imagine,
nor form in mind,
without prior observation.

All the things of life,
existence;
love, hate,
joy and pain,
everything in between
is the reaction of life,
greeting itself–
of the universe,
creating itself.

Short Story: No Choice in the Matter

His heart pumped fire, a war-charge. His feet thumped damp Earth, beat a near supersonic rhythm jet-fueled by adrenaline. He’d have panted terror if it weren’t for fear that it might slow him down. Instead, he took half breaths, held them. His temples pounded. Brain half-suffocated brain. He didn’t care. Higher-brain functions weren’t important now. So long’s his heart kept his blood moving, his legs would keep working.

He slid down a hill, pivoted, sprang across a ditch. He landed, still running. Blood-hounds barked and howled over grumbling ATVs and whining dirt-bikes. Moonshine and gunpowder pierced the air, inflicted by the clothing of his pursuers. He wasn’t even sure how he’d escaped. It didn’t matter. Nothing but running did.

They’d tied him up days ago, had been starved and tortured him since. Mason wasn’t sure who, but knew they represented the less-enlightened sect of populous in these parts. They were almost fanatically devoted to eradicating those unworthy of their antiquated, myopic lifestyle. Mason knew what his crime was. They’d bludgeoned it into him. “Choosing” to love a man was the highest disrespect to them. Never mind the fact he hadn’t chosen a damned thing.

The assholes would’ve never been part of his thoughts. They weren’t either. Not until they started attacking him, anyway. He knew well enough they were a part of a local order of hicks– most-likely the Smith or Flynn clan. A few others like them inhabited the area, but none were so brazen as to kidnap and torture a man.

Mason and his husband arrive home one day to find a giant swastika scorched into their front yard. A giant, brown and white “FAG” burned beneath it. It was hardly clever. In the end, all it did was anger his neighbors. Even the less, “liberally-minded” cites of the American South would’ve cared so much. Saying that would’ve missed the point that current era was hardly any of the 1900’s. Even the more conservative folk– most elderly– didn’t care. He’d changed more than a couple minds on “his type” himself alone.

The his was even simpler than the why. It was all freedom, openness; most folk judged a man’s worth by the sweat on his brow. The rest didn’t care to know anyhow: It wasn’t their place to broach such uncouth topics. Changing minds became about how the sweat poured from the couple’s brows. If there was anything to either of them, it was hard-work. From the trades of carpentry and auto-maintenance, to their home renovation hobbies, to landscaping “FAG” from their yard with new sod, both men earned their respect.

Yet here he was: sprinting through back-assward woods. The snow-ball’s chance in hell of escape was as likely as his becoming another hate-statistic.

Engines revved. Dogs howled. Powder and booze-smells grew stronger. His heart readied to give out, accept death. His mind readied to watch on-high as his blackened and bruised body crumpled. The spatter of bloody knife-cuts across him were even less a choice than anything. He hadn’t chosen a damned thing. Never. The fucks behind him didn’t care in the least.

But he had to find Ben, had to reach him. He’d been working late, hoping for extra cash for their trip when Mason went missing. The hicks feared him. Ben was twice the size of even the largest captors, but all muscle. He could’ve punched a fist any one of ‘em Terminator-style. He tended toward pacifism though. All the same, had he been there, Mason would’ve never been caught off-guard. Never frozen. Never been jumped from behind and knocked unconscious to be tied up. It wouldn’t have happened. Mason’s state would’ve enraged Ben’s rare but fierce temper.

Mason wouldn’t go back, couldn’t. He wouldn’t lie down. Wouldn’t die. He’d never submit to another torture session. He’d kill himself before those bastards carved anything else into him. “Fag” was the least of it. The first cuts were quick, easy. Eventually, all of them were made with dull blades.

A passing gleam appeared through the trees. It curved away. Distant engines mingled with dogs and shouts. Mason’s heart nearly stopped. The rural highway to town appeared. He scrambled up-hill, more determined than ever. He bobbed and weaved through trees met asphalt. An old Bronco screeched to a stop, nearly hit him before the blue and red lights appeared. The deputy was out, gun in-hand before he realized the man’s sordid state.

The ATVs rumbled nearer. The dogs howled over Mason’s hysterical pleas. The cop ordered him into his truck, peeled out as the first pursuers appeared at the tree-line. He raised his rifle to fire, saw the lights, then grit his teeth and lowered his weapon. The Bronco raced to town and the hospital. The officer took Mason’s statement as he was tended to by a nurse. Ben appeared, face pale but with fiery eyes held at-bay by concern.

Ben hugged Mason carefully, parted only when the nurse insisted she finish stitching and bandaging him. The officer left a guard on the hospital room over night. He returned the next morning alerted the couple that all of the men Mason had reported were being arrested.

Justice was swift, as near to complete as it could be. Mason’s testimony was given via teleconference from his hospital bed. His injuries were too severe to allow him to leave. Nonetheless, his story went public. Debates of hate-speech, freedom, and crime were sparked locally and nationally. Most sided in the couple’s favor.

Mason, on the other hand, was merely glad to be alive. He was wheeled into his house, at Ben’s insistence, to find a giant banner welcoming him home. Beneath it, stood all of the couple’s friends and neighbors. If nothing else, Mason was who he was, and most were grateful for that. No matter what others felt for a moment Mason knew, if given a choice, he’d have chosen to be himself– if only to selfishly retain the love that welcomed him home.