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Twist: Chapter 21

11/22/13

  04:04:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 1762 words  
Categories: Twist

Twist: Chapter 21

Feeling unsafe probably wasn't sensible. It didn't matter who I had called- no one ever picked up. But I guess it eliminated even the possibility of anyone responding.

'Clean' was becoming more and more of a relative term in my wardrobe, and while I think I'd maybe overcome my fears about venturing places that scared me, I had more important things to do than laundry- ignoring the fact that I didn't have any power with which to do said laundry. There was nothing to do, save for fill a garbage bag and walk to the nearest laundromat. I wasn't even sure where that would be, and without the internet to consult for directions I didn't want to chance wandering around town for hours with a sack of clothes, like a hobo Santa Clause.

I found a shirt with a red stain on the shoulder. It looked like tomato sauce. When was the last time I had pasta? It smelled better than the last two shirts I wore combined- or divided- or however that would make sense.

I decided to go into work, red stain be damned. I tried to remain upbeat on the walk, even though all the houses I passed seemed to also be out of power.

I hesitated, at the house on the opposite side of the block from our office. That same blue pickup truck was parked outside- with the leaves filling up the bed, and a tarp bungied over them. I wanted to steer clear of the truck, like I had the last time. But I found myself thinking about what Gram had said to me- that my world was shrinking, and I could either let it or fight it.

I climbed into the bed of the truck. I used the edge of the tarp, and was hoping that it would pull lose as I did, but instead it tore, and I lost my balance, and nearly fell back down onto the sidewalk. I dropped the torn edge of the tarp, and climbed into the bed. There weren't many places I could have hidden a body, but I I dove under the tarp, and crawled beneath it.

This was crazy- crazier even than playing in the leaf dumpster earlier that morning. It was hard not feeling claustrophobic, surrounded by leaves on all sides, and penned in with an only slightly torn tarp. I sniffed at the air. A body doesn't take long to stink left out in the open air, but I couldn't smell anything over the taint of rotting leaves.

I felt like a pig, snuffling through the leaves for truffles. Then my hand brushed against something cold, something flesh. I cupped it, definitely a thigh, a human thigh, a woman's thigh. I started to shake violently, and I felt faint, and I knew that if I fainted I was going to lose control of myself entirely- my bowels included.

Then the body moved. I gasped, and tried to scream, but no sound escaped my lips, as the figure moved towards me.

I swallowed, imagining that I was moments away from the body of the woman I love, animated only by my guilt, attacking me.

But it wasn't her. I caught a glimpse of a breast, a breast I'd come to know all too well, so by the time her face found me through the leaves, grinning, I was no longer surprised to see her.

?Gram? That's not funny.?

She shrugged, and continued to smile as she waded through the leaves, and then climbed out of the back of the truck.

I crawled through the last few feet of the truck's bed, but didn't find anything.

I saw movement from the corner of my eye, and hear a bark- though it definitely wasn't a dog's, and didn't sound particularly human, either. I ran, and whatever I'd seen, whatever made the noise, didn't give chase, because by the time I was midway across the parking lot, the sound was gone.

The office door was still open, and this time I didn't even need my alarm code, because the alarm was off. I frowned, though, because it wasn't just disarmed- all the lights on the alarm panel were off. I tried to flick on the light going up the stairs to our offices, but it didn't respond to the switch. I hoped maybe it was just a burnt out bulb, though I knew that was a long shot.

The office was empty. A spider's webs had overtaken my monitors, but that didn't matter, because there wasn't any power. There was a little work I could do without power, but I couldn't even clock in, so I said screw it.

But when I made it outside, the fog and cold hit me at the same time. I didn't want to be out in that nastiness, but I couldn't stand the thought of waiting around in the dark at work.

Wanderlust won out, so I started walking, despite having nowhere to go. I'd lived in this place my whole life, grown up in this neighborhood. But nothing looked familiar.

I knew some of that was because I'd spent the last several years barely scraping by, so I hadn't been able to eat out very often, or go shopping. Hanah hated that. She said it made her feel like we were trapped. I had never understood what she meant- but I was starting to.

Main street was a ghost town. Every other window was empty, save for cobwebs. And every other business still in business had tell-tale signs of desperation: clearance sale signs that had been up in the window long enough to gather a halo of dust and fade in the weak autumn sun, hours that had been repeatedly slashed, making the sign look like an alien game of tic-tac-toe.

The fog made it tough to see the storefronts until I was standing right in front of them, so it was hard to get or even keep my bearings. I realized I was deeper into down town, near to the library. It was early enough it was hard to tell if businesses around here- the few there still were- had power, or just hadn't opened yet. Several of them didn't even have posted hours- they just opened when they opened.

I figured the library might have power, and more importantly, they had internet. Public internet. I could check on my starter, check on what day of the damn week it was.

I had only been there once since they opened the big new library downtown, meeting with an internet startup magazine; that hadn't gone anywhere. But I thought I was nearby. I'd passed it in my car often enough that I thought I could find it. It was right by the movie theatre, or really, kind of between two theaters, the new, modern one, and the old vintage one that mostly stuck to second run stuff.

But I couldn't find either theater. In fact, every time that I thought I knew where I was, I got even more lost. And it seemed like the further from home I got, the thicker the fog was, and the harder it became to navigate or even see.

I thought for sure I was near the school. That was important, in that it was on my way home, so it was a landmark- but it was also possible? if a particularly long shot- that my old network password might work to get me onto their computers. I knew they hadn't disabled my school email- so it was at least a possibility.

But the school wasn't there. I knew the way to the college. I went there for years. But somehow I couldn't find it. I found the public pool that, were it not for the fog, would have been in sight of the school, and walked to where it should have been. But somehow, in the fog, I got turned around, and it took me an hour to get back to the pool.

By then I was cold, and I was miserable. The pool was closer to the house than the school, just down the road from the office. And maybe enough time had passed that the mailman had come.

My chest tightened. What if he already had? What if I missed it, and for whatever reason, this was one of those times when the mailman refused to leave a package on the porch. The post office where they had me pick up packages was all the way across town- there was no way I was getting there without the car- and no way my car was getting me anywhere without the starter.

I panicked even more at the thought of having to fill out that stupid little ?We missed you? card, only to have to wait two more days for the part. I wasn't going to last two more days. Those things- things I knew in the rational part of my head probably couldn't exist- but they were getting closer, more aggressive. Two more days was forever.

But maybe he hadn't come. The fog was too thick to tell where the sun was, what time of day it might be. I tried to check my watch, but I must not have put it back on after my last shower. I pulled out my phone, and stared at the screen for half of a second before I remembered it was dead.

I started to walk briskly. I was maybe a mile from home. Maybe.

Then I noticed movement, down the block. I wasn't alone. I glanced behind me. They were there, too. I ran.

I felt like I could hear their breathing, getting closer, but it was possibly just the wind at my ears.

I hadn't walked this way in some time- not since my last classes at the college. I did a double-take at a car that I nearly swore was mine, just a half mile from where it should have been, parked by an old blue Skylark. But as I ran past it I could tell the interior was a light shade of gray, and the seats were leather. It looked like it was probably a slightly newer model.

I felt warmth on my neck, from a breath that I told myself couldn't be there. I managed to get inside the front door, and get it closed behind me, then I spun around. The streets were empty, barren. Another hallucination? Or was it just something that my rational mind was incapable of seeing.

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