The End of Days

Posted: December 19, 2012 in Speculative fiction
Tags: ,
I wrote this as a bit of backstory to a longer piece that I am writing.  Also, DH thought I needed to write more short stories.  So this is meant to be a bit of practice and to help with some character development.  I’m not sure how well it works as a stand alone short story though.  But I enjoyed writing it (after I got over DH shooting it down) and I think it did help with my character development for the longer story that I am trying to write.
The End of Days

On that last day, the end of days, two fortuitous events (also known by some as miracles) happened to Connor McClennan.  The first was that his colleague and friend Tyler Harrison decided that he wanted to fly to Vegas to marry his girlfriend of seventeen years thus swapping shifts with Connor.  This caused Connor to be at home when the monsters appeared rather than at the hospital where the standoff which later became known as the Siege of Mercy Hospital took place.  The second event was that when his wife’s car careened down the street in front of their house and crashed into the bus stop outside, the pole smashed down only inches away from her.  And so later, as he limped through the leftover treacles of humanity, Connor remembered his wife not as a bloody pulp of flesh, her beauty smashed inside itself, but as she was much later, when her blond hair had grown out into long messy waves and her grey blue eyes still shone with something akin to hope.But on that fortuitous day, Connor didn’t even know anything had happened till long after the rains of armageddon had long departed leaving in their wake a world already lost to history.  On that morning, he was woken up just as the sun started to bleed out into the day, not by his four year old’s foot digging into his ribs, but by his phone’s shrill ring (“Don’t leave me now” by Supertramp).  After he hung up on Tyler, he lay back in bed,  feeling Carter’s little feet tucked into his side, listening to Karen’s light stirrings as the morning sickness nudged her from bed.  After Karen had risen and padded down the stairs, Connor must have dozed off again because the next thing he knew, he was being shaken by Carter, his little hands gripping into his shoulder pulling him out of a dream where he’d watched the little boy melt into the seat of the car after having accidently locked him in on a hot blustery day .  So as the lightning storm broke, sending an army of strange and terrifying creatures down across the earth, Connor was in the shower, feeling the sharp sting of hot water on his body.  When he had finished and stepped from the bathroom, slowly pulling on a pair of tracksuit pants, he felt a fleeting twinge of alarm at the dark grey room that greeted him.  He’d gone into the shower on a bright sunny morning,  wiped clean with promise and had come out to a grey gloomy day.  As Connor looked out the window, slashes of lightning cut across the sky lighting it up like a Christmas tree.  He shrugged off the sudden change in weather as easily as he pulled his t-shirt over his head, his wet hair dampening the edges of his collar.As he wandered into his living room, he glanced at the clock.  A quarter past ten.  Damn, he hadn’t realised he’d slept so long. A buried image from his dream surfaced and he blinked.  He needed to get Carter his breakfast.   But then he saw Carter sitting in front of the TV, a bowl of dry cereal sitting next to him, his head cocked up at the screen.  Connor could see the grainy images of people running and soldiers firing.  He walked up behind Carter and reached down for the remote.“Hey, bud, what channel are you on?  Want me to put it on something else?”But as he flicked the remote, the same images followed him through each channel.  He suddenly felt a clammy tight feeling in his chest as he peered closer.  The power started to flicker on and off and he realised that some of the screaming and sirens that he thought were coming from the TV were in fact coming from outside.  He dropped the remote and ran to the window, pulling back the heavy drapes with such force that he ripped the tabs from the rod and the material hung half on and half off, like a battered mast of an abandoned ship.  He stepped back in visceral shock.  What he saw seemed to leap from his vision straight through to his heart and he found himself trembling, like a dog caught amongst the wild claps of fireworks on New Year’s Eve.  There were human like creatures running down the street.  At first he thought they held swords but then he realised that they weren’t swords but claws embedded in their skin.  And the air was still dark and grey as if the light had been sucked out of it, catapulting them through an omnipresent black hole.  Somewhere there was a fire, the flames reaching up, the smoke rolling out into the atmosphere.“Dad, Dad.  What’s wrong?”He turned around and saw Carter sitting up on the couch, his arm slung over his dog, the two heads looking over at him, their small frames almost engulfed entirely in the shiny leather blackness.  He ran towards Carter and pulled both dog and boy into a clumsy hug.  His mind ticked over, trying to think about what to do.  Then Karen’s car smashed into the pole.  Only he didn’t know that it was her car or that it was a car at all.  All he heard was a loud bang  and he hesitated.  If he’d known what and who it was, he would have rushed out the door right then and there and pulled her in.   But at that moment, he only knew that it must be something else equally terrifying.  So he sat with Connor and Duster in his arms, while the lights kept flickering off and on and more screams pounded at them from outside.When he finally looked out the window again, and saw Karen’s car bent into the pole of the bus stop, one of the creatures crushed in the middle, he felt a tearing in him.  Because by then, he knew that he couldn’t just open the door and run out to save her.  He’d seen what the creatures were doing to people, their claws coming down on them and pulling apart human flesh like it was nothing.  But this was Karen.  He saw how artfully the pole lay on the car, as if some god had always meant it to be that way, buried in the metal folds of the car.  He remembered another crumpled car, the front end smashed into hard bark, his parents’ broken bodies. He had sat in the emergency room of that hospital, eyes drawn to the water stains that ran down the musty wall, fingers digging into the hole in the upholstery, till the whole seam of the chair split open.  The only other thing he remembered from that night was Karen’s hair resting on his shoulder, the light caress of it against his skin.  He had to get her out.  He knew he had to wait for a lull, for some kind of quiet.  He edged Carter upstairs and Duster bounded after them and the three of them sat in the middle of Carter’s room, under the halo of a planetary mobile.Eventually, the quiet came and all Connor heard was the low panting of Duster and the rattling of lego pieces as Carter played.  He left them there with a cup of juice and a plate of crackers sitting lopsidedly on the carpeted floor.  He crept down the stairs, his still trembling hands holding a baseball bat  and he pulled his front door open and then shut it gingerly behind him.  Clouds of smoke hung like wet laundry and an awful stench filled the air.  But apart from the dead creature smashed into the side of the bus stop, there didn’t seem to be any others about.  He ran up to the car and could see Karen bent over the steering wheel.  He tried the door and it swung open, a creaking sigh escaping from it.  God, he’d always hated this car, he thought and reached across to feel Karen.  Her eyes flickered open and she moaned into his ear.  Her jeans glistened red and Connor felt such a sudden unbearable sadness at that.  He blinked back tears, reached over to unbuckle her seat belt.  But then he felt something wet and cold licking him and he turned around and saw Duster poking his nose into his side, a red ball in his mouth, his tail wagging ferociously.  He raised his eyes and through the cracked frame of the window, he saw Carter standing on the front steps, his hand clutching the railings.  And all the fear he’d felt before seemed to roll away and something else, something dark and painful filled its place.

“Get inside!” he yelled at the boy.

“I want Duster!” Carter yelled.  He was crying, the full body rolling cry of a 4 year old.

Connor thought it would be almost possible to pull Karen out and drag her up to the house, with Duster nipping at their feet until he saw the creature moving toward them down the street.  It didn’t run like the others had, it sauntered, with a lazy easy movement toward them.  He looked it in the eye and it looked back at him and there was a knowing and a cunning there.  And Connor knew in that moment that the instant he started to run up the stairs, the creature  would break out in a run pouncing on them all in some crazed thrill seeking game of primal hunger.  He heard his son crying and felt his wife’s heavy bleeding body in his arms.  He looked back up at Carter and it looked almost as if he was fading behind a blanket of smoke.  He coughed.  Duster nipped at his heels. The creature moved closer.  Connor then slowly slid Karen out of the car and lay her gently on the ground, his eyes on the creature.  Then he reached down, lay his hand on Duster’s fur, feeling it come away in his hand as he patted the dog.  The dog nudged his hand again and he stroked him again, the soft fur a balm against his callused hands.  He gently took the ball out of Duster’s mouth, remembering the first green tennis ball that he’d bought for him on the way home from the pound, how firm and round it had been and how later he’d found it behind the couch, frayed and squashed, teeth marks buried into its rubbery surface.  As he lifted the ball from Duster’s teeth, wet saliva dribbled onto his hand.  Connor gave a last look at Duster and then he raised his arm and threw the ball and it spun, bouncing on the ground and rolling to a halt in front of the creature.   Duster’s eyes followed the ball as it arched through the air and then he flew after it, stopping only when he reached the creature.   He growled at it and  then as if knowing what was expected of him, he leapt at it, his jaw clamping down hard on its arm.

Connor picked up Karen, his hands still half slick with Duster’s saliva and he carried her towards the front steps and by the time he got up to the top, he was pulling both wife and child in behind him, trying to block out Carter’s sobbing and the high pitched yelping of Duster.  He tumbled into the house with Carter wrapped around him and his arms trying to keep ahold of Karen.  As soon as the three of them were in the house, Connor slammed the door shut, and crumpled in front of it, his heart beating fast and hard.  And all the while, he could hear Duster outside, his yelps seeming to echo down the empty street.  TIll they stopped and then there was nothing.

It took Connor a long time to clean Karen up, to wash her body free of the grime and the blood.  He’d never been bothered before by blood, it had always been so much a part of his everyday life that sometimes as he washed his hands after a procedure, he felt almost mesmerised by the way the colour of water changed in an instant, its crimson tide washing down the sink.  But as he cleaned Karen up, ripping her wet jeans off her, he felt so sick and dizzy, that he had to stop several times to steady his hands.  And when he was done, he still had to calm Carter down, hold his son till his hacking cries subsided and he fell into a hard sleep, his body pressed tight into Connor, dried tears flaking off his face.

When the power finally, irrevocably, turned off, Connor was staring at the ceiling watching the blades of the fan spin round.  His arms were stretched out round both Karen and Carter and he had the blankets spread out over the three of them.  He watched the fan suddenly slow down till it stopped, the cord still swinging from side to side for a while longer caught in its own momentum till eventually it too stopped.  Only then did Connor close his eyes to a dreamless sleep.

Many years later, when Connor lay on his own in another darkened room, the smooth round edge of a bottle in his hand and an old family photograph in his pocket, he sometimes thought he could still hear Duster in the background, his sharp, brave, insistent yelps till there was silence once more and the days turned over in a flat line.


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