Precipice Chapter Two

This may make more sense if you read the first chapter.  Here you go:

I have always thought of myself as a loner of sorts. Not that I didn’t like people, but there is a certain security in solitude. That being said, I never realized how much I enjoyed the company of others until the day there was no company to be had.

    It was only after I realized that I was a lone that I decided to see the extent of this absence of humanity. There was only one problem: Since the sun shot forth its fury, and the people vanished, nothing electric has worked, which unfortunately for me included my car.

    Having really no automotive know how of my own, I have no idea how to override the electric ignition of my own car, but I did know that Dan’s old VW bus in his garage was made before cars needed computers to run, so I decided to take a chance and see if his old clunker would start.

I made my way over to Dan and Gloria’s, and went to Dan’s bedside table to retrieve his garage key, and I noticed something peculiar. Their bed was neatly made, and on the bedside table next to his keys, was a note hastily written that contained only a few words addressed to no one.

“Nowhere to run.”

    That is all it said, which puzzled me, because until now I had figured that everyone disappeared in their sleep somehow. Now I was beginning to think that maybe Dan wad not been asleep at all, maybe he saw the whole thing. Maybe someone else was out there, alone like me who had also seen the whole thing. I had to know for sure, and that old bus was my only chance at finding any answers, that is, if it would start.

    Dan’s garage was as archaic as his home, with shelves littered with old coffee cans and toolboxes filled with tools as old as he was. Under an old canvas was his pride and joy, a 1967 WV bus that he had been restoring for years now. I hadn’t looked at it for quite some time, so was not sure what I would find under the oil-stained cover, but aside from the whole engine being ripped apart, something, anything would be better than what I had, as long as it would start.

    I pulled the cover off to find an unrecognizable vehicle before me. That old bastard had finished his project. It was orange and white, with shining chrome, and black interior, seats and all. He was like an artist, completely restoring this old machine to its former glory.

    With keys in hand, I sat in the driver’s seat, crossed my fingers, and turned the key. With a cloud of white smoke and a sputter, the old bus fired up. I got out, and checked the tires to make sure everything was ready for the road, and noticed an old manual gas pump hanging on the wall. “This will come in handy,” I thought, and I loaded it and the gas cans from the cabinet into the back hatch.

I felt my heart sink into the pit of my stomach, and I put her in reverse and made my way back home to load up some supplies. There was nothing left for me there anyway, and if the answers lay out there is some far off town or city, I would find them. I owed that much to my wife and children, to at least see that this injustice had some kind of explanation. I loaded up whatever canned food and fresh water I could, a few changes of clothes, this notebook, and some photo albums, and hit the road looking for anyone, anywhere.

Hope raced through my mind as I turned out of my neighborhood onto the highway, and it was not until then, that I truly understood the gravity of what had happened. Up and down the road, in every parking lot, remained the empty cars and buildings; the sad remnants of a society gone missing.

Through the heart of town, I found myself navigating the barrage of parking lots and shoulders of the road way, as I was faced with abandoned vehicles and it was apparent that all of the people who were removed from their daily lives had little time to react to the event. Cars left in deadlock in intersections, many lanes blocked with the broke down memory of those taken from me. People I never knew, but at this point would be glad to.

I made my way through the canvas of life removed until I reached the local grocery store. I pull open the automatic doors, and grabbed a cart for supplies on the journey ahead. The grocery store was no different than the road. The pallets left in the isles by the night stockers, and grocery carts scattered throughout the isles, a theme becoming all too familiar to me by now.

Dried goods, canned soups, dehydrated milk, whatever fruit and veggies I could go through before they spoil, ice chests, and dry ice. “That should keep me for a while,” I said to myself, as I grabbed a backpack and headed to the pharmacy for first aid. I grabbed all the aspirin and bandages that I could find, as well as vitamins, meal bars, muscle milk, cold remedies, and antiseptics. In a leap, I crossed the pharmacy counter and grabbed any antibiotics I could carry, as well as pain killers, and of course my Zoloft.

Last stop in my shopping adventure, I stopped in the liquor isle to grab some scotch for the road– All they had in fact. I am not sure when I will get this chance again, and no sense in letting all of this scotch go to waste. Shopping carts full, I made my way to the bus and then to my next stop—the sporting goods store.

I am not exactly the poster child for the NRA, but better safe than sorry, right? The road on this side of town was so much less occupied by the vacant cars, so thankfully there was not too much maneuvering of them in order to get to the sporting goods store, which lay at the edge of town just near a west bound freeway entrance, which is just where I am headed. If there is anyone left here, they have got to be on the coast. That is the best guess that I have anyway.

The sporting goods store, being that it is not 24 hour like the grocer, was not yet open, so my first challenge here was getting in. I grabbed a crowbar from the back seat of the bus. It was dented and rusty, but effective nonetheless. I struck the front window, sending out a spider web of cracks. I struck it over and over, slowly wearing down the shatterproof layer in the glass.

Finally, I was able to kick the sheet of broken glass in, granting me my entrance. First stop, guns. I grabbed a cart, and found my way into the gun case. My friend the crowbar granted me access into the glass that protected them from me. I pushed the broken glass away with the crowbar, and grabbed a couple pistols. Kicking in the cabinet beneath the gun display, I found the ammunition I needed and moved on to the rifles. I broke through and grabbed a shot gun, the appropriate shells, and it was on to camping gear.

Tents, sleeping bags, camp stoves, axes, and good boots for starters. Propane tanks, knives, and just about anything else that wasn’t nailed down. I found a small display of crossbows near the entrance, and just couldn’t resist myself, I just had to have one, whether I would need it or not remained to be seen, just as did everything else I had collected.

The last thing I grabbed was perhaps the only thing I would not need in my travels, perhaps the most important—I am not sure. I took a basketball off of the shelf, placed it in my cart and made my way out the door and into the world.

The craziest thing had occurred to me. This whole time, through all of my hopeful preparation for the journey ahead, I had not seen anyone. Was I really all that was left? Why me? In a world teeming with human life, any life for that matter, am I really the only one? I closed my eyes, turned on some music in the bus, trying to take my mind off of my solitude, but little could.

After collecting my senses, I made my way to the freeway entrance. The long road ahead, I tried to remain hopeful, that someone would be out there, lost like me. The freeway was littered with the abandoned semi-trucks pulling all night road trips, and early commuter cars, all left unattended. The only way to be sure that I would not hit one; I stayed on the shoulder, and make my way west toward the coast as quickly as I possibly can.

The road was sad a vacant of life, yet I kept on course until the sun kissed the mountains once again. I made it just a few miles after dark before I decided it was time to stop and make myself something to eat. It had been all day since I had eaten anything, and I was starting to feel nauseous. It was about that time that I discovered a rest area off the main road, vacant of movement and life, aside from the sway of the trees in the winter wind.

Pulling into the first parking spot I could find, I got out and stretched my legs, opened the back of the bus and grabbed the camp stove I acquired from the sporting goods store. Using the camp pots I gathered, I cooked a can of soup, which I had in silence, only the light of the camp stove to keep me company.

After dinner, I rolled out a sleeping bag across the back seat, had a few drinks of my scotch and lay down for what I hoped would be some decent sleep before dawn. It wasn’t long before I started to think about the guns. “One bullet,” I thought, “It would only take one bullet to put an end to this loneliness.”

“GET IT THE FUCK TOGETHER!” I yelled out loud, as I grabbed my chest and sobbed. “God I miss them so much. How could this happen?” No one answers, just as I suspect. I grabbed my scotch one more time, took the largest drink I could without throwing up, and chased it with what was left of the day’s ration of water, closed my eyes and tried to stay focused on what I was doing. I had to stay strong for my wife, for my kids. I needed to go on in their honor, not take the coward’s way out.

With the sound of rustling branches in my ears, I drifted off to a better place for the moment. A place filled with the laughter of my children, the laughter of my wife, and the touch of her skin. It was a good dream.

To continue the story, check out chapter three:

Precipice Chapter One

After weeks of deliberating on my next move, I decided to share this story with you all. It is a fictional work, one that actually started the shift that took place in the way that I look at the world today. See, I really want to continue the autobiographical tale that I am telling, but I must tread carefully. It is very important that I do not come off in a way that is not genuine. That is what it is all about, and any amount of whoring of my current venture would undo all that I hope to accomplish by being so forward with you, the reader. By sharing this work that is nearly complete, I will have time to more carefully address what I want to in the other without leaving you all without anything from me. I hope you enjoy.

Precipice—Chapter One

The most interesting things in life are those which we do not expect to have, but when we do—we are not sure how we ever lived without them. The same can be said for those of which we fear. The most terrible of all circumstances, the kind of events that keep us up at night, that make children cry, the ones that cripple the bravest of men. These are the events that can change us forever; the sight of which cannot be unseen.

It is these events are being documented here on these pages; the day the world changed…I am not sure what happened to the world, or what mysterious force robbed me of human companionship, but the damage has been done; I am alone. Perhaps it was karma for the time spent in the hospital camps, or perhaps just dumb fucking luck, but one thing is for sure: When most everyone in the world disappeared that day, I did not. So I guess the best was to start this account is to begin where most stories like this do, before everything changed.

Winter of late was mild by comparison in the desert. The usual balmy winds that felt like a sandblaster let loose on your skin were all but calm breezes, and the sun shined brightly in the brisk morning sky. Drinking my coffee, I could see the steam rising on the porch like smoke signals to, some yet unknown ally. My children played carefree with the neighborhood children as they always did, with dog in tow. Happiness came easily and freely that day as it did on any other; smiling neighbors, the smell of mesquite burning in some far off hearth, black coffee, and the lotion I gave to my wife that Christmas, which was plainly marked “Forever.”

Our home was a modest one in a quiet suburb of the city of sin, the grass of the highlands was replaced by shards of salmon colored rock, and the shrubs of the inland with sage and other more appropriate desert foliage, but nice nonetheless. Our walls mirrored the color of our landscape, sandy and simple. Inside the stark white walls had only the imaged of good times passed and those we loved, framed to commemorate the passage of time. The house always smelled of her. Whether the lotion, the candles, or the food being prepared with love.

Morning turned to afternoon, afternoon to evening with little but a laugh of passing children playing in the street. My wife and I had been married long enough to appreciate the joy of a comfortable silence now and again, with a smile and a kiss on the forehead being the majority of gestures of communication exchanged all day. We liked it that way. We did not have to speak to feel love, we just knew, and besides—I have never been much of a talker anyway.

As the sun set in the clear sky, the echoes of the dying day hushed the sky and we watched the sky grow dark together for the last time. A shame I did not know, I would have told her what she meant to me, what our life together meant. Now all I have are the regrets of the things unsaid. A part of me feels like she knows, like she is looking on from the never ending cosmos smiling down. Maybe the reason I was not taken the day my family was ripped from my grasp was to record these events, so I will continue.

As night fell that night, we tucked our children soundly in their beds, turned out their lights, and I poured a glass of wine for my love, and a scotch for myself to commemorate the passing of the day. I loved this time, the silence, the smell of her skin, and the ever approaching solace of sleep in our bed. Happiness was easy and free as always, and as we laid down that night, sure of our love and the dawn of the new day.

I have never really been much of a sleeper—not really sure why. I have always enjoyed the silence of a night at home. Walking through the halls, listening to the sounds of my life fast asleep, wondering on the subjects of the dreams of my children, as I watch their faces calm in the dead of night. It never matters what is said in the light of day; when a child is sleeping it so quickly brings you back to the moment of their birth. A face, so calm and so sweet like the day they were born.

Late at night, watching my children I often found myself wondering what they will be like when they are grown. Will they be quick and witty like their mother? Will my daughters have that laugh? The kind of laugh that fills the whole house; an unbridled display of pure joy—infectious as you find yourself laughing just as hard at nothing but the laugh itself.

Will my son grow to be a strong man? Will he stand up for what he believes in no matter what the risk? Will he love like his mother? God I hope so…I miss them so much; every last detail of their existence. The fit throwing, the hugs, the stubborn protests, the love, the touch of their skin, and sounds of my family filling this empty house with joy silenced forevermore.

I awoke early, it was still and dark and alone. This is how I liked it, at least at the time. There was a solidity hanging in the air that I could not describe, but looking back on it now, it was the impending act to follow, and the warning that seemed to come too late for all of us. Out on the porch with my coffee I saw something that I had never seen in the desert in my life, the softening light of the aurora borealis coming over the mountains. I had never seen it myself, but the images I had seen in books were unmistakable. The only difference that I could see was that these were increasing in brightness and lucidity as the seconds passed.

It was beautiful and terrifying at the same time. I had read about the solar maximum so many times before, and I know exactly what this is. The plumes of plasma from our own sun were penetrating our magnetic fields. This was unlike any aurora anyone had ever seen though. As the plumes of light crossed the mountains in the sky, It was not just on the horizon they could be seen. I could practically reach out and touch the light. The beams float in front of me like some kind of streamers of light.

As the sun crept over the mountain, the beams of light from the solar maximum also increased, and the pure energy of them surrounded my entire world. My heart raced, and immediately I thought of the radiation associated with the intruding light, and I worried about my family and their safety. I could have never imagined how right I was.

I ran inside to wake my wife and my children to see this cosmic anomaly, but by the time I entered the room, I saw an image that is forever burned into my mind…The place where I had last seen her emptied; the bed still dented where her body once lay, and her beautiful voice—silenced forever.

The next thing I can remember is ripping through the house as I ran to the rooms of my sleeping children wishing aloud that they were there, but they were not. Everything was as I had remembered with little beds once holding little bodies, left empty.

I wept and screamed into thin air, wondering why I was forced to be without them, and then it hit me like a shot to the head: I haven’t seen anyone. Not a concerned neighbor, not a police officer, not the postman, no one. “What the fuck is going on?” I said to the pictures on the wall. I went into the house to check the news to see if this was happening anywhere else, and realized that my power was out.

In this sort of daze I found myself in, I walked into the bathroom, and turned the faucet on. “At least I still have water,” I said to myself, and I closed the bathroom door as usual, and moved on to the kitchen to assess what seems to be a power grid disturbance from the preceding mass ejections of the sun.

“Goddamn electric houses,” I thought as I tried to light the electric pilot on my stove with a long match. No luck, but at least there was still the grill outside. So, with situation figured out I made my way to Dan and Gloria’s house next door to see if they were alright.

Dan was a retired helicopter crew chief in the Marine Corp. He was the kind of hard assed old man that had nothing nice to say about anyone, but was always there if you needed him to be, which is definitely the kind of person you wanted to have in your corner. His face was cracked and wrinkled like the topography of some Himalayan mountain range, and their house always smelled of cigarette smoke and coffee, with the occasional hint of some Jameson or Jack; whichever was on the menu that day.

Glory was a hard old bird herself, never really smiling except to bid you a good morning or evening, but never reluctant to drop by with cookies or toys for the kids. You see, Dan and Gloria never had children of their own, and since the death of my parents some years ago, they had very much stepped in to fill that void in our lives, and they loved the kids, just as if they were their own.

Their house was the same that they had lived in since the 1970’s, and not much had changed about it since then either. The paint, the green carpet, and orange velvet furniture all the same as the day they moved in; the walls stained yellow with the tar of indoor smoking for 60 years or so.

I knocked on the door, expecting to hear Dan with his usual, “Are you gonna make me get up to answer the goddamn door, really?” But instead I heard nothing. I could smell coffee burning on the stove in one of those old blue speckled camp coffee pots, but no sound. Not Glory singing along to her old Patsy Cline records, not bickering between the two, nothing.

The door was unlocked as usual, so I proceeded to let myself in to find no one. Heading to the kitchen, I shut off the coffee which by now was smoking. They were early birds, so it must have been hours since they had been around, but where were they?

I went to the house across the street, which was occupied by migrant workers from South America trying to make a home for their families, and discovered the same thing: no one. I traveled the whole street, and the surrounding neighborhood to find no one anywhere. Where was anyone? A ridiculous thought raced through my already reeling mind as I meandered back to my own empty house: what if I am the only person anywhere? I shudder to think, but what if?


To continue with the story, check out chapter two: