Zeds 1.2 : Michael

Read the Complete Chapter 1 Here

Any one can navigate these bumpy, hole ridden dirt roads in a monstrous 4×4, but it takes someone with a TRUE sense of adventure to traverse them in a compact, four-door family sedan. My car is just such a car; a true adventurer’s car. Everyone would think it was a Jeep, or a Hummer, but no… it’s a little Toyota. Those other cars can go through anything without any worry, but where is the adventure without worry?
My little car is covered in dirty, mud, chipped paint, and features a little green haired troll doll on the dash with a wedding ring for an arm-band. It’s not my ring! No, I’m not married; never have been. This is something I just picked up at a second-hand shop as inspiration for the end of chapter thirteen, when Kenneth proposes to Shari after a near death experience with a man-eating troll with – can you guess? – green hair.
It usually takes an hour to make it down the twisting dirt roads, but when it rains it can take an extra half hour to forty-five minutes. Subsequently, it takes almost two hours from locking my door to reaching the paved road into town. I reach down and click on my static box; most people refer tot hem as radios but given my exceptional distance from a radio tower all it produces is static most of the time. On some occasions when I hit the freeway I can get hints of some local public radio station or gospel, assuming the weather is decent, the antenna is appropriately aligned, the car is in just the right place, the sun doesn’t have any flare-ups, it’s a new moon, and all the planets of the solar system are perfectly aligned.
This does not seem to be such a day; I’m blaming Pluto. The radio scans through one dead station after another, sharing nothing but a quiet hiss. Oh well, I can suffer silence for the remaining half hour.
It’s almost nine by the time I pass the sign welcoming me to the small town of Twin Oaks. This place is not found on any maps and very few people know about it. It’s kind of a secret society of extremely rich people; most of them are unknown and wish tor remain that way, but there are a few celebrities that drop in as well. If my great-grandfather hadn’t built that cabin and laid claim to that bit of land a hundred or so years ago, my family would have never heard of this place either. We might still never know if the only road leading up to the cabin didn’t run through the town.
The streets are empty, but that’s pretty normal for Twin Oaks; especially this time of year with this kind of rain. I pull into the supermarket’s parking lot and slip in beside someone’s male compensation unit. I exit my car, lock the doors, and hurry inside to avoid the rain as best I can. The doors slide open, greeting me with a quiet whirr, as I approach and I enter the building with the he soft elevator music. They don’t play normal radio music here because sometimes the guests who come in don’t want to hear their own music playing.
The store seems a little messier than usual; some of the carts are laying on their sides and there is another cart abandoned, full of groceries. I shrug it off as I know the employees here know what they’re doing. They get paid a lot, so I am sure it’s either intentional or someone is already rushing here to fix it. I grab a cart from the corral and move toward the produce section.
Carrots, celery, lettuce, these, those, that and the other things that I avoid and walk past. I’m no chef and I don’t cook every night. I’m more of a frozen foods, microwave meals kind of person so I leave the produce section with an empty cart and cross into the frozen aisle. I find a variety of wonderful, low cost meals meant for the few locals who run the shops and do the laundry. The “staff”, as they’re occasionally referred to, can’t afford to shop at their own stores since everything here is ridiculously overpriced for those with winter cabins and summer homes. I toss a few low budget so-called-gourmet microwave dinners in my cart and move on.
After a visit through the snack and soda aisle, I manage to half-fill my cart and head up front. The cashier is away from the counter so I unload my cart onto the conveyor belt and I wait. A few magazines catch my fancy and I skim their headlines.
A new relation between those two? He’s cheating on her again, again?! My goodness, another baby for her? Oh my!
Several minutes pass and I have added bubble gum and a few candy bars to the stack of froze, packaged goods. I glance about to the other registers, down the nearest aisle, up towards the manager’s window above the customer service counter. I try to focus my eyes as though I can peer through the two way mirror. There is no one as far as I can tell. I am a patient person, but it’s beginning to slip away from me.
The customer service desk if empty as well, but I smack the bell on the counter a few times. Another minute passes and still no one arrives. I look around again, then walk the front of the store, checking every aisle as I pass and I make a startling discover; the store is completely empty! There isn’t a single person here. Not a single customer, or employee. Curious… and disturbing. I head to the front door and peer out into the parking-lot. There are several cars out there, including one I recognize as belonging to the manager.
I scratch my head.
Where is everyone? Is there a storm coming that I missed?
That would make a lot of sense, considering my lack of radio and the close proximity to the ocean. Storms aren’t a common occurrence out here but once every decade or so we get something heavy. It usually comes in the December through February period as the town gets dumped upon by a dozen feet of snow or so, but there have been a few records of severe rain and mudslides.
The local posting board hangs just inside the entrance, on the right across from the carts. I didn’t notice it as I came in at first because I have no interest in local events right now, but I check it for postings on coming storms, gas leaks, or nuclear wars. There are no postings of the sorts… only the usual spring festival that will arrive at its regularly scheduled date, and a startlingly high number of memorials and missing persons from the last four weeks. I skim over a few of them; seems a lot of people went missing on a camping trip, and a whole tour bus vanished into the mountains without a word. I notice that the newest article is two weeks old.
“Huh,” I mutter quietly to myself. “I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere. I’ve found up in the Twilight Zone.”
I’m sure that I will soon discover I am the last man alive and have all the time in the world… then I’ll realize all the donut shops are permanently out of service and conclude that life is simply unfair.
My mind races, recalling everything I’ve seen and heard since I came into town as I head back to the register. I think I recall seeing someone turn down an aisle as I entered but I’m not sure. I wasn’t paying attention.There were two abandoned shopping carts of food by the entrance, which I AM sure of as I can still see them there.
“Hello?!” I raise my voice, hollering. My voice echoes through the store as it rebounds off the walls. I think I hear whispers, but my ears seem to be ringing now. I’ve been alone in my cabin for weeks and my solitude never bothered me… but there are supposed to be people here. The silence is getting to me.
“Huh, I guess there is a storm coming?” I look down at all the food sitting on the conveyor. Stores don’t usually abandon their posts until a few hours before the storm. I wonder if I will have time to get home. I don’t know anybody in town or I might ask to bunk there. Maybe I can go hide out in the police station? They’re just around the block.
“Well, shit.” I can’t just leave the food here. It could potentially be days before anyone comes back to work. I pile most of the stuff back into the cart and hurry off to shove it into the nearest freezer. I keep only the essentials; coffee, a few microwave dinners, coffee, some candy bars, a six-pack of soda, and, of course, a can of coffee. I’ll come shopping again once the world is back to normal.
I hit the buttons on the cashier’s computer, figuring I’ll just ring myself up so it’s not theft. The register is very helpful and kind as it assists me through my purchase. Scan items. Press here to pay. Credit or debit? Do you want cash back?
Hmm, tempting!
I press no, take the receipt, toss the bags back into the cart and head for the exit. I slow by the notice board to see if I missed an evacuation notice, or a big party at the Cruise house, or something along those lines.
Nothing.
The rain hasn’t settled since my arrival, which only furthers my belief in the coming storm. Those clouds on the horizon do look a bit dark. I abandon the cart before stepping into the rain and picking up my pace into a light jog. I reach my car, shift everything into one arm, and fumble for my keys to open the trunk. I slide the keys in and freeze as I hear a sudden and alarming screeching on the other side of the parking lot.
Turning around I immediately find the source, and the first signs of life since… well, since I locked myself in my cabin. A seemingly drunk driver swerves around a corner at a very high speed. Their pickup truck wobbles, tipping up onto two wheels for just a second before settling roughly back on all four. The driver seems to struggle to regain control of their vehicle, jerking the wheel around the straighten the wheels and pull out of a fishtail. They almost have it, but a streetlight gets in their way and their truck comes to a very sudden halt through it. The horn blares as they fall on it, the headlights flicker for a few seconds then die, and the front wheels spin in the air as the front end of the vehicle is proper up off the ground, resting on the bent post.
I stare, amazed.
Did that just happen? Holy shit! Did that really just happen? Are they alright?!
The groceries get tossed on the roof of my car so I can fish my phone out of my pocket, suddenly realizing that I’m the only person witnessing this even. I start walking toward the incident as I dial nine-one-one, and pick up into a light jog as I press the phone to my ear. I get a recording telling me that I have no service.
Useless phone.
The phone is dropped into a jacket pocket as I pick up the pace a bit further. I’m a hundred yards from my car when a small group of people round the same corner the truck emerged from. I notice the uniform one of them wears and I slow my pace as the group rushes to the truck. An officer of the law; he can do a lot more in this situation than I ever could, and they’ll get there much sooner than I will. They will probably want to talk to me as a witness once they get the driver on an ambulance.
I’m halfway through thinking what good fortune it is that an officer was so close when the world takes a deeper dive into the Twilight Zone. The officer leaps up, springs off the bumper of the truck, and vaults himself into the empty bed. He smashes into the roof of the can, raises his fists and pounds down upon it like an agitated gorilla. Three others round the side of the truck, one bashes at the door, another at the side window, and the third climbs upon the hood to pound on the windshield.
I stop in my tracks.
What the fu-
The side window shatters and the attacker half climbs inside. They grab the limp form of the driver and violently yank them from the seat, pulling them through the glass shards of the window and throwing them to the ground. The others join them, swarming upon the unconscious, or possibly dead form. The driver isn’t resisting or showing any sign of consciousness. The assailants fall upon their prey, crawling over each other as they reach, grab, yank, punch, pull. They throw blows at each other, and at the unconscious driver. Two of them grab the unconscious form by either arm and begin to tug as though trying to tear them in half.
What the hell is happening right now?
My mind searches its database of reality for any sort of logical explanation for what I’m seeing right now but all I can come up with is; there isn’t one. This is nonsense. This doesn’t happen in reality.
“HEY!” Someone yells. It takes me a moment to realize that the someone is me, yelling on some sort of instinct I would have told myself to avoid if I had considered consulting with me before doing so. The officer and the other individual not currently playing tug-o-war stop fighting and look at me. Their stares are lost and confused, but realization breaks across their faces and they instantly start sprinting at me; not jogging, not running, but full-on sprinting.
I manage an “Oh shit!” as I back up a few steps, turn, and begin running back toward my car. The short distance between the car and myself didn’t seem that great just a moment ago, but suddenly it feels like a mile. I run it as fast as I can and slam into the side of my car, not wasting my time by slowing down. I risk a glance over my shoulder as I shove my hand into my pocket. They’re gaining, quickly… and my keys aren’t here. I waste half a second before recalling that I left them in the lock of the trunk. I round the car, grab the key-chain, yank, and snap the key in the lock.
“Shit,” I say under my breath. My eyes yes dart back and forth over the back of the trunk. I’m not sure what I’m trying to think up, some plan, maybe, to get inside? I was another second.
Police station!
The station is around the block, on the other side of the market. If I can maintain a safe distance from the others for that long, I can get inside to the safety of the police. I take off around the car and quickly regret my diet of cereal and ding-dongs. Those weeks of sitting and writing have left me tired very quickly but my life is at stake here! I’m running on adrenalin. I can’t stop.
I peek over my shoulder; they’re much faster than I am. They’re only 50 feet away by the time I round the corner of the market. I can see the station in the distance. 25 feet away.
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!
Even my internal voice is out of breath.
I reach the last corner. The station is only across the street, but I miss my footing as I hop the curb and stumble into the street. The nearest one dives and manages to grab my ankle. I trip, topple and smack my face into the ground. I roll onto my back, throwing a kick at the face of the man and I see the officer right behind him. He dives into the air, leaping over his accomplice. I clench my eyes shut and wince.
I hear the thunk, followed by the most indescribable pain… and everything goes black.

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8 Comments

  1. CJ,
    I’m gratified to see I was right about what direction you’re taking the story. But at 2,766 words, I have some of the same advice as I did for chapter 1: edit for length, spelling, and grammar. Also, be careful in using the passive voice: ‘The groceries get tossed’ instead of “I toss the groceries”; “The phone is dropped” instead of “I drop the phone”. The latter examples are much better suited especially for fast-paced action scenes.
    Keep up the good work. I can’t wait to see how Michael gets out of this!

    1. I’m afraid to say I ready have about 8 chapters and intend to make this a lengthy series…
      Unless you mean so long, as in individual posts, in which case I will certainly shorten them up in the future!

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