Friday, February 11, 2005

Story - take two.

Let's try this again, see if it actually works this time.

I've been wanting to post this for a while. Back in 2003 when I partook in NaNoWriMo, I did start writing. While I didn't finish the project, what I had was ...well, okay. I finally transferred it from notebook to computer, and am going to post it now. It's not complete - as you'll see - but I hope that you enjoy it anyway. I'm going to put my own thoughts after it in spoiler tags, so if you want to leave your own comments on it without having my ideas taint your review you can. =)

From Andilus Be's diary -

I'm living in a nightmare. I keep trying to tell myself that this is all just a horrible dream and that any second now, I'll wake up - safe and perhaps in my old bed. Ha. That would mean the past month has been a dream.

Why stop there, Andi? Why not wish that you'd never slept with Brandon? Or at least not that night in April? Or maybe all of this is a dream, Andi. Wish big or don't wish at all, as they say. Yeah. All 15 years of your life have been the fucked up nightmare of some creature from another world. Maybe everyone is a dream. That makes a certain kind of sense, It seems that several hours ago, a good percentage of the world woke up.

Poof. Gone.

Not me, though. And not everyone. In fact, near as I can tell, only people older than teenagers were effected. It's like all the adults - all of them - just completely vanished into thin air.

Even writing that now it seems unreal. God, just reading it sounds absurd. But writing calms me, and after the day I've been through, I need some major calming.

I suppose I should start at the beginning, for my own piece of mind if nothing else. Maybe doing that will help me piece together how this could have happened. Yeah. Wish big.

Let's see. What is today? Right. 5th June, 1986.

It started as a normal day. Well, no, things haven't been normal for a while. Not since I told...not since a month ago.

It was last May that I had to move out. It was last May that my mother and I last spoke. And now...

So the day began as the redefined normal. I was in Brandon's cramped apartment, feeling a bit ill (ahh, the joys of pregnancy) and considering calling into work. I chose not to, mostly for financial reasons. Although getting away from Brandon for 8 hours certainly factored in.

Plus, there's a guy at work I kind of like.

I wonder if he's still alive.
It's a wonder I'm still alive.

But back to my day.

I got to work a little early. My shift didn't begin until 10; I arrived at 9:30 and sat in the lobby, reading to kill the time.

Work was, really, uneventful. Well, of course, until the SHIT HIT THE FAN. Which is a given, of course.

But, yeah, before that - and it was around 1pm, I guess - before then, it was just another day. I performed my drive-thru duties just like a machine. Automaton Andi, that's me.

It wasn't busy at the time - there were maybe half a dozen customers in the lobby. The lunch rush had come and gone for the most part. The drive-thru had two cars in it. One was at the window, awaiting their food. They'd already paid, and in a few minutes would be on their merry way. The other car had just pulled up to the intercom. The weight of the automobile's wheels had set off the ding-dong chime in my headset. I answered with the shpiel I'd said a hundred times in the last two weeks, completely tuning it out, as I'm sure the drivers did. It was all just routine. Boring little play, all of us dutifully going through the motions. I'd give anything to have it back now.

The guy driving the car asked me to hold on and I replied with, "Sure. Take your time."

Those were the last words I said in the Normal World.

I handed the food through the window to the customer. They thanked me, and shifted out of Park.

The Vanishing happened before they could get to Drive, but not before Reverse.

Over the intercom, the driver at the menu said, "Okay, I'm..." and that was it. Poof. Gone in mid-sentence.

When the Vanishing took place, a lot of things began to occur very quickly.

The two cars, no sans drivers, but idling under the engines, began to move. Of course, thousands (millions?) of vehicles on the roads were having the same problem. It's just that the drive-thru accident was a microcosm of the world's automotive disasters.

Reverse-o car was drifting, not going all that fast. The other car, though, had begun to move forward at a relatively much faster speed. I think it had an engine that idled faster, plus the drive thru did slope forward, so gravity was assisting the now empty vehicle.

Partly because it was happening in slow motion, but also because time always does it's parlor tricks during moments of crises, I foresaw the collision. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do to prevent it. I uselessly shouted, "Watch out!" into the headpiece, not yet aware of just how pointless that warning was.

There was a crunch as the two vehicles finally kissed. And it was then that I noticed they were both passengerless. I gawked for what seemed like hours - the back of my mind rationalizing that the drivers must have ducked below my line of vision. Mark - who was on register duties - uttered a "What the fuck?" AND right then a much louder smash could be heard from the intersection outside.

Giving the accident in the drive-thru one final look - (why'd they both duck? And shouldn't they be getting out of their cars now?) - I turned to see what Mark was cursing about.

The lobby was empty.

That is not entirely accurate. Half eaten food was still at the tables. A drink that one of the customers had apparently been holding at the moment of the Vanishing was lying on the ground, a puddle of soda spreading. And the clothes that everyone had been wearing were lying on the seats, crumpled. Eyeglasses, rings, earrings, fillings. All of that had been left behind as well.

Mark turned to me and asked the most obvious question, "What the hell just happened?"

I blinked in response, and then went to find Cheryl, our manager, or the food prep crew, Michael and Ken. The five of us were the only people scheduled to work until 2pm.

I found Ken standing in the food prep station, motionless. I didn't know the signs at the time, but he was in shock. I've seen it enough now to recognize it. Ken was staring at Michael's clothes, unable to comprehend what he had seen.

He muttered, "Where'd?" or maybe it was "Weird.", but I don't know if he was even aware of my existence. He may have been asking himself. Or God. Or maybe his brain was just (mal)functioning out loud. Seeing Mike's clothing left behind - or more likely, having been witness to Mike Vanishing right before his eyes - had frozen Ken, but it had the opposite effect on me. I had to do something. Figuring that Ken wasn't going anywhere anytime soon, I knocked on Cheryl's office door, already knowing that she would not be in there.

I opened the door and my suspicion was confirmed. Cheryl was nowhere to be found. Her clothes - no panties! - were lying in her chair, and the phone was off the hook. I picked up the receiver and said, "Hello?" but there was, of course, no response on the other end.

I did that thing you do where you try to get a connection - push the hang-up button quickly a couple times - then said "Hello?" again, but it resulted in the same results. I thought I could hear some ensuing chaos on the other end of the phone - more driverless cars - but I couldn't be sure.

I pushed the hang-up button down long enough to disconnect Cheryl's line, and then lifted the button. Dial tone. Thankfully.

I dialed 9-1-1 and waited. It rang. And rang. It was right before the fourth ring that I realized, DUH! Kinda kicking myself for not realizing the stupidity earlier, I hung up the receiver. It was then that my mind turned to the personal, and I thought of my mother. Despite our rough history the previous month or so, I had to be certain that she was okay.

I picked up the handle, and started to dial Mom's number, but was interrupted by Mark frantically screaming.

"Cheryl! Mike! Ken! Andi! We've got to get out of here! Right..."

The rest of his yelling was drowned out by a noise that was straight out of hell. A ROARR that was loud enough to shake the building was followed shortly by an explosion so intense, I could feel the temperature increase by five degrees.

Ken screamed.

Mark screamed.

I shrieked.

Instinctually, I crouched and half-crawled/half-walked over to Mark, who was huddled next to Ken. They both looked terrified. I'm sure I was no effigy of bravery at the time either.

"What the hell was that?" I yelled - mostly due to being unable to hear myself from the auditory assault on my ears.

Mark shouted back, "Airplane!"

I don't know if it was the baby or simply the realization of that word, but my stomach did a very unpleasant flip then. I sat down, trying to soak everything in. Ken was crying.

Mark, seeing his two co-workers on the verge (or beyond) of meltdown, took over the role of Leader.

"Look, guys," he semi-yelled, "I know it's craziness, but we have got to get out of here. Other ...other planes will c-crash. And the fire from..."

As if the Universe knew what he was saying, we heard another explosion - distant, but audible - and began to smell smoke from the nearby fire.

The smell of smoke was enough to snap both of us out of our shock - for the time being, anyway.

The three of us cautiously stood and walked toward the front door. The scene from the door was ...the only way I know how to accurately describe it is Fucked Up.

There was thick black smoke drifting toward the sky, a slight breeze was blowing it toward the Taco Bell where we worked. It appeared (and we would later confirm) that the plane had smacked into a Wal-Mart that was not quite kitty-corner to our workplace. It was certainly within walking distance, but most people would drive.

The streets were cluttered with driverless cars and trucks that had smacked into each other, the engines still revving.

A nearby explosion (probably a car - or more than one - from the parking lot of Wal-Mart that had caught fire due to the plane wreck) startled us. I think I may have let out a small scream.

Ken muttered, "I wanna go home," and started to run toward his car. I looked helplessly at Mark, who ran over to Ken and grabbed his shirt.

They began to argue. I remember Mark screaming about helping the people in the plane crash and Ken yelling back, "What people?!" While they fought, I surveyed the area. I don't know if I can express the extreme sense of discomfort I had at seeing a scene that was a hybrid mix between a war zone and a ghost town, and NOT hear sirens. There was smoke - and it stank - all over the sky, but no fire trucks racing to the rescue. And perhaps most disconcerting, there were no people running from the plane wreck.

I felt myself slipping again. The magnitude of the situation was simply too large. I turned my attention to Mark and Ken. Mark was trying to convince Ken to come with him to survey the disaster. "We didn't disappear, Ken," he was saying, "maybe other people didn't either. And they need our help." The mention of other people not vanishing made me think of my mom. And Brandon.

The guys looked at me then, as though I would be the tie-breaker or the deciding factor in what would happen next.

I blinked, and then said, "I agree with Mark. We should look for other people. But first, I wanna call my mom. See if she..." I didn't need to finish the sentence and instead walked back inside.

Mark followed me. I think Ken hesitated for a few seconds before he came inside as well. Mark said, "Not too long, Andi. Like I said, other planes are gonna..." I cut him off with a nod of 'yeah, I get it.'

I picked up the phone and quickly dialed my mom's number. It rang four times. Six. Eight. It was halfway through the ninth ring when I just hung up, turned to Ken and Mark, and shook my head. I didn't know what to say, and I didn't want to cry because I knew I wouldn't be able to stop.

Mark hugged me and offered the, "It doesn't mean she's not okay," line that we both knew wasn't true.

Ken said, "I'm gonna call my sister. She's probably scared shitless."

He dialed the phone as Mark and I stood by. As the line was ringing, I looked at Cheryl's clothing. I felt morbid looking at them, but I also couldn't look away. I reached down and touched them, proddingly, partly afraid that I might vanish if I came in contact with them. When I remained, I took a bigger gamble and actually lifted her shirt. The material felt normal enough.


Ken had, apparently, gotten an answer on the phone. I dropped Cheryl's shirt, and eagerly listened to Ken's side of the conversation.

"Are you okay?" he listened for a while, then said, "I don't know. I don't know. No. Just. No ...just stay there. Just stay there until I get there," he glanced in Mark's direction. Mark frowned a little.

"Soon," Ken said, "I know. I am, too. I'll be there in a bit. Just stay put and everything will be okay. I love you, sis. I'll see you in thirty..." a quick look toward Mark "...forty minutes."

He hung up and turned to us. "I was right. She is scared shitless."

I giggled, a somewhat scary giggle that made me think of those old Crazy Mary movies. Not a good thing. But that made me want to laugh more. Like my fear of not being able to stop crying, I somehow knew that if I gave in to the laughing indulgence, I'd not stop. I bit my cheek to prevent myself from going hysterical. Ken smiled wanly at his joke, and I thought I saw Mark had a bit of a smile as well, but I couldn't be sure.

Sensing that he had more to say, I nodded toward Ken in a 'go on' way.

He kinda shrugged and said, "Meredith didn't have much to tell me. She's scared, obviously. She tried to call our step-dad, but couldn't get hold of him. And she's heard the explosions. And...this is so fucked up. Where'd everyone go, man?"

Mark looked unsure but eh knew that Ken needed some reassurance - even if it was false hope. Looking back, it's incredible how well together Mark was. I bet he'd've made a great leader. He certainly helped Ken and I through that initial roughness. And, of course, the Wal-Mart incident. Which I'm getting to.

So Mark went over and gave Ken a hug (!!) and told him that he'd be able to get to Meredith shortly, and that she'd be safe at home.

I wondered about that - especially with planes and helicopters falling out of the sky, fires burning uncontrolled, and cars simply moving forward. But I kept quiet. There was enough to worry about without my throwing in more doubt.

Ken kinda sniffled, "Okay. Thanks." And then Mark shifted gears. "Are we ready to go?" he asked us.

"Is...isn't there anyone you want to call?" I asked him.

Mark kinda steeled up, and simply shook his head. I realized how little I truly knew him. God, nobody really knows anyone.

I said, "Yeah, then, I guess we should go." Ken nodded in agreement.

We left work...and instantly hit a snag. Ken had a car - as did Cheryl and Mike - but Mark and I were carless. I took the bus - I doubt that's gonna happen again anytime soon - and Mark had a bicycle.

"Uh. Should we take my car or hoof it?" Ken asked.

Mark, our leader by some unspoken vote, hesitated.
"Let's ..uh...actually..." he ran back inside, leaving Ken and I exchanging puzzled glances.

We heard another explosion. It came from the direction of the freeway, and had probably occurred at least half a minute before. I wondered what had caused it. Or, rather, a small part of me wondered. Mostly, I was terrified.

Ken and I both turned and looked in the direction of the blast. We both then looked up to see if we could see any more aircraft. We couldn't, but that didn't mean anything, of course. Ken looked at his watch. "It's only been six minutes!"

At first I thought he meant that Mark had been inside for that long, but that couldn't be right. I then figured that he meant since the Vanishing. Even that felt wrong. Seven minutes ago life was normal? How could that be?

It was at that moment that I remember distinctly thinking (not for the last time, obviously, but probably for the first time that day) that I'd gone crazy and was imagining this entire thing. That I must still be asleep, dreaming it all. I shook my head, hoping that if this were just an illusion, that would clear it up, make it end. It didn't, of course.

Mark emerged from the store at that time, with a strange look of accomplishment and dread on his face. I was about to find out why.

"We're taking Mike's truck." He informed us, holding up the keychain of Mike's keys.

Ken's jaw dropped.

"Nuh uh," he protested. "We're not stealing his truck, man. No way."

"Ken," Mark said rationally, "it's not stealing. Mike is gone."


Mark blinked, hard, then just said, "I'm sorry, Ken. But I'm still taking his truck. You can come with me, or not. Your choice. Andi?"

I looked between the two men - two boys, really. God, we're all so young - and then stepped toward Mark, showing who my alliances were with.

Ken looked seriously stressed out. And pissed.

He ran his fingers through his hair and screamed, at the sky, at Mark, at the whole situation, "MOTHERFUCK!!!"

Mark nodded, as though he sympathized - and possibly he did- then asked Ken, "Well?"

Ken looked at the crash site. At Mike's truck. At the ground. He shook his head 'no'.

Mark looked as though he expected this. He stepped toward Ken and shook his hand and did that half man-hug that guys do. He said what I was thinking - "Be safe." To be honest, I had reservations about splitting up at all. In my mind there were safety in numbers. I still feel that way. Tomorrow, after I sleep, I think I'll tell the others that we should look for other survivors. And Ken and Meredith should be at the top of the list. God, so much to do. And so much has already happened. I should finish this entry and attempt to get some sleep. The others already are.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah.

We (that is, Mark and I) got into Mike's truck. Mark was driving, of course.

I used to hear stories about how bad teenagers are at driving, but I guess the reporters of those stories never drove with Mark. The world had suddenly lost a good chunk of people, a plane had crashed less than a half mile away darkening the sky, there were still vehicles 'driving' without pilots, and yet Mark drove like a pro. Totally focused. I guess Mark is - was - the type of person that excelled under pressure.
We got to the Wal-Mart parking lot and Mark parked the truck. The heat was super intense, and the stench of smoke made breathing difficult. If you ignored the burning Wal-Mart and focused on the parking lot, you would see shopping carts, filled with bags of stuff, but nobody around. A few of the cars had their trunks open - the people had been loading their trunks when the Vanishing had hit.

[Begin spoiler for -A few of my thoughts -highlight to view]
Hmm. Well, I probably owe Stephen King some royalties or something, since the 'pregnant teen writing in her diary as the world ends' idea is pretty much lifted from The Stand. And then the Vanishing leaving people's clothing, jewelry, etc, being ..."borrowed" from The Langoliers, but that's okay.
One of my biggest flaws as a writer is that I don't give enough detail, and that was totally evident to me as I was typing this up. Certain parts were actiony enough, which is great. And I could see what was happening, but that might be because I know what's going on, ya know?

I was trying to subtly get across that this is taking place in a world that is very similar to our own, but isn't quite the same. Thus the name Andilus, and the references to the Crazy Mary movies, in addition when Andi mentions the date, she uses the day/month/year style, unlike most Americans in this reality, who use month/day/year. I don't know if it came across, though. Again, probably not enough details.

Um. I know I had more to say, but I really don't remember what it was now. Doh.
[end spoiler]

Hopefully I'll add on throughout the year.


Amy said...

Also - you used the phrase "kitty-corner." [/still can't get over that freaking Harvard linguistic study]

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!! Creative fiction!

Jess said...

Hee! Stephen King was just who I was thinking of. But I can't say anything on that score, since I lift characters willy nilly from "The Stand".

Just so you know, I totally didn't get the alternate universe. People name their kids weirder things than Andilus, I don't understand the "Crazy Mary" reference, and I haven't been displaced for long enough to find day/month/year weird, or even to notice it as out of the ordinary when an American says it. Sorry!

Apart from those comments on your comments, the main thing I want to say is that I think it's a very intriguing and suspenseful start. I want to know what's going on. Though I might be disappointed if it's aliens or The Government. Unless the government is made up of aliens. I dunno.

Anonymous said...

Hee. I immediately thought of Stephen King. Damn, that was freaky.


Annika said...

I like it. My first thought when I got to the spoiler-tagged bit was "But I want to keep going!" So, um, could you finish it? Also, I didn't quite get the alternate universe, but I almost did, so I think you just need a few more hints. Furthermore, I think I was able to follow what was going on, plot-wise, without any trouble. But maybe that isn't what you meant. I don't know!