Writers Note: The following post is part two of a twelve part series adapted from an original novelette by BGN Contributor, Angélique Roché, The Devastation of Fires. This novelette is part of a larger project called Anna’s Journal, after the main character Anna Joseph. Stay tuned each week for a new part to the series!
I paused on the road, closed my eyes and shook my whole body. Breathe. Stretch. Shake. Let it go.
It was my little way of restarting my brain, trying to re-center my thoughts. That and thinking about you. But every once in awhile my mind drifted back to thinking, thinking about the before or about the journey that had landed me on this empty highway headed towards a city I had never seen before.
Now alone, heading in the general direction of St. Louis, I managed to maintain two handguns, a bag and a half of weed, and some small pieces of hope and sanity to keep me from completely breaking. I couldn’t think about those other things, all those things made me want to do was sit down in the grass, smoke all the weed I had left and crawl into the nearest hole. I pressed on.
As I slumped along, I began to hum to cover up the silence, an old Cole Porter tune, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” Eventually I began to sing the tune, both parts; because why not. Post apocalyptic musical sing-a-longs, party of one!
“You say potato, I say potah-toe. You say tomato, I say tomah-toe… potato, potah-toe, tomato, tomah-toe let’s call the whole thing off.” At least I wasn’t talking to myself, yet.
Honestly I would have a full conversation with myself at this point if it made the time pass by faster between here and St. Louis. I closed my eyes for a moment and kicked a stray rock in the road. I wanted peace in the darkness of my eyelids but all I could see was my cellphone screen and the last texts you sent, “RED DRAGON. EOTW. Meet me in STL. Marriot by the Convention Center. Top flr. Waiting 4U. I <3 you.”
Red dragon and EOTW; come now, it is the end of the world. It was your way of saying it was time to fulfill a promise we never thought we would keep. I least, I didn’t.
In the days after, folks did what all the scary apocalyptic movies predicted, they began to pillage, rape, and burn. Ok, so, it wasnt Mad Max and the Thunderdome yet but it was getting pretty bad and would get progressively worse as more and more people lost hope. I never understood why that would people’s first reaction to the world coming to the end but I’ve always been too logical for my own good. Says the woman walking to St. Louis. Logical indeed.
I took a deep breath recognizing the irony and stopped mid-exhale. There was a faint noise coming from down the road. It was another vehicle heading in the opposite direction as the first. Without thinking I jumped into the little coverage the overgrown weeds and wildflowers could provide, praying it was enough to be out of view.
Obviously I wasn’t thinking when I made the jump because my entire body was met with tiny pricks along with my bare skin and through my clothes. Fuck, these weeds and rocks are scraping my everything. Still, there was no question that I’d rather be scrapped than risk being seen. It’s real out here in these streets, literally.
I watched as a truck began to pass by, slowed, and stopped. It was the same truck from earlier. The engine went silent and I heard the passenger side door open. I tried to duck lower out of sight but I was pretty sure I was failing. Shitballs, they must have seen me get back on the road. Bloody fantastic. I held my breath trying to get as low as I could, make myself as small as I could.
“Anna!” a woman’s voice, called from the road. I froze. It had been days since I’d heard another person’s voice, let alone someone calling my name.
“Anna! Michael and I saw you from the road, come out!”
“Sus?” I slowly got up from out of the grassy overgrowth by the road and dusted myself off, again.
“What the fuck are you doing out here Sus,” my voice was low, tired. I should have been happy to see her but it had been a long few days and my last conversation with Susana Manuel-Etsitty had not been the best.
“Oh you know, we just decided to take a stroll around the neighborhood. Michael thought, maybe we could go home shopping… I hear there is some great beach front property in Ohio,” she smacked back in her thick Brooklyn accent.
“Oh just party and bullshit… gotcha…” Susana smiled. Nice to see my awful sense of humor still made sense to other people. She and I stood there in the road, sun beaming down on us like a wild west stand-off. I didn’t move closer partly because my brain was still accepting that she wasn’t a mirage. I honestly couldn’t be happier to see another human, living and breathing in front of me.
“We’ve been looking for you chula,” Susana sounded worried and weary.
I cracked a smile at that, “Well yahtzee you found me!” I threw my hands up in the air and I could swear a cloud of dust formed around my arms. Nothing to see here folks, just your neighborhood Peanuts gang member, Pig-Pen and my dust cloud.
“Aye Dios mio, get in the damn truck flaca,” Susana waved her arms in an escorting motion toward the rusty truck. She was petite woman but with her shorts and ratty tank top she looked a little like a badass. Our very own Susana Croft, Urban Tomb Raider. The end of the world seemed to suit her. An unexpected surprise.
“Where are we going?” I was exhausted even asking the question. The last time we were together, outside of Columbus, she wasn’t the biggest fan of my crazy mission to find you.
“St. Louis Anna, we are heading for St. Louis,” Susana let out a strained laugh and I exhaled a breath I didn’t know I was holding. Susana smirked slowly, knowing that I wouldn’t have gotten in the truck any other way. I was stubborn like that; it could be pretty annoying.
“Hey, are we going to sit here all day or are you all getting in the car?” a voice chimed in from the truck. It was Michael.
“Thank you Sus… thank you,” my whole body shook involuntarily. For the first time in three days I allowed myself to feel past the adrenaline. I ached. I ached from walking, from thinking, from paranoia, from sleeping on the ground, from holding my gun too tight, from dodging trucks. Yet, the walk to that truck felt effortless.
Part I, Silence HERE
Part III/IV, Safety and Painkillers HERE
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.