Monday, October 22, 2007

The Tribe

Since writing this, I've discovered that LMM outlined a very similar story idea. I'm pretty sure I wasn't aware of this beforehand, but I apologise for stealing your thunder, regardless.

It had been two generations since the tribe had first met the pale men. The pale men had claimed to come from outside the jungle, but they said many things that made no sense, and the people of the tribe generally ignored them. But three years ago, new pale men (or were they the same ones? Who could tell them apart?) arrived who refused to be ignored.

The claimed that the ancient gods of the jungle, that the tribe had worshipped since before the sun had been set in the sky, were false gods and that everyone must worship their god, known as Jezas. Two of the men of the tribe had gone with them, and taken part in their magic rituals, and said the words which (the pale men claimed) would bind them forever to Jezas.

And now the ancient gods were punishing them. The men who had abandoned them for Jezas had gone, their loincloths and bracelets and ear-rings falling to the floor when the gods snatched them up to answer for their crime. Worse, the gods had chosen to punish the whole tribe for allowing this to happen: every child, everyone who had not gone through the rituals marking them as an adult, had also vanished. There had been panics, and many fights, for days before the elders managed get the tribe to listen to reason.

The old stories, from the time before time, told that the gods were demanding, proud, that they required proper treatment. It had been many generations since the gods had demanded the sacrifice of warriors from another tribe, but no-one doubted they wanted a sacrifice now. And the elders knew the stories that told how it was to be done.

The victim would be hung by his ankles, and deep gouges cut into the side of his neck, that the spirits of the soil could feast on his blood. Small wooden cages would be hung around him, to catch his spirit as it fled his body. Once the victim was dead, the elders would each eat a sliver of his flesh, pronouncing it fit for the gods. Finally, the body and the spirit-traps would be thrown onto a pyre, that the gods might eat the flames and smoke as they carried the victim off to heaven. Once the fire was cold, every member of the tribe would paint their face and arms with the ashes, that the gods would know who had fed them so well.

It was good, what the elders said. Everyone agreed that it must be done, the gods must be appeased, so the women began building the sacrifical pyre and making the spirit-traps as the men went hunting for the pale men.

The gods would get their due.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

3000 Miles from Graceland, Part 9

Jenny spent most of the morning out looking for Kevin. It seemed a futile gesture, but she couldn't handle being in the same house as Rod any more. She checked all the neighbors' houses, then all of his friends' houses.

He wasn't at any of them. All of his friends had disappeared, too.

The pain of talking to her own friends and neighbors and seeing the pain in their eyes as they said they didn't know anything, that they couldn't find their own children, finally overcame her. It was simply too much to take.

She finally decided that maybe being around Rod wouldn't be so bad. Maybe she could convince him of the gravity of the situation. Maybe if she'd just ask, he'd be there for her.

He had been once, after all. Before they got married he'd been kind and caring. They were young, broke, in love and ready to take over the world. She'd convinced herself that she was living in a movie or a book and that she had found the one man in the world with whom she could actually believe in the old, hopeful happily ever after.

Her mother had told her it wouldn't be like that. She'd said that all men were the same, they came on strong, acted all romantic, stayed up all night talking, did all those things that made them seem great right up until the wedding. Then they'd just start watching football all day on Sunday. Once the kids came they'd start looking to trade in for a younger model.

Jenny had just let it roll right off her. Her father had died when she was five and her husband had run off with Jenny's kindergarten teacher, after all. Not everyone had the bad luck with men that she did. It just wasn't possible.

The football season started exactly two months after she and Rod had returned from their honeymoon. He'd gotten one of those NFL packages on the dish and spent twelve straight hours every Sunday parked on the couch. During the baseball playoffs she'd barely been able to get him to talk to her.

Then, during the last three months of her pregnancy with Kevin, he'd simply stopped looking at her. He didn't start again until nearly a year after she gave birth when she'd finally managed to get most of the excess pregnancy weight off.

She knew, too, that his company had put him in charge of hiring. The percentage of young, attractive girls at his job had gone up considerably since then.

Jenny knew her mother would have given her an "I told you so" if she ever knew. But cancer had taken her before her grandson was born, before everything had completely fallen apart.

She would have given anything to hear it, too. After her mother got in her little jibe, she would have held her arms out and let Jenny collapse in to them like she was still a little girl who needed her mommy. "It's okay," she could almost hear, "You don't have to go through this alone. Mom is here for you." But she wasn't. Jenny was on her own, abandoned.

She'd never met her grandfather. Her father had disappeared without a trace when she was five. Her own husband might still be in the same house, but he had left her, too. All she really had any more was Kevin.

Now he was gone, too.

Every man in her life had left her.

Every single one.

With a start, Jenny realized she was standing in front of her house, crying. She had no idea how long she'd been there.

She took a hesitant step toward the front door, then stopped to look inside, afraid the house would be empty and cold. Rod was sitting on the floor in the front room with his back to the big picture window, working intently on something.

"Maybe," she said to herself, feeling a tiny spark of hope growing somewhere deep down inside herself, "Maybe it's not too late for Rod and me. I know, somewhere deep down, he still loves me." She sighed. "Maybe he just needs to be reminded."

She wiped her cheeks dry and walked in to the house. Rod was surrounded by a small pile of books and looseleaf papers, writing something on a legal pad. Their laptop sat next to him and she could see that it was opened to a YouTube video called "Rapture: Are You Ready?"

"Hey, Rod," Jenny said.

He looked up, a slightly confused expression on his face. "Hey, Jen," he said, "I didn't realize you'd left."

"I..." she felt a brief surge of anger that he could be so obtuse, but managed to keep it down. "I've been gone all morning."

He shrugged. "Sorry. Been busy."

She damped down another surge of anger. It would do no good to start yelling. "What are you working on?" she asked, hesitantly entering the room, hoping that maybe he was trying to work on finding out where Kevin was.

"Figuring out how to make it through the Tribulation," he said, eyes flashing with excitement.

"The what?"

"The Tribulation. It's what's going to come now that we've been through the Rapture."

The little spark of hope she'd felt just a minute before flitted away. All the anger she'd been trying to suppress flared up in its place. This time, though, she didn't even consider fighting it.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

3000 Miles from Graceland, Part 8

Rod's parents' answering machine picked up on the fifth ring. "Hello," his mother's voice said cheerfully, "We're not here right now, but if you'd like to --"

The line clicked. "Hello?" an effeminate male voice lisped in to the line, struggling over the sound of the recording, "Hello? Oh, hold on." The hand piece clattered to a hard surface and Rod could suddenly only make out a muffled yelling. "Tim!" the voice called. "TIM!" pause. "TIM! Yes, you. Be a dear and turn off that stupid machine!"

His mother's voice suddenly died out. "Thank you!" the voice called. "Now, then," it said back in to the receiver, "How can I help you?"

"Tom?" Rod asked.

"Oh my God, is that my little brother Rod?" Tom giggled. "Hey, listen to me, I made that rhyme."

"Yeah, Tom, it's me," Rod said. "What are you doing there?"

"Well, with all the crazy stuff happened, Tim and I figured it would be a good idea to get our fabulous selves over to check on mom and dad. We'd check on his parents, too, but they live in Colorado and don't talk to him, you know..."

"Um, no, I didn't."

"Oh, that's right. You don't talk to me, either, little brother."

"Uh, yeah, sorry about that."

"It's okay. Jenny keeps me updated." Tom laughed. "Sometimes I forget and think I'm actually related to her."

"Yeah," Rod sighed, "Look, I need to know if mom and dad are there."


"Do you know where they are?"

"Not a clue. The car is here, so I don't think they got too far."

The line clicked and a second voice cut in. "Uh, Tom, honey, there's something you might want to see over in the family room."

"What is it?" Tom asked.


"Clothes?" Tom sounded confused.

"Yeah. They're just right here, like someone's supposed to be wearing them, but isn't anymore."

"Really?" Rod asked. Something in the back of his mind tried to get his attention. He felt like he'd heard about that before. He just couldn't figure out where.

"They're just...ewww, gross."

"What?" Tom asked.

"Your dad's dentures are here, just sitting inside his shirt collar."

"Alright, then," Tom said. "Uh, Rod, could you be a sweetie and get off the phone. I think I have to call in a missing persons report. A naked missing persons report."

"Yeah, sure," Rod said. He hung up the phone and sighed heavily.

"What was that all about?" Jenny asked from the stove.

"My parents aren't at home. I just talked to my brother, though."


"They found clothes."



"Just like Kevin!" Jenny gasped.

"Yes," it clicked in to place, "Exactly like Kevin."

"I wonder what that means?" Jenny asked.

"It means the book is right."


"The book. I showed it to you. All of the innocent children and all of the Christians disappeared at the same time. You know what that means?"


Rod's eyes widened with excitement. "It really was the Rapture!"

Jenny sighed heavily. "You can't be serious."

"But I am. Now we need to find the antichrist and figure out how to get on God's good side before it's too late."

"So does this mean that you're going to stop helping me try to find Kevin?"

Rod ignored the question.