Friday, December 30, 2011

They Are Legion, Part One

What if the Rapture came, and you missed it?

I'm not talking about being "left behind." That's all of us, everyone who's left on Earth. All the people who looked around and realized that their children were gone, all the people who looked up and realized that the car beside them suddenly had no driver, all the people who came home to empty beds or empty houses or empty neighborhoods.

But there were some of us who missed the whole thing. I, for example, had taken a couple of days off after Finals to go camping with my girlfriend. Two college students all alone in the woods at the end of their Junior year: you can imagine what all we we were doing. Maybe that's why we got left behind. Maybe, and maybe not.

Anna, you see, is very bright in her way. She can grasp complex ideas, do equations in her head, and memorize things in ways that I can't even begin to match. Unfortunately, she tends to take any idea she's given, and run with it. I'm smart in other ways; I can speak English, Spanish, and French (and read a fair amount of Latin), and I tend to withhold judgement and not take things at face value. Mine is the sort of intelligence that wants to do a lot of research, look for origins and evidence and support, and tends to ask uncomfortable and unwelcome questions.

That may be why Anna was still a Christian (nominally, at least) while I was... not. On the other hand, we came back from our trip to discover that everyone - everyone - under the age twelve had disappeared, along with a fair amount of the adult population... and the adult statistics skewed heavily to certain strains of Christianity. Nobody knew how heavily, because nobody can organize a census that quickly, but even the preliminary, anecdotal information was fairly convincing. When the police department notices that eighty percent of their missing persons calls concern members of a certain church, and further investigation can locate only four or five people from a congregation of over one hundred, that's pretty convincing. So maybe I shouldn’t consider my disbelief a product of my intelligence, if you see what I mean.

And yes, I know that everyone who's reading this now has been through it themselves, and remembers how it happened. I'm not writing this part down for you. I'm writing it down for our children, if we have any, if the world lasts that long. If there's one thing you learn studying history, it's just how much information gets lost. It's frightening how fast knowledge can disappear - a generation, maybe less, if it isn't needed or isn't wanted.

So that's what happened to us: we went into the woods, and when we came out the world had changed.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Just When Things Are Going Right Part III by Rev Apoc

Judd loved the feeling of Mona’s hair in his hands. They’d been making out for a while, and he was in a good mood even though his beer buzz was fading away. A girl’s voice startled them as Judd realized another girl on the cheerleading squad was trying to get Mona’s attention.

“Mona, we gotta go! You told me you promised your parents you’d be home at midnight or they’ll ground you!”

Judd and Mona broke the kiss and looked at the girl. Mona looked at her watch and gasped. “Eleven forty-five! Shoot!” She looked at Judd apologetically and said, “I’m really sorry for stopping like this, okay?”

Judd, a bit put out by the end of the great make-out session he’d been having, tried to hide it as he gently squeezed Mona’s shoulder and said, “Yeah, you don’t want to get in trouble. Maybe next time.”

Mona smiled briefly, got off Judd and stood up to quickly straighten out her outfit and hair before retrieving her purse from her friend, saying, “Thanks, Rachel.” She rummaged around in her purse and scribbled something on a scrap of paper.

She turned to Judd and said, “I like you; maybe we can go out sometime, huh?”

He grinned and said, “Yeah. I live about a ten-minute walk from here. What about you?”

Mona replied, “Just at the house facing this cul-de-sac, actually. But I really have to go so I can get home in time, okay?”

Judd smiled. “Just leave the Bible alone next time, okay?”

Mona nodded sheepishly, handed the piece of paper she’d been holding to Judd, then waved goodbye as she rushed off with her friend.

After realizing Mona had given him her phone number, Judd found he was more tired than he expected. He looked around and noticed someone had turned down the music. As well, the lights had been turned down and there were people sprawled on the floor, either sleeping or cuddling with each other in their own little worlds.

He needed to go to the bathroom, so he struggled out of the easy chair and wended his way through the living room and found a bathroom in a little hallway just off the entry foyer. After he was finished, he yawned and looked at himself in the mirror; he noticed some of Mona’s lipstick was still on his lips. He tried scrubbing some of it off with a tissue and some water, but it was pretty tenacious.

Judd decided to return to the easy chair. He snuggled into the easy chair, deciding he just needed a few minutes of rest before he’d get up and go home.

He closed his eyes, and a few minutes turned into several hours.


Vicki was starting to feel tired, which she thought was unfair considering she and Shelley were having the time of their lives.

“Shel?” she asked softly.

Shelley stopped nuzzling Vicki’s neck and looked up. “Sorry, am I doing something wrong?”

Vicki smiled. “No, it’s okay. It’s just… I’m getting kinda tired. Are you?”

Shelley looked disappointed, but before she could answer, she yawned, provoking Vicki’s own yawn.

Shelley said, “I guess that’s our answer.” She hesitated, then put her hands on Vicki’s hips. “Look, I know I needed to get seriously liquored up to even tell you what I wanted, but I just… I didn’t know how to tell you any other way. Do you think less of me for it?”

Vicki kissed Shelley on the forehead and brushed her hand through her friend’s hair. “No, I don’t. Look, I’m happy you told me; that’s all that matters.”

Shelley sighed. “Well, now we’re kinda stuck. There’s no way we can get home at this hour. You wanna sleep here or try to find a bed?”

“Let’s sleep here. The carpet’s pretty soft. We can probably just stretch out and lie down if we’re careful.”

After a couple of minutes, the two girls had managed to get themselves in the right positions when Vicki rermembered the light. “Shit. Shel, I’ve gotta turn this off. You gonna be okay in the dark?”

“Yeah. I’m with you,” she replied.

Vicki snickered. “No pressure, then.” She scrambled up, yanked the chain, then carefully felt around the room to make sure she didn’t hit her friend as she laid down on the carpet next to Shelley, who cuddled into her arms to sleep.

It wasn’t long before Vicki also fell asleep, content with the world.


Someone was shaking Judd’s shoulder. He half-heartedly batted the hand away, mumbling, “Lemme sleep s’more.”

“Come on, Judd! I need to clean up around here, okay? Your dad’s probably really pissed ‘cause you stayed out, too.” Jason’s anxious expression convinced Judd to acquiesce; it wasn’t like Jason had to know he didn’t really care.

Judd tried to get up, and moaned as he tried to open his eyes wider than a squint. He whined, “Light hurts, Jase.”

Jason muttered, “Shit. Be right back.” Within a minute, he shoved a couple tablets into one of Judd’s hands and in the other, forced him to grasp the cup of water tightly. Judd mechanically went through the routine of chasing down the Tylenol with the water. He handed the cup back after emptying it, and let Jason help drag him out of the chair so he could stand up.

Judd yawned, scratched his head, and tried to ignore the fact that he felt like he had a cold. He half-stumbled out of the living room, and ran into some of his teammates. They mumbled greetings to each other, and Daniel agreed to drop Judd off at his place. Daniel drove slowly in his expensive sedan, and Judd was thankful nobody felt like talking.

The first thing that struck Judd after he let himself inside his house, was that, for it being nine o’clock in the morning on a Saturday, the house was eerily quiet.

Usually his dad was up, getting the coffeemaker ready and making breakfast if his mother wasn’t downstairs first and making it.

Maybe they just slept in, thought Judd as he grabbed some cereal and a bowl, deciding he’d watch some TV.


Vicki’s first impression was of darkness with only a sliver of light coming from near her head. A human body was next to her, and the girl was breathing steadily. Startled, Vicki tried to sit up, only for her head to start pounding as memories began filtering back into her head.

She gasped, relieved, as she realized she’d just been sleeping in Shelley’s arms, and then a slow smile made its way across her face as she remembered how Shel had so nervously come out to her, and their mutual attraction had led to a pretty hot make-out session.

But now they had to find their way home, and she needed to get a light turned on in this damn closet.

Vicki carefully stood up and opened the closet door to let the daylight in. She squinted against the harsh light and her headache got worse. She reached down and shook Shelley’s shoulder. “Shel? Hey, wake up.”

Vicki helped her friend stand up, and she thought from Shelley’s pale appearance that she must be even more hung-over than Vicki was.

Shelley’s hand on her arm stopped her. “Vicki? Did we… y’know….” She couldn’t meet Vicki’s eyes.

“Hey, it’s okay. I’ve never done anything with a girl before, either. We just made out, honestly. And kissed a lot.”

“Okay,” replied Shelley softly.

In an upbeat tone, Vicki said, “C’mon, let’s get outta here. Our purses are downstairs.”

They passed other people stirring and preparing to leave. Vicki snickered as two guys blanched upon exiting a room when they saw the girls, She just hissed, “Hurry! Get going!” to them, and they took off, adroitly avoiding the few people sprawled on the spiral staircase going down to the foyer. She murmured to Shelley, “See? There’s more people like us if you look.”

The two girls walked quietly to the closet they’d gone to before, and found their purses. Luckily, nothing had been stolen. As they passed by the kitchen, Shelley saw Jasmine starting up some breakfast and said, “Oh, God, that coffee smells so good. Jason’d better appreciate this!”

Jasmine winked and whispered, “Oh, he will.” She looked more closely at Shelley, then at Vicki, and said, “You two better get some water. You look kinda peaked.”

After getting the water and guzzling an entire glass, Vicki almost wanted to ask to stay, but realized if Jason was here, so was that Judd guy, and she didn’t really want to hang around some rich kid’s house being looked at like she might go wild and break something. She wasn’t a freaking rabid dog, for crying out loud. She put her water glass by the sink and tugged Shelley’s arm. “We better go.”

Just as the two girls were about to leave the house, a guy who Vicki figured for a soph rushed up to them and said, “Have you seen Amanda? She isn’t here! She was on the couch with me when we went to sleep.”

Wordlessly, Vicki and Shelley looked at each other and shrugged. Vicki said, “We probably don’t know her, but what’s she look like?”

“Golden brown hair, um, kinda your height, I guess. She was wearing a party dress.”

Shelley said, “What color? ‘Party dress’ doesn’t tell us squat.”

The guy scratched his head and said, “Golden yellow.”

Vicki shook her head. “I think I saw her last night, probably when we were dancing. Didn’t see anyone like that this morning, though.”

The guy paled and moaned, “I must have really offended her or something. Oh, damn!”

He pushed past them and ran out the front door before the girls could find out more. Vicki rolled her eyes and said, “If I had a dime for how many people’ve walked out on each other after screwing I could buy one of these houses.”

The girls, walking slowly along the sidewalk in the early spring sun, only had the first inkling that something was wrong as they passed one of the large houses with a well-manicured lawn.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Courtship of Meta-Chloe, part-troi

The last few weeks had been a whirlwind for Cameron. He ran through as many interviews as he could for the story, sifting and sorting. Whenever he could, he did the interviews on-line or by phone, spending the rest of his free time studying the specially marked Bible Rayford had given him, or meeting with Rayford's pastor, Bruce. And whenever he could, he attended Sunday services and bible study. It wasn't entirely religious devotion... there was one other regular attendee he looked forward to seeing each time.

When the GW article finally went to press, Cameron was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief. He had to re-write large parts of it just hours ahead of the deadline, and he wrestled long and hard with that decision. The pastor had actually been fairly helpful, though he did tend to eye Chloe at bible study ever since.

That relaxed feeling vanished the very next Wednesday. Chloe was conspicuously absent from the prayer study, and when asked, Rayford just looked sheepish and embarrassed. (then again, Rayford looked sheepish a lot, in Cameron's opinion) Buck spent half the meeting writing a note for Rayford to give his daughter, but even simple writing gets tricky if you know that the father of the girl you're sweet on will be reading the note, and reading it first.

Cameron was too nervous to attend the Sunday service, plus with his boss jumping ship to work for Carpathia, things were starting to slip around the office. But when he showed up for the mid-week prayer group, and Chloe still wasn't there, he started getting really confused. Rayford somehow picked up on that, and told Cameron to ride back to his house.

Rayford walked Cameron up to the door, then gently laid a hand on his shoulder.

"She's out back, on the porch. She's really mad at you."

"She wants to talk to me?"

"She doesn't know I brought you here, but she's mad, and you don't know what it was that you did to make her mad, and she's not the type to go calling, so you go back there and figure all this out with her. Now, go!"

Read the rest

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Just When Things Are Going Right Part II by Rev Apoc

Vicki and Shelley got off the bus and began making their way to Jason Devlin’s house. Not wanting to keep gawking at the well-lit nice houses and fancy grass lawns in the evening twilight, Vicki said, “How do you even know this guy anyway? They usually don’t like us trailer kids showing up, you know.”

Shelley waved her hand. “Oh, friend of a friend kinda thing. I know a girl who has a kind of off-and-on thing with him. She’s the one who told me about this party, actually.”

“We had to spend half an hour on that stupid bus stopping at like every intersection along the way here, Shel. I’m gonna be so choked if they don’t let us in to at least get a beer,” groused Vicki.

They were coming up to the large house which took up the entire end of a cul-de-sac. The windows blazed with light and the girls could see several shadows in them, showing that tha party was starting to get going. Shelley brushed Vicki’s hair back and said, “Don’t worry about it. With that red hair and that lipstick you’re a bombshell. Just flash your boobs or something.”

Vicki, stunned, burst out laughing. Shelley, after a moment, joined in and the two girls had to hold each other up as they got themselves under control.

Vicki studied Shelley’s outfit closely. Her friend was wearing the only high heels she owned, and she was dressed in a skin-tight one-piece black dress. Shelley had put on some make-up and brilliant red lipstick.

Shelley seemed to notice and said, “Is something wrong?”

Vicki stopped, looked at the house pensively and rubbed her hands on her shirt. “No. Just… how do I look? Okay?”

“You look great, honestly. I already told you that back at the trailer park. Just be careful, though; that white T-shirt looks like it might pop if you try buttoning it up all the way. And that skirt! I’d like to borrow it from you sometime. It shows off your legs.”

Vicki fleetingly wondered if that compliment was Shelley trying to tell Vicki something. Feeling a bit more fortified, she grinned and said, “Babe, this shirt? That’s the general idea. C’mon.”

She tugged at her friend’s arm and walked up to the outsized front door.

Luckily, nobody threw them out, and after pressing their way through the small groups of people that had formed in the hallways, Shelley and Vicki were able to grab two cups of beer from the guys manning a long table with a couple of kegs sitting on it.

“Woohoo!” yelled Vicki as she knocked her cup against Shelley’s. She took a healthy gulp, feeling the liquor going down her throat. Shelley, gasping from the cold beer herself, nodded and said, “Pretty good stuff this time.”

Vicki’s purse shifted, and she smacked her forehead. “Shit! What do we do with our purses?”

“Goddamnit,” swore Shelley as she looked around. Vicki followed her gaze as it locked onto a brown-haired guy standing next to a table with a lamp on it in the large living room. He was talking with a cute black-haired guy who she thought she remembered from the basketball team, but his name escaped her.

Shelley tugged her along, and when she was within talking distance, she said, “Jason! Remember me? Shelley? Jasmine’s friend?”

He blinked and nodded slowly. “Yeah. Um, whaddya need?”

“I’ve gotta put my purse somewhere safe, and so does my friend Vicki.”

Vicki locked eyes with the black-haired guy, and she noticed he had dark brown eyes, like her. Right now, though, he seemed to be regarding her a bit distantly.
. Damn it, just because I didn’t grow up in a fancy house like this, thought Vicki furiously.

She hid it all behind a fake smile and an insincere, “Hi.”

The black-haired guy nodded brusquely and Jason took the strain off the meeting by suddenly recalling a small closet in the back of the house. He led Vicki and Shelley away from the family room and through an extremely nice-looking dining room (which, luckily, had been cleared of anything breakable, Vicki noticed) and into a corridor. There, Jason stopped them and said, “If you keep going down this hallway, you’ll end up in the garage. Here, just put your purses in this closet here.”

He opened a closet which had a few coats in it, and had nothing on the floor. The two girls put their purses on the floor and then went back to rejoin the groups of people and see if they knew anyone from school they could hang out with.


Jason rejoined Judd and said, “Hey. You okay?”

“Why trailer chicks, Jase?” He gestured with his beer at the girls who’d just left. They were kind of cute, but dating one? Kiss of death at school.

Jason rolled his eyes. “Come on. Look, I’ve sort of known Shelley off and on and she’s all right. I mean,Jasminesays she’s a nice girl, and Jas isn’t trailer trash. You’d think she’d know if anyone from the trailer park was just a total skank, man.”

Judd waggled his eyebrows. “I’m sure between the sheets she’s nice, too.”

“Hey, shut up,” replied Jason, chuckling. “Look, I’m gonna put on some music and go find Jas. You find a girl to chat up or something, people see us hanging around all night they might start wonderin’ what’s up.”

Judd found a cluster of his basketball teammates; just as he did so, the music began loudly playing and they all had to bellow at each other to be understood. Judd began thinking the only worthwhile thing was the beer, which never seemed to stop flowing.

An impromptu dance floor had been created in the center of the living room, and Judd saw that Jason and Jasmine were dancing. He felt a bit jealous that he didn’t have a girlfriend with him at the moment, though he was pretty sure he’d seen a couple of girls at the party checking him out, one of them a blond cheerleader he spotted on the other side of the room.

Judd, concentrating on moving between the people to chat up the cheerleader, didn’t quite see where he was going and nearly bumped into the redheaded trailer girl, who had to steady herself by putting her hand on his chest for a moment. He flushed in embarrassment and bellowed, “Sorry!”

She nodded, gripped her fresh beer more carefully, and yelled back, “It’s fine!”

As she trailed her way through the crowd, Judd couldn’t help but follow her with his eyes. That red hair really made her stand out. And she knew how to show off what she had, that was for sure.

Shaking his head, he muttered, “Kiss of death, kiss of death…”


Shelley handed her back the cup of beer she’d just downed half the contents of, and Vicki took a sip, noticing with some concern that it was already getting harder to stand up straight.

Vicki had to admit the black-haired guy, whose name she learned was Judd Thompson, was pretty hot up close. He had a nice set of muscles under that shirt of his, that was for sure. But damn it, he’d never end up with her except for a quickie if he was super drunk and super horny. Shelley had told her of the Football Bastard, Geoff, who’d just looked right through her the day after they’d slept together.

So why did Vicki keep thinking there might be some hidden depths to that Judd guy?

She decided to quit wasting her time, and said, “C’mon, Shel, let’s dance! Who cares what the rest of these idiots think.”

Her friend’s grin prompted her to grin, too, as they made their way to the dance floor and began dancing to the pounding beat. Vicki loved seeing the way Shelley put her moves together, and she knew she could pull off moves just as good. Smirking as more and more boys started looking at her, she kept up the pace as the music kept playing.


The blond cheerleader’s name was Mona. Judd said, “So what’s that you’re wearing?” He wondered what the white blousy skirt thing was.

She beamed. “This thing? A Jersey dress. You like it?” She winked.

“Yeah, I like it. So you’re the team captain, or what?” Judd fleetingly noticed the red-headed girl dancing with her friend, and several of his basketball teammates looking on with envy. He reluctantly turned his attention back to Mona.

Mona drank a bit of beer and said, “Nah, I’m co-captain. So me and Liz, we have to argue over what moves and dances we’ve got to put on and then choreograph it all for the rest of the team.”

Judd thought she looked good. She had cute hazel eyes and was fairly tanned, which spoke of many hours outside the gym, practicing cheerleading routines.

He looked around and spotted the easy chair someone had just vacated. “Hey, wanna sit down?”

Mona grasped Judd’s arm and said, “Okay, but I’m not sitting in your lap – yet.”

Judd sat in the chair while Mona sat on the arm. He thought it wasn’t too uncomfortable to look up at her, but wished she hadn’t put her butt so close to his arm. He fiddled with his beer cup in his lap as Mona took a large drink. She then put her empty cup on the nearby table, which already had several other plastic cups on it surrounding the lamp.

Mona’s hand on his shoulder surprised him. “So, Judd, what about you? Basketball, right?”

He nodded. “Yeah. I’m a power forward.”

“Cool. When’s the next game?”

Judd, intrigued, said, “I thought football cheerleaders didn’t go to basketball games.”

Mona giggled. “Oh, come on, Judd. Not like there’s a law against it, is there? Now tell me, when’s the next game? I’ll cheer for you specially.”

“Couple of weeks. We’re playing against the senior varsity team.”

“Isn’t that kind of out of your league? You guys’re JV, right?”

Judd nodded. “It’s kind of a warmup, but whoever wins kinda has bragging rights for a while, especially if it’s us ‘cause eighteen-year-olds are taller and stronger, usually.”


Judd hesitated, then put his arm around Mona’s waist. He said, “C’mon, have a seat now?”

She didn’t shake his hand off, which Judd thought was a good thing. Mona seemed to think for a few moments, then said, “Okay. But if you try anything—”

“I won’t, I promise,” replied Judd. “I just, um, think you’re cute.”

Mona carefully sat in Judd’s lap, shifting so she could see him. Luckily, the easy chair was wide enough to let her sit at an angle, and she put her arm around his shoulders.

She said into his ear, “I think you’re cute, too.”

Judd relaxed and tried not to focus too much on his hand now resting between Mona’s shoulder blades. She smelled nice, too.

A slow dance number came on, and Judd looked up, seeing the red-haired girl and her friend walk off the dance floor. They looked around furtively, and then left in the direction of the stairs. Judd knew there were several rooms on the second floor. He wondered if they were going to find some guys.

His attention came back to Mona as she said, “You go to church or anything like that?”

The music was just quiet enough that Judd and Mona could talk in low voices and be heard.

Judd laughed. “You’re asking that at this party?”

She shrugged. “Why not? The Bible tells us our ancestors drank beer and danced and still praised the Lord.”

“Not to hear my parents tell it, that’s for sure,” groaned Judd.

Mona gestured at the other people. “To be fair, this normally wouldn’t be the time or place. But…”

Her face grew pensive. “I’ve just got a feeling something’s going to happen tonight, and I thought I should at least try to reach out.”

Judd laughed and said a bit harshly, “Reaching out? So it’s flirt to convert, huh?”

Mona, distressed, shook her head and replied, “Heavens, no! Look, I… oh, this is coming out all wrong. I’m sorry. Please, forget about it.”

She looked so sincerely apologetic and flustered that Judd had a hard time staying upset.

“It’s okay. I just get it from my parents, too, so I probably was ruder than I should’ve been,” Judd conceded.

Mona seemed relieved. She said, “Now, believe it or not, but Christians do know how to have fun; lemme show you.”

She leaned over and kissed Judd, who gladly opened his mouth to lock lips with Mona. His free hand wandered to her leg, and she didn’t swat it away.


Vicki wasn’t sure how long they’d been dancing when they finished, but she’d been wanting a drink for a while. She grabbed another beer – this time, a cold bottle – and took a healthy slug from it as she followed Shelley upstairs. She had seemed a little nervous when trying to get away from the dance, and this had made Vicki look around too, but she hadn’t seen anything wrong; she was pretty sure Shelley didn’t have any creepy stalker exes.

They found the stairs leading to the second floor of the large house, passing by other people coming downstairs who had satisfied looks on their faces. It didn’t take a genius, Vicki thought, to realize what was happening on the upstairs floor as she and Shelley carefully made their way up the steps, trying not to overbalance due to the alcohol running through their veins.

Passing by the first room in the long hallway certainly proved that making out (and probably more) was a popular sport as there were couples sprawled over the couches and even one couple on the floor.

Shelley seemed to be hunting for an empty room; Vicki rolled her eyes and said, “Shel? There areno empty rooms. There’ve been people on the beds in the last two rooms, and I bet the next room’ll have people, too.”

Vicki looked on, astonished, as Shelley grabbed the beer out of her hand and drank off nearly a quarter of the bottle. She grabbed Shelley’s shoulder and steadied her friend as she said, “What? What’s wrong?”

Her friend licked her lips and slurred, “Need to find a room, okay?”

They lucked out as they finally spotted a small walk-in closet just off a bedroom that, in the light briefly thrown into the room, showed two human-sized lumps on the bed. Inside the closet, Vicki reached up, felt the thin metal beads jangling against her hand and pulled, turning the light on inside the closet as Shelley closed the door and took another sip of beer before handing the bottle to Vicki, who carefully set it in a corner of the closet where she wouldn’t knock it over.

It was just large enough for two people to walk into, but they would have to leave single-file. The wall opposite the door was behind Vicki, as she’d walked in first.

Shelley’s hands shook. She nervously said slowly and carefully, “Would you be mad if… uh, I told you something?”

Vicki knew, from being fairly drunk herself, that when you talked like that, you were concentrating entirely just on thinking about the one thing you were discussing. This must be super-important, thought Vicki as she wondered what her friend had needed all that beer for in order to loosen her tongue.

“No, Shel. I… I promise,” Vicki said, enunciating her own words carefully.

Shelley’s hand moved to Vicki’s hair, and she began fiddling with the ends. “I—just—Ikindoflikeyou,” she blurted.

Vicki chuckled in disbelief as she swayed, trying to regain her balance. This couldn’t be happening, could it? Her friend – her very attractive friend – was lesbian or bisexual?

Vicki wondered if that was just the beer talking, but hoped it was more than that. She tried to steady her breathing as her heart hammered against her chest. She suddenly realized how wide Shelley’s eyes were, and how she seemed to be readying for a bad reaction as she tried to stay steady on her feet. Maybe, just

Vicki said soothingly, “Look, it’s okay. I like you too, Shel.”

She put her hands on Shelley’s shoulders to try and calm her. She could feel her friend’s shoulders shaking slightly. Shelley gasped, “Oh wow! You’re… a lesbian, Vick?”

“Bi, actually.”

Shelley’s tension vanished as she grinned drunkenly. “Oh, this is so awesome!”

She hugged Vicki, who smiled into Shelley’s shoulder as she returned the embrace. The words began spilling out of Shelley’s mouth. “Oh God, I was so terrified of telling you, because we’ve been friends for like forever and I was afraid you weren’t into girls like I was and you wouldn’t like me.”

“Hey. Shh, it’s okay.” Vicki rubbed her friend’s back, easing the tension out of Shelley as the other girl relaxed.

Shelley leaned back, and Vicki was never quite sure afterwards how it happened, but suddenly, both seemed drawn to each other and the two friends began kissing. Their hands soon started roaming, as well.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Just When Things Are Going Right by Rev Apoc

[ I want to thank Mouse from Mouse’s Musings for being gracious enough to host this story on Right Behind as well as providing the impetus and encouragement to start this AU story about Left Behind: The Kids.

I’d also like to thank VMink, who took time out of a busy schedule to read this and comment on it for me.

Finally, please note that while some canon elements are the same, I’ve chosen to introduce, omit, or change characters as need be to help make more realistic, likable versions of Judd Thompson and Vicki Byrne. ]


Judd Thompson wasn’t unusual, as teenagers went. Sixteen years old, played basketball at high school and partied after the games, win or lose; maybe smoked a joint between beers. He’d dated a couple of girls, but for the moment he was just playing the field.

Lately, though, it seemed like his dad and his mom were just constantly on his case about something or other. He didn’t clean his room well enough. He left his plates in the sink. He didn’t switch the outdoor light off on the way to his bedroom. He didn’t come along to church. He didn’t do this, he didn’t do that.

Thinking back, he realized it had been three days before The Event that he’d cut afternoon classes with his friend Jason, knowing Mr. Stewart wouldn’t mark him absent from History. Kind of helped that he was also the school’s basketball coach.

Judd had spent an hour killing time with Jason but still got home earlier than usual, so neither of his parents were home, but the mail had been delivered. He’d idly flipped through the pile of envelopes, dropping them one by one onto the kitchen table as he wondered if any were for him. Since he and his father had the same name, they sometimes got their mail crossed. He saw the “Citibank” return address on one of the envelopes, and felt around it, noticing the stiff part that meant a credit card had to be inside it.

Later, the only really good explanation he could come up with for what he was about to do was that he’d been frustrated, annoyed and just fed up. He’d had yet another round of fighting with his dad that morning about not attending church again, and then at school he found out he’d bombed the English quiz from the day before.

Not that it really excused what he did.

He went up to his bedroom, closed the door and sat on his bed, fiddling with the envelope. It was addressed to “Judd Thompson”, but Judd knew without a doubt that meant his father. Nobody gave teenagers credit cards.

Judd licked his lips, then ripped the envelope open and took out the contents. He noticed that there was a pre-approved card with a $5000 credit limit. All he had to do was activate the thing. He hesitantly plucked the card away from the form letter, and began picking off the sticky silly-putty-like stuff still stuck to the back of the shiny plastic.

If I could just get away from here for a while, he thought.

Suddenly, the card opened up a vista of possibilities. He and his friend Jason could go on a nice long trip, catch a few NBA games, maybe even pick up a few girls. He had a cousin down in Baltimore he might be able to crash at for a few nights.

Judd grabbed his cordless phone and began dialling the number on the back of “his” credit card. He told himself he’d just use it for a while, then cut the card up.

But not before he used it to have a little fun.


Vicki Byrne stormed out of her trailer, wondering when her mother would just get the point. She didn’t want to hear about her grades, about her dresses, about whatever. Her parents could God-bother her some other time too – preferably much later than now, as far as she was concerned.

She was fourteen, and like several other girls in her school, she liked to drink and smoke, and cut classes now and then. She didn’t think that was worth all the fuss, but her mother clearly had different ideas.

Vicki’s dad wasn’t as bad about nagging her, but she thought it was more because he didn’t have time for her anymore. He was seriously trying to hold down the latest job he’d managed to get, which meant he could be out on 12-hour shifts sometimes. He’d come home, shower briefly, try to eat a little bit of dinner at nine o’clock, then shuffle off to bed for more of the same starting at six in the morning.

It was almost like he wasn’t there these days even when his body was at the dinner table. But, mused Vicki, at least they’d laid off the drinking for a few weeks now. Maybe that was why her mom was being crabbier than usual; waitressing at the truck stop on the highway probably didn’t help a lot.

Her friend Shelley Brown, who lived in the trailer across the way and was sitting on the front stairs, eyed her up and down and said, “Lookin’ dressed to kill today, huh?”

Vicki knew she looked older than fourteen, and she’d soon gotten the knack of dressing like the older girls at her school did. She rolled her eyes and replied, “My mom was just raggin’ on me again about this stupid skirt. The way she tells it I should dress like a nun for the rest of my life.”

Shelley laughed. Vicki liked hearing that laugh. It wasn’t a nasty laugh like some of the richer kids had when they sneered at Vicki for being “trailer trash”, or a patronizing laugh like that jerk Daniel had when he was talking at her like she didn’t know anything about cars when he was bragging about his souped-up Camaro. It hadn’t helped that he’d been staring at her chest half the time.

Shelley was attractive, Vicki thought. Straight black hair, light blue eyes, lips that stood out so well with red lipstick and a body to match Vicki’s. The two girls had danced together at a couple of parties, but other than that, Vicki didn’t know if Shelley felt about her the way she felt about Shelley.

Vicki bit her thumbnail and tried to take her mind off the track it was running in. She said, “Hey, wanna get out of here for a bit and have a smoke down by the pond? I blew my science quiz today and you already know my mom was at me again about stuff.”

Shelley smiled. “Yeah. Gimme a sec, gonna run in and grab my purse, okay?” She stood up and dashed in her trailer, letting the screen door shut with a clack.

Soon, Shelley was back and the pair walked in the direction of the small forested pond behind the trailer park.

The two girls sat on the old bench facing the pond. Vicki looked up; the late-afternoon sky was a nice clear blue, though some of the sticky humidity that portended summer was evident. Shelley opened her purse and rummaged for the cigarette pack she’d taken from her mom’s stash.

Vicki grabbed her cigarette and Shelley’s lighter, not waiting for the other girl to light her up. As soon as the embers at the end began glowing, she inhaled deeply, then let the smoke trail out her nostrils as she breathed out. She already felt calmer, less stressed out. She tossed the lighter back at Shelley, who lit her own cigarette.

“Hey, Vicki?” Shelley said after a drag.

Vicki looked at her friend and at her concerned expression, she replied, “What? Do I have something on my face?” She gestured vaguely with her right hand, her left hand flicking the ashes off her cigarette in the direction of the pond.

“No. Just… you look like you’re close to biting someone’s head off. You didn’t even wait for me to light your smoke like I usually do.”

Vicki took another drag off her cigarette and sighed. “Yeah, I guess. It’s just… My mom and dad don’t even seem to know they’re just winding me up with all this do-better-this and stop-doing-that and it just never ends, you know? Man, I’m so glad you found out there’s gonna be a party this weekend, Shel.”

Shelley moved closer and put her hand out. Vicki clasped it in response, feeling the strength in her friend’s grip. Solid. Reassuring.

“It’ll be okay, Vicki. Look, if it gets too much, I’m sure you could stay over for a couple of nights. Mom’d be cool with it.”

Vicki smiled. “Thanks. Boy, I can’t wait for that party.”

Shelley grinned and released Vicki’s hand. She said, “Maybe we can find you a cute guy there.”

Vicki laughed. “What about you, huh?”

Shelley just smiled and took a drag off her cigarette.


“Boy, I can’t wait for the party at your place tonight, Jason,” said Judd as he heaved a sigh and threw the books he didn’t need into his locker. He stuffed his backpack with what he needed, and made a note to stop by the ATM on the way home.

It had been a piece of cake to get authorized for a cash withdrawal PIN. Judd figured if he had about a thousand bucks saved up, he could let Jason in on the plan and they’d sneak off on the upcoming spring break to see Drew in Baltimore.

Jason grinned and thumped Judd’s shoulder. “Me too. Hey, need a ride home?”

“Sure; I didn’t bring my car today.” Judd closed his locker, locked it up and the two went to Jason’s car. Inside the car, he said to Jason, “What’s the occasion anyway? We don’t have any intramural games right now and the football guys don’t have theirs until next week.”

Jason grinned cockily as he drove the car out of the school parking lot. “Kegger night. Dad’s already taken off for a week to somewhere with this lady he’s seeing and my brother Randy’s coming down with whatever you can fit into a pickup truck.”

Judd whistled. “Is he loaded or something?”

“He got a full ride at college, so all the money Dad sends is just gravy. I’m helping pay for some of it too ‘cause Dad left some spending money.”

“Nice. Hey, stop at that 7-11, wouldya?” asked Judd as he pointed to the store coming up the road.

There was an ATM in the store; not too many customers were inside and the clerk was engrossed in a newspaper. Judd withdrew the maximum daily limit, which was $400, and made sure nobody was paying attention as he stuffed all the bills into his backpack except for a twenty. He bought a couple of Cokes and gave one to Jason as he got back in the car.

“Feelin’ generous, are you?” joked Jason.

“Why not? Dad finally coughed up my allowance,” answered Judd easily.

Judd turned on the radio and the two boys listened to the music playing for the rest of the way home.

At Judd’s place, Jason said, “Come on over around seven or eight, huh? Things should be going pretty well by then.”

Judd answered with a thumbs-up before he got out of the car and went into his house, remembering to toss his empty Coke can in the recycle box. He made a beeline for his bedroom and quietly locked the door. He pulled out a shoebox hidden under several others at the back of his closet and stuffed the thick wad of bills in with the rest, which were now creatively stuffed in between his golf shoes. He figured there was a thousand dollars in there now. He decided to wait for one more withdrawal, then talk to Jason after the party was over.

After replacing the box, he reflected that he wasn’t going to play golf any time soon if he could help it. His dad seemed to have a fascination with the whole whacking-a-ball-around thing, but Judd couldn’t see the point to it. He made sure to unlock the door again before doing his homework.

Judd fiddled around with his math homework, not really puzzling out the answers so much as just staring at the questions. What on Earth, he thought, was he going to use freakin’ conic sections for?

Dinner was a welcome distraction as he ate his beef and veggies. Judd then grudgingly helped clear the table before escaping back up to his room to get changed for the party. Half an hour later, he was in his best jeans and a tight-fitting T-shirt. He grabbed just his house keys, deciding to leave his wallet behind. Jason was only a ten-minute walk away, anyway.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Left Behind plus Zombies: Extract

Background: a quick writing exercise I did after somebody mentioned the two subjects above in the same sentence. This is a single page extract of a much larger story that, sadly, does not exist.


“Come ON! MOVE!” Buck shouted, motioning frantically as Chloe ran backwards through the O’Hare terminal, blowing off the head of the nearest lunging, ravenous monster with her shotgun. She tossed him the walkie talkie and he pressed the button, taking one-handed aim with his pistol as dozens more screaming, bloodstained undead burst through the glass doors. Chloe narrowed her eyes, still pouring buckshot into the oncoming hoard as they run backwards towards the opening to the runway.

“I think we’re in trouble…”

“Rayford! Rayford, where the hell are you with that plane?!”

“Dammit Buck I’m bringing her in as fast as I can! Touching down now!”

Rayford Steele brought Global Community One into abrupt contact with the ground, staring at the wreckages of other planes strewn across the runway as they zipped past. Lurching figures were taken by surprise and crushed under the planes wheels. The screech of the brakes against the wheels drowned out their angry vocalisations.

Nicolae sat next to him in the co-pilots seat. Whatever else Rayford might think of the man, Nicolae had saved his life: the thing that used to be Hattie would have killed him if not for Nicholae. The man was even more pale than usual, his eyes were closed, and he appeared to have lost consiousness. Rayford wasn’t surprised: Carpathia had lost a lot of blood through the bite on his shoulder. But there was nothing do for him at the moment: not if he wanted to save Buck and Chloe.

The pistol in Bucks hand clicked, empty, and he threw it away as he turned to run. Chloe followed, frantically fumbling more shells into her shotgun as the roaring, screeching hoard of gaunt, dark figures followed. They scrambled down a broken corridor onto the tarmac, and Buck turned to see a welcome sight: the headlights of Global Community One bearing down the main tarmac towards them. Chloe rapidly fired her weapon into the bottleneck they’d just escaped from, clogging it with inert corpses as they ran for the plane.

Rayford saw the gunfire and his heart raced quicker as he turned the plane with agonising slowness, preparing to take off the moment everyone was aboard. There was a moan beside him. It sounded like Nicloae was waking up.

Rayford glanced over at Nicolae and found himself looking into pale, pupiless grey eyes. Dead eyes.

He screamed in terror as the zombie Carpathia let out an inhuman roar and leapt for his throat.


Thursday, March 24, 2011


Starring Verna Zee & Cameron "Buck" Williams

Verna yawned and looked down at her watch: 9:13 pm. Time flew when you were having fun, she thought. She wished that she could have some so that it would. She wished that she weren't so swamped in work, that she could have gone home at a reasonable time like everybody else at the Chicago offices of GW had. But the deadline was approaching fast.

Before the Event, she would have berated herself for putting things off until the last minute, and if she'd been in charge back then she might have berated those working under her as well. But they had lived through what might have been--what certainly FELT like--the worst disaster in the world's history. Few of her co-workers were able to function consistently, and they weren't always able to pull themselves together quickly enough to get everything done as scheduled. She could relate. She hadn't exactly been steady as a rock herself. It was rare these days to find anybody who was. Firing anybody for anything less than egregious failure to perform their duties wasn't an option; after all, where would she find replacements without the same problems, who'd been spared the same trauma?

So here she was, working late, working her ass off to pick up the slack and make sure the issue went out on time.

Thankfully, she was almost finished.

She heard the door to the office open and close.

"Hello?" she called out.

"Oh, hi Verna," replied a familiar voice, one that she hadn't expected to hear again anytime soon. "It's me, Buck."

Great, Verna thought. Just what I didn't need.

"What are you doing back here?"

"Well, I think I left my phone here by accident. I'd be lost without it. Um, have you seen it?"

Verna relaxed a little. Williams seemed different than when she last saw him. He wasn't confrontational. He wasn't acting like he was God's gift to the world of journalism. Maybe she didn't have anything to worry about.

"I'm not sure. You could try your cubicle--well, the cubicle I'd assigned you before you made other arrangements."

As she remembered how that had happened earlier in the day, some of the resentment started to come back.

"I'll have a look," Williams said before heading to the back of the office. Verna turned her attention back to her computer, hoping to focus more on her work and a lot less on Cameron Williams.

"Yeah, it was there. Thanks Verna," Williams said as he walked back into view.

"You're welcome," she responded flatly, not looking up. Now go away.

She heard Williams take a few steps toward the door, and then stop.


God damn it, what does he want now?


" owe you an apology."

An apology? From the allegedly legendary Buck Williams? This was something new. Verna looked up, surprised. She had no idea how to respond. After a few seconds, Williams--who looked genuinely contrite--went on.

"I've been thinking about what happened earlier today, and, um...well, you can believe this or not, but I'm trying to be a better person than I used to. And part of being a better person means that I've got to learn to admit when I've been wrong. I remember how I treated you when I had your job, telling you that you were out of line for moving into Lucinda's office. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that's where your hostility toward me comes from, and I guess maybe I deserve it. I'm sorry."

Is it really a good idea to get into this right now? Verna asked herself. Maybe this guy was more reasonable than she thought. Maybe it would feel good to get some stuff off her chest...then again, maybe talking to him about that stuff would result in an even uglier argument. And she had work to do...

Oh, screw it.

"I appreciate that," Verna said, getting out of her chair and walking around her desk to lean against it as she continued. "And you're right. Getting chewed out like that wasn't exactly the high point of my week, you know? So I admit, when I learned you'd be working under me, I was looking forward to getting even. Maybe I owe you an apology for that, because maybe I went overboard. But there's more to it than just that. Are you willing to listen?"

"I'm listening," Buck answered with a nod.

"Okay. For starters, there's the reason you were assigned here. You were supposed to be covering a story. You didn't show up to cover it. And when Stanton Bailey called you on that, you lied to him. You said that you were there despite a ton of evidence to the contrary. So you were insulting his intelligence, and you were insulting the intelligenge of everybody else you repeated that lie to, including me. I don't know what to make of that, Cameron. As you said, you had this job before me. How would you react if one of your subordinates did the same thing?"

Buck rested his chin in his hand and closed his eyes, evidently thinking it over. Finally he looked back up.

"You're right, I wouldn't take it very well either," he finally responded. "I might fire me, too."

Well, this is going better than I thought. Still...

"Can you tell me why you kept on lying? I honestly don't know what to make of it. Usually when somebody keeps repeating a lie that nobody's going to believe, it means there's something wrong with them. It means, I don't know, that they're either compulsive or delusional. I'm not calling you names," Verna quickly added as she saw Buck open his mouth. "I'm just trying to make sense of this, to understand it. A lot of people aren't 100% mentally since going through the events of that day, and maybe they won't ever recover fully. I'd be lying if I told you that I didn't have bad days myself. Will you tell me why you did it?"

A long pause, and then...

"You're right, Verna, I lied," Buck said in a resigned tone. "And yeah, I was affected by the Event. I was as shaken up as anybody. I was on a flight when everybody vanished, and you know how many planes ended up crashing. I thought that I was gonna die. Later on, somebody actually did try to kill me with a car bomb in England, and..."

Buck seemed to be struggling to figure out how to say the next part.

"And what?" Verna asked gently after ten seconds or so. "Can you talk about it?"

"Yes, it's just...embarrassing..." Buck answered. "I was under a lot of stress, obviously. So what happened in New York was that I got stuck in traffic. I didn't get to the U.N. on time. I missed the story, and when I got the call from Bailey I just...God this is so stupid...I just panicked. I said I was there, like some stupid little kid who breaks a lamp with his parents in the next room, and then lies about it because he thinks that admitting it will get him in more trouble. Even though they know he was the only one in the room and they heard the lamp break. I wasn't thinking straight, Verna. The stress finally got to me, I guess. I was afraid. I don't think you're stupid, I don't think Stanton's stupid, I just...I wasn't right. I realize now that telling the truth from the start would've been better, but..."

He trailed off.

"I believe you," Verna said with a sympathetic nod. "I mentioned that a lot of people were still feeling the effects of the Event. Sometimes they have panic attacks. Sometimes they just seem to go into a catatonic state where they can't do anything. It's a terrible time to live through."

"Yes, it is," Buck said, almost in a whisper.

"You might have thought that I was being spiteful, telling you that you weren't going to cover anything major. And that was partly true, and I ought to be better than that. Let bygones be bygones and such. But even so, there was a question of your reliability. You got demoted for a reason, and you can't expect to be treated the same as you were before. You've got to prove yourself all over again, Cameron. I understand why you screwed up, but you still screwed up, and there are consequences that go with that."

"I suppose you're right. Can you do me a favor, though? This might seem silly, but...could you please not call me Cameron?"

"I...suppose..." Verna said, wondering at why he would feel the need to bring up his nickname now. "Why does it matter?"

"I don't know, I've just always HATED the name 'Cameron' for some reason. I don't like the way it sounds. Every time I've introduced myself, it's been as 'Buck Williams', and usually nobody really makes a big deal of it, asks what my real name is, nothing like that."

"I guess I can sort of relate to that. I didn't used to like 'Verna' either."

She gave him a slight smile.

"Okay, 'Buck' it is."

"Cool. Thanks...'Ms. Zee'," he answered with a little smile of his own. "This is actually going a lot better than I thought."

Verna chuckled.

"What's funny?"

"I was thinking the exact same thing! I don't mind telling you, Ca--Buck, I spent this whole day trying to put that scene between us out of my mind, and failing. You really got to me earlier. So I'm glad we're clearing the air here."

"You got to me, too. I think it'd be good for us to talk about that, but I want to think about the most tactful way to put it...can you give me a second? Oh hell, actually I guess it's not important. You were working when I came in, and I've probably held you up too much already. We don't need to talk about it. I should probably get out of your hair..."

"No, it's okay. I was just finishing up, and I want to hear what you have to say. Earlier today I couldn't stand you, but you really do seem like a different guy tonight."

"I'll take that as a compliment, I guess," Buck said. "Well, you seem to be really concerned with, um...I'll say assserting your authority, and not just with me. Your secretary Alice, for instance, seemed really worried about getting in trouble with you. And there was what you said about how you expected all of your subordinates to call you 'Ms. Zee'. Not just me, but everybody. And that word, 'subordinate' just rubs me the wrong way, and I bet it rubs other people the wrong way too."

"I don't think it's too much to ask that people talk to me respectfully around here," Verna answered.

"You're right, it isn't. But Verna, less than a month ago all of these people were your equals here. They used to call you 'Verna' instead of 'Ms. Zee'--or so I assume--and you used to think of them as Alice or Bob or Carol instead of 'subordinates'. Or so I assume again. By insisting on this rigid protocol...well, to be blunt, I think you're making the same mistake I did with you. You didn't like it when I reminded you that I was the boss and you were the subordinate. I don't think anybody would have liked that."

Verna had her mouth half-open to say that people didn't have to like it, before it sunk in that there actually were some similarities between the way Buck had reinforced their respective places in the GW pecking order and the way she'd done the same, not just with Buck, but with a number of others as well. And while maybe Buck had asked for it, not everybody in this office had acted like Buck Williams.

"Go on..."

"Well, I won't pretend to be an expert on management...and like I said, I'm making some assumptions here without knowing what your working relationship with the other people here was like before your promotion...but think about what we're doing here. We're addressing the problems we've got, we agree that it's been going well. And I think a large part of the reason for that is because we're not in a pissing contest any more. Neither of us is acting as though we're better, more deserving of respect or deference, than the other. Neither of us is demanding that the other acknowledge them as the superior. As I think we both know from experience by now, that kind of thing can make the employee feel like dirt, and resent the hell out of their boss."

A pause.

"True," Verna acknowledged.

"May I ask why it's so important that people here address you as 'Ms. Zee'?"

Verna paused again. Buck waited.

"I'd actually prefer not to get into that right now. Sorry."

"Don't be. It's fine. I'm sorry for prying."

"Don't worry about it. I might tell you another time. For now, I'll think about what you've said."

Buck nodded.

"Well, I'd better get going. Thanks for listening."

"Thank you for apologizing. I've heard you haven't really made a habit of it in the past, so it might not have been easy for you."

"What's got you here so late, by the way?"

Verna told him.

"'s rare to get a full week's work out of the entire office any more, and now of all times!" she finished a minute or so later. "Readers need to know just what the hell happened, what's going to happen. Plus, I just got this job, and I don't want to lose it. Others here might go home early if they have an attack or a breakdown or whatever, but I can't. I'm responsible for this whole operation."

Verna blew out a sigh. It crossed her mind that after being up over fifteen hours, most of which had been spent working, it was nothing short of miraculous that she was able to avoid snapping at Buck through this whole conversation. She was glad she hadn't, but it was still...strange.

"The problem didn't get any easier to handle when I found myself short one reporter today," she continued, a bit icily. And then she winced. Did I just jinx myself by thinking about how civil I was being to this guy?

"Well, maybe if--" Buck began hotly, and then stopped himself.

Moments later, he started speaking again, this time calmly.

"Is there anything I can do to help?"

"As in work for me? Aren't you getting your assignments from New York now?"

"You'd be surprised at how light the workload is, now of all times like you said. I found it kind of surprising. Hell, maybe after I dropped the ball at the U.N., they don't want to trust me with anything major any more," Buck told her with a shrug.

"Hmm...well, if you don't think it'd still be a waste of your contacts and experience..."

"I don't. Like you said, I've got to work my way back up, prove myself all over again."

"It might be worth a try. How about we sleep on this and talk about it tomorrow?"

"Sounds like a plan. Have a good night, Verna."

"Good night, Buck," Verna said.

They exchanged waves as Buck headed out the door and to the elevator. Verna plopped down into her chair and stroked her chin.

Huh. Just when you think you know somebody...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

But Ruth Clung to Her. (A meta-Amanda story)

Amanda sighed as she stared at the phone. How she hated phones.

There had been no good thing that had ever come forth from one of the hated devices. She recalled nothing so vividly as the ring of the phone, and that sick feeling in the pit of her stomach that resulted from the knowledge that it was her husband calling.

"Just so I know where you are, honey," he would have said. She recalled that slight edge he would place on the first syllable of the word; that faint sheen of ice that masqueraded a subtle threat. He used to have other threats too. The brushing of the back of his hand across his cheek, with a slight smirk on his lips. The dropping of the bible on the counter: a reminder that whatever he did, God would be on his side.

She had hated him, and now he was dead.

That thought brought a shiver through her as she considered the blunt, plastic receiver. He was gone, and he had taken his daughters with him. Her daughters. She could still recall the first moment that she had held them, the first steps, and...

Amanda winced, her eyes closing and a shudder running through her body. There were other thoughts there. Horrible thoughts about how her husband had taken her lovely, free spirited girls.


Taken was the wrong word. It was nothing short of a rape. A rape of the mind, like he had once done, long ago, to her own body. He had controlled their thoughts, forcing them into a mental slavery dominated by dogma and hatred. And to make it all worse... he had been right.

It was the only explanation. The only possible way. God had indeed come and taken his people.

A people that she loathed. A people that had taken her daughters.

A people that had... Irene.

That last thought broke Amanda free of her reverie. A new sense of purpose poured into her as she once again contemplated the phone. She knew where Irene had gone to church. She knew who she had been married to...

But what to say...

"New Hope Village Church, Come and Hear the Good News!"

"Uhm, hi, my name's Amanda White... I uh... attended a home bible study there a few months back."

"Well, Good Morning Amanda! I'm Pastor Barnes, and I'm looking forward to seeing you here on Sunday!"

"Uhm, no I... I was wondering if..." Amanda thought furiously, trying to come up with the most nonchalant way of phrasing the question, "I was remembering a friend who was there, and I was trying to get in touch."

"We're all friends here at New Hope Village Church," Amanda could practically hear the "TM" at the end of that, "But I'd be happy to check the guestbook for you if you'd care to come down to see us."

"Oh, I am born again, don't worry about that," Amanda spoke the code words that she knew by heart. It had been a survival instinct for so many years, falling into habit was easy, "But I wanted to thank that member, because it was her conversations which led to my personal relationship with Jesus."

She felt sick in the pit of her stomach as she recited the words. Every little spark of sound a reminder of the sparks that had once dazzled in front of her eyes when she had failed to speak them.

"Well that's wonderful to hear. Not many people truly understand why God left us behind, but I'd be happy..."

"Actually, I was hoping you could help me find Irene Steele. I remember her name because..." FUCK! Amanda realized that she had said too much. It was a stupid move, and she needed to find some way... "because it sounded like Iron and Steel."

She winced. No, THAT was stupid.