Through The Cracks. Short Story.

I never thought that this would become procrastination from work, but at the moment it has. I’m supposed to be looking over poems for my course and I have no idea what’s going on at all. I think I’ve lost the ability to understand English. I do not understand poetry. I’m hoping in a few weeks I’ll look back on this and laugh rather than looking back and thinking “I still do not understand poetry, oh god, hopefully no one has noticed I‘m a terrible fraud.”

I’m also a bit sick at the moment which will not do at all, I need to be better for next Saturday for reasons. I’m loading up on vitamins at the moment so hopefully that will help take care of things. That or I’ll OD and leave behind a very healthy corpse.

Beyond that I don’t think I have anything new to report. My weekend was pretty mundane, went out which was fun, though I didn’t drink it was nice to go out and just chat.

On with the show!

————————————————————————————————

Through The Cracks.

The world was silent. A faint breeze stirred the trees, their gentle rustling was startlingly loud. He strained to hear something beyond that. He knew there had to be other things, it couldn’t be just him. It couldn’t. The wind died down and silence once again reigned. He expected to hear something, anything. He jumped as a bird cawed, loud and harsh, as if signalling other animals, they too began to call out. He breathed out gently, relieved that there was more. He could hear them calling to one another, scurrying around the area. The silence had put him on edge, but the noise of life was reassuring. He had woken in this strange world and though he still struggled to accept it fully, he knew it was real. It went beyond a vivid dream. He was practical before and remained that way still. The evidence presented by his senses couldn’t be disputed. Here he felt pain, he was bound by physics. He had woken in his own house, in his own room, but his mattress and blanket were decayed. He had fallen asleep wearing clothes and he was thankful for that for once. His clothes were still in good condition. He couldn’t quite figure it out, how the blankets and mattress had become tattered but the clothes he wore were untouched by what ever had happened. The rest of the house was in an equally frayed condition, windows were broken, the floors were damp or rotting, things were missing. Outside was no better, the house, all the houses, looked as though they were getting ready to just collapse, the front gardens were either overgrown or dead. His was one of the dead ones, bare, grey soil that seemed incapable of supporting life. He was thankful for it at first, that he didn’t have to make his way through dense foliage, worried about what ever creatures they might conceal, but then he began to wonder what had killed the grass. The pavement was cracked and warped, large chunks seemed to have risen out of the ground, though it was still possible to walk upon it with relative ease. He hadn’t walked very far yet, but so far everything seemed the same, he was surrounded by desolation and silence. He figured that perhaps the animals had become comfortable with his presence, maybe he was some unknown threat to them, so they froze, some kind of survival instinct. He hadn’t eaten yet and was starting to feel the first pangs of hunger. He didn’t particularly want to go back into his house again, but as the other houses looked to be in a similar state he decided it would be safer to be on known ground.

The front door seemed to be missing, so he tried to follow the path and enter the house as quickly as possible for fear of what might have contaminated the soil. Inside looked even danker after being outside. It was gloomier than he had first realised, he waited for a moment, allowing his eyes adjust to the change in light. He looked at the couch, it was rotting steadily, covered in mold, he tried not to breathe too deeply, the entire house seemed to smell of age and decay. He shivered slightly, knowing the bed was likely in the same condition as the couch was. He moved through the house carefully, avoiding the worst looking patches of floor, there was no danger of falling through, but he didn’t want to be injured. The kitchen was in an equally dismal state, the counters were stained and filth covered, a few of the cupboard doors had rotted off their hinges, the cabinets revealed were empty. He moved to one cupboard and pulled at the door, the handle came off on his hand, he dropped it and wedged his fingers under the side of the door, it resisted for a few seconds, then opened suddenly. There were a few cans of food inside, he picked up a few and put them on the counter. The labels were faded but he could make out what they were, a can of spaghetti, one of peaches and a third that seemed to be peas. He went to the drawer where he had kept a can opener, but the entire section of drawers was missing. He searched for a moment and found a knife that didn’t seem too dirty, he tried his best to clean it on his jeans, then used it to open the can, being careful not to cut himself, god only know what kind of horrific bacteria filled the house. The cans weren’t bulging and he hoped that meant they were safe enough. The spaghetti and the peaches seemed ok, but the peas were giving off a strange odour. He at the spaghetti first, half eating and half drinking it from the can. He managed to finish it without cutting his mouth. He used a small amount of the syrup to rinse out the taste of the spaghetti sauce. The peaches tasted fine and, after a few moments they were gone. He left the empty cans on the counter and threw the can of peas out the empty window frame. He searched the other cupboards and found a few more cans of food, at first he was pleased, then he realised he had no way of carrying them. He didn’t want to go upstairs again for fear of falling through the stairs of ceiling, so he searched downstairs. The curtains seemed to have held up well, much better than any other fabric he could see. It wasn’t as sturdy as he hoped, but he managed to fashion a carrier. There wasn’t much food, but it would do for the moment. If there was food in his house, there was probably cans in the others too. He looked around the house once last time before continuing onwards. Outside the air was fresh, but there was a faint tinge to it, he wasn’t sure what it was exactly, but it wasn’t unpleasant, just strange. He looked up and down the street, trying to decide which way to go, whether he should move toward the city or away. Finally, he turned towards the city and started walking. Occasionally he would go by cars that were rusted, sitting on deflated and tattered tires. There were no signs of people, nothing but the animals, occasionally he would see a bird and once a startled deer, it froze at the sight of him then bounded away. He couldn’t see the city, but then he wasn’t sure if he would have been able to before either. He continued forwards, not knowing what else to do. The walk wasn’t as long as he expected, four hours including short breaks. He reached the crest of the hill and looked upon the remains of the city. Some buildings remained standing, others had collapsed, taking ones in the vicinity with them. The entire city looked abandoned, there were no signs of human life. He stood staring at the city, surprised to find himself feeling disappointed. He realised he expected people, something, anything that would help explain all this. Instead there was nothing. He sat down in the middle of the road, staring at the remains. It wasn’t right. There should be something here. So many people couldn’t just vanish. There was a gentle rumble, then a sharp scream as metal began to buckle, one of the buildings had started to collapse. A great plume of dust rose in the air, he watched, speechless. The wind carried the dust away from him, he took a deep breath of the air. He wondered what he should do now. He planned on entering the city, exploring it a little, but now that didn’t seem safe, but where else could he go? Where else might hold the promise of people? He stood and watched the fading plume of dust, then, he began to walk. It was all he could do now, just keep going.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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2 Responses to Through The Cracks. Short Story.

  1. Really enjoyed this – I love stories that deal with the theme of isolation and solitude, so this is just my cup of tea. The imagery is lovely – particularly how he strains to hear someone, anyone, else.

    Circles under Streetlights also enjoyed reading your biography, particularly the bit about writing in the third person. She found it rather amusing.

    • Thanks, I really love abandoned cities in books/fiction, one of my favourite places in the world is Ostia Antica, which is basically an ancient roman city. I’ve been there a few times now and there is never that many visitors, so it can be like exploring an abandoned city.

      Alan is glad it struck the right tone to be amusing.

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