Survival. Short Story.

So the storm has past and everything was pretty ok. Thankfully there was no major damage around us, no cars destroyed or trees pulled down, unfortunately my sister and brother-in-law werent as lucky, they’d a few roofing slates pulled off the roof and there’s a hole in it. They did keep their power though which was great!

_______________________________________________________

Keith listened to the radio, straining to hear what was being said above the heavy static. “Anyone… Don’t…Think.” he shook his head, he couldn’t make any sense of it, but hearing another human voice did give him some measure of relief. It felt like an eternity since he had last heard someone speak though in reality it had only been four days. He stood from the small desk and went to the window, the sky was carpeted in thick, heavy clouds and the rain was still falling heavily. They had talked about weather disruptions before it all went to shit, he had been sitting on his couch, watching TV when in the distance he could hear a rumble, the TV flickered once, twice, then the power went out. A few seconds later the entire house was shaking, he could hear glasses smashing in the kitchen, things falling in his bedroom. He stayed where he was, paralysed with fear, when the shaking finally subsided, he stood and went outside. He couldn’t see it, though he knew what the swirling vortex looked like, he had seen it on the news the day before, some new kind of weapon they were saying though it was still unclear as to who was attacking.

He had tried to get into town but his shitty car wouldn’t start, not that that held any great surprise, it had been on its last legs for almost three years now, hell he was surprised he had gotten this long out of it. He had enough food supplies for another two weeks, that was when he’d normally make the next trip into town. The nearest neighbours were about a two hour walk, he hadn’t gone to them yet, he was afraid of what he might find once he got there. The McKenna’s were nice enough people but they were religious nuts, he didn’t want to think about how things were playing out over there. It seemed better to just wait until things settled down a bit. After all it couldn’t be the end of the world, there were too many people, it was a disaster, a tragedy that would scar humanities conscious for millennia, but it wasn’t the end of the world. People would rebuild, they always did.

Keith had taken to keeping himself busy, there was no TV any more, his power had never come back and the generator was only big enough to keep the fridge and chest freezer going. The radio would do for now, he had plenty of batteries stocked up, though he limited his listening to a few hours in the evening. He would sit, fiddling with the knob, searching for any voices until eventually he would end up where he always did, with the garbled and staticy transmission. He figured that it was just someone out there talking for the sake of talking. There seemed to be no real narrative or repetition to what they were saying. They didn’t sound overly distressed either. Everything would be fine, it was just going to take some time, that was all. A voice came through, it was only for a second, “taking people from their homes, I don’t know where they’re taking them, I-” the static came back, stronger than before. He frowned, it was a different voice, it wasn’t like the one he usually heard. He quickly grabbed the radio dial and started turning it slowly, searching for the voice but it was gone. He sat in front of the radio for hours, easing the dial back and forth, every time he caught a hint of a voice he felt his heart jumping into his throat and his fingers would grip the dial so tightly they hurt, but he couldn’t find it again.

Eventually night came and he decided to stop, it was too dark to see much of anything in the room, the clouds were obscuring the moon and the stars outside, rain still hammered against his windows. He got up carefully and made his way to the small kitchen table, there he felt along its surface until he found the box of matches. He struck one and looked away as the match flared to life, carefully he lit a candle, then another, the two would have to do, he didn’t know when, if ever, he’d get his power back. The broadcast earlier on had rattled him, more than he was willing to admit even to himself. For the first time since this all began he moved around the small house and closed the curtains making sure there were no gaps as he did so. It was dark outside, too dark to see much of anything and he was afraid now that the light from his windows, however faint, might act as a beacon to anyone outside. He told himself it made sense to close the curtains, there were plenty of people who had lost their homes, everything they had, they’d be on the move and god only knew what desperate people might do. He was out here alone and he wasn’t in the best shape of his life either.

The night passed without incident, in the morning he opened the curtains again and stared out at the grey, rainy day. In the distance he could see thick plumes of black smoke rising into the air, despite the rain it was fairly still out with little to no wind. The smoke was coming from the direction of the McKenna’s. He wouldn’t be able to get to them in time to do anything, all he could do was wait and see if any of them had made their way to him. It was probably just an accident, that was all. Their kids were always rough housing with one another, it wouldn’t be a surprise if one of them knocked over a candle or lamp. Besides, the youngest one had gotten in trouble before for playing with fire, he’d managed to set an entire field of grass alight two years ago, they’d just barely been able to get the blaze under control before it managed to do any real damage.

Keith tried to keep himself busy through the day but he kept finding himself staring out the window at the smoke, which now looked like nothing more than a dark smudge across the sky. The voice on the radio was completely gone now too, there was nothing but static. He spent the afternoon looking out towards the McKenna’s, the smoke had disappeared but still, he couldn’t seem to look away. He expected to see the family of six walking along his road at any moment, tired, wet and perhaps soot stained, but otherwise unhurt. They didn’t arrive that evening, nor did they arrive the next day or the next.

On the third day after the fire he saw someone on the road, they were crouched slightly and moving slowly, at first he thought they were injured, he went outside, raised a hand in greeting and yelled, at the sound whoever it was crouched down lower and ran off into a patch of trees. Keith scrambled backwards into the house and locked the door, he had expected whoever it was to call out for help, not run away. He checked that the windows were locked too, though they wouldn’t do much to stop someone who was determined to get inside. Keith kept circling the windows, moving from one to the other and peering out, it would be dark soon and after that he wouldn’t be able to see anyone approaching. The rain had finally died off, but it was still cloudy outside, once it darkness fell it would be almost absolute. He looked out the front window again and his breath caught in his chest, there was a group of men marching down his road, they wore all black, even their faces were covered by masks, each one held a gun. Keith s heart started hammering in his chest, they weren’t moving incredibly quickly but they were moving steadily, they’d be at the house in no more than ten minutes. He grabbed a bag, the biggest he could find, and stuffed it with some canned food, he threw in a box of matches and some clothes. He didn’t have any real survival supplies, no tent, no sleeping bag. There wasn’t time to grab anything else, he slipped out the backdoor, not bothering to lock it behind himself, then he took off running.

When he finally stopped he was gasping for breath, he looked behind himself and was relieved that he couldn’t see his house. Once his breathing had slowed he started walking, who ever they were he had to stay ahead of them. Occasionally he would look behind himself to make sure there was no one following. He turned and looked again, he stopped and stared at the large plume of thick black smoke in the distance. He felt a bolt of nausea, he hoped that the McKenna’s had seen those men coming. A gust of cold wind shook him from his thoughts, he turned and kept walking. He couldn’t think about the McKenna’s, he couldn’t think about his house. None of it mattered now, the only thing that mattered was surviving.

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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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