SHORT STORY: A Lover and A Fighter

SHORT STORY: A Lover and A Fighter

A lover and a fighter. That’s all a man is.

Our world gets destroyed all the time.

Shattered by our choices, the choices of others, or things completely out of our control.

As I drove my car down the broken, empty road, I realized the truth. As a man, I am fueled and driven by only two impulses. The need to love, to build a family, and the need to fight for something.

That one day a year ago, the love I had for so many years was gone. Shattered by so many choices and things outside our control. I thought I would be with her for the rest of my life. I knew what kind of ring she wanted. But as hard as we fought for each other it wasn’t enough. Our love had died. Like our world is now, I was broken and fighting to mend into something that resembled myself.

All I could do then was fight. Not wanton, hateful conflict, or violence for its own sake. I needed to fight for something, some cause, something meaningful. But I had nothing to fight for. I had no hobbies, no passions, I felt no fire inside me though I knew I wanted one. I had been one half of a whole, but she was gone. Now I was just alive.

Memories are your enemy.

As it would happen, the world was really destroyed not long after. It didn’t take long. I’m not exactly sure how it happened. Supposedly The oceans died and crops everywhere failed and food suddenly became a precious resource. In a few months the whole world tore itself apart in hunger. Civilization in all its majesty undone by the most primal of impulses: feed.

I had my cause to fight. It wasn’t a complicated one, but it made me feel alive. I woke up every day with purpose. I was empty no more. I fought to survive, to protect the people around me. They were good people. I only knew one of them before the end of civilization–My neighbor, Keith. He always wore the same hat both before the world ended and after. Black baseball cap with the Red Sox logo. At least he’s consistent. Pretty funny too. He’s a glue guy. Keeps smiles on the faces of everyone when we’re venturing forth under the hot sun, into unknown territory hoping to find friendly faces instead of hateful ones.

These are the kind of thoughts that make me reach for my AR-15 propped up against the driver’s side door just to feel the smooth metal body, just to know it’s there. I don’t like firing it. I don’t like that it is a part of my life. But knowing its there to keep me alive, so that I can use it to keep the others alive when necessary, that’s a feeling I can’t be without.

I had fired it too many times two days ago. We lost Angela in the fighting. Only ten feet from the truck. God, it’s the kind of thing that will drive you crazy.

I don’t know why they opened fire on us, even. Not like we have any food. Not like we wanted to fight them. Unless they wanted us for food. If so, then Angela… No, I can’t think about that. That way lies madness. Only thing we have is what’s in front of us.

But of all the things I’ve seen, there’s one thing I can’t shake. One memory that will not escape me. If it is even a memory, or some ghost of my mind. At this point, I don’t even know anymore. We were passing through this refugee town. We didn’t even stop. We’ve seen them before. Groups of starving people, no will left to fight and nowhere to go. They roam in packs and scavenge for food like old world hunter-gatherers. We drove through the crowd of people who rose to clamor at our truck, but were smart enough not to step in front. Most survivors didn’t think twice of running over someone in their way.

I looked out the driver’s side window and in the crowd I swear I saw her face. I think it was her. It looked like her. Tired, but steely eyed and surviving. At the time I thought it was just someone that looked like her. I didn’t even stop the truck. How could I? But I think… I think it was her. I think I saw the recognition in her eyes when she saw me. But she made no move. She just stared.

We drove on. We still drive on. Every day I feel the urge to turn around and go back. I want to find her. But there is no going back.

Memories are my enemy.

Lover and a fighter. That’s all I am.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Starting Over. . . And I’m not Talking About Stories this Time

Starting Over. . . And I’m not Talking About Stories this Time

I’ve got to got to got to move on, where do you move if what you’re movin’ from is yourself?  -Modest Mouse

Alright. I’m taking a break from writing to air some personal thoughts. Enjoy my catharsis:


I would say that this time in my life is one of transition. But if I’m being honest, the past 5 or so years of my life have felt like a time of transition.

The good news, and the bad news, in some ways, is that I am pretty damn adept at putting myself into other scenarios and perspectives. I can see myself in a more settled position with a good job and a family, and know that that me would long for freedom, for personal time for my hobbies and pursuits. I can see the me that would leave my hometown, go travel again or move somewhere new. It would be invigorating, but I would miss my loved ones, and feel a sense of missing out on precious time pursuing my goals.

I’m 28 years old. Most everyone I love is married, has kids, or is in a serious relationship. Most of the people I know have moved away. If I’m being an honest, I’m a man-child in some ways. Perhaps that’s needless self-degradation–I’ve always been a kid at heart. I knew I would be that way as an adult even when I was very young. . .

abandoned_subway_by_balchphoto

But I feel as though I’ve got so much more I want to do and figure out about myself. At 28 with this kind of mindset, you feel alone in a very real way.

Not alone in any sort of sad way, because I know I have so many people that love me, whom I love–people who would do anything for me. (and I, anything for them.)

I feel alone simply in that I am so starkly on my own in a place of change. No longer are the days where I get to hang out with my friends and family regularly, goofing around. I don’t even live near most of them anymore. The people I love are settling in to their families and their lives–a beautiful thing. But I can’t see clearly what I want for myself.

I see the glory of getting married and having kids. I visualize it all the time. But also, I love dearly my personal time, and the freedom of being on my own. I have more hobbies and pursuits than I have time to give to them–god, I feel like I want to learn everything, try everything, just do it all and enjoy the growth that comes with it. Part of me wants to spend my whole life selfishly pursuing every skill and hobby (writing being the chiefest.)

But the desire to get a home, settle in, raise a family is always there. I know in doing so many of my personal pursuits fall away–the sacrifice you make for raising kids (which seems to me to be by all accounts a life-changingly beautiful, incredible thing.)

Other People’s lives seem more interesting ’cause they ain’t mine. -Modest Mouse

I’m not so naive as to think I’m the only 28 year old to think this way. In fact, I’m sure this a very, very common occurrence.

But I feel so powerfully connected to my past, mostly because my past is unilaterally amazing– I’ve had an incredible life by all accounts. Lucky and blessed are not the right words. In poker, we call it a heater when everything is going right. For sure, many things have gone extremely wrong/sideways in my life. But on the whole, I’ve been on a heater for nearly 30 years.

But my enjoyment of the present feels as though it’s being soundly clocked regularly by a cartoonish mallet named “Former Clarity.” I feel old and alone, though I know I’m not. I feel young and goofy as hell at heart, though I know I’m matured and maturing.

I want to start over. Not back in time, but start over anew right now. Clear out the clutter and figure out which rhetoric that’s chiming away inside my brain is true and genuine thought and feeling, and what is fear and paranoia and unfocused memory babble.

When I was younger, I had a clarity on such things. As I get older, everything seems to get more ambiguous. Maybe that’s just what comes from years of learning.

I know that starting over’s not what life’s about, but my thoughts were so loud I couldn’t hear my mouth. -Modest Mouse

Maybe starting over is all wrong. Maybe there is no such thing as starting over. I think that’s more the truth. But I know assuredly, something is changing for me. I can almost feel it. I just don’t know what the change is yet. It’s like a fragrant aroma that you recognize, but can’t remember the memory connected to the smell, despite how impossibly familiar it is.

In the meantime, I’ll take a deep breath, stop worrying, and let go. I’m old enough now to know sooner or later I will figure it out. That’s how it’s worked in the past. The harder you cling to something, the more you force it out of your fingers. So let go.

-Evan Pickering

As You’re Reading this, Civilization Is Collapsing Around You

As You’re Reading this, Civilization Is Collapsing Around You

Okay, maybe that’s sensationalism.

It might be happening very, very slowly, but it’s true.

Entropy is real. Everything slowly slides from structure to disorder. Your couch at home, your car, the cells in your body, and every government that has ever existed.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m far from a pessimist. I believe in the beauty of life and that people are good. I’m a hippie at heart. My greatest desire is for people to be happy.

But imagine for a second, that as you sit reading this, the process has reached it’s peak. On the civilization level. Maybe you’re at work, maybe you’re running errands. . .


The power goes out. Everyone looks at each other subconsciously for support, strangers and acquaintances and loved ones alike, as their focus has gone from the mundane thought freight train to the slightest hint of worry. The status quo is quivering. You make little jokes or annoyed sounds to lighten the mood.

An hour goes by. The power doesn’t come back on. Everyone is shrugging and chuckling and heading home. All the stop lights don’t work and you lurch hesitantly forward at intersections, trying to make it through unscathed.

At home, the power isn’t on. It’s comforting to be in your haven, but it feels different without technology.

You check your phone for news. People are on social media saying they don’t have power across the country. Your heart starts to pick up the pace. You want to know what’s causing this. You want to know why. But all the information networks that could have told you do not work. Eventually your phone will run out of battery.

Hours go by. Nothing changes. You read a book, or eat some food in your fridge quickly, trying not to let too much cold air out.

You start to think about loved ones. Where are they? Are they safe? How can you contact them? You try to call but the networks are down.

What’s the next thing you do?

I think I know.

power-outage-during-hurricane-sandy

You get in your car, or whatever you use to travel, and go. You go to the homes of the people you love, you want to know they’re safe. You don’t want to be alone. It seems stupid that you would be apart from those people you care about.

Storefronts are being shattered and looted as you pass by. No one is hurting anyone, but the law is starting to unravel. Your heart is now rocking in your chest. Why did you wait? Were you just waiting for the power to come back on? What if something horrible is happening? What is life going to be like if this is permanent?

Your life, in a moment, has shifted from wondering whether to buy organic ketchup or not, whether you should forward a coworker for help on a project or just do it yourself, wondering if the new episode that’s on tonight is going to suck, hoping you get a chance to kick back over the weekend. . . Into questions like what is the world I am living in? Where are the people I love? Who am I, really, without everything that has become my life?

How big of a hug would you give the people you love when you see them? How far would you go to try and find them if they weren’t home? Who should you go to see next? Should you all gather together, for safety, for love, for the future?

How meaningless is the little shit we wrap ourselves in, thoughts of the future and the past and the everyday drivel of our lives, and how important are the simple things like who are we as people and where are the ones that I love?

One day, they may not be rhetorical questions. Let’s hope it’s not in any of our lifetimes. In the meantime, take a deep breath, remember what matters, and let go of all the crap that’s spooling up in your mind.

-Evan Pickering

Writing Post Apocalyptic Fiction: The end seems like a good place to begin.

post-apoc

. . .Can anyone out there hear me?

No, that’s not some commentary on blogging along with the masses. It is, however, something a scared child might be pleading into his walkie-talkie as he walks alone through the desolate wreckage of Cincinnati.

Nice. Well, not nice. You know what I mean.

While I am well aware how poorly I would endure were there an actual apocalypse, it’s nonetheless entrancing to read (and write.) It demands an answer to how we would fare if thrown back in time into the proverbial jungle of pre-civilization. With, you know, the remnants of technology and whatnot.

Creativity in the Genre

Post apocalyptic fiction has incredible potential. I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface of what it can be, starting with where/when. There’s your classic contemporary end times, of which I am a fan. But let’s say civilization was destroyed with a meteoric fallout while your main character, say, a Cromwellian soldier, was on an English galleon in the Irish sea in 1621?

What if the bubonic plague mutated and forced all humanity into hiding, driving them to terror at the sight of other human contact? Argh, it was the rats the whole time! (Not a twist.)

Conflict and Change

Writing post apocalyptic fiction requires a deft touch. Overwhelm your reader with conflict and it will become exhausting to read. But the survivalist struggle is very core of writing the end of days.

The apocalypse affords so many layers of conflict. How quickly would your friendly neighbors become your enemies when food becomes scarce? Or in the broader sense, how much of who you are now is afforded to you by what you have? Your characters may have been someone completely different before the catastrophe. What have they become?

What Is It All For?

If you were thrown back into the food chain, scratching to survive, dealing with the untimely loss of loved ones, what kind of person would you be then?  Survival of the fittest is truly a human concept in that we have conceptualized it, but is it fit for humanity when civilization is gone?

Whether it be fighting for your life with a wastelander over a chunk of venison, or trying to outbid someone on a veggie juicer on Amazon, Our gain is almost always their loss. So what does that mean?