(Author’s Note: Early on in my blogging, to honor the old pulp magazine serials, I began a weekly serial series of various of my stories. I have decided to repost those stories. Each Friday will feature a new chapter until a story ends. Then I will begin a new story. Enjoy!)
Chapter 1 – All Is Still
Below, in a dark expanse of treeless land void of all life, stands a lone pine. Its needles are dying and begin to cover the two forms below it with a soft, brown carpet. The humans lie with their backs against the pine’s trunk, their hands clasped firmly even in death. In her other hand, the woman holds a small black book with worn edges close to her breast. The man grasps a sheaf of fast-yellowing papers. A broken pen lies on the ground beside him. Those papers hold a story that will soon be forgotten, but you must hear it anyway.
I awoke to a stillness I have never felt before, or shall again. I couldn’t hear the birds’ sweet singing or even the wind rustling through the trees. Where were the robin’s glad song and the pine’s whisperings?
My curiosity aroused, I struggled, with much pain and agony, to raise myself to my knees. This feat accomplished, I brushed the dirt and ash from my eyes and looked around. The sight that met my eyes made me begin to weep.
Of the pine? All trees I could see were but charred black stumps in a blackened ground. No longer would the breeze whisper through beautiful green foliage or waft a tree’s fresh scent throughout the land. The only scent that came through the air on the wings of the wind was the nauseating smell of . . .
Of the robin? The only bird I saw was a corpse lying in front of me, its beak still opened in song. His brightly colored feathers would no longer glisten in the sunlight. They were forever blackened by fire and ash.
Exhausted from the effort of getting up and with hopelessness in my breast, I fell into a fitful slumber, weeping.
I awoke again to that same awful stillness. I probably will for the rest of my life. I suppose this is May 25, though I can barely see the sun through the dirty, hazy blanket Earth’s atmosphere has become. Anyway, I will enter this account under that given date. It doesn’t matter what day it is anyway, I doubt anyone’s keeping track anymore. From what little sun I can see and the slope of the land where I lie, it seems tome that town is to-the north of me. I find that I haven’t the strength to get up so am beginning to crawl slowly and painfully northward. After crawling a few hundred yards through still-smoldering sand and ash, I collapse in an exhausted heap. There will be no more progress today. Still thinking about “progress” and where it had gotten humans, I fall into a fitful slumber. Darkness.
(Originally posted here March 2012. Written in 1985 at age 18).