Special thanks and appreciation goes out to
the two editors of the series:Rose Keefe & Lisa Poeltl
My trip through the second floor window of a burning building nearly twenty years ago wasn’t exactly graceful.
I remember awakening to the thick smell of burning wood and drywall, which replaced the delicate scent of
bud we’d smoked moments before. I stood up in a panic, slapped Freddy on the head, stirring him out of
a drunken slumber, and scanned the room for Kevin.
“What?” Fred shouted, sitting upright on the couch, blinking madly.
“The house, it’s on fire!” I gathered a few personal items and placed them in a backpack. He stood and
into the coffee table. “Where’s Kevin?”
“I don’t know. Last time I saw him he was complaining about a smell and left the room.” Fred waved away
that was filling the room above the three car garage.
“Right.” I remembered that. I walked to the open staircase that overlooked the car port. “Shit, there’s no way
it through that.” The flames were climbing the stairs. I turned and coughed violently as the smoke
caught me in the
Freddy was at the door to the second floor. As he grabbed at the handle he pulled back quickly, his face
contorting. “Jesus Christ!” The door knob was red hot. He waved his hand, blowing on the bubbling flesh.
“What the fuck! What
are we going to do?”
I looked at the windows. It was easily a fourteen foot drop from any one of them. Freddy followed my gaze
“We’ll break our legs.”
I threw the backpack over my shoulders and approached him. “We could try the stairs.” I said sarcastically.
“Fuck.” Fred repeated. Suddenly an explosion from below hurled us both into the west wall, and Freddy
went flying through one of the windows.
Now the fire was racing through the addition, lighting up everything it touched. I realized it was now or never
and attempted the door that led into the second floor. Wrapping my shirt around my hand I approached the
Then another explosion burst in from outside, shaking the whole house and sending glass flying
Suddenly I felt the scorching pain of a burning curtain mixing with the flesh on one side of my
Screaming, I flung myself through the same window Freddy had been thrown from. I landed hard on the earth
below, narrowly missing the patio stones which lined the back of the garage. Looking ahead, I could see that
the fuel tank
Pulling at the foreign material still burning its DNA into my own, I felt the skin of my face give way and screamed.
I soon realized my mistake in crying out.
Gunshots coming from inside the house fired off sporadically. Knowing no one would shoot their way out of a
burning house I realized that our ammo depot had been lit up by the heat.
“Freddy?” Cautious not to shout over the roaring flames in case this had been an attack from some unknown
I crawled on all fours toward the back of the house. Looking up into the night sky, I watched as smoke
billowed out of
the windows, and realized that none of the house would be spared. I pressed the burnt portion
of my face to the
ground, rubbing some of the cool mud into the wound to stay the pain. Tears blurred my vision.
Lying on my stomach
I struggled to find Fred. Where had he gotten to in such a hurry? The pain in my face
trumped the newly acquired shin splints, but I rubbed at them all the same, face back in the mud.
Then I saw them, two figures crouching behind the pool house. Squinting against the light of the inferno, I pulled
pistol from its holster. I began to crawl towards the pair.
The closer I got the more disturbing the vision. These weren’t enemies per se, they were my house mates! The
one darker than the other: Sidney! And the other one: Caroline! The whites of their eyes danced in the light of the
flames. I watched them a moment and wondered whether they had just escaped the same fate I had. Then I saw
they had two heavy bags with them, and water rations. They hadn’t escaped at all! They had set the fire.
“Sara.” I decided to wait for her to appear before I shot them all dead. Baby or no baby, Sara had made a choice,
she would die for it.
From the moment the first vote was cast, I knew I should have been the one to lead. Joel was unprepared.
Shell shocked. A leader sure, but a leader for easier times. The Apocalypse wasn’t exactly something every
man was cut
out to survive. It should have been me they voted for. Why Joel? The fact that we took shelter in
his house was one of
the deciding factors, I remember. What kind of quality was that in a leader? But we were
just kids, and Joel was our mutual friend. Almost everyone knew Joel on a personal level. So it was decided.
Joel would lead us. At least he recognized in me the ability prepare the defense of our stronghold.
When I consider the contributions I made, when Joel died, the house should have automatically passed the
responsibility of leadership onto me. But they didn’t, and the house divided. Why couldn’t they see that it was
me that gave our friends the level of comfort they enjoyed in the time after? When everything went to shit, I was
the one who brought the artillery, I was the one who set up posts around the house and built the barricade,
and watched the rain levels slowly drop. It was me who gave them hope!
I find myself dwelling in the past more and more these days, wondering how this end might have played out if
been crowned leader instead of Joel. But that was all so very long ago. Eighteen years… nineteen maybe?
Much has happened since then.
Sara, for example, Sara happened. Eight years after she’d lit the house with the intention of burning me and Kevin
and Freddy alive, she walked back into my life. Running into her again eight years later blew my mind, and meeting
her boy, Leif, Joel’s son, was a trip. I saw them both in turn, from my cell in the base’s stockade, where I was being
held as a terrorist. First, Sara walked in to question me. Where was my base, what were our numbers? I was
stunned at first to
see her. I’d assumed she’d died with her unborn baby in the wilderness. But there she was,
that superior look about
her, holding her head high, smirking down at me. Christ, I’d like to have smashed that
look off her face. I dream about
it. I fantasize about killing her. My hands around her throat, squeezing and then,
just when she’s chasing the light, releasing, letting her regain consciousness and then squeezing again so she
can feel death approach time and again.
I can’t help but smile at the thought, how I’ll relish the moment.
Then surprise, surprise, her eight year old son walks into the stockade late one night, alone. He sits across from
the iron bars all that’s separating us. That was an interesting conversation. Although I did most of the talking,
I still wonder what possessed him to go to the trouble of unlocking the door and sitting with me.
None the less, once the army had found my hideout, killed the men and brought the women and children back,
my escape plan was in full swing. Sara thought she’d pulled the information from me, but I offered it under the
guise of having let it slip. If I hadn’t given up the location, my woman wouldn’t have been brought into the base,
and freeing me. We scrambled under the wall at a point in the base’s defenses where the earth
could be dug out
enough that we could slip our thin frames under, undetected.
Now, after ten years in a strange land, just a few day’s journey from the base - where I can say in no uncertain
my arch enemy - my nemesis resides, I have rebuilt my army, and it is many, and it is hungry.