Friday, 14 October 2011

42) Survive Connect

    The phone rang, woke me up, and suddenly the last two years dissolved. I felt fat again, anxious about going to school, and not looking forward to seeing my roommate sleeping with his girlfriend on the way out the door to my 8am Computer Science class. As it continued to ring that nostalgic illusion dropped away. I scrabbled my skinny butt out of my sleeping bag to answer the phone. I was careful not to twist up the wires connecting it to the generator. I hit the answer button and said, “James here. Over.”
    “Kevin…” There was lots of static on the line and the words popped through hissing and crackles. “…Have contact. …Ver.”
    “That’s great, man. Great! Who is it? When are you coming back? Over.”
    “…hiss… Peat? Over.”
    “I said that’s great! Over.”
    “Ooo… Mean… Still Ghosts… Ver.”
    My mind raced. First I thought he’d made contact with other survivors. But now it sounded like he’d only made contact with more ghosts. And that was nothing to write home about, let alone waste valuable electricity talking over the phones for. I said, “I don’t understand. If they’re just ghosts why are you calling?”
    “…hiss… king Ghosts… Talking Ghost… Over.”
    My jaw dropped, that was something then. It wasn’t what we had wanted to find, more survivors or supplies or a way out, but it was new and new was good. I said, “When are you coming back? Over.”
    “… Ver.”
    “Hello, Kevin, please repeat. Over.”
    “… said, Never. This is… Ok? Over.”
    “No, no. Don’t say that. That’s sick. Come back! No, man, no! Over.”
    I waited for an hour, but there was nothing from Kevin other than silence. Eventually the phone’s battery gave out. I tried to cry, but I was all out of tears.
    Eventually I lit a candle and made my way over to the bicycle generator and started my morning routine while occasionally swearing and telling myself my story so that I wouldn’t forget, so I wouldn’t think it was all a dream and fall into madness hoping for it all to go away.

    My best friend Kevin and I had been shopping for our Superbowl party at the mega store when the incision came. That’s what I called it whenever I talked about it, which was never.
    The first thing we noticed was the darkness. The skylights on the far away roof had gone out like a velvet curtain had been passed over them. Then there was the panic, everyone screaming and running all around us. As consummate beta-males we hid our nervous selves between piles of dog food and kitty litter until everything settled down.
    We spent the time passing my phone back and forth with a game of chess until its battery died. Yes, we tried to call our relatives, but there were zero bars on both of our phones.
    Eventually the commotion died down and we peaked our heads out to an empty store still lit by emergency lights. There had been others in the store who didn’t run right away. Sam, the redneck, with a hot temper and Sally the secretary, a tall leggy blond and brave. Then there was Steve-o the Australian just in for the beer, and Adam the ex marine.
    We made it though the first week without disturbance. We took the time to gather supplies and make plans, useless plans. The world stopped in the middle of the parking lot.    When we tried the portable radios there was nothing on them, not even static. I knew what was up, but Kevin had to explain it to everyone else. He talked about microwave background radiation, the big bang, and interference, the electromagnetic spectrum and shadows. They got it eventually, but I think I was the only other one who really realized how alone we were.
    It was on the eighth day that the ghosts came. Full bodied ghosts, definitely dead, definitely not real, but really there enough to illuminate what was around them with a blueish white glow like a television. I hate to admit it, but I really freaked out and fell on my ass. A piss drunk Steve-o helped me up off the floor as the wispy shade of a woman passed through me. It didn’t feel like anything when they went through you, but it wasn’t pleasant to think about.
    There were ghosts from all cultures and ages. They just floated through and disappeared. Sometimes there were lots of ghosts, sometimes none for hours or days, but they were always silent and never acknowledged us. 
    The day after the ghosts came Adam lead a small team of us out to the parking lot for more supplies. We came back each time with more and more stuff: cell phones, batteries, food, and a child.
    She was dirty and starving. Her name was Melody. She was ten years old. She cried a lot. The next day she disappeared. Really disappeared. We looked for her for days.
    Then months passed. We ran low on batteries and candles. Steve-o sobered up when our supply of booze disappeared. He drank Sterno, but gave that up quick. Sam and Sally hooked up and Adam went quiet. Kevin and I just tried to stay out of the drama.
    On the one year anniversary of the incision Sam and Sally announced that Sally was pregnant. There was lots of yelling and crying. Sally ran away down one of the isles and disappeared.
    We looked for weeks, longer than we had looked for the girl. But we still found nothing.
    A week after the rest of us had given up Sam and Steve-o took off outside, into the dark parking lot. When Sam didn’t come back Adam went after him. Then it was just Kevin and myself for another year.
    Almost two years do the date we found a man hole grate under a parked car. We figured maybe it could lead somewhere else, maybe to more people. We jury-rigged several batteries together for Kevin’s phone and I stayed on the other line. I guess all that time in engineering classes really paid off. I wish I had had a computer to program, I really miss that level of control.

    Then Kevin was gone.
    I continued to live in the mega store for how long I don’t know, I stopped keeping track. Each day was the same, numb and empty. The ghosts continued to drift through the store, softly illuminating my dark world.

    I was asleep when I heard “James? James, wake up.” It was a soft woman’s voice.
    I rolled over to the voice, tired and awake, and sore and miserable. It looked like Sally, but with different clothes, really old clothes, maybe Victorian. Maybe this is who had gotten Kevin, I thought, maybe she’s come for me. But I didn’t care, I just stared. She looked so peaceful and beautiful and healthy.
    The ghost smiled and put out her semi transparent arm. Then she was gone.
    I think one day, if she comes back I’ll take her hand.

No comments:

Post a Comment