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Change is Not Welcomed

Challenges are Fun! Participate in Rodric's challenge as they come and enjoy the muse of Writing each challenge brings. Express yourself!

This short story is in response to Billybuc Photo Challenge Prompt: Installment 1.

The rules are as follow:

  1. "The picture prompts for your fictional short story can be found below.
  2. They must be used in the order that they appear, from top to bottom.
  3. Each story must be a minimum of 1000 words in length."

The story is fiction but the emotions are real. Thanks to Bill Holland for providing the building blocks for creating stories.

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Resting Place

A simple tombstone, bleak, ordinary marks the location of my best friend. I pretend the weeds surrounding her resting place are colorful flowers, soft white, yellow, and pink livening this sacred space. It's not a sad place. It is what we wanted, simple.

Nancy is on the headstone, but we repurposed it with my friend's info on the other side. A tear lazily slides down the wrinkles in my face hiding in the lines until it reaches the dimples she loved, deepened with time.

"Dimples," is what she called me. She could not help commenting on them each day--how the holes on both sides of my face turned to sunken places to nowhere.

Standing there looking at the headstone brought with it memories of her smile. This entire place is a reflection of our love for each other. The wall of trees provide the right amount of cozy for our intimacy today. The wooden well we chatted at, throwing pebbles in to see how far the water had risen or fallen... lovely remanence.

My heart fills with warmth and peace as I walk closer to the headstone to read my dear's home-going information once more as I await my turn to have my place next to her.

Down I reach, slowly, to pluck the dandelion near her from its position, a lonely position among the colors, like me. Not sad, but definitely lonely since she received the mercy of going to eternal rest. A few of the seeds dislodge as I bring the ball of white on a stick to my face.

"Do I really want to spread you around," I ask the round ball of life. I expect an answer from it. It is so close to her resting place, I expect it to talk as much as she did while she graced my life with her's. I believe her essence fills this place, our place, our hideaway.

I blew gently on the ball of white causing the seeds to shimmer before dislodging into the gentle breezed ushered by the wall of life, the trees. White life went into the breeze fleeing in multiple directions. I do not expect to make any changes. I will not cut the grass just yet. Maybe I will make it, survive that long to get around to it.

The can of browning flowers marked the place I intend to be interred one day. Not soon. She never thought of those dead flowers as bad.

"It just the circle of life, Clive," she would say. "Those brown flowers help to continue the beauty here no matter what else we experience in the world."

I chuckle out loud. "I will keep living for you," I promise. "I won't bother those brown flowers either." I walk past the well towards the wall of trees to the path.

This too was sacred ground. In the soil was the memory of loved ones between each leaf and wood chip that covered the well-trodden path.

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Memory Lane

The green foliage should have given me comfort, but each time I walk through this canopy of verdure life I grow anxious because so many of my family fell on that path. Two sons, a daughter, Mother, my sister Sophie... They all did not make it through. That was years ago, though. It was before everything changed with the virus. This place held terrible memories to be so full of life now.

This too was sacred ground. In the soil was the memory of loved ones between each leaf and wood chip that covered the well-trodden path. Here is where on the side of the path where Tasha received mercy...

"No!" I am sure I said it aloud. I don't want to think like that today, I told myself in my mind--for sure! Today is special. It is an anniversary. This is not the day to bring up the tragic things. There are plenty of days for that.

We held hands walking down this path so many times. We giggled and fought up and down this little lane of ours for years. As long as she stayed with me there was no care in the world that could phase me. Yes, this path is our lover's lane. It is today!

I rub my hands along the tall wheat-looking grass as I pass rusted buildings toward the house.

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Raised in a Barn

Clearing the trees, the first thing that pops into my vision is the field unplowed. The barn is not in the best shape, but we will get it back--me and the other three boys. My strong bucks! I'm proud of them. She was too, Tasha. It's not easy to have a large family during these times, but we managed.

I imagine that tall grass to be wheat growing like when I was a young man working with Pa before the virus came and changed everything. That new red and white building was not there then, just the silo and the wheat barn. Vaccination changed us. Now we can get back to work like the old days. I rub my hands along the tall wheat-looking grass as I pass rusted buildings toward the house.

"I won't let the bad memories in today," I say aloud to make it so.

My thoughts will not comply with my will, but I push out the horrors of those buildings from my mind. The horrors that went on there during the swarm season a few years back. The odor from that direction did not help. It will be years before it dissipates, I bet. But I, and the boys, will get it situated. Not today, though.

"I just need to go sit at the lake" I convince myself.

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Who was I talking too? Yeah, I believed in God, but I wasn't really talking to Him. I used His name as an excuse to talk out loud.

Dream House

Getting to the house, the good feelings from the quiet place have fled into the normal daily fear that has haunted me for years. The boys and I will get to the repair of the house is a dream that I allow myself to have so that I can detach from reality.

With Tasha gone, this old place just seems to be a pile of wood with windows that need new drapes. We were supposed to paint it some weird color, chantilly lace, she said before she went to rest. White is just white to me. Chantilly lace is my favorite white now, though.

The yard has the potential to be a fire hazard. Tasha made this place worth being in. She contracted the virus here. Sophie, Mother, Pa, Brad & Logan (my twins), and Anashia all caught the virus here.

"No, I just need to make it to the lake so I can just think."

"Maybe I need to go back to Tasha's resting place."

"God," I say talking more to myself than anyone. "This is too much. I just need one day where I can have some peace before the reality of what I am facing comes crashing back in."

"Don't I deserved one day? The boys have been on a run to get supplies for three days now. They should have been back yesterday."

Who am I talking to? Yeah, I believe in God, but I ain't really talking to Him. I use His name as an excuse to talk out loud.

"Maybe I should go inside the house," I say aloud. That's how it starts. You start talking to yourself.

"No! I am going to the lake."

"Next I will be talking to someone if this is it." I rush away from the house towards the lake. "If I start seeing things it is too late. The boys will have to give me mercy."

One last look at the house, I swear I saw Tasha waving out of the open drapes on the second floor!

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Lakeside Conversation

Jason, Thando, and Mosiah search the property for their dad. The supply run had taken longer because of an issue with the vehicle and a few people that needed mercy on the way. Though there is a vaccine, it will be years before everyone has access to it before it is too late.

"Let's check the lake," Jason commands the other two. If he is turning, we might be too late. The lake is where Clive would sit thinking for hours and meditating.

The men arrive at the lake scanning the reflection of the wall of trees on the waters dark. Peaceful. They hear the chatter of their father's high strung tenor voice gabbing incessantly, but only his voice.

"It's too late," Mosiah says in a loud whisper. The trees along the edge of the lake look like sentinels now. Mosiah spots his father talking to a pile of wood on the edge of the water. "There he is. What should we do?"

"Should we still give him the vaccine," asks Thando nervously rubbing the left pant leg of his jeans with his large hands--memory Flashes of fishing with his father glinting his brain.

"It won't work," chokily responds Jason. "It didn't work with Mom or the others."

The lake seems to turn from the serene place of their youth to the hell of decision. The dark reflective waters seem sinister now.

"We need to put him down while he is talking to himself. Once he turns, he's dangerous." Mosiah glares at Thando for so saying.

"We are vaccinated, Thando!"

"Mosiah, not everybody is, though. If we don't put him down, he will wander around and attack somebody. Plus, we promised Dad we would give him mercy and put him next to Mom."

"I will do it, Jason volunteers through tears. Walking toward the muttering parent, he cocks his shotgun for the grim lakeside deed.

"In the brain or he will just crawl out of the grave," Thando reminds him.

© 2020 Rodric Anthony Johnson

Comments

Rodric Anthony Johnson (author) from Surprise, Arizona on June 11, 2021:

I thank you very much for reading. I'm delighted you enjoyed the story.

Rodric Anthony Johnson (author) from Surprise, Arizona on February 26, 2020:

Thanks fir reading, Willstar. I 'm happy you took the time to leave a comment.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on February 26, 2020:

Wow! What an ending! Well done!

Rodric Anthony Johnson (author) from Surprise, Arizona on February 18, 2020:

Chris, I want to take all the credit for this story, but I would be remissed if I did not point out that I was binge watching Z Nation at the time and gleen some inspiration from that postapocalyptic nightmare. Thanks for reading and commenting. Your recognition boosted my confidence today.

Rodric Anthony Johnson (author) from Surprise, Arizona on February 18, 2020:

Thanks for reading Ann. It was fun write and Bill brought me out of my writer's block with the challenge.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on January 27, 2020:

A very brilliantly crafted story, Rodric. The gradual ascent to the climax of the story is a wonderful skill. I enjoyed it very much.

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on January 26, 2020:

I like how you slowly revealed the virus, the vaccine, and "mercy". It began as a sad story of loss and gradually morphed into a postapocalyptic nightmare. He figured it out before his sons found him. He knew they would show him mercy. This is a memorable story, Rodric. Very well done.

Ann Carr from SW England on January 25, 2020:

Well, this was a unique response! Well done! Your imagination gives us love and horror in the poor man's confusion.

A gripping tale.

Ann

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on January 22, 2020:

Rodric, I'm impressed with how much feeling you express in this piece, so intense! It has a science fiction vibe, and it's truly bizarre in a Steven King sort of way with 'the virus' always lurking in the background. The ending (I won't give it away) is perfect. Scary stuff!

Rodric Anthony Johnson (author) from Surprise, Arizona on January 22, 2020:

Pamela, thanks for reading. The emotion in the short story came from a real place. I did not know it if was okay to use my personal feelings of loss for a fictional tale--seemed like making light of the sacred. I decided that real sentiments is what makes story interesting. I think this challenge helped me grow as a writer by making me decide if I want to use my personal feelings and experience to make a fictional story come alive. I suppose that is what I should have been doing the entire time.

Rodric Anthony Johnson (author) from Surprise, Arizona on January 22, 2020:

Thanks, Eric. I'm happy you liked it. I have been sitting here smiling about the comments I have received because of my long writer's block since November. I say block, but I have been in and out of hospital. Bill woke my muse up with the challenge.

Rodric Anthony Johnson (author) from Surprise, Arizona on January 22, 2020:

Ruby, thanks. I wondered if I described the images well enough. I found it hard with the white house for some reason. Zombies are on my mind, but I was thinking about Revelations. I study the book last month. It, along with zombie influences colored my choice. I took the idea of a virus from the zombie show Z Nation. I tried to not follow lore from zombism, though.

Rodric Anthony Johnson (author) from Surprise, Arizona on January 22, 2020:

Shauna, thanks for reading. I mentioned to John Hansen that I have been looking at zombie shows lately. That played heavily into how the story went. I wanted to go further, but my muse was getting antsy about taking the zombie thing too far.

Rodric Anthony Johnson (author) from Surprise, Arizona on January 22, 2020:

Bill, thanks for the challenge. I have been in a serious dry spell with writing since November 2019. Thanks for helping my muse wake up a bit.

Rodric Anthony Johnson (author) from Surprise, Arizona on January 22, 2020:

John, thanks so much for reading. I appreciate your view. I thought I was getting a little long with the story. I have been watching some zombie shows lately and my muse jumped on that train of thought.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 21, 2020:

This is a tragic tale and you wrote it very well. I can't imagine putting someone down because they will become violent. You have a good imagination.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on January 20, 2020:

Well done friend. I love twists and turns.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on January 20, 2020:

Wow, I'm sitting here wondering what kind of virus. what era were you in? You spun a tale of memories, love and horrific fear. I liked the lead in to each picture prompt Rodric. Your detailed account was written well.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on January 20, 2020:

What a gripping tale, Rodric! What type of virus results in violence once the victim starts talking to him/herself? I can't imagine having to kill a parent - or anyone, for that matter - in order to save them from themselves and society.

Well-spun, Ridric!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 20, 2020:

Way to go, my friend. It was nice to see you pick up the gauntlet and take on the challenge. I sure as heck didn't expect that ending. lol

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on January 19, 2020:

Wow, Rodric! I certainly wasn't expecting that ending. You wove quite a gripping tale here. An excellent response to Bill's challenge.

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