PreApocalyptic – Chapter 1 (a strange new visiter)

Author’s Note:

All right, and thus ends my one month without finishing any writing (started a few though). Hopefully it won’t happen again… seems I’ve sufficiently exorcised the demons blocking my creativity (for now at least. They tend to come back without warning, so fingers crossed).

Oh, and any similarity to real people is completely coincidental. Except for Ed. I never got his name, but he’s definitely real.

——————————————–

Jim stared out across the room, watching the mixture of rain and hail attack the pavement outside. It was late, the sun was down, and with the heaviness of this particular storm any light from street lamps or windows was mostly obscured as well. Three feet ahead of the window, Jim saw chaos. Anything beyond that existed only in darkness.

“Crud,” a man in a suit said as he swiveled on the barstool, “looks like I won’t be getting home anytime today.” He leaned forward on the bar and continued, “well, while we’re stuck here, give me another beer, will ya Jimmy?”

“Comin’ up,” Jim replied as he fetched a fresh bottle. “How’s the office been today, Sam?”

“Eh, you know. Nothing exciting,” he yawned. “Got some trouble getting my foot in the door right now, but things will bounce back… honestly, I’d rather not think about work right now.”

Jim nodded and moved on. His eyes scanned across those few remaining customers not foolish enough to leave during the storm or wise enough to leave before it shifted into full force. Three of the “usual suspects” remained in the bar — Sam, the aforementioned businessman, a cop named Mike, and a perpetual drunk, supposedly named Ed, though no one really knew much about him for sure on account of his general incoherence. Jim also spotted a man and a woman sitting at a table together, both late thirties or early forties. Presumably they might be a couple, but Jim couldn’t yet say for sure.

He grabbed a wet rag and began cleaning his way over in their direction until he stood within eavesdropping range. At that point, he began meticulously cleaning each table in their vicinity. It was, after all, a very slow night.

“This is crazy!” the woman laughed, “You’ve changed so much. Out of everyone we knew, I never would have pegged you, Mark, as a preacher! Of all things!”

The man, Mark, returned the polite laughs, “well, Kate, you haven’t changed one bit, and I always expected you to end up a politician!”

The two old friends continued chatting, and Jim learned a few things before he stopped paying attention. He learned that the preacher and the politician had gone to college together, except back then they were a lawyer and an actress. They ran into each other by accident recently when Kate entered Mark’s church one Sunday morning, although Jim was fairly certain it was not accidental as she seemed to be looking for an endorsement. At that point, he had gleaned enough information to satisfy his admittedly low curiosity — politics was an issue which interested Jim even less than the earlier pleasantries. Besides, the tables certainly would not clean themselves.

Jim decided that this storm wouldn’t be letting up anytime that night; it was time to take a break from his cleaning. He dropped the towel down on the last table and headed over to speak with the cop, complimentary coffee in hand.

“Thanks,” Mike said as he accepted the gift. “You about ready to kick these people off the premises? I believe it’s just about closing time. At that point, it’s trespassing to stay, and that’s a crime…”

Jim gave a weak laugh, “well, I could do that, but with this storm we’ve got, they probably wouldn’t get more than a few feet beyond the door.”

“We can get ’em for that too: loitering.”

“Good call. But I think we’ll let it slide, officer — this time,” Jim said with a wink.

“If you say so,” he replied as he sipped his coffee, “it’s your building.” Mike picked up the day’s newspaper and began thumbing through it while Jim picked up his mop. In place of cleaning the floors with such a device, as might be expected, Jim folded his hands together on top of the mop to use it as a support pole. Jim once again took a moment to look out the window and appreciate the ironic tranquility of the storm. Despite the destructive nature of such a force — the pounding of the rain and the piercing of the hail, the power of lightning and the roar of thunder — the only thought to go through Jim’s mind at such a time was the strong desire to curl up and take a nap. During a time of such intense chaos, Jim felt oddly at ease. He appreciated the irony.

His musing, however, was soon cut off by a cry from the other corner of the room.

“Hey Jimmy!” Sam called, “How do you get this TV working?”

Jim hesitated a moment, then turned and headed over to troubleshoot the machine, where the businessman, drunk, preacher, and senator sat. After a few moments of his fiddling with the cables in the back and adjusting the antennae, the static and white noise gave way to the local weather report.

“As you can see,” the weatherman said as he exaggerated arm gestures, “we have this storm on top of us. Now, it’s moving pretty quickly so it’ll pass soon, but don’t leave your houses just yet. We’ve got what appears to be a second wind coming in close after, and this one seems to be even bigger. We suggest you stay in your houses, as this seems to only be the beginning.”

The on-screen map zoomed out to reveal a swirling purple spot which easily dwarfed the city. The five guests and the bartender gave their complete attention to the on-goings of the television screen. Ed gave less attention than the rest of them, although proportionately he in fact gave more as he gave all he could given his current level of sobriety, or lack thereof.

Their attention broke off abruptly as the screen flickered away. The guests’ eyes veered over towards Jim, as if to ask him to fix it yet again. Before he could respond though, a pound of thunder shook the building and the lights went out. After a moment of silence, Ed spoke up:

“The purple hell… it’s coming for us!”

Not knowing exactly how to respond to this, Jim did the only sensible thing he could and spoke up. “Nobody panic, I’ll get some lights,” he said as he tripped over chairs and bruised himself on table corners. Eventually, he came back with a kerosene lantern and a few candles. “Not great, but it’ll do. We’ve got some light, we can wait out —”

“Jim!” Mike called from behind his newspaper. “I think we’ve got someone at the door!”

Picking up the kerosene lantern, Jim once again walked across the room. “Hold on, I’m coming!” As he walked, the pounding at the door grew heavier and heavier, as if the person on the other side grew more and more desperate. Not too farfetched a theory, considering the storm this person was stuck in.

As Jim threw the doors open, the man nearly fell in. With his arms holding his stomach and his back arched, he hunched a few steps into the room. The man, gasping for air, mostly mumbled inaudibly. After a few moments though, more definable words came out:

“… madness. Won’t stop… or no. It will. All of it… Everything. Everything will stop… they said it wouldn’t happen, but it is… it’s a perfect storm…”

“Well, I wouldn’t call this evening perfect,” Mike chimed in, “’course, I wasn’t really planning on going home, so —” at this point, the strange man lifted his arms from his stomach to reveal profuse bleeding, which proceeded to spill out onto the floor. He raised his head and looked them each in the eyes with a now profound sense of desperation. The group partook in an appropriate moment of stunned silence.

“Disease, war, famine… this is only the beginning. Or the end… it’s happening.” Urgently and with trembling, the man dug into his coat pocket and protruded a small USB drive. “This… will explain everything.”

“Wait,” Mark asked, “just what are you talking about?”

“Haven’t you been listening to anything I’ve said?” the man asked with a gallows chuckle, “Don’t you see? Tonight beckons the end of the world.”

And, with another flash of lightning and crack of thunder, their strange new visitor collapsed to the ground.

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