Subcutaneous Magazine Issue 1 - Page 47

As We Know It by Ben Clayton In between the edges of perception, there are hiccups in time and space. It is something, that they say, is completely missed by their scientific instruments. Instruments used to notify us, though not to protect us, from a devastating meteoroid or other catastrophic even, as it anchors itself to us; destined to reduce our sky to dust and to leave many of us choking on ash; choking and likely suffering from radiation poisoning. That was the blurb that flashed in my mind from my school’s nuclear paranoid training, but then, was it now so paranoid? I remember the event. It was sudden exposure, a flash, followed by deafening sounds. Terrified people lined the streets, while silence ran the radio and the television waves. Teens likely died from the shock of not being able to find a connection for their portable devices. In that darkness, I moved from the street and away from the alarms and screams. Finding a spot that felt safe, I turned a corner into an alley and opened my phone. Swearing from my previous revelation, the screen was gray. There was no reception. People screamed and babies cried. Everyone choked in the heavy dust. Blinded and cowering, my eyes began adjusting, and I looked around. Car alarms bellowed forth. As people continued to call out, an overwhelming sound struck. Deafening, the terrible crisis rang through, bringing all to their knees in pain. As my senses began to return, I looked up to find that the sky was quickly going gray, and not the gray of storms moving in. There was a bleakness to it, a purpose it seemed, pushing forth. And with patient strides, it moved over and beyond us, bringing darkness. Initially, my worry was selfish. I wanted out of there. I wanted to get home. It was not an effort to escape to my home, but to my mothe r’s home on the farm. I needed to be sure that she was safe. I waited for the dark to pass. It could have been hours, or perhaps it was days. Amidst sleep and wake, I shuddered from the lack of warmth. I realized I needed to move or I would die in that spot. Moving slowly in the black, I felt my way around, bumping into things, tripping over objects, both hard and soft. There were moans and screams in the distance, but I did only what I could do. I kept moving. I stumbled slowly in the direction that I felt was away from the city. It was the direction that I felt was toward home. It’s unimaginable how long it took, and how quiet it had become, but suddenly, there was a ray of light. A single solitary ray, from the sky, ruptured the darkness. It seemed as if it was the brightest light that I’d ever seen. My eyes felt as if they would explode, but they didn’t. They adjusted. There was dust covering the the road, the trees, the plants and the grass. I was on the highway, heading out of town, and all vehicles were stopped in both directions. All of them were empty. Left and forgotten, covered in the thick tears of darkness that now buried everything. I was alone. But I smiled. I was headed in the correct direction. I was headed home. Parched and hungry, I put one foot forward, and then the other, determined to find my mother. A simple statement is always easier said than done. Considering that the sign on the highway pronounced the one hundred and fifty miles that I needed to overcome, and on foot it seemed, I was dehydrated and wishing for anything worth eating. At least there was still the sliver of light. I could still see. Common sense took over; I was like a robot. With the vehicles empty, I searched them for food or water. Finally, I came up lucky. I found a half empty water bottle and an untouched energy bar. I vomited the first two gulps of water back up, but I remained determined, and slowly, taking much smaller sips and at longer intervals, I was able to keep it down. I sat, I rested, and I fell asleep. Waking in the night, cold and curled up next to something unpleasant. Shivering, I stood, working out the knots in my legs, and began hopping around for warmth. Attempting to get my bearings, a stream of light began to rise, cutting through the dust. I was able to make out my direction again. I was only 30 miles from home. It was time to take the back roads. I rubbed my encrusted eyes. Taking the first exit off the main road and then a left onto an old gravel road that I would drive to the city in my late teens. There were no more vehicles sitting empty and lifeless anymore, but along with the debris, some of the dust was replaced by burned patches of grass, plants and crops. The first two houses appeared empty, but at the third, there were four people on the porch. From a distance, it appeared to be a young sickly thin woman in a short dress holding a baby. There was a man beside her with a short, rough beard and ball cap, and elderly man in a rocker, also wearing a ball cap. Walking toward them, their eyes followed me, but beyond that they didn’t move. It was when I was entering their driveway that I began to notice their skin color. They were all pale and covered in lesions, some of which were oozing a green, yellow viscous fluid. They had varying lumps and swelling on their faces, arms and legs. Still just watching, but not moving, I hesitantly waved to them. They continued to watch, but did not respond. Moving closer now, I could see their eyes. They were bloodshot and held a weight of fear. Slowly, the elderly man stood, and together they backed away, into the confines of their home, closing the large front door behind them. The click of the lock engaging was all that was heard. Feeling my own fear creeping up in my throat in the form of a bile, I turned and began to walk away. It was then that my stomach first became unsettled. Having had nothing to eat or drink since the energy bar, I bent over to vomit, but released nothing. When my stomach