Spare Parts

This is an assortment of odds and ends that mean something to me. I wrote a whole paragraph explaining how spare parts are necessary to extend the function of the whole, and how you can always go to the spare-parts-bin to renew and refresh the machine or realign the frame, but it got preachy and philosophical, so I condensed it to the preceding single sentence (and then, for some reason, I felt it needed explanation – go figure).

I’ll add to it as I find them.

But the first (and therefore, the most important) is from my good friend York Campbell of

The Poetic Earthlings podcast

He’s taken an original short-story of mine, that I wrote back in high school, and transformed it into an aural masterpiece. Experience it for yourself, and don’t be surprised if I’m right. Click the picture below, and check it out.

“Life Flashes”

LOVE IN A VIRAL STATE

This is a short story I wrote in response to the Corona virus. I don’t know why I turned it into a brief for a new novel, because it was meant to be a complaint-piece based on people’s actions during this crisis, but it sounds good to me, and I feel something coming from it.

Love In a Viral State

I can’t do this. I’ll never make it. It’s three-hundred yards from here to the door, and there are thirty—no, make that thirty-five unclean in my way.

I pulled the inoculator from my vest pocket and flipped the cap off the end with the tip of my thumb like they showed us. The needle probably didn’t go deep enough to hit the bone in my right leg, but you wouldn’t know it, judging from the pain. The antiviral coursing through my system felt like fire, burning every connection, and rewriting my DNA. It wouldn’t last long, maybe enough to get to the door, and then I would be on my own. I gritted my teeth and dealt with it like I always do.

Sarah needed me to be successful, and there was no way I would let her down. She was my world since the world stopped being what we knew. That was twenty-three days ago, and things were going downhill. The virus spread faster than they said it would. A projected two-percent mortality rate had escalated to twenty-percent within days. Maybe the toilet-paper and bottled-water hoarders had been right after all. We all thought they were crazy in the beginning and selfish in their rush to keep themselves safe at the expense of everyone else.

I wonder if they’re sitting on their toilets, right now, drinking a nice bottle of water…

Damn, I’m thirsty.

The antiviral drug dehydrated you. Yes, it kept you from contracting the virus, temporarily, but it wasn’t a permanent fix. In the meantime, you had to deal with the dry mouth. I hadn’t felt this parched since I smoked weed in college. That’s all I remember about that experience: crazy thirst, and wondering why I felt the need to do it in the first place. I do recall my head spinning, and everything looking more vibrant than usual, but aside from that, I could take it or leave it.

But I can’t leave this. Sarah is waiting, and she’s down to her last dose. I have to get back.

But first, I have to walk through this group of unclean and make it to that door, without them realizing I’m not one of them. This is the hardest part; it always is.

When the burning subsided, I took a deep breath and straightened my jacket, pulling it closed in front to hide the twin pistols in my shoulder holsters. I tossed the injector aside; it rolled under a dumpster and disappeared. I shook my head to clear it and stepped around the corner into the street.

They turned toward me gradually, the closest ones first, like those old zombie movies we used to watch on Netflix. They did remind me of zombies: slow, dead eyes, drool from the corners of their mouths. But that was an illusion. They were fast when they identified someone clean, and they would swarm, like bees protecting a hive. If one identified you, it was over, and the inoculant was hit-or-miss. Sometimes it masked you, and sometimes you were running. That’s why I have guns. Unlike zombies, the unclean are not immortal, and they go down like any other human. Double-tap to the head usually does it.

I try to avoid conflict as much as possible, and so far, it’s worked. This is my fifth trip, and It doesn’t get less scary. Yes, it gets easier when you know what you’re doing, but less scary? No.

I’m terrified right now.

They turn and watch me as I walk to the door. I try to move slowly, like they do when they’re not chasing someone, hoping to blend in. So far, it’s working. The dead eyes and the drool—I have to choke back the revulsion creeping up my throat. Good thing we’re out of food, and there’s nothing in my stomach. But, I planned it that way so that I wouldn’t vomit from the effect of the drug.

A couple of them lock eyes on me, and I keep moving, hoping they don’t recognize that I don’t belong. I guess it worked because I made it to the door without being jumped.

The little bell tinkled as I pushed it open and stepped inside. The interior of the store was pitch-black, and I found my way to the counter by feeling along the shelves. Like I said, my fifth trip. I know this place by heart.

“Jerry?” My eyes were adjusting to the darkness. “Are you here?”

Jerry stepped through the darkened doorway behind the counter; a twelve-gauge shotgun pointed at my head.

“You’re late, Melanie. She’s got, what, a couple of doses left? You can’t wait that long. It’s too hard for you to get here, and you have no refrigeration. I don’t know how long my generator will hold out, either, and this is all going to go bad if it does. What are you going to do then?”

The reality of his question slapped me in the face, and tears filled my eyes.

“I don’t know, Jerry… I honestly don’t.”

Jerry set the shotgun down and came around the counter, wrapping his arms around my shoulders. He’d always been like a father to me.

“Look, honey, Sarah needs this insulin, so I’m more than happy to give it to you. You know what I think about you girls. You’re like my daughters. If I could do more, I would. But you have to face facts: the power is gone, most people are infected, and those of us who aren’t can only go outside if we take the inoculant, and that’s in short supply. You should think about going to Alaska and joining the colonies.”

“How, Jerry? How are we supposed to get there?” I wiped the tears from my eyes and sniffed. “There’s no gas, and these unclean are roaming everywhere, including the roads. What are we supposed to do?”

Jerry shook his head and went back around the counter, pulling the door of a refrigerated cooler open and extracting a bottle of insulin. He handed it to me, with a sad look on his face.

“I don’t know, honey. But I only have five vials of this left, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Sarah was my world. I’m sure I said that already, it’s the one thing on my mind these days.

“I can’t lose her, Jerry…”

“I know.” His eyes teared up as he said it.

“Do you have any idea how we can get out of Denver? Maybe you should come with us.”

“Oh, I’m a little old for a road trip. Besides, most of my living is behind me, and it was all good. I have no regrets. But, here, take these—he tossed me a set of keys. It’s out back, it’s full of gas, and there are ten five-gallon cans in the back. I was planning an escape, but I’d rather have you girls survive than an old relic like me. There are some unclean in the ally, but your inoculant should protect you for another half-hour, anyway.”

He packed a cooler with the remaining vials of Sarah’s life-giving insulin with ice and handed it to me.

“How can we thank you, Jerry?”

“Just survive. Somebody has to. And, if you need toilet-paper or bottled water for the trip, I have plenty. Once the virus kicked in, people didn’t need it anymore.”