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Dont Forget to Check Out Part 1!

The Fall, Part 2

    Sam’s retro converse sneakers, meant for fashion not running, slammed with bone jarring force against the unforgiving wooden boards of the dock.

    She fled fire, sticks, knifes, guns, and cries of the damning and the damned. When had everything not been falling apart and about to come to a crashing end? Weeks? Months? She stumbled and the tip of her shoe caught between the salt water-warped boards, nearly sending her tumbling sideways over the edge into the black abyss of Port Jefferson Bay. Scrambling to her feet she felt Keith’s hands on her shoulders, lifting her and pushing her forward, away from the roaring flames at their backs, uncomfortably hot even from hundreds of feet.

Long dancing shadows of their bodies stretched out to the boats moored at the edges of the docks, where Cole, Julian, Jordan and their families waited in dinghies, overcrowded sail boats, and modified motorboats which had been outfitted with paddles. Behind them, Port Jefferson burned with flames that reached the night sky. Heat and red glow reflected down off the smoke-filled clouds, as the conflagration sucked rushing torrents of air toward the base of the flames.

    They hadn’t seen what stared the blaze. Pushed north with other refugees, they stayed just ahead of the looters. Riots on the southeastern edge of the township, between the remnants of the local national guard and the looters, continued to take lives on both sides with no sign of abating.  

    Refugees. They were refugees now? What had started any of it?

    Despite the roar, she knew his footsteps had stopped. His shadow didn’t follow her.

    She turned. “Keith?” He stood silhouetted against the backdrop, his ash covered face barely visible, like watching a candle flame against the sun. “Keith, come on!”

    Two more strangers barreled past them at full tilt, and Sam huddled to the side to get out of their way, certain they would bowl her off the fragile and smoldering docks, just as they slammed into Keith’s back.

    “I’m not waiting! Casting off in sixty seconds!” Their captain called out above the roar.

    “Come on!” Julian and Cole shouted in unison from their respective boats as both pushed off and departed for the Long Island Sound.

Who was the captain again? A friend of a friend? Julian’s parents’ neighbor? Did it even matter? It was a way off the death trap Long Island had become. Rioters, starving and displaced by the millions, moved out from the hub of New York City in desperate waves of humanity, stripping the world of sustenance.


    He stared at her, but he didn’t see her. He looked past her in that gaze she recognized, even in the dancing irregular lights, as deep thought. So often leveled at books and equations, he leveled it at her, and the burning world. She stepped closer. Beside them motor boats slammed against one another, bouncing like flotsam against the docks, their dead engines no more useful than an anchors in the post Fall world. Too many working parts. Too many details and technical aspects never spoken went into their operation. When peoples’ beliefs, no… their fears, impacted reality, it all went to shit.

    Except for him.

    Behind them Danford’s burned. The hotel had always stood for something when they walked through town. A high income ideal? Something to aspire to? It had turned to ash, its flames inching with each breath up the length of the dock.

    “Thirty seconds!”

     A gunshot barked above the yells and glass shattered in the inferno. A matching scream pierced night as a man’s hand turned to red mist on the floating docks beside them, where mobs fought for the remaining space in boats.

    His blue eyes met her intense black-eyed gaze. “Sam…”


    Hours before, they had said their goodbyes.

    Cole gripped Dad’s hand. Dad maintained his perpetual calm at the end of the world. A handshake sufficed between gentlemen, like they would all be back after a long vacation, not like they were saying goodbye.

Keith looked for the tingle of tears wanting to come but numbness had taken over as if his whole body had become a foot sat upon for too long. He could control it, drive it, but only awkwardly, without really understanding the motions.

    “Thank you for all the dinners, Mrs. Vartan,” Cole said, sniffing back a rolling wave of crying. Keith had seen him like that when Charna broke up with him. Cole embraced Keith’s mom, swallowing her small frame with his broad shoulders.

    Behind them, Julian and Jordan waited at the curb, their goodbyes already said, looking furtively both ways despite the clear midafternoon light and remarkable silence in the housing development. Cars had died, electricity had died, and phones had died. Modernity’s death had cast the world back to a Victorian era of countryside silence, filled with absence. People didn’t hear the dogs, the pigeons, the squirrels, the hawks and rummaging deer. They heard the silence of cars sitting silent, never to be turned on again. They noticed computers, nothing more than paperweights, and phones just expensive plastic masses.

    What had happened? Why? Nobody knew. Now, nobody would ever know. Without the reliability of science, what hope did anyone have of moving forward against the random fears and competing, inconsistent beliefs of the masses? What was the last thing the news had proclaimed? Fact followed belief. It had become enslaved to it. What horrors would they make for themselves?

    “I put sandwiches in all your backpacks,” Mom said. She clutched Dad’s arm as if to a metal railing, the only thing holding her up. She cried unabashedly, eyes bloodshot and skin blotchy around the sockets. Her puffy thin white hair looked almost silver in the sun.

    “We won’t eat them all at once,” Cole promised. He bent low, and hugged her again, her tiny frame hidden behind his gentle embrace. “I always loved your tuna mac casserole.”

    Cole joined the others at the curb.

    “Come here young lady,” Dad said.

    Sam strode up to him, and brushed her purple-black hair behind an ear and hugged him. Dad had never hugged his girlfriends. Mom leaned into the same hug, and whispered something Keith couldn’t hear into her ear, eliciting a nod from Sam and a smile combined with a burst of tears.

    “Of course. I promise.” She hugged them again, then walked past Keith, her hand brushing along his arm and trailing down his hand to hook a finger, and tug gently toward the curb.

    Friends waited behind him, and his parents stood before him, at the door to his home with the faded blue siding that Dad repainted every five years, six months overdue. Its seasonal flag fluttered on a pole beside the front door, and the last of Dad’s mums struggled against impending frosts beside the front walk. The only home he had ever known. They had miles to go to reach Port Jefferson, and their scheduled rendezvous with Jordan’s family, yet he couldn’t force his feet to move.

    “Come.” Dad waved a hand at Keith.

    He obeyed, like a military cadet.

    They stood in a triangle, Mom still leaning on Dad’s arm. Dad placed his grip, the hands of a man who had done manual labor, to put his son through college, taken two jobs when times were tough, and never once complained about any of it, like sausages, on Keith’s shoulder. His bald head, dotted with age spots and tuffs of grey hair at his temples, pulled back with his smile. “You have to go.”

    Mom sobbed, but tried to look strong and failed. Half Dad’s size, she leaned into him as she mashed an already tear-filled tissue into her eyes.


    Next had been grad school, next had been more classes, more math and scholarships not…what? What comes after the end of the world? They had to leave the island for hopes of safety, but where would they go? What city faced any different circumstance? Where wouldn’t people be starving? After starvation what space on the globe wouldn’t have millions of unburied dead? How would they stem disease? Violence? He felt fear with each blink, which threatened to open up salty tears to finally stream down his face.

    He clenched his jaw and refused to blink again. Mom wouldn’t want to see him cry. Dad… Dad always understood.

    He stepped into Dad’s hug and the familiar arms embraced him, pulling him into his round belly.

    They had food to last forever. Dad liked to stock up on his canned vegetables.

    The absurdity of the images came to him: His nearly seventy-year-old father cutting wood to cook over an open flame in the middle of the coming winter, Mom running out of Baxter boxes filled with fluids for her peritoneal dialysis, either of them holding off looters, or hiding. Dad’s hips were so bad he couldn’t even get up from the ground if he fell.

    Tears came without blinking, rolling down both cheeks, wicked up by Dad’s shirt.

    He knew, and held Keith there longer to let him pull himself together, and in that moment, filled with the hint of acrid smoke from some far-off fire, and the scent of Dad’s aftershave, his father whispered to him.

    “Nothing wrong with being a little hungry from time to time. Be safe. Be cautious. Be careful of the open water. Respect it.” He pulled back just a little, his hand still on the back of Keith’s neck to meet his eyes. “And always remember that we love you. You’ll be fine.” Dad had tears in both eyes. Had he ever seen Dad cry before? “Your mommy and I will be fine.” 

    A lie. The lie we all tell each other when the truth is too much, and it would break the soul of the person to say. But his mother needed to knew he would be fine, so his father said so. His father needed his son to survive, but what advice can you gives against the broad sweep of the unknown?

    “They need you too.” Mom sobbed breath jerking between each word.

    “I love you.” Keith hugged them both one more time, and looked again at his home.

    Dad’s garden, roses still pushing out their last blooms of the year against all odds, the giants mop head hydrangeas browning over at the first hints of the coming frost, and mulch freshly laid with promise of a next year.

    Next year. There was hope in a garden.

    They nodded one to another. No more words could be said that hadn’t already been said.

    He joined hands with Samantha, as they joined Jordan and Julian. They were wise enough to know there were no words worth saying.

With hurried steps they left for their boats.

    “You’re not coming.” Sam stared at Keith.

    “Sam, I love you … but.”

    “I know.”

    His silence said everything in the time they moved toward the boats, toward their escape. She’d known but didn’t want to admit it. Silence born of fear and heightened senses assailed all of them, but his was of a different kind, not shocked and scared but thoughtful.

    Such beautiful arrogance. If anyone thought they would survive the apocalypse by force of will, it would be Keith. Could he though? Could he actually? So aloof from the havoc mother nature’s new rules had thrown them, so calm in the fears only she sensed. Maybe he could.

    “We’ll come back for you. We will I swear it.”

    “Sam, come on!”

    Behind her a glance showed the captain good to his word. He untied the mooring lines from the steel cleat.

    She kissed Keith passionately, as much pressing his face against hers as finding his lips. She tried to focus on him, his scent, his feel. Fire irradiated her knuckles from behind him, and smoke threatened to choke her as the wind shifted.

     “Take care of your parents. They won’t be disappointed you came back.”

She saw her last two years with them. A family that had so willingly taken her in. Reading on their couch, eating in the yellow, sunflower-themed kitchen. Textbooks, and conversations flashed over the rickety old coffee table while they studied. Dreams of being a biologist had stood ahead of her. Behind her bobbed a boat.

    She could stay. The thought passed so briefly and fled in fear at the tumult behind she knew it was a lie.

    “Now!” Cole cried out, his boat slipping further away and gaining momentum as he helped row.

    Glass shattered, wooden beams burst, and the Danford’s collapsed across the base of the dock, smashing it into the bay in a renewed burst of flame.

    She jumped at the cacophony, and ran again down the wooden boards, not looking back until she leapt from the dock and collapsed into the boat as it pushed away. The captain gave her a disdainful look but said nothing, and manned the rudder as two men she didn’t know pulled with all their might on the oars.

    Keith stood silhouetted in the conflagration. The Vartans would be able to see the flames from their home glowing on the horizon. They would be so happy to know he survived, and came back to them.

    “Everyone to port. The left side,” the captain demanded. Sam was pushed by strangers and friends alike, and clutched Jordan’s shoulder as she lost sight of Keith. A white sail, hoisted into the air, reflected the red back on them and the boat lurched forward catching the drafts that came from abeam. Their body weight countered the momentum as the sailboat heeled into the rushing gusts.

    She grabbed at shoulders and pulled herself above the crowded heads and shoulders, and tried to find him again on the shore, but the docks had collapsed. One hundred feet, and a lifetime away, her first love, Keith, was gone from sight.

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