Well... this week went sideways rather quickly. School started for my oldest and my writing routine was getting back into a groove, and then around midnight on Wednesday my hot water tank gave up on functioning and poured out a tepid pool onto the basement floor. Two feet from the basement floor drain. The water, however, pooled under the tank and beside the furnace and then went under a wall and into my bedroom closet. Which is good because I found the flood right away using the trusted "why is my foot wet?" technique while changing for bed, but not good because it was after midnight on a school night and, really, who doesn't love sopping up water until 2:00 am and hollowing out a soggy closet... thank goodness we have the extended coverage that includes flood damage. The new hot water tank is waiting in the garage, and my in-laws are amazing for doing the running around so I didn't have to take two cranky kids on an after-dinner trip to a hardware store on Thursday after the restoration team left. This will not (and I say this so very thankfully) affect my 6-year-old's seventh birthday party. Which is tomorrow. In this house. Consolation: cupcakes to drown sorrows in!
The writing part was going good until Wednesday, though. And the water damage is way less than it could have been had I gone to bed at a reasonable time and not found the flood just after it started :) Hope you have a good weekend!
3. Don't Talk to Strangers
Careful to never step past where his right hand was dragging, he started on his awkward way. His brain told him he’d passed the edge of the bowl after enough time passed going in a straight line. The first corner was a pointy-edged thing that left him feeling glad he wasn’t a doofus who didn’t know to have a leading hand. The fifth corner was when his back started to ache from staying hunched over. The path was as absently random as ever, but it was continuous in a general direction away from where he’d started with the rights and lefts coming in pairs that made up a blocky sine wave pattern.
A spec against the grey appeared around the same time he’d decided to stop and take a stretching break. The spec wasn’t moving so it didn’t make much sense to try and hurry when his plodding efforts were taking him (eventually) toward it. Once he got moving again, the spec grew to become something made up of color that looked as out of place against the constant grey as Liam did… and it was person-shaped. As he didn’t know what, or if, anything was below him, he frustratingly kept to the same slow steps that had gotten him this far.
The person shape was a girl. He would’ve thought she was sleeping if her eyes had been closed. She was only wearing a tee-shirt, cut-off shorts, and tennis shoes. The elastic holding her pony tail seemed to be stopping her head from dropping down, but her hair hung below her like the loose end of a rope. He could see a few bruises on her biceps and around the tops of her feet, the fresh purple fighting to show through the dark tan. If she was even twelve yet, he’d have been surprised. She started crying the moment she saw him, her eyes begging for help and her mouth moving without any sound coming out. The catwalk ran right over top of where she was laying.
Liam inhaled so that he could talk. “You have to breathe in so that you have air to rattle your vocal cords,” he told her. Her eyes bugged out and she gasped in a breath.
“Am I dead?” she yelled, the sound surprising her enough that she jarred and lost the balance she’d been keeping on her hair elastic. Her head fell to the side and her bare arms flailed at nothing, her pony tail sliding looser until she froze and pulled herself back into balance. He was suddenly very glad to have made his usual choice of jacket, shirt and pants when he’d gotten up this morning.
“I know I’m dead, so it’s not looking good for you being as we’re here in the same place,” he answered. She cried harder for a moment.
“Is this Hell?” she whimpered.
“Beats me,” he shrugged. “You’ve been here a while, then?”
She only nodded slightly, not wanting to move very much in case she lost her balance again.
“Is it always grey?” he asked, looking around.
“No,” she crossed her arms over her chest and hugged tight. “It was black when I got here. Then it all got so bright I couldn’t see. Then it gets grey for a while before the black and bright repeat,” she replied in short sentences, inhaling breaths between each one.
“How many times has it repeated?”
“Twice,” she looked around, only her eyes moving. That meant there was at least one more person here, and Liam was the third that she knew of.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Kay–” she stopped herself and looked at him nervously. “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers,” she stated, suddenly worried.
“That’s only good advice if you know there are people you know around,” he told her, point blank. “My name’s Liam,” he added. “I died maybe a couple hours ago, but it’s hard to tell because nothing changes here.”
“I’m Kaylynd,” she blurted. “Please help me,” she pleaded, starting to cry again.
“You need to stand up,” he instructed. She shook her head within the confined range of motion of her ponytail.
“I can’t,” she reached out carefully and tried to brace with one hand like someone normally would to get off their back, but her arm just waved down until her shirt-sleeve stopped the motion.
“Can you do a sit-up?” he asked, and her only reply was more tears leaking out of the corners of her eyes. “Just plant your feet flat with your knees bent up so the bottoms of your shoes are solid,” he instructed. She did as told, her eyes going wide with surprise when it worked and she could thump her feet against the solid nothing. “That’s good, Kaylynd. Now you just have to curl up so that you’re sitting on your butt. You can hook your hands onto the back of your thighs if you need the help to pull yourself up.”
She struggled through the motion, but kicking her legs a bit got the momentum going and soon she was sitting up. She curled around her knees and just rested her neck and shoulders forward. The ache looked like it was gone as fast as it had disappeared for him when he’d stopped to stretch out from being crouched over. She looked up and smiled through another round of tears, her mouth moving and no sound coming out.
“You gotta breathe in first, remember?” he reminded her.
“I didn’t know I’d be able to sit,” she told him. “How do I stand up?” The question was eager and she was looking around at all the grey around her as if there was some kind of answer there to see.
“Set your feet a little wider than your hips and shift your weight onto them, and then just stand up,” he instructed, squatting and straightening to demonstrate. She tipped forward up onto her feet and – holding her arms out like she was about to do a tight-rope routine – slowly pushed up so that she was standing. She tested shifting her weight from one foot to the other, grinning up at Liam that both feet held her weight.
This was a weekly blog updating on Fridays, but life got busy so now I pop in now and then to let you know I'm still chipping away at my stories. If you look back through the archive you'll find weekly quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free! Check out my Short Stories section for free downloads of most of my writing, too!