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A story about a world of disasters.

By Richard FoltzPublished 3 years ago 9 min read

He set down the Medegan insulated pitcher in the passenger seat, the kind you get in the hospital that’s usually filled with crushed ice and a smidge of water because it was a few inches too big for the cup holder, the crazy accordion-style straw sticking out like an austere antenna. His ex-wife had stolen the pitcher for him from a hospital, despite saying it was weird he wanted it when he’d had his gallbladder removed. He sighed, taking in a long, calming pull of polluted and fart-tainted Toyota car seat air, and pushed the button to start the car. The sound of loose metal rattled as the car sprang to life and he was off.

Next to the insulated pitcher, which was dancing dangerously towards a spill, was the box, or rather as he called it The Box. It was a mice-eaten piece of cardboard that had sat at the back of his living room for a few months now, having been pulled from his storage unit nearly a year and a half ago to be taken over to The Ex’s apartment sometime when he found the time between Tigers games and streaming service binges of old TV shows he watched when he was growing up, or shitty horror movies that never frightened him all that much anyway. He missed that most of all, the idea of being frightened by something. “All This Shit” as it was jokingly referred to on the internet, pretty much put a stop to that.

That was years ago now, and it always had a way of feeling simultaneously ancient and recent whenever he thought about it, much in the way that trauma usually does, as if it were always sitting there right behind the veil of your day-in and day-out, there but not there, like a stain on the carpet that only you can see.

The term “hoax” got used in a lot of the scarier corners of the internet, and it leaked into the mainstream, where it took up residence in social media tiffs until it was mostly accepted as reality. Mostly.

On that first night when it slithered from the sea just north of Portland and south of Brunswick, only to wreck a handful of fishing boats and caused waves the size of cruise ships to rip down the New England shore, literally demolishing Portland’s entire bay in the course of a half an hour, they didn’t quite know what to call it, or even that it was anything tangible. The reports of farm kids, cruising the backroads for a place to make out late at night telling tales of a large, pitch-black serpent sounded like the work of too much booze mixed with something a little harder.

Though only a few weeks later people started getting violently ill in and around Portland and Brunswick, and then people in the Boston metro started coming down with violent flu-like symptoms. It took about a few weeks and 10,000 deaths in New England before the national news stations started giving a shit about it.

Then, the Long Island incident happened right at the end of January, in the middle of blizzard-like conditions which had already had most of the city locked in their homes. When the waves came and people saw it rise out of the sea they ran to their cars to find several feet of snow and no clear exit outside of trekking through sub-zero temperatures to the sound of buildings collapsing and the piercing screams of some sort of shape that rolled through the white of the snow like slimy catfish meat through flour.

He was approaching Gate A now, the large aluminum poles sticking in the air, the yellow lights blinking, a beacon that reminded him of a time when trains ran or could run without the fear of running into miles of missing track.

Though sometimes it takes hours to get through these checkpoints, it isn’t that bad on a Tuesday in a small semi-rural town just outside of the city. Especially because the vast majority of “guards” most of which are just poor, predominantly white and angry, post-pubescents with a hankering for authority and high on an intoxicant of right-wing radio talking heads. Though, most guards just sent people through without checking for signs of the flu or even a properly sanctioned gas mask.

Nearing the front of the line he reached over, past The Box and the pitcher, underneath the passenger-side seat, and pulled out the rubber, CBRN mask, and the metal canister respirator, and threaded it onto the mask. He put the mask on, peeling hair off his hairline in the process, snapping the back latches before he rolled down his window.

“Name?” Said the guard.

He gave him his name and showed him his ID.

“What’s your business?”

“Dropping some stuff off at my ex-wife’s house.”

The guard sneered, snorting something under the disembodied hum of his voice through the gas mask’s vent and waved him through.

His ex-wife lived in a small, but nice apartment complex, in a suburb outside of the city. It was green enough to feel sane but concrete enough to drive away the loneliness of age. Pulling up to her apartment, number 104, the same one she’s had for years now since the divorce, his pitcher tilted forward and rolled onto the floor, gravel rolling up into the straw before water pushed it back out.

“Goddamn it!” he said, picking it back up and dusting off the straw, before sucking down a quick swig.

He walked the short, paved path to her door, The Box in his hand, his arms twitching and his heart pounding. It had been a few years since their divorce was finalized and though they saw each other regularly, at least once every couple of months, he would always still feel anxious upon seeing her again. He always just supposed it was the nature of divorce, the idea of leaving something behind and being faced with it. They never outright hated each other, per se, just knew that it wasn’t working, especially with the kids gone.

“Hello.” Came her voice, from the suddenly opened door.

“How’d you know I was here?”

“Mistaking the rattle of that rust bucket? Gah.”

He nodded and followed her unceremoniously.

The TV was on, loud, some trashy reality TV show on. She always said that reality TV was like a heightened microcosm of the real world, the way people were cruel to each other and fake underneath all of their quiet sincerity. He always assumed she liked it because it was good TV to disassociate to.

“Want some?” She held up a piece of pizza that looked reheated and hardened.

“Nothing like table-aged cheddar.”

“Shut the fuck up.” She chortled and sat down. He placed the box in a chair across the room and a heart-shaped locket fell out. Quickly, he snatched it up and went to place it in the box, but then nostalgia got the better of him and he placed it in his pocket. It had been an anniversary gift he’d gotten her a month after they started dating. She mocked him both for the cheesiness of it and the idea that he thought a month’s worth of flirtatious texts and bad backs from nights of sex and sleeping in a stranger’s bed warranted an “anniversary.” In hindsight, he agreed, but he thought, stupidly, such a gallant gesture would win her over. It did, in some respects, as it proved he was too sweet to genuinely be an asshole.

He sat down and comfied himself, knowing without having to say anything, that she’d expected him to stay for a while and watch TV with her. He looked over at her, munching down a piece of hardened pizza, and smiled, then turned to the TV.

“Why?” He said.

“Go fuck yourself, I’m tired.”

A searing whine issues from somewhere outside. He stood up and walked over to the window, pulled back the curtain, and looked out.

“Sirens, again?”

Quietly, he sat back down as she turned the TV up louder, placing her naked feet on his knees.

The sirens were nothing new ever since they’d been installed, a sort of premature warning system, should the powers that be feel there was possible danger of a landfall. Typically it meant that waves off the closest coast were getting high, and happened so regularly that most people ignored it now. In the beginning, people were filled with fear and fervor, religious groups hopping all over the biblical characters the creature signified to them. And though things were weird for a while with widespread violence in the streets and on social media, eventually it just became normal. Most people barely thought about it and seemed frustratingly apathetic about it, even in the face of other people’s own days of personal tragedy.

Early on him and his wife had lost her mother, who had been staying at a nursing home in Florida at the time, just a few miles south of Tampa. That night she got drunk and refused to let him cook dinner, crying over it as she stirred the chili. At one point she disappeared into the woods and by the time he found her she was curled up, weeping and talking out loud to her mother as if she was there with her. He let her finish her conversation before he ushered her back in and tucked her in.

Maybe that was the biggest change in people afterward, the way that people began to hold onto each other, even after it seemed reasonable as if everybody was living through some sort of dream they expected to wake up from.

“It isn’t gonna stop, is it?”

He shrugged his shoulders.

“Maybe I should go check? ‘Sides, I left my water pitcher in the car.”

She nodded as he stood and walked out. Outside he wished he’d had a cigarette. Though he never actually ever smoked, he just felt the need to. Far off he could hear the sirens blaring and then, as he made it to his car and pulled open the door he felt the ground wiggle underneath him. Though earthquakes were possible this far inland, he’d never experienced one in his life and though this felt like what people described earthquakes to be, it somehow felt like something else.

He thought of his ex-wife inside, thought of the night her mother had died and how she’d held onto him and pushed him away only to hold him again. He thought of the look in her eyes as she stared at him and described her mother and told stories about her own childhood, told him how she was afraid most to lose her, afraid most to exist in a world without her, afraid that a world without her would feel unreal, incomplete, like a long-form dream, and he dug his hand into his pocket, his fingers touching the brass of the locket, and turned back to the apartment. He could hear the TV from here, could see her through the curtains, her pale, grey eyes shining in the glow of the TV light. He saw her chin and the roundness of her cheeks, the curve of a lock of hair over her face and he wished that it was the last thing he ever saw. Then he turned back to his car to retrieve his pitcher, and through a break in the tree canopy, cloaked in fog he saw something huge and black and indescribable. It looked like a sheer black cliff face, like an Ansel Adams photograph, like something ancient and dark, like a nightmare from deep under the earth, so old and ancient, and primordial just the knowledge of its existence sent shivers down your spine. And then it moved towards him.

He grabbed hold of the pitcher and turned back to the window to hear his ex-wife laughing but the curtain obscured her face.


About the Creator

Richard Foltz

Hey, my name is Richard Foltz. I refuse to use my first name because it is the name of frat guys and surfers, so...

I've written for years and currently work as an editor for my university's newspaper.

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