Authors: C. L. Scholey
C. L. SCHOLEY
WHISKEY CREEK PRESS
WHISKEY CREEK PRESS
Whiskey Creek Press
PO Box 51052
Casper, WY 82605-1052
Copyright © 2015 by
C. L. Scholey
Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 (five) years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Cover Artist: Molly Courtright
Editor: Melanie Billings
Printed in the United States of America
This story is dedicated to my family who put up with grilled cheese, canned soup, and fast food until I finally got my words on paper. Once on paper this story is once more dedicated to my family who wadded through laundry, dishes and the occasional rant while I came out of the dark ages and put the words on a computer. Thanks for your patience.
“We’re gonna die!”
The woman looked at her filthy, panic-stricken, fifteen-year-old daughter. Sardonically, she thought if she had a nickel for every time she’d heard that in the last five months she’d be rich. Not that it would matter, money was useless. Alarmingly, her daughter could be right. The predictability of their demise seemed a foreboding ‘when,’ more often than not of late.
The crumbling dirt was collapsing around them at an apocalyptic rate. Falling on their heads, into their eyes. The hole wasn’t nearly deep enough to protect them; there were no supports, no bracing materials. The sides were crumbling with rapid intensity. Tiny stones tumbled down the dirt.
The hole was situated in an abandoned house missing a roof and an entire side of its structure, the walls had already been leaning inwards precariously. The hole had been dug into the floor of the kitchen, likely out of desperation by its previous owners when the storms advanced months ago. Hopes of survival were vague; Tansy had seen the family’s remains, scattered about the ramshackle property.
“Can I cry now, Mommy?” whimpered a petite three year old. She was being held by her nineteen-year-old sister. The child’s forlorn gaze fastened onto her mother.
“No, Michaela,” Tansy said sternly. “We’ll not cry, we’ll not die; we will sit and wait until this storm abates.”
No they wouldn’t cry. What had tears gotten them? Nothing. No one would listen or care.
No one was left to care; her husband was cold in his grave. The others lost to them. No one could hear their screams of terror or their cries from hopelessness. Everyone was alone in this nightmare. She glanced at her hands, filthy from brushing the dirt and grime away, encrusted from scavenging through debris. Her clothing was ripped, shredded and stained so badly a beggar wouldn’t be caught dead in them.
Dirt crumbled in around them, pooling ominously at their feet, ankles, calves and knees, rising steadily. The advancing dirt held a new threat, as if the tornado wasn’t enough to terrify them sufficiently. They could see the debris through the cracks in the floorboards overhead swirling, small explosions popping like hand grenades, lightning crackling as thunderous bolts sent from Hell.
“Will we see daddy in Heaven?” Michaela asked. Her deep brown eyes gave Tansy a moment’s pause at the hopefulness. Tansy’s chest tightened with her unreleased sobs the child remembered her father; a wonderful man who had loved them all so dearly, he had died for them, his last unconditional gift to them.
“No, daddy liked heavy metal; they don’t play heavy metal in Heaven, only hymns. He’d rather go somewhere else,” her fifteen-year-old sister, Shanie, answered in a scornful voice. She tugged at a leg freeing it momentarily, only to have it re-buried. Her hands tried to steady her movements by clutching at the side of the collapsing wall; she succeeded in only loosening more dirt falling rapidly as the sides shook and crumbled.
“Of course they do,” Emmy snapped. “If God didn’t like heavy metal he wouldn’t have given someone the gift to create it.”
Even under the circumstances, Tansy was hard-pressed not to snort the word. It was no gift to be carrying her last child as the floorboards vibrated from a too-loud stereo as her husband turned into a dancing fool using his broom from the work shed to strum on, definitely not in time to the music. At the time, she thought
was a nightmare. But this, now, was the
Living and breathing death plagued them. Perhaps their perseverance finally waned. Perhaps their shelter would be their burial plot. That they’d die together offered no comfort. A seething anger engulfed Tansy, burning rage like bile rose within her throat. Not now. Not this time, Mother Nature couldn’t have her children. She’d taken the lives of too many mothers’ children.
“Down,” Tansy screamed as floorboards were ripped off over their heads. Michaela was plastered to the ground, sinking into the rising dirt as her sisters toppled onto her, while their mother tried to shield them. Dirt mixed with tears as they tried not to choke, not to scream, gasping for meager amounts of air filtered through dirty cloths held over noses and mouths, battling asphyxia as rolling waves of smoky dust invaded their lungs. Falling debris, dirt and stones, pelted them from above, the storm screaming from all around.
Would it never stop? The agony of loss. The terror of the uncertain? Wasn’t it enough they spent every moment in a terrified state, hungering for their survival? Tansy tried not to scream as she felt her body being dragged away from her children. Her arms buried up to her elbows in the dirt, she dug her knees in and gritted her teeth. But just as she thought that she would be sucked into oblivion, the pulling ceased.
The breath from her lungs expelled in a whoosh. An eerie silence loomed. For now. The storm would be back, it would come back again and again. Mother Nature had turned into a relentless killer.
“Let’s move,” Tansy commanded.
They stood on wobbly legs as Tansy climbed out of the hole that was half filled with dirt and stone; she shuddered at the thought of almost being buried alive. Perhaps it was a combination of the hole and the weight of the dirt that had saved them.
Most of the house was gone; what once remained standing stood no more, pieces were everywhere. She lifted Michaela, cuddling her for a brief moment, brushing off some of the clinging dirt while giving her a quick inspection for any new hurts or cuts. Satisfied no fresh pains adorned the small body, she shifted the child off to the side as Shanie reached for her hand. Together they tugged Emmy out.
“Well, you look like crap, Mom,” Emmy offered with a lopsided grin, trying to make light of the situation; though her mother could see the small woman before her trembling, her courage was rewarding. Once more they had cheated death. Tansy would savor her victory, their victory. They were by no means finished.
Tansy could hardly make out the contours of Emmy’s slender face—it was so caked in mud. Her hair was clumped and grimy.
“Right back at you, babe,” Tansy replied.
They needed shelter. Most of the housing had been torn away by the horrendous tornadoes and hurricanes that plagued the earth. Flooding throughout was astronomical as well as deadly they had been reminded not so long ago. Their losses still tragic and traumatic. Night was falling fast, nipping at their heels like the hunger in their bellies and the cold harshness of March.
“Hey, dinner,” Shanie remarked. She held a scrawny dead black squirrel by the tail.
“Oh no. Not squirrel again,” Michaela cried out.
“It’s still warm.” Shanie smiled and swung the squirrel by its tail.
Five months ago Tansy would have demanded she drop the filthy thing and go wash her hands. Five months ago, her daughter never would have touched it to begin with. This is what they’d been reduced to. Pathetic creatures with barely a hope for survival. Scrounging as animals, hungering for even the sustenance rodents would provide. At least tonight they’d have a little something to offer their hungry bellies.
Five months previously
“It’s just a little weed, Mom,” Shanie screamed. She stormed into her room, scowling, long blond hair flying like a whip, slamming the door behind her. The force shook the house and cracked one of the door’s hinges.
“Well, it’ll be just one little kick in the ass,” Tansy yelled. She slapped the palm of her hand against the locked wooden door.
“I know my rights.”
“Not one judge with a teenager would convict me.” Tansy threw the comment over her shoulder as she marched down the hall and then down the oak staircase.
Tansy couldn’t believe it. She knew Shanie was having some difficulties at school: fitting in, grades, a few arguments with friends and others, not friendly. Her behavior over the last year had deteriorated so horrendously, sometimes Tansy wondered if the child was hers and not some intergalactic space creature intent on sabotaging their home life. Shanie seemed oblivious to consequences, or uncaring.
Everything came so easily to her older sister. Good grades, good behavior. Emmy was an amazing young woman. She’d never behaved in this manner. She was responsible about everything.
Tansy’s warm thoughts about her oldest evaporated as a large bang reverberated off the wall upstairs to thump onto the ceiling. Obviously her darling middle child had thrown a shoe at the wall.
“Not—one—damn—judge,” Tansy muttered between clenched teeth, keeping a tenacious hold on her temper.
She looked down and released her death grip on the newspaper. Counting backwards from ten to one she took in a calming breath. Then counted one to ten. Another bang against the wall thumped from upstairs; her grip once more tightened. She heard the front door open.
“Hi, honey. How was your day?” Her husband, Shane, waltzed into the spacious dining room sporting their youngest daughter on his shoulders.
“Do not grow up,” Tansy commanded, then gave a stern look up at Michaela.
“That good?” Shane chuckled and set the child on her feet after she kissed her mother. Michaela raced off.
“What’s up, honey?” Shane sat down opposite his wife and clutched her hand.
“Your child is a nightmare.”
No need to divulge which child. Shanie had been the subject of many discussions. Many sleepless nights. He ran his hand through his short hair in a familiar way and offered his wife a sheepish little-boy grin.
“She comes by it honestly.”
“Drugs,” Tansy said. No other explanation. Shane’s look darkened; he was up striding for the stairs, taking them two at a time. Tansy knew this wasn’t something he would condone nor tolerate; this wasn’t something to be kept from him, she needed his support. Tansy waited, tensing. She didn’t wait for long.
“Shanie, open the door,” Shane yelled.
“No.” A defiant, smugly safe reply.
“I’m warning you.” A heated command, the door handle rattled ominously.
“Now!” The ‘or else’ implied command was followed shortly by an ear-shattering crash.
“Daddy, my door.” A high-pitched squeal, tinged with regret and a small amount of fear.
The yelling followed, lots of it. All by Shane. Threats, groundings, possible bodily harm was insinuated at loud levels, punctuated by noisy pacing. It continued for a good ten minutes, then silence. Quiet weeping and loud, female snuffling followed.
When Shane thundered back downstairs his face was grim. He held in his hand a computer mouse and the base of the phone still attached to the phone jack, a pink cell phone and brand new IPod. He thumped angrily into a chair and pulled out a small metal pipe. He plunked it down on the table followed by a crushed box of cigarettes.
“She’s smoking, too?” Tansy asked, incredulous.
Shane raised his eyebrows at her and smiled indulgently. “The weed was hidden at the bottom of this pack. You smoke it with this pipe.”
“You’re the one who said she comes by it honestly,” Tansy said. “What’re we going to do about her? She doesn’t listen to either of us. She’s defiant, angry and unruly about even small issues. When I ask her what’s wrong she says I wouldn’t understand or care. She shuts me out at every turn. When did we become the enemy? I feel so helpless and frustrated...and...”
“Damn right I’m angry. We’re good parents. I’m a good mother. Why doesn’t she see that? All she sees is if I ask her to watch Michaela for me. She’s not my built-in babysitter you know,” Tansy said in a voice dripping with sarcasm. “We give her everything,” she continued to rant, rising from the table to do some pacing of her own.