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Monday, February 25, 2013

Dead City

As always, if you want to give me feedback, please e-mail me at  This is a beginning draft of this story.  I encourage constructive criticism only and doing so in a personal message would be best.  I appreciate you reading and giving tips on how to improve this story and my writing.  My hope is to one day become a published writer. 
PS: This is not a zombie story!!!

Dead City
(this is my original work and any attempt to reprint or copy needs my written permission)

“No tomorrow.  I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad.  The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.  I find it hard to tell you cause I find it hard to take.  When people run in circles it’s a very very mad world.”  This was my new soundtrack to life.  Mad world.  Two words that reflected my new reality so very poignantly.  I don’t need any other description to you just: mad world.

            I have always been a huge fan of apocalyptic fiction.  I’ve read Max Brook’s zombie fiction as well as The Road, The Stand, and Zone One.  A zombie apocalypse would have been exciting.  A story of cannibalism by live  would be way more interesting than what actually happened.  I really thought I would have been prepared for anything except for this.  There was no book on earth that could have prepared me for this, the reality.  Strange how reality is a lot stranger than fiction.  The end of the world?  This is it!  No fucking way!  My brain was still registering everything that had happened in only a couple of very long, drawn out weeks.

            What’s funny is that even my dreams could not have prepared me for what actually transpired.  I used to have dreams of fires and floods, earthquakes and tornadoes; each one resulting in traumatic pandemonium and unprecedented heartache.  In each dream, I was either alone or with one surviving family member.  We always united in search of our other lost family, knowing deep down that the others were dead.  In my dreams, I heard screams and whales.  I saw miles and miles of bulletin boards stretched out with people’s faces and names, numbers, places.  People scrambling to find lost loved ones and best friends.  Each person knowing what I knew, that whoever they were searching for was dead.  Dead like the brown leaves in late November.  Dead like a black, decaying toenail.  Dead as in absent from the role call of life.

            The first day, the day when things started going awry is a day that will be etched into my memory forever.  A day just like 9/11.  I remember exactly where and what I was doing on that day too.  On September, 11th, 2001, I was a sophomore in college.  I was coming back from taking a shower, and the cleaning woman for my residence hall, with the same (female) version of my name, Frankie, told me that a plane had crashed into some tower.  At first, I thought she was talking about some television show or a dream that she had.  Frankie and I often had very animated conversations in the hallway of the dorm. 

            However, this time I could see the panic in her eyes and hear the fear in her voice.  What she was saying didn’t make any sense.  I went into my room, closed the door, got dressed and came back out where Frankie still stood in the hallway, like she was waiting to guide me to knowledge.  She took my arm and led me into the rec room with the lone television on our floor.  I saw other students glued to the TV set and gathered around on couches hugging their knees and each other for comfort.  It was a blue sky Tuesday fall morning and usually the television was off and students were lazily lolling out the door to class.

            Today was different.  I watched, horrified, transfixed, as the first plane hit the World Trade Center.  I thought I was watching a movie.  It didn’t seem real.  Worst of all is that I had to rush out the door to get to my meeting with my History Professor.  I was meeting to discuss my thesis.  However, that meeting like all of my classes and activities for the day would be cancelled. 

When I knocked on my professor’s door, I saw a body hunched over a desk, sobbing.  I wrote a note on her door, and went to the dining hall to eat.  It was emptier than usual.  I didn’t see any friends which was fine and good because I wanted to eat in silence.  In fact, I spent the whole rest of the day in silent meditation.  That’s when I heard screams coming from the entrance to the dining hall.  “The second one fell.    They got the second tower too.  And the Pentagon is under attack!”  The world was in pandemonium.  I decided to split and return to my dorm room.  I wanted to spend the day in sequestered silence, like a monk high in the mountains.  I thought it was the end of the world.

            The first day of my new life was just like this.  The first day of the end was etched on my memory like a branded cow.  It really was a day like any other.  A day full of promise and hope.  It was a blistery winter day.  All the trees were naked and exposed to the elements.  The sky was a sheet metal shade of grey.  I had to hold my scarf to my chest to keep it from blowing away. 

            I didn’t think it strange to find my apartment empty, as it was almost lunchtime.  People were at work, doing laundry, watching soaps, maybe cooking soups over their stoves.  I walked out onto Bedford and didn’t notice that there were no cars or people.  I usually was pretty oblivious to what was happening around me.  As a New Yorker, you know to keep one eye in front of you and one eye roaming to your left and right.  However, when it’s cold and you need orange juice and bread, you just plug in your Ipod and keep your eyes straight ahead.  So, no nothing seemed strange.  That is, not until I got to Flatbush Avenue, which was usually bustling with activity this time of day.

            As I turned a corner and hit Flatbush Avenue, that’s when I first noticed IT.  The ‘change’.  It was mid-day and most storefronts had their metal gates down.  It looked like a Sunday morning.  Flatbush Avenue with its wig  shops, beauty salons, Chinese restaurants, and dollar value stores was empty.  Not a soul, not a peep.  I could hear the wind in the trees and a few dogs barking in the distance but that’s all.

            Was I dreaming?  Had there been a terrorist attack?  A natural disaster?  Nothing else seemed amiss.  There was just an absence of people and sound.  It reminded me of an exhibit I saw once at a museum in Massachusetts where vintage carnival equipment was set up in a large room.  A few lights went on and off but there was little movement and an absence of sound.  The laughter and merriment that you associate with a  carnival were stripped from the room.  It was eerie just like the moment I was experiencing.  I felt like I had gone deaf but I knew my ears were working just fine.  Did I step into some alternate reality?

            It was at that moment that I decided to go into one of the only open storefronts, a Dunkin’ Donuts.  24 hours.  At going in, I would regret opening that door the minute I entered the warmth and silence of my usual haven for reasonably priced coffee and donuts.  The stench was unbearable.  Have you ever had a dead mouse in your apartment?   It smells like dead leaves and rotting vegetables.  The stench is unforgettable.  Well, almost immediately I felt like vomiting.  I covered my entire mouth and nose with my scarf.  But even then, that particular smell of death still permeated my lungs.  Death and donuts.  I saw one of the cashier’s bodies strewn across the counter still clutching a now gone cold cup of coffee.  Another cashier was lying on the floor under the donut display where some Boston Creams were blocking a view of her disfigured and rotting face. 

            I saw other bodies too.  A West Indian woman clutching a toddler to her breast.  A little girl not past the age of two or three.  The woman had long, grey and brown dreadlocks which covered most of her face.  I, however, could see the dried blood seeping from her mouth.  The little girl had blood all over her dress.  Her tiny hand was clutching a chocolate munchkin in a napkin.  I turned away in horror.  Then I noticed an elderly Chinese man seated in a chair, slumped over a table.  His hot beverage spilled and sticky all over the tiled floor.  There was a pool of blood under his face that mixed in with whatever he had been drinking. 

            What had happened here?  Murder?  Carbon Monoxide poisoning?  This Dunkin Donuts had a Grade Pending after all.  I ran out of the Dunkin Donuts and screamed a blood curdling horror movie scream.  Nothing.  No one came running.  No undead came shuffling down the street.  Whatever had happened had possibly involved the entire neighborhood, the entirety of New York City.  Maybe even the whole nation, the whole world.  I then realized that I couldn’t make any calls because I had left my cell phone to charge at home.  A common occurrence when I ran out quickly to pick up a few things at the grocery store.  Thank goodness for my photographic memory.  So, I went back into the Dunkin Donuts and noticed the Iphone on the floor right next to the dreadlocked woman.  I picked it up.

            I went back outside and did what anyone living in the 21st century would do.  I tried to call my girlfriend, Marita.  I kept getting a fast paced beep. Busy.  Busy.  Busy.  I tried to call her again.  Nothing.  All the lines must be tied up, that or dare I say it, dead.  I tried calling 911.  A nasalized voice said ‘I’m sorry, but the party you’re trying to reach is unavailable.’  Unavailable?  How could the NYPD be ‘unavailable’?  What exactly was going on?

            I walked up and down Flatbush Avenue.  Either stores had their grey metal gates up or the ones that were open had the same internal organs as the Dunkin Donuts.  I would look in the glass window and see bodies on the floor, on the register, strewn out over clothing racks, hands outstretched like mannequins of the macabre. 

            It was the one time in my life, being a New Yorker that I longed for company.  I wanted to hear a voice or a laugh.  To breathe in cigarette smoke or car exhaust would mean an explanation.  Seeing a vagrant or widowed housewife would mean I could understand.  It was like my senses were handicapped, AWOL. 

            I tried calling a slue of phone numbers.  All of them got the same response.  Everyone I knew was quite possibly dead.  Their fate being similar to every corpse I had already seen.  Why weren’t there any bodies laying in the street?  Was everyone waiting for death silently in the warmth of modernity?  That’s when I saw it.  A pillar of smoke and flames.  There was a massive pile-up of cars down by Caton Avenue, by the Caton Market.  When it happened, it must have blocked off all traffic.  Semi-trucks and mini vans, livery cabs and sedans, vans and city buses.  There were about fifty or sixty vehicles and more stretched out past my field of vision.  I didn’t have to go any closer to see that each driver was dead and rotting like the bodies I first saw in Dunkin Donuts.

            Whatever traffic there had been on either side of Flatbush must have created one giant human puzzle of carnage.  A barrier to any cars and buses getting through to the part of Flatbush I had been walking down.  And in this reality, no bodies came walking out of the flames.  Everyone was dead as reality.  Nothing supernatural about burning flesh and bloodied corpses. 
At least I wouldn’t have to worry about fending off swarms of mobs, dead or undead.  I could still waltz into the grocery and get needed supplies.  Well, first thing on my list would be a cloth mask.  A few dozen packs of them.  Maybe an air freshener or two to stick on the inside of my scarf.  Apple Cinnamon or Hawaiian Breeze?  Funny how I still had these choices of an American consumer.  Yet all of the people coming up with the ideas for flavors and advertising were probably now deceased.  Their products would live on with the memory of the minds that came up with their concepts at a board meeting.
            What would I do now?  Well I guess I had an eternity to figure that out.  Maybe I’d just find a penthouse overlooking Central Park, one devoid of bodies.  Could I look for other people like me?  Did I want to find anyone?  Yes, I think so.  Today Brooklyn.  Tomorrow Manhattan.  Then Queens, the Bronx.  Staten Island if I could get to it at all.  The rest of Long Island.  Rochester, Albany, Schenectady, Buffalo.  Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Vermont.  South America, Mexico, Alaska.  I’d go anywhere my feet or a vehicle could take me. The world was now at my fingertips. 

            Just put in my Ipod headphones.  Continue to walk on and explore my new world.  That’s what I would do.  “I know you didn’t realize that the city was gone.  You thought there would be advertisements to give you something to go on.  And so we search the sky for any flashing signs.  We’ve gone too far beyond the borders, it’s just you and I.  And if this is the end, best place I’ve ever been.  It feels so good to just get lost sometimes.  Only the horses.”  Yes, indeed, now it’s only just me and the horses. 


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