I was sorely tempted to post this last week and delay the ending of Onesong by one week, but I figured I might have readers coming at me with hatchets if I did that. **grin**
I have enough adventures like that already!
I am kind of disappointed that I couldn’t post this on the 4th of July, but it’s not a very happy story, so I thought it might be best if I wait anyway.
This is a story I wrote last year. My reader sent my comments back, but I honestly don’t think I’ve incorporated them into the story yet, so you’re seeing this pretty much just as my reader did. Nothing about this story here is final. This story kind of got lost in the events of last July — I’d really thought it would be my July 2018 release. But, yeah, llama face.
Obviously I’m still tired and words are not my thing right now.
I thought you might all like a short break before I start something else. I really did like running with a novel. We shall see what strikes my fancy for next week, but for now, a short story.
Uploaded on the 4th of July
by Dawn Blair
The end of the world happened on July 5th. People were too busy the day before with their barbeques and fireworks to notice. The crackles and thundering booms covered the multitude of crashes by computer systems all over in offices shut down for the day. The next day, it hit grocery stores and department stores which had had great sales on the 4th, but by the 5th were too busy restocking their shelves and preparing for the next sale to notice their systems being slowly infiltrated like smoke gliding under a door.
The end of the world was uploaded on July 4th. But it wasn’t noticed until the next day when multiple computer monitors displayed the following message:
This would have never happened in 1776. Welcome to the new tea party.
As the Tea Party malware spread and disabled systems around the world as fast as it could, Melvin sat out on his porch swing and wondered why he was still alive. Could his life suck anymore?
“It’s all off track,” Melvin muttered to himself. “How did I get so far off course?” He placed his head in his hands again and wished a bolt of lightning would just reach down and strike him from this world. Would anyone care if he were just a black stain upon the earth? Would anyone know that it was his remains in the pile of ash?
All the self-help books he’d been reading lately told him that he had to keep away from negative thoughts, that those told the universe that he wasn’t really ready for his deepest desires. He just felt that if God, the Creator, the Great Spirit, the Universe, whatever you wanted to call it, wanted him to have his dreams, he would be seeing something manifesting from them. Instead, there was nothing. Not a blip. Frankenstein’s monster did not live.
Where was his lightning bolt?
If the universe didn’t want him to have negative thoughts, why did the multitude of times he’d picked himself up to try again never result in anything greater than leading him back here. He felt like the biggest failure on the planet.
Why was he still breathing?
He didn’t even have a shoulder to cry on. No one understood him. No, no one wanted to listen to him. His children, Matt and Sue, were grown and doing their own thing. They certainly didn’t want advice from dear ol’ dad on how to live their lives. No one on Facebook really cared. They’d just send him the number for the suicide prevention hotline or deal him out platitudes, then they’d go away and not worry about him again.
He wasn’t suicidal. He certainly didn’t want to end his own life.
He wanted God to just take him from this world and say, “You did your best this time, Melvin. Better luck next time. Take a short break before we send you back.”
Even with this thought, nothing was happening. How many times now had he thought it? Too damn many.
Obviously he wasn’t living his life correctly. Obviously he wasn’t screwing it up enough for God to hit the reset button. Melvin certainly didn’t have a redo button, though there were days he wished he did.
His lights flickered.
He hadn’t realized that it had grown so late and his outside light had come on.
Another day and maybe he’d coast to the grave tomorrow. Maybe he wouldn’t wake from his sleep tonight. Maybe tonight was the night for his house to burn down.
What would it take for change to occur?
Would anyone notice if he jumped in his truck and started driving, destination unknown? Where would he go? He could just drive until he ran out of gas. Then what?
He could begin to walk.
Did he really want to walk out into the middle of nowhere where his body wouldn’t be found? He wouldn’t want to take his truck then. He’d have to find a way to sneak away so that no one could trail him. He could take a bus or a train. Yes, there might be other passengers, but if he was silent and didn’t sit near anyone or talk to them, he doubted anyone would even remember him being there. There were always cameras. Yes, those might capture his picture, but if the authorities didn’t even know where to begin looking for him, they wouldn’t know his trail lead him on the path it did. He could hitchhike to a nearby town and take the bus from there, then later get on a train. If his truck never left the driveway, it might even be days before someone started to worry about him.
How long before his employer would wonder where he was?
He knew this thinking didn’t serve him at all. Maybe he should just go to bed. Maybe he was tired. Sometimes when he felt depressed, a nap helped improve his mood. He always felt better by the next day.
The light went out.
Melvin grumbled as he got up and stumbled through the dark, hoping that he didn’t hit one of the holes in his lawn. He really should get them filled or leveled out someday. He opened the door and flipped the switch for the porch light. Nothing.
He tried turning on the light in the back room. No light came on there either.
“Great,” he muttered, shutting the door. He limped around the side of his house to the front and looked down the street. No one else had any power either.
He debated for a moment whether or not to go get some candles and light them. Who knew how long the power outage was going to last? He decided not to; his pity party didn’t need any light. He returned to the swing.
Leaning back with his eyes closed, he listened to the new sounds emerging in the night. Air conditioners had turned off and the windows in several houses were being slid open. People were calling out to other neighbors to see if their power was out too. No Netflix tonight. Backyard fires were roused and barbeques lit. Let’s all sit around and have some family time since it’s too hot to sleep. Dogs barked. A few people got in cars, hoping to find a fast food joint that still had power so they could get dinner or at least some ice cream. Owls called out with requests to know who had done it and who was going there.
Melvin felt alone now. Before it had just been him sitting alone in the world. Now he had to face all the rest of the planet that was living beside him.
He “knew” that he wasn’t alone, that everything was connected. That’s what he’d been reading over and over in his books lately. That’s what had been said on his podcasts and blogs. It was like a network of linked computers, rather like the Internet, and apparently easy to access. Melvin must still have a dial-up modem. No wonder he felt so disconnected.
“Why am I still breathing?” he dared to ask, not speaking to anyone in particular, but rather leaving the question to the open room. Maybe God thought he was being rhetorical rather than literal.
The world started to settle down from the initial excitement of forced darkness. It slowly grew quiet once more.
So, if Melvin wasn’t doing what he thought he was supposed to be doing with his life, if it had all been a big lie and he’d lost over forty years of his life to it, what did he want from his life?
To have fun and be happy.
That answer always came to him. So, what was fun? What did that mean to him?
Enjoying what he did for a living. He certainly wasn’t doing that now. Traveling. Another thing he wasn’t doing now. Who would he travel with? Certainly he wanted a companion for his travels. Didn’t he?
Everything in the world tried to convince him that he needed to be social and have friends. He didn’t have very many of those. He never had. So what if he wanted to travel by himself? Would he have fun going places and seeing things by himself? Wasn’t the fun in sharing the experiences?
He felt the questions getting too deep, weighing too heavily on his confused, depressed mind. He had to switch gears.
So what did it mean for him to be happy? Could he define that?
He didn’t feel happy right now. Right now was not how he wanted to feel.
But what would make him feel happiness? In this moment, what would make him happy?
To not be depressed.
Damn this was hard.
Fireworks exploded down the street. More rang out. Some of the sounds echoed off the nearby houses and some didn’t.
He loathed days like this, where his mind latched onto some imaginary rejection and he failed to get anything creative done.
If he could just win at something.
“Okay, enough,” he grumbled to himself. He forced himself to his feet and dragged them into the house, shuffling the whole way. Especially the right leg. He didn’t know why it had to bother him so much today. It had to be the heat. While June had been particularly cool, July had heated up into the hundreds very quickly. He already felt tired and sapped of strength just from the temperatures alone. He didn’t need old injuries acting up as well.
Inside, he went around gathering some candles and his oil lamp. Brightness didn’t fill the room, but darkness had been chased to the corners.
He sat down on the stool set before the blank canvas mounted on the easel. He grabbed his pants just above the knee to adjust his leg to a better position. “Just paint what you feel,” he told himself. “Just apply color. No plan, just painting.” He grabbed a brush in trembling fingers and bent the bristles into some paint. First mark on the canvas.
He felt like he could breathe easier now. He’d drawn first blood. He’d set to work.
He cleaned the brush, then added a second color followed by a third. He set to work of blending them. More colors came, building layers and values.
Soon, he’d painted halfway into the night. A couple of the candles had burned themselves down to exhaustion and Melvin had to set up new ones. He brought one closer to hand as he stood up and examined his painting. His right leg barely held his weight. He hadn’t realized that he’d been sitting so long. It felt as if it had only been minutes. He couldn’t believe he’d gotten so much done.
The painting stood as testament to his success.
Now he felt he could sleep.
Blowing out the oil lamp and all the candles except for the one he needed so he could see, he thumped around the house getting ready for bed. Finally, he tucked himself between the sheets of his bed.
“I won,” he whispered to himself.
The next day, the world ended.
Humanity survived though, like it generally does. The Tea Party malware had taken society back to a time like 1776, but it didn’t last long. Looting, rioting, and murder ended with hard work and rebuilding. Sometimes the populace just needed to dig in their heels and set to physical work to recover. Moping did nothing to solve the problems. Citizens still needed fed, clothed, and sheltered. There were always individuals willing to help with that.
Leaders stepped forward to become the new versions of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, who offered strength, courage, and leadership to the world.
Special skills developed among the masses. Those who had remained learned and grew more than they had ever thought possible. The world renewed, not quite like it had been, and hopefully not any worse than before. Hope flourished.
Those that remembered the horrible computer downfall lead by a destructive piece of software knew that what had begun as a rebellious Tea Party proved to be the betterment of mankind. The world had been not been destroyed, but rather it had been reborn on the 5th of July.
If you enjoyed this story, try Broken Smiles — a future where emojis determine if someone needs “fixed.”
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Uploaded on the 4th of July – copyright © 2018 Dawn Blair
Published by Morning Sky Studios
Cover and layout copyright © 2018 by Morning Sky Studios
Cover design by Dawn Blair/Morning Sky Studios
Cover art copyright @rakicevic-nenad-233369 via Pexels
This excerpt is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.