After the fall

And we’re back! It’s been a bit of time since my last post, but for good reason.

I’ve been incredibly busy working on competition entries, deadlines, collaborations and various other projects that have kept me away from my normal schedule. With that in mind,  I wanted to drop by and give a little preview of one of my competition entries that I’m particularly proud of. Please, give a read and let me know what you think!


The skeletons of abandoned vehicles lined every lane along either side of the highway. The faded black pavement baking in the late morning sun as waves of heat rose off of everything in sight. More than anything, it was the heat that could kill a person out along those barren roads. It was why they needed off that broken stretch of road and into some kind of shelter.

“You were right, should’ve gotten off at that last exit…” Bill mumbled quietly.

Jo walked alongside him, eyes fixed straight ahead, “I know, I tried to tell you, but no. We’re better off keepin‘ on the highway.”

“I know. We were jus’ finally makin’ good time, didn’t want to stop before the sun broke.”

“Of course not, an now,” she threw a hand up toward the sun resting high in the sky and shook her head. A look of disgust fixed firmly to her face.

Jo glimpsed a vein bulging from Bill’s forehead, but it was his fault they were still out there. It was his idea to take to the highway in the first place. A straight road, he said. There’d be fewer people to worry about than in the suburbs, and road signs that could tell them how far they’d gone and how much further they had to go. Never-mind it was miles between exits and nowhere to hide out from that awful sun and it’s unrelenting heat, but without a better idea herself, it was the best they had.

The radio on his hip coughed, a sudden fit of static hissing through the speaker. They both stopped, as if moving might scare-off the signal.

They stood in desperate silence, exchanging glances, hoping something, even just more static, might come back. A warm breeze rolled between them, a gentle nudge to remind them that the cool early morning air had already given way to the stuffy, midday heat and they were still out there on that the road. Now wasn’t the time to fight.

Jo looked down the ramp as it seemed to stretch on for miles in front of them. A sea of colors across the congested intersection at its end. Cars sat abandoned however far they’d made it before they ran into the web of traffic. At the sight of it all, her feet burned and ached as they remembered each step of the long walk from the night before, dreading the steps still to go. A small brown leather backpack hung between her shoulders like a cement block weighing down on her. As short as she was, it felt like the sun had made the extra effort to reach down just to color her face with pinkish-red hues. Jo spun her wedding ring around, rocking back and forth on her heels and glancing over to her husband who seemed busy plotting their way ahead.

He was silent as his eyes walked the roads, tracing routes in his head. That was just who he was. She could try to push him, try to get them moving, but that had never led to anything other than more arguments and more wasted time. She didn’t have it in her. She wasn’t even sure she had it in her to walk the full way down that ramp.

Jo pulled a folded map from her back pocket and wrestled it open when the radio on Bill’s hip began to hiss and crackle.

“Get to Clevelandwe have shelter and-” the message cutoff, drowned in static. Bill slapped the radio with his palm, then twisted the tuner back and forth. He held it up to his ear, listened for another second, and then shrugged. It was gone. He slipped the radio back into the case and resumed scanning the roads.

“C’mon,” he waved for her to join him as he started to walk.

Jo nodded, her eyes following him as he went, and folded up the map and stuffed it back into her pocket. She wasn’t sure where he was leading them, if he’d decided to give in to temptation and make the last push to Cleveland or if they’d be spending another night among the dusty confines of someone else’s past. It was the closeness that poisoned their thoughts. Even if he wouldn’t say it, they both felt the gambler’s itch. The draw for one more mile, one more hour, always just one more, and damned be the sun if it tried to stop them.

Down the long ramp, passing through the graveyard of cars, the buildings towered up over them like great walls of brick and glass and concrete. The building’s shadows clung tightly to grass covered bits of sidewalk, letting the open road freely burn under the gaze of the sun. Behind the wall of office buildings, a row of houses sat neatly tucked away down one of the side streets.

“Saw a few places up ahead,” Bill slowed for her to catch up, “maybe there’ll even be one with hot water.”

“You do stink,” she said, hints of laughter showing in her eyes.

He lifted one arm, tucked his nose into his armpit and drew in a deep breath, “That’s just the smell of a man, baby.”

“You’re disgusting.”

Bill grinned, “You love me.”


 

-Sam

 


30 second breather.

Hi all,

Not much today really, still in the middle of a few pieces, polishing up some while still writing others, but just wanted to take a short little blurb away from my normal weekly additions/updates and say hi and thank you to everyone that has stopped by and/or liked what I’ve added to the blog-o-verse thus far.

 

I’m still new to it all, so I’m sure I may have missed a few opportunities here and there, but I’ll at least say that I will work on it!

So, with that in mind, I hope this particular post finds you happy and healthy and just keep an eye out as I’ll be posting up contest/prompt entries in the next week or so with what I’ve done. Really excited about them as, admittedly, I’m a fairly huge post-apocalyptic fan, so the prompts were exactly the break I was looking for.

Again, just wanted to say thank you to those that’ve stopped by if I haven’t done so personally/responded to you on your blog (working on it, honest.) And hope to see you back here soon for what I’ve been working on.

 

-Sam

 


Plague Road – Ever Onward

Hi again, another entry into the travels of Doctor Schultz and his companion Caleb as they trek east across a barren world. Now, they find themselves escorting a young girl named Abby and are off in pursuit of her ailing mother to see how, or if, they can help.

This will likely be the last entry into the Plague Series for a short time as I’ve been invited to partake in several short competitions/contests and will be giving it my all, in concocting new and enticing worlds. If you’re interested in any of my contest work, check over here (link to DeviantArt page) as it will be posted/updated their first and then here, depending on the rules of the contest.

Regardless, this won’t be the last ever update on the Plagued Doctor and his friend, so keep checking back for more!

As always, comments and thoughts welcome.

Anyway, continue below the line for the latest on the Plague Road!

-Sam


 

Power lines hung overhead and ran the length of the alley. Abby raced a ways ahead. She led them like a sprightly little monkey through the overgrown jungle that stretched behind the houses. Schultz was able to keep pace, looking every part the bird on his mask as he flew after her. Caleb lagged behind as the heavy pack caused him to sway with every footfall.

    “Doctor, slow down…”

    He tried to quiet his breathing. His gasps for air echoed through the alleyway, joined only by the muted clapping of their shoes. There were no children running about, no laughing or giggling as they played care-free games as children were ought to do.

    A feeling of dread began to work its way through his chest as he struggled to keep up. He glanced down each driveway as they passed, eyes set on the main road that divided the rows of houses, north and south. The street was quiet. Abandoned cars and open topped buckets lined the street under a canopy of plastic tarps set to catch falling rain water. Everything about the place looked as if it would have worked; as if it would have been the type of place to settle and carve out a living.

    It looked like it should have survived.

    “C’mon, this way,” Abby said, standing atop a broken fire escape landing several feet above ground.

    Schultz had already begun to scale the nearby dumpster, eying the landing where the girl awaited as Caleb caught up.

    “Just. One second,” He drank in deep, gulping breaths and bent over, hands on his knees, “just need a second.”

    He looked up at the sound of the hollow ring of metal stairs under light feet. Abby was looping around the rail on the next landing up with Schultz close behind.

    Caleb adjusted the weight of the pack again, pulling tight the shoulder straps so they were again snug against him. He glanced up at the fire escape landing well above his head and even his outstretched arm. He sighed and moved toward the metal dumpster nearby. Leaning to one side, he slipped one foot up, shifted his weight and rolled up onto the lid. His arms and legs felt like dead weight, he took his time, step by step pushing up to his feet and looking up after Abby and the doctor.

    “Hey,” he said, his voice raised enough for them to hear, “wait up, will ya…”

    He reached up and gripped the metal rail along the side of the landing. He took a deep breath before hoisting himself up and over the edge of the landing. He laid his chest against the cold metal grate, while his legs dangled, the weight of the backpack pinning him down. A moment later, with another deep breath, he wriggled one foot up, caught the rail and pushed with all the strength he had left in him. He slid across the little metal edges of the grate and debated just staying there. Staying down on that uncomfortable rusted landing to wait for Schultz to come back for him.

    “Caleb, we need the supplies…” Schultz called down from a landing above.

    Caleb sighed, his every muscle feeling as though they’d given their last. Even his lungs struggled to draw in air with each gasping breath.

    “Coming…”

    He pushed up to his feet and started the slow trek up three flights to join the doctor.

    “We have antibiotics, we’ll get you the medicine you need and you should start feeling better.” Schultz said, speaking to a sickly woman on a foldout bed, as Caleb appeared in the window.

    “Doctor?”

    Schultz turned to acknowledge him, “ah, there he is now. Caleb this is Jennifer, Abby’s mom.”

    The doctor shifted out of the way, enough to show the feverish woman bundled in blankets, sweating and shivering all at once. Heavy, dark bags under her bloodshot eyes.

    “We’ll need antibiotics, the tube with the yellow label,” Schultz said, gesturing for him to hand it over.

    Caleb slid the backpack around and set it on the floor in front of him and shifted through the jumbled mess. He pulled a red-orange plastic tube with a large strip of yellow tape over its lid and held it up.

    “Yes, bring it over, please.”

    He hurried over, tube in hand and joined the doctor at Jennifer’s bedside. She looked up at him, a puffy redness at her nose and eyes and a clear line of snot escaping down her lips. He forced a smile, practicing courtesy despite what the situation would’ve allowed.

    “Here we are. Take this, you’ll start to feel better.” Schultz said, dropping two small pills into her open mouth with a cup of water on the table nearby.

    Caleb imagined the doctor smiling behind that lifeless mask. Even a fake smile, he thought, as some part of the doctor would’ve wanted to believe what he was telling her was true.

    “Now, get some rest and we’ll check on you in a few hours.” Schultz moved strands of thin, greasy, hair out of her face and helped her lay back.

    Abby, standing beside the doctor, watched over her mother. She reached to grab the doctor’s hand as he went to stand up.

    “C’mon, I have something for you,” she said as she started to drag him off to a back room.

    Caleb watched as Schultz played along. He stood and traipsed after the little girl until the two of them disappeared into the hallway.

    Jennifer shifted and worked to sit herself up, licking at her lips and the dry cracks lining them.

    Caleb leaned over to help her adjust, “you gotta get some rest, you-”

    “Take. Take her,” Jennifer let out a dry hack, “take her.” She repeated. Caleb frowned and shook his head, ready to protest when she continued.

    “The men’ll be back any minute, you can’t be here. Take Abby and go.”

    “What men? Did they do this to you?” Caleb asked, still confused.

    “No, work for them,” she turned away, tears gathering at the corners of her eyes,”I get travelers that pass by to stop. The guys, they beat ’em an’ take whats left.”

    “Alright, calm down, we’ll figure something out.”

    “No, there’s no time, please!”

    Caleb went to back away, but she grabbed onto his shirt, “Please, since I got sick they’ve been eying Abby.”

    A crash came from the back room, the sound of glass falling to the floor. Caleb pulled away and hesitated as he looked at Jennifer. She fell back onto the couch, unable to fight off crying and moaning. He turned and ran into the back hallway not knowing which way to go.

    “No! Uncle Billy, no!” Abby screamed.

    He followed the panicked scream back to find Schultz standing over the body of a man lying on the ground. The man on the ground lay curled up in a fetal position, clutching his stomach as blood ran from his abdomen into a pool around him. Schultz looked from the body back to Caleb, the unmoving mask staring through emerald eyes.

    “He tried to knife me but then grabbed her. When I tried to explain, he moved the knife to her throat. I had no choice.” Schultz said. He sounded calm, almost relaxed as he explained himself to the crying child.

    “Doc, we need to go…”

    A loud engine snorted outside, the vehicle’s brakes squealing as it slowed to a stop, announcing its arrival.

    “Now.”


What’s in a name? Weekly News on all things writing

Hi again, I‘m back with just a quick note update on the hectic writing-explosion that is going on right now as far as the writing updates/projects.

I’ve been getting increasingly active in the deviantArt community and taking part in some of their contests/challenges/prompts as it’s been a fun way to sit down and work on a story without trying to wring it out until it’s just right. Having a specific deadline has, for me, given me more drive to sit down, get out the important parts of the story and THEN edit for corrections.

Before, I would sit and write and wear myself out going over every individual line almost immediately following getting it down on paper, or screen. This has managed to eat up far more time than I should have allowed it to and thereby slowed down the writing process for me considerably. I’d suggest any of you reading, that are looking to write more actively, consider setting yourself a deadline if for nothing else than to push yourself passed the dread of endless self-corrections.

Accept the fact that, in most cases, you will never consider your own work done, or wish you could change this, that, or the other.

 

So with that out of the way, what is currently on my Scrivener project pad at the moment?

The Plague Road (working title) – the story following Dr. Rene Shultz and his associate Caleb as they work their way across country all the while fighting the ever-present sickness that has begun wiping out those left on an abandoned planet earth.

Will continue to be regular entries, although not necessarily weekly as other projects may bump in here and there.

Before the Fall - another short story in an ongoing effort to build the world around my main novel.

Novel - My main work, the be all end all story that made me sit down and write and not just talk about it. I have a dozen or so title prospects and the main story written, it’s now time for revisions/editing a little bit of hair pulling and hopefully, by year’s end… release.

Also – Current contest I’m working on is for a deviantArt competition called:

The ABC’s of the Apocalypse. Those writing are assigned a letter of the alphabet to use in order to establish their theme for the entire piece. It seemed like one of those really fun things to do and so I’ve thrown my hat in the ring, will also add that piece here as well once it’s done.

Wow, looks like even more than I thought once it’s all put down like that…. either way, a lot in the days ahead for writing, if not sooner with a finished piece, see you in a week!

Oh, and I forgot to mention, if you want to find any of the work I’ve submitted to the deviantArt side (not all have been posted here) find my profile here (note — takes you to deviantArt website)

-Sam

 


The Plagued Road – the way ahead

As promised, the road stretches on in the latest snippet of the plague doctor schultz trek to the east;

Caleb and Dr. Schultz are headed to the next spot on the map; the small town of Stillwater. Another stop on their cross-country trek to make it to the east coast as they travel across an all but abandoned world left in the hands of those who couldnt leave.

Going to put up the story as it stands currently and will figure out a clean way to break it up and chop it apart for easier digestion later.

Also, an amazing artist I stumbled across on deviant art been so kind as to illustrate a shot from the story. I’ll be checking with her to see if I can’t upload it here as well, but if you’re interested check it out here (warning, takes you to deviantart.com webpage)

Otherwise, check below the line for The Plagued Road, hope you enjoy!

-Sam


 Caleb stood up from the recently deceased body and sighed.

   “Schultz, that’s the fifth this week…” He said, scratching his head as he stared down at the lifeless man.

“And it won’t be the last,” Schultz nodded back toward the road, “c’mon,” he added and turned and walked away.

”There’s always more…” Caleb mumbled.

He adjusted the over-sized bag on his back, centering the heavy load between his shoulders. The various bits and pieces within shifted and settled with every step as he trotted after his friend. As he caught up, he didn’t say anything, only fell in step behind him.

They walked for a time without a word. The whisper of the soft breeze rolling through the overgrown grass as it passed between them. The sun had already started to climb high into the morning sky. The birds, their vibrant shades of blue and red and brown, zipped along the full, billowy, clouds. He’d never told Schultz, but it was his favorite part of their time together. Not the rushing from city to city, not the ever-present threat of bandits and burglars along the abandoned highways, but the long stretches of open field, the grounds reclaimed by Mother Nature over the years, that lay between them and their destination.

Caleb watched the slow-rolling clouds keep pace with them for a long moment before breaking the silence.

“You still think its worth it?”

“Do I think what is worth what?”

“All of this. Movin’ place to place even when we find a fair spot we could stay? Trying to help folks even when most of ’em don’t want to be helped?”

“Everyone wants help, Caleb,” Schultz gestured his arms open wide from under the folds of his long black coat, “there is still a reason to live, even if some don’t see it.”

He stared at Schultz, a silent hope for more than to justify their endless travel. Schultz continued silently.

The long, crooked, cone nose–like the beak of a bird–jutted out from the mask over his face, as if pointing the way. Green lenses set into large, round, copper goggles reflected the light over the eye sockets. Dr. Schultz maintained the unsettling mixture of man and crow to his appearance, like the plague doctors from the stories of old. Only they weren’t fighting a plague.

“Caleb, you’re a good man, but I beg you to have faith in the work that we do.” Schultz said. He fished around in the folds of his coat and pulled out a golden locket that hung on a chain around his neck and flicked it open.

“How could we live with ourselves, once we arrive, if we hadn’t done all we could along the way?” He closed the locket and tucked it back into his layered clothes.

“Where to next?” Caleb said.

They started to walk, the open countryside changing from a sea of overgrown weeds and plants to a long stretch of dead grass as they went. Caleb followed behind Schultz, a written-on map held open in front of him. He matched the small markings on the page to the weathered road signs, worn down from the years of neglect. The road itself was littered with cracks and potholes, entire sections broken off or eroded away entirely. Caleb kept his eyes fixed on the map, glancing up from it whenever they approached anything with a note beside it. The crisp, clean, white paper long since aged to a muted shade of yellow-brown. Even so, following the lines of that tattered old map had brought them that far, Caleb reasoned.

“Just over this ridge here, looks like there’s another town…” He said, finger hovering over the mark on the map.

Caleb glanced back and forth between the map and the hillside in-front of them. He slowed, peering up the shallow hill that rose up like a stairway to the sky.

“Doc you think we should maybe go a-” he stopped and looked around. Schultz was gone. Caleb looked about nervously for a moment before noticing the doctor up ahead. Already on his way up the side of the hill.

“Hey, hold up!”

Schultz didn’t respond, only marched ahead, one foot after another, as he pushed up the stretch of ground before them.

Caleb’s legs were already numb with soreness. The jagged broken highway they had followed for miles paired with the relentless heat of the mid-afternoon sun beating down on them was wearing him down. He barely even felt his leg muscles as they worked to stretch and contract with every step. To the top of the hill, then they’d rest, he’d convince Schultz of that much, he had to.

“Doc, C’mon, slow down,” Caleb said, taking big gasping breaths with his hands on his hips as he finally caught up.

The jagged outline of the town, like a broken toothed smile, came into view as he reached the top. The town of Stillwater. It was a tiny place, the words “safe” and “small” scribbled next to it on the map.

“Swear you’re tryin’ to kill me.”

Schultz turned, the oversized beak-nose of the mask pointing toward him.

“Look how close we are.”

Schultz gestured to the shadowed outline of the city at the foot of the hill.

“No point stopping here…”

“Knew we shoulda gone ’round.” Caleb mumbled.

Caleb folded up the map, stuffed it into his pack and hustled after the doctor.

    “You think they’ll any food there?”

“No way to know.” Schultz said, continuing to march ahead, fixated on the distant town.

“We’ll ask if there is anything we can help with, then see what, if anything, they may provide us.” Schultz added; his voice muffled inside the raven-faced mask.

“No, I know. It’s just, we’re startin’ to run a lil’ bit low an, honestly, dunno how much further I can go without a break, some actual food, maybe a nice shower…”

The doctor looked back to him and laughed.
“Well, you certainly look like you could use one.”

Caleb ran a hand through the brown curls of hair matted to his head as he looked down at his clothes. He pulled the breast pocket of the red and black checkered flannel shirt, sniffed it and shrugged. The boots and jeans were fairly new, having picked them up from a warehouse that they had passed just days before; the shoes only off by a half size and it hadn’t taken him long to get used to the heel dropping each time he lifted a foot. He made it through winter fairly well, he thought, but he couldn’t argue with getting some rest.

He looked back up and saw Schultz hunched forward, staring off straight ahead. Caleb followed the direction the doctor was looking and saw what had drawn his attention; a thin child dressed in tattered rags approached from the direction of the town.

Caleb straightened up and drew in a deep breath and let it out again in a long sigh. It wasn’t that the kid scared him, after all, what could it have done against the both of them, it was how the child looked. The skin seemed loosely hung on its frame, a frail looking thing with dirty, ratty hair that stumbled on uneasy feet. They were likely walking into another graveyard.

“Can you help me?” The small voice said.
It was soft, melodic and colored with a sense of desperation. The child was a little girl.

Schultz threw a look to Caleb and then turned back to the girl and knelt down in-front of her.

“We shall certainly try. Tell me, What is wrong?”

She raised dirt stained fists up to wipe at the tears pooling in her eyes. “It’s my mom.” She said.

Caleb watched as Schultz peered over the girl’s shoulder and then looked around.
“What about mom? What happened? Where is she?” He asked, focusing back on the girl.

“She’s really, really sick and I dunno what’s wrong and she won’t get out of bed and I dunno know what to do. She needs help,” the girl blurted out all at once. Schultz held out his hands trying to calm her down, gesturing taking in a deep breath and letting it out slowly.

“Its alright child, its alright, we’re going to try to help, okay? We need to know where she is, so we can help, can you tell us?”

She turned and pointed back toward the town.

“This way,” she said, reaching out a hand toward him as he stood.
A weak smile spread over her face behind her dirt-caked hair. Schultz looked down at the child’s outstretched hand for a moment.

“What is your name?” He said, still looking down at her expectant grasp.

“Abby,” she said, a hopeful grin curling her lips.
“Doctor Rene Schultz, pleased to meet you Abby” he said and bowed his head. He reached down and took the girls hand.

“Doc, shouldn’t we…”

It was too late; the two of them had already started off toward the town; the doctor’s leather-gloved hand swallowing the girl’s tiny fingers as they went.

“I dunno bout this…” Caleb said, mumbling to himself.

Even from that distance the city looked every bit as dilapidated as the road they had left in heading there. A string of shoddy houses stood walled by a chain-link fence that stretched well across the outer limits of the town. The fence itself held together by patchwork and necessity; road signs filled gaps in tandem with the lines of barbed wire woven into individual links. An unwelcoming sight to any that would’ve found themselves wandering that particular stretch of field.

The girl led them to a spot in the fence that had been bent back until it would no longer stay upright.
“Through here,” she said. Abby climbed through the opening herself and waved them over.

Caleb whispered, “Schultz,” he grabbed the doctor’s arm, “can we talk about this?”

Schultz stopped, the green-lensed goggles reflecting the late-afternoon sun as he looked back.

“Talk about what?”

“I know you want to help, I know you do, heck I do too, but don’t you think this might be a trap or something?”

The doctor started to lean his head to the side as if to protest, but Caleb quickly continued, “I mean, look around, something’s goin’ on here…”

Bits of garbage lay strewn about along the path that ran behind the houses. The driveways held cars with broken windows and loosely hanging doors, if they remained at all, on their hinges. The houses themselves seemed to barely defy crumbling to the ground. Siding was split and cracked or missing entirely; holes were worn through giving a glimpse of the mess contained within.

Caleb watched Schultz methodically look about as if cataloging everything he saw. Caleb waited, silently hoping his friend would see reason.

After a long moment, Schultz redirected focus toward him, “and what of how I found you?”

Caleb shifted uncomfortably, “well, I know, I just-”

“Your parents lay in their bed in the room next to yours. Their state of decay telling the number of weeks before I arrived that they had passed. There you sat, pacing, gun in hand, trying to commit yourself to a decision you didn’t want to make.” Schultz reached his hand out and put it on Caleb’s shoulder.

“We don’t often get to choose the trials we face, only the way that we respond. It may indeed be some sort of plan or trap, as you said, but if it’s not, then we could be condemning a person to death.”

Caleb shrunk back, regretting having said anything, and nodded silently.

“C’mon,” Schultz said, nodding in the direction of the girl.

Abby sat on a small concrete block, her arms and legs dangling through the metal rail along its side as she waited.

Schultz moved over and stood beside the girl.

“Well?”

“I understand if you don’t wanna…” she said, her eyes searching the ground as her fingers danced along the rusted metal.

“Well,” Schultz turned away and looked down the line of busted houses, “we don’t want to stand here any longer than we have to. Let’s go find mom.”



An update and a new road ahead

Afternoon one and all!

Welcome and/or Welcome back if you’re returning, I’ve been working a little bit ahead of schedule with an unexpected amount of free time to work on my writing. While I have things in a fair place I wanted to put out there the latest snippet from the newly retitled piece
“The Plague Road”

It’s a work-in-progress that I will be fleshing out over the next several weeks as time permits while working my original novel idea.

If you’d like to read the story in its entirety as it stands so far, check out my deviant art page with the full thing here.

Otherwise, continue below the line for just the latest addition.


They started to walk, the countryside laid out before them changing from a sea of overgrown weeds and plants to a long stretch of dead grass. Caleb followed behind Schultz, a written-on map held open in front of him. He matched the small markings on the page to the weathered road signs, worn down from the years of neglect. The road itself was littered with cracks and potholes, entire sections broken off or eroded away entirely. Caleb kept his eyes fixed on the map, glancing up from it whenever they approached anything with a note beside it. The crisp, clean, white paper long since aged to a muted shade of yellow-brown. Even so, following the lines of that tattered old map had brought them that far, Caleb reasoned.

“Just over this ridge here, looks like there’s another town…” He said, finger hovering over the mark on the map.

Caleb glanced back and forth between the map and the hillside in-front of them. He slowed, peering up the shallow hill that rose up like a stairway to the sky.

“Doc you think we should maybe go a-” he stopped and looked around. Schultz was gone. Caleb looked about nervously for a moment before noticing the doctor up ahead. Already on his way up the side of the hill.

“Hey, hold up!”

Schultz didn’t respond, only marched ahead, one foot after another, as he pushed up the stretch of ground before them.

Caleb’s legs were already numb with soreness. The jagged broken highway they had followed for miles paired with the relentless heat of the mid-afternoon sun beating down on them was wearing him down. He barely even felt his leg muscles as they worked to stretch and contract with every step. To the top of the hill, then they’d rest, he’d convince Schultz of that much, he had to.

“Doc, C’mon, slow down,” Caleb said, taking big gasping breaths with his hands on his hips as he finally caught up.

The jagged outline of the town, like a broken toothed smile, came into view as he reached the top. The town of Stillwater. It was a tiny place, the words “safe” and “small” scribbled next to it on the map.

“Swear you’re tryin’ to kill me.”

Schultz turned, the oversized beak-nose of the mask pointing toward him.

“Look how close we are.”

Schultz gestured to the shadowed outline of the city at the foot of the hill.

“No point stopping here…”

“Knew we shoulda gone ’round.” Caleb mumbled.

 


-Sam


Mechanical Kingdom – Update

Hi again!

Oh, how time flies when we’re having fun…

Well, I wouldn’t call the recent months to be fun in the traditional sense but I certainly did get a lot of school course work done still working toward my degree. However, now that it is over with and my free time is my own again, I wanted to get back into my writing, diving headlong in and hoping for the best. So, after tackling several writing prompts, nearly a weeks worth to be exact, this was the latest snippet of what I’m hoping to make a recurring appearance, at least once a week, giving an update to this or other character/stories that scream for my attention while I work on my main novel.

 

Originally, this was posted over on my deviantart page, but for those of you who’d rather not be dragged away over there to see, just check below the line for the latest submission!

As always, thanks for dropping by and taking the time to read. Happy to read comments/thoughts/suggestions if you choose to leave ‘em.

 

Thanks!

 

-Sam

 


 

Caleb stood up from the recently deceased body and sighed.

“Schultz, that’s the fifth this week…” He said, scratching his head as he stared down at the lifeless man.

“And it won’t be the last,” Schultz nodded back toward the road, “c’mon,” he added and turned and walked away. 

”There’s always more…” Caleb mumbled.

He adjusted the over-sized bag on his back, centering the heavy load between his shoulders. The various bits and pieces within shifted and settled with every step as he trotted after his friend. As he caught up, he didn’t say anything, only fell in step behind him.

They walked for a time without a word. The whisper of the soft breeze rolling through the overgrown grass as it passed between them. The sun had already started to climb high into the morning sky. The birds, their vibrant shades of blue and red and brown, zipped along the full, billowy, clouds. He’d never told Schultz, but it was his favorite part of their time together. Not the rushing from city to city, not the ever-present threat of bandits and burglars along the abandoned highways, but the long stretches of open field, the grounds reclaimed by Mother Nature over the years, that lay between them and their destination.

Caleb watched the slow-rolling clouds keep pace with them for a long moment before breaking the silence. 

“You still think its worth it?”

“Do I think what is worth what?”

“All of this. Movin’ place to place even when we find a fair spot we could stay? Trying to help folks even when most of ’em don’t want to be helped?”

“Everyone wants help, Caleb,” Schultz gestured his arms open wide from under the folds of his long black coat, “there is still a reason to live, even if some don’t see it.”

He stared at Schultz, a silent hope for more than to justify their endless travel. Schultz continued silently. 

The long, crooked, cone nose–like the beak of a bird–jutted out from the mask over his face, as if pointing the way. Green lenses set into large, round, copper goggles reflected the light over the eye sockets. Dr. Schultz maintained the unsettling mixture of man and crow to his appearance, like the plague doctors from the stories of old. Only they weren’t fighting a plague.

“Caleb, you’re a good man, but I beg you to have faith in the work that we do.” Schultz said. He fished around in the folds of his coat and pulled out a golden locket that hung on a chain around his neck and flicked it open. 

“How could we live with ourselves, once we arrive, if we hadn’t done all we could along the way?” He closed the locket and tucked it back into his layered clothes.

“Where to next?” Caleb asked.


 


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