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500 words - Baxil [bakh-HEEL'], n. My Sites [Tomorrowlands] [The TTU Wiki] [Photos]
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August 3rd, 2008
03:19 pm
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500 words
I pulled to a stop and cracked open the passenger side window. "Is everything alright?"

The man leaned down, and I saw brown eyes through the opening and days of stubble through the glass. "Yeah," he said in an unconcerned voice. "Wouldn't mind a lift, if you're headed east."

"Where's your car?"

"I'm walking. Just gotta hit Fort Denver for some supplies."

"Seriously? No car? Hop in." I leaned over and yanked the door handle.

He stepped back as the door swung out, then leaned back down, making no move toward the car. "It's only fair to warn you. I've got two handguns on me. If that's a problem, I don't blame you for leaving."

The sense of duty that had compelled me to stop for a man alone in the woods kept me from stomping on the accelerator, but it didn't prevent the awkward silence. I tried to recover: "Hey, out here with the zeds, who could blame you?"

"Away from the cities, the danger is really overstated." He shrugged and lifted his coat to show a holster at his belt. "You need to stay armed, but they don't travel in packs."

The sight of the actual gun again halted conversation. "Uh," I hedged, "truth be told, I'd be more comfortable if you kept them unloaded in the car."

"That's fair." He unslung his backpack, fished a pistol from the holster and a second from under his arm, and removed both clips, making a show of zipping them into his pack's main pouch.

"The chamber too," I said, remembering an old gun safety video. He pulled back both slides to show the guns were empty.

"I'll ride shotgun if you hit a swarm," he said. "And if we don't make it to the fort tonight I'll keep you safe camping."

"Don't be crazy," I said. "I'm not stopping outside the walls."

"You just did, didn't you?" he said with a smile, and sat in the car.

I'd just barely started the old Chevy rolling when his smell hit me. I wrinkled my nose and rolled down my window. "Not a smoker?" he asked. "Sorry."

"It's okay," I said, trying to sidestep to the usual hitchhiker formalities. "I'm Dave."

"Jim," he said, putting on his seat belt. "I didn't smoke until this started. Then I discovered it was nicer to stink of tobacco than to stink of a week's worth of B.O."

"Try sponge baths."

"I was in Phoenix on Z-day. We lost water when the dam blew. It was tough just finding enough to drink. We spent our zed watches reminiscing about being clean."

I smiled wryly. "Kansas City flooded."

He laughed. "We should have been so lucky. Zeds don't swim."

"They wade just fine," I said, and changed the subject. "Do you tell everyone who stops about the guns?"

"Always."

"How many rides has it cost you?"

"Three," Jim said, and shrugged. "All we've got is each other, now. Each other, and trust. That's bigger than any ride."

Current Location: ~/bedroom
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From:packbat
Date:August 3rd, 2008 11:34 pm (UTC)
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Not bad. I'd keep reading, if this were the first page of a book.
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From:baxil
Date:August 6th, 2008 08:00 am (UTC)
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Thanks. I have no plans to take it any farther - it was an isolated scene that grabbed my brain after a fairly similar hitchhiker pickup (minus the guns!) - but it's good to hear it's an attention-grabber.
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From:zuki_san
Date:August 4th, 2008 03:56 am (UTC)
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I like it!
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From:baxil
Date:August 6th, 2008 08:51 am (UTC)
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Thanks! I think it came out well. I wish I could do that with longer stories; but I tend to do better when I can whip something out fully in one sitting ...
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From:solanth
Date:August 4th, 2008 05:33 am (UTC)
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How very immersive. :)
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From:baxil
Date:August 6th, 2008 08:47 am (UTC)
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Thanks! I'm pretty happy with it as a writers' block breaker. Hopefully this will give me the energy to launch into some TTU stories.
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From:postrodent
Date:August 4th, 2008 02:46 pm (UTC)
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Damn good microfic, easily in the top 10% of zombie-related work that I've read. :)
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From:baxil
Date:August 6th, 2008 08:40 am (UTC)
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Thanks!

I am amused at the way you managed to insert so many qualifications to the compliment and somehow have it come out even more flattering. Clearly you have read enough of the appropriate subject matter to be able to rank zombie-related microfiction by decile. That itself implies you're a conoisseur; which means the compliment carries all the more weight.

That distinction also brings to mind the first comment kadyg gave me when she read it: "This reads like Orson Scott Card." That could have gone in so many different directions, because by turns there has been good Card, bad Card and fucking weirdo Card, but she was quick to clarify that she meant the former.

Which may all sound egotistical on my part, but really, I mention it because holy christ Orson Scott Card is calling for violent revolution against the U.S. goverment. Seriously, what the hell.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 4th, 2008 10:24 pm (UTC)
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A well-written slice of life(unlife?) story. I like.
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From:baxil
Date:August 6th, 2008 08:50 am (UTC)
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Thanks.

It's interesting seeing how many people are specifically identifying it as a zombie story. It is, yes, but since I never actually use the term (and "zeds" and "z-day" are somewhat obscure if you're not into the genre), it could hypothetically be any old postapocalyptic and/or alien invasion fic.
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