Monday, 28 December 2015

Writing Dream Job

It's the holidays! And I'm still writing. Barely.

Between the overtime at work running me ragged, gift shopping and the family visits, I haven't had time to visit Old Randall. I've written nothing more on Korptopia as a result. But a short story jumped into my head driving home from the kids' place last week, and I've been trying to pen it before month's end. Inklings Press is accepting submissions for a short story anthology by then, but time's basically up, and I'm only halfway done.

I'm finishing it, but I doubt I'll have it done until next week. Maybe, if I'm happy with it, I'll shop it around. Any suggestions?

Regardless, I have several other short story ideas. Perhaps I'll self-publish an anthology when I hit 90,000 words.

The story is named Dream Job. It centres around Harry, a young, listless alcoholic who suddenly has to survive the apocalypse.

Dream Job

by Mark R. Francis

Harry lay on the frozen ground near the old observatory. He was not alone. Bodies were sprawled all around him, massacred by awe at the unusual sky. Exhaled icy puffs were their only sign of life. Above them dozens of comets blazed their trails.

Tonight was the mid-season restart of the highly popular Drunken MacDonalds, a reality series revolving around a rural clan’s inebriated escapades. During the mid-season finale eight weeks ago, the patriarch’s favourite pickled son was last seen driving headlong into a impaired driving police checkpoint. This week was the big reveal. Would the gin-soaked driver bluff his way through? Or would the alcalyzer snag him?

Harry was supposed to have his domineering buddies over yet again to eagerly watch it. Working hard for three years they had developed a convoluted drinking game based on the dizzy and slurred debacle on the tri-D. Tonight, if they showed up at all, they’d find Harry’s house locked and dark. Odds were even they’d break in and watch anyway. They wouldn’t worry. Though Harry was a burly young man, he was a pushover.

Harry lived alone in the somewhat dilapidated family home. He had no siblings. His mother had long since moved on. When he was eighteen his abusive father collapsed during the sixth episode of the first season. They had tried to restart daddy’s fermented middle-aged heart, but its warranty had been voided by years of excess. Harry was the sole heir, left with the house, the car and the family misfortune.

Harry loved the show though he didn’t completely understand why. As a functional alcoholic, self-awareness was not his strong point. Earlier today, though, for a while he had been stuck between the somehow attractive yet dubious benefit of getting sloshed with his arrogant buddies, and just taking in the sky. He chased a few drinks while deciding. Then, besought with unusual clarity, he figured the heavens couldn’t wait but the show could. So off he went on foot to a nearby park which just happened to house an old 74 inch telescope. Thirteen -- oops, eleven -- ounces of cheap vodka rested in his left jacket pocket. He arrived comfortably numb. Like the sky, he had a glow on.

All over the night side of the world, lights were out. Electronic gadgets were largely dim. People gathered in parks, lay in their backyards, and stared out their windows. Everyone was looking skyward.

This night, for the first time in a long while, humanity turned to the wonder of nature.

Beautiful as this all was, scientists were puzzled. Comets are tracked for years as they travelled from the far reaches of our solar system to the warm centre, their tails occasionally visible from Earth for weeks. These were different. They came out of seemingly nowhere, moving at an incredible clip. New ones showed up hourly. Tonight was the first night of what was promised to be a month of ecstatic viewing. It was thought that some sort of fast-moving dark stellar mass may have passed near the Oort Cloud, tugging debris sunward. For every comet they found, every rock they detected, there were many more going unseen. This was a concern.

Harry understood little of this. He lay on his back, hearing oohs and ahhs as meteors were now streaking by. Observing this celestial majesty, a glimmer of something stirred in him. A want to be someone who was more than a mere pallet repair person. Harry long yearned to be a forklift driver. All it took was a week’s wages and a few days in a course and he’d be there. It wasn’t hard like Fred MacDonald’s repeated efforts at a higher education.

Fred was the youngest son of the Drunken MacDonalds and was determined to be something more than an inebriated dud. He was attending barista school. This time he seemed truly determined to get through the three-month program. Harry looked up to Fred. Like him, Harry was the downtrodden. Mocked and taken advantage of. So afraid of failure, he sabotaged efforts to improve in order to avoid the inevitable defeat. But Fred was better. Through he eventually always flailed about uselessly, he nevertheless kept trying to succeed. Harry wished he had such courage. One day. One day.

As he admired the beauty of the universe and pondered his future, something big smashed into southern China.

Harry didn’t know of this right away of course. Most of the planet was between him and the massive chunk of iron. A lot of people in China didn’t notice it either. That’s because they were immediately dead. The meteor was 40 km in diameter. It punched a hole initially 500 km wide in southern Hunan province. The crater would later grow to over twice that size as its walls collapsed inwards. The thermal radiation from the fireball, which would persist for hours, set houses, trees and people alight in places as far away as Iran, Australia and northern Russia. Massive earthquakes, beyond anything ever recorded, radiated outward leveling civilization throughout Asia. A massive air blast moving at over 1,000 km/hr finished what little the earthquakes left behind. Behind the sound wave, Tsunamis half a kilometer high came, eradicating Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and parts of Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan. Massive quantities of rock and dust were ejected into the atmosphere and into orbit. Overall, 6.1 billion cubic kilometers of planet Earth was melted or vaporized. Over the next few days, the death toll exceeded three billion. It would get much, much worse.

About thirty minutes after impact, Harry was nearly home when the ground started shaking. The next 45 seconds were confusing for him, but he shrugged it off. He got home, sighed as he noted the broken door window, and joined his four rowdy friends inside. After enduring a scolding for leaving his door locked, he fetched them some drinks, and sat down to tie one on. They tried to stream the show, but the Internet was behaving badly. The evening otherwise decayed into the usual eventual blackout.

Seven hours later, while he slept on his bedroom floor, an intense air blast blew out the large living room windows, fell trees and took out the power. The sound of it hurt. Harry and the fellas woke up with a start. They went outside, and saw nothing but darkness. The sky was overcast. A fine snow was falling, caught by an increasing violent and cold wind. Still drunk, all went inside, found warmer spots than the couches in the exposed living room, and tried to sleep off the night.

The next morning, when the unseen sun rose, hangovers, for the time being, were a priority over the apocalypse. Mind you, The Crew, as they referred to themselves, had no idea the world had ended. Debris ringed the earth. The upper atmosphere was clogged with particulate. Locally, a dark snow was falling. Nothing worked. there was no power, no natural gas, no Internet, no phones. Yet The Crew just assumed it was a bad winter storm and were thankful they had the excuse of the weather to miss work. After some hair of the dog, they set about making Harry cover windows and clean the broken glass. Harry also got a fire going. He stored perishables in the snow, and took stock of his -- no, their -- supplies.

In time, they got the essential news from a cop doing rounds. The Crew considered the news, and, overall, looked forward to returning to nature. They pictured themselves rugged individualists. True Alpha males. Well, maybe not Harry.

For a few days, various municipal employees came and went. Some supplies were dropped off. But, after a week, there was no one.

That's it so far. I won't blog more of it. The rest, if you want to read, will have to wait until I publish it.


Update: Well, I couldn't make the deadline. And this turned into a huge idea in my head, about three books long. I'm beginning to wonder if I have what it takes to write short stories.

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