This story can be read as a stand-alone narrative, but it's also a chapter in a blog novel. If you'd like to read the other stories in this growing book, please scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the links below.
"It was weird," I told the woman from Rampart Rock. "I just ran into another world one day."
"The world you call The Other Place?" She asked.
"You don't just end up in some other world," she said. "How did you get there? Where did you go? Why did everyone think you were dead?"
"Wait," I said. "You haven't even told me your name yet."
"My name doesn't matter. I'm not telling you anything until I know more about you. And you said you wanted to start some cult with me, so..."
"Tribe. I said I wanted to start a tribe."
"Whatever. So how could you decide something like that without even knowing who I am?"
"I watched you run," I said.
Her dark eyes searched my expression for hints of lies. She smiled, then scowled, then her cheeks reddened a little. Her face looked pale and marble-cut in the dim light of her living room. She'd closed all her floral-patterned curtains once we'd gone inside her apartment. She thought the creatures from The Other Place were hunting us. I guess shutting her drapes made her feel safer.
I'd given up nearly all the comforts of modern life, but I missed having a home. Being in the woman's apartment put me at ease. I hadn't sat on a couch in months. For just a moment, I allowed myself to drown in the softness of my seat and forget about the invasion going on outside.
"Sadie," the woman said after a long time.
"My name's Sadie."
I got up to shake her hand and sat back down because we'd already met. "A little jittery aren't you?" she asked. Her TV blared newscasts or commercial jingles as we spoke. The noise made my head ache. The imaginary instances and sensationalized news stories flickering on the screen reminded me of why I'd gone Primal.
"Can we turn that off?" I asked her, nodding toward the TV.
"No," she said. "Look at the news ticker on the bottom of the screen. People are seeing weird stuff everywhere."
"Uh huh," I said, sitting forward and looking at Sadie "A huge, horrible change is coming. See. I had no idea what a seam was, or that The Other Place existed, until I just ran into it one day six months ago."
"Where were you before that?" She asked. "You've been gone longer than six months."
"I got sick of running races. I gave up my money and things."
"No way," she said. "You're saying you went totally Primal? That's not possible these days--unless you wanted to end up like that guy who poisoned himself with berries in Alaska."
"BS," I said. "His name was Christopher McCandless, and he was too inexperienced and isolated to live in the wilderness. Many folks have succeeded at becoming hunters-gatherers. The people who live that way are usually off the grid, and they make for boring news. Food is all around you. Not just meat either. I could live through the winter on bark and roots."
"Nah. Wild food is pretty good once you get used to it. There are herbs for spices out there too."
"You may not have a choice soon," I said. "If the seams keep getting bigger, I think The Other Place and Earth will merge completely. The world we know will end."
She bit her lip and watched the words racing across the bottom of her TV screen. "So, starting a cult together is supposed to save the world somehow?"
"No," I said. "But sticking together and learning to make do without machines will allow some of us to survive in the New World. Unless you know someone who knows how to sew up a hole in the universe, survival is all we'll have for a while. The seams along the foothills are huge."
Sadie glared at me and said, "Ahhh. Now I get it. The end of the world is coming, so you'll get your rocks off because the apocalypse is like your wet dream. You'll also get to prove you're better and smarter than everyone else--which is crap. You know what..Nevermind. Continue with your story Tarzan. You were talking about where you've been."
I said, "Right. Moving past your insults: I started going primal at the public library, believe it or not. I checked out books on survival skills, animal tracking, and plant identification. Then I went to a couple of survivalist schools up in Boulder and Fort Collins."
"So you became like the guy on that show "Survivordude?"
"Yes and no."
"Well, which was it?"
"Yes, I learned to survive in all kinds of harsh conditions, but no the survivalist schools didn't teach me everything I wanted to know."
She said, "You wanted to learn how to completely live off the land, without civilization."
"Uh huh. Not as a farmer though. As a caveman."
"So what did you do to learn?"
"I was running the Mt. Bierstadt trail one day when I met these two old guys dressed like ancient Indians, you know? they were all decked out in deer skin and fur pelts. One of these guys was an Indian named Dylan. The other one was a white guy with a giant blond-gray beard, who called himself River Runner."
"Ironic," Sadie said.
"In a very cliche' way."
"Wait...what are you talking about?"
"Nevermind," she said. "It's a writing thing."
"Okay--anyway--long story short, I ended up staying with Dylan and River in a cave near Manitou Springs."
"That's hardly far from civilization," she said.
"There are a lot of places in the foothills where most people don't want to go. Those guys took me into the remote nooks around the Front Range and taught me all I needed to know. I lived in their cabin and grew my hair out. The running scene forgot about me. None of my frirends reported me missing though. They knew where I went."
"I'm sure your mom loved your caveman idea."
"My mom suffered a stroke while I was away. She died. That's one thing I regret."
"I'm sorry," Sadie said.
"No need," I said. "It was just bad luck." I paused for a long time before continuing. "I would go off on these runs for 50 or 100 miles in the mountains, with my gear strapped to my back. One day last spring, I was on the final 25 miles of a run through some pass in the boonies outside of Victor when the scenery changed. At first, I just kept going."
"Brilliant," Sadie said. "An alien landscape appears and all you could think of was finishing your workout. Nice job Thoreau."
"I thought I was seeing things at first. I mean...it hadn't happened to me for a while, but sometimes you start to hallucinate near the end of an insanely long run, when you're tired and mostly asleep and dehydrated."
"Sure," she said. "Like the racers who run the Leadville 100."
"Yeah, like them."
"Okay, so you just happened on this "seam," thought you were seeing things, and you kept going?"
"I hadn't been on that trail before, and I knew I'd taken all the right forks, so I didn't stop until I'd run the whole rest of the way. I mean...you know how Colorado's scenery changes."
She nodded. "But I'd alien vegetation as a sign that I should turn around. I gather that you, on the other hand, stopped running when you were 25 miles into The Other Place."
I could feel my Adam's apple bob as I swallowed. The fear of that first confusing evening in The Other Place still had power over me. "Yeah," I said. "That's when the fun started."
Sadie's TV cut to a live-action newscast. The news camera zoomed-in on a pack of Other Place animals, which I called Ape Badgers. The pack was ravaging the Colorado town called Monument, just outside of the Air Force Academy. Over nine feet tall on average, the female Ape Badgers acted like Big Foot on Meth. These beasts were territorial and agile. Unlike the primates of our world, they only ate meat.
"Climb," I said to the people scurrying in front of the camera lens. "They don't like heights." I saw Sadie's hand cover her mouth, and the TV grabbed my attention again.
On the screen, a woman ran out of her house, apparently unaware of the danger. A smaller Ape Badger male pounced on her and bit through her jugular. A female Ape Badger bounded for the camera. The picture rolled a couple times before it settled on a sideways scene of the fern-like trees and purple and orange undergrowth of The Other Place.
"It's a seam," I said, pointing at the screen. "Right in the middle of Monument. Things are getting way worse, way quick. We should stay indoors. People are going to panic. They don't know any better. The Other Place will tear society apart. I mean...our grandparents didn't even know how to survive without machines and mass distribution. How could we know? Some people might figure out enough to get by, but many will die first."
Not seeming to register my words, Sadie said, "Monument is just south of here."
I nodded. "It's too late to stop this. We'll have to ride the worst of it out and survive how we can."
"I don't want to be stuck here," Sadie said. Her lower lip quivered and her eyes got teary. She looked at me and said, "Especially with you mentally jerking off to the end of the world."
"I'm sorry," I said. "I wish I had time to introduce myself differently. This is weird. I know."
Sadie looked at the TV, and back at me again. "How did you ever live in a world with things like that running around everywhere?"
"The Ape Badgers and Bat Horses are about as freaked out as the people they're attacking right now," I said. "Plus, people are the most abundant food source. When I went to The Other Place, I was alone. Bat Horses and Ape Badgers preferred prey from their own world. As long as I stayed calm and out of their way--which wasn't easy considering their size and attitude--they left me alone. Now those creatures have developed a taste for fat, docile Americans."
Sadie said, "We're screwed."
"Not necessarily," I said, leaning forward. "Humans are pack animals. We thrive if we help each other out, but we won't be able to sustain a huge population anymore without electricity, crops, distribution, and infrastructure. The Other Place will be the end of society as we know it, but that's just fine with me."
"Of course it is," Sadie said, knitting her eyebrows at me. "You're sick."
"The world needs a reset," I said. "But we don't need society. We can make a tribe."
Sadie's trembled, then shook. The veins in her well-formed neck popped out as she yelled, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. We're going to die like everyone else. And who says society will collapse anyway?"
"Just wait," I said.
"You've been outdoors, hunting your naturalist fallacy too long," she said, getting up and pointing to the front door of her apartment. "I want you out now. Please die quickly." Her eyes were cold and dark. Oddly, the emotions frosting-over her expression made her more attractive. Sadie was a woman who, in the face of death and chaos, could still take what she saw as a moral stand.
"No," I said. "I'm not leaving yet. We'll survive, and so will other people: people with resolve, good instincts, and weapons. We can link-up with them. Listen, The Other Place animals act on instinct and intuition, just like Earth creatures. Our worst enemies in this mess will be human thieves, killers, and opportunists."
"Like you," Sadie said, jabbing her pointer finger at the door again. "Get out. If Rampart Rock is as bad as Monument, then you should be saving people, you Thoreau wannabe jerk-off."
I had no idea what she was talking about, but I said, "Alright. Maybe I can help those people...not that I want to."
"If you're not going to help people, then you've turned feral like those monsters."
"Americans have become complacent. The government and corporations have made them into working, consuming flesh machines. How many times has this country perpetrated or allowed genocide to happen because it thought it was righteous or it had its blinders on."
"I don't care," Sadie said. "Get off your soap box. If you let all those people die out there, then you're committing your own kind of genocide."
I thought about that for a while, and said, "I suppose you're kinda right. I'll do what I can, but you should stay here. Don't even take your car out."
"My car doesn't work," she said. "And what about my parents? I need to save them."
"If they don't live in town, you may want to try and call them. The cell phone towers can run on batteries, which will last awhile when the electricity goes out. Your parents will have to survive their own way." Then I lied: "But maybe we can find them later, when things calm down."
Sadie nodded and grabbed her cell phone off the television stand. "Get out," she said to me again.
"Okay," I said. "I'll be back, but promise me you'll stay inside."
"You don't deserve promises from me yet." Just then, the TV blinked off. A light coming from Sadie's bedroom blinked off too. Weather emergency sirens around town began to wail.
"Fine," I said to her. "I'll give you proof of what I'm about, if that's what you need. See you soon." And I walked out her front door to the sound of police, fire, and ambulance sirens making a dirge for the death of all we'd known . How much can I really do? I asked myself. She...and the others, are worth it. Sighing, I ran toward the center of town.
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This story can be read as a stand-alone narrative, but it's also a chapter in a blog novel. If you'd like to read the other stories in this growing book, please click on the links below.
Chapter Eight: The Escapee
Chapter Nine: The Mercedes Man
Chapter Ten: The Shooter
Chapter Eleven: The Monster
Chapter Twelve: The Yehasuri
Chapter Thirteen: The General
Chapter Fourteen: The Wendigo
Chapter Fifteen: The Librarian
Chapter Sixteen: The Suburbanites
Chapter Seventeen: The Paralibrarian
Chapter Eighteen: The Blighted
Chapter Nineteen: The Captive
Tags: stories ape badgers bat horses other world barefoot runner tv apocalypse end world tribe primal survivalist earth
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