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.
 

I'd given up on Sadie by the time she shoved me out the front door of her apartment and into the apocalypse.  Yes, I thought she could help me make a tribe and survive whatever was happening to our worlds, but I didn't know she was so good at make believe.  She'd acted like I could just run into Rampart Rock, slay all the monsters coming out of the Seams, and save everyone.

I couldn't and wouldn't do any of that.  She'd been right about me.  A bloated, sharp-toothed part of my mind enjoyed The End.  The American people had played their video games, watched TV, and voted for corporate dictatorship for years.  Rich men had gotten rid of common peoples' rights, yet no one cared as long as they still had sports and sitcoms.
 
A couple months before, I'd come out of the Other Place and back to Earth through a Seam southwest of Rampart Rock.   Soon after, I'd found a small cave in a pine-forested ridge.  I'd made my home there, beneath the rhyolite, and that's where I started to go when Sadie kicked me out.  

I picked up my backpack at my camp across the street from Sadie's place.  I figured I could bring along my spears, bolas, and knives too.  Gunshots were popping for miles around.  No one was worried about weapons laws anymore.  Alien beasts had probably eaten most cops anyway.  


Downtown Rampart Rock stood between me and my cave.  I ran into the ruins of the smoking suburb.  Surprisingly, many people were still alive.  Cars had crashed into buildings.  Chunks of brick, concrete, and stone lay, blood spattered, in the street.  Half-chewed bodies and torn limbs lay scattered across the landscape.  Survivors fled in every direction, but there were less and less of them every minute.

 
Bathorses and apebadgers taunted or ham-stringed their prey.  Some of these creatures were squatting in dark alleys, consuming fresh meat.  Down the road, the giant flying plant beast, which Sadie and I had seen earlier that day, plucked people off the street with its saw-toothed mouths.  Some kind of Chinese dragon roared and charged the plant thing, but it just took off and hovered in the air like a leafy hummingbird.   Mothra or Godzilla would've fit right in with those monsters. Giant wolves stalked a herd of people, who ran down Main Street a block away.  Meanwhile, the orange and purple foliage of the Other Place sprouted up and grew over sidewalks and Kentucky Bluegrass lawns.  

Flying creatures I'd never seen, with turtle mouths and bulbous eyes, perched like gargoyles on the tops of government buildings. Later on, we called them "fliers."  Their knowing eyes watched the chaos as they squawked and clicked at each other.  I thought I saw something tall walking beside me.  I looked toward it, but nothing was there.  Nearby, someone whispered my name: "Jaaaakkkeee."

I got the chills.  Nothing like that had ever happened in the Other Place.  Trying not to run, I moved on.

I'd been stuck in the Other Place for several months.  During that time, I'd learned to live among the bathorses, apebadgers, and pigdogs without becoming their dinner.  I hid from those animals at first.  When night came, I'd stayed awake, my eyes searching the alien forests for predators.  The apebadgers could smell my fear.  When they caught that scent, they'd chase me through the giant ferns and vines for miles.  I found refuge in caves.  Apebadgers stayed away from them.

I might've died of thirst or hunger if I would've kept running.  Instead, I remembered the advice of my friend and primal-living teacher Dylan: 

"Fear serves no purpose," he'd told me as we sat around a fire near Mount Manitou.  "You're always running because you're afraid of what's here, right now.  You think the future, or even the past, has something better, but you can't move forward or backward in time."

My other teacher, a mountain man named River Runner, added, "We think we have a self, separate from the rest of the universe. There is no self.  Your body and soul are part of a sea of energy and life.  Look around you at the trees, rocks, and sky.  Eat, breathe, and shit: You are changing.  Everything is transforming and connected.  No beginning, no ending.  Separation is a delusion.  The Celts call this ebbing and flowing of inter-being "Manred."  To Taoists, it's the essence of "Tao."  Gnostics name it "God."  But names don't matter.  Meditate on it.  You'll realize that you are never born, and you will never die.  Hell, you are not even here.

Dylan took a long toke from his joint and said, "Just let go of your desire to have things a certain way.  The Buddha says, "The past is gone.  The future has not yet come.  Be here now.""  The campfire cast a dim light on my friends' features in the cold mountain night, and I realized that nature had taught me these lessons long ago.

My time in the Other Place got easier after I recalled that conversation.  I stopped acting like prey, and the animals of that world mostly left me alone.

In turn, I remembered the lessons I'd learned in the Other Place as I walked through the gore and wreckage of Rampart Rock's end.  I wondered what had happened to Dylan and River Runner during the invasion.  Chances were, they just kept on living in their little log cabin near Pikes Peak.  They'd opted for a simple life, living off the land and hunting for their food.  They used plants, animals, and rocks to make everything they needed.
  
"Stop running," I shouted at the suburbanites screaming and fleeing around me.  "Stand your ground.  When they attack, you have a better chance of surviving if you fight back."  Horror had plunged its dark claws into these people.  The Other Place predators' instincts told them to catch scared things that fled.

My voice grew hoarse after yelling so much.  The fliers were eying me, as if to say, "move along and get eaten."  I shrugged and began to walk southwest, watching people die as I went.  A brave fireman took down a matriarch apebadger, only to be torn apart by the smaller members of her pack.  Backed against a wall, a woman in a skirt-suit fired a handgun wildly.  She managed to hit a couple bathorses, which became food for the fliers.  The gigantic plant thing got the woman as she ran down the road.  

Whenever a victim seemed to have control of their self or their situation, those fliers would swoop down and carry them off.  I was sure they'd come for me too.  Clutching my spear and a machete I'd taken from my pack, I readied myself for attack as I walked southwest through town.  These fliers, like many other creatures ravaging the town, were not from the Other Place I knew.  

I passed through the heart of downtown and into the southern part of old Rampart Rock.  I came upon an empty parking lot, its exits clogged with battered vehicles.  An untouched white gazebo sat in one corner of the lot.  It seemed out of place among the new ruins.  The beasts hadn't bothered much with this part of town.  Silence and calm surrounded the place.  Here, the scent of crispy autumn leaves and browning grass won-out over the smoke fumes blanketing the rest of Rampart Rock.  Something whispered my name again.  "Jaaaakeee."

I turned toward the raspy voice.  Instead of a person, I saw a library lined with huge windows.  White brick siding and angled, two-story architecture made this building look more modern than the old town shops and restaurants I'd passed along the way.  Orange emergency lights shone from inside the library.  A human silhouette darted among the shelves.  An arm appeared in the window and wiggled a curtain rod.  The white shades lurched down, blocking my view.  Curious, I walked toward the sliding glass doors, which someone had barricaded with boards.

A car engine hummed in the distance.  The sound was out of place among the roars and screams downtown.  Gunshots followed the vehicle as it came closer.  How can anyone drive through all that wreckage? I asked myself as I took a few steps in the direction of Main Street, toward where the car was headed.

Then it appeared in the distance: a black Mercedes dodging dead vehicles and zooming southward.  As the car came closer, the driver stuck his head out the window and fired a couple shots at a four-legged flying creature, which, again, I didn't recognize, circling above him.  The monster shrieked a sound like shattering glass and went down.  One hell of a shot, I thought.  

A pack of apebadgers bounded after the vehicle, waiting for it to wreck.  Some of them broke off from the group to feed on the monster the shooter had taken out.

The shooter hadn't watched the road well enough.  A hunk of twisted gas pumps and the remains of a concrete island barricaded the street.  The Mercedes hit the pumps going fast.  Its entire front crumpled.  By this time, the car was about fifty yards from the gazebo.  The Mercedes' air bags deflated, and the apebadgers closed-in on the vehicle.

A woman inside the car screamed.  I'd been listening to people hollering since I left Sadie's place, but this particular yelp got to me.  I recognized it.  Dropping my pack, I ran towards the Mercedes with my spear, bola, and machete.  The apebadgers reached the car about the same time I did.  Sadie was stumbling out of the vehicle.  "What the...?" I asked. 

The shooter got out of the car too.  He wore baggy, white shorts, a silk polo shirt stained with blood, and a cocked Duke basketball cap.  His gun was huge and silvery.  He jammed another clip into its handle just before an apebadger ran up to Sadie.  The shooter fired, blasting a huge hole in the apebadger's chest.  I made a running jump over the Mercedes' hood, landing between the pack of apebadgers and Sadie.  

The apebadgers held their ground, but they didn't advance.  They whooped, beat their chests, and clawed the air for show.  Apebadgers weren't stupid.  They knew the kid's gun would cost their pack too many lives before they could take us down, so they postured at us.  I growled and puffed my chest out, false-charging them a couple times.  Sadie stayed silent for once.  The apebadgers backed away, and another shriek sounded behind them.

The shot-and-fallen flying monster was still alive.  Wings twisted and tattered, it raked its claws and snapped its jaws into apebadger flesh. The apebadgers surrounding us took off to help their failing companions.  The flying beast roared and pawed the air.  Looking up, I saw two fliers hovering high above us.

"Let's get out of here," I said.  "I think I know where we can go."

Sadie's head was still swollen from hitting the concrete when I'd slung my bola around her legs earlier that day.  "Get me away from him," she said, pointing at the shooter and clinging to me.  "He's a murderer."

I looked at the kid and raised my machete.  He let his gun hand drop to his side and he shrugged.

"Sadie," I said.  "The important thing is that he's not murdering us.  You can solve your beef with him later.  Let's all find shelter first."

"You don't understand," Sadie said.  "I mean...the guy he killed was an asshole, but still..."

The kid said,  "He was a monster.  Soon as we're out of danger, I can explain it to you.  Let's move out."

I dragged Sadie by the hand toward the library.  The kid followed.  Halfway there, Sadie jerked her hand out of mine and said, "none of this is real."  She covered her eyes and sat down on the pavement.  "Cavemen and gangster Indians and monsters don't exist."  She stood up and started to run away.  The kid casually caught her, picked her up by the waist, and carried her over his shoulder the rest of the way to the library.  He was wiry, but muscular, and he held her weight easily.  She flailed and kicked, but the kid took it all in stride.

The sounds of apebadgers and flying deer-lions-or-whatever faded again as we walked up to the library's glass doors.  The kid set Sadie down, and I heard air whooshing above us.  Looking up, I saw something silver spinning and falling toward my head.  The object hit my face.  Pain surged through my chin, nose, and eyes.  I fell forward...The End.

The Librarian and all other materials on Tim's Blog are copyrighted by me, Tim Miller.  Please contact me via email regarding publishing or redistribution of stories or blogs. My email address is tim@himtim.com.  I apologize for any formatting errors.  I'm a writer, not a code monkey.

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.  To leave a comment, please go to the story's page by clicking on the title. Scroll down and type your comment in the Disqus box.

Chapter One: The Mechanic

Chapter Two: The Walker

Chapter Three: The Mechanic 2

Chapter Four: The Walker 2

Chapter Five: The Hunter

Chapter Six: The Cop

Chapter Seven: The Hunted

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 Seventeen: The Paralibrarian
 
Chapter Eighteen: The Blighted

Chapter Nineteen: The Captive