Helen's Story

From the World of New Beginnings

Brian W. Porter
For me the 'strange times,' as I called them back then, began when Mom and Dad started arguing over the news, something that didn't interest me. Usually my dad had a comment or two, and Mom agreed, but this time they really argued. The next morning they slept in for the first time, something they never did. I thought they slept because they had stayed up late watching the news and talking, leaving me to get ready for school on my own. I had no problem with that, but that morning the bus didn't show, another first, and I had no way to get to my sixth grade class. I walked home from the bus stop, checked on my sleeping folks, then turned on the television to find it broken; it showed nothing but snow and static. Even the radio didn't work right. I could only find one station, and that was full of static with a person I could barely hear shouting about the end of the world. I listened to the person in the static, but did not understand what he was talking about. I was fine, and so was everything else around me. Erie things began to happen then. The electricity went out in a strange way. It sort of faded. When the electricity died, I made my way to the fuse box in the basement, but it made no sense to me. None of the small metal pieces had melted, as my father said would happen when one blew. I went outside to find Dad, who should be up by now, but no one had filled the animal's food and water troughs, or cleaned the stalls. Someone had to take care of the animals. Every week, if not more often, Dad said, "The animals have to be taken care of. You have to feed and water them or they'll die." I measured out the grain and hay for the cows the same as I had done during spring vacation. The chickens and pigs also needed attention, although I wouldn't have to clean their stalls. When I had cleaned and bedded the last cow stall, I went back to the house knowing Dad would be proud of me. Both Mom and Dad were still in bed asleep, and the room smelled strange, almost as if the cesspool had backed up again. I walked to the window, opened it, and looked out at Route 13, the four-lane highway that always had cars and trucks on it. The road was strangely empty. No trucks whined by. No cars blew their horns at each other. There was only the noise of nature outside, nothing but birds and the animals.

This is weird, too weird, I thought. I gave my dad a shake to wake him. His skin was cold. He rolled over onto his back from my shaking. His face was white and he wasn't breathing. Even to my uninformed eyes he was dead. Dead! Believe me, I screamed and backed away to the door. Mom should have woken to the noise, but she had fallen out of bed as if she was just dead weight. She was dead weight. Dead, dead weight. Life started its downhill course then. Through my tears, I let all the animals loose, knowing they could fend for themselves better than I could care for them. I waited for them to make a break, stroking Charlie even though he wanted to hunt some food, but only the chickens ran for the gate. Slowly the pig that was to be dinner next Christmas rooted its way out followed by the others, but the horses and cows stayed where they knew--for about a day. Then they, too, worked their way to the pond for some water, and ate the grass and flowers. After that, I had to root for carrots and eggs, my only food. Charlie tried to help. He'd bring mice and other small animals, but I couldn't bear to eat them. The house stank so badly I couldn't go inside, and the power was still off, so nothing worked anyway. There were chicken droppings all over, and I had to go to the pond for water or a bath. I couldn't even use soap or change my clothes. *** Other short stories and essays from this author available at http://www.scribd.com/Brian%20W%20Porter. Copyright 2010 Attribution Non-commercial No-derivs You may share this work with anyone in any way with the following provisions. You must share the complete work, including the title and this notice. You may not make any changes. You may not use this work commercially or accept payment without the written permission of the Author. Any and all rights and credit are held by Brian W. Porter.

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