The following is the opening to a story that I think I am about to abandon. I like the opening very much, but every thing else I write after it doesn't work the way I want it to, which is why I think it's time to lay this piece to rest. But as I said, I do like the opening, so here it is. Poke it as you see fit...
A Little Trouble DyingWaiting for the last contaminants of the plague to pass, I had sat in my underground shelter, surrounded by 55-gallon drums of distilled water and mountains of canned vegetables with peeling paper labels. I scribbled the days and weeks on the wall with a piece of chalk like a prisoner marking time in solitary.
And that, I frequently thought during those miserable years, was exactly what I was. A prisoner. Except I hadn’t been forced into my underground shelter by the state for crimes against society; I had gone down there alone, voluntarily, to escape death.
If only I had known quite how thoroughly I would accomplish my goal…
You see, until yesterday I hadn’t laid eyes on another living being in two-hundred-fourteen years, six months, and three days.
I was having a little trouble dying.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, and no, I’m not crazy. I may have become a little obsessed with counting things, but you try spending 3,264 days alone in an underground shelter – no matter how well-stocked it is with books, games, CDs and DVDs - and see if you don’t come out obsessed with something.
And I think it’s important you know I never intended to go into that shelter alone. Despite being told repeatedly what a paranoid fool I was for building the shelter in the first place, I was a social person, quick with a joke and even quicker to laugh at the jokes of others. I loved being around people.
But when I told my co-workers at the lab I thought the N6HV3 virus was about to explode across the planet, none of them grasped the urgency of the situation. And when I told family and friends the same thing, I got the same response.
Reduced from logic to cajoling, then pleading, I finally had no choice but to go into the shelter alone.
Six weeks later they were all pounding on the double-paned, bullet proof window next to the entrance, their eyes bleeding and their flesh flaking from their bodies in great gray chunks. By then letting anyone in, even my sister and her infant daughter, was no longer an option. All that was left to do was talk – and sometimes cry – along with them through the intercom until they died on my doorstep.
I hated every one of them for making me watch them die like that. Hated them with a passion.
A lot of people died on my doorstep. That’s when the counting started; I counted family and friends as they died a few hermetically sealed inches away. I could feel myself age with the passing of each one.
Several centuries later, I’m still in the habit of counting things - but I haven’t aged since.
And I only hate them a little…