Monday, January 14, 2013

Chapter 2: Fact Check

Chapter 2: Fact Check

He heard voices somewhere close by. Ben floated in that confusing realm between sleep and consciousness. It was then that the previous day’s angst plows its way back into his mind. Benjamin's eyes pop open darting about back and forth. The house remained black and devoid of power. From above his bald sweat streaked head a ray of sunlight parted the curtains racing over his sleeping children before disappearing down the shadow filled hallway. Shifting slightly so as not to rouse his wife who slept soundly on his chest. Instinctively he counts his children for reassurance and takes comfort from feeling the heavy revolver under his right leg. Undulating slowly from his under wife Ben frees himself pausing to lightly kiss her forehead. Ben steps through the minefield of sleeping children watching for stray fingers and tiny toes.

He felt as if he had fur growing on his body still sporting the clothes he'd sweat through the previous day in. Once at the door revolver in hand he pulls wine colored skirt from the small window. He could see three figures in the middle of their dead end street. Ben kneads the gun he clutches in his right hand. Unaware of his hesitation Ben realizes he's holding his breathe in an attempt to go unnoticed as he surveys the trio. The men are conversing amongst themselves it was then he shook the cob webs of sleep from his head. They were his neighbors and suddenly Ben was subtly aware of a deep seeded rampant paranoia taking hold of his psyche. Everything had kept him on edge as if he were waiting for the other cosmic shoe to drop. Since the power had gone out he had been dismissive of his children and negligent of his wife. Silently he opens the door which moves on its well oiled hinges. Once on the front porch he trots down the steps and into the driveway. He was now in full view of the group.

Ben discreetly tucks his weapon in the small of his ample back before flipping his baggy shirt over the silver pistol to cover it. Shouts a tall lean blond athletically built man walking his way. He's wearing workout attire. Ben knows his neighbor and friend Carl Fullerton had spent the morning undoubtedly hitting some type of exercise regime hard power or not. The guy was a fitness fanatic and it showed as he looks no part of forty five. "Good to see you buddy! How are Anne and the kids?" He asks extending his hand to Ben as the two men met. They greet one another with a fierce handshake. Ben notices the shorter man over Carl's shoulder. Although Napoleon Archer was Ben's longest serving neighbor the two men and their families shared a sterile suburban relationship. Ben had long told Anne that while he felt "Nate was a good guy. Who had no qualms with my being African American. His feelings on interracial marriage may not be as progressive." "Family is fine Carl and yours?" Smiling back at his buddy "Bianca and the girls are fine... fine.... fine." Carl shouts gleefully the men turn back to the others. "Good Morning Nate." Ben nods to Napoleon who returns the gesture sheepishly. Ben breaks into a wide genuine smile “Mohammed good morning Sir.” He was speaking to their neighbor from the other side of the street who was a polite white haired diminutive Iranian immigrant. "Good Morning my friend Benjamin. How are you this fine day!?" The small man gives Benjamin James a brisk warm handshake. "Mohammed how is this a fine day?" He chuckles "We have been without power for over a day now." The small man walks over to his neighbor clapping his hands together. Leaning forward he places a tiny hand palm down on Ben's wide chest. "My friend I was twenty two years old before I slept in a house with electricity. Man has survived centuries without the benefit of electric power and yet we can't go a day?!" The man rears back with laughter soon he is joined by the other men gathered in the street. "Speaking of which has anyone heard anything about when we can expect power to be restored?"

Ben scans the men's faces in the haphazard circle. Carl looks about mockingly confused "Uh Ben ole buddy old pal!” Slapping his friend's back "Dude this is so bigger than EdCon. We got blasted by a stellar tidal wave of solar flares pal they overloaded everything everywhere." Ben however is genuinely taken aback "what!" He exclaims shaking his head while pressing his rough hands to his temples. "Yeah" it was Nate's turn to weigh in. “I had been keeping up with the news via the web. The Internet however kept going in and out but then my laptop’s battery died. Globally those solar flares damn near knocked us back to the Stone Age. There's limited information flowing out through the mainstream media. Now the web is ablaze with reports of rioting around the world. Even though the U.S. government is mustering plans to alleviate some of the inconvenience. It's going to take time to get things back to normal." Ben was trying to hold his anxiety in check but his nerves felt like a million burning fuses. "Shit!" Was as good as he could muster when presented with the overwhelming news he'd been dealt. "Yes my friend it is true." Mohammed interjected." My son Jamal he calls me last night from school to tell me he was OK. He says there is fighting total chaos around UCLA." He stops suddenly the others can see the emotions washing over the kindly father. Ben places a reassuring hand on Mohammed's back as the man stammers. "It is just ..... that.... he is my only child... my world." "Mohammed… Jamal is a smart resourceful young man." Carl breaks in "you guys raised him well he'll be ok." Carl prods bobbing his head urging his neighbors to join in. A chorus of awkward "of courses" rises up on the quite sunny dead end street.

All the while Ben consoles Mohammed he eyes his home. Knowing full well he would rather tear his heart out than switch places with Mohammed Al. "Soooooo." Napoleon blurts "what's the plan? Who wants to run to the store with me?" Carl raises his hand "me! We need some more non perishables." "Not I…” Mohammed speaks after regaining his composure "thank you my friends." Ben James is lost in thought he was unaware that the group was staring at him. "Ummm no… no… not me guys!" He fumbles "I think we can make it through a few weeks or so. We'll be fine on that front." Ben turns his back on the men sizing up his house mentally taking notes. "Ben are you alright my friend." Mohammed calls aloud to a distracted Benjamin. "Yeah… I'm cool. Look guys be careful when you go out. Maybe we should consider battening down the hatchets and watching out for each others houses." The men look about confused "why?!" Nate blurts hunching his shoulder as birds chirp in the distance. "Because …” Ben begins “we are stronger together than we are alone. We can pool our resources." Pointing in the distance "We can barricade the entrance to the street with cars. It's the only way in as we're surrounded by gates behind and around us one way in one way out. Then we..." "Wooooow woooow woo!" Carl interjects. "What are we talking here the end of the world?! Slow down Ben lets take baby steps here!"

An exasperated Benjamin James rubs his smooth chin while frustration clouds his mind. "Guys no one knows for certain exactly what the hell is going on? I'm just saying we can fortify our houses or maybe just one of them and have everyone hold up there. Remember the three little pigs?" He chuckles as Nate gives off a disbelieving snort. "I do not understand my friends." Mohammed offers up. Carl strolls up to Mohammed placing an arm around his shoulders. "It's a fairy tale Mo'!" He affectionately tells the Americanized immigrant. "Ben is having a laugh at our expense he's not serious my friend."

Ben is going through a mental check list in his head. Recapping the supplies he had brought home from his job site. He had extra water, snacks and building supplies. It was time he plotted if he was going to secure the house he was burning daylight. "Guys be safe if you go out alright? Let me know if you guys want to come over. I have to go I got work to do." The tired construction worker peers back at his house. His wife was now standing in the doorway a look of concern gracing her beautiful face. He turns about to his neighbors "Mohammed…” He spoke to the man wrapped in Carl's used car salesman's embrace. "You know a tiny bit about the Bible right?!" The burly black man states stepping back from the two men. "Yes... yes that is correct my friend Benjamin." Mohammed responds. "Remember this then they laughed at Noah too when he told them he was building the Ark." His words are still filtering into the men's sub consciousness. Even as he jogs back towards his home stripping the shirt from his thick chest. Benjamin James was on the clock and in his element now.

In the latest chapter of The Living Dark Ben awakes to find his immediate neighbors gathered on their dead end street. The group of me break the news to Ben James that the power outage is going to get better anytime soon. As a matter of fact they inform him that due to solar flares. The power is down across the globe and civil unrest is breaking out all over. Carl Fullerton Ben's close friend,  Napoleon Archer who is uneasy around Ben but not because he's black and Mohammed Al a kind older Iranian immigrant. Are all making preparations for the long haul with no signs of power restoration anytime soon. Ben suggest they fortify one of their homes and pool their resources.
Come back the week of August 13th to see if anyone takes Ben up on his offer.