“There is no death in this wood, there is only permanence…”
The sidewalks running along Vhykus Path are covered in untarnished ash. The roads are unwalked; the doors of the houses stand locked and unopened, if they stand at all; the windows are mostly all shattered, the sprinklings of the glass hidden beneath the weightless ash blanket laid down by the Lord God Himself.
“Thank You, God,” Howie says to himself as he walks past yet another burnt scrap heap that used to be a car. There were a few of those along Maple, more on Rosebud. Probably. There were enough along the first stretch of the road to extrapolate that there were more on all of Rosebud than there were on Maple, it doesn’t–… and no, it doesn’t matter that I’m only thinking of it now.”
Howie stops walking and hangs fists at his sides in an attempt to pull himself together. “Thank You, God, for sparing me and Yahn instead of the landlord. Thank You for sparing the defenseless and likely incompetent three Sisters of Saint Wuester’s Church, and thank You most of all for sparing me, God, some inconsequential gay stoner dude who couldn’t help save the world even though the fucking world depends on it. Fuck!”
He kicks hard at the ash, cloaking himself in a wall of gray beneath the endless sea of disarming white.
“Thank You, God! Thank You for saving us, for saving me! ” Howie kicks more ash into the air and punches at it as hard as he can. He kicks and punches at the ash, kicks and punches with boiling rage and unyielding fury, he’s fighting the ash itself, he’s fighting Armageddon and God and the Universe and all of it, Howie “Hoots” McGee, the next great stand-up pot comic from a humble apartment in Wuester, New Jersey, the human who singlehandedly invented the greatest way to smoke pot, the demi-pan-sexual master survivor of Rapture, the main character of his own fucking movie, Howie “Hoots” McGee!!
“Thank You for saving me, God! Thank You!! Now I can clean up Your fucking mess, and when I fail? Well at least I get to die trying You Fucking Asshole!!!”
Howie kicks at the ash so hard his second leg leaves the ground in tandem with the first. He crashes down on his ass and yelps in agony, something crackled. It didn’t crack, there was no breaking or snapping, but there was a crackle. There was a definite Goddamned crackle and now Howie’s in a great deal of pain, there’s a great awful throbbing coming from the meeting of his cheeks at the top of his ass and it’s not feeling good, it’s not feeling very good at all, not even after he rolls himself over.
“I’m not feeling too good now, ladies’n’germs,” Howie whimpers into the little ashy air between his face and the whipped ground. “Not too good at all.”
Unable to summon the strength to get himself up on his legs, Howie crawls up the flat ashen roadway towards the house upon which his apartment was built probably a few years ago, maybe longer.
“I really didn’t do my research on that,” How reminds himself.
‘No we didn’t,’ the inner Howie agrees. ‘Not our best work.’
“No, certainly not. Neither was Yahn, to be honest.”
Howie crawls in silence with himself until he can’t withstand his putrid, acrid breath anymore. It feels like spoiled orange cheese is seeping out of the raised bumps back there in his throat, it’s plenty nauseating by itself but combined with the stale ash on the air?
“I need to smoke some pot,” he reasons. “That’ll make my breath more bearable.”
‘Yeah, make me loopier, too. Then you’ll have to deal with three voices in here.’
“Three voices…?” Howie asks, genuinely confused. “I thought there was only you.”
Howie did indeed think the voice in his head was the only one he’s been hearing all this time he’s been talking aloud to himself.
He’s off the street now. The sidewalk is behind him. There are no tracks anywhere on the front lawn, nor on the stairs leading up to the apartment. The windows of the landlord’s house are broken, the front door is a solid slab of sooty black, same color as the heap of ruin in the driveway… but from a distance the house appears to be intact. Most of the houses on these roads are, actually, and they’re probably all at least a little stable, too.
“I could lift some supplies off the bodies, maybe find some survivors. I might not even have to go back to the church, I could start my own Last Stand of Civilization right here. Yeah, as a’matt’a’fact, I’ll call it The New Stand of Civilization. No, The First Stand of New Civilization!” Howie’s voice has adopted a slight wobble; he can’t tell if it’s excitement or misery. “Yahn’s waitin’ for me up there, I know he is. We won’t have to walk through the ashes anymore, Hootsie Babey, we don’t have to go and save the Sisters all by ourselves after all.”
Tears stream down his cheeks in soiled black rivers as Howie “Hoots” McGee weeps openly in his ash-laden driveway.
“I’ll never have to walk through the ashes again, it’s just me and Yahn now. Just you and me, Yahn! Just you and me!”
Howie walks blubberingly through the blanket of ash and trudges up the burned stairway he walked down just last night after Jhan kicked him out, his face plastered with a smile so grand it could outshine the stars as the charred black treads crumble under his boots and fall to the ground, disappearing into the bottomless void of ash that waits for Howie below.
“I’m back, Yahn, I came for you!” Howie shouts as he kicks the apartment’s door clear off its hinges without applying any effort at all. “I’m here Yhan, it’s all going to be okay!”
The apartment door, once a solid slab of oak, breaks in half in the air and lands in five brittle pieces.
“Yahn, I’m finally home!”
Hello Commons, this has been the last subchapter of the second chapter of Flowers, a novel about a man who smokes the last of his pot.
Flowers is part of the Third Spiral, an anthology of sorts called The Here and Now which is comprised of stories told from the various planes of Existence.
Flowers is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
If you like Flowers and would like to help support my work, click here and buy an autographed copy of the book (or anything else!) from my store. Alternatively, you can snag a cheaper (and unsigned) copy from Amazon by clicking here OR you can buy the ebook for even cheaper here.
If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. Be well Commons~