“The smoke is hazy nectar, the smell of the flowers a violet ambrosia.”
The sunlight hurts Howie’s eyes.
A hiss spews from a grimace of blackened teeth as Howie sits himself up and fakes shade with his arms. For a moment he expected to wake up down in the church’s basement to the smell of a smoked joint and a rumble in his belly that he would fill with whatever Jhan’s going to bring over for lunch later, but that was just for a moment. Then he remembered. Now he’s laying back down. Now he’s wishing he could get a smoke.
Night passed, that’s a plus. He seems to have survived unscathed, ‘But of course I did, what’s left to attack me? Hah!’ although his bad foot feels like it’s swollen past the point of getting his boot off. ‘Maybe for the rest of my life.’ Tending to the wound last night would’ve been the smart thing to do, he could have at least looked at it, but…
‘But it starts with an aRe and it ends with an Eee.’
“It cometh unto you and it cometh unto me.”
Howie rubs his eyes a few dozen times and ignores the pain which ensues. He woke up in the apocalypse for the second day in a row now, it’s still happened and he can feel the pain of what’s happened, too. The physical, the emotional, just… all the pain. He’s alive and kicking, there’s no doubt about that; it’s what he’s kicking at that’s worrying Howie. He hasn’t been right ever since this all went down – how could he? How could anyone? – but there’s an underlying reason behind his general malaise that’s been gnawing at his mind more than the caustic ashy paste slowly working its way through his system: Howie sobered up. His high is practically gone, he hasn’t felt the hole in the center of his chest in years and now it’s opening back up again because there’s no pot, there’s no pot, “Why is all the pot gone, Yahn? Why is all the pot all gone?”
The sky punishes Howie for looking at it, but he can’t just lay here pretending to be asleep any longer, damnit. There’s nobody he’s ignoring, he’s just laying here in the ash for the sake of being immobile. This is stupid. And a conundrum: if he opens his eyes he’ll have to look at his foot, but if he keeps them closed he doesn’t have to look at his foot. Looking at his foot last night when the wound was fresh would have been fine, it would have been the intelligent thing to do, but today… after it’s been left to fester in the ash all night… and, as Howie is just realizing now as one of the many clouds making up his mental fog clears, it could have been tampered with. He knocked out laying on his stomach last night after he fli–… after he found Jhan, but he’s on his back now. He probably didn’t roll over on his own, so that mea–
“Hello?!” Howie shouts. His voice cracks. “Hello, is there someone here? Hello?!”
There’s somebody else, he’s not alone, Howie’s not alone, God sent someone to save him! The Lord is real, God is good! God is good, Jack! There’s no other possible explanation, the Lord’s work is being done before Howie’s own eyes, if the Sisters were here… the Sisters! Howie can go back to the church and apologize to the Sisters Three for abandoning them, he can help them! The First Stand of New Civilization is already five members strong and it’ll be ten in no time, they can only go up in numbers from here! Especially if his savior is a woman – imagine, a true to life guardian angel sent in the night by God to save Howie in his time of need… in the one time when he really needed the help… and God came through.
God actually came through.
Howie’s shouts of summons continue for what feels like hours. He only stops when his breathing speaks over his shouts, then fails to get started again because of how much effort he fears such will take. Running on fumes is nothing new to Howie, nor is scraping the bumper, nor pulling over to swap in a spare, but that was back when there were repair shops open where he could take his ride if it got too broken for him to fix by himself. Now all the repair shops are ash. Now his ride is ash. The only thing that’s not ash now is Howie, and if he could have his way then that just wouldn’t be so, Jack. That old church of St. Wuester would have preserved three lives instead of four last night; nothing more to say on the matter.
“I could have died looking for him,” Howie reminds himself. “I could have died thinking Jhan was still alive somewhere. Could have died with hope.” The birds don’t chirp. “Why do I keep talking to myself?”
‘It’s happening one way or the other, Hootsie Babey,’ the voice reminds him. ‘Better to ‘man the floodgate than batten down the hatches.’
This isn’t healthy, Howie needs to move on. The hot agony of his foot is no stranger about introducing itself as Howie’s sitting himself back up, but as he already met his new neighbor, he does his best not to pay it any mind. This only seems to make the agony more persistent, but as per usual, Hoots has bigger fish to fry. He’s opened his eyes now and while he’s appalled at just how black his clothing got from the staircase incident yesterday, what he’s really gawking at is the dark purple flank of bloody beefsteak sticking off the end of his leg. His toenails look almost like eyes, they’re perfectly clean just like the rest of his foot aside from the blood, orangish with pus it is, drooling out of the gruesome entrance wound between the knuckles of his first and second toes. There’s also the improvised splint made out of what appears to be broken wine racks and tied with shirt scraps(?) holding his foot in place, and also the lack of a boot, but this last isn’t even on his radar.
“There’s really somebody else, my God,” Howie says, awestruck.
The thought of one of the Sisters – Betty, the quieter one for sure – coming around from the other side of the house wearing a duster coat splattered with blood and the heads of the other two nuns tied together by their hair and hanging around her neck flashes through Howie’s mind. He laughs hysterically for thirteen seconds, then abruptly cuts that off.
“There’s really somebody here.”
The silence affirms this.
“I just need to wait it out. They’ll come back, whoever they are.” Breath. “Wherever they are.”
Howie begins coughing out of nowhere. Something dislodges from his windpipe and lands against the top of his throat, so Howie sucks his sinuses into his mouth to displace it and, admirably without gagging, hacks it all onto the ground next to him. It comes out as a semi-solid glob of black death which looks red in small quantities, Howie discovers after plucking a pinch of it between two fingers and stretching it. A deep crimson. Like blood.
“Well that’s disconcerting,” Howie admits. “Guess I’ll have to try again.”
Howie looks at the glob. At the house of his landlord.
“I wonder if the landlord fixed my leg.”
Continues to stare at the house of his landlord, hoping the black blood will leave his mind.
“Probably did it just so he could use it as leverage to collect rent.”
The black blood – mayhap a clot his body somehow removed from the main systems overnight and stored in his windpipe for expulsion when Howie woke up, who’s to say? – refuses to leave Howie’s mind.
“A smoke would be fuckin’ nice,” Howie announces. “It’d solve everything: my headache, the general pain, the pangs in the stomach, the existential dread. Not forever, but for long enough. I had at least a third of an ounce left in the stash, it’s enough. It won’t last very long smoking with Roscoe, but pot never lasts very long, there’s never enough pot… so I think it’s enough. It’ll definitely get me back to the church, that’s for sure. Don’t know what I’m going to do when I run out, though.”
Howie stares at the house.
“Well, I know what I’m going to do, I’m going to go through the withdrawal. I’m going to get the sweats, the anxiety, all that good shit.” Silence. “I’m already dealing with all that from being a recluse anyway. I have it right now, in fact; I’m feeling my normal societal withdrawal but like… differently than I normally do.”
A line of cars don’t tear down Cannonball Road going twenty over the speed limit.
“You know, because… Rapture.”
A passenger jet of humans who’ve travelled millions of miles across the Earth doesn’t fly overhead.
“Apocalypse Anxiety, call up the Dee-eSs-ehM guys. Tell ‘em I got their entire next edition.”
A dam of quietude threatens to keep itself together against a sinking tide of chaos and sudden catastrophe.
A single human whose right foot is actively decaying from the inside doesn’t display any semblance of body language suggesting he’s happy about his current state of affairs despite narrowly dodging death more times in the past numerous hours than most folk do in three lifetimes.
“Never thought my path would bring me to this here and now. Waiting on a stranger who saved me during the night.” He looks down at the ground around him, trying not to stare at the black blood clot but staring deeply into the black blood clot all the same. “I don’t know what their intentions are, they could want to eat me. Just fixed my foot so I can walk myself back to their camp at gunpoint.” The uncomfortable rushing, pulsating sound of his body at work amongst the silence of Earth, Kingdom of Ashes. “They might even let me smoke a little before I die, if I give them the rest of the stash. Which I would, of course. Yeah, that wouldn’t be too bad at all. No worse than dying alone.” The silence of Howie’s kingdom. “In theory.”
“I need a fucking smoke already…”
Thus the cycle continues as this eternal day sheds its hours one by one.
Hello Commons, this has been the second subchapter of the fourth 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.
Be well Commons~