You know what it’s been a long time since I’ve done a short story. So I’m gonna do a short story. Based on a SONG!
(It’s an Owl City song. Because of course.)
This song is called Bird With A Broken Wing and it’s one of my favorites, both because of the music itself and also because of the story it tells. The story behind the story is also pretty cool.
Anyway here’s the song:
And here is the story.
Thunder thrummed in my chest. I felt it in my ribcage, in my lungs. I inhaled against it, holding in the air as the rumble died out. That air caught in my throat, thick with moisture and heavy with dust.
“Will you rain today?” I whispered to the sky.
The sky only answered with another flash of lightning and bone-humming roll of thunder.
I’ve been alone too long.
The ache in my arms turned my attention back to the task at hand. I spun on my heel, ignoring the reddish dust that kicked up after me as I walked back to my home. The firewood awkwardly piled against my chest pressed into my forearms.
When I reached my shelter, I dumped the wood next to the fire and stretched.
“It’s almost night,” I whispered to myself. “You gonna sleep? Probably should, you know, you’ll never survive if you exhaust yourself. But you’ll never survive if you get eaten by a Thing either,” I added.
Night time looked much the same as day time, merely darker. I hadn’t seen the sun in weeks. Angry, dusty, endlessly thundering clouds hovered over the land without even one patch of blue to break the monotony. But though the night looked the same, it certainly wasn’t. Things came out at night.
I sighed and tossed a log into my fire. “Yep. Just keep surviving . . . they’ll come back, you know, they’ll come back for you.”
Exactly three weeks. At least, I was pretty sure it was exactly three weeks. Time was hard to keep track of. Three weeks I’d been alone.
“At least you’re not running out of food yet. That’s what you were mostly worried about. You’ve got plenty of food and plenty of water. And good shelter.” My gaze swept slowly over the familiar ceiling, cobbled together from pieces of cars and tin roof sections and rotting pallets. “It’s just your mind you have to worry about. Your mind and the Things.”
My eyes continued wandering along with my thoughts. Dust-encrusted bed. Crate filled with useful things scavenged from the ruins. And my notebook.
I reached for the book, its smooth, solid cover comforting to my grimy hands. Bird was written in smeared permanent marker on the front. For a while I simply stared at the cover. The story penned inside I knew by heart.
My nose stung as my vision went blurry and wet.
Once upon a time there was a group of friends, it began. I could see his handwriting in my mind, sprawling along the page like it was in a hurry to get somewhere else.
Us, you know. They watched the world end. They panicked and they fought it. They won’t win. I mean, they won’t stop it from ending. They might survive the end. We might save the world even after it’s gone. I don’t know.
Anyway the world ended with storms and dust and death. And horrible things. They destroyed the survivors, most of them anyway. At least it wasn’t robots, right? That’s what Chandler was always afraid of . . .
I read the words from the notebook now, blinking away tears only for them to fall on the warped pages.
I don’t know what happens next. Well, I do. I know that for some reason . . . I know that you’re going to be alone, Bird. I don’t know why. Maybe we all die. Maybe we’re taken. Maybe you are.
I’m scared for you Bird.
Grumbling growls from the Things rose as the sun set.
Don’t give up. Please don’t give up.
The notebook slipped from my hands. The dull thud as it hit the ground barely registered in my ears.
“I’m trying, Caleb.”
The last lines were written larger and bolder than the others. I could see them now, behind my eyelids, sure as if I were reading them for the hundredth time.
This is meant to happen.
“Stupid Caleb,” I hissed, standing up and gazing unseeingly out through a gap in the wall. “Stupid . . . . HOW DID HE KNOW!?”
I didn’t know how Caleb knew.
“They’ve forgotten about me, or they’re dead, I knew it. I know they are. They’re gone. Caleb, you IDIOT, you knew and you LEFT ME!”
My angry screams were only answered by the Things. I threw another log onto the fire, wincing at the sudden blast of heat on my face.
I wanted to kick down the walls of my shelter. I wanted to scream until my throat split. I was sick of being alone, sick of losing my mind, sick of surviving.
Thunder rolled again, lightning flashed across the sky and the barren land. Things showed up stark white, long limbs grasping, empty eyes riveting on me.
I dropped to my knees, dry sobs jarring my lungs.
My hands reached for the notebook without my permission. A pen, one of those stupid hotel pens that never works when you need it to, I pulled from my pocket.
I don’t care how the story is supposed to go
My writing, jagged and barely legible, raced on under Caleb’s last words.
I wrote more things in that notebook, things that I barely paid attention to. Without my even noticing the dry thunder turned to rain. Water poured from the sky, slashing at my shelter, making the Things scream in agony.
Months later, a group of dusty armored travelers found a jury-rigged shelter, made from pieces of cars and old pallets crumbling to dust. In the caked dirt outside the shelter were footprints, real, human footprints, not Thing footprints. One pair, that led from inside the shelter. And many more that met them in a jumbled muddle. All impressed deep into the dirt, preserved for long, long days of dry empty weather.
One of the travelers stooped to pick up a notebook. On the front was scrawled the word Bird in smeared permanent marker. He flipped through the few filled pages, stopping on the last one.
I haven’t given up. This story isn’t over. I’m not afraid anymore.
“Think they made it?” He asked his friends.
I am too tired for an outro, boys, but thank you for reading!
See you next week!