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The Ballad of Reston Riggs

By Diane April All Rights Reserved ©

Other / Horror

Blurb

His brother showed up just in time for the disaster to escalate and Reston is desperate to get the answers he needs. The only problem is the Apocalypse is getting in the way of things. Having to grow up faster than he needs to, Reston will have to make some very adult decisions in order to survive.

Chapter 1

I liked the blue cup in the morning, the one with the stars on it that looked like they were flying through space and I liked my toast with peanut butter but not the crunchy kind because the nuts got stuck between my teeth. What I really liked was when mother made eggs in the morning. That hadn’t happened in a long time, though. She was sick, really sick and she wasn’t going to be better for a long time.

I took care of her like I was supposed to, like she wanted me to. In the beginning, when the sick wasn’t so bad, she showed me how to make the fever go down and how to change the bandage on her arm where she got bit. A man bit her. He wasn’t a bad man, just a sick man and he got scared like when a dog got scared and bit too. They killed dogs who bit. They didn’t kill people who bit, they just called them sick.

Mother slept a lot. All day and all night she just slept and that was fine. I could take care of myself because I was old enough and mother had to sleep a lot to get better. She always told me sleep made the sick go away and I believed her because my sick always went away but hers didn’t. Hers didn’t go away. I didn’t understand why. I didn’t understand a lot of things and mother tried to teach me but that didn’t always work. She said I learned different from the other kids and that was why I had to go to a special class sometimes in the day. I went with other kids who learned different too. They were born like that, though. I was like that because of the accident. Mother didn’t like to talk about it. She said it was too sad so I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t remember it anyway or anything before it.

The kettle boiled on the stove and I felt the butterflies in my tummy. I put my plate in the sink and took a mug from the cupboard, the mug with the kittens on it. That was mother’s favourite because I gave it to her for Mother’s Day and I used my own money to buy it. I took the basket of teas and picked peppermint because that was mother’s favourite too. I loved the smell. I put the bag to my nose and smelled for a really long time. It smelled like her. Before. Before she got sick and I missed that. I missed it because she didn’t smell at all like peppermint. At the top of the stairs the smell was awful and it started to come down the stairs too. One time we had rats in the house, they were in the walls and the ceiling and mother put poison and traps everywhere. There were so many traps we forgot where they all were. They worked great. When the rats died we couldn’t reach them all and they started to smell very bad. Mother kind of smelled like that but she was much worse. Some of her smelled like poop and pee because she always went in the bed. I tried to help her, to keep her clean but it didn’t always work.

I didn’t like going up there. I felt sick when I did but I had to do it because there was no one else to help. It was just mother and me and I liked it that way a lot. We got to do things just me and her and no one else. What I didn’t like was being scared and her not being able to tell me it was ok.

I pushed the door open. It was dark. I had to keep it dark because mother didn’t like the light. She said it hurt her eyes so I put stuff over the window to make it even darker. That was really scary and mother looked terrible, just terrible in the bed. Walking in there was just like walking into a horror movie. Sometimes I watched the scary movies that came on Saturday nights. It was called The Midnight Hour and mother let me stay up some of the nights to watch. She said it was ok sometimes if I was good and did all my homework. The Midnight Hour had some really scary movies but not as scary as mother in that room. She looked like a skeleton. Her skin was too big for her bones so it just kind of hung off her like a sweater that was too big.

“Mother?” I didn’t want to go in. The tea I made for her downstairs was in my hand and the cup was too hot. I wanted to put it down. I took a deep breath not to smell anymore and I went very quickly in the room to put the tea down on the table by her bed. Some spilled on the floor but I wasn’t going to tell mother because she’d be mad. She’d be mad because she spent a lot of money on that rug so it was special to her.

I took a cold cloth and put it on her forehead then brushed away the flies that kept landing on her. There were so many flies in that room and I always tried to brush them off but it seemed like every day there were more of them. Just so many flies all around her.

“Mother,” I whispered again. I was very quiet. I knew I should have taken her. In the beginning I should have taken her to the hospital but she told me not to and she made me promise like a pinky swear so I couldn’t break it. The people in the hospital needed help more than she did because she knew how to make herself better. Mother was a nurse so she knew how to clean her arm where the man bit her and she showed me how to do it too and she had the medicine to make her better. It was supposed to make her better because it was antibiotics. That was a big word but I knew what that word was because it was important. I practiced a lot to remember it. Mother said there was going to be a time when she needed me to take care of her but I didn’t really believe her. Or maybe I didn’t really understand her. Mothers weren’t supposed to be taken care of, they were supposed to take care of. I didn’t want to do it but she was too weak to do it herself. The man who bit her was sick and it made her sick too. She said a lot of people were getting sick but no one knew why. They’d find out one day and they’d fix it but for now, everyone had to be careful. Mother didn’t say what the sick was. She didn’t say a lot of things to me that might scare me because she thought I was still a little kid. She didn’t understand that I was old enough to know a lot of things. I wanted to be a grown up but I couldn’t be one without mother showing me how.

“Mother, are you awake?” There was a little sound that came from her mouth like she was trying to use her words but maybe they wouldn’t come out. Sometimes my words didn’t come out either but I just had to wait until they did. “What did you say?”

She was quiet. I touched her face. It was so warm. So hot. I even tried to give her some tea but it just dripped down her chin so I wiped it with the cloth. I imagined she knew I was there. I hoped she knew because I didn’t want to be without her, not for a single second and I didn’t even want to imagine that. I wiped away the hair from her face and her eyes opened. They opened so fast that I jumped a little because I didn’t know they’d do that. They looked different from her normal eyes and they didn’t feel like her normal eyes when she looked at me. I didn’t feel at all right inside and I wanted to run, just run and not look back and not look at those eyes again. She was supposed to be better when she woke up but she wasn’t better. Oh dear God, she was not better.

“Mother?”

Her hand grabbed my arm and pulled me in close to her and I didn’t want to go that close. Her mouth was open and I saw inside all the blood. I pulled away. I tried to pull away but she didn’t let go and I wanted her to let go so bad. One more time I pulled really hard so she knew I wanted to get away but it was too hard and she fell from the bed onto the floor. She hit it hard. The blankets were tangled all around her legs and she couldn’t get out of it. She should have been able to but she couldn’t. I didn’t know what to do. Mother grabbed my leg and I screamed. I couldn’t help it. The scream just came out and I got really scared because something like that wasn’t supposed to happen. My mother was not supposed to look like a monster and she was not supposed to hold on to me like that. Inside my chest my heart was beating so fast, faster than it ever went before like it was going to jump right out. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t decide what to do and nothing in my body wanted to do what it was supposed to. I pulled and she pulled and I pulled and I was never going to get out. I wanted her to stop and say it was all a joke and she was really better. It was a mean joke but I would have been happier if she said it was.

I fell back. I think that sometimes things in movies move in slow motion because it looks cool and it can make things scarier. I never knew that slow motion could happen in real life because mother always told me things like that didn’t happen in real life. She was wrong. I knew she was wrong because I saw things in slow motion when I fell back and hit my head on the wall. I felt myself fall onto the floor with mother’s hand still around my leg and I was sure she was going to rip it off. I was afraid. I was very afraid and I wondered how long it was going to be before it was all over.

There was a big, loud bang so loud that I felt it inside all of my body. I felt my ear hurt. It hurt a lot and there was blood that came out of it. Blood wasn’t supposed to come out of it. The window shook. The room shook and it started to spin and spin like one of those amusement park rides that kept going until someone puked. And then I puked. It all came out and got all over the floor and mother wasn’t going to like that. I fell over because the room was moving so fast and I fell in some of the puke. It was still warm.

Dead. Dead. Dead eyes. The bullet was right in her head. It blew up in her head and part of her head was dripping off the front of the bedside table. It was terrible. Blood. Brains. They were everywhere.

I couldn’t breathe. I thought it had to be a dream because things like that didn’t happen in real life. Sometimes I imagined things that I thought were real and sometimes I thought things were real that were only imaginary. It happened a lot and I was sure my mother on the floor like that was just imaginary. I wanted to wake up. I wanted to be in my own bed with my own mother downstairs making breakfast for me like she always did. I wanted her to hold me, to hug me but I didn’t want her to be dead as a doornail.

Get up.

I wanted to not remember her like that because I didn’t want her to be scary anymore. I wanted her to be the beautiful woman she always was.

“Get up. We have to go.” His voice was right over me but I couldn’t move even if I wanted to. It was a familiar voice and I heard it before but I couldn’t quite remember where. His hands, his very strong hands reached for me and they pulled me up to my feet but my feet didn’t want to hold me up. Mother’s hand was still on my leg and I shook it off like it was something yucky on me. Like it was a spider on me. It didn’t let go. She didn’t let go. Oh my God, I couldn’t shake her off and I started to breathe really fast and I couldn’t help it. All around me everything was moving so fast and I didn’t like it, not at all. I wanted to go away from there, be out of the room, away from mother and she just kept holding onto me and she was dead, she was so dead.

“Stand up,” the voice said. The man smelled like beer and cigarettes.

“Let me go,” I said. I couldn’t leave her. I couldn’t leave her like that but I couldn’t fight the man. He was too strong and I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t.

“We have to go, Reston.”

He knew my name.

“No.” I tried to get away from him like I had gotten away from mother but he was much stronger than she was. “You killed her.”

“She was already dead.”

I looked at him and I didn’t want to because I was afraid he would be scary too just like mother but I had to look at him. He did look like someone I knew or I thought I knew. I had seen that face before.

Wake up.

He had me in his arms. My legs didn’t move. They just dragged on the floor and I think my shoe fell off but I wasn’t sure. My eyes were so heavy and I couldn’t see so well. I was just so tired.

Wake up!

He knew my name. He knew me. I tried to stay awake. I tried so hard but I couldn’t anymore and I didn’t fight it. No, I couldn’t fight it.

Wake up!

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