FINE AS ASH by Guy Cain

Ever fall asleep during the fall and wake up in the winter? It happened to me once. Or at least that’s what I thought. I’d been putting in a lot of hours at work to try and get some bills paid. You know how it used to be. So, on Sunday afternoon I took a couple sinus pills and washed them down with a couple beers to help me get a little nap before the game started. When I opened my eyes, there was still a little daylight. I flipped on the TV but nothing happened. Hell, I even got out my chair and walked over to push the little button by hand to no avail. Like anyone I went straight to the microwave to check the time. Nothing. Not even a blinking twelve o’clock. Next, I checked the fridge. Everything was cool, but definitely not cold like it should be. What the hell had happened? How long was I asleep?

I pulled my robe closed and went to the door. Figured I’d run next door, talk to Ron, see what was up. The entire lawn was covered in fine powdery snow. Some of it blew into the house as I swung door open. My first thought was that I didn’t feel like shoveling the driveway. Strange thing was that there were no tire tracks in the road. Like it had snowed a few inches and everyone had just said, “Fuck it” and stayed home.  Next thing I noticed was the heat. It must have been ninety out.  That’s when I knelt to feel the snow. It was dirty light gray, fine as ash, not cold at all.

You know how sometimes when it snows things seem extra peaceful? Other times it gets extra crazy with ambulance and police sirens? I listened close for a long time. No sirens, no nothing. Not even a barking dog or a singing bird. That’s when it finally sunk in. Something had happened. Something big. Something world changing.

Like I said, it was warm out, but I figured I’d better get dressed before checking out the neighborhood to see if anybody knew what was going on. You know that little nagging feeling you would get when you started to leave the house without your wallet? I got that feeling when I stepped into the garage and hit the door button. Of course, it didn’t open, so I pulled the little rope and raised it up myself. The wind was kicking up, blowing ash around my boots as I got in my little Ranger. I remember trying to close the truck door quick before the ash got in, not realizing that it didn’t matter, that pretty much nothing mattered anymore. The truck wouldn’t start. Not even that annoying “DING DING DING” when you first put the key in the ignition.  Just for a second I thought, “No problem, I’ll just plug in the battery charger the kids got me last Christmas.”

I decided to put the garage door back down before walking over to Ron’s.  He wasn’t home so I went to the next house, and the next. All the doors were locked and nobody was home, or at the very least they weren’t answering the door. I did notice that the door bells weren’t working either. My guess was that the power was out all through town. House after house, nothing. When I got to the little apartment building on the corner, the smell of rotting meat hit me. The place consisted of four little duplex type one story buildings. All were occupied by elderly singles. The stench was bad enough I didn’t bother stopping.

On Main Street, I found the only signs of life I’d seen all day. The ash on the road bore tire tracks. They were faint but visible. Looked like whoever it was had stuck to the main drag, just drove right on through town. No surprises there. Most people drove right on through this berg. Couldn’t blame them for that, not much worth stopping for. Walking back to my house, the wind was in my face. Ash got in my nose and mouth so bad that I was forced to hold a handkerchief to my face all the way back.

Once inside I stripped off and went straight to the bathroom.  I was outside for only an hour but I was covered in fine ash. It looked like I was wearing a powdered wig from the olden days. The water was cold, but I stayed in the shower long enough to get it all washed off. I grabbed some clean pants and the shirt the kids gave me for Father’s Day a few years back. In big white letters it read, “You think my kids are mean? Have you met their mother?” It was a running joke between the ex and I as to who was the worst.  The kids got wind of it as they got older and jumped right in. That’s when I started worrying about them.

They were all adults now, with lives of their own, but as a parent you never stop worrying. They had all moved away for college and then careers. I kept thinking that whatever was going on was somehow limited to the immediate area, that the rest of the world was not covered in ash. Hell, I still don’t know for certain.

A week later I stood at my front door, pack on my shoulder. I still don’t know what happened, but I had to find my kids, at least. I had to find out something. 

I’m a father, son, Eagle Scout, founder of the Zombie Apocalypse Survival Camp, and outdoorsman. I have had articles published in Backwoodsman magazine and am currently expanding my writing to include short stories as well as co-author of the cutting edge zombie apocalypse novel, Tales Of Junction which should be available in the near future.

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