Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Alone Into The City

City Flowering Tree Los Angeles 3/2012 copyright Caroline Gerardo

“Then he turned his back the way he had come, walking out of step with the others, and headed alone into the city.” Alec Nevala-Lee  The Icon Thief

 Alone After The Radiation

Daniel’s kick step carries him west, on 6th Street. His feet are bulky and elephant-like. In his grey dome, he marches without fear of ravens, coyotes and badgers. Instinct pulls him left on Bonnie Brae up towards the smoke. Another turtle with a XV3 tattoo painted on his shell scurries down on the steaming pavement. The round figure circles down the hill, away from Daniel.
“Got no problem with you vato-” The teen’s stumpy leg acts as a screen. The sounds of his feet rumble away. The echo makes a thick feeling in Daniel’s core.
Lowering his head into his shell, Daniel says nothing. He avoids being spotted by Lil Cycos lookouts on the top of the remains of The California Hotel. The 18th Street gang has taken over downtown and the westside Los Angeles. The Colombian 18th Street gang did not burn the hotel to the ground.

Daniel looks like a grey butternut squash lumbering up the grade. With his columnar legs, the enemy does not recognize Daniel as stranger, or homie. Daniel blends with the pavement as if invisible. He is nothing to them. Although it is a month after the first nuclear reactor blew, it is unsafe to be outside for long.
Daniel cannot let go the burning emotion of what occurred in his basement an hour ago. Laura’s blood saturated the beige carpet. The police will never arrive with a black zip up bag.

Gazing ahead, Daniel notices a flowering crab apple has dropped blushing petals on the concrete. He tastes one, testing if it is Indian Magic, Daniel's favorite type of blooming tree. The blossom is bitter and not edible. It is some other hybrid. He spits out the bud on the pavement, and the fuchsia tissue floats in his saliva. There on the pavement the fuchsia tissue of the flower floats in his saliva. It reminds Daniel of his mission.
Laura, my soul mate, is gone from the earth, murdered by the enemy.” Daniel shakes his head.
Laura and Daniel's original home was two miles away from the radiation spill. After the explosion there was rioting. They had to get away. Together the couple hiked fifty miles away from the San Onofre Coast to find a safer place to live. Daniel felt confident they could hide safely underground for a year if needed. Daniel had not counted on the enemy invading the darkness while he searched for water.
The Gila Monsta gang blocked off most of Pico Union by April 1st. Other gangs ruled the city. Then next the Fire Department refused to enter. By April 9th, the best the police could do was to load human bodies into the makeshift morgue. A wine storage building in Glendale served to hold the dead. By April 11th, the fatality rate was ninety five percent of the population.
Laura is gone from this earth.”  The only solution Daniel can muster is to battle with the perpetrators.
Daniel witnessed the two enemy ravens escape the crime scene. They left Laura's body bleeding on the floor in his home.

One perpetrator has an extended forehead, as if he abused steroids. This bad guy has a scar running from his left cheek two inches long. The dark skin exposes a pink keloid. The guy has prison-style jagged stitches running drawn in black and blue ink with the words “RIP Sucker” on his shoulder. The other dude Daniel knows as Smiley, a local pusher. Smiley runs some teens out of what once was a donut shop on Bonnie Brae. Smiley’s a little guy with a huge beak for a nose.
The front gate of Smiley’s place is metal-plated,  his nest is topped with barbed wire. Make shift concrete pylons, stolen from the freeway, are bolted to the sidewalk to provide cover. Plastic bottles of drain cleaner, hydrogen peroxide, and muriatic acid litter the curbside. The garbage is tossed out of the windows of Smiley's hideout.
“Hey man need some chunky?” A voice shouts from a vine-covered window.
Daniel does not look up. He steps with more confidence. Then he crosses the street towards the door. Crows are in the parking lot poking at Coke bottles. The soda bottles hold gasoline that was syphoned out of cars. Daniel does not even shrug at them. They nod him towards the door assuming he’s a buyer.
“Some stupid gopher tortoise,” the boys caw.
“What you think ya are Ninja Turtle?” They taunt Daniel, "Haw caw caw."
In normal times, the crows would be darting to passing cars. Today few vehicles can make it through the rubble.
Before Daniel knocks, the door swings wide, and a black figure speaking pidgin Spanish backs out. A sweet smell of lime and ammonia follows the raven. It is Smiley. Before Smiley can turn, Daniel wraps Smiley into a choke-hold with a metal shackle.
“Where’s your friend with the RIP scar?” Daniel insists from behind Smiley.
“What ‘ca mean?”
“Where is the RIP guy? You two broke into the basement of my loft on Venice Blvd.”
“You ‘betta let me go, there’s explosives.” Smiley says.

"You murdered my girl."
Daniel pushes Smiley forward. Smiley can barely speak with the chain tight on his throat.
“Last time or I gouge ya.” Daniel shows Smiley the horns on the breast of his shell.
“Second floor, right-”
Smiley's beak trembles. Daniel moves quickly. They struggle climbing the stairway. The slats no longer have a coat of paint. The lack of coating keeps the wood from creaking a warning.
“Open the door.” Daniel orders Smiley firmly.
“I can’t just – they’ll attack without the special knock.”
“Just open it.”
Daniel jerks it open after Smiley turns the knob. A raven is heating chemicals over a Bunson burner welded to carbon steel rods. The black figure reaches for a rifle. RIP raven points the gun but Smiley’s body is in front of Daniel. Daniel in his armor, looks into  RIP's bulging eyes. He throws Smiley towards the RIP, knocking RIP on his back. In one splat, RIP is impaled upon the welding acetylene torch and rebar.
“Crazy reptile, it’ll blow-” Smiley blurts.
Daniel pushes Smiley out the door. Smiley falls pulling a switchblade from the cuff of his feathers. Smiley lunges forward to slash Daniel. Daniel coils inward with a hiss sound. Then Daniel rams Smiley with his violent horns. The blow is not placed well enough to kill Smiley immediately. It only disables Smiley. Daniel scurries away, down the hallway.
“Stop dat guy-” Smiley coughs.
Daniel smashes through the window glass. Shards of iridescence spill towards the dumpster below. Daniel thuds upon the tin. Then he slides down the back alley. A hot ball of fire shoots out at Daniel, narrowly missing him as he lands on the awning, sliding to safety; just as his feet touch the ground, the entire second floor explodes. Daniel walks out alone into the city.


Daniel Survives the Apocalypse

I tried something out of my norm. Instead of writing a genre story, a thriller as Alec Nevala-Lee's wonderful recent release, I used animals as the characters without revealing this to the reader upfront.  The photograph of the gopher tortoise is a pet turtle that I received from a rescue agency twenty eight years ago. His name is Soup. He was run over by a car (hit and run 29 years ago). An apocalyptic turtle you ask?

Turtles can live for a year without water. They burrow underground for at least half the year and can survive 140 degree temperatures. Their enemies are: ravens, badgers, gila monsters, coyotes and humans. 
Even though they look ancient and strange they are very social and friendly. Soup sleeps with our dogs.
I was thinking that San Onofre's recent leak and how this relates to my life and time. Not certain I trust the power company to tell us how much radiation escaped... Soup will out live me.

References to the 18th Street Gang are fictional the radiation leak is real.

Link to information about San Onofre's leak

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, daily shorts challenged me with "The following is the last sentence of The Icon Thief by Alec Nevala-Lee. Write a story that begins with this sentence. 'Then he turned back the way he had come, walking out of step with the others, and headed alone into the city.'" and I challenged Sherree with "The Sheriff is at your door to take away your Golden Retriever."
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