This is a weird thing, and it’s not exactly a holiday thing. I dug this from the obscurity of a year-old folder and cleaned it up a little bit. It was intended to be part of a larger story, and I have three or four other related sketches. My baby sister loves post-apocalyptic stuff so I’m considering reviving it for her. I'm considering making it a New Year's resolution, actually.

Anyway, here it is.

He still saw it every night in his dreams. During the day, work could drown out the noise that crept in at the edges of his mind. The screaming. The gun fire. The explosions.

Every day on the radio, he was smart and charming, always ready with a good one-liner about the Tower Authority and that helped helped push it deep down, out of sight and out of mind. Mornings and afternoons were research, and then the show came on at six, and then he was off for the night and the creeping noise of death drowned everything else out again.

He drank. Nearly a thousand times he’d tried drinking it away, but either Ginger’s shitty moonshine just wasn’t strong enough or the noise was too loud.

He had never been an Authority supporter. No matter what they said about every life meaning something… Well, that could be taken a few ways, couldn’t it? Maybe a life meant a good experiment. Maybe it meant pleasure in a lord’s harem. Maybe it meant a laugh for one of the many, many monsters that roamed the earth.

And it wasn’t that he was against monsters as a general rule. Some of them were alright. Ginger was a werewolf, and she was a pretty good sort. He had no idea what Hans the Boatman was, with all his tentacles and that yellowed, gaping maw of teeth that was his mouth, but he was as friendly as a kitten to most people. The demons and vampires were thoroughly rotten as a general rule. Every other non-human could be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Most humans could be evaluated that way, too.

He pressed his fingers to his temples. Lucky would be around soon, and she would have a good story for him. Something he could write into Semi-Automatic. The pulp detective show featured a few of her exploits, with details altered here and there to protect her identity. The Tower Authority wouldn’t look kindly on some of the things she got up to in her line of work, and he wanted to make sure they never so much as glanced in her direction.

He tried to fix her in his mind, over all the noise, over the explosion that had destroyed his town and shattered his world. Her hair, dark golden blond that he knew would feel like silk against his fingers. Her cool grey eyes, silvery like pools of gathered moonlight. It helped. For a while.

He had put a lot of space between himself and Sedona since that day long ago. Lucky had helped him. He didn’t know if he would have made it to the Lake Lands without her. He didn’t know why she had been in town that day, but she escaped the Authority’s attack and ran into him as he was running to town to help. The explosion had rocked the earth and thrown them both down. “It’s too late,” she said, grabbing him by the shoulders to haul him into the woods. “They’re gone. They put them all in the church and they blew it up.”

He fought her. He still didn’t know why she tried to help him then, and he completely understood why she let him go when he started to fight. “They didn’t!” he insisted, not because he didn’t believe her but because he didn’t want to believe her.

“They did,” she snapped. “And they blew up a paying customer while they were at it.” He tried to hit her then, but she was a better fighter and it probably helped that she wasn’t half mad with anger and grief at the time. “But if you wanna die, be my guest. Just thought I’d help a fellow out.”

She was in the next town over when he summoned up the strength to leave the smoldering ruins of his home and his family. She hadn’t been wasn’t waiting. She had to stare at him for a long moment, thinking hard to even remember who he was and even then, she didn’t seem to care. He followed her, though she tried to stop him, but he talked her way out of trouble once and she grudgingly let him tag along. She didn’t like to owe anyone.

He missed her when she was gone. He didn’t see the explosion, orange and red against a cloudless blue sky when she was there. He didn’t feel like he had to drink when she was with him.

But she wasn’t there yet. So he tried for the thousandth time to drink the noise away, and for the thousandth time, it didn’t work.