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    The Clockwork Girl: Chapter IV

    Posted by Charles Gray on May 21, 2018

    “What?”  Terri asked, trying to process what Mike had said. “What are you talking about?”

    Mike paused and ran one hand through his hair.  It was an odd gesture. Terri had never seen Mike do that before.  “Look, how long did you sleep?”

    “I…I dunno,” Terri said. “A long time.”

    “Long enough for the house to fall apart. Long enough for all of this,Mike gestured at the world around them. “To happen. And you… slept?”  He looked at Terri, eyes bright in the dim light of the room. “Do you even believe that? A human would have starved.”

    “Then why didn’t I starve?”

    “Because you had shut down for the night, and when nobody showed up to wake you up, you went into a long-term hibernation mode… And when your reserves ran too low for that, you went into an emergency wake up cycle.  That’s so that you don’t just die even if your owner—”

    “Mom!” Terri snapped.

    Owner.” Mike was staring at her, his face grim.  “Owner, Terri.” He rummaged through a battered filing cabinet for a few moments and then came up with a pamphlet. “Here.”

    Terri looked at the pamphlet for a moment, then blinked in shock.

    What was she doing on the front of the pamphlet, and why was she wearing a  poofy pink dress that she was certain she’d never worn in her life? Not only that, but her hair was different— brown, not black and curly instead of her long, straight hair…

    But it was her… Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Post Apocalypse Writings, Science Fiction, The Clockwork Girl, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

    Clockwork Girl Chapter III Part 2

    Posted by Charles Gray on May 17, 2018

    Dazzled, Terri had to blink her eyes a few times before she could see what had happened. The robot closest to her had been flung back, a hole blown clear through its body.  The second robot was backing off, the useless gun pointing at someone behind Terri. There was another flash and blast of thunder, and that robot was flung back, literally blown in half.

    “That was close,” a familiar voice said.

    Terri blinked as she twisted around to see who her savior had been. The figure was about the same size as Terri, a hood obscuring its features, holding a short, bulky gun with some sort of drum underneath it.

    “Mike?” she finally said in a squeak.

    “Well, I’m a Mike,” he said, pulling back the hood to reveal a familiar face.

    It is! It is Mike! Terri thought as she scrambled to her feet. The blue eyes, the curly brown hair, it was Mike. Sure, he wasn’t wearing the clothes he wore when they used to go to the mall before they’d moved to the new neighborhood, but it was Mike.

    “Mike!” she squealed. “You’re here! Someone survived!  What happened! What happened to your dad, what happened to Mom!” her voice started scaling up. “I woke up and everyone was gone!  Everything was wrecked and I can’t find Mom and the mall vanished and what’s happening!”

    Suddenly, Terri was screaming, tears rolling down her face.

    Mike lifted his weapon and backed off away from her, other hand raised placating. “Terri, Terri!” he said. “I’ll tell you what happened…”  He licked his lips once, looking around. “But you have to come with me. We made a lot of noise and anti-infantry spiders aren’t the only thing that could be in this town— they’re not even the worst things we could run into.  I was heading into downtown to get something but now the whole place is stirred up…” he shook his head. “We’ve gotta go, now.

    “I-”  Terri’s voice cut off as she heard something from deeper within the ruined town.  Something that sounded like a heavy object moving, or being moved.  “Okay,” she said. Terri took a deep breath, feeling an odd sense of calm clamping down on her panic. “Is there anyone else with you?”

    “Nope! Just me!” Mike said with a grin. “C’mon!” without any further words, he turned and started walking back the way he had come from.

    “Mike,” Terri said as she followed him. “Where are you staying? What happened to everyone else!”

    “You don’t know?” Mike asked. “You really don’t know?”

    “Of course I don’t!” Terri snapped. “I fixed dinner for Mom and went to bed and then” —she waved her hands frantically— “this happened!”

    “Wait—you really had a mom?

    Terri blinked in surprise and opened her mouth to shout of Mike. What type of comment was that? But then she paused. Mike didn’t sound snarky… He sounded surprised…

    What’s wrong with him?

    “Mike,” Terri said. “You came over to my house to play, remember”

    “Oh, boy.” Mike ran a hand through his disordered hair and frowned. “This is going to be hard.  C’mon, let’s get back to my place before I say anything else.”

    “Sure…” Terri said doubtfully as she followed Mike.  They moved quickly, taking a different road then the one Terri had came in from.  Terri strained her ears to hear any sound of pursuit, but it seemed like the two robots had been alone.  As they walked, the  dead city fell behind them, the buildings, what ones remained intact, becoming smaller, mostly shops and store houses.  Then they they came to a place where the forest was starting to reconquer the city, bushes and small trees rising through the cracked pavement and burned out buildings. Terri saw an owl perched on top of the twisted remains of a big truck. It stared at her for a few moments, before hooting and taking off, soon vanishing into the growing dark.

    Mike set a fast pace as they entered the forest that surrounded the city.  “You want to stay off the roads,” Mike said. “Some of the robots patrol them, and then you’ve got mines, even killer swarms.  They’re not safe.”

    “I didn’t run into anything…” Terri said.

    “You didn’t stick around very long,” Mike said and turned back to look at Terri, his face sober. “If you went back now you might find that you woke something up…”

    Maybe that’s why nobody came to get the bodies… Terri thought. Then she shivered. That was dumb. The reason nobody came to get the bodies was that they were… ”Mike, where is everyone else?”

    “The humans? They’re all dead. I haven’t seen any for, oh, years…” Mike said without slackening his pace.

    Tara didn’t stop walking as she digested the words. Years?  Mike, have you gone crazy? Mike didn’t look any older than she was. Not to mention that Mike was a human.

    But on the other hand, the city did look like years had gone by.  Terri thought about the buildings. Some of them had been burned down, but she hadn’t been any smell of new smoke. To say nothing of the skeletons, rusted vehicles and the trees growing through the pavement…

    But how could she have survived sleeping for years?


     

    They kept walking for most of the rest of the night. Mike varied between chattering about the world, though he was oddly light about the details of their earlier life together, while Terri remained silent, thinking about what she’d seen.

    Mike was serious about avoiding the roads. As they kept walking, the forest rose around them, little streams and brooks making their chuckling way through the wooded lands. The half-moon in the now cloudless sky left her with enough light to see by, giving the terrain an ghostly look to it. Terri saw only a few signs that humanity had ever lived here—a broken down shack, a crashed military aircraft, vines and moss reclaiming it for the forest, what looked like an old footpath with a rusted and bent safety rail.

    But all old. All overgrown.

    And it didn’t make much sense, because Terri had remembered cities, big cities and interstates.  Surely everything couldn’t be gone.

    “We’re getting close,” Mike said.

    “To what?”

    “Home.”

    “Out here?” Terri frowned. “Why not closer?”

    “Just about every big city has hunter drones in it or worse. They attack anything that gets too close.” Mike told her. “But they ignore stuff out here, well, unless you’re real unlucky.”

    “Oh,” Terri said, then blinked as she looked up into the dark sky. There was something up there, glinting against the light of the moon. “Mike, there’s an airplane up there.”

    “Yeah,” Mike said, following her gaze. “Real high up. Probably a robot bomber, going off the bomb some old base.” He shrugged. “The bombers don’t seem to change their targets, so it’s easy to avoid them.”

    Terri opened her mouth, then closed it without saying anything.

    What was there to say? She’d gone to sleep with Mom in the living room and woke up to…this.  Everything different, everything gone.

    Mom was gone. Terri sniffled, dragging her forearm across her face to get the tears out of her eyes.

    Finally, they came to the opening of a deep valley, its sides covered with trees and overgrown buildings. Terri blinked at that.  These buildings looked older then the city or her home.

    They also didn’t look like they had been blown up or burned or otherwise attacked. They just looked old and abandoned. Like  a graveyard, the buildings gleaming like headstones in the soft moonlight.  Terri shivered.

    “Welcome to my home!” Mike said with an expansive gesture.

    Terri looked over at Mike fought a grin. At least he was normal. He’d always loved those big, wide arm gestures. Once he’d broken one of Mom’s drinking glasses.

    Mike led Terri down into the valley, while the setting disk of the moon fell behind the valley wall and plunged the depths of the valley into a dim murk.

    Terri found herself getting closer to Mike.  The empty windows of the abandoned buildings, mixed in with the dark woods, were in their own way just as ominous as the ruined city had been.  The buildings looked like the skeletons of great, dead beast, the dark windows forming its eye sockets.

    “What happened here,” Terri asked. “Was it… like the city?”

    “Nah,” Mike said as he picked his way through the growing dark. “This place was abandoned a long time before the fighting started. Just not so many people anymore, I guess. That’s what makes it so safe though—it’s not even on the map for most of the drones… and here we are!” he said as he came to a door and pulled it open.

    “C’mon,” Mike said. “We can turn on the lights once we get the door closed.”

    “I thought you said nothing comes here.”

    “Sure, but it’s better to not take any chances,” Mike said with a grin.

    Terri followed him inside, a dubious expression on her face.  Mike waited until the door was closed, plunging the chamber into a pitch darkness that even Terri’s eyes had a problem seeing through. Then he reached up and turned on an LED lantern, the illumination revealing Mike’s room.

    Or lair.  There were dozens of racks of equipment, some of them fairly obvious, such as the racked guns by the door. Others looked like tools or just plain junk. Another rack held books, while clothes were strewn here and there in disordered piles.

    Terri sighed. If there was anything that had stayed the same, it had to be the fact that Mike could be really messy.

    “How did you get all of this stuff?” she asked.

    “There’s more of it downstairs,” Mike said. “But like I told you, I had time to get it. Years in fact.”

    “Mike,” Terri said, putting her hands on her hips. “Stop being an idiot. If you had years to collect all of this stuff, you wouldn’t still be a kid.

    “I’m not,” Mike said. “I haven’t been a kid…” his voice trailed off.

    “What, you’re a ghost?” Terri asked, trying to sound funny.

    Except… What if he really is a ghost? Granted, none of the ghost stories Terri had heard involved kids with guns, but…

    “No.  You’d have to be human to be a ghost… and I’m not that,” Mike said, his voice quiet and sad. “And neither are you. Because I may be a Mike, but I’m not the Mike you knew and you’re not any of the Terri’s I knew.”

    Posted in My stories, Post Apocalypse Writings, Science Fiction, The Clockwork Girl, Uncategorized, Young Adult fiction | Leave a Comment »

    The Clockwork Girl: Chapter III part 1

    Posted by Charles Gray on May 16, 2018

    It didn’t take very long for Terri to realize something was seriously wrong with her memories. She knew where the road led, after all. It curved around the slopes of the low mountain that divided their neighborhood from the mall and city where she’d lived most of her life before moving to the new place with mom.

    She had expected to see the mall in ruins—the fact that neighborhood had been destroyed had prepared her for that…

    But hadn’t prepared her to find out that the mall and town seemed to have vanished. There was just the small two lane road, its asphalt pitted and partially covered by leaves and soil.  A few cars lay abandoned on the side of the road, some looking like they had crashed, others looking like their occupants had pulled them to the side and ran off.  Terri stopped and looked in a few, finding nothing but old luggage, long since ruined by the rain that had come in through the shattered windows. One car had bundles of hundred dollar bills in the passenger seat.  Terri reached in and lifted one bundle of money, frowning as it fell apart in her hands.

    Why?  That was a fortune, so why did the driver just run off. All he had to do was reach down and…  Terri pulled the jacket closer to her slim frame.  Nobody would leave a fortune behind, not unless they were so terrified that they weren’t thinking of anything other than how to save their lives…

    A little further down the road, she saw another van, only this one was surrounded by scattered, half buried bones. The driver’s seat still had the remains of the driver in it, the skull having fallen down into its lap, the moss stained skull grinning up at the girl. Terri staggered back, looking around wildly.

    Who did this? What did this?

    Shivering, Terri kept walking down the road, no longer bothering to check the occasional car.  She didn’t want to see what might be in them. Empty or occupied by the bones of the dead, they were just as disturbing.

    As was the forest.  Terri heard the occasional sound of birds, but even in the daylight, it seemed… deserted. Empty. Not like the parks she remembered. There, you knew there were people around.

    But not here. The road, the woods around it, the empty sky, without any aircraft in it… it screamed that it had been a long time since anyone had been there. Terri had slept, and the world had gone away.

    When Terri next checked her watch, she realized that over six hours had gone by. The sun was now descending into the clouds that marked the horizon, its rays turned blood red. She stopped and stretched for a few moments, but didn’t bother to rest.  She would walk until it got dark and then find some place to sleep.  Terri wasn’t about to keep walking at night. She could see her way, that was true, but on the other hand, the road was creepy enough right now. She didn’t even want to think what it would be like at night.

    Come to think of it… I don’t even know there will be a moon up tonight. I need to find a place to hide out!

    It was then that Terri came around another turn and then stopped.

    There was a city in the distance.

    And she had never seen anything quite so completely destroyed.


    The city wasn’t anyplace that Terri recognized.  Even though it was within walking distance of home, she’d never been there. Standing there, staring at the dead city, Terri ran a hand over her dark hair, tugging on her braid in a quick, worried motion.

    How could I forget about an entire city? 

    The city was centered on a central core of skyscrapers, or it had been centered on a central core of skyscrapers. Now it looked like only a few were still standing, the rest collapsed, with one battered skeleton of steel leaning drunkenly against its slightly more intact neighbor.  Terri saw birds circling around the tops of the ruins. Around them were smaller buildings, intermixed with spaces of completely collapsed rubble. Peering into the afternoon haze, Terri saw a freeway, the lanes choked with cars, save for the areas where something had blasted great craters into the reinforced concrete.

    The cars… Terri thought. They had all been driving in this direction. Maybe they had heard the explosions and then had abandoned their vehicles.  Maybe whatever had destroyed the city had come upon them so quickly that they hadn’t had a chance to get very far.

    Terri was suddenly very certain that the bones of the drivers and passengers of those empty cars she had passed earlier were probably lying hidden in the forest near where they had abandoned their vehicles.  If any had survived, they would have come back.

    But they hadn’t.

    Looking out over the city, Terri was struck by how silent it was. She could hear the dim sounds of birds, but no cars, no people.

    The city was dead.

    Terri sat down on the ground with a thump and put her head in her hands.

    What am I supposed to do!” she moaned out loud. Mom was gone, Doctor Simmonds was gone, there was nothing left.  Terri had been hoping that she could find someone, someone to tell her what to do and how to find mom.

    But there isn’t anyone in the city.  Terri grimaced at that, running her fingers along her thick braid of hair. She was only twelve.  Why was this happening to her!  Terri took a deep breath. Even if there wasn’t anyone in the city, there was probably information about where they had gone.  There had to be.  She could find it, and then either walk there or if she could find a phone or a radio, or something she could call for help with!  Everyone else couldn’t be dead!

    Could they?

    But she had to move fast. The sun would be down in a few hours.

    Terri hesitated.  She didn’t know where it would be worse to spend the night. The deserted road or the city that looked like a tomb.

    At least in the city, I can find a place with a door I can close… Terri thought. The last thing she wanted to do was to spend the night in the open.

    But as she got closer to the city, she started wondering if she had been wise.  The people in the city had not been able to get away, at least not most of them, and she started seeing more and more bones.  A bus, yellow paint flaking off, had a pile of skeletal remains trailing out of its exits, evidence of a last, frantic, hopeless run for safety. The remains of a gaudy banner was strung across the rear of the bus.

    “Something… cheer…”  Terri squinted. “Cheerleading trials.” She finally said.

    But… Terri fell silent as the realization filled her. The jammed streets, the skeletal remains…

    Whatever had happened, had happened fast. The people had decided to flee on their own, or had been told to flee too late to escape whatever had happened. As Terri kept walking, she started to see signs of battle. A barricade with skeletal forms wearing armor beside it, some still clutching their weapons.  An object that looked like a giant made of metal, lying where it had fallen and crushed a small car. Its cockpit was open, revealing the skeletal form of the pilot.  Another flying machine, partially embedded in the upper floors of an apartment complex…

    But all silent. Everywhere there were bones, but nothing alive, save for the sound of birds and the occasional rustling sounds made by small animals going about their business in the ruins. No sign that anyone had ever returned to bury the dead or check for any survivors.

    Why didn’t they? Is… Terri closed her eyes for a moment, but she couldn’t banish the thought. Is everyone else dead? Terri had a vision of every city on earth, looking just like this.

    It was then that she heard the skittering sound.

    Terri stopped in her tracks, licking her lips nervously.  She slowly turned in a complete circle, trying to locate the sound.

    No luck. Everything was still, perhaps it had been a—Terri heard it again.

    But from a different direction. Then on its heels came another skittering sound, this one in front of her. Not an animal’s sound. The sound of metal striking on metal.

    And it sounded like there was more than one of whatever was making that unnerving sound.

    Terri didn’t move for a long moment, and then turned and started walking back the way she came. Maybe they were just rats or cleaning robots or something like that. Something harmless. Maybe they were—A sudden sound of falling debris echoed from one of the shattered buildings. Terri turned and stared…and saw something gleaming in the darkness  beyond the smashed storefront windows.

    Terri bit her lip and took one step back… and then it emerged into the light.

    It looked like a man-sized metallic spider, its gleaming metal body marred here and there by scratches and gashes, while one of its legs had been amputated close to the body, giving it an odd, drunken walk.

    It didn’t have any fangs, just a cluster of cameras on its “head”.

    That didn’t make Terri feel any better. The ends of its legs looked razor sharp, while a gun that was attached to its back was pointed at her, the muzzle huge to Terri’s wide eyes.

    “Nice monster…” Terri took a step back and then started at another sound to her right. She looked around and saw another spider, this one looking far more battered then its companion, missing its gun, the top of its body a mass of torn metal. But Terri noticed that its legs were liberally splashed with some brown substance.

    Like old blood.

    Terri didn’t wait. Shot or diced up by those razor sharp feet, either would be enough to kill her.

    She spun and ran back the way she came, the sound of her feet mixing with the skittering, clattering sound of her pursuers.  She heard another clicking sound and spared a quick glance over her shoulder to see what was making it. The first spider had stopped and was pointing the gun at her, but all it was doing was making clicking noises.

    Empty.

    But that didn’t stop them from chasing her.  Fear lent extra speed to Terri as she ran down the wrecked streets, the two robots pursuing her and slowly gaining on her.

    I have to find a place to hide… Terri thought. If she could find a building that was too small for them to follow her…

    Unless she got stuck.

    Unless they were fast enough to get to her before she got inside.

    Unless they were strong enough to pry the walls apart to get to her.

    Unless, unless, unless…

    Trying to find a way to get ahead of her pursuers, Terri didn’t notice an out-thrust chunk of concrete until it caught her by the foot.

    She cried out in shock as she fell, flinging out her hands in a desperate attempt to break her fall. Terri felt her breath go out of her as she rolled over onto her back and frantically started to scrabble away from the approaching robots.

    I’m gonna die! she thought in terror as the two robots gained on her, the leader raising one leg to stab down, the razor-sharp metal gleaming in the light.

    And then there was a flash and roar of thunder.

    Posted in Science Fiction, The Clockwork Girl, Uncategorized, Writing | Leave a Comment »

     
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