When It All Ends (Preface)
[The following is a sample of fictional works from G Harrell Literary Properties.]
They stood there, along the ledge of the building — the six of them, hand in hand, silent, motionless, tearful. No one knew if they were family members or friends or neighbors or strangers, but what was obvious was that, among them, stood a young girl, clearly in her teens. She was weeping more than the others, and while no one else uttered a word, she softly spoke two. “Forgive us,” she cried out. Then she fell forward, and with their hands clasped together, the other five people followed her off the ledge, falling more than ten floors to the concrete below. Each of their bodies hit the ground with a loud and horrifying thud, and what was worse, still, were the moans that came from the one or two that barely survived the plunge.
Like most people watching from the street, Laurence was growing numb to these tragedies. This time, he did not even wince at the sight of the broken and bloody bodies. He only lowered and shook his head. “My God,” he muttered. And like most people, he accepted that there was nothing he could do, and moved on from the scene.
As he turned to continue his journey, the strapping thirty-year-old, rocking a frohawk and modest facial hair, and dressed in gym shorts and a t-shirt, wiped the sweat from his brow. Laurence still had to trek twelve long blocks to his destination, and he needed to get there before dark. At nightfall, he reminded himself, these streets were no longer safe. No streets were, anywhere, actually.
Over a month’s time, the whole world had come unhinged. First, there were brilliant ribbons of red hues coursing through the sky. Then, before the routine communications failures and power outages, word came of an extinction-level solar storm. And finally, order collapsed, and the unrest and looting began. Some local governments were better at clamping down the mayhem than others — particularly so, where there was aid from federal and state government authorities. So, now, standing in long queues, in the scorching heat, at heavily guarded FEMA outposts, was the only way for most to get food or water. But none of that was enough to stop people from taking their own lives. In fact, mass suicides were happening with disturbing frequency, and in places where people were not leaping from tall buildings, their methods were reportedly even more violent. Indeed, if the world was ending, some people wanted to meet that end sooner, according to their own terms.
When Laurence finally reached 2727 Shirer, a gleaming, 35-story, luxury apartment building, in the heart of the ritzy Midtown neighborhood, he was met on the street by a swarm of masked security guards toting assault weapons. Accessing the building, they told him, required a QR code, which he produced on his smartphone, and once his credentials were verified, two of the guards escorted him into an elevator.
Laurence hoped to break the tense silence. “I think you guys have the only working elevators in the city,” he said, while failing to prompt a response from either guard.
The elevator sped past the twentieth floor, where Laurence would have ordinarily disembarked, and it rose to the top of the building. Once there, the guards led the young man off the elevator and through a set of doors leading to the rooftop pool and recreational area. There, the trio found another man — tall, blonde, slender — just hanging out with a beer in hand.
The young man raised his hands with a wide smile. “Laurence! Man, it’s so good to see a familiar face!” he said. “Come on over here, bro!” And that Laurence did, as the guards went away. “You’re a craft-beer drinker, right?”
Laurence nodded, as he took a seat next to his host and accepted the bottle of beer. “Where the heck did you find cold beers, Sean?”
“Man, I don’t care if it’s the end of the world,” Laurence’s smiling host told him, “I am always going to have cold beers.”
Laurence opened the bottle and took a healthy swig. The taste of the product was a reminder of every little thing they were losing, and for a moment, he just wanted to savor it. “That’s good!” he exclaimed, rather sheepishly. “Why are we out here in this heat, anyway, man?”
“We can’t stop living, right? Shouldn’t we be making the most of every moment, even the last of them?”
“Aw, c’mon, Laurence. You are usually the man giving the weighty advice. Don’t tell me that the man of wisdom on our team cannot find the great lessons in this moment.”
“We don’t have much of a team left, from what I last heard. They found Coach’s body on his farm in Kentucky. That makes — what? — at least seven of us gone now, maybe.”
Sean’s big smile dissipated as he leaned forward in his chair. He drank the last of his beer, and then he replied, “Yeah, I had heard about that. It’s rough.” He shook his head. “Have you talked to your folks, back home, much?”
“As often as a can, given the service the way it is,” Laurence replied. “There’ve been a lot of break-ins in their town — a lot of new people showing up. Their police department is gone, and people are fending for themselves. Fortunately, my brothers are there to help.” Laurence also leaned forward in his seat. “When this all started, I probably should have left here. I had no idea that I’d never be able to see them again.”
Sean rose to his feet. “I get that,” he said, walking over to a golf stand bag. From it, he removed a nine iron, the head of which he began to study thoroughly, while he spoke. “I haven’t talked to my mom or her husband in three days. The last thing they said to me was that I should keep checking on my sister.”
“Wait, Sean. Do you think…”
“I don’t know, honestly, and there isn’t any way for me to find out. I mean, maybe I could call the police in Escondido, if there are still police in Escondido. Do you think they have time to do a wellness check on the parents of a basketball player?”
“Man, I… I don’t… I am sorry.”
“It’s okay, Laurence. They lived good lives.”
“Why say something like that?”
“Because it’s true, man. And for as much as we don’t want people to die, we just have to accept that people do die.” Sean reached into his bag and dropped several golf balls onto the turf below his feet. “We are all going to die, and as it turns out, probably a lot sooner than any of us want to, right? So, nothing matters, except how well we live our lives while we can.”
Laurence watched without a word, as Sean teed up for a shot. And just that quickly, the professional athlete aggressively swung his club and drove his golf ball through a glass railing along the rooftop. In the moments that followed, Sean did it again — his body getting into position, his hands swinging back, the club gaining momentum, the ball being perfectly struck, and his form shifting into a proper finish. Then, again — each time, driving harder and grunting louder in frustration. With the railing completely shattered, Sean continued to drive golf balls dozens of yards onto an unsuspecting city, below, until there were no more balls. When he was done, he calmly lowered his head and tossed aside the golf club.
“Sean, man, I know you’re upset,” Laurence attempted to approach his teammate.
“No, Laurence, no!” Sean motioned for him to stay away. “You don’t know. Your people are still here.” Sean lifted his head to reveal the tears in his eyes. “Do me a favor, man. Fetch us more beer from that cooler.”
Laurence did not hesitate to comply with the request, turning back from Sean, just as the young man stepped away from the clubs.
“And, Laurence, do me another favor,” Sean added, while he reached the broken railings. “My truck is in the garage, and my keys are in my apartment. It could get you about halfway there. There is also camping gear and food in my apartment. Get out of this city and get to your people. Do whatever you gotta do to be with them when it all ends.”
When Laurence finally looked up from the cooler, there was no sign of his teammate and friend. “Sean?” Laurence was puzzled. He looked around. Then, he cried out, “Sean!”
Now in total shock, Laurence dropped the beers, and he just stood there, unable to comprehend what he knew to be true. Sean was gone.
“’Do whatever you gotta do to be with them when it all ends.’” Laurence repeated Sean’s last words, as he lifted his head to the red sky above. It was not long before he heard shouting and frantic footsteps from the guards returning to the rooftop. And with that, his disbelief became acceptance. Laurence simply shook his head. “My God,” he said. “I will try, my friend.”
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