Before (an excerpt)

The sun is high above me by the time I see the farm on the horizon, with its tattered yellow flag whipping in the hot breeze. The barn’s central roof beam is bowed, sagging gently in a way that feels warm and inviting, like the childhood ideal of a barn. There have been a half dozen farms along the last stretch of road, but none prominently displayed the signal flag, or showing any signs of habitation. It seems providence that I should come to this place, and I step of the highway onto a nearly overgrown gravel path.

I’ve been following Highway 37 all morning, a blacktop scar dividing the glass-still wetlands to the South and the fields and hills of wild golden grass to the North. I savor the quiet emptiness of Creation. Alone except for the elegant cranes above the water and the herds of deer grazing in the dry brush, I find long silent hours to reflect and meditate on the days passed, and the glorious days ahead. Beneath my feet the pavement is already growing warm, and the air begins to shimmer in the distance. There is a wet, earthy riot of smells, wet and earthy like fresh tilled soil and stagnant water. The whine and drone of insects is a warbling monotone symphony, unbroken save for the short cries of waterfowl.

The Vallejo Crater is far behind me now, hidden by a ridge of meek hills and the opalescent summer haze. Ahead, a little farmhouse comes into view from behind the barn, a leaning two room structure with pale yellow paint peeling in the sun. Again, I feel a comforting warmth and my grin widens at the charming innocence of the little home, and I try to imagine it without the thick wooden boards over the windows and doors.

A polished draft of this story is in submission. I’ll update you as to its progress, and when or if it comes home unsold, I’ll post a new version.

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12 thoughts on “Before (an excerpt)

  1. I found this the creepiest one yet. I’m curious however, as to when you intended the reader to figure out the narrator’s intentions. I think I caught it pretty early, even though I never did figure out exactly what his motivation was. But wondering, from the time the old guy put down his rifle, why the kid was going to kill them, had a pretty unsettling effect. Dunno if that was your intention, but it worked for me.

  2. Greetings.I did intend for Caleb to be ‘not right’ in some way from the beginning, to contrast his outwardly optimistic and romantic attitude about the world, so I gave him some cracks in his facade, one that he has to struggle to maintain. Without those little slips, it would be essentially a one note twist-ending.My core concept was that Caleb believes the rapture has occurred, but that it’s going slowly, and it’s up to good honest people like himself to help call the faithful home. I’m attracted to the idea of a good, decent, well meaning monster.This idea came from an unwritten screenplay I intended to write a year or so ago; this was to be the opening scene. I’ll keep mum on the details, as this still may be the opening scene of a longer piece.Again, thanks all for your feedback.

  3. Reminds me a bit of The Stand, a fateful meeting of strangers in the desert against an apocalyptic backdrop (which I understood to be biblical and zombified, usually a positive). Very interesting, and the soundtrack goes great with it, hope to see it as part of a larger work some day.

  4. Your best, in my opinion. This stuck so concretely in my mind after reading it. Everything about this one is just perfect. The setting is wholly believable and well-developed.I had a brilliant idea not too long ago. It seems a lot of your stories deal with a similar issue, that being an apocalypse, almost always zombie-related. If you've ever seen Pulp Fiction, I think a movie with these plots all told with the sub-plot hinted at linking them all would be incredible if done well and with the atmospheric touch your stories contain translated to the big screen accurately.

  5. Sean,This has become my favorite as well. As I said before it was part of a film I wanted to make, but lacked the ways and means for anything so ambitious. Caleb's story, as well as his brother who is tracking him across a ruined California, is a fairly long one still.You are correct to notice there are connections between some of these stories.Zero is a prequel of sorts to Before, and the story I am working on now, One, takes place a year after the end of Zero but at least a decade prior to Before, but ties it together. There is several other side story that live in this world that I have yet to write; one called South, about an Antarctic research station during the epidemic and war.My hope is to have a series of a dozen, nearly unrelated stories that tell a few decades of history, very much like the film you describe. I would of course, love to see it translated to film, but I still have much to write.

  6. Sir, I've read your trilogy of stories, and am in absolute awe of how beautifully written these stories are. I look forward and hope dearly that you write a book or make a movie someday, so that I might have something else you've created to enjoy.Good day to you, and may it be a happy one.

  7. Reading this story… I can't help but wonder if Caleb is still human — or ever was. Beyond just his creepiness, he seems to know both less and more than he should. He seems intimately familiar with the virus, to the point that he can detect signs of infection when someone who knew her better couldn't… while he seems to know very little about anything else. I have to admit that my first question upon finishing it was "Is Caleb a deranged person, or some kind of warped angel?"

  8. Simply amazing stuff, keep up the excellent writing because I guarantee you there are still people reading it. Me being one of them :DI saw Book of Eli a little while ago and I have to say that the scenario of that movie fits the virus series of your stories phenomenally… but that is just my opinion.Again, keep up the awesome work!

  9. This is sickening, really. You should be proud of yourself. I forget how I stumbled upon your stories, but I'm very glad I did.I love the way you wrote it. It seriously stunned me when I realized he seriously killed the old man. I had to reread it a few times.

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