While looking through my files I found this three-part story, set in the same world as The Darkest Hour, but in a much different location and time. Since I haven’t posted any fiction for awhile, I thought I’d post this story, told from a young boy’s point of view. Let me know what you think.
The storm only left two things intact, Johnny and the green hat with the turkey feather that his mother had made him for harvest festival last year. And the hat didn’t even fit anymore. Everything else– his home, his mother, father, and older brother, Davy—had been flipped inside-out and mixed together until nothing was distinguishable from what it had been.
Johnny had never seen a Spinner before, and he guessed he hadn’t really seen one now, just felt it all around him. Davy saw one once. He said they were called spinners because the storm spun itself fast enough to rip the world in two. Maybe that was true, but Johnny thought it must be because the Spinners spun the insides to the out and the outsides to the in, until nothing looked the way it should.
He wiped his arm across his nose, smearing mucus over his sleeve. It mixed with the dust. Far away, a growling rumble pierced the silence. Another Spinner, he thought, come to finish the job. But just as quick, he knew it wasn’t. The new sound didn’t come from everywhere. It didn’t fill his bones like the Spinner had. No, this was a motor.
The growling grew louder. Johnny wiggled between the caved in walls to get a look. A single light cut through the morning darkness. A cycle. Had it only been last night when his father had sung him to sleep?
He had never seen a Spinner, but Johnny knew what happened after the storms were gone. Everyone did. And even though one had never hit their farm before, he’d seen his father stand on the porch with his rifle as the scavengers crept by, looking for prey in the inside-out wreckage after a Spinner.
Without his father, he was prey.
Johnny scrambled over broken boards, grabbing the hat in his fist. The cycle was close. A blink of light flashed across the guts of his house. Johnny flinched and backed against the crumbling chimney. The whole place groaned. A crack split the night, and everything began to move.
Johnny fell into a ball, clutching the hat to his chest and squeezing his eyes shut. Dust and little pokes rained down on his skin. Tears leaked from his eyes. Any minute the crumbling house would turn him inside-out too.
But then it stopped. Dust floated in the air, tickling his nose. He was still right-side out.
The growl of the cycle stayed steady and loud. Johnny didn’t move. Maybe they’d go away. Nothing here, he screamed in his head, willing the scavenger to move on.
The growl coughed twice and Johnny thought it was leaving, but then instead of getting farther away, it growled straight towards him. The engine cut. Silence. Johnny held his breath so long he thought he might explode, until his chest made him let it out. It was practically as loud as a Spinner as it gushed from his mouth.
Boots crunched on gravel. Closer. They didn’t have gravel outside their house. Johnny frowned, confused, until he remembered that everything was inside-out and maybe there had been gravel inside and now the Spinner had taken it out. Which meant the garden was gone and he wouldn’t have to weed—
“Hello?” The voice was deep and gruff and it sent chills up Johnny’s spine.
He squeezed his eyes shut but they refused to stay closed. A light swept over the ruins. A whimper escaped Johnny’s teeth. He clamped a hand over his mouth.
“Hello!” the voice said again. Louder this time. A pause. Then the guts of the house creaked as the man stepped into Johnny’s house. Not just into, but into the inside-out of his house.
The house didn’t like it. Neither did Johnny.
Johnny kept his hand over his mouth but the house groaned and dust clouded the crevasses and corners. The light flashed into Johnny’s hiding place again, a tunnel in the dust.
“I’m not going to hurt you—and I know you probably don’t believe that.” The creaking footsteps moved slower as the man twisted his way deeper. The house shifted again. Glass broke and something snapped.
His hiding place held, but Johnny heard the man mumble an angry word. The dust cloud thickened and tickled Johnny’s nose again. He risked moving enough to rub his sleeve across it, but that made the tickle worse. He scrunched his nose up. The boots crunched closer. The light flashed over him again.
Johnny’s nose really didn’t understand how important it was to be quiet. It wanted to sneeze. Now, of all times. Harvest moon! Why now. He covered his whole face with his hands, but the more he thought about not sneezing the more he just had to do it. “Ahh-Choo!”
The light snapped to him. The boots stomped. Closer. Closer.
Thick black soles stopped one splintered beam from Johnny’s face. He whimpered again.
“You hurt?” The soles shifted and a body loomed.
Johnny squeezed his eyes shut before the face came into focus.
“Queen’s crown,” the stranger swore. “You’re just a kid. Where’s your family?”
Tears leaked out of Johnny’s closed eyes.
Wood creaked and the stranger’s light swept away from him. The man muttered, mostly to himself. “Not much left of them I expect.”
The boots stomped and the house creaked, not used to having its insides exposed. Was the man going to leave him alone? Johnny peeked out. The stranger had only moved a few feet away and was sweeping the ruins with the light. Probably looking for anything he could scavenge.
Johnny wanted to run. Maybe he could hide. It was his farm, wasn’t it? The stranger wouldn’t find him. But then the farm was inside-out too. Johnny didn’t know it anymore. And any way, he couldn’t move. He was like a deer caught in the lights of the tractor at dusk. Frozen.
Let me know what you think, and look for part 2 in the coming weeks to find out who the owner of the cycle is.