Thursday, December 27, 2012


            With a satisfied belly, Lucas stepped out onto the front porch of his grandmother’s colonial home. Having been in the family for generations, many of his aunts and uncles, cousins and even his own mother had been born in this very residence. He supposed the recipe for the roast his grandmother had made also likely went back just as far. Probably the sweet potato pie and cornbread recipes too.
             Sitting on an antique hand-crafted maple chair, Lucas drew a small pouch from his pocket. Deftly he plucked a single small white square from a pack of many. He portioned out a small amount of fragrant, fresh tobacco with one hand. With years of practice behind him he was able to easily finish rolling the cigarette with one hand while closing and returning the pouch to the bib pocket of his overalls. From the same said pocket he drew a single blue tipped match, struck it on the heel of his boot, and inhaled deeply as the small flame lit the freshly made stogie. Like the house, the tobacco fields surrounding it had also been in his family for generations. As he sat looking out over the fields a feeling of contentness enveloped him.
            Just as he was about to slip off into dreamland a faint, shrill whistle caught his attention. Lucas stood up, unable to tell where exactly it was coming from. Stepping off of the veranda, he quickly turned around.
            At first he thought it was coming from the house, or maybe behind it. As the sound started to grow louder he quickly realized it was coming from high above him. Taking several steps back away form the house he was finally able to see a faintly glowing orb, steadily growing in size. Before Lucas was to react further the sound quickly grew until it became an ear piercing shriek of a noise. The orb too also grew, appearing as a miniature orange-reddish sun. An instant later it flew low over head with a cacophonous noise like the rocket ship he had seen as a kid in Cape Canaveral. It had been low enough to shake the house and sway the branches of large poplar in the front yard.
            Before Lucas was able to get up from the ground a deafening explosion came from behind him, from where the meteorite had gone. If it was a meteorite. He did turn around in time to see distant flames down by McPherson creek, way at the far end of the property.
            Suddenly he thought of his wife, and his grandmother, and everyone else in the house. He quickly got up, the cigarette still inbetween his lips, and ran for the house. Bursting through the door, he quickly realized the room was empty. He ran around to the dining room, and then the living room. Before he realized it his feet had brought him downstairs. He hit the switch on the stairway down, a set of lonesome light bulbs in unadorned ceramic fixtures lit up the room. With all the jars of canned food stuffs and other dry goods most of the basement was basically one giant pantry. Walking around the various shelves, Lucas quickly realized no one else was down there.
            Briefly he thought of checking the upstairs bedrooms, but quickly decided against it. In times of crisis, such as hurricanes or the rare tornado, the family always gathered in the basement. It suddenly occurred to him that maybe they went to see the fire for themselves. Taking the steps three at a time, Lucas was back up into the kitchen and out the door. Looking around, he quickly realized his grandmother’s truck was missing.
            A cherished legacy of his Paw’s, he had insisted that she learn to drive it should anything ever happen to him. Three years after that an incident with a wheat threshing machine had made her a widow much sooner than any of them had expected. Still recollecting the past, Lucas quickly realized his feet had moved him on their own again, this time brining him in front of the large white equipment barn next to the house. Next to the classic, tarp-covered Thunderbird was another tarp covered object. Pulling back the cover he smiled to himself. His old Kawasaki dirt bike still looked as pretty as the day he first rode it. And luckily enough, the key was still in it.
            Straddling the small white and yellow bike, he gave the kickstart a good shove. Instantly the motor responded with a high pitched roar. Unconcerned with safety gear, rocks and pebbles flew as Lucas whizzed past the house.
            The full moon almost removed the need for a headlight, but Lucas turned it on anyway. Not that it was much good with all the ruts and bumps of the field road. A few minutes later he could see the faint glow of small fires eerily lighting up the pale birch trees around the stream. As he got closer, Lucas cut the motor, leaving the bike propped up on its kickstand.
            Leaving the bike behind, he slowly made his way towards the freshly made clearing. In the center of the crash site there appeared to be a large crater, with the glowing object at in the middle. It had pushed up enough dirt that his view of it was far from clear. Cautiously, Lucas circled around the clearing. Many small fires were still smoldering here and there, but the center was different, all matter had been completely blown away.
            Unsure of what to do, Lucas paused. Building up courage, he took a deep breath, then stopped.
            Why had he rushed out here again? And what about everyone else? He had assumed they had left the house to come see what had crashed, but he seemed to be all alone. Suddenly a panic gripped him.
            What if he was alone?
            Shaking his head violently, he quickly composed himself. It was just a large meteorite. He was sure of it. His Paw had told him how his Paw, Lucas’ great-great grandfather, had found a meteorite in one of the fields over a century ago. At first they had thought it a stray round from civil war-era artillery. When they were later told that the nearest military units were over a days march away, it was then concluded that the object that had damaged a large portion of the then freshly tilled fields must have been of heavenly origin. When the old farmer had shared the story at church, the minister had told him that perhaps it was a sign form God to not plant tobacco anymore.
            Unwilling to completely accept or dismiss it, Lucas’ great-great grandfather had instead decided to let that single field go fallow, eventually allowing it to become grazing land for a small herd of cattle. It turned out to be a most fortuitous decision. Shortly afterwards, in the second season that calves were born, a blight wiped out most of the tobacco crop in the entire region. The sale of the cattle and milk allowed the family to be one of the first to recover and eventually buy up some of the neighbor’s lands.
            A loud crackle of nearby brush brought Lucas away from the memory and back to the present.
            Or so he thought.
            A sound came from the far side of the clearing. Straining to listen, Lucas thought he heard voices. They weren’t talking though, it was more of a low moan. It reminded him of himself after having one sip too many of Paw’s ‘corn’. A thought suddenly dawned on him. He was running across the clearing, again his feet seeming to move of their own volition. Someone may have been around when the crash happened, his gut told him that might be the case.
            Less than halfway across he froze. From where he now stood, at the edge of the crater, the glowing object that had created the carnage was plainly and clearly visible. Slightly smaller than a football, it was purplish with several pock marks all around it. It glowed with the same kind of orange as his grandmother’s sweet potato pie. If he hadn’t seen it fall himself he would have sworn it was a giant sweet potato. Creeping slowly towards it a fresh sound froze him in his tracks.
            There were several voices now. Being closer now allowed Lucas to tell that while they were definitely moaning something was not quite right. As the head of the lead voice came up and into view he came to several horrible realizations at once. While difficult to make out in the dark, this area was the place where his family had their burial plots.
            The sunken in grey skin. The sparse white hairs. The rotted off nose. The empty orbital sockets. As a life long fan of midnight double features at the drive in, Lucas knew the shambling undead when he saw them. Despite being his ancestors, his close relatives, they were no longer so. They were zombies.
            The shock made his jaw go slack. The cigarette he had rolled earlier clung to his lower lip for a brief instant, then fell. It barely spun, falling cherry down like a bunker buster to its target. Enjoying the rush of oxygen as it fell, it crashed into the back of Lucas’ hand with the silence of a grave, leaving its red-hot payload as the rest of it tumbled away like booster rockets after a shuttle launch.           
            Lucas yelped in pain, nearly falling out of the chair. His now unlit cigarette rolled along the porch for another foot, then stopped.
            His wife had rushed to see what was wrong, only to find her husband sucking on the back of his hand while bending over to pick up the errant smoke.
            “Fell asleep again?” she asked wryly.

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