Archive for Mark McEachran

Dust Up

Dust Up - Last BarThe whine of the helicopters engine pitched higher. A cloud of sand and dust erupted ahead. The flying beast rose up before Hope and Cindy. It stirred up all the sand along its path.

Angel pressed the rotors hard, launching his machine over the two women. Then he dropped down at a steep angle toward The Dragon. He angled his bird away from the horde as he came down. It whipped up a wall of sand, bombarding the men and stopping their pursuit. Angel bounced up into the sky again, flipping his machine around to give him the same angle. He bombarded The Dragon again and again. After the fifth beating, Angel hovered between the men and the women. The message was clear. The Dragon retreated across the bridge.

The duck landed, clearing a layer of sand, revealing another layer which it also kicked up. Angel kept the engine running. He stepped out and waved at Hope and Cindy. “Get in!” He yelled.

Cindy stepped toward him without hesitation, but Hope held her back, “I don’t know if I can.” she said.

“Hope, it’s him or The Dragon.”

The engine noise dominated the conversation to Midway Airport. Angel deftly landed his machine inside the most functional looking hangar. As the engines spun down, he jumped out and used a pulley chain to close the hangar doors. Hope and Cindy took inventory of themselves and their gear.

Angel carried on with his routine of maintenance on the machine. He dusted off the long booms, checking to make sure they didn’t take any damage. Other checked included: engine fluids, hydraulics, linkages, fuel, and the interior. “Girls make a mess, sometimes.” he thought.

“Are you hungry, thirsty, do you need to use the bathroom?” he asked after he finished his checks. In alignment with what has brought him survival thus far, his machine was his first priority, then anything else that happened to be in the room, including Hope and Cindy. “It’s going to get dark as soon as the storm hits. You should get yourselves settled.”

This hangar wasn’t just any random place to hide. This was one of Angel’s depots. He had several weeks of provisions stockpiled against one wall, behind a tattered green tarp. Food, water, some medical supplies, hand sanitizer and tissue paper. “Real paper?” Hope thought.

On the opposite side of the hangar was a sand covered couch, three chairs and a coffee table. While Hope and Cindy rummaged through the foodstuffs, Angel brushed off all the furniture and then settled in on the couch with a can of beans and a spoon.

Hope couldn’t yet shake the rage she had felt for him. She grabbed the smallest modicum of food from his stores and sat down on one of the chairs. Her brow weighed heavy across her face sitting atop eyes that glared at the man. Cindy eventually made her way to another chair.

“Did they follow you?” Hope asked. Angel continued eating his beans. “Did you lead them here?” Another spoonful of beans. “How did they get here?”

Escape

Hope held a complicated rage toward Angel. Before today she hadn’t put a face to the pilot. She often wondered what would have happened if he weren’t so conveniently there to take them away from The Dragon that day. “Maybe he was just doing his job,” she would think.

Those old thoughts, the old conflict resolved itself when they showed up at Jim’s door. Her doubts vanished and she knew what kind of man went by the name Angel, and “he’s anything but.” she thought.

She was trying to move fast to keep up with him, but her muscle ached, starving of oxygen, and she had to keep her mother in sight to her rear. Her vengeance upon AEscape - Last Barngel wasn’t worth losing her mom. She found herself in the middle with Angel racing ahead, seemingly unaffected by the thin air and sand.

Buildings and dunes drew the landscape before and behind. She wondered where the helicopter might be; she knew he wouldn’t leave it behind. She heard a gasp from her mom, “Hope! They’re coming!”

The Dragon was catching up, and they were angry. Beyond her mom Hope could see them crossing the bridge. They were moving faster than Cindy and would probably catch up before too long. Hope’s revenge took a back seat to her mother’s safety. She went back to her.

“We have to move faster, Mom.” she said, and alleviated her mother of the burden of the water bag and backpack. “Can we ditch any of this?”

“The water.” Cindy said, trying to catch her breath. “Throw it over there and make sure they see you do it. They might stop to check it out.”

Hope tossed the bag onto the second floor of a nearby building as her mom directed. With any luck The Dragon will take a moment to clamber up to it.

They carried on, following Angel’s footprints. He was beyond the dunes and beyond their sight. They didn’t have to follow him, but he was running away, just as they were. “Maybe we can overpower him when we get to him.” Hope thought. “Maybe I can hold my knife to his throat again and he can carry us off to a safe place. Remember to wear your seatbelt, Hope.”

Over their breathing they could hear a sound. A whining noise with intermittent thumping. It was the sound of Angel’s ugly duck. “We’re too late,” Hope said. “He’ll be up in the air before we get to him.”

She turned to see The Dragon less than two blocks away. They were fit, half-naked, young men with sticks and clubs and showed no sign of needing rest. They did not stop to examine the water bag. The Dragon was relentless in its pursuit.

Act 1 – Feedback

You have been reading this story for about three months. Every Tuesday and Thursday, save for a couple, a new post showed up. You got an email, or saw it on Facebook or Twitter. And you read it. Thank you for reading and showing up each week for more.

Now I’d like your help to continue shaping our journey through the wasted world of the Last Bar. You see, I’m new to writing fiction, or stories in general. After finishing my first manuscript I was told by an editor that it needed a lot of work. Hearing that took my breath away, and not in a good way. But it was great feedback, and the message I needed to hear.

I decided that I needed to set down the first book and rework my process, enhance my knowledge, and practice, practice, practice writing in a different way. What you have been reading from The Last Bar in America is the output of that effort. It’s a story with an plot and an outline, it’s a story with defined characters and character arcs and it’s a story that I’ve written on a schedule by posting it here twice a week. It’s also a story that needs some work– that’s where you come in, again, to help me out.

I would like your feedback, be it backed up by experience in literature, or just backed up by your love of reading and your own life experience. Do you like the plot so far? Is the world richly defined? Are the characters deep, shallow, wooden, flat, or awesome? How’s the pacing? Are there incongruities?

You can reach me in a couple ways to deliver this feedback. Message me on Facebook or drop a post onto my (author) Page, or contact me on Twitter.Feedback

Thank you for your feedback and your readership. Look for Act 2 kicking off this Thursday!

Unwelcome Guests

Unwelcome Guests - Last BarAngel pulled himself off the floor and pulled a scarf out of his pocket to wrap around his neck. Not too tight, just tight enough to press the blood up to his would so that it would clot. He moved slowly so as not to alarm Hope and Cindy, who was still holding the broken bottle. Jim’s honeybee couldn’t care less about Angel’s movements.

A tapping sound came from what everyone considered the front door of the bar. Someone was outside, or maybe it was the wind getting in at an odd angle. Pressure differentials from elevators had a tendency to open and close doors and maybe the recent movement had opened some exterior door, allowing the wind to gush in and cause something to tap on the door.

It tapped again, but louder. And then it spoke! “Hey, old man. We want to trade. We heard you had water.”

Jim signaled everyone to be quiet. They all complied. Cindy shot a suspicious look over to Angel. She was already making up a story about him betraying everyone to The Dragon. Jim noticed her gaze and extended his flat hand toward her, asking her to stay calm.

The tapper banged on the door. “C’mon old man. We’re here to trade.”

It didn’t seem as though they were going to believe that no one was home. No amount of quiet, or hiding behind the bar was going to discourage them. In all likelihood they would break down the door and take what they wanted if no one was around to stop them.

Fortunately Jim had scavenged a working security camera system and wired it up to see who was outside the door. The screen was hiding behind the curtain near the elevator. As he revealed it everyone instinctively gathered toward it, Cindy still holding her bottle. While the screen warmed up Jim gently pulled the bottle away from her and lowered her hand for her.

A group of young men appeared on the screen, somewhat distorted from the camera’s fish-eye lens. They had a weathered appearance, as if life had been intentionally hard on them even in the wasted environment. Each brandished a club, or bat, or some bludgeoning weapon. Some had spikes sticking out from them. They were just like the weapons used against Cindy and Hope’s camp. They were just like the weapons of The Dragon.

“It’s got to be them,” Cindy said. She tried to grab her bottle back from Jim.

“None of that. Enough!” Jim said in his loudest whisper. He positioned himself between Cindy, Hope, and Angel. “I want all three of you to go out the other door. Go down one flight of stairs, there will be a tunnel over to the next building. Get to the helicopter and go to the hanger. I will deal with these guys and then meet you there.”

“How will you get there?” Cindy asked.

“Don’t worry about that. Just get out of here. Go!”

Jim pulled three full waterbags from behind the bar and handed them out as they grabbed their backpacks. They moved through the other door, Hope and Cindy dropped behind Angel. Jim re-locked the behind them. Down the stairs they went until they reached the tunnel. It was dark save for the light at the end.

Angel led the way not worrying about what might be lurking in the tunnel. He knew full well that all the lurkers had died off years ago, that his instincts were ignorant of the times. Hope led Cindy by the hand following him.

They emerged from the tunnel and quietly climbed two flights when they reached the surface. Like all the other buildings, the first 20 floors had no windows. The group was cautious upon exiting. They peered around, looking for a larger group that might have accompanied the handful of thugs at the door.

The wind had died down, as it does before a storm. Without the howling from the buildings they could hear voices in the distance. They moved swiftly, but quietly away from Jim’s building and the voices.

Hope matched Angel’s nimbleness in the sand, but she encumbered herself by lagging behind with Cindy. They stayed low as they crossed the drawbridge that formerly allowed cars to pass over the river that ran down the center of the city. Its grated deck didn’t collect the sand and made them easy to spot by anyone who was looking. The vantage point of the bridge gave them a view of Jim’s building.

Among the sand dunes they could see the tops of clubs milling about the first floor of the last bar. Echoing through the towers, a chant emerged. First only a few, distinct voices we heard, “Let us in! Let us in! Let us in!” The chanting went on for more than a minute. When it stopped it was replaced by cheers.

The trio stopped at the far end of the bridge when the cheering went silent. Staring over at the building, they could no longer see the clubs. The terrifying silence meant that he had let them in, or they broke down the door. The old man was no match of them.

“I’ll go back,” Hope said. “We can’t just leave him there to die.”

“You’ll go back and die.” Angel replied. Cindy agreed with him, despite her distaste.

Frantic screams drew their attention back to the building. A few clubs emerged behind the dunes, and then an explosion.

The concussion blast blew sand and debris out through the first three floors of the building. It was far from enough to bring down the towering structure, but plenty enough kill or maim anyone on the lower levels.

They stood tall on the bridge to see if anyone survived, being less concerned about being seen. The cries for help quietly replaced the concussive peace that followed the explosion. Then a distinctive, clear, commanding voice overshouted the cries, “Dragon! Regroup!”

Hope pulled her blade with the full intent to kill Angel, but he was already moving again. In that moment she forgot her situation and shouted to him, “You brought them here, you bastard!” She gave chase and Cindy had no choice but to follow.

“There! On the bridge!” the shouts echoed. They were discovered.

Bees

Bees - Last BarA tinking sound in the overhead light distracted Angel from his thoughts. A small, black — and insect of some sort was doing a confused dance around the light bulb before it flew down to have a look at the giant beast sprawled out on the floor. It established an elliptical orbit over his torso, giving off a strange buzzing sound. Finally it landed on his nose.

Angel stared, cross-eyed, at the bug. It had a bulbous behind painted with black and yellow stripes. The legs were covered in some sort of putty and the wings looked like they had no business being attached to such a thing. They were far too small to possibly keep it aloft. “You have bees?”

Jim looked over at the toppled man on the floor and let out a big laugh. “Yeah, turns out that you can’t really grow much food without them.”

The two women were less impressed by the bee and kept their guard up, Hope still breathing heavily from her adrenaline rush.

Keeping a careful eye on the bee, Angel slowly propped himself up onto his elbows. He didn’t want to disturb it, he had heard that they can sting when agitated. “I don’t think I have ever seen one in real life.” His voice agitated the bee a little, but not enough to make it strike. He smiled.

“I found a colony on ice at one of the universities here.” Jim said. “I’ve got three hives at this point.”

“The more you tell him, Jim.” Cindy’s voice was steady. She was still clutching the broken bottle but had become a little enamored with the bee. It was becoming more obvious to her that Jim, for reasons beyond her comprehension, trusted the pilot.

Dropping his jovial demeanor, Jim said, “Do you know anyone else who flies a helicopter, Cindy? You, Hope? If you want to play along with my little plan you’re going to have to work with him, and not stab him in the throat. Maybe he was an asshole before, but he hasn’t been in the three years I’ve known him.” He reached over the bar and pulled out a jar of honey and a spoon.

Upon the opening of the jar the bee buzzed off of Angel’s nose and established an orbit around Jim’s head. He dipped the spoon into the honey and pulled out a portion. The bee, as if trained, landed on the spoon near the dollop of sweetness. Jim smiled at the bee. “Honey never goes bad.”