Jim Shannon was scared. He was not alone in his fear, as many thousands of others shared it, but only he knew the truth. Only he knew what was about to happen. It did nothing to lessen his fear, the deep-rooted dread of what was about to happen. The knowledge did however save his life, as it had many times before.
He was sitting outside a Dairy Queen in Manhattan Kansas when he learned of what was to come. The weather had been awful for a few days and everyone was on the lookout for a tornado. Jim was finishing his blizzard when his cell phone starting buzzing. He picked it up as he tossed his empty container into the trash. “Hello, this is Jim Shannon.”
“Hello Jim Shannon,” was the gravelly reply. “You know who this is, of course.”
Jim went pale. No, not pale. Ash white. He felt as though the earth had just split open and he was now falling thousands of feet to his death. His grip on the phone caused the casing to crack and this brought him back to reality.
“Yes,” he said. “What do you want?”
“Just a heads up, my man. You got a mean set of twisters on the way that is due to make that town a memory. I suggest you get started out of town, well, like now.”
“Who are you?” Though he had asked the question countless times before, Jim always expected a different answer. He never got one.
“I am mayhem. I am carnage. I am blight, pestilence, famine and flood. I am destruction. I am a mean mother fucker with one hell of an attitude. Now move your ass.”
Jim dropped his phone to the ground and looked at the blackening skies. He quickly entered his car and sped towards the city limits. The massive tornados struck soon after he left, nearly leveling the small college town.
It was the next night, as Jim sat alone in a dingy motel room near Casa Grande that he learned the death toll had reached into the tens of thousands. He wept without shame as he drank from the large bottle of bourbon in his hand. By midnight he had passed out, his last thought the same as it had been numerous times before in this same situation.
A night filled with erratic dreams, plagued by genocidal horror ended as he awoke with a scream, his head pounding. Just once, why not get the call while passed out and dead to the world. Then he could miss the exodus and die blissfully in his sleep, unaware of whatever tragedy was trendy this week. Three years of dodging death had made him weary and disillusioned. If he were less of a coward, he would have ignored the warnings and let fate send him off to sweet release. Instead, he fled just as soon as his mysterious benefactor called, unable to do anything untrue of himself. Unwilling to shuffle off his own mortal coil, he was completely willing to allow the others to perish in his stead. He had tried to warn others in the beginning, but he had barely escaped on those occasions so he had taken heed of future warnings.
In this, and in all things, he was alone.
Jim had long since stopped feeling guilt for what he was doing. He could no longer grieve for those he could not save. Instead, he deadened his pain with alcohol and waited impatiently for the next call.
Jim stood and stretched and the phone on the bedside stand started ringing. He stared at in with loathing. Not now. It was too soon! He had to have time to rest. It was not fair! He snatched up the phone.
“Look, you, I am tired of this! What do you want from me?”
“Your attention at the moment,” was the flinty reply. “There is going to be a meteor shower. Noon. Today. You do not want to be in Arizona for this.”
“What is happening?” Jim almost shrieked into the phone. “Why are you doing these things?”
“I never said I was causing these things. I AM these things!”
“That’s not possible!”
“Then stick around and watch the fireworks.”
Jim dropped the phone and ran for his car. He had little time to waste. Jumping behind the wheel, Jim quickly hit the freeway and headed east. He hit Tucson an hour later and estimated another hour to the New Mexico border. Glancing down at the dashboard clock, he started to sweat. He only had 38 minutes before the shower. He was not going to make it.
Praying there was no highway patrol on this stretch of the road he opened her up and soon hit ninety. He checked the clock again and saw that another ten minutes had passed. No matter how fast he went, he just did not have enough time.
He was twelve miles from the border when the skies darkened and then turned a deep, blood red. The first meteor blazed into existence overhead with only ten miles to go, striking the ground with a deep thud over the horizon.
Then the sky filled with them; great balls of molten rock, streaking through the sky and exploding upon impact. Craters opened all around him, and the air instantly became sweltering. The road cracked and heaved beneath him as he raced across the crooked asphalt ribbon.
Three miles to go!
Jim Shannon vanished in fiery ball of space debris along with nearly one hundred thousand others. It took emergency workers four months to get the highway opened once again. One of the first people to use the newly opened freeway was a woman from Fresno, traveling to Florida to visit her mother. As she crossed into New Mexico, her cell phone rang. She quickly picked it up.
“Hello, Sharon. Mayhem calling.”
©2012 J. Scott Kunkle
J. Scott Kunkle served in the Army for 10 years, before returning to his hometown of Tucson, Arizona. He is a single father of three and spends most of his free time on the computer writing.
His short stories have appeared online at sites such as Bewildering Stories, Flashes in the Dark, Powder Burn Flash, Static Movement, Weird Year and The Fringe. He has written four novels and well over a dozen feature-length movie scripts, several of which he is actively seeking representation. His short work “Walking With Shadows” won the Fiction Addiction Short Story Contest several years ago.