Jonathan Yanez

Jonathan Yanez: December 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Never Alone Part 3 of 3

Never Alone

Part 3 of 3

“No hard feelings. I know that faith in our fellow man isn’t the easiest thing to come by now.”
It turned out that these three were the only ones left in the town. Everyone else either died, or packed up and headed West were there were rumors of grass and trees. It turned out that the town did in fact have a well; it was cleverly concealed in a crumbled shack. A deal was quickly made: all the water Michael and I could drink and carry for two cans of beans and a rabbit that I came across the previous day. The little guy must have been burrowed deep when the sky shattered and somehow managed to stay alive since then. The deal was more than fair and as the sun began to set, Mrs. Kelly invited me to stay with them for the night.
Normally, I would have politely refused, you didn’t make it long in the wasteland if you started accepting sleepover invitations from strangers. Sandy, however, was more than insistent and even told me I could sleep in her bed and she would gladly take the floor. Annabel earnestly seconded the motion and before I knew it there was an old fashioned girl’s sleepover planned.
Their living quarters was a midsize house in the center of town. Its shambled and dilapidated exterior would turn away anyone. It looked as though any second it would end its own misery and collapse in on itself. The inside however, was the complete opposite and it was clear the girls had been very intentional into making it into a home. It was one large room with a bed in the back corner, stove, table and chairs in the middle, and Sandy had even taken it upon herself to decorate. There were drawings placed strategically around the room of flowers, animals and flowing rivers. Mrs. Kelly explained that Sandy wasn’t old enough to actually have seen those things but she had done a great job just by listening to her descriptions.
We sat down to a simple meal of dried peas and beans provided by Mrs. Kelly and I contributed the last of my hard bread and licorice. After a few minutes of pleading from the girls, Mrs. Kelly even allowed Michael to enter the room, “But only because it is a special occasion.”
The girls were elated and helped me take off his saddle, feed and brush him. Michael’s tail swished back and forth as he welcomed the attention from his new-found friends.
Within a few hours it was time for bed. The two girls obediently changed into their nightgowns and Annabel gave Michael a kiss on the nose before her scrawny legs jumped into bed with her sister.
“Are you going to say prayers with us tonight?” Annabel asked me.
I had taken off my hat and riding jacket and was sitting at the table running my hand through my long brown hair. “Oh, well, I’m not that good at saying prayers.”
In the blink of an eye Sandy sprung from her bed and ran towards me, grabbing my hands in her own she smiled, “It’s Ok I’m good at prayers. Mrs. Kelly taught me. Just close your eyes.”
Before I had a chance to consider why I’d obey someone who still occasionally wet the bed, my eyes closed.
“Dear God,” she began. “Thank you for my sister and Mrs. Kelly and our new friend. Oh, and Michael. Thank you for keeping them safe and bringing them to us. Thank you that Mrs. Kelly let them stay and didn’t shoot them. Please tell my mommy and daddy I said, ‘hi’. Please bring back grass and trees and animals so my sister and I can see them. Amen!”
When she was done she grabbed me around the neck, gave me a hug and whispered in my ear, “Be good tonight and maybe Mrs. Kelly will let you stay.”
With that Sandy and Annabel were tucked into bed by Mrs. Kelly and the two sisters held each other as they fell asleep.
Mrs. Kelly picked up her rifle and sat in one of two rocking chairs that faced the front window. She motioned for me to follow and soon we both sat slowly swaying back and forth looking into the night sky. The disaster had intensified the heat and brightness of the sky both day and night. During the day the sun scorched the earth and over night the moon shone twice as bright as it had before.
“I’m sorry if Sandy’s prayer made you uncomfortable. She can be a bit to eager at times.”
“No, not at all. I’m just not used to giving thanks at a time like this.”
“What do you mean?”
I looked at her as if she were joking, “I mean praying. There’s no one out there listening. If there ever was a God, he abandoned this world a long time ago. I mean hope, faith?” I told her about the crazy man and his band of followers I had run into earlier that day.
“Oh, I see,” she nodded her head and gave me a smile that lit up her leathery wrinkled face. “May I tell you a story?”
“I was living in this town when the First Wave hit. My husband was wounded badly when he tried to stop looters from taking our food. It wasn’t soon after that that the entire town decided to move on. Some were looking for food, some heard rumors that the event hadn’t affected the West nearly as bad, others just mindlessly walked out of town and into the wasteland giving up all hope. Soon my husband and I were the only ones left and within a few days I was the only one left.”
She paused here and looked into my eyes, making sure I was not only hearing her, but I was understanding her. Content with what she found, she continued, “I lost all hope. I abandoned any faith I had and was considering whether to hang or shoot myself when I heard crying. I opened the front door and there they were. Annabel finally dropped from exhaustion at my doorstep. I don’t know where they came from or how Annabel, at such a young age, had managed to carry her baby sister, but there they were. Since then I’ve taken care of them and they’ve taken care of me. They gave me a reason to live, a reason to hope, and a reason to believe that things will get better. They have pushed me to be the woman that I need to be and there is no room for doubt in my mind, when I needed help the most it was there.”
My eyes drifted over to Michael’s large figure on the wood floor. The girls had snuck out of their bed and were both half-leaning on, half-hugging his large form as all three of them slept. And for the first time in years I thought to myself, “Maybe I’m not so alone after all.” 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Never Alone Part 2 of 3

Never Alone 

Part 2 of 3

We made our way through the miles of flatland that had once been alive with grass and trees but now was only a desert expanding as far as the eye could see. The living conditions were so unbearable that even insects were a rarity to find. I remember how I used to complain about bugs when I was little. When you lived in the country it seemed, there was always something crawling on or biting you. What I wouldn’t give now for a fly to zoom by or a butterfly to flap its colorful wings near me.
We rode for a few hours longer and soon what remained of a town loomed on the horizon. There were a few buildings intact and I could see figures walking down the main road. Going into a town was always a gamble, but I needed to water Michael and if I was going to find anything to drink anywhere, this was it. Since the event, all the rivers had dried up and now only the deepest wells produced any water.
The town was smaller than I originally thought: there were about 10 buildings on either side of the road and half of those were reduced to nothing more than piles of splintered wood and crumbled brick.
The road was deserted, but I could feel eyes watching me from windows and around corners. I stopped Michael in the middle of the dirt road. “I don’t want any trouble. I’m just looking for water for me and my horse. I have things to trade.”
“I don’t mean any harm. I just need some water and I’ll be on my way.”
“What do you have to trade?” a small voice asked.
I turned my head to the left and saw a thin girl no more than seven peering around the corner of a broken building.
“Whatever you need; food, blankets, clothes - candy.”
“Candy!” She ran from her hiding spot, the temptation of something sweet apparently outmatching her fear of strangers.
I smiled at her as I dismounted. My riding boots hit the dirt and I pulled a glass jar from a satchel that hung across Michael’s back.
“Here”, opening the jar I handed her a bright red piece of licorice. 
Her little hands wrapped around the treat eagerly and she took a huge bite. “Mmmmmm…”
“What’s your name?”
Between mouthfuls of licorice I was able to make out, “Sandy.”
“Are you alone here, Sandy? Where’s your mom and dad?”
“Mom and dad died during the storm.”
She said this in a matter of fact tone like she was quoting something out of a book rather than the deaths of her parents. Sandy was skinny, but her fair colored skin was clean and her black hair was braided into two fat pigtails.  It was clear to me that she wasn’t by herself.
“Who do you live with, Sandy?”
“My sister and Mrs. Kelly.”
“Where are they now?”
“Behind you.”
I froze as I heard the all too, familiar click of a hammer. “Turn around slowly.” An elderly female voice, commanded, “Put your hands in the air.”
Kicking myself mentally for being so careless, I immediately obeyed and turned to see not one but two guns pointed in my direction. The first rifle was held by the speaker, a grey-haired woman, wearing men’s trousers and a white blouse. She was past her prime but there was a fire and fierceness in her eyes.
The second gun was shaking a little in the slender hands of a young girl, who had to be Sandy’s older sister. Their similarities were clear: fair skin, black hair and that soft look of innocence.
“I’m just passing through, mam. Looking to trade for water. If theirs none to be had, I’ll gladly be on my way.”
The older woman cocked her head to the side weighing her options, “What do you think Sandy? Should we trust her?”
“Oh, yes,” the little girl replied. “She has candy!”
“What did I tell you about staying hidden from strangers?”
“I was going to but I looked into her eyes like you taught me and I knew she wasn’t like one of the bad people.”
Mrs. Kelly lowered her rifle and motioned for the girl next to her to do the same, “You can put down your gun, Annabel. You’re right about the eyes, Sandy, just wait for me next time.”
“Yes, Mrs. Kelly.”
The woman turned to me now, “Sorry about all the gun pointing, but I’m sure you can understand.”

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Never Alone Part 1 of 3

With the Mayan calendar coming to an end this Friday Dec 21st, and all the talk of the end of the world, I thought it only fitting that I take a short break from The Beast Within and share my own apocalypse story with you. Since it's too long for one post I'll be putting the story up over a series of three separate posts. I hope you enjoy.

Never Alone 

I never thought the end of the world would come so soon. Well, soon for me anyway. At 23 I still considered myself young. No one knew what caused it. Some said it was God raining down fire on us for our sins; others said it was a huge rock called an “asteroid” that struck our planet.  Either way, it didn’t matter to me. Survival is what interested me now. 
            I was more concerned about where my next meal was coming from, or how to avoid the bands of robbers that now roam the wasteland that once was the United States of America. In a way, I was lucky. I had been preparing for this my whole life and didn’t even know it.
            I grew up a single child. My father died in the war and my mother had a fatal fall off of a horse. At an early age, I learned to take care of myself. Now, while most panicked at losing loved ones or didn’t know how to survive off of what remained of the land, I had things under control - for the most part. I couldn’t help but think of that saying, “In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king.”
            I was disturbed from these thoughts as I approached a group of people huddled by the side of the dirt road. A hunched over man was screaming something to them I couldn’t quiet make out. As I rode on and the distance between us narrowed, I was able to get a better look at him. He was old enough to be my grandpa and looked like he hadn’t showered in years. “Repent! Repent from your evil ways! The Lord is punishing us for our trespasses!”
            Michael, my horse and only friend, tried shying away from the shouting man as we approached. I couldn’t blame him, I could smell the group’s stench from fifty yards away and lets just say it was far from peaches and cream.
            “Young lady! Will you repent from your evil ways and follow the Lord?”
            “I have repented.”
            “Praise the Lord we have another sheep in the fold!”
            “Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,” his congregation echoed behind him. There must have been a dozen of them, a ragtag mix of men and women.
            His wild eyes darted to Michael, “How is it that you have a horse? I haven’t seen one of those in months.”
            He was right: most anything living had been killed in the First Wave of destruction and as the rivers dried up and the sun grew hotter each day, animals and people alike were becoming harder and harder to find.
            I didn’t like the nervous way the man and his followers were eyeing Michael and licking their lips. I decided to lie to him, “I saved him. We were lucky enough to be near a deep cave and were protected from the First Wave.”
            The truth was that I had been alone and scared. Michael found me huddled in the cave crying. Yes, I was crying. I’ll admit to it. I was terrified. I had no idea what was happening. To be honest with you, I’m still really not sure what was happening, but I knew I was in a better place after Michael found me.
“My child, it is the Lord’s will that this animal be sacrificed so that we may live,” He produced a rusted knife from somewhere in his dirt encrusted garb and took a step in my direction.
Without blinking I pulled my 1851 Colt navy revolver from its resting place on my hip. I wasn’t one for theatrics, but I had leaned at an early age if someone threatens you, they need to know that you are very willing and capable of doing whatever it takes to defend yourself.  I not only pointed my handgun directly between his eyes, but pulled the hammer back and gave him a wild look of my own.
He stopped in his tracks. The intense sun shone down on my hat and his bald head as time came to a stand still. Michael’s huge eyes were riveted on our attacker; I could feel his body tense underneath me, ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.  
“My child it is the Lord’s will that…”
“Do you believe that I will pull this trigger if you come a step closer?”
He hesitated, looking me up and down, probably weighing the odds of being able to close the ten feet between us before I could bring him down. His band of God-fearing miscreants had risen to their feet waiting for orders from their minister.
“Look at me!” I screamed.
His eyes met mine. I stared at him with all the intensity of a lioness willing to sacrifice her own life for her cub. My brown eyes spoke murder.
“Believe it – I will kill you. I will kill all of you if I have to.”
I didn’t wait for an answer, instead I nudged Michael forward and we slowly left the man and his congregation behind. They didn’t move as I saw their figures disappear behind us, knife still clutched in the old man’s undecided hand.
I holstered my weapon and pushed Michael to a comfortable trot, better to put some room between us just incase Grandpa had another telegraph from God telling him to follow and kill us both. What hope did this world have now when even those who followed God were trying to steal from you?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Late Bank Robber

            I wrote this piece for the Laguna Beach chapter of Dime Stories. Once a month we get together in a cozy wine filled room and share our work. One at a time we stand in front of the group and read our story out loud, the only catch is, the story has to be under three minutes long.
The Late Bank Robber
Jonathan Yanez

 She hated it. He didn’t know what it was or why but as long as he had known her, she had a phobia of grass. It wasn’t a fear “thing”, more of an inconvenience “thing”,
something she would avoid if she could. And if he recalled correctly, there was a huge, meadow right outside of town and directly in her path.
She was going to be late again, he should have known... The summer sun beat
down on his hat. Eyes squinted through perspiration as he glared at the thirty feet that
separated him from his enemies. Both hands grasped the horse satchels he carried. He
was powerless to make a move. Every muscle in his body screamed at him to drop his
precious payload and grab the twin Colt revolvers that rested on his hips, but he had to be
smart about this. She was always late.
            The entire town had deserted the streets, leaving the Sheriff and his deputies to
deal with the bank robber. Now multiple eyes cautiously peered through windows,
cracked doors and around corners to catch the drama taking place outside of the city
Bank and Trust. Five lawmen stood staggered in the town’s single dirt road. The
Sheriff and his four deputies trained their guns on the lawbreaker, begging him for a reason to fire.
            It was as though time stood still for Jonny “The Kid” Kent. Wearing a dark brown cowboy hat, gloves, boots and dirty blue pants, his mind raced for an answer. Minus the twin barrels at his hips, the few days of stubble that had grown on his face and his intense brown eyes, he looked every bit the part of a normal hard working ranch hand. He couldn’t help but grin at the situation he was in. He should have known she’d be late.
            “Drop the bags slowly and raise your hands in the air!” the gray-haired sheriff yelled.
            A smile crept over the bank robber’s face as a very faint, very familiar sound
met his ears; the sound of horse’s hooves.
            “You’re out-numbered and out-gunned! Give it up!” the Sheriff commanded.
            The Kid, grin still intact, answered back, “I think you’re going to need more men,
            Soon everyone heard the sound, a steady clip of hooves in the distance. The noise
made the lawmen adjust their attention to the lone rider approaching the group.
            This interruption was all The Kid needed. In the blink of an eye, he threw both
satchels he carried over his shoulders and grabbed the two death dealers that hung on his
            The rider who had been approaching could be seen now; a lone female. Katharine
“The Killer” Summers, on her trusty brown steed, Steamer. Dressed in all black with a long brown coat, her left hand was tight around Steamer’s reigns while her right hand commanded a Winchester. Her long brown hair trailed behind her and her finger tightened over the trigger.
            The only phrase that could explain what happened next would be “complete and
utter chaos”. Shots rang out, shattering the still air; lead flew through the sky like rain in
a monsoon. The Kid ran to his left still facing his adversaries, pumping bullet after
bullet in their direction. Lawmen fell left and right.
The sheriff and his men returned fire but were outmatched that day with The
Killer bearing down on their left and The Kid directly in front. The two were a deadly combination and it would have taken twice the lawmen’s number to have given them a fighting chance.
            Katharine still firing her gun, rode between the retreating law officials and up to
The Kid.
            “What took you so long?” The Kid asked gritting his teeth as she approached.
            “Just get on!” she responded back as she galloped up to him.
            Without either one of them breaking a stride the Kid jumped on the back of
Steamer and the two headed out of town, shots still ringing behind them. Wrapping his
left arm around her waist he turned in his seat aiming his right hand, that still held a revolver behind them, and fired his last two bullets.
            Turning back he leaned into her, lips inches from her ear, “What took you so
long… tell me it wasn’t the grass?”
            Her reply was simple and matter of fact as she turned her head to kiss him on the
cheek, “It was in my way about a mile out from the city. I had to go around it.”