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WARNING: Stories on this site may contain mature language and situations, and may be inappropriate for readers under the age of 18.

SIGNING OFF by Patrick M. Tracy
October 18, 2008  Short stories   Tags:   

The yoke about our necks, this crux of all human bondage, is that we remember the suffering of the past.  This awareness of the illusion of time, this surety of our own presence, of our own history…these are the constituents of our misery.  External misfortunes are but the clarion call at the head of our army of woe.  As we have often seen, we humans are capable of misery even in the absence of tragedy.  Lacking true unrest, we will make ourselves un-restful with petty tricks of the mind, picking endlessly at the single dropped thread in the great carpet of life.  We are destined for this, made for it.  Apocalypse aside, we have always gloried in the gloom of our own bruised dreams.  The only difference now is that there are far fewer of us to do the suffering.

Given the ability to forget the past, to de-conceptualize the future, and live only in each moment, the tragedy of the flashover would lose all its poignancy.  We could stop skulking in the ruins of our own dreams, hating those hopes that turned into a rusted shroud of burning iron upon our brow in that moment when society disjoined, when the fertile tapestry of our culture vanished into dust.

The ghost towns are haunted, our former flesh turned to a gibbering, shambling mockery.  We are eaten by our own crude doppelgangers daily, we few, sad remainders, and our dream are unquiet with the thought of being the very last, the final notes in a symphony cut short in mid-crescendo.  Our voices have been muted, our expressions just songs that will never be heard by another ear, felt in another’s heart.  We are neurons firing into dead tissue, our deeds naught but the pointless twitching of bird with a broken neck.  And still, we find ourselves unable to stop moving, to surrender to the sepulchral stillness all around.  It isn’t in us, that capability to abandon a losing game.

I could tell you many things, many terrible truths about the bad times after humanity’s fall.  I could teach you the ways of running, of the breath caught forever in the throat as one forces himself to silence, hoping to hide a moment longer from the walking damned as they crave for his flesh.  I could paint the pictures drawn in blood, alluding to the stench of rotting meat still motile, of blackened teeth clamping down on the livid flesh of those still breathing, of the horror within the blank eyes of our enemies.

The still photographs, were there artists enough left to appreciate such things, would be grand enough for a showing upon the fine walls of the museum.  Whole traffic jams trapped in silent congress, the burnt-out opulence of Cadillac husks standing pale in the midday gloom, a herd of elk drinking from a algae-green public fountain in the city square.  Whole skylines washed clean, for there is no smokestack left to belch its filth into the upper air now, even the small and lingering fires long doubted.

There is a certain beauty in the death of us, something terribly sad about the prosaic remnants of what we built, now unmade by lack of grid power and the absence of foot traffic.  All our miracles of innovation are but empty husks and discarded tin cans without a critical mass of souls to power them.  They are ours, and without us, they are nothing.

Perhaps because humanity always took itself too seriously, this unceremonious end, this absurdity of being eaten into extinction by our own dead, seems almost proper.  It’s as if the gods of irony have finally turned their eyes upon us.  Even while the jarring recoil of an old war-issue Browning Automatic Rifle assaults my shoulder and the bodies of the shambling crowd burst into deep red bloom, I find a laugh at the back of my throat.

All the realists, all the moral philosophers, all the brimstone preachers waving their accusatory fingers at their assembled congregations, and here we are, firing until the ammunition is exhausted, finally no more than cave folk afraid of distant thunder and clenching the sturdiest of our prey’s leg bones as we fight to stay awake.

These are the thoughts I have carried, carried as I burned Houston, carried as I walked the streets of Austin like a character in a video game, destroying every unwholesome tomb of flesh that yet grumbled for surfeit.  These are the songs I have sung to myself as the diesel wound and the tires cried upon the broken asphalt of our forgotten kingdom.  These are the songs now ended.  Inchoate rises this tide of awful flesh, and I have run my last, squeezed the trigger my last, given over to the sinfulness of these flowery words my last.  I give you leave to turn away your glance, stranger.  I would not wish the sight of my demise on anyone.

This is David Allen Wexler, signing off.

Author Bio:

Patrick M. Tracy grew up in Maine, but has long-since grown accustomed to the arid heat of the Southwest.  He graduated from Northern Arizona University with a degree in English.  Consequently, he became a computer technician in a library, which serves to support his writing habit.  Learn more about him at http://www.pmtracy.com.


  1. Wow, great story very poetic in way

    Comment by Aj on October 18, 2008 @ 8:24 pm

  2. Very perceptive and thought-provoking. This seems to be far more that a “zombie” story. I’ve read every thig that you’ve submitted to this magazine. All of your work is strong and a testament to your great skill as a writer, but I think this one may be my favorite.

    Comment by drthunder on October 19, 2008 @ 4:20 pm

  3. A very captivating soliloquy. Causes the reader to place himself in the midst of this devastation, to experience the ebbing of emotion and the onset of mechanical survival.

    Comment by Bobby-T on October 24, 2008 @ 7:31 am

  4. Wow, very intense piece of writing. I think it would have been better as an epic poem, as another reader hinted at. It really read like a poem and the language was weighted like a poem. Too strong for this medium, but a cool experiment. I could see you just spacing this into stanzas, and making it a poem.

    The academic writer voice is interesting, but too distant for my tastes. Still, it’s hard to make gourmet food out of chilled brains, and that’s what you did.

    It’s definitely not in the class of the traditional zombie story. Patrick M. Tracy is in a class of his own–I’m thinking a post-graduate class. You’d get an “A.”

    Paul Genesse
    Author of The Golden Cord

    Comment by Paul Genesse on October 28, 2008 @ 12:37 am

  5. Good read. Thought provoking, and brings on the feeling of emptiness, of being alone so well.

    Comment by David Youngquist on December 1, 2008 @ 7:15 pm

  6. Thanks, everyone, for your kind comments. I recognize that this is a bit different from the other stories I’ve posted here, but I thought that it would be interesting to move away from the standard zombie fighting fare a bit. Thanks for being patient enough to give it a go. I hope to post more stories here in the future.

    Comment by Patrick M. Tracy on December 5, 2008 @ 11:42 am

  7. Hey im a budding writer in this feild of literacy(i suppose) is there any hints or tips you could give me to help me on my way to a few really good stories? An excellent story i really enjoyed it

    Comment by Daniel on August 11, 2009 @ 4:35 pm

  8. Daniel,

    1) Read a lot, from many genres.
    2) Write what you enjoy thinking about, and don’t initially put overwhelming pressure on yourself to do something earthshaking.
    3) Find friends who will gently but firmly tell you how to improve your work.
    4) Go to writer’s conventions and take the learning panels they offer.
    5) Keep writing–don’t get discouraged, because it’s not easy.
    6) Don’t be afraid to send in work you feel good about. If your story gets rejected, they’re not rejecting you, just some words you put on the page. It’s not always indicative of the story being bad. It might just be that that market isn’t looking for the sort of tale you sent them at that moment. Good luck!

    Comment by Patrick M. Tracy on August 18, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

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