Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dashing Through the Mud

It rained, it rained and just when I thought it was done, it rained some more. It rained for five full days before finally giving up and moving on. Eighteen inches of rain flooded the ditches and sent the dry runs, creeks and rivers to swell and over flow the streets of many towns.
Never in my life have I seen such an unusual sight. One so close to Christmas the very thought of rain was ludicrous, at least to the northern half of the Untied States. A region where snow had dominated during this time of year, water now pooled and streamed. The water was bad all right. Bad, but by far not the worst. But I'll get to that later.
For now let me introduce myself. My name is Tyler Logan and I am lucky to be here writing this today. You see...I almost died two days ago. Yes! That's right, I said I almost died, and now I am here to write down my tale. I'm not afraid anymore. I'm not afraid of what happened, or am I afraid of what might still happen again. I pray to God this is the end of it, though.
December 18th was the day the rain began. It was the day everyone saw as odd and a bit frightening, that with global warming and all that happy-do-DA. The first day, though, wasn't so bad. It rained, okay fine. That sort of thing happens in the winter sometimes. But then came the second day, then the third and fourth. My basement flooded and it didn't matter how hard I worked at pumping the water out it just kept seeping in, like a cruise ship with a couple pin holes punched in the bottom. It just kept coming, so I gave up trying and let it flood. My hot water heater drowned, but otherwise the main house remained dry. I considered this a blessing then.
My wife, Liz, spent most of her days looking out the window and watching the rain fall. She was a believer of white Christmases. And the more it rained the more her spirits shriveled. By the fourth day she went mad, something I saw coming, but never really noticed. I had been too caught up in the oddity of what was happening and of course my job. I'm a machinist for a local metal fabrication company, and, rain or no rain, I needed to work.
On the fourth day I came home from work drenched from head to toe just running from the car in the driveway to the house. Mud caked my boots all the way up to my shins. My gravel driveway had become a bog. The car, a 2003 Cavalier, still sat out there near the end, looking like a forlorn, dying animal, doomed to sink further and further into the mud until it was swallowed whole.
The house was quite when I entered. And after the few minutes it took me to slip out of my muddy boots and wet overalls, it remained quiet. Something was wrong here. I felt it like a chilly fall breeze against the back of my neck. My stomach felt as though it wanted to twist and writhe within its confides. My heart thrummed faster and faster as I strode through the house.
"Liz!" I called. A coppery taste filled my mouth, but I ignored it.
Liz didn't answer...and the house remained silent.
I found her out on the back porch of our house, face down. Mud, dark and slimy slathered her from her feet to her waist. At first I only stood there, gaping down at her as rain cascaded from the sky. All her hair was gone and something black was smeared across the back of her head. I stepped outside to see what it was and recoiled so fast I stumbled backwards, nearly lost my balance and then righted myself. But it wasn't the black smear that made me do this, it was the mud. The mud was moving, shifting, around her as if in an intimate embrace. What the fuck is this, I wondered, terrified. I stared down at it, dumbfounded for a moment and then skirted around Liz's lower half to get a better look at that black smear. The mud made an ominous hissing sound and I glanced in its direction. It was now sliding up her body toward me. That's when I saw Liz's feet, or what was left of them. The bloody clumps lying there on the wooden planks of our porch were no longer recognizable as feet.
I moved away quickly. As I did my eyes happened to lower to Liz's bald pate, then to her neck. Here I saw what killed her. She had somehow mustered the courage to cut her own throat. There was no blood, but I supposed the mud had something to do with that.
It glopped toward me, moving over Liz and leaving raw meat behind. The black smear remained a mystery to me, as it will forever I suppose. I remember screaming at this point, loud terrified screaming coming directly out of my mouth.
I hopped off the porch. My feet hit the ground but slipped out from under me on the wet grass. I landed flat on my back. The wind in my lungs whooshed out in one giant gush. Pain spread across my left leg. I desperately tried sucking in air but for one Godless second I thought that perhaps I never would again. Then it came, in constricted sips at first and then in hearty gulps that only lasted a moment before the pain in my leg drove everything else out of my mind and I wailed in agony. The pain crept up my leg toward my crotch. Screaming I managed to get to my feet. Mud clung to my left leg in an oozing mass. I swiped it off with my hands the best I could, trying to ignore the searing ache it sent through my fingers and palms to do so, and lurched around the house.
I didn't want to look down at my leg, but found I had too. I had to see what the mud had down to me. It wasn't as bad as I had thought, but bad enough to send my gut fluttering and my gorge to rise. What was there flapped and squished. It was amazing I was walking at all.
The rain pelted down on me as I made my way around to the front of the house. If I could only get to my car. If I could get to that-
The car was now longer at the end of the driveway. In fact there appeared to be no sign of it anyway.
"The mud swallowed it." I muttered to himself. This sounded fun, even to myself and I broke into a bitter sort of laughter. A helpless, lost laughter.
The mud that was my driveway rippled, and then began to wave as if it were a lake caught in a gale. Waves splashed at me and I jumped away, startled. There was no way out. This mud, this strange evil mud, had me trapped.
But then I realized something. A flicker in my mind, an image I understood at once. I glared at the living mud. Now the road itself was a wavy mud slick. I turned and entered my garage, panting, trying to hold on to what sanity I still had. My eyes instantly found what my mind had pictured only a moment before. In the rafters, dangling by bailing twine, hung our canoe. Something slammed into the big automatic door at the front of the garage and I screamed. Sweat streamed down my face in a flood. Was I really going to try this? Yes. Yes I was, by God. Liz appeared before my mind's eyes and I had to stifle a horrified moan. I saw her body, stripped of its skin all the way up to her waist. Tears filled my eyes.
Thud! The mud was trying to get in. The door began to buckle inward.
Wasting no more time I drug a ladder over, unhooked the canoe and hauled it down. The paddle was already in the canoe's' body. I carried the canoe over to the automatic door.
Thud! Thud! Soon the door would give and I'd be swallowed up like my car.
I sucked in a breath, stepped to the right of the big door, and pushed the UP button.
The door shuddered and then began to ascend. I hopped in the canoe as the first of the evil mud slithered under the crack toward me. With the paddle held poised and ready, I watched the door lift up and the mud pour in. I just hoped this would work. If not...well...
It did work, though. The mud came in and as it flooded the garage it also sent me afloat on my old canoe. The one Liz and I used so many times when we were much younger, but once into our thirties forgot about. The mud was like thick, gritty water under me, scratching at the bottom of the canoe. It was only a couple feet deep by what I judged against the automatic door jam, but that was more than enough to eat me alive.
I pushed with the paddle, propelling myself slowly toward the maw of the large doorway. It was easy at first. Then something in the mud took hold of my paddle and tried to yank it out of my hands. I managed to pull it free with all my strength. Tentacles of hungry mud shot out at me from the writhing mass under me. I hit them away easily with the paddle.
After a few minutes of this I finally started pushing myself out of the garage. Nothing grabbed my paddle. Once outside I had to pause for a minute to take in what I was seeing. Mud. Mud everywhere. Somewhere close I heard someone screaming. A shiver pulsed through my spine and I got moving again. The mud tentacles appeared not to care anymore. Perhaps, if they had a mind at all, they thought of me as an acceptable loss. At least that's what I hoped.
Soon I was in the road, pushing myself along at a gruelingly slow pace. It wasn't like moving through water, but through a muddy shallow marsh. But at least I was moving, I had that to be thankful for.
About three hours later I paddled into the small city of Cedar Rapids. Here the mud tapered off to nothing. I only had one problem after I'd landed on blacktop. As I was getting out of the canoe, one of those tentacles of mud burst out of the mass and wrapped itself around my right arm. Instantly it felt as though my arm was on fire. I shrieked and tried yanking myself free. It yanked back, hard enough to drag me just five inches from the writhing mass of mud.
"Gotcha!" Someone shouted and I caught a glimpse of silver before the hold on my arm released.
"C'mon! Get to the turnpike!" The person who saved my life was an older man, perhaps in his late sixties. His white hair a spiky disarray on his head. He was holding a machete caked with mud.
I followed him to the turnpike, which stood only forty feet away. From here we looked down. The mud, from what I saw, was only where I came in at. Otherwise, the city was safe. And the older man, whose name was Ed White, told me so.

Now, as I write this, the mud that killed my wife and damn near killed me too, has receded and sunken back into the ground from which it came. I just pray that summer, with all its glory, doesn't bring too much rain. But...nothing is certain in this life, is it?

The End


Stewart Sternberg said...

Ah...the loneliness of those first few posts. The sense that no one is ever going to come visit.

Thanks for this short story. It's an interesting tale...reminds me of a writers assignment we did a while back where we had to write something having to do with MUD..or at least MUD had to be the title. I posted my assignment on my blog.

I like the idea of nature taking on an evil personification. I think I would have liked to have seen some character development..get to know something about the wife and the husband's relationship, otherwise she is only so much meat.

There is a Stewart moment in this story. A Stewart moment is something happens in a story that goes a little against logic. Another way to put it is: What Would Stewart Do? In this story? I'd get my ass far away from that town. I would find me a spot where I'm surrounded by concrete.

Chuck Zaglanis said...

Hi Lucas,

I just tracked down your blog from Stewart's site. Looking at your profile, it's disturbing how much we have in common. heh

Lucas Pederson said...

Thanks for stopping by, both of you. And Stewart, thanks for pointing that out about the husband and wife thing. I realize that now I should have put at least a flash back in there, but I wrote the story for this blog and wanted it to be fasted paced. So, perhpas, subconsiously, I neglected the whole character development thing. Plus, I was nervous, the story being my first post and all. Thanks.

Susan Miller said...

When I was young there was a movie entitled "The ______"....Oh man, I can't think of it's name and hate it when that happens. Anyway, it was this big ball of goo that came after people, and there were moments in your story where I was reminded of that.

You had me going at first...I thought it was some type of introduction post with a biographical slant and then your wife was killed on the back porch....

Good tension.

Susan Miller said...

"The Blob" I think that was it. When I first tried to type it I wrote "The Blog" but then knew that couldn't be right.

Lucas Pederson said...

Lol! Thanks Susan!
Now that I think about it too, the story does kind of seem reminicent of "The Blob". Although it wasn't my intention to do so. I live in northestern Iowa and here it has rained instead of snowed. I love snow and it erked me so bad that there hasn't been any yet that I took out my frustrations writing the short story.Thanks again Susan for you imput.

Anonymous said...

Dear Author !
In my opinion. You were mistaken.