Authors: Ray Wallace
THE HELL SEASON
Monday, June 21
Once upon a time, there was a man named Thomas Wright. He had a loving wife named Julia. He also had two beautiful children named Robert and Jenny who were nine years old and seven years old respectively. This man had a good job, a nice home in the suburbs, a big yard where the kids could play and the family dog, Rex, could run about, barking like a maniac. On the weekends Thomas would have the neighbors over for a cookout. He and the other husbands would drink a few beers and talk about sports or movies or books. Afterward, once the kids were in bed, Thomas would make love to his wife then fall into a dreamless slumber with her in his arms.
It was a relatively simple life. A comfortable life. A good life. One that Thomas considered himself very fortunate to have.
And then one day he awoke to find that his wife and children had mysteriously disappeared. Hell, even the dog was gone. Without a trace. Julia’s car was still in the driveway. None of her clothes were missing. Not even the ones she’d been wearing to bed the night before. The long t-shirt and the underwear were still there beneath the covers, as if her body had transformed into mist and drifted away. Jenny’s stuffed panda bear, the one that she never went anywhere without, was sitting on her bed. Her pajamas were there beneath the sheets of her bed. Robert’s in his own bed. There was no sign of foul play. No evidence of a struggle whatsoever. It was as though they had just up and vanished into thin air. As if they had just ceased to exist. Or never really existed at all.
Needless to say, Thomas was quite distraught over this development. He ran out into the front yard and looked wildly up and down the street screaming the names of his wife and children over and over again. It was early. The sun had just risen. The air was cool with the remnants of the passing night. He screamed until his throat hurt, his panic riddled mind unable to come up with any other course of action. Eventually it dawned on him that he should go back inside and call the police. He was about to do just that when he heard someone else screaming from further down the street. “Bill! Nina!” A woman’s voice, tight with concern. It was the only other sound he heard. No dogs barking. No one telling the woman to be quiet. No one had come out of any of the nearby houses to tell
to be quiet either. The street before him was utterly deserted. Not a single car had driven by the entire time he’d been outside. Sick with fear and confusion, Thomas turned and ran back into the house.
He grabbed his cell phone from where he’d left it the night before on the coffee table in the living room. No signal. He went into the kitchen, picked up the cordless phone from where it rested on the counter next to the refrigerator. No dial tone.
What should he do now? What now?!
Slow down, my man,
he told himself.
Deep breaths. That’s it. Got to be a logical explanation here. If you calm down you’ll be able to figure it out. People—and dogs for that matter—don’t just up and disappear in the middle of the night
That’s when he heard the explosion. It was loud enough that it rattled the windows of the house and set off car alarms out on the street.
What the hell? What was that? Gas line?
There was another blast. This one even louder. A few of the crystal figurines Julia liked to collect fell off the shelf in the living room to the floor below. Thomas went to the front door, peered out through the peephole. Things still looked normal outside. No sheets of flame erupting from the street or anything. He opened the door and stepped outside, stood beneath the overhang that covered the small front porch. His gaze was instantly drawn upward.
Over toward the east, billowing black clouds were obscuring the previously clear morning sky. He watched as a fork of yellow lightning raced through the clouds then descended to the earth below. A few seconds later came the concussion of sound he had previously thought was the result of a nearby explosion. Thunder. Much louder, more violent, more
than any thunder he’d ever heard before. Out here its sheer volume forced him to cover his ears. The clouds roiled with sinister intent. Before long the entire sky was shrouded behind a sooty veil. Then it started to rain. A slight drizzle that quickly escalated into a downpour. And this rain… It appeared to be much darker than ordinary rain.
He looked down at the sidewalk that cut through the yard from the porch over to the driveway. The nearly white concrete was changing color, darkening. Turning red? Against his better judgment he stuck his hand out from beneath the overhang. The rain was warm. Too warm. Almost hot. An image flashed through his mind, one in which he saw himself pushing his hand into the belly of a still living animal through a wide incision cut in its side, his arm sinking lower and lower until his fingers made contact with the animal’s beating heart... Repulsed, Thomas pulled his hand away from the rain, held it up before his face. The skin was coated in a slick red liquid which ran down his forearm and started to drip from his elbow. By now the smell of that dark, cloying liquid had reached him. There was no mistaking what it was that fell from the sky that morning. Blood. The skies were raining blood. Another thunderclap shook him to his very bones.
That was Thomas’s introduction to that season of Hell.
Looking back on that day, it’s like recalling a particularly vivid and disturbing dream. It certainly had a dreamlike quality while it was happening. After all, it’s not every day that one’s family vanishes and it starts to rain blood. As a matter of fact, as far as I know, it had never actually rained blood in all of human history until that particular morning. Yes, it was all a bit much to get one’s head around. More than a little traumatic. Especially the disappearing family part. The blood, yeah, pretty freaky. But Julia… Robert… Jenny… It’s still tough, can still keep a guy up at night trying to figure it all out.
Thus, this little narrative.
By the way, please allow me to introduce myself. I am, as you may have figured out by now, the aforementioned Thomas Wright. Just Thomas to my friends. What friends I have that are still alive, that is. And they are not the same friends that I once had before everything literally went to Hell. But more on that later.
In my previous life, as I now think of it, back when the world was still a relatively normal place, I started seeing a psychiatrist. Nothing too serious. The onset of midlife crisis. General depression. Slight anxiety. That sort of thing. I figured that if a shrink was alright for Tony Soprano then one was alright for me too. The good doctor introduced me to an exercise he thought might help with what I was going through. Writing. More specifically, writing about my problems, my fears, the things I generally found myself worrying about. Probably the same sorts of things that most people in my position in life worry about. Work. Money. My health. The health of my wife and kids. And, much to my surprise, this little exercise seemed to work. Or maybe it was the Prozac prescription. I like to think it was a combination of both. Whatever the case, I had found something that helped calm me, set my mind at ease. When something terribly stressful occurred I would sit at my computer and make a story out of it, write about it in the third person. This approach seemed particularly effective, as if the act of rendering a dark event in my life as a story loosened its grip upon my psyche. I came to think of it as a form of exorcism, as a way of bringing to light the demons that were lurking in the depths of my consciousness, of destroying them beneath the searing rays of analysis and reason.
It is my hope that the traumas I have recently experienced can be dealt with in the same way. Because I’ve sworn off drugs and alcohol for some time now. It’s a matter of survival, you see. A decision that I believe has helped to save my life
Inside the house once more, Thomas rinsed the blood off his hand at the kitchen sink then checked the phones again. Still dead. Trying to figure out what he should do, he went into the living room and turned on the big screen TV. Nothing. Every channel was off the air. He thought of the satellite dish on the side of the house now coated with blood. Not too surprising that it was unable to receive any broadcasts. More thunder shook the house. At a loss, he began to pace back and forth over the living room carpet. “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he muttered, hands covering his face. “What to do, what to do, what to do…”
First things first. He went down the hallway, took the staircase there two stairs at a time up to the second floor, made a beeline for the bathroom. Once there he turned on the light, opened the medicine cabinet over the sink and pulled out the bottles of Prozac and Valium located inside. After swallowing one of each of the pills with a handful of water from the sink, he put the bottles in the front pocket of the blue sweatpants he’d donned after getting out of bed.
Another skull-rattling boom of thunder.
Then the lights went out.
He exited the bathroom, walked across the hallway into the master bedroom that he and his wife shared. In the near darkness he made his way to the closet. A single door opened upon an unusually large storage area beyond. Inside, he retrieved the flashlight he kept there for just such an emergency. Well, maybe not
such an emergency but some other situation that involved a power outage. After turning on the light he grabbed a black, collapsible umbrella from where it leaned in a back corner of the closet. He also pulled down a shoebox sized plastic case from the shelf that ran about head level which he tossed onto the bed. Then he closed the closet door and changed out of the t-shirt, sweats, and flip-flops he’d been wearing into a pair of jeans, flannel shirt, socks and tennis shoes. Inside the plastic case was a small, snub nosed pistol which he checked to make sure was loaded before tucking it barrel first down the front of his pants, the grip sticking out, easily accessible when he lifted his shirt. With that done he grabbed his keys from atop the dresser, transferred his medication from the pocket of his sweats to the pocket of his jeans and went back downstairs.
There were more windows down here but little light came in as the glass was streaked with blood and the sky outside was nearly black. Opening the front door he stood on the porch once more and watched the rain come down. Before he could talk himself out of it, he opened the umbrella, raised it over his head, and stepped out into the storm. His car, a sporty little two door Lexus, sat waiting next to Julia’s SUV. He got in slowly, carefully, managed to get only a little bit of the foul rain on himself. He tossed the umbrella into the back seat then started the car, turned on the front and rear wipers, then backed out onto the street just as another blast of thunder seemed to rattle the very foundations of the Earth.
He had no idea where he was going. The police station seemed to be his best bet. Surely someone there would have an idea about what was going on. As he drove slowly along the street he turned on the radio hoping to get some news or just hear another human voice. There was nothing but static. “Dammit,” he muttered as he punched through the stations. “Come on, there’s got to be
He looked up and slammed on the brakes, barely avoided running over the woman who suddenly bolted out in front of his car. She waved her arms and shouted at him. She did not have an umbrella. Blood matted her hair, ran down her face, her bare arms and legs. The blouse and shorts she wore clung to her body. The very thought of being covered in the scarlet rain like that filled Thomas with revulsion. The thought of letting her in his car was nearly as distasteful. But she was the first person he’d seen since all this craziness had begun. Besides, he couldn’t just leave her out there, could he? Without thinking too much about it, he leaned over and opened the passenger side door, motioned for her to get in.
“Oh, God,” she said as she practically dove into the passenger seat and reached out to pull the door closed. “Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God…” She wiped frantically at the exposed skin of her arms and face and legs, to no avail. There was just too much blood, it was all over her.
“Take it easy,” said Tom, placing a hand on her shoulder. As soon as his hand came in contact with the blood there was that feeling of reaching inside of something dying. He recoiled from the mental image and the scream that erupted from the woman:
“Don’t touch me!”
She slammed up against the passenger side door, pushing as far away from him as she could. He held up his hands before him in what he hoped was a non-threatening gesture.
“It’s alright,” he said. “You’re safe now.”