When I was 14 years old, I met a bunch of men on the Internet and would occasionally fly across the country to sleep at their home. That sounds bad. I only slept at one guy’s home. And a couple women. And that wasn’t until at least three years later.
To clarify: I stumbled across a message board for a band I liked, thanks to the suggestion of a girl I had met online when I was, like, 11. That girl, now a woman thanks to the transformative powers of time and maturity, is still an incredibly close friend of mine.
The message board, of which I will write at length about at a later date, allowed me to meet a great many people, including the members of the aforementioned band. Several of those people are still close friends of mine, across the states and throughout the world, and though I absolutely advise the utmost caution if you ever decide to do so (and definitely recommend you be over the age of 17), through meeting them in person, I’ve experienced some of the most incredible stories of my life and some of the deepest friendships.
One of them, my friend Tommy Kelley, has not only driven me across the country for my first ever concert (the aforementioned band, playing in Detroit. We hauled ass up from Alabama in a single day in a beat-up truck with broken air conditioning. I don’t know if the radio worked. I seem to recall wondering what would happen if we turned a corner and Godzilla were to appear which I don’t believe is something I would have considered so thoroughly had there been music. Also, Ohio smells like garbage from the freeway, but that’s neither here nor there), but also gave me a place to live last minute with no questions asked after I got kicked out of Canada.
I know the Canada thing probably raised a few eyebrows. It’s kind of a shitty story, but I’m going to file that under “Failed Moves to California” of which there was one and a half and which I will also cover later. I’ve got to parse these stories out, man. You need to think I’m a man of great depth and deep secrets until I eventually lay it all out and you realize my life is more like a series of expensive, regret-filled bloopers.
Anyway. Tommy. The man bends over backwards for his friends. He’s seen a lifetime full of shit and, instead of breaking down, tends to respond to life’s problems by slamming a fifth of whiskey, chasing it with ten energy drinks, grabbing his dick and screaming at them that he is, in fact, Lord Thunder Wolf, King of the Iron Lightning and that it is he who will be doing the fucking.
He’s secretly a sensitive guy who loves hard music and crazy women and I’m proud to consider him a brother. So when it came time to write a little short story for his birthday, this little bit I whipped up seemed appropriate:
He shifted his pack so that it fit more comfortably over his shoulder and stared ahead at the wreckage left over from the Catastrophe. Cars littered the shattered asphalt for as far as the eye could see, fronts crumpled up from where they had barreled into other vehicles and windows shattered, the glass glittering like diamonds on the darker ground.
Overhead, the sky was rolling clouds and crimson lightning. The thunder shook him so hard it was difficult to believe he was anything other than alive, surviving in the midst of a chaos that was only growing. Shattered and leaning buildings towered over him, leering out of their broken-door mouths and through their hollow eyes that once let the businessmen who worked behind them daydream the drudgery away.
There were monsters out there now, beasts made up of gnashing teeth and raptor talons. They eviscerated anything they came across that was too weak to fight them off. He couldn’t be too weak, then.
His fingers tightened around the metal pipe in his right hand. He had taped a long hunting knife to the end of it. It was a simple modification, but he was proud of it all the same. He gave it a soft little swing even as the first heavy drops of rain assaulted him. He looked up with a scowl.
“Happy birthday to me,” he muttered before stepping once more into the apocalypse.