getting home
{story a day}

“Ninety-six, ninety-seven, ninety-eight, ninety-nine, one hundred.”

She counted out the last five steps she had in her. The gash on her arm was still oozing blood, despite the five layers of t-shirt she’d tied around the bone-deep wound. Just getting that done had taken forever, with only one hand and her teeth for assistance.

She’d been exhausted before she even started walking again, and who knows how much blood she had lost along the way.

Haley thought she was being smart when she drove up to the cabin the night before the storm. They were calling for serious flooding, and while it might be rusty, run down, and ramshackle, the tiny shack sat at the top of the hills ringing the lake of the town she lived in. She figured her chances were pretty good up there, not as good as the people’s who got in their cars and drove far away, but she couldn’t do that, she couldn’t bring herself to leave Billy lying in that hospital bed, even if he never did open his eyes again. They had a contingency plan for the patients in place for emergencies, so he would be safe until she could get back to see him.

The doctors told her two weeks ago that it was hopeless, all they could do was keep him breathing, day in and day out. Inhale, exhale, again and again, until the end of time. Or electricity, whichever came first. But she couldn’t just walk away. So she’d packed a backpack with a week’s worth of tuna and chocolate, and headed up the hills on her bike. It had taken her most of the day, given how out of shape she was, and how many times she had to stop and walk all the steep ones. But she got there before the storm hit, built herself a nice fire with the wood Billy had always kept stacked in the shed, filled every container she could find with fresh well water (calling that stuff fresh was a stretch if you asked her), and settled herself in for the long haul.

It started raining right around midnight, thunder crashing, lightning flashing, tree limbs dropping like matchsticks. And it kept going for two full days and two full nights that weren’t much good for sleeping. It was creepy being up there in the woods all alone, creepy wondering what was happening down in the valley. She had her cell phone with her, but in order to get reception she had to walk half a mile down the hill, and she wasn’t about to do that in this weather. So she read four books from the raggedy collection they kept on the shelf for overnight guests, even though she’d read all but one before. The distraction was better than nothing.

She also ended up wishing she hadn’t been so worried about extra weight in her backpack and packed herself a couple bottles of wine. But she survived, both the storm and the fear and the boredom, all of which were both worse than she’d expected and better than being dead. Or like Billy. So she tried not to complain, not that she had anyone to complain to, she tried to just wait things out until she could get back into town.

The rain began to let up in fits and starts on the second afternoon, but the sky stayed dark and the wind kept whipping, so she didn’t even bother going outside until the next morning.

What struck her first was the silence. No birds, no traffic, no wind. Just the occasional drip of water, and as she walked down the driveway, the sound of water rushing through what used to be ditch. When she got to the road, she saw how bad it was. Trees were down everywhere, blocking the road in both directions, and she knew that when she got closer to town, wires would be down along with them. She also knew that riding her bike would be next to impossible.

So she closed up the cabin, packed her bag with more water than tuna this time (and more chocolate than both), and headed down the road into town. Already, the road was steaming from the heat of the sun, worms and tiny frogs littering the surface, and she started sweating before she hit the first bend in the road, the exact place where Billy’s motorcycle had slid out from under him. What she saw there brought her up short. A huge old willow tree was down, blocking the road, right where the shoulder broke off into gully. She was going to have to climb her way through it.


She’d been carrying her cell phone, waiting to get to the spot that had reception, but she shoved it back in her bag for dryness sake, and started threading her way though the branches. She had to hoist herself up and over the slippery moss covered trunk, and by the time she came out of the tangle she was both soaked down to her underwear, and filthy. Of course, a change of clothes hadn’t been part of the essentials she’d tossed in her pack, it hadn’t even occurred to her that she’d need them.

“Some survivalist you are,” slipped out from under her breath, but at least the road looked clear for a ways now, and she figured it wouldn’t be too long before the sun dried her halfway back to comfortable. That’s when she saw the dog.

The Beast, which is how she would later think of him, had come from the woods to her right, silently, with that menacing kind of walk she knew signaled danger. He was big, part Rottweiler and who knows what else, filthy, and looking at her like she was food. At first she just kept walking, calling out friendly Good Doggy’s and inching her way slowly around the turf he’d claimed, hoping she could slide past his territory and therefore, his anger. It was when she decided to reach into her backpack for a candy bar to offer as toll that he lunged, clamping down on her forearm as she dangled the bag in mid-air, trying desperately to find what he wanted. Too late, her hand landed on the slick wrapper of a Hershey bar, but before she could pull it out, the dog grabbed the whole bag and went running.

“My phone!” she screamed, and almost took off after him, but then she looked down at her arm. It had all happened so fast, she hadn’t realized how good the damn dog got her, she could see white bone glistening up through a five-inch gash, pulsing blood as fast as she was breathing. At least the dog never came back while she patched herself up, he must have been too busy trying to break into those three cans of tuna. “I hope all that chocolate kills you!” she yelled into the woods as she finally stood up to start walking, scared now of every movement, of the blood seeping through her makeshift bandage, of all the unknowns ahead on the road still before her.

After about a mile, she started feeling dizzy. That’s when she started counting her steps, in sets of one hundred, to give her mind something to do besides thinking about pain and the possibility that she might not make it into town. She was thirsty, her feet hurt, her arm throbbed and she thought, several times, about lying down, right there in the middle of the road and giving up.

But, Billy.

So she forced herself to keep moving, counting the same set of numbers again and again, until finally, she knew she was close to that spot two miles from town where you got that great view of the valley. It was right on the crest of a hill, and she thought she was going to collapse before she made it to the top.

“Ninety-six, ninety-seven, ninety-eight, nine-nine, one hundred.”

And then she was there and she stopped in her tracks, destroyed by what she saw. Water, everywhere, a lake five times the size of the one that usually nestled so pretty between the hills. From this spot you could see the whole town. She could see her house down on Johnson Ave., three-quarters of the way under water. One yellow peak and the old tired chimney sticking up through a rug made of liquid.

She sank to her knees.

And she howled to a sun that still burned in the sky, blind to the depths of destruction.

In the distance she heard a dog, howling back in her direction. She had no idea which way she should run.



A little something different today, I’ve signed up for A Story A Day’s May challenge, which is to write a short piece of fiction every day. I don’t think I’ll be posting every day, but I will be writing, and I’ll post whatever seems worthy.
Today’s prompt was “Getting Home.”  A rough draft to get things started, I’d love to know what you think.




8 Responses to “getting home
{story a day}

  • Carolyn Paul Branch Says:

    Wow! That’s a great story! Left me wondering if the hospital had been evacuated while she was on the mountain. I’m doing story-a-day, too, and posting on my blog. My going home story is mild compared to yours.

  • Kathryn Dyche Dechairo Says:

    You did a great job . . . there’s no end to your talents. I seem to be stuck ‘short’ at the moment and can’t seem to write anything of great length. I could relate to the fear of being alone in a cabin in the woods. Loved the transitions and movement as though we were walking with you.

  • Juli Says:

    Born to write. Yes, you are.

  • d smith kaich jones Says:

    i just read this out loud to michael, and it’s a great out loud read. and really, i’m just amazed that you can can switch from poetry to fiction like this. (and really, also, now i want to know what happens – hint, hint . . .) 🙂

  • brian miller Says:

    excellent writing….what an engaging story and i felt that last howl as well…so this is maybe channeling a bit of the pain of making it through 30 days of poems too…hahahahaha

  • nana Says:

    Oh Kelly,good ,good,and good I’ll be watching and waiting 🙂

  • grapeling Says:

    holy smokes. phenomenal ~

  • Sooz Says:

    I find it hard to read longer posts, but for you … I made a fresh latte, peed the dogs so they wouldn’t bother me, and sat down with commitment. That mysterious, survivalist, independent character! I pictured someone who was half me, half my crazy-ass sister. There was so many things I was trying to fill in for myself…the type of town, the type/age of this person (who for some reason, I thought you had named, and I kept thinking of her as Laura, but you hadn’t named her at all!) You left me hanging with all these details to imagine for myself, you tease! Is that what you planned all along??

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