"The Drop Off" - Stormy Weather Writing Sample #1

Hello Reader,

Part of my current research is developing a creative writing practice. I've been developing some initial story boards for an ongoing story that will eventually merge into my MFA thesis work and beyond in what I'm calling my Stormy Weather series. This is the first of many writing experiments. This particular installment is called "The Drop Off":

The wind is so shrill it nearly cuts your face as you slowly make your way through a nearly empty parking lot. There’s nothing particularly unusual about it, aside from the large piles of debris. The couple you pass contain various triggering objects: stone, metal, bones, glass, plastic, something resembling a mix of ash and fluid. Compost, you think as you carry on. These compost piles have become more common as the few living urban planners left in Richmond began putting out calls to take down buildings that had housed too many infected bodies. You wonder how long it would take for sick buildings to be treated like sick bodies. In some ways, they already ended up the same.

You count the spaces as you cross the lot. Maxi told you to make the drop at a specific spot, but as soon as you park, you realize that you don’t remember the entirety of her instructions. Drops like this, which started as a one-time favor, had nearly become a weekly practice. Regular enough that you no longer really take in information, but simply rely on your trained neuromuscular pathways to remember drop off locations for you. But as you begin walking, it strikes you that this is a new place you haven’t encountered in this way before. At one point, this lot surrounded an outlet mall in Short Pump that you frequented, but in the aftermath of the infection children and teenagers were among the first demographic to be severely hit with various mutations to their bodies. Many malls across the country including this one had been shut down indefinitely to contain the outbreak, but the mutation latched on to the buildings the same as living bodies. You shudder as you remember the uncomfortable moment that the buildings reacted in the same way as human bodies, but nearly three times as fast. These sick buildings became prophets of the effects of the infection – some would dilapidate, others would mutate.

You think about the first time Maxi asked you to make a drop like this; how she nearly cried trying to convince you that she had no other choice than to carry out these kinds of small jobs. You attempt to convince yourself that she is an honest thief, but the circumstances around her methods have become increasingly less innocent since the fallout; The Great Infection. It’s one thing to steal someone’s possessions. It’s another thing to steal someone’s body and sell its secrets. The mutations affected us all in different ways.

Yet, here you are all the same. Still counting, your eye catches a slight glimmer to the right, which you realize is the sheen of a small metal box nearly buried underneath one of the piles. This is odd because you usually don’t miscalculate the exact locations of Maxi’s silver boxes. This is a new location, you reassure yourself as you turn your attention toward it. In some ways, these were Maxi’s calling card. They littered the city in various locations used to make drops, and so far, no one had noticed the trend. You dig the box out of the debris, and feel for an odd latch. Maxi makes each one unique so that they don’t open the same way. You slide your thumb and pinky finger into it and press each side of the latch apart opening a small series with of buttons with odd symbols. This part you remember quite well as you press the corresponding 5 button pin with the remaining 3 fingers. The box clicks, flips open suddenly, and falls to the ground. Weird, you think as you scramble to pick it up. Usually, the boxes don’t catch you off guard like this. As you lean in to pick it up, you grab the envelope Maxi gave you out of your coat pocket. As usual, you check inside the envelope to inspect the contents. This time it was a glowing, bright pink geode. This is also odd, as Maxi’s drop-off packages usually held textual information rather than objects. This chunk of rock sudddenly takes on a veil of mystery, and for some reason looked oddly familiar. Perhaps something you saw on a television or computer screen? You make your weekly promise to ask Maxi about it, which you know you’ll forget by the time you get back to the car.

Charles Maybee