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When the Green line Goes Flat

When the Green Line Goes Flat
By Gage





He looked out the window.

The brown dirt was floating just above the ground. The wind was picking up. Tommy thought that there may be another sandstorm later today. They didn't need that. In this drought, the only thing they needed was rain. Lots and lots of rain. So much the streets would flood and the ground would spring with life. Then green and pink and yellow faces would look up at him as he walked outside, the faces of happy flowers.

If he thought really hard, he could remember the days where it was like that. But that was before. When he would look down and here the soft squishing of dew grass beneath his bare feet. Mommy and Daddy would be with him and they all smiled and played. And the little smiling blades of grass would tickle underneath his feet.

But then things changed. Now the little blades of grass were gone; they died away. Their little smiling faces turned sad and they cried as they all burnt up. Now he would hear the crunch of gravel and dirt beneath his feet. It hurt. He didn't like it at all. He missed the flowers. He didn't always remember why the pretty greens and yellows went away. Sometimes he would ask Mommy and she would tell him but he forgot again. So today he asked again.

"A bad man made them go away," she said in her tiny voice. "Two bad men got in a fight, so he made them go away. He made all the love go away."

Sometimes she would cry. He didn't cry. He tried to be strong.

So he looked outside and saw the men running with the Machines in their hands. They ran and stirred up the dust and dirt around their ankles. His brother had once been one of those men. He had a big Machine and sometimes he would push the buttons and make loud sounds come out. It scared Tommy. But he didn't cry because he was trying to be strong. He wished he was strong like his brother.

The wind started to blow really hard and slapped the window. It was loud. So he turned away and drew the flowers and the grass in his book with the crayons. He missed them. He often wondered why the bad man made all the love go away. He couldn't ever get the answer.

* * *

The television was playing softly as he sat in a chair.

The man on the television was crouching behind a big pile of dirt. Around him were men with their Machines. Sometimes they would stand up and push the buttons and the big sounds would come out. He heard the man screaming to the television:

"I am in the warzone. As you can see, the fighting is no less fierce than it was three years ago. These men are bravely fighting to overcome the enemy forces. Both sides are waging total warfare."

Sometimes the men would fall down and the red would get on the camera. He didn't really know what any of it meant, so he would ask Mommy. "Those Machines are called rifles," she said. "They make the bad men go away." Then Tommy got excited because he had learned the word for the machines. He wrote it down in his book with a picture.

He wondered where the red came from.

Today was his birthday. Mommy said his number was twenty-two. His brother's number was twenty-eight. But she always said that Tommy's birthday was special. Tommy wondered why he wasn't like his brother. His brother got to fight with rifles and jump and play. Tommy never got to.

"Because you're special," Mommy said. "Joseph thinks like he's twenty-eight. You think like you're only eight. You are my baby, and you're always going to think like one. You don't have to do the bad things other people have to."

Sometimes he thought thinking like a baby was a bad thing. If he looked like he was twenty-two, and he felt like he was twenty-two, why didn't he think like he was twenty-two? Sometimes he wanted to cry about it. But he never did, because he tried to be strong.

He wished his Daddy could've been with him to celebrate his number. But Daddy had gone out with his rifle a long time ago. Tommy wondered if his red got on a camera.

Sometimes he would ask Mommy a question and she wouldn't answer. "How did Joseph get in the bed? Why won't he get out? How did the bad man make the flowers go away?"

So, late at night, he would sneak up to Joseph's bed and ask him the questions. Joseph would answer them. He always had a hard time telling Tommy because he "couldn't find the right way to tell him." But he always would. Even if Tommy forgot, Joseph would tell him over and over again.

"The bad man had a nuclear bomb. It's like a big can with bad stuff inside. And he dropped the can onto the ground and made all the flowers and grass go away. He poisoned our drinks, he hurt our friends. So we did the same thing to him."

Tommy would always try to understand. "How did you get in the bed?"

"I was trying to get the bad man. But a little can landed right next to me. And it hurt me. The..." and Joseph would start crying. He would sob really hard and breathe deep. He would try to finish his words. "The... grenade..." he would say, but just cry more. Tommy didn't cry. He was trying to be strong.

* * *

Everyday he would sit with Joseph.

He would try to read to him. He didn't know why, but he liked to read to Joseph. He would gently hold the book in his hands, and try not to tear it because it was delicate. It was an old book. I Am Legend. Sometimes he didn't understand. He didn't know what a legend was. But he would read, he would read to Joseph, even the bad words. And every time he got to the last word he would just turn over the book and start over. Because it was good. He liked the book. It was his favorite book because it was his only book. It was Daddy's favorite book.

So he read to Joseph. Tommy would read, and Joseph would listen. Sometimes Joseph would fall asleep, but Tommy read anyways. It kept him from looking out the window at the dust and the red and the rifles. It was hard reading in the dark, though. He was in the dark because Joseph had told him they were hiding. He didn't know what they were hiding from.

Sometimes he would read until his eyes hurt. So he stopped. And he looked at the television in Joseph's room. This television didn't have men on it. It was a little green line that jumped up and down. And every time it jumped he would hear a beep. It was an "EKG." Mommy had told him that. He didn't understand.

At night sometimes he would wake up and hear Mommy and Joseph fighting.

"He's not like you, he doesn't understand," Mommy would say in her big voice.

"You're not with him while he's trying to read. I swear I'm gonna go insane, Ma, I am."

"You will treat him like he deserves it, Joseph!"

"He deserves to know what's going on out there! He could understand! But you're too scared he might be scared, aren't you? You don't have the courage! Or the strength. You're weak, Ma. I'm going to tell him."

"I'll hurt you, Joseph. I love him. He's my baby, he'll never grow up like you. He'll never leave me and get his leg blown off and put me through misery. He'll never go out and get killed like your father."

"Because he can't! He's not right!"

"That's no fault of his own."

"You're insane. You're losing it."

"Maybe I am! I can't take this anymore. I have the right to lose sanity after everything I've been through. I've held on long enough."

"Don't."

"I'm going to bed."

And then, his brother, so quietly Tommy could barely hear it: "I love you, Ma."

* * *

And so he sat.

He had been watching the television and the men had said that today would be the last day. The bad men would come into their town and make everyone go away with the rifles. The men said that they loved their families, that this was the "last broadcast". Tommy almost felt that he understood.

Mommy cried. Joseph cried. Tommy didn't cry because he was trying to be strong.

The day was normal. Tommy ate his dinner, and drew some pictures in his book. He drew pictures of all the bad men planting flowers and grass and all of it smiled at him. He stared at his picture and smiled. He could feel the dew tickling his feet, see Mommy and Daddy hugging and playing, smell the organic smell of nature. He imagined himself there, where there were no bad men or rifles or red or nuclear cans or EKGs. There was only love.

Soon it turned dark.

He sat next to his brother. They both did not look at each other. The silence made Tommy feel bad. He scratched his eyes. They were itchy and red. Joseph coughed. Then Tommy, without warning, began to read. His voice shook, raspy and hoarse. He didn't know why. There were little butterflies in his stomach, cute little butterflies that made him feel sick.

"A coughing chuckle filled his throat."

The sand slapped against the window. There were footsteps outside.

"He turned and leaned against the wall while he swallowed the pills."

More slapping, it was loud now. The window rattled.

"Full circle, he thought while the final lethargy crept into his limbs."

He heard rifles outside now. The sound scared him.

"Full circle. A new terror born in death, a superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever."

The sand slapped against the window so hard the glass cracked.

Then, Tommy took a shaky breath, and in unison, almost in an overwhelming agreement, he heard Joseph say with him: "I Am Legend."

Tommy turned to look at the window. It wasn't the wind slapping the glass, it was a man - with a rifle. The man jumped back and pressed the buttons on his rifle.

The sound rang throughout the room, and all of a sudden Joseph seemed to convulse and shake on his bed. The little green line on the EKG jumped up and down in unison, beeping madly. The man at the window suddenly stopped shooting and got red all over his chest. Then he fell down.

Mommy ran into the room and cradled Joseph in her arms. "No," she said softly, caressing his face. "You're in shock, Joseph. Come back. It's alright."

But Joseph didn't stop. He turned his head side to side, shaking all of his body.

Tommy turned away and looked out the window. The ground wasn't brown anymore. It was green, beautiful green. With reds and pinks and yellows dotting the green with smiling flowers. He could almost feel the grass. He could taste the air. Everything smiled. Everything - love.

He turned back and saw Joseph stop shaking. Mommy hugged him and laughed a worried laugh in relief. Then Tommy looked at the EKG. The green line had stopped jumping. Instead, it stood still. It went flat. A dull beep sang through the cacophony.

Mommy buried her head in Joseph's chest and started crying.

Tommy stopped trying to be strong.


The End

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Gage About the Author: Gage

Gage is a talented 15-year-old author from Florida who began writing for Phoophie Tales at the age of 12. In his free time, he enjoys acting, video games, reading and writing stories. What inspires Gage is reading other great horror stories and wanting to make his own to inspire others.



about the illustrator, kkc bauder

About the Artist:

KKC is a second generation artist from Texas. She was raised on abstract expressionism and loves playing with line, color and motion to create free-form paintings that can be interpretated in many different ways. Her work is inspired by Music and Literature. You can visit her art shop at: Cool Unique Original Art | apparel & gifts



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