Shards

Shards by Shane Jiraiya Cummings Read Free Book Online

Book: Shards by Shane Jiraiya Cummings Read Free Book Online
Authors: Shane Jiraiya Cummings
Tags: Horror, Short Stories, +UNCHECKED, +TOREAD
holding the green, temperate world forever at
bay.
    As he shook the diminishing
bottle of water, a fuzzy sense of euphoria tingled through his head
and down his arms until his hairs stood on end.
    "Another two miles, maybe
three." He pointed the water bottle toward the line of hills. "I'll
be the first to conquer this damn valley."
    The camera trembled in his
hand, but faithfully recorded every step and spoken thought.
    "That fool Dennison paid the
price," he mused. "Didn't bring enough water. Dropped dead within
sight of his car."
    The camera captured everything
for posterity.
    Stepping onto the salt lake, he
walked along the tracks he gouged this morning. His solo dawn
expedition across the valley had been slow. The salt flats were
treacherous, trapping him in stinging waist-deep sinkholes. The
return wasn't much better.
    "Gotta follow the tracks. No
surprises now."
    The heat battered down. Sweat
saturated his khakis but was soon snatched away. Despite the
lotion, the back of his neck burned like unquenched fire.
    His original tracks were
near-forgotten scars, a tattered line scored into the salt. Step
after awkward step, he faithfully retraced them.
    He squinted up at the swollen
furnace cooking the sky. The sun refused to budge from its midday
throne.
    He clamped his eyes shut and
carelessly splashed water across his face.
    "Ah, that's good. Time for ...
dessert," he stammered.
    When he opened his eyes, a
single line of tracks banked off to the right. Another to the
left.
    "What?"
    In the haze, the hilly ranges
were identical.
    Waves of heat flushed through
his body; his head a pressure-cooker, ready to burst.
    "Gotta sit. Bearings. Bearings
... ummm ..."
    The camera recorded a long
pause.
    He crouched over the burning
ground, and in halting motions, unhooked his pack. He slung it off.
He dropped the water bottle to wipe his face.
    Blinking feverishly, he reached
out for the bottle, but groped instead the course texture of
salt.
    "Shit!"
    The bottle and pack were both
sinking into the greedy earth. The ground beneath his knees
sagged.
    He crawled, struggling against
the heat sandwiching him into the pliant earth. But the salt lake
was too vast. An unremitting monolith.
    Abrasive, desiccating salt
flowed into his every pore.
    About him, the pockmark-line of
footsteps was swallowed. Every trace of his epic trek devoured by
the invidious earth.
    "Just two miles," he croaked,
collapsing on his back. Salt crusted his lips and trickled free as
he choked out his last breath.
    Infused with salt and sand, he
lay defeated, a victim of the unconquered valley. Another claimed
prize, basking in the infinity of the naked azure sky.
    * * *
    Cruel Summer: Sky
    Ashley reclaimed her spot on
the towel, sprawling out to catch the sun's rays from every angle.
She removed her sunglasses with fingers sticky from ice-cream,
opening her face to the warmth of the sky.
    An endless vortex of azure
paling to indigo filled her vision. A contrast to the hectic bustle
of bodies and mismatched colours, the sky was awesome.
Breathtaking.
    She continued to stare,
captivated by the brilliant shades of blue as they swirled and
danced. A majestic infinity.
    Enveloping.
    Invasive.
    #
    Headed for the surf, Todd
nudged Jamie, pointing to a sunbathing girl with vacant eyes. Eyes
the colour of the sky.
    * * *
    Dread Seasons Quartet: The Rustle of Autumnal
Leaves
    "Hold up, Brian!" Hayden
called, as his friend tore off down the street.
    "Catch up ya loser!" Brian
slowed down anyway.
    Rugged up against the constant
drizzle, Hayden found it difficult to keep up with his friend's
energy. He only gave up his computer and relented to go out into
the bleak afternoon after hours of Brian's goading.
    He soon caught up to Brian, but
noticed a fine layer of mist had collected along the sleeves of his
Parka. "We should head back soon."
    Brian said nothing. Instead, he
scanned the street for something to do.
    The streets were wide, much
wider than those of the city, and

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