THE ROLL

Jim is dead. I left him in the other building. He sits there still, frozen forever, staring, eyes wide open, at the graffiti on the wall.

I love a challenge. Creative writing has been suggested to Cathy as therapy. Last night, she showed me a site with 300 starts for short stories… Alone in an abandoned warehouse was the one that fascinated me…

Lying in bed, I wrote this story in my mind. This morning, I sat down and typed it out.

SPOILER: This is NOT distinctly Christian. You may be shocked to discover that I can write the kind of story that ends up in Reader’s Digest… Please, no offence intended…

This then, is the story…

THE ROLL

David A. Rice

Jim is dead. I left him in the other building. He sits there still, frozen forever, staring, eyes wide open, at the graffiti on the wall. Always the brave one, Jim climbed the ladder fastened to the wall in that abandoned warehouse, in that godless, frozen tundra. Climbing out onto an exposed beam, he looked so proud. When that ancient log gave way, I watched the terror on his face, all the way to the ground.

Jim was my best friend. I still don’t know why. I have a PhD from Harvard. Back when London was still warm in the summers, I did graduate work at Oxford. Not Jim, he couldn’t wait to get out of school. He got a job at a cabinet factory and soon started his own company. He was an accomplished carpenter and an adventurer at heart. He somehow found pleasure in dragging me along on his adventures. I would complain, but somehow, I always went along.

When we left Pensacola headed north, it was nine degrees and blowing snow. Back in the twenties, we could have never imagined that. Everyone spoke of global warming. When the snow and freezing weather came, the weatherman on TV would call it “Climate Change”, right on que. Then, that crazy space rock hit and knocked the whole world sideways. Now, it freezes in north Florida by September, and they built a wall all the way across the I-4 corridor to keep the Yankees out. Damned Yankees.

I remember looking up from my phone every once in a while, watching the frozen wasteland that once was Alabama pass by. Later, we went through a big city and turned west. The sun poked through the clouds as it set. I know we were headed west. What city was that? I don’t really know, nor did I ever notice the highway signs; that was Jim’s job.

I remember that the roads grew smaller, not so wide. The last road was full of potholes, most uncomfortable. Then the dilapidated sign by the destroyed gate. The sign said something about cotton and the letters, “LLC”. I remember that. Beyond that, I have no idea where I am.

The building was an old warehouse. Empty now, there was no sign as to what it once held. The graffiti on the walls was old, from back in the Twenties when it was warm. One drawing was well done, a football helmet with the number 29 and the words, 2022 Champions. No one would come out here now, only fools like Jim and their friends like me, no smarter than they.

Jim sort of slid down that post. When he landed, it supported him and he remained sitting, his eyes glassed over, mouth open in a silent scream. I couldn’t stay there. I ran from the building, looking for the Jeep. It was old, they didn’t build cars after 2022, but it was sturdy and well maintained. The snow had covered our tracks and I had no idea where that vehicle was. I wish I had paid attention.

I ran, fighting my way through the snow. I didn’t find the Jeep, but I came to another building. This is a massive warehouse, much larger than the first. I would think it more than a hundred yards long, sixty yards wide, and maybe three stories tall. Like Jim’s mausoleum, it is empty. Here, there is no sign of graffiti, no signs of its former glory. The only sign that people have been here is a crudely constructed firepit, a few rocks in a circle, near the center of the floor. You can see ashes on the bottom, but no wood. There are piles of snow here and there. I look up and see holes in the tin roof that correspond to those piles. It is cold, bitter cold.

Through a crack in the wall, I see an old tree, collapsed and lying in the snow. I have a lighter. I am one of the few who holds onto tobacco; it calms my nerves. Better to die with calm nerves than to live in a nervous fit. If I can only get to that wood, I can light a fire.

Making my way back to those huge open doors, I exit, turn the corner, and fight my way through waste deep snow to the tree. At least this is easy, the wood has been cut by a former camper. I gather as many sticks as I can carry and head back. Walking from the doors to the firepit, I realize that in my struggle through the snow, I have dropped at least half of my firewood. I hadn’t noticed.

The little fire roared, and for an hour or so I was warm. When the fire was dying, I threw in my backpack. It burned too quickly, and I cried when I saw that Oxford sticker burn. Now, it is cold and dark. Nights are fourteen hours long now. This could be bad. I wonder if I will see the sun again.

My phone has no service here, but the clock tells me it is midnight. The wind has come up and it is howling and screeching through the tin. I am colder than I have ever been. I listen to the wind, somehow it is soothing. The sound is like an owl with super lungs, he hoots but never runs out of breath.

Now the sound is changing… almost like a voice singing in the distance. It sounds like my mother singing. She had a beautiful voice, and she always sang in the choir. No, this cannot be, it is my mother! I hear her clearly now. Yes, I know that song, “When the Role is Called Up Yonder”. It is beautiful and it calms my soul. For the first time since Jim fell, I feel real peace. It is not so cold now. Somehow warmth is creeping into me. I am comfortable now.

“Yes Mama, when the roll is called up yonder, I will be there.” I feel so comfortable, Mama has been joined by a choir of angels, the song is overwhelming, I am crying tears of joy!

Suddenly, I feel the little panic of a schoolboy. “I’ve got to go!” I cry, “They are calling the roll now!”

Author: davidrice1951

I am a vile sinner. I have been a soldier and a sailor. I have been a student and a teacher. I taught English in Mexico. I started and taught in a Bible College in Venezuela. I am married to Cathy, a beautiful lady from Guyana. We have two children, Christopher and Amanda. I am saved by Grace, washed in the Blood and filled with the Spirit. I love Jesus, my wife, my kids and you...

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