By MD Neu
Not bothering to pull into a parking space, Teddy turned off the ignition of his classic Mustang, killing the roar of the engine. The road before him was empty, just like the town. He opened the door and stepped out, the damp air biting the back of his neck and ears.
Like the road, the buildings were in complete disrepair.
Things are so different. Has it really been twenty years since the Lakeview Incident?
Teddy adjusted his jacket collar. The government called it an ‘incident’, but Teddy called it a ‘disaster’. He fussed with his keys before, eventually putting them in his pocket. No one cared anymore, and no one talked about it. Twenty years wasn’t very long, but long enough for people to want to forget.
Teddy took a deep breath. He could taste the storm. Soon enough it would rain. He continued to take in the old store fronts’ condition. Life once ran up and down this street, but after CAGE Manufacturing closed its doors for the last time, because of the disaster, there wasn’t anything left to keep things going. Like so many small towns with nothing more to offer, Lakeview died.
The sign from his old hair salon swung in the gusting wind. Ultimately, it would fall to the crumbling sidewalk and be forgotten just like everything else. No one would ever buy the building he still owned. But, that didn’t matter.
He wasn’t sure why he came back. Perhaps, it was the ghosts from so long ago. Maybe, it was time for a final goodbye. But something had forced him back to this place year after year. Something pulled them all back.
As the clouds darkened, he toured the remains of Main Street and strolled to the empty diner. So many good memories with Casey and Lisa eating and harassing Greg about his drunk Karaoke rendition of ‘Love Shack’. Still, Greg always managed to get everyone up on their feet.
He shook his head, a sigh escaping his chilled lips.
An old newspaper gathered around his leg. He glimpsed the heading, “Citizen’s Riot, Town in Shambles!” A strong gust of wind caught the paper blowing it off down the street.
To have listened to the rumors and speculations, you would have thought the whole town had lost its mind, but it was only a few important people. Teddy checked the door handle as he remembered that night, that awful night, when everything changed.
He peered through the diner’s dusty smashed window. The broken tables and chairs, the shattered refrigerator case. The shredded booths. More memories rushed back to him. He watched Casey and him sitting at a booth. Casey preparing her song list for the radio station between bites of toast. They were laughing. Dee ran around, serving people, and Bill was in the back, cooking. Casey looked out the window right towards him, their eyes meeting. Her beautiful warm smile and easy flowing brown hair catching what little light there was.
She’s so beautiful.
Casey wasn’t the same after the disaster, none of them were. She took it the hardest blaming herself for not getting the emergency broadcast out fast enough. It wouldn’t have mattered, by the time he and the others figured out what was happening it was too late. It still caused his heart to ache.
All these ghosts.
Teddy made his way back to his Mustang, no longer bright pink, but a sleek black. It wasn’t as flashy or as outrageous, but it was still nice and fun to drive. He sketched down the road away from Main Street. The once pristinely manicured lawns and trees, nothing but overgrown weeds and dead stumps. He passed the broken metal gates that had been pushed to the side of the road, the brick walls that once held them busted and covered in faded graffiti.
The next road narrowed, and he came to his destination, the roar of the engine silenced.
Kasandra’s Dream House, once the envy of the Lakeview Country Club.
The house had a white three story pillared front and pitched roof, with a second floor balcony that ran the full length of the mansion. Years to build, and now it lay as nothing more than a pile of wood and brick overrun by weeds and brush, nature reclaiming its land. It was much like the whole country club. Trees and shrubs taking back the fairways and sand traps. There was nothing of its former glory. Not even the memories of the grand parties could bring it back to life. Not anymore.
Teddy walked to what remained of the front door. He gave a satisfied nod. Some memories and reminders were best left alone.
There was a rumble of thunder. He peeked over his shoulder and beamed.
“You found me.” He stepped away from the door and the collapsing porch.
“Of course I did.” Nick’s face filled with a bright smile. “You silly old man.”
“I’m still young enough to kick your sorry ass, little boy!”
He had grown into such a handsome man — with broad shoulders and a dimpled chin. Just like his jerk of a father. The louse. It was no wonder that Jenny said ‘yes’ so quickly when he asked. The two children of the group, Nick was now thirty and Jenny thirty-six. Of course, those six years didn’t mean much now, but twenty years ago, sixteen and ten would never have been allowed.
“Have you seen the others?” Teddy asked.
“Not yet,” Nick replied. “But I’m sure they’re on their way.”
Nick and Teddy made their way back to the Mustang. They were quiet. What had been said before, was the same thing that would be said today, tomorrow and a year from now.
“You just had to be first, didn’t you?” Douglas stepped out of the mist. He pulled his hat tighter around his gray hair, as a clap of the approaching storm drew his eyes to glance to the sky. He pointed to the Mustang. “You kept your little toy.”
The sky grew darker, but Teddy warmed from head to toe with Douglas’s approach. He turned in the direction of the voice. “What did you expect?” He flourished a wave with his hand. “Of course.”
Lisa and Greg were farther down the path from Douglas.
“You’re double parked. I could give you a ticket,” Greg said with a scowl that turned into a smile.
“I don’t think you have that kind of power anymore, but nice try, Deputy Dipshit.” Teddy winked.
“Whatever, Teddy.” Greg rubbed his mouth to stifle a chuckle. He still had his typical stubble, but Teddy saw most of it was getting gray.
They were all getting so old.
“God, it looks like shit, doesn’t it?” Greg jerked his thumb towards the dilapidated house.
“We’ll see how good you look after twenty years of no one taking care of you.” Lisa glanced around at the landscape then crossed her arms over her ample chest. Her voice grew soft. “Hard to believe that today is twenty years.”
“Time flies when you’re having fun.” Douglas rubbed his hands together.
Greg scoffed. “You call this fun, Doc, being out like this, coming to a town that’s dead as shit.” He blew air into his hands. “Can’t even get a drink.”
“Or sing Karaoke?” Lisa smirked.
Douglas shrugged his shoulders. “It is what it is.”
Another boom of thunder caught their attention.
“Indeed,” Tom said, as he and Erica came into view. The darkness of the shadows releasing them the closer they got to the group.
“Nice of you two to join us, Sheriff.” Lisa frowned.
“Sorry, we were detained.” Tom adjusted his utility belt. His hand moved to where his gun would be, but it wasn’t there. He frowned.
You’re not going to need it. Not anymore. Teddy watched him.
Greg rolled his eyes. “I’m sure you were.”
Erica gave Douglas a wink. “Good to see ya, Doc.”
“You too.” Douglas buttoned the last button on his coat then faced Nick. “I see the scar across your forehead healed.”
“Finally,” Nick said. “A distant memory, much like the accident.”
That accident that changed so much. Teddy reached out brushed the hair away from Nick’s eyes.
“I still wish I could’ve taken a look at it, we could have probably minimized the scaring even more.” Douglas stepped closer for a quick inspection.
“Well, Doc, you weren’t in the best of shape at the time.” Nick absently rubbed his head where the scar was.
“Would’ve been nice if you were on time,” Greg grumbled and pointed to the sky. “This isn’t going to get any better.”
Same old Greg, just let it go. Teddy shook his head.
“Serious, Greg, lighten up, it could be worse.” Erica fixed her light green scarf.
“Come on guys,” Teddy interrupted. “We’re not here for that. Behave.”
“Anyway,” Erica started with a roll of her eyes. “I had to stop and investigate my plants at Sam’s old house. This is the only time I get to see them.” She reached her arm through Tom’s pulling him a bit closer. “We could hardly find them. Nature is taking everything back. In another 100 years almost all trace of mankind will be erased from this place and my plants will be fully incorporated into the ecosystem.”
“Great.” Greg crossed his arms.
“Be nice,” Lisa said. “I can make your life hell.”
“Who are we still missing?” Teddy asked, counting his friends, but the growing shadows and the angry gray sky made it harder to see.
“Kasandra, Casey and Jenny.” Nick looked around the group.
Teddy glanced to his son. “Jenny didn’t come with you?”
Nick shook his head.
“Next time, I’ll have Lisa go with them. Heck, maybe even Erica and they can all be late together.” Greg laughed. “Women.”
Lisa punched him in the arm, and Erica glared at him.
Greg winced and rubbed the spot. “Truth hurts,” he said, this time side stepping Lisa to dodge the second punch.
“I don’t know why I ever married you?” Lisa asked.
“Because I’m sexy as hell and amazing in bed.” Greg responded.
There were groans all around.
“What?” Greg smirked.
There was a flash of lightning in the distance, followed by the clap of thunder.
“Got to love the weather.” Nick pulled his jacket tighter.
“Well, if they don’t get here soon, we’re all going to get wet and not the good kind of wet.” Teddy waggled his eyebrows.
“Water won’t kill…” Nick paused.
“Who’s bright idea was this again?” Casey’s bubbly voice called out to the group as she bounced up the path. “Someone didn’t listen to my weather report.”
Jenny was by her side seemingly trying to keep to Casey’s shadow.
“Mine, bitch, so get over it and give me some sugar.” Teddy pointed to the empty spot in front of him.
“Good to see you Teddybear.” Casey jumped into his arms hugging him. “Sorry, we’re late. You know how it is.”
The others nodded.
“And there’s my little girl.” Teddy pointed. “Come here, Missy.” He reached out for Jenny pulling her from behind Casey.
Jenny had grown into the beautiful woman that he always imagined she would be. She was still petite, but with amazing curves and beautiful blond hair.
Teddy grabbed Nick’s hand and put it in Jenny’s pushing them to stand next to each other. “That’s better.”
The others chitchatted, getting reacquainted as Teddy studied Nick and Jenny. They would always be little kids that needed protecting. They were the ones he looked forward to seeing here most.
“Are you taking care of my son, Missy?” Teddy asked Jenny. He fussed with her raincoat and scarf.
“I’m doing my best, but Nick can be a handful, especially after his teen escapades.”
“Hey now, it was just one joy ride–”
“In my car.” Teddy frowned at him. “Without a license.”
Erica turned to Nick and her eyes narrowed. “What a mess that ride of yours turned out to be.”
Teddy nodded, a pang of guilt making his heart skip. There was another flash of lightning and a clap of thunder as rain started to fall in the distance.
“I hope Miss Thing gets here.” Teddy shrugged his jacket tighter. “This is going on ridiculous even for her.”
“Did someone call?” Kasandra burst onto the scene, her arms wide as she made a grand entrance up the once perfect brick path.
Teddy chuckled as the others shook their heads.
“Ever the Diva.” Douglas tapped his watch.
“Like you would have me any other way, Doc.” Kasandra kissed both his cheeks.
“Sorry, I’m late everyone, you know how it is,” Kasandra said, greeting everyone with air kisses.
“It’s nice to see you all.” Teddy glanced around at his friends. “It’s too bad we can’t do this more often.”
“Well, given the state of things here, it looks like there won’t be much more of a reason to come. The town is all but gone.” Douglas pointed to Kasandra’s house. One of the few walls still standing blew over as if to emphasize his point.
“I really should have sued the builders.” Kasandra frowned as she examined her finger nails. “I spent a butt load of money on that place, and for it to be in this state after only twenty years…” She crossed her arms.
“It wasn’t their fault. No one could have been prepared for what happened,” Erica said. “We can’t control time or Mother Nature.”
“I’ll give you this.” Tom craned his neck around to view the remains of the house. “It was a beautiful house in its time.”
“Well, you can thank crappy construction.” Greg kicked at the broken brick path.
“And none of that is her fault.” Lisa adjusted the badge on her shirt.
“It doesn’t matter anyway,” Tom said. “At last count, there were only five families living–”
“That was four years ago,” Greg interrupted.
“Oh, wow,” Tom scratched under the brim of his Sheriffs hat.
Erica frowned. “What a shame, it’s such a beautiful place, that’s why I moved here.”
Lisa scrutinized the surroundings. “Not so much these days…” She glanced over at Erica. “You probably like it this way?”
“I do love the nature, but I don’t like how all the unique Victorian architecture of the town is almost gone or what caused it,” Erica said.
“None of us like what’s happened,” Nick said.
There were nods all around.
The sky grew darker and the first drops of rain reached them. Teddy pulled out his umbrella, opening it. The drops of rain grew bigger and harder and soon each member of the group slipped away without a word. One by one they vanished.
He reached out for Nick and Jenny’s hands.
Nick and Jenny each took one, gave it a squeeze, and with a flash of lightning they were gone.
Every year Teddy came to this spot to visit them. “Goodbye,” he whispered. “I’m sorry.” He slowly walked through the rain back to his Mustang. He got in. Glanced over the steering wheel.
This was all my fault. I should have tried harder.
Teddy turned the ignition. There was blinding flash of lightning and boom of thunder, he was gone.
MD Neu is a Fiction Writer with a love for writing and travel. Living in the heart of Silicon Valley (San Jose, California) and growing up around technology, he’s always been fascinated with what could be. Specifically drawn to Science Fiction and Paranormal television and novels. MD Neu was inspired by the great Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Stephen King, and Kim Stanley Robinson. An odd combination, but one that has influenced his writing.
Growing up in an accepting family as a gay man, he always wondered why there were never stories reflecting who he was. Constantly surrounded by characters that only reflected heterosexual society, MD Neu decided he wanted to change that. So, he took to writing. Wanting to tell good stories that reflected our diverse world. He’s currently working on two books, A New World – Contact, and The Calling. He also works on the TV Show ‘Change Lives for Good’ which you can check out on youtube.
When MD Neu isn’t writing, he works for a non-profit and travels with his husband of eighteen years.
MD Neu can be contacted through his website http://www.MDneu.com or on his twitter account @Writer_MDNeu