I couldn’t bring myself to read Floyd’s diary today. I’m tired of his obsession with the Gore. And that’s exactly what it is, an obsession. He writes over and over again of being drawn to the piles of body parts. He needed them. They needed him. He described being away from them as a little pinch in his brain. The longer he was away the more severe the pain.
He went back to the aquarium a dozen times in two days at one point. He couldn’t even explain it. He knew it was stupid. He came closer and closer to not being able to leave each time. He really knew he was losing it when he started naming the piles of body parts.
The piles were made up parts from both animals and humans. Each pile had enough parts that, if assembled, would make a complete two-legged creature. They were mismatched parts that had no business being together. One pile would have a horse’s leg, a man’s left foot, a bear’s torso, etc. The next pile would be different creatures, but the same types of body parts: feet, legs, torso, arms, head. The only parts each pile had that were the same were the hands. Every pile had two human hands.
A lot of times it was obvious that the hands didn’t come from the same person. Floyd identified each pile by the right hand. Most of the time he could determine if it was a man’s hand or a woman’s. Based on that, he gave the piles names matching their genders. Children’s hands made it tough. If he found one with a child’s right hand, he’d go by the left hand. If both hands belonged to children, he just called it Junior. Luckily, he’d only come across that once.
That was the pile he was most drawn to. He always found himself standing in front of Junior, waiting for it to speak, to tell him what to do. Junior had a cow’s head, so he wasn’t sure if it was even possible for the pile to speak.
He figured out at some point that Junior did not like the hands it was saddled with. They were small and fairly useless. He didn’t know if Junior had told him this or not. Not using its cow head with its cow tongue to tell him, but by using some kind of mental mind trick. Junior was saddened by its pathetic hands. The other piles didn’t respect Junior. They taunted Junior. They were cruel to Junior.
Floyd felt badly for Junior. He left the aquarium one day and went to the kitchen of a nearby restaurant and searched until he found a very large and very sharp knife. He set the knife on a table in the dining area of the restaurant and promptly forgot why he had been looking for it. An image of Junior’s cow head flashed through his mind and he remembered why.
Floyd wanted to give Junior a new set of hands. His own.
He went outside, ran to the riverbank and tossed the knife into the water.
I’m not the only who keeps a diary. I was cleaning up the fire tower, which included shoveling some blood soaked snow off the deck, and I found a notebook that was used as a journal. The first page read as follows:
This is the diary of Floyd Templeton. He lives among the dead. He wishes it was the other way around.
It didn’t occur to me until I had read a few pages of the diary that Floyd Templeton is FT. The man who warned me about the Gore. The man who left me clothes and food. If it wasn’t for Floyd Templeton I’d still be wondering in the blinding snow, freezing and starving to death without ever dying.
The first part of the journal is just filled with stories about his life before the end of the world. He was a chef in Charleston, South Carolina. He had just opened his own restaurant when everything fell apart. Délons were the first of the destroyers to show up. Everyone thought it was an alien invasion. Within a week of the first Délon sighting, Charleston was a ghost town. He wrote:
The Market, King Street, the hospitals, the ports, nobody is anywhere. I am the only one left.
He holed up in St. Philips Episcopal Church for awhile thinking that if any other survivors were left they’d surely come to a church to pray. After all, that’s what people do when the world ends, isn’t it? Pray? He spent three months looking for others on the streets during the day, and sleeping in the church at night. Every day, he’d come across at least one dead body.
He started noticing something strange about the bodies. He hadn’t given it much thought at first, but the more bodies he saw the more apparent it became. They were all missing a part and it was never the same part. Even the dead animals he’d come across were missing something.
He kept log of the missing parts. His diary was filled with things like: Cat – left eye, Woman – left arm, boy – head. It was a gruesome list of the mangled dead. There were so many entries of the dead and their missing parts, I stopped reading them. It was just too horrible.
I read his diary until it was too dark to see. The last thing I read before I couldn’t read anymore was this:
I went to the aquarium today. I had been avoiding it because I could smell the stench of dead fish and animals from Francis Marion Square, but I ran out of places to look for other people, so I went. I wish now I hadn’t. The tanks were filthy and the fish were dead and floating lifeless in the murky water. Their eyes were bulging, milky white orbs. Their bodies were bloated. Some even had exploded bellies with guts dangling in the water. But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was what was on the second level. Those body parts I’ve been tracking were there. All of them, stacked in neat piles taller than me. There were dozens of piles with hundreds of body parts. I couldn’t move when I realized what I was looking at. I stood there wanting to throw up, scream, run, cry – but I couldn’t do anything. That is not until I saw a head; a man’s. It was bald with a thin strip of gray hair just above the ears. Its eyes were closed; were closed. As impossible as it sounds, they opened. I would have thought it was just a natural occurrence. Dead bodies do that sometimes. They move when the muscles stiffen. But then they blinked. I ran.
I was half way down the stairs before I couldn’t bring myself to go any farther. I was tired of the cold. I was tired of being out in the open. I was tired of walking to nowhere in particular. I was just tired. They were just body parts. I could deal with that. I had seen worse. I had seen people die. A pile of limbs and… whatever was, sadly, no big deal.
I don’t remember the climb back up the stairs. All I remember is standing in the doorway, craning my neck to the right, and staring at… them. That’s what they were, right? Them? People? They were more people than me. I didn’t matter at all really, but they did at some point to somebody. They were people with friends and family and enemies and haters. Just because they were… disassembled and stacked in the corner of an abandoned fire tower didn’t make them any less people.
They were just like Valerie. Loved and then lost to a stupid cruel world… a stupid, stupid, ugly, heartless world.
Before I knew it, I was standing in front of the pile of body parts crying. I apologized for not knowing them. They deserved to be known, to be missed, but there was nobody here but me. I explained to them that I didn’t count. I imagined them laughing at how crazy it sounded. I told them about Oz and Wes and Ajax and everybody. I told them about Kimball. Oh, I miss Kimball. But again, I had to explain to this pile of hands and feet and bellies and arms and legs that it didn’t matter that I missed Kimball, because I didn’t matter. I wasn’t real. I’m not real.
In a weird way, I felt at home with these severed parts of people. They didn’t belong in the corner of a shack 50 feet in the air, and neither did I. We were all orphans, and this was our orphanage.
I made my way to the opposite side of the shelter and sat down. For whatever reason, I wasn’t concerned about who or what left the body parts in this place in the middle of nowhere. If they came back, they came back. Maybe, if I’m lucky, they’ll add me to the pile… part by part.
I found a fire tower! Just when I was about to give up on ever finding any kind of shelter, I found an honest to goodness, intact, fire tower with a toasty-warm cabin that must be 50 feet off the ground. If such a thing is possible, considering what and where I am, I actually may be slightly happy at this very moment.
The crazy thing is I almost walked right by it. The snow was heavy, and the tiny icy flakes shot down out of the clouds like darts. I kept my head down because my face was sore from the arctic beating it was taking. At some point, I realized the trail I had been following was completely gone. I lost it in the blinding snowdrifts. When I made myself look up and try to get my bearings, that’s when I saw it: that big, beautiful fire tower. It was about ten yards to my left up a little embankment. I didn’t believe my eyes. I put my head down again and kept walking because I thought I was losing my mind. I couldn’t be that lucky.
I took a few steps and stopped. Only an idiot would not at least check it out. I backtracked and scrambled up the embankment with a lot of difficulty. If the tower was just an illusion, it never vanished. Standing on firm ground just a few feet away, I arched my back, pointed my chin skyward, and soaked in every inch of the large wooden structure. It was real.
And before I could convince myself otherwise, I frantically climbed the winding staircase to the top. The door to the cabin was locked, but when you’re cold and hungry and eager to never feel snow on your exposed skin again, a locked door is a minor hurdle. I kicked it open and practically dove inside to escape the frozen world that had tortured me for so long.
I scrambled to the center of the cozy square room and collapsed, falling asleep almost as soon as my head hit the floor. When I woke up sometime later, I found a bank of three metal lockers filled with olive green packets of food: meals ready to eat. I ripped open one labeled “Beef Stew,” and shoveled the contents into my mouth with my hands.
When I was chewing my second handful of stew, I saw the one major drawback to my little heaven on Earth. There was a stack of body parts in the corner nearest the door.
Notice – If you haven’t finished Book five, there is a bit of a spoiler in the video.
The video diary option was the clear winner in the poll. Some of you made good points about making the diary available in book form, and I will at some later date. This is a ‘publish-as-I-write’ project. It may actually help me with background story for book six. At any rate, here’s entry one. The first part of the video is me explaining my plans for the diary. The entry starts at about 2:35. Enjoy!
I’ve been shooting my mouth off about releasing entries from Lou’s diary as a supplement to the Oz Chronicles until I can get the next book out. Actually, I’ve been writing it on Facebook and this blog so technically I’ve been shooting my fingers off about it, but I digress. I made this suggestion in response to the numerous messages I’ve gotten from readers asking me when Book Six is coming out. Much to the publishing industries objections (well, those in it that have read my books anyway), I’ve ended all the Oz books with cliffhangers, including Book Five. Lou is in a pickle, and people want to know what’s going to happen to her. The diary will hopefully fill that void until the next book is released.
I’ve got a list of books I want to write outside of the Oz universe, and I’ve gotten into the habit of taking a hiatus from Oz and writing something different to give my brain a break, but for some reason I think I can do this, so I’m going to give it a whirl. But, I’m thinking of taking it one step further. You see the annoying laws of brand awareness say I have to do more to get my face out there. As someone recently described me as “creepy-looking” I’m not sure if that’s a great idea, but I’ve never made a concerted effort to do so. It’s time I give it a try which means doing more vlog entries which means shooting, editing, and lamenting over how creepy I actually do look. If you add my normal writing time to the Lou Diary writing time and then factor in the video production time, that comes to… a lot of freakin time. I’m thinking of killing two birds with one stone. My vlogs will be me reading an entry from Lou’s diary. My plan would be to release one a week. It sounds like the perfect compromise, but I’m sure I’m overlooking something. Rather than jumping into this head first, I’m going to ask for your input. Vote in the survey below and a week from today I’ll tally the results and abide by your wishes.