Not Facing Reality

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

If you've read I am Legend by Richard Matheson, this story might make more sense. If you've only seen the movie, well, maybe, maybe not.


Jacob Outlaw sat up as the sound outside his home increased in volume. H had been having the dream again, the one where he was in a hospital. The doctor there had a black mustache over a silver goatee and white-threaded hair pulled back in a ponytail. The white coat he wore was starched. And Annie was with him, visiting Jacob, saying comforting and reassuring things to him, where he couldn’t respond for some reason.

Jacob’s eyes stung from unshed tears. It had been five months since society had collapsed, since Annie had become one of them. He still remembered the feel of her body under the stake, the writhing of her form as he gave her death.

He shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs and tossed the twisted sheet from his half-naked form. His bare feet hit the floor with force and he pushed himself from the bed, stumbled, recovered his balance. Another head-shake and he reached for a t-shirt and shorts. He pulled them on and made his way through the front hall and into the foyer. He opened the peephole and peered out. The floodlights around his front yard, powerful things, displayed an apocalyptic scene.

They were like vampires in their desire for blood, but like the zombies he had seen in the horror movies of his youth in other aspects. Some were in the clothes they had died in, others in clothes they had been buried in. Their flesh, without exception among the Anglos who lived outside of Vidalia, Wisconsin, was pale, their eyes glassy imitations of humanity, their hair filthy with the dust of their homes or the dirt of the grave.

He watched as they tore apart some unidentifiable animal. Sounded like a dog, Jacob thought. Unlike the superflu in The Stand, this disease didn’t affect humanity’s closest related species. Jacob didn’t know who was responsible for bringing the animals for them to terrorize and kill, but every night, some new dog, horse, even once a box of kittens, was there to be murdered, drained, finally eviscerated and eaten. The kittens had been the worst. Although horse screams and dog cries haunted his dreams regularly, the sound of those kittens, their hopeful mews turned into screeches by the terrible creatures who had taken their lives.

Even now, the memory brought a tear to his eye as he watched, unable to tear his eyes from this horrid vision. Every now and then, they would sense him watching and turn their attention to the door.

Jacob wasn’t particularly worried. A ring of garlic and silver shavings surrounded the house, holding them away while they hoped he would leave the safety of his home. Fat chance, he thought, a grin actually curving his lips upward. He wasn’t about to leave home for them. He could probably survive for several minutes, maybe they really couldn’t break the spell of the ring around the house. Maybe it really would keep them away.

But he couldn’t risk it. For all he knew, he was the last man on Earth. He knew he hadn’t heard anybody else, seen anybody else, for the better part of three months. He figured he might be Humanity’s Last Hope.

Yeah, he thought, Last Hope for what? There wasn’t a woman for him to make more humans with, exactly. Not that he wanted another woman for anything but pure physical needs anymore. He still loved Annie, hence he saw her in his dreams, especially the one in the hospital, where he was visited by her. If only he could somehow have her again, hear her voice for real again, feel her touch. He felt the tears welling in his eyes.

Whoa, Marine! The thought echoed in his brain. His fist slammed into the door and he saw several of the walking dead look up at the noise, their overactive instincts searching for his scent past the garlic-silver line. A couple of them even moved toward the house but snarled upon reaching that line, held back by their allergy to those two items, one vegetable, one mineral.

Jacob pulled his eye away from the peephole and he closed it. He was tired of looking out at them, waiting for him to come out and join their ranks. He shook his head sadly as he realized that he wasn’t at all sleepy. He padded barefoot across the foyer and into the kitchen. He filled a tumbler with ice and three fingers of good Irish whiskey and downed it at one go.

The iced liquid still burned as it ran down his throat. He filled it again and drained it again. He knew as he filled it a third time that he was going to get drunk. He didn’t care.

This time his brain didn’t stop him as he peered at the picture of Annie above the kitchen sink. Maybe he was numbed by the liquor but he felt a single, solitary tear slip down his cheek.


Annie Outlaw watched the tear slide down her husband’s cheek and turned to Doctor Stevens. “What’s going on in there, Doctor?” she asked softly.

Stevens cleared his throat as he looked up from the chart and scratched at the silver goatee on his chin. It really was a pity, he thought, here was a lovely woman who was totally devoted to her husband, still the bright side of forty, and he was so lonely.

Stevens shook his head, clearing the thought from his mind.  It wasn’t right to have such feelings for the wives of his patients.

“Well, Mrs. Outlaw,” he began, his Harvard accent sharp in the cool air of the room, “the truth of the matter is that we just don’t know. He has created his own internal reality. We can’t predict what it is, but to him …” His voice trailed off.

Annie’s eyes were bleak as she turned to face him. “To him, it’s real.”

Stevens felt defeated at the accusation in her eyes. He shouldn’t, really, but he was a doctor, a preeminent force in his field. And he should be able to break Jacob Outlaw out of his madness, but he had been unsuccessful. He actually ducked his head as he replied, “Yes, it is.”

Annie nodded. “Thank you, Doctor.” She glanced back at the catatonic form of the man she had sworn to love, honor, and cherish nearly twenty years ago and almost cried. Instead, she straightened her back, just like her Marine husband would want, and turned to leave him to his reality.

Another “Doctor Stevens’ throat clearing” caught her attention. “Out of curiosity, when he returned from Afghanistan, did he have any new interests?”

She searched her mind for an answer. Finally, she shook her head. “No. He read one new book, then …” She waved her hand at Jacob.

Stevens nodded. “Out of curiosity, what was the book?”

She chuckled. “It was actually a novella that I recommended. They made a movie out of it. You know, the one with Will Smith, I Am Legend.”


Submitted: December 28, 2008

© Copyright 2021 Tony James. All rights reserved.

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