Episode 1 “The Regulator”

Dystopian Serial Novel

(Beta Shred #1)

The whippoorwill’s song is relentless, unseen from his perch on a dying tree branch, rusted light pole, or edge of peeling roof – trills like barbed wire scraping against my raw nerves. An omen. Good or bad, I do not know. The repetitive song a prediction of looming death, whether mine or another is yet to be determined. The oddity of his presence chills me, far from his natural habitat, and yet gives me a sense of kinship. I feel as wrong here as he.

Crouched at the mouth of a shadowed alley, heaving breaths drowned by the bird’s call, I dare not make a sound and frighten him away. He may reveal my location to the other who creeps among the deceptive shadows of dusk’s eerie light -elongated specters taking on human shape at every blink of my eyes. I scan the limited funnel of my gaze, gold-kissed forms of abandoned Main Street, alert to any hint of movement – flutter of long forgotten paper, drifting cobweb wisps, and blurry insect wing – draw my attention, darting speculations.

I wonder if he, too, is squatted down in an alcove of brick awaiting my movement. Prey and hunter equally keen to the other. Onslaught of a gusty breeze quickens the rhythm of whippoorwill’s cry. His rise of unease causes me to pull the blood sticky pruning shears from my jacket pocket, tempting me to ease forward and expand scope of vision. Sharp pain in my thigh reminds me that agility is not my strength. I am weak from blood loss.

Copyright 2021 Joan Wiley

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