Tag Archives: apocalypse

The Submariner’s Dream

Let me tell you the account of trying to bring light to a Friday Fictioneers story this week. I had an idea I liked and wrote the story this evening. It came out to 119 words and I couldn’t reduce it without sacrificing vital parts of the story. So I wrote another one, which I liked even better. That one came out at 128 words and again, I didn’t want to sacrifice any of it. So I wrote a third story, which luckily came out to 100 words. That’s the one below, but if you want to read the other two, I’m going to post them on my blog tomorrow and Saturday. This week’s picture is thanks to Claire Fuller, the author of the award-winning novel, Our Endless Numbered Days.

copyright Claire Fuller

copyright Claire Fuller

The Submariner’s Dream

I dream the alarms sounded. I ran to battle stations, shoving past fear-sweating men in claustrophobic hallways.

I dream they waited for me at the missile room door. I had the keys. Buttons were pushed, codes entered, access granted: all perfect protocol.

I dream the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” lilted around us as we shot our world-ending payload out into the frosty Arctic night, leaving us empty, spent.

I awake, feeling hollow. I go to the bridge.

“Any contact yet?”

The captain shakes his head, despair in his eyes.

I take two more pills and sleep.

I dream the alarms sounded . . .


5 Annoying Things About the Apocalypse

copyright Joe Owens

copyright Joe Owens

It was the end of the world in a few hours. Yep, no doubt about it. The news had confirmed it and they were never wrong. Half the population was cowering and the other half was making fun of it or partying.

She clicked on a comedy site link: 5 Annoying Things about the Apocalypse.

  1. We’re never going to be able to make a movie about this.
  1. We’ll never be able to eat up all the canned beans in our fallout shelter in time.
  1. Game of Thrones will never, ever be finished.
  1. Bruce Willis really dropped the ball on this one.
  1. Despite all our pop culture about the apocalypse, absolutely no one saw this coming.

Cassandra looked sadly over at her sandwich board lying by the door, The End is Nigh scrawled in her spidery handwriting. She opened up her blog where the last entry: WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE! sat with no comments and no likes. It had been posted a week before the news of the monster asteroid had been announced.

The phone rang. “Hey Cassandra, let’s go out with a bang!” her friend said. “A group of us are going over to the bar to get drunk.”

“It’ll be closed,” Cassandra said.

“No it won’t. Come on!” Her friend hung up.

Sigh.


Day 219 – Friday Fictioneers

copyright Douglas M. MacIlroy

copyright Douglas M. MacIlroy

Day 219

My iPad is a telescope, turned backwards: the world tiny, but terrifyingly clear. 

It’s a biology experiment, they say. But of course they wouldn’t tell me if it were psychological.

Most websites are blocked except CNN and BBC. Suspicious.

Horror constantly splashes across my screen. The sudden economic collapse and ensuing conflicts. The European epidemic killing millions. Famine, War, Pestilence.

Death.

I can leave this cave anytime. The blinking green button winks at me seductively.

I want to end this madness and go outside and see it was all just a test. But I’m afraid it’s not, so I stay.

 


Private Darkness

Private Darkness

Felicity prided herself on her unflappability, and yet she was still shocked, one night, to see the moon being eaten away slowly, as if a gargantuan turtle were nibbling on the lettuce leaf that was the lunar disc.

“The moon is disappearing!” she screamed.

“It looks the same to me,” a passerby said, glancing up. “Full moon tonight.”

No one else say it. They insisted the moon was full even as Felicity watched the last silver sliver disappear from view. She watched the stars go dark as God’s spilled inkbottle continued gobbling up the sky.

The next day, the sun did not rise. The streetlights went off at their normal time and Felicity groped her way to work, using her phone as a flashlight. People eyed her strangely as they strode by.

From then on, she lived in a world of darkness and time became only a number on her watch. She began only going out at night, when artificial lights were lit. One evening, she was walking to the store when she heard someone scream, “The moon! It’s disappearing!”

Felicity smiled. It may be the end of the world, but at least she wasn’t crazy.

“Anything is bearable, when one does not have to endure it alone.”   – R.W. Guy


Apocalypse Climb

This is a true story, as evidenced by the photographs. But you know me: I can’t help dramatizing things a little.

Apocalypse Climb

I saw a preview of the apocalypse this past weekend as masses of humanity pressed together, fighting to ascend (and then descend) a steep, rain-soaked path of tumbled rocks. The horror, the horror…

Apocalypse Climb

Koreans love them some mountain climbing and they love them some autumn colors. And considering that everyone loves them some weekend, going mountain climbing on a Saturday in Korea in the fall is like a perfect storm, especially in the rain.

The sky was overcast when I left the house in the morning. I couldn’t find my umbrella, but I had a magic talisman that prevented rain. At least, it rarely rained when I was carrying it and I believe strongly in the principle that correlation implies causation.

I got to the mountain (which is also a provincial park) and as the bus passed long lines of cars parked along the side of the road, my heart sank like a bowling ball in a banana souffle. It was, as the Chinese say, a mountain of people, a sea of people. If zombie hordes wore expensive hiking gear and preyed on autumn leaves, I would have been in a George Romero film.

The rain started as a fine mist about halfway up the mountain. By the time I got to the park’s famed Cloud Bridge, the path had bottlenecked and so we all stood in the rain, shuffling forward at a snail’s pace until I finally reached the bridge. I looked down at the path 250 feet below me and saw the winding, ant-like column of hikers abandoning the mountain.

I saw a sign saying the maximum number of people on the bridge was 200. Not that anyone was counting.

I saw a sign saying the maximum number of people on the bridge was 200. Not that anyone was counting.

I gave up the idea of going to the peak. A cloud had sat on the mountain as if it were snuggling into an easy chair and after the bridge was a treacherous metal stairway, over 200 feet high and as steep as a ladder. I wasn’t the only one who decided to cut the trip short and head for the cable car station nearby for a quick trip to the bottom. The trails were choked with sodden hikers, some with expensive cameras, jewelry and nice purses, all picking their way down the slick rocks. I felt like we were refugees from some disaster.

Apocalypse Climb

The group on the left are the ones who climbed under a railing and swarmed down the rocks to cut in line on the main path.

“All it takes is one person to slip…” I kept thinking.

There was a two-hour wait for the cable car, nowhere to sit and nowhere particularly warm. At least the view was pretty.

Apocalypse Climb

I got home four hours later and soon the apocalypse was only a distant memory. It’s amazing what a hot shower can cure.

Apocalypse Climb


Gotterdammerung – Friday Fictioneers

copyright Jan Wayne Fields

copyright Jan Wayne Fields

Gotterdammerung

We couldn’t face New York City sober, so out came the last of the whiskey and we danced a frenzied, forgetful dance on the deck of the last fishing boat in the Atlantic.

Around 6am, the boat entered the Narrows, the AI effortlessly navigating the spidery, rust corpse of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Belle crawled to the railing and peered ahead into the darkness. “There’s hope, right? Deep down in the subway system. People could survive.”

I nodded, took another drink.

The sun rose and Belle suddenly laughed and pointed. “She’s still there, torch held high. There’s still hope after all.”


Why it’s bad to destroy the earth

At the end of the previous story, the planet Earth was left stuck in the headlight of a Galacto-class Starhopper. This was not an ideal situation, by anyone’s standards. The planet had stopped spinning and so one side was being blasted with the light of a thousand suns, while the other side languished in the inky darkness of deep space. It was safe to say that no one was happy.

Many people were still alive, however. Against all probability, the atmosphere was hanging onto the planet like a leech. People huddled in their houses as the most horrendous and random weather erupted all over the globe. Torrential rains, followed by howling winds, snowstorms, hailstorms, and a whole Zeus-tantrum of lightning afflicted every country. And yet still, in America, mail carriers fought their way along their routes, grimly muttering under their breath, “Neither snow nor rain nor planetary destruction…”

Spinning the Earth

On a much larger scale of existence, Groxhhelin the Prosaic and his cousin, Bob the Normally Unpronounceable were sneaking the Galacto-class Starhopper back into Groxhhelin’s father’s space hanger. Joyriding a vehicle that could use a solar system as a go-kart track was exhilarating unless you got caught. Then it was suicidal, and not in a quick, painless way either. Groxhhelin probably would not have even dared if he had known the sort of mood his father was in.

Groxhhelin’s father was called Blyz the Round and Furious and he was both of those attributes to an astonishing degree. At the moment when Groxhhelin and his cousin Bob were quietly locking the door to the space hanger, Blyz was screaming and storming around his laboratory like a jilted tornado. There was a glitch in his system—there had to be. He had looked through the Ultra-scope but the planet that he was studying was not there. The readout said it was the right place, but . . . no planet. Empty space greeted his gaze. Blyz the Round and Furious did not like setbacks. And just as he always did when he needed someone to vent at, he called his son.

Groxhhelin and Bob came into the lab a few minutes later. If Blyz had not been so preoccupied, he would have seen immediately that the two boys were trying to hide something.

“What’s up, Dad?” Groxhhelin asked.

“The planet I’m studying isn’t where it’s supposed to be,” Blyz said. “Now, juggle.” He tossed several beakers and a microscope to his son. Groxhhelin was an expert juggler and anytime Blyz felt sad or just brain-smashingly angry, he got Groxhhelin to juggle for him. It was his regular form of therapy.

“We hit some planets today,” Bob said. Groxhhelin kicked him, but it was too late. Blyz was glowering at them.

“What do you mean, you hit planets? Did you take the Starhopper out?”

“Yes,” Bob said before Groxhhelin could stop him.

“I told you never to touch that!” Blyz screamed. He started opening drawers, cupboards, and cages all around the room.

“Aw, come on, Dad. I don’t want to get sweaty,” Groxhhelin said, but it was too late. Blyz started tossing things at him: an office chair, a rabid weasel, a lit Bunsen burner, and a handful of sand, just for good measure.

“Now, where did you go in the Starhopper? Did you go near system 4302.2?”

Groxhhelin was sweaty and panting, trying to keep everything in the air and unharmed. “I . . . I don’t know really, but—okay, okay, we went there,” he added quickly as Blyz lit a welding torch and got ready to throw it towards him. “We hit a couple planets and had to use their sun as fuel to get back. Sorry.”

Up went the welding torch and a half dozen pieces of lab furniture. Blyz accidentally threw in a jar of Evapo-Rub as well. It hit the flame of the welding torch, melted and sprayed all over, causing the other objects Groxhhelin was juggling to be pulled out of existence in a sudden thunderclap. There was a sudden, awkward silence.

“It cracked the headlight,” Bob said from underneath the workbench where he was cowering. “It might still be in there.”

“It’d better be, for your sake,” Blyz said.

Several minutes later, the three of them were in the hover-cart, floating in front of the huge headlight of the Starhopper. There was a hole in the middle of the light and something dark inside.

“It’s so small,” Bob said. “I could use it as a soccer ball.”

“I’ve been studying this planet for twenty years,” Blyz said. “It has something amazing and utterly unique in the universe. We need to be extremely careful getting it out. Go get that bucket over there.”

“What is so special about this planet?” Bob asked. He got the bucket and held it for Blyz.

“These people eat a lot and have thousands of different kinds of food,” Blyz said. “Now, carefully.” He reached in and pulled out the planet Earth as gingerly as he could. His finger smashed Mount Everest down to a small hill and his other palm crushed the entire Amazon rainforest. He set the planet down into the bucket.

“But we have hundreds of different foods too,” Groxhhelin said.

“No, your mother just puts it in different colored bowls and tells you it’s different,” Blyz said. “In reality, we have three foods: regular gruel, extra calorie gruel, and gruel-light, for when we’re just feeling peckish. People on this little planet though . . . I’ve been studying them for years and barely know anything about their foods. We could learn so much from them. I’ll show you what I mean.”

They walked back to the lab and Blyz pulled a round flat thing out of a side compartment. “This is what is called pizza,” he said.

Bob took a bite of it. “It’s just gruel.”

“But it’s flat gruel,” Blyz said. “And round. Anyway, this is just my first attempt. We need to get this planet back into space before it dies.”

“We used up their sun,” Bob said, in case anyone had forgotten. He was absentmindedly dribbling the Earth back and forth with his feet. Blyz hit him on the head with a microscope.

Groxhhelin and Bob were given the task of putting the much-abused planet back into space, preferably in a place where the inhabitants would not all instantly freeze or burn to death. It was not that Blyz trusted them in the least, but more that he was deathly afraid of going out into space. So, after several hours of detailing every grotesque punishment he would inflict on them if they failed, he wished them luck and sent them out.

Blyz had selected a system that had a similar sized sun and room for another planet. Groxhhelin drove the Starhopper (with permission this time) out and carefully maneuvered Earth into place.

“It’s not spinning,” Bob said. “Should it be spinning?”

“Hold on, I’m still fine-tuning it.” Groxhhelin had his tongue out, a sure sign he was concentrating. He reached out with a robotic arm, grabbed a continental shelf and gave the planet a spin.

“Now it’s going too fast. Every day will be five seconds long,” Bob said.

Groxhhelin punched him for being annoying and they had a bit of a tussle for a while, but eventually they got it pretty well sorted out and headed for home, buzzing a few black holes on the way.

*         *         *

Miraculously, there were still some survivors on Earth and they did not freeze or burn up in their new location. It truly was a whole new world though. All the stars were different and astronomers got right to work making up new constellations and thinking up names for the nearby planets.

As well, since Groxhhelin never got it totally right, every day now had 35 hours in it, which was perfect for all the people who complained that there were never enough hours in the day. Earth’s productivity went through the roof, as did its party culture, which could now party for fifteen hours straight every night. The year turned out to be about 1000 days long now as well. This meant that the life expectancy was now about 30 of the new years, but it took three times longer to get there. People now started school at two, got married around ten and retired around twenty. Senior citizens could say they were still young, even as they hobbled around with walkers and talked about the good old days of a decade before. And so everyone (at least the survivors) were happy.

On a side note, Blyz never did figure out how to make any actual different foods, but he did write a cookbook called 1001 ways to Disguise Gruel. And so, he too was relatively less furious.


What is it? – A Visual Prompt

This story comes from a picture and prompt from my friend Sharmishtha Basu. Here’s her take on the story, along with another friend’s. The part in italics is the original prompt.

He was lying flat on his back, watching the stars in the open sky.

How he loved these small escapades to the woods! Every necessity was packed in his backpack: a small tent in case it rained, a sleeping bag, and lots of mosquito repellant.

There was no sign of rain and a pleasant breeze was blowing, stirring the leaves of the trees and the grass on which he was lying.

The moon was peeking at him from behind scanty clouds. He fell asleep….

A strange flash of light woke him up, and at first he thought that the moon was coming down on him…

It was not the moon. The pale light grew and grew until it was as bright as the sun. He could not look away. It continued to grow until it the whole sky was glowing. Still it grew, impossibly large, filling the night with a pale brilliance. This is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, he thought, but I think I’m going to die.

He felt himself getting lighter and to his amazement, he lifted off the ground. Rocks and twigs rose as well and there was a great rustling in the trees as the branches rose on their own, pulled towards the heavens. Gravity abandoned him and suddenly he was falling up into the sky. He fell faster and faster and the earth fell right behind him, straight up into that now-blinding light that filled the sky from horizon to horizon.

Crack!

Groxhhelin the Prosaic checked the screen of his Galacto-class Starhopper. “We hit another planet,” he said to his cousin, Bob the Normally Unpronounceable. “It cracked the headlight. There seems to be tons of planets in this area.”

“There were, at least,” Bob said. “Hey, pick up that star over there and throw it in the tank, would you? We’re going to need some more fuel if we’re going to make it back home.”

 


The Making of the Squid, Part 6

The Making of the Squid, Part 1     Part 2     Part 3     Part 4     Part 5

You can read the rest of the Aftermath stories here or here.

Well, this is the final installment of this story. Thanks for reading thus far. Please forgive the length of this one; I decided to just post it instead of breaking it into yet another installment. This last part is much darker, but after all, this is not the end of the story: it is the beginning. I will pick up with Edward “the Squid” Morrison again on the other side.

storm clouds

There was a storm brewing. For days now, they could see clouds seething in the south, thunder rumbling distantly, like a monster that was slowly wakening. It seemed to be growing, creeping ever so slowly towards them.

Harlow had become an unfriendly place for Edward. The other residents barely spoke to him now and the men worked together on the other cisterns, leaving Edward’s half finished.

Edward did not worry about this—he did not need their approval—but what did worry him was Sean. The boy was spending more and more time outside, staring off in the distance. Edward knew he was watching for his parents. He was becoming paler and had developed a cough.

Several days after Edward had gone to his last committee meeting, he was walking along route B180, back towards his old house. The afterglow of sunset was fading to black when a car drove down the road towards him, headlights glaring. It was the first working car he had seen in almost a month. It stopped and the window went down, revealing a woman wearing a diagnostics headset and stylish clothes.

Hestia's car

“Evening, crackerjack,” she said. “I thought this whole space was blitzoid. You the only one around here?”

“There’s a whole town of us, back there in Harlow,” Edward said. “You come from Cambridge?”

“Yeah, that much you know.” She took her silk-gloved hands off the wheel. “You do know about the storm coming? The gee-sees all show the radiation as being right up there. A regular slam-bang.”

“Is it any safer in Cambridge?” Edward asked.

“We have some deep cellars, but we’re probably all well snuffed together, you and us. Once it gets into the drinking water and we’re all swilling fallout cocktails, well…” She shrugged—what-are-you-gonna-do? “I came down on a scouting mission, looking for clues of its trajectory.”

A thought flashed through Edward’s head. This was his one chance. “Can you do me a favor? I have children at my house—orphans. Take some of them with you, if you can. I don’t want to, but I can’t take care of them all.”

The woman frowned, as if thinking. “Let me see them,” she said finally. “Hop in.”

The woman introduced herself as Hestia Wolfe. As they drove back to town, she showed him her e-device, with news and images from around the world, including pictures of the devastation of London. There was already a remnant of the UN that was trying to stagger back. The US capital had been moved to Denver. Wales had been untouched by the missiles, but decimated by fallout. The list of tragedies and triumphs went on and on, weighted heavily on the side of tragedy.

“We’re fortune-kissed to be in this area,” Hestia said. “The winds didn’t bring much our way—until now, it seems.”

Hestia met the children and they had dinner together. The kids had made a concoction of corn and pinto beans, with jellied cranberries on the side. Hestia complimented them on their skill and even had seconds. After the meal, she took Edward out onto the porch.

“I can take the four youngest ones,” she said. “Let me see: Ernesto, Kaveh, Cala, and Lalasa. Two boys and two girls. I’ll be able to find them good homes. They’re all relatively healthy and I know of a few families who will welcome them.”

“Will you sell them?” Edward asked.

“I will find them good homes,” Hestia repeated. “Money—or goods, I should say—will change hands, but that’s how the world works, you know? I’m not a human trafficker, if that’s what you mean.”

“I’d ask you to take Sean, but I don’t think he’d go. I’m worried about him.”

“I wouldn’t take him anyway,” Hestia said. “He looks pretty hacked up—sick, that is. I can’t take the risk.”

They went back in and Edward told the kids what was going to happen. They took it much better than Edward had expected. None of them clamored to go or begged to stay behind. Life had hit them with so much pain and uncertainty that the possible positives and negatives of going to Cambridge cancelled out into a dull neutral. Cala sat on Edward’s lap and cried a little, but when he told her to go get packed, she went upstairs with Lalasa without complaining. Hestia left with the four chosen kids thirty minutes later. Edward watched them go but no one waved good bye.

It was not until the next day that the house felt emptier. Hugo began to fight more with Meredith. Portia and Hazel retreated into their room and would not come out all day. Sean stood on the porch, looking flushed. Edward found him there in the evening, his legs curled against his chest, eyes glazed. His skin was on fire.

No, not him too. All Edward could think of was the shock of Ramya’s cold cheek against his hand. It couldn’t happen again. Edward put Sean to bed, got his gun, and went to the Crawfords’ house.

Nikola opened the door a crack when he knocked. She immediately tried to slam it shut again, but Edward stuck the butt of the rifle in the gap and forced the door open.

“For God’s sake, Edward, what do you want now?” Her voice was dull, but her eyes flashed with hate.

“Sean’s sick. I need you to come treat him, or at least give me some medicine. Please,” he added.

Nikola looked at him and then stepped forward and very deliberately spat on his shirt. “I wouldn’t treat you or any of your mud-grubbing pack of rat bastards to save my life,” she said. She spoke slowly, enunciating every word.

Eight-year-old Trav Crawford appeared in the doorway to the kitchen. Before Nikola could react, Edward strode towards him and pointed the rifle at his head. “Not to save your life, eh? How about his life? Is his life worth a bit of medicine to save my boy?”

Trav gave a small shriek and started to run towards his mother, but Edward pushed him back. Nikola was staring at him, frozen and pale. “Don’t hurt him,” she said softly. “Tell me the symptoms. I’ll tell you how to treat him, if you can.”

Edward described Sean’s condition to her. She went upstairs and came back with several small boxes of pills. Edward stayed behind with Trav.

“I can’t guarantee this will work,” she said, after she had told him how to give it to Sean. “Please, if he dies, don’t come take it out on us.”

“We’ll see,” Edward said. “Come on, Trav; you’re walking me to the door.”

Edward started to walk backwards towards the front door, holding Trav in front of him. Nikola gave a cry and leapt towards her son. Edward pointed the gun at her. At that moment, something hit him in the back. He slammed the butt of the rifle backwards, feeling it strike something solid. The gun went off and Nikola fell back, an expanding red hole in her blouse. Behind him, Noah Crawford lay on the floor, next to the piece of wood he had used to hit Edward. Edward left, quickly.

He ran all the way home, intent on getting back to Sean and unable to process what had happened. He had just killed someone—a mother, in front of her son. It had been an accident, of course, but it had still happened. He couldn’t think of it now.

He gave Sean the medicine as Nikola had instructed him. Then he set Portia and Hazel to watch him. He was just going downstairs when he heard a shot and a bullet ripped through the front door.

“Squid! Get out here, Squid!” He peeked out the side of the front window. Noah was standing in the street, holding Kaine Bowlery’s rifle. Kaine, Heston and few of the other men were standing nearby.

Edward opened the front door and stood to one side. “Go home, Noah. It was an accident. Just get out of here.”

“You killed my wife, you bastard!” Noah screamed and fired another shot through the doorway. “I’ll kill you. I’ll rip your guts out.”

Edward looked around. Where were Hugo and Meredith? The others were upstairs, but if a stray shot hit one of them…

“This is your last chance, Noah. I didn’t mean to shoot Nikola. It was an accident and I’m sorry, but don’t you dare fire that when my kids are around.”

“Your kids? You pointed a gun at my son’s head. You shot my wife!”

Edward stepped into the doorway and raised the rifle. He felt a bullet whiz by him and he fired. Noah fell to the ground.

Before anyone could react, Edward rushed out and grabbed the other rifle. Noah was not moving—the bullet had gone through his neck. “I didn’t want to do it,” he said.

Kaine Bowlery held out his hands and when he spoke, his voice shook. “Please, Eddie. We don’t want any trouble. Just go. Leave us in peace.”

“I can’t,” Edward said. “I have to stay here, for Sean. Take him and bury him. Then, go home.” They picked up the body and left without a word.

Over the next week, Sean was slowly restored to health. One evening, he and Edward were looking out the south window. Far away, the storm clouds still rolled and boiled, but they had not come any closer

“Aren’t they moving?” Sean asked. “I’ve never heard of a storm that didn’t move. Does that mean we’re safe?”

“No,” Edward said. “There’s no such thing as safe anymore. I don’t know what will happen, but that’s the world we live in now.”

They continued to watch the storm, as around them the darkness grew.

Epilogue

Time passed and they struggled on, against hunger, sickness, against the other residents of the town that gradually became known as Free Frall. Sickness ravaged the survivors, eating away at their numbers. The town began to decay and decline, as did its residents, until they were little more than ghosts, creeping forth at dusk to scrape out a miserable existence from the blighted earth.

Hugo died the first winter and a year later, Hazel. Edward buried them away from the house and with each death, he became more and more the Squid. Portia left four years later to join a group of wanderers and returned a year later to take Meredith with her, who was only eleven. Edward let them go. Then, it was only he and Sean.

One night, close to dawn, Edward returned home to find Sean gone. It took a week of searching for Edward to finally accept that he was not coming back and his transformation to the Squid was complete. He went out and stabbed the first person he met. He buried the body and tried to forget he had ever known anyone named Sean, or Portia, or Meredith, or even Ramya. The memories brought too much pain.

And so, Edward Morrison lived as the unofficial king of the decaying residential area known as Free Frall. They called him the Squid, and he liked it.

Aftermath

(continued in the story Saturday 4am)


The Making of the Squid, Part 5

The Making of the Squid, Part 1     Part 2     Part 3     Part 4

You can read the rest of the Aftermath stories here or here.

box of cans

“Eddie, what are we going to have for supper?” Sean asked. The older children were taking turns cooking supper, now that Edward was trying to do more work at night.

“I don’t care. Whatever’s in there.” Edward went to the pantry, pawed through the box on the floor, and pulled out two cans of sardines, canned potatoes, and canned tomatoes. “Here, we can eat this.”

“What, cold?”

“Or heat it up over the fireplace. I don’t care.”

“Lalasa doesn’t like tomatoes,” Sean said.

Edward clenched his fists in frustration. “Then don’t make them. I don’t care, but this is all we have. I will try to get more today, but I don’t have any control over what I find.”

“But—”

“Do whatever the hell you want, okay?”

Hazel put her head into the pantry. “Eddie, we’re almost out of Abadocil.”

“Then I’ll go get some more!” he shouted. He pushed past them, ignoring Hazel’s hurt expression. I can’t do this, he thought. I gotta get out of here.

Edward walked through the twilit streets towards the Crawfords’ house. They had moved the boxes of Abadocil there for convenience and to keep them safer from looters. He knocked on the door and Nikola answered.

“Hey. I need more Abadocil,” Edward said. “Just give me a case, so it’ll last a while.”

Nikola hesitated. “Eddie, we’ve decided not to give out any more.”

Edward looked hard at her. “What? To anyone?”

“No, just to those children staying in your house. We’re running low and it’s going to be gone soon.”

“So who decided that?”

“Noah and I. Listen, Eddie, I’ll give more for you, but we just can’t afford to give them all away, just like that.”

He stared at her until she looked away uncomfortably. “Why the children, Nikola? They only take half the dose an adult does. Are you stopping them for your children too?”

“No, just the ones in your house.”

“Just mine?” he shouted in disbelief.

“They’re not yours, Eddie,” she shot back. “If they were, we’d do something, but they’re not. They’re orphans. I don’t like it either—I hate it, but there’s nothing we can do. The truth is that if we use them all up, we could all die. It’s for the greater good.”

He continued to stare at her, too furious to speak. “Look,” she said. “All the Geiger counters are dead, but who knows? Maybe the radiation has decreased. Maybe they’ll be okay.”

“Maybe?” he shouted. He reached out and grabbed her by the throat, slamming her back against the door. “Maybe? Why don’t you stop the meds and see for yourself what maybe looks like, you scrygging cow?”

“Get your filthy hands off my wife, Eddie.” Edward turned and saw Noah just inside the door, pointing a hunting rifle at him. Edward let her go and she staggered back, gasping.

“This is what I’m going to do,” Edward said slowly. “I’m going to come in and take a case of Abadocil and I’m going to go home. Okay?”

“You don’t get to make the rules, Eddie,” Noah said. “You’re not the law.”

You’re not the law. The words echoed in Edward’s head. There was no law now. No law. It was an exhilarating, terrifying thought. He could do whatever he wanted, and so could anyone else.

“You’re wrong,” he said to Nikola, who was holding her throat and looking up at him with murder in her eyes. “When you said those children aren’t mine. They are mine now, and I’m going to do everything I can for them. Okay?”

Without warning, Edward grabbed the muzzle of the gun, thrusting it into the air. The rifle went off, shooting high. Edward smashed the stock back into Noah’s chest, knocking him down and wrenching the gun from his hands.

Five minutes later, Edward left, carrying the rifle and two cases of Abadocil. He had stuffed all the bullets he could find into his pockets. He strode down the road, cursing and kicking rocks furiously out of the way. He hated the Crawfords for trying to play God with his kids; he hated the Central Bloc for starting the war that ended civilization; he hated his own government for bungling negotiations and refusing to compromise on that small strip of land, which had ratcheted up tensions until there was no going back. He hated Ramya for dying and leaving him all alone, and he hated himself most of all: for losing his temper, for being weak and incompetent, and for thinking unfair thoughts about the dead. Tears started down his cheeks at the thought of Ramya and he hated them too.

Supper was ready when he got back. Sean and Portia had made a concoction of potatoes and sardines, mashed together and heated up, with tomatoes on the side in deference to Lalasa’s tastes. Edward had to admit it was pretty good, all things considered.

“Listen,” he said. They looked up at him expectantly. “I have medicine for all of us for a while. All of you have to take three pills a day, okay? No matter what. Make sure Ernesto takes his too. We have to hide it though because people might try to take it. I made some people mad today. Keep the doors locked all the time. Nobody—nobody except us ever comes in here, okay? Promise?”

He made them promise and the solemn looks on their faces showed him they understood the seriousness of the situation. He was glad.

“Now, there is a committee meeting tonight. I’d better go and make some things clear,” he said, standing up. “Lock the door and don’t worry; I’ll be back soon.”

The meeting had already started when he got there, but everyone stopped when he walked in. He carried Noah’s rifle, loaded, but held casually in one hand.

“What’s gotten into you, Eddie?” Kaine Bowlery asked. “Weren’t you the one that said this was about us, not you, and now you assault the Crawfords and steal medicine?” Noah was there, glowering darkly at him.

“Stealing?” Edward said. “I thought we were in this together. If one person refuses to help another, telling him that his kids can go die, is that any better?”

“Are you trying to be the boss, Eddie?” Kaine asked.

“I’m here to stick up for my own, and I’ll stick up for you too,” Edward said. “What if the Crawfords decide next week that there isn’t enough medicine for your family, Kaine? Or for you, Abdul? What if only the white people are allowed medicine, or only those whose last name is Crawford?”

A few people were nodding, but most looked doubtful. “We are going to have one rule in this town,” he continued. “Everything is free. Everything. It’s free for all. That means that if I have more than I need, then I’ll give to you, and if you have more than you need, you give to me. No hoarding.”

“You’ll never have more than you need with that gaggle of brats,” someone said. “It’ll just be you, taking and taking from the rest of us.”

“Hey, I took them in when none of you would. What can I do: I’m their Uncle Octopus.”

“More like a squid,” Noah said, “sticking your tentacles into everyone else’s business.”

“So a squid is worse than an octopus?” Edward asked, but no one answered. A few minutes later, he left and went home.

The next morning, Edward got up before sunrise and walked through the town, looking for untouched houses where he could scavenge for food. He walked past the main roundabout and saw a new message spray-painted under his:

It’s free f’r all, as long as you pay the Squid first.

For some reason, it amused him and he laughed as he continued on his way.

(to be concluded)


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