Tag Archives: post apocalyptic

Requiem in Amber

Requiem in Amber

Walk to the grey city at the edge of the long-dry sea, past the corpses of ancient architecture.

Go to the center where it all ended, the gothic hall where that otherworldly bomb landed, obliterating everyone, leaving everything.

Sit anywhere you like—you’re the only audience today. Maybe ever.

Listen to the orchestra playing in their bubble of time, like music trapped in amber. They endlessly loop the 122 minutes before the bomb, unaware of the dead world outside. Odd how that happened.

Close your eyes.

Relax.

If you fall asleep, you can hear it all again in two hours.


Sacrifices to the Monster

Happy Canada Day everyone! I’m sorry I’ve been away so much in the last few weeks and this week isn’t any better. I’ll be gone for most of the remainder of the week, totally beyond the range of Internet access. However, I’ll try to read as many as I can when I get back.

copyright Jean L. Hays

copyright Jean L. Hays

Sacrifices to the Monster

A few feeble cries still came from the sweltering trunks of the half-buried wrecks. As the sun set, the cars descended on a platform into the earth, moving silently on well-oiled gears.

When it stopped, an old man approached and unlocked the trunks. He pulled out the sacrifice victims, all young men and women as he had demanded.

He gave them food and water.

“They said you were a monster,” one croaked. “That you would eat us.”

“They are barbarians,” the man said. “Live down here with me until we have enough. Then we will ascend and retake our land.”

 


Courage at the End – Friday Fictioneers

This is my 100th Friday Fictioneers story, which means that I’ve written 10,000 words since I’ve started the Friday Fictioneers. Here’s to 10,000 more. Also, those of you who got here through the Friday Fictioneers portal saw that I have a new icon, different from my normal Delta Sigma one. This signals new things to come. More details to come later.

GWT logo

copyright Melanie Greenwood

copyright Melanie Greenwood

Courage at the End

The couple sat with the vaccine lying between them.

“You take it,” the woman said.

“Then you and the baby will die. Let the baby have it.”

“But if we die, who will care for him?”

“We have to do something soon.”

They sat there silently, as time slipped away.

*        *        *

“That’s it?” the professor asked.

“It’s up to the reader how it ends,” the student said.

“Are you kidding me? You can’t be timid as a writer! Choose an ending and stand behind it.”

“Fine, they give it to the baby.”

“The baby? That was the stupidest choice! You fail.”

 


Beating Swords into Saxophones – Friday Fictioneers

Beating Swords into Saxophones

The Earth was snoozing peacefully—the sunny Sunday afternoon of history—when the aliens came to prod through what remained of human civilization, oohing and ahhing in incomprehension over our ruined cities and quaintly antique technology.

They found our weapon caches delightful. The casing of a Minuteman made a pleasant booming when hit with the butt of an M-16 and .50 bullets strung up on trip wire cable laughed and sang as they tinkled together in the wind.

Then one poked at a landmine, with explosive results. “Save that for the concert,” the leader said. “That’ll be the grand finale.”


The Strangemans (Part 2)

This is an Aftermath story. In the previous part of the story, Damian and his friend Nikolai find shelter in a ruined house in the post-apocalyptic wasteland outside Ipswich. They meet a deformed woman who gives them food and shelter.

wasteland

“Do you live here by yourself?” Damian asked.

“No, there are several of us, but they will not show themselves yet,” she said. “We are the Strangemans.”

“The Strangemen?” Nikolai asked.

“Strangemans,” she corrected, smiling with yellowed fangs. “For changed people like us, even the language must change. We are men no longer, or women. But where are you coming from, and where are you going?”

“We came from Ipswich,” Damian said. “I—I don’t know where we are going though.”

“You are not the first to run away from that place, although most who flee thoughtlessly out here die quickly. It was fortunate you came across our house. I will give you a choice. If you wish, you may become one of us. You will have food and shelter, and more importantly, allies. Or you may leave. We will give you some food to take with you if you choose.

“How many of you are there?” Damian asked.

“Several,” she said again. “The witchers—raiders from Ipswich—hunt us if they find us, so we never tell our number or faces to outsiders. I’m am an ambassador of sorts. You may think about it, if you wish.”

“I will join you,” Damian said immediately.

“Me too,” Nikolai said. He eyed the empty bowl in front of him.

“Are you sure?” she said. “There is a sort of test to join us, but it is quick.”

“I’m sure,” Damian said, looking up into her eyes. He trusted her eyes.

“Very well.” She took his left hand, caressed it and then brought it to her mouth as if to kiss it. The next moment she bit down hard at the first joint of his pinky finger.

Damian screamed and jerked his hand back, but it was done. The woman pulled the tip of his finger out of her mouth, dirty nail and all, and placed it in his trembling right hand.

“Why? Why—” His voice shook from physical and mental shock.

“In a moment,” she said. “We must stop the bleeding.” She bandaged his finger with the care of a mother and then kissed it, as if in benediction.

“There is one more step,” she said. “Now throw it into the fire over there and you will be one of us.” Damian looked down at the tiny bit of bloodied flesh in his hand. Apart from him, it was nothing but a foreign object. He threw it in the fire.

“Now you have given part of yourself to us forever,” the woman said. “And we will protect you with our lives as well.” She held up her left hand and Damian saw the tip of her last finger was missing as well. “Welcome to the Strangemans.”

She turned to Nikolai, but the other boy had backed against the wall, his whole body shaking. “You are next, if you would like,” the woman said.

“No, no! I can’t,” he said. The tears were pouring down his face. “There has to be another way.”

“There is no other way,” she said. “Life out here is no game. If you cannot give of yourself, we cannot give ourselves to you. It is quickly done and the benefits are for a lifetime.”

“Damian! Damian, help me!” Nikolai cried. There was desperation in his voice and Damian understood the crushing dilemma he was in, wanting to belong, but not daring to go through with it. And Damian could not save him, not like he had from the butcher of Ipswich. Only Nikolai could decide. Damian wondered what he would have done if he had known what was coming and how unfair it was for Nikolai to know.

“Be at peace,” the woman said. “You may stay here another day or two at most, unless you decide to join us before then. For right now though, you must stay here.” She turned to Damian. “As for you, newest Strangeman, come meet your brothers and sisters.”


The Strangemans

This is an Aftermath story. In the previous story, the Butcher of Ipswich, Damian rescues his friend Nikolai from a butcher who is about to kill him. Due to stress and fear, Damian enters an altered state where he moves faster and is much stronger, but also totally deaf. He escapes the post-apocalyptic city of Ipswich and runs off into the dark, nighttime wasteland.

wasteland

The dark, putrid wasteland echoed with screams and weird cries but Damian heard none of them as he ran, carrying his friend Nikolai in his arms. He had no destination and no plan, except to get as far away as he could from the depraved city of Ipswich. It seemed like almost no time had passed when the sun rose behind him and his shadow—a dark, sickly skeleton—leaped out in front of him. It was only a moment or two before he could feel the sun’s terrible rays burning into his skin, sending up tiny blisters. It didn’t hurt, but some part of his brain beneath the preternatural fog that covered his mind knew he had to get out of the sun immediately.

He was in a narrow lane with ruined houses on both sides. He ducked into the closest house on the left, the only one with an intact roof and dropped Nikolai to the dusty kitchen floor. Damian was still deaf—whatever power had seized him in Ipswich when he had snatched Nikolai from the terrible butcher’s table and fled had also plunged him into a silent world of his own. He would be worried later; for now the lack of screams and cries of pain that had filled every day of his life were absent and he walked in a sort of aural Nirvana.

Nikolai was still unconscious. Damian looked at him and then, in a sudden decision, lay down next to him and went instantly to sleep.

He woke and found himself gazing up into the kindly face of a monster. It was, or had been, a woman, but now her face was swollen and tumorous and her teeth were yellow and sharp. But her eyes were kind and she when she mouthed unheard words to him, he felt strangely reassured. She held a cup up for him to drink and then gave him some food. It was plain stuff but far better than he was used to. After a few minutes, he fell asleep again.

When he awoke again, it was dark and the first thing he noticed was the crackle of a fire. It was indistinct, but his hearing was returning. Nikolai was up as well and eating. “Hello,” he said, when he saw Damian. “Where are we?”

“I don’t know,” Damian said. He would have thought it was all a dream, except they were definitely not in Ipswich anymore.

“What is your name?” the monstrous woman asked, coming over to Damian. She held out a bowl of food for him, which he eagerly accepted.

“Damian,” he said. “I could not hear you before. My ears— but it’s okay now.” Despite his upbringing as a fugitive and her hideous appearance, he found himself trusting the woman. “Do you live here by yourself?”

“No, there are several of us, but they will not show themselves yet,” she said. “We are the Strangemans.”

(To be continued tomorrow. Don’t miss it!)


The Butcher of Ipswich

After a long, long time, Aftermath is back! For those who don’t know what it is, Aftermath is a post-apocalyptic world set in England. The original stories were centered around a character name Edward “the Squid” Morrison, who was a pretty bad guy but who was on a quest to find music and other artifacts from the former world. On his journey he found an unconscious boy whom he named Sean. Even when the boy awoke, he didn’t speak, although in the last story that I wrote, he found out that the boy’s name was Damian. This is Damian’s backstory.

Aftermath

The city of Ipswich was dark and it stank. The whole world stank now, but the city had a concentrated stench of years of piled and rotting waste. During the summer days, the unforgiving sun baked the waste to a hard crust that only the fat, evil flies could find any nourishment from, but still it reeked. Damian was used to it all by now. He had been born into that den of villains and pirates and raised on its merciless streets. He knew where to hide during the day and where to find food each night, away from the slavers and pimps and meatmen.

He was sitting in his nest of rags and scraps between the two steam pipes. Nikolai had not returned yet. Nikolai was his—friend? What that the right word? They didn’t talk or hunt for food together, but they didn’t fight either. They spend the long days together, sleeping with their backs pressed together, but then, when the blistering orb of fire sunk below the horizon, they went their separates ways and hunted their own food. Maybe that meant they were friends.

The night had been productive. He had grabbed a handful of b-meat off a truck and ducked down into a drain before the driver could chase him. All meat was separated into three categories. A-meat, the kind that came from cows and pigs and other legendary animals, was unheard of these days. If there were still such animals left in the world, they could not live in the blighted wasteland around Ipswich. B-meat was mostly seafood, with some bird thrown in when someone got lucky. C-meat was the rest: rats, snakes, irradiated mutants from the darkness beyond the city, and worse. It was sold ground up and mixed together so the customer never knew what, or who, it came from. There was high demand for all types of meat, but Damian never touched c-meat. Beggars couldn’t be choosers, but thieves who were good at their trade could be as selective as they wished.

Damian heard running footsteps approaching. He peered into the darkness, trying to pick out if it was Nikolai. Suddenly, Nikolai’s running form was backlit by a powerful spotlight. He was almost to the entrance to the steampipes when something like a metallic whip wrapped around him and dragged him away, screaming. Damian pulled himself back into the shadows behind the pipes. There were many groups that routinely hunted down street children, and the difference between them was only like the varying levels of Hell.

The spotlight was gone now, Nikolai’s screams were muffled and then suddenly cut off. He was dead, probably, beyond Damian’s help or anyone else’s but still, Damian found himself creeping out of his hole and tiptoeing to the head of the alley. It was still hours until dawn but from the dim lights of neighboring buildings, Damian could see a handcart being pulled away by two men. He followed silently. There was nowhere good they could be going but still, his heart sank when they turned into the reeking, fetid alley behind the meat market.

Just go back, his mind screamed at him. Nikolai was dead anyway, or soon would be. But he was a friend, or the closest Damian had ever had to one.
The cart stopped outside a shop and he saw the men carry Nikolai through the door and then leave. A pair of men wearing blood-stained aprons and swinging cleavers walked past and Damian shrank down into the shadows. When they had passed, he went to the door. It was bolted with a latch on the inside, but he slipped his homemade knife through the crack in the door and a moment later it opened.

There was Nikolai, lying motionless on a table. There was no one else around, but he could hear voices coming from an adjacent room. He stepped inside. Nikolai was still breathing but blood was coming from a gash on the side of his head. The blood was warm and sticky and seeped through Damian’s fingers as he pressed his hand to his friend’s head. Nikolai moaned a little and his eyes flickered open. “Come on, we gotta scurry,” Damian whispered. “Can you stand?” He put his hands behind Nikolai’s back and helped him sit up.

“Put him back, boy.” Damian looked up to see a tall man wearing a butcher’s apron standing in the inner door. “Put him back and I’ll let you go, but I already paid for him.”

“He’s my friend,” Damian said. There was no way out. Nikolai’s eyes had closed again as he sat. “I’ll get you someone else.”

The butcher sighed. “It’s not worth it to me, plus I don’t believe you.”

“I’ll find you a hundred more. Please, please.”

“I’ll give you five seconds to get out of here before I take you too.” The butcher picked up a cleaver to punctuate his words.

Damian could feel the rage and the fear coursing through him, urging him to act. It was a feeling he had felt before in dangerous situations and the raw, wild feel of it had always scared him and he froze. The butcher gave a little shrug and moved towards him. The feeling building in Damian reached a fever-pitch and suddenly pain exploded in his head, so severe that he cried out. It felt like his head was going to burst. And then, just as suddenly, it ended and the world descended into silence. The butcher continued towards him in slow motion. Damian took a step towards him and hit him in the chest and the huge man flew back and crashed silently through the wall.

It was like a dream. Damian picked up Nikolai and walked outside. He started running, still carrying his unconscious friend. He weaved his way between people, all of whom seemed to be moving in molasses. Now he was just running, with no thought to where he was going. He saw the outer gate of the city, open to its normal night traffic. Two guards stepped into his path, but they went flying as he barreled effortlessly through them. Then he was outside the city, where he had never been before, running heedlessly into the cursed wasteland. Behind him, there may have been shouts or sirens or sounds of pursuit, but he did not hear them and he did not care.


My Ancestors’ Cell Phone

The cell phone was the most important relic of the tribe. We did not know when it was originally made, but it had been passed down through the generations, each taking care of it, replacing its parts, memorizing and passing on its secrets.

cell phone

The current cell phone case had been made by my uncle, after the former case had been shattered in a moose hunt. He had melted down plastic and cast it in the precise dimensions. It was waterproofed with rubber seals in case it fell in the water or got wet. Each of us had our task in keeping it going. Mine was the batteries.

“I think we are going to need a new battery soon,” Hadrian told me. He was my cousin, in charge of maintaining and repairing the solar panels that charged our batteries. The current battery was getting less than an hour of use per charge.

“I will need to make a journey,” I said. “The necessary materials are far away.”

The next day, I set out, taking only my spear and a skin bag of food and tools I would need. It was a three-week walk to the mineral spring my grandfather had shown me, where the precious salts crusted along the outflow. I collected what I needed and then began the long process of heating and refining, then more refining. I took special rocks from my bag and crushed them, heating, mixing, siphoning, all in the precise order that I learned from my grandfather and that he learned from his father long ago: The Way of Making the Battery.

I stayed at the mineral spring for a week, preparing everything in sequence. It was exacting work, working with the fine tools my great-uncle had made, and working under a magnifying glass that had been hand ground generations before. When all was complete, I assembled the components in a battery case that my brother Yocub had made, and set off back to camp. My path crossed the lands of the Tensheein, and a band of their warriors stopped me, demanding tribute. I gave them some of my food, but when they learned why I was traveling, they let me go. Missions of teknoji were sacred.

When I got back, Hadrian and I tested the new battery, charging it with the solar panels. There was a small flaw inside it and it did not hold charge, so I had to take it apart and remake it. A week later, we tried again and this time the charge lasted up to eight hours: a very successful battery.

My father wanted to call a neighboring tribe with whom we hunted every fall, but the wind had died and he had to wait another day so that the wind could power the tower on the hill and transmit the signal. They talked for fifteen minutes, arranging to meet at Black Cross a week later.

That night, we sat around the fire, listening to my sister code. She had been creating an app that would pick out the locations of nearby animals by their calls. She had been working on it for almost a year, writing it on the phone itself on an application written by our great-great grandmother. As she worked, she sang the lines of code aloud, each of us listening, learning, checking her work.

campfire

The Song of the Code echoed in my head as we all lay down in the great tent for sleep. It was like us, I thought. Each line nothing in itself, but working together, each with its own purpose, it could make something great. Without my battery, the cell phone was nothing. Without the solar panels, or the case, or the microphone, or the delicate camera optics, the cell phone would not function as it should. Each part and person working in perfect unison.


Cartman – Friday Fictioneers

copyright Janet Webb

copyright Janet Webb

Cartman

Ross polished the bars of the shopping cart until they shone. He had status now and he had to act accordingly.

After Boom-day, when gasoline ran out, bicycles were big. But as tires cracked and chains broke, they were discarded. Now, the man with a shopping cart was king.

Ross overtook Jenks on Broadway, carrying a huge load on his back. Ross nodded officiously; Jenks sneered.

“So high and mighty with your cart, aren’t you? But that front wheel is wobbling pretty bad. How long until you’re like me?”

Never, Ross thought. He was somebody now. He couldn’t go back.

 


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.”


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