Kenneth James Crist
backpack and keeping to the shadows and doorways, I move up the street, toward
the setting sun. The sun is up there. I know it is, even though I haven’t seen
it in a year. The cloud cover keeps it hidden and also keeps it cold here in
the city all the time.
The trees and
everything else in the plant kingdom are now dead, never having enough sunlight
to survive. Animals that lived on plants are mostly gone now, too. Some
predators survive and, of course, rats. Rats and cats. Rats because they are om
. . . let me look it up . . . the dictionary I found is in my backpack. Here it
is . . . omnivorous. It means they can pretty much eat anything. Cats survive
because they can catch rats.
Back to the sun
and its problems. Late in the day, the cloud cover will turn orange, and I know
it will soon get dark. Then it’s time to get barricaded in somewhere, before
the monsters come out.
The monsters are
just like anyone else, except things have gone wrong in their heads, and the
food has just about run out, now. The monsters will eat humans, if they can
find any. I once saw four of them, roasting a gutted human fetus over an oil
drum fire. I once also thought they could be helped. Now I know the best thing
for them is my crossbow. I use it because I never liked guns, and gunshots will
bring the monsters.
I’m not very
big. Maybe a little small for a fifteen-year-old girl. I know I’m
undernourished, and sometimes I don’t get my period at all, for months at a
time. I just started getting boobs last year. I know if I don’t get barricaded
inside at night, they’ll find me, and I’ll be raped, and probably killed and
eaten. But that’s the reality of the world.
I’m sure there
are others like me, somewhere, but I haven’t seen any, and the presence of the
monsters makes me distrustful. How do we define normal, anyway, after six
nuclear exchanges, nuclear winter, and lives shortened drastically by
I call myself Nome.
Because I can no longer remember my name. Or my parents. Or where I lived.
There is little I do remember of the old time. I remember my dog, Pete. He was
a black Lab. The dogs died early, when the war started. Dogs sniff everything,
so most all of them picked up a lethal dose right off the ground. Bald,
bleeding dogs dropping all over the place. I remember petting Pete as he was
dying, and his fur coming out in wads, sticking to my hands. When Pete died,
that was the last time I cried.
I’m good for
tonight. I found an apartment this morning that had hardly been looted at all.
I’ve got my backpack filled with canned stuff, and I hid a bunch more. I never
go back to a store or apartment once I’ve been there and made it out alive.
Sometimes monsters set traps for people like me, baited with food or other
things needed for survival. My crossbow has saved me three times, when I wasn’t
now. I go inside a building that looks like it was once a bank. Desiccated
bodies still behind the counters in the tellers’ cages. Vault standing open.
Money scattered like so much trash. Worthless in this new world we created.
Maybe I’ll sleep in the vault tonight. If the time lock still works, I can set
it for eight hours or so and get some good sleep for a change.
Outside, I hear
a sound so out of place, I move carefully to the door and listen, then,
fascinated, I move out to the street. Above the cloud cover, I can hear bells.
Tiny, jingling bells.
Hastily, I dig
into my backpack and find my calendar. I have been marking off the days, but I
may have missed a few. But I’m pretty sure it’s December 25th. The
bells are fading now, moving away.
In spite of
everything, I think that may be the loneliest sound I’ve ever heard. . . .
Kenneth James Crist is a tired, broken-down old motorcycle cop
from Wichita, Kansas. He began writing a novel in 1994 as keyboard practice and
has since written four more novels, several novellas and a butt-load of short
stories. His publications have been seen in Bewildering Stories,
Tales of the Talisman, A Twist of Noir, A Shot of Ink, Eaten Alive, The New
Flesh, The Sink, The Edge, Skin and Bones, and
Kudzu Monthly, to name
Recently, he appeared in two of John Thompson’s anthologies at Hardboiled. They are Hardboiled, and The Undead War, both available at
Dead Guns Press on Amazon.com
He also has four books up in Kindle
format, for sale on Amazon.com: Dreaming
of Mirages, The Gazing Ball, Joshua, and Groaning for Burial, his latest zombie
Having turned 73 last June, he still rides his big Harley
every day that weather permits and is now officially “retired”. He also
operates Fossil Publications, publisher of Black Petals and Yellow Mama.