By Patrick M. Tracy
(Thanks to Craig Lloyd, who gave me the idea for this one, and a sweet line of dialog.)
Andrea leaned against the wide windowsill of the capital building and looked down into the square. In the distance, fire was consuming the outlying districts of the city. “You know what gets me?”
Vincent came to her, putting his hands on her shoulders. She leaned back against his chest, her dark hair cascading against him. A few weeks before, she’d been a high-powered young lawyer, on the fast track to big money and a mansion on the hill. He’d been janitor, barely making the rent and alimony payments. He thought about how the world could lose, and yet he could win. Strange thing. “What gets you, hon?”
“They still feed the dead.”
Vincent looked down. He’d been trying not to all day. The blank-eyed hundreds stood very still, waiting for their turn at the soup line. They would step up, hold out their tin cup, and walk away with their vegetable beef, sipping slowly. Some of them, far gone already, shambled like the old horror movies suggested they would. If they dropped their cup, chances were they’d soon slump down and start to rot.
“It’s that or fight them, Dre. We already saw how that went. We’ve got the guns, but they’ve got the numbers. I just hope we don’t run out of vittles before they cull down to a reasonable number.”
“Do you look at their faces, Vin? Can you?” She turned around and held him tight, burying her face beneath his chin.
“Yeah. I do, but I don’t like it. I don’t like seeing people I used to know. I know that whatever was Dave Jenkins in real life—he’s gone, but something is still walking around in his skin.”
“The radio guy said that maybe only one in a hundred people survived the flashover. He said that there’s no rhyme or reason for why one person zombied up and another was fine and another just turned to ash. How could that be?”
Vincent shook his head and kissed her on top of the head. “Don’t know. No one does. Much as we study some things, I don’t think we’re big enough to see all the way around them.”
“When they’re gone, do you think it’ll be over then?”
“Could be. I hope it’s not just the beginning. One thing’s for sure. The planet’ll be happy to shake the dust of us off its back.”
“There you go with your silver lining again, Vin.”
“I’m a naturally positive guy. What can I say?”
“You can…” Andrea started. A commotion rose up out of the capital’s front lawn. Screaming. Gunfire.
“Come on, hon. Looks like it’s back to fighting.” Vincent picked up his Mossberg shotgun and two boxes of ammunition. Andrea turned pale, sweat popping on her forehead. She lifted the MAC 10 from the desk that had belonged to the governor and slipped a magazine into its grip.
“The sound’ll bring them up the hill, you know. We’ll be fighting them all afternoon now.”
Vincent smiled. “Don’t pout, sweetie. We’re all janitors now. Someone made a big mess, and we have to clean it up.”