Horror Science Fiction near-future apocalyptic supernatural short story zombies

The Adventures of Zombiegirl

By Garrett Croker
Jul 20, 2018 · 5,805 words · 22 minutes

Aimless wander in the falling snow

Photo by Warren Wong via Unsplash.

From the author: Following the initial chaos of the zombie apocalypse, the living have resettled wherever it is too warm or cold for the undead to decompose in comfort. Latisha James is a member of a new trans-national community, rediscovering hope in a world that stopped just short of having none. In this new world, even a trip to the grocery store can be a hazard, but Latisha and her found family still find ways to live their everyday lives. Even when things go wrong.

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Note: If you're listening to the audio version, the story starts around 01:08:30.

I almost didn’t notice the knocks with my buds in, the President’s Final Address playing on my laptop again. It was a really good speech, all about the length of the battle ahead and triumph in our history’s bleakest hours and the need for hope to survive the days ahead, about all the good people of the world living together, and I’d probably watched it a hundred times before. I still wore my “Living Together” T-shirt, those words emblazoned across the front with a cheap and badly peeled iron-on. It was silly, but all of it still gave me hope. The speeches, the T-shirts, the slogans and jingles. All of it.

The president had an idiosyncratic way of pausing when he spoke, like he was trying to live in the spots between the beats. Every time you weren’t ready for it a word popped in your ear like a blow to the head, and every time you expected a sentence to land hard it dropped clear away instead. It kept you from falling into a rhythm and tuning him out. It kept you paying attention. It was during one of these challenging silences that I heard the knocks.

I dialed the sound on the video down and turned slowly toward the shuttered window. They sounded again, small quick taps, alive and from a different direction: behind my door and not against the window at all. I relaxed, taking my buds out to pause the video and dropping them into the little desk drawer I used to keep the things I didn’t want to lose. The guitar pick Tommy gave me when he still thought I’d learn to play and we could start a brother-sister rock band. The pin Chief got me when I made five years in the firehouse. The first tooth I ever lost, which somehow I still haven’t managed to lose. My buds clacked against these as I shut the drawer.

Cassie and Paul rushed into my room before I had the door halfway open.

“Auntie Tisha! Auntie Tisha! Is it time yet?” I don’t know if anyone ever explained how twins learn to say the exact same thing at the exact same time so often. Paul couldn’t stand it.

“I told you to stop copying me,” he spat, pushing his sister. She pushed him back harder and stuck her tongue out.

“I’ll tune you out if I have to,” I said, a threat they knew I was good for.

With sound integration installed in my buds I could, in fact, literally tune them out. SI was noise cancellation’s rebellious twin sister, an app that broke any surrounding noise down into its composite notes and rhythms and used them to compose music. I never used noise cancellation if I could help it. Silence creeped me out. SI was the kind of thing that seemed like it shouldn’t work, but even when the compositions weren’t good they were always at least interesting, so I liked it. More importantly, with a bud in each ear and a tiny little voice command I could effectively ignore the twins for as long as I wanted. And they knew it.

Paul and Cassie shut up, simultaneously, and stared their question into the back of my head. It was super market day. They’d been stuck inside for most of the week and were willing to do just about anything — even cooperate! even grocery shop! — just to get out of the house.

I rolled my eyes and checked the outdoor thermometer: 44 degrees at 8:30 p.m. This had been an unseasonably warm summer, and it was not cold enough to go outside with children yet. The corpses out there wouldn’t be proper popsicles yet. Soon, though.

“Go help your mom with the dishes and I’ll start getting our packs ready,” I said. It would be a half hour before they were done fighting with Rhea over who got to wash and who got to dry and whether this was clean enough or that was dry enough, and by then it would be safe outside. The twins practically skipped away, the door slamming behind them.

Rhea was the only other American living in the house. I don’t know how she made it through those early years on her own, carting two toddlers around from zone to zone with nothing but her wheelchair and her comically oversized purse to get them where they were going. It was Rhea who got me into the house, already full between Hitomi, Maxi, Themba, herself and the kids. With a biologist, a novelist, and a chemist all together under one roof, leave it up to the stay-at-home mom to figure out how to make the food fit into one more mouth without anybody going hungry.

I would do anything for Rhea and her kids.

There was another knock at the door. “Give me a break, you brats. I said to help your mom first. Now go—” Another knock. Oh. Not small. Not quick. Not at the door.

Not alive.

I turned the lock to keep anyone else out, stepped to the window, and pressed the button to open the heavy shutters. They slid open with a light electric sound. It’s possible to make shutters that don’t make those sounds, but they never sell. Like I said, silence is creepy.

The fist came down hard against the reinforced glass again, leaving a clammy red-brown smudge behind.

Sometimes you saw corpses that used to be people you knew. It seemed improbable — a whole world of corpses and pretty much the whole living population stuck in the hot and cold zones — but there they were. The prom queen from your Hollywood high school who happened to be visiting family in Alaska when she died. Watching her stumble around, you chuckled that she was no less dim-witted than before. But that was just a prom queen joke. Stacy was salutatorian of your class. Then one day you saw the douchebag who took two weeks off every summer, right when work was busiest, barely recognizable beneath the decay. How he made it so many miles just to find you, you’ll never know, but that was definitely his yin-yang neck tattoo covering up a long-faded burn scar. You looked at where his nose used to be and called it an improvement. You drove the point of a shattered baseball bat through his skull and walked away.

The one in the window was a textbook popsicle, perfectly preserved by the cold. It could have been Tommy, almost. It moved its head around like a raptor to track my movement, eyes never turning in their sockets, but that was a corpse thing and I was used to it. I leaned in. Beneath the blue tint to the skin and the vacant eyes and the predatory posture was a 25-year-old boy. Handsome. Black. Not particularly athletic. There were small depressions on its nose where a cheap pair of glasses must have rested for years.

Tommy wanted to be a firefighter, too, as long as drumming wasn’t going to work out.

Bang. The fist again, and another red-brown smudge.

There’s a lot that we don’t understand about them. They don’t make any kind of scientific sense when you get down to it. I had a theory once that fine muscle function was lost in the dead, that controlling the eyes or speaking in more than grunts or groans took too much motor control for their frayed nervous systems. But I’ve seen their fingers dancing in the chest cavities of their victims, like Mozart on a good day. I’ve watched them take the careful, precise steps that allow them to walk without making a single, solitary sound. They can do the most remarkable things with the tatters of their bodies, but they don’t move their eyes when they want to look at you.

I flipped the shutters closed, enjoying that light electric sound, and pulled my buds back out of the drawer to get to work. With SI on, the knocking at the window transformed into something slow and elegiac and beautiful, with just the smallest hint of a string accompanying the percussive freestyle. I could feel Tommy in my heart with his drumsticks, playing along.

I grabbed a couple of layers, a thermal, a heat jacket, gloves, and snowpants, and switched out of my T-shirt and shorts. I opened up my pack and double-checked the contents: A flashlight, a whistle, a set of emergency buds and rations, a hot water bottle, a first aid kit, and a long hunting knife. I glanced over at the thermometer, which showed 39 degrees, and got the twins’ packs ready. “Save composition,” I said, and switched my buds off.

“Cassie!” I called out, pulling the door open and stepping into the hall. “Where are your buds?” Hitomi walked by on her way to the bathroom and smiled at me, a polite, pleasant smile. She was wearing a T-shirt covered in Japanese characters, but she refused to tell me what they meant. “It is like your shirt,” she would say when I asked. “Only not as clever.”

Rhea’s oversized purse jangled from the kitchen, followed by the rush of small feet attached to small legs. The twins were grinning, each with one hand deep in a pocket clutching the cash I knew Rhea had given them.

“Auntie Tisha, Mommy says we can get candy at the store,” Paul said. “I’m going to get two chocolate bars!”

“No you are not,” Cassie said, literally putting her foot down. “Mommy said we could each get one candy.”

“And she gave us each enough for two. I can get two candies and give one to Auntie Tisha.”

“Then I’m going to get two candies and give one to Mommy.”


“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“Neither one of you are going to get anything unless we find Cassie’s buds,” I cut in, and they stopped fighting immediately. I’d like to say the kids were obnoxious when they fought, but it was always so easy to get them working together again. I thought about how much had to be lost to get the world working together like that, and I loved those kids for stepping in line over a pair of earbuds we could replace for $20 or a favor if we had to.

I went about overturning couch cushions and thought about what it meant, “Living Together.” Coming together, living together, isn’t what saved us. Everyone who made it through the early years knows that. The hot and cold zones saved us, because of what they do to corpse bodies. A digital network that was too well-automated for something as small as a global apocalypse to knock it out saved us. Unity was only an unexpected consequence.

I spent two years worrying about how bad would it have to get before the state decided I was more valuable to the species as a uterus, how soon I’d be living in a video game hellscape where surviving meant shooting the heads off of the living. I never had to find out. I became a member of a new community, a sister in the new state. And it didn’t matter that unity had so little to do with our survival. It only mattered that we were united.

The President gave a speech about that, too. For once in our history, he said, we could see the true monsters, and there was no mistaking them for ourselves. That was also a really good speech, but not T-shirt good.

Reaching under a recliner, I felt the familiar form of a bud. I lifted it to my ear experimentally and heard: “... nicht interessiert zu sein. Du solltest sie einfach vergessen und hoffen, dass jemand anders...”

I listened a few seconds longer than I should have. Maxi can never seem to keep his buds together, and every now and then everyone in the house has had the privilege of finding one of them and getting to listen in on his calls home. I knew just enough German to know this conversation wasn’t for me. If Maxi wanted to pine over Rhea and his unrequited love all night, that was none of my business.

“Maxi!” I marched into his room, making sure he could hear me coming. “If you don’t want me to hear you phoning your mom about your love life, stop mixing your buds up with other people.” He looked bewildered underneath his “Ziel für den Kopf” cap, his face bright red and puffed up like a balloon, his words flip-flopping between English and German the way they always did when he was embarrassed.

Maxi was the only one of us who really used his buds for phoning, because he was the only one of us who really had any family left. When it happened his parents were already at the equator, checking out retirement spots in Brazil. That, and a lot of extra good luck, got them through. I should have been jealous, but I liked that he could still call home. It gave me hope for the rest of us to see families like his surviving.

“One of the buds you’re wearing is Cassie’s,” I said. “I’m taking the kids out, so I need you to figure out which one it is and give it to me.”

He fumbled with his ears and handed me the bud, mumbling some more Germlish behind me as I called out to the twins. We would have to find her other bud later.

We did our final check before leaving the house, making sure the kids had their whistles around their necks and their buds in one of their security pockets, and then calling the market to check traffic along the routes. Jim let me know routes 3 and 4 had some clogs, but route 1 looked clear enough.

I picked up the defense club we kept in what passed for a foyer and hit the control for the door, which creaked artificially as it opened. Motioning for the twins to wait, I made a quick sweep of the house’s perimeter. If a corpse was hiding out close to a building, sitting in a warm spot, it could surprise the hell out of you.

All I found was the one from my window, limping stiffly around the edge of the house. The slow crunch of its footsteps was actually reassuring. If the corpse wasn’t frozen mostly solid, I wouldn’t be able to hear those footsteps.

“All clear,” I said, stepping back inside and hooking the club to my belt. “Rhea, it might be cold enough for Themba to get back from the community center tonight. If you see him while we’re out let him know he can call and we’ll pick up whatever he needs.”

Rhea nodded and watched us out.

It was a ten-minute walk to the store on my own, and a few minutes longer with the kids. Cassie’s teeth began to chatter almost as soon as we stepped outside. It’s strange. No matter how long I lived with the snow and the wind, rain always made me feel coldest. We didn’t get snow back in LA, so a cold night for Tommy and me always meant rain. We would wrap ourselves in blankets in front of the fireplace and bicker about things.

A few more corpses with cold feet straggled along the side of the path nearby, their heads turning in our direction, their feet crunching along as we passed. Over my shoulder, I could see the one from my window following us. The cleanup teams would be out in a few hours to bludgeon and dispose of as many as they could before sunrise, but there were always more. There had been a lot of people in the world before it ended.

“Auntie Tisha,” Cassie said, walking close enough to trip me. “What were you watching before?”

I reached down and patted her head. “I was watching the President’s old speeches.”


“Because they’re important, and I like them.”

“Bo-ring,” Paul chimed in. “He’s not even alive anymore.”

“Can we watch cartoons on your computer when we get back?” Cassie asked, ignoring her brother for once.

“Is the TV broken again?”

“No, I just want to watch on your computer.”

I looked down at Cassie and followed her little eyes from corpse to corpse. It wasn’t fair. All she wanted to do all the time was get out of the house, and when she did the world was so frightening she wanted to get back inside as quickly as possible. She told me once that every corpse she sees looks like her daddy, even the girl ones. There was no way she could remember her father. He was dead before she turned two. And yet.

“Okay,” I said, still patting her head. “We’ll watch cartoons when we get back.”

A low groan sounded from behind us.

“Last one to the store is a rotten egg,” I said, and the kids were off.

I was breathless with the cold air when we got there, Cassie celebrating. “I won! I won! Paul’s a stinky egg! Paul’s a stinky egg!” I smiled and winked at Paul before taking off my glove. Paul was a much better runner than Cassie was.

The heat reactive pad glowed under my hand and the door to the store slid open with a hiss. The three of us rushed inside, into the light, into the warmth. After a moment, I shooed the kids away to the candy aisle and went about my business.

“Jim,” I said to the clerk, “Can you hold a standard essentials kit at the register for me? I’m going to browse for non-esses. Oh, and route 1 is crawling. Who the hell told you it was clear?”

“I didn’t say they weren’t out there,” Jim said defensively. “I said the route was clear enough. It’s bad everywhere tonight. Can’t be helped. Got here safe, didn’t you?”

“Just get the ess-kit together,” I said.

The combination of the president’s speech, the energy of the kids, the corpse at my window, and the crunching that had followed us all the way to the store had me in a weird mood. I try not to linger too much on the past because it doesn’t do any good, but I was really missing the way things used to be. In the old world, Cassie would be afraid of the dark, not the warmth of the sun. In the old world, Tommy was preparing for his firefighter’s exam and I was making breakfast at the firehouse every morning while talking to the guys about his chances. I only knew how to make pancakes until Chief got up early one morning to show me how to make crepes.

I wanted to do something for the house, and before I knew it my basket was filled with enough flour, eggs, milk, and butter to manage an old firehouse breakfast. Just looking at the ingredients made me happy, hopeful.

The twins found me in produce, sorting through boxes of bruised strawberries.

“Auntie Tisha,” Paul said, his hands behind his back. “Can Cassie and I get something extra please?” He was being extra polite and practically hopped when I didn’t even wait before saying yes. He whipped out the comic book he had been holding behind his back and waved it around. I had to hold his arm in place just to see what it was, though I should have guessed. Paul loved the Zombieman comics. He’d dressed up as Zombieman for Halloween two years in a row.

“And what do you want, Cass?” I asked.

Cassie dug her toe into the ground and looked down, away from my eyes. “I don’t want anything extra today,” she said quietly.

I squatted down to her level before speaking in my warmest tones. “Now, I just don’t believe that for a second, so why don’t you tell me?”

She pouted. “Paul said it was stupid.”

I shot Paul the kind of look I’d seen Rhea perfect years ago, and he cracked.

“She’s such a copycat! She only wants a Zombiegirl comic because I’m getting a Zombieman comic. She can never just do anything on her own.”

“Well, I don’t think it’s stupid,” I said, and then conspiratorially: “And Zombiegirl is better than Zombieman, anyway. Let’s go get that comic.” She ran top speed to the aisle and back to shove the comic in my basket.

The twins paid for their candy at the register and then hopped around to the back exit to wait until I was ready to leave. I handed the basket over to Jim and he checked through it.

“Alright, Tish. That’ll be $35.12 for the non-essentials. Want to know what routes are clear for the trip back?” As he finished speaking, I heard the back door slide open and the wind cascade in. A storm had started up while we were shopping, and the temp had dropped far enough for snow to land without melting. The cold cut into the heat of the store like a machete. I was about to respond to Jim when I heard the whistle.

“Shit.” I snapped my attention to the door.

The corpse that had been following us from the house filled the doorway and I couldn’t see Cassie. Paul was backing away, blowing his whistle like a madman. I was across the store in four steps, defense club unhooked from my side. The corpse was slow, but they were always dangerous in close quarters. I pushed Paul out of the way and shoved the club into its body like a battering ram. I hit it again. And again. And again. Each time pushing it back outside a little more. It grabbed at the club. I knocked it in the face to disorient it. It screamed.

I almost couldn’t move. I had never heard one scream before, had assumed they couldn’t. It was awful. It sounded like all the agony of death itself. I hit it again just to stop the noise and it was out of the doorway. I slammed my hand on the door controls and shut it outside. I was shaking. I couldn’t think clearly.

I spun around, screaming. “What the hell happened? Paul, did you open the door?” He was sobbing. “Did you open it? Did you? Did Cassie open it? Tell me what happened!”

“We didn’t,” he choked out. “We know better. We didn’t. It wasn’t us. The door opened. It was there. Cassie got pushed outside.”

I spun again. I wasn’t thinking. I was all adrenaline. I was angry. “How the fuck could a popsicle open your door, Jim? I’m going to have the cops look at your inspection records when this is over. If your heat pad is on the fritz, you won’t have to worry about corpses. I’m going to eat you alive. How the fuck does this happ—” I stopped, and spun back to Paul. “Cassie’s outside?”

He nodded.

“Shit.” I fit a bud into my ears. “Cass, do you hear me?” No response. “Cass? Cass, if you can hear me, stay by the store. I’m coming.”

I’d been running on instinct and energy since I heard the first whistle. Now my emergency training really kicked in. I broke the glass on the e-kit on the wall with my elbow and grabbed the axe, then turned back to the register. “Jim, I’m sorry. I need you to call the cops. Let them know what happened. Report a little girl missing in the storm. Six years old. Brown hair. Four-feet tall. Responds to Cassie and Cass. Now. Paul, stay here. Try to get your sister on the buds. If she answers, tell her to stay close to the store and wait for me. Tell her she needs to whistle so I can find her. You can do that. She’s going to be okay. I’m going out there.”

I slammed my hand back on the door control and was face to face with the corpse. I don’t know how I could have thought it looked like Tommy. It took a step toward me and I buried the point of the axe in his forehead. I pulled it out and stepped outside. That wouldn’t be the only one.

I couldn’t call for Cassie in that wind, so I blew my whistle, listening for five seconds between blows for the response. None came. If Cassie could hear it, she should have responded. The corpses would hear it, too. I could see them taking their first lumbering steps in my direction. She was nowhere to be seen. I told my buds to call up Maxi.

“Hallo, Tish,” he said after half a ring.

“Maxi, grab the e-kits and get the house outside. There was an accident. Cassie’s in the storm alone. We can’t find her. We called the police. We’re out on Route 3 from the back of the store. Hurry.” It didn’t take any more explanation than that.

As soon as Maxi hung up, my bud clicked and Paul’s voice came through.

“Auntie Tisha, she won’t answer. I tried and I tried and she won’t answer. What should I do?”

“Keep trying, Paul. We’ll find her. Stay with Jim and keep trying.”

I turned in circles, looking at each of the lumbering shadows in the snowstorm. One of them had to be Cassie. One of them had to be shorter than the rest. I turned and I turned, and some of them got closer, one step at a time, and some of them stayed where they were, but none of them looked like a child. If it had just been freezing for a little bit longer, another hour, they would have been stuck, frozen in place. But the true freeze had only just begun, and they kept moving. None of the shadows were small enough to be her.

Well, if I couldn’t find her, I could give her a chance.

I blew my whistle until I was coughing in the cold air just to fill my lungs. Then I blew it again. I blew it until every shadow I could see was paying attention. I blew it until every one of them was walking in my direction. Then, I waited. I didn’t bother to count them. The hordes from the old newscasts were a thing of the past, but these were more than enough. The cold was the only reason I stood a chance. It would take them minutes to reach me. If I was lucky and smart, I could pick them off one by one. I examined them carefully as they descended. They were all different sizes. Stocky. Lanky. Short. Fat. Pear shaped. Long-legged. Long-waisted. The one nearest me even had fake breasts. They stood up straighter in the cold than she did. I was going to kill her first.

The axe-point sank into her skull to the handle, and she dropped to the ground. Bits of darkened brain matter oozed out of the remaining hole, but no blood. I saw it then, their death rattle. Her eyes moved back and forth in their sockets so fast it was like they were vibrating. And then she was gone. When I looked up, the others were almost on me. They shouldn’t have been. It was too cold. They were too slow. How did they get to me so fast?

I careened the axe into the left temple of the first one I saw, the fat one. I waited for it to slide out, but it didn’t, and his body weight pulled me down with him. I should have let go of the handle. I should have reached for my club. But I wanted the axe. I wrenched the head to the side and pulled hard, the axe coming free, but one of them had a hold of my arm. I could feel the tightness of the grip, painful even through the layers of cold gear I had on. I lost my grip on the axe. There was a sudden pressure on my shin. One of them was trying to eat through my snow pants. I knew it couldn’t get through the fabric, but it could easily break the bone if I let it keep biting.

I reached for my club with my free left hand and couldn’t find it. I panicked, patting at my body, searching for my travel pack. I flipped it open and heard the contents spill out and, somehow, found the hunting knife in the snow. My swings with the knife were wild and desperate. I think most of them missed, but the ones that hit, hit hard. I sliced against skin and skull and after a few seconds, the pressure against my shin released. At the same time, I heard a terrible crunching sound where my right arm was and then I couldn’t see anything. Everything was red. Everything was pain. I screamed. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t see. There was another pair of hands on me. And another. And another. I could feel them squeezing. There was nothing I could do.

I screamed so loudly that I almost didn’t even hear the gunshots. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Reload. Seven. Eight. Nine. Every hand released its grip on me.

He was at my side before I realized who it was, and I only figured out who it was because who else would asking me over and over again if I were alright in German? Maxi put his hands on my face and wiped away tears I didn’t realize I’d shed, frozen on my cheeks.

There were other footsteps then. I heard whistles, and the sounds of cops setting up a perimeter. I hugged my arm to my chest and curled up.

“Did you find her?” I said at the same time another voice said, “Is she safe?” That was Rhea’s voice. We’d answered each other’s questions. I opened my eyes and we looked at each other in horror, just making eye contact before she wheeled inside the store and pulled Paul to her. Maxi stayed with me, thumbs on my cheeks, hands warm from gunfire, wiping tears away.

When we got back home I saw Jim had special delivered the ess-kit, the comics tucked inside with the rest of the groceries. In the moment, I’d left everything on the counter. The police were still out looking for Cassie. We’d all given statements. Jim was under official investigation for the door malfunction. And a half hour later, we’d done all we could do and were sent away. The authorities would handle it from there. We would just be in the way if we stayed. They’d set my arm into a cast on-site and given me some painkillers for the night ahead. I hadn’t spoken to Rhea since they found me.

I picked the comics up limply and walked them over to Paul. I didn’t know if it was a good idea. I wasn’t thinking clearly anymore. He took them from my hand.

“You’re just like her,” he said, opening the Zombiegirl comic to the first page. Right in the middle of the page there was a panel, bigger than the rest, of Zombiegirl outlined by a doorway, her trademark axe buried in the skull of some faceless corpse. “I wish I was more like Zombieman.” The comics hung from his hands and he started shaking without crying.

I lost it. I cried until it felt like my eyes were made of sand and it hurt to breathe. I couldn’t stop. I stood outside Rhea’s door and I cried, but I couldn’t go in. I lay down in my bed and I cried until all of my emotions were gone and the only thing left was the husk of my body.

I fell in and out of sleep. I opened my eyes to see Maxi in my doorway. He turned and looked embarrassed when he saw I was awake, and he walked away like he had something else to do.

I closed my eyes again.

Hitomi woke me up long enough to wash my face and change my pillow. “They still have not found her,” she told me. “But they will keep looking.” She paused before leaving. “You know that Rhea does not blame you? Not really. You did everything you could.”

It was true, and I knew that. Rhea would tell me herself when time had passed. That’s how things were in this new world. But it never helped knowing, and I fell back asleep.

I woke again when the painkillers started to wear off, and I could not get back to sleep again. There was a small sound coming from somewhere on the bed. I groped around under my pillow and found a bud. Somebody was talking on it. I put it in my ear and heard Paul’s voice: “If you come back, I’ll share my chocolate with you. I was going to share it with you anyway.” I pulled it out of my ear and threw it across the room.

In a fog, I got up and moved over to my desk, opening the computer. My tabs were still open. I pressed play on the President’s Final Address and watched, right where I left it.

“We know the battle ahead will be long,” his deep, self-assured voice rang out. “But always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stop the force of millions of good people working together. As our current tragedy has spread, we have all thought that we cannot survive this, and that cynical voice will only grow stronger as time goes on. We have been cynical, and have called it realistic. We have warned each other against being hopeful. But we will not survive without hope. We will not survive against these impossible odds if we tell ourselves that we are not ready, or that we should not try, or that we can’t. But the world can survive against these monsters. Generations can put their problems aside, as we have done before during our history’s bleakest hours, responding with a simple solution to problems that are no longer local, problems that are shared across the globe. We can prevail, as a world, living together.”

As the speech came to an end, I heard another sound. A knocking at the window. Small. Persistent. I didn’t look. I put my buds in my ears. I said, “Play last composition,” and pressed my forehead hard against the desk.


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This story originally appeared in Selfies from the End of the World: Historical Accounts of the Apocalypse (Mad Scientist Journal Presents) (Volume 2).