When the World Runs Down, You Make the Best of What’s Around

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Inspired by The Host: Chapter 4—“Remembered.” The survivalist fail, the rape-kiss, all the DO NOT WANT wrapped in one long flashback… Everyone at das_sporking was upset and annoyed by that chapter, and Mervin especially came up with many good points. So, I’ve done my best to re-write that flashback into something that actually has real emotion and drama. As is typical with most spitefics, this is a one-shot. Title inspired by Sting.

I walk down the path and to the door as if I belong here. If I act “normal” I’m less likely to draw attention. And, because the snake-heads never leave their doors locked, I’m free to mosey right on in.

Once inside, I move quickly. I have no idea when the tenants will be back, so I’ve gotta make it snappy. I head for the bathroom first, to see if they’ve still got a first aid kit—because you can never have too many of those in an apocalypto-lite—before hitting the pantry.

There’s a whole mess of jars—somebody loved making jam and preserves once upon a time—so I stuff a few of those into my backpack. Hey, they last damn near forever, and that’s good enough for me.

A’course there’s the usual canned goods—oh, where would I be without you, Dinty Moore?—and pre-packaged snack cakes. The snacks make me stop dead in my tracks; I can’t remember what a Twinkie tastes like, and Jamie hasn’t had a cookie since he was five.

That thought makes up my mind for me. Jamie’ll be turning ten soon, and he hasn’t had a real birthday shindig in years. Least I can do is stick a candle in a cupcake so he can make a wish.

Yep, that works for me. I grab the package of cupcakes and start rifling through the kitchen drawers for a birthday candle. I get lucky with the junk drawer—the candle’s a skinny and pink thing, and looks like it’s been lit before, but that’s good enough.

My backpack’s almost full now, so I carefully tuck the cupcakes and candle in the front pocket. I look around for any drink items I can carry, and hit the jackpot with a container of instant coffee. Lord knows I need a good pick-me-up, and Jamie’s old enough now to drink it without bouncing off the walls after one cup.

I practically squeal when I discover this house also has a mini-bar. Oh man, if I could squat here, I so would. So far I’ve come up with sevens for all our needs, and having a bit of whiskey or gin for a nightcap (or a painkiller) makes this hand-to-mouth survivalist bullshit a little less sucktastic.

So I look at the bottles, trying to find the good stuff among all the froofy champagnes and fruity A&P wines. And—holy shit, Johnny Walker Blue Label! Say sayonara, bitches, it’s mine now!

I scam a bottle of vodka too, so I’ll pace myself better with the Johnny Walker. It’s more valuable than gold in this end-of-days Invasion of the Bodysnatchers world, so I need to make it last for as long as I can.

At any rate, I still have a case of Molsons left from the last raid I went on with my parents. A bounty they never got to enjoy.

Damn the Khan worms and their secret police Seekers anyway. They can all kiss the business end of my daddy’s shotgun! (Which my brother has with him to guard our hidey-hole, but the point still stands.)

This emo crap is doing me no good; it’s a distraction and a waste of all the time I don’t have. I need to get out of here ASAP, or risk getting caught.

On my way out though, I can’t resist poking around in the kitchen one last time. Curiosity and hunger doing the cha-cha in my brain and stomach have me cracking open the fridge. Hmm, chicken and rice casserole. Looks interesting, but it wouldn’t last a day in the heat.

I pop open the vegetable drawer and find a mix of fruits and salad stuffs. Among the rabbit food is a ripe, red Winesap apple. Seeing it sitting there all shiny and juicy and waiting to be eaten makes me think of Mom’s cobblers… and I can’t stop the little whining noise that is pulled out of me.

I snatch the apple and slam the refrigerator door shut. Okay, Mel, you’ve had your fun—time to make like the Invisible Man. I chomp a bite out of the apple, and give a quiet moan of pleasure at the sweet taste.

Then I see a shadow move out of the corner of my eye. While bitching at myself on the inside for allowing my attention to wander, I freeze in place. Turning my head towards the shadow, my hand drifts down toward my pants pocket (where I stow my boxcutter) … and I’m bowled over by a man nearly twice my size.

Literally. Apparently, I’ve picked up a spare. I give the least lady-like grunt ever, before whipping out my boxcutter and slicing his arm.

“Goddamnit!” he growls. It isn’t the first time I’ve drawn blood, and probably won’t be the last.

“Get the hell offa me, worm-face!” I snarl as I pummel at him with my knees and fists. Okay, it isn’t my best one-liner, but I’m a bit preoccupied with the gargantuan dude on top of me.

The beam of a flashlight hits me in the eyes, blinding me. I snarl and rage like a rabid animal.

“You’re not one of them.” His voice drops to a quiet drawl. “Thank God.”

Feeling like I just entered Ackbar’s mothership, I squint while fuming, “Get that highbeam outta my face, jerkwad!”

“It’s okay,” he replies, sitting back so I can get up. The tone he’s using says he’s trying to appease me, but I’m not drinking that Koolaid. “I don’t have a slug in my head either.”

He then turns the flashlight to his own face, like a kid telling a scary story. His eyes don’t have that weird glowy-grey cataract thing going on like the snake-heads do, so I know he’s not Bodysnatched Bouncer #3 or something. He’s a normal, un-possessed human like me.

Still doesn’t mean I trust him. But I’m not gonna go all Dexter on him for jumping me. So that’s something?

“Look, I’m sorry for the misunderstanding,” he says as he backs up. He gives me enough room so I can get to my feet. “My name’s Jared. What’s yours?”


“Well, Melanie, we need to get out of here. The slugs who nest here will be back soon. Look, I’ve got a Jeep so I can go off-road. If you don’t have transport, I can get you to a safe place.”

My eyes narrow. “Ok, but what’s in it for you?”

“Just because the slugs think we’re animals to be domesticated doesn’t mean we have to act like it. There’s still good people in the world, even if it doesn’t seem that way.” He glances down at my sack. “Including you. You’ve taken more food than you’d need for just you. You’re looking out for somebody, aren’t you?”

“My brother.” The truth slips out before I can stop it. It’s been too long since I’ve last spoken to another human being that isn’t my brother.

“I had a little sister,” Jared says. “I get that you’re trying to protect him. But you don’t have to be alone. I know a place where the last uninfested humans are hiding. I can take you two there; you’d be much safer with others around to watch your back.”

“How do I know you’re not lying?”

“If I’m lying, you’d be well within your rights to kill me.”

I give him a slow nod. “True. But I won’t be the one to kill you—Jamie’s a good shot. He learned from my dad.” I absently twirl the boxcutter in my hand. “I’m more of a sharps kinda gal.”

I don’t know about this Jared guy, but I’m definitely not lying. Jamie’s a skilled hunter, but good prey animals have been scarce for awhile now. My raiding this house wasn’t a choice; it was a necessity. We have to eat, or risk starvation.

Jared smirks, placing a hand protectively over the arm wound I gave him. “I can tell. I’m disinclined to tangle with a woman who’s good with sharp objects. So, how about we get out of here? Head for safer ground?”

It’s my turn to smirk. “Lead on to your great iron steed, oh fair traveler.”

I’ve never met a smart-ass comment I didn’t like.

I can’t wait to get home to Jamie. If Jared’s really on the up and up, it’ll be nice for Jamie to have another guy ’round the house. He’s been missing Dad something fierce.

But if Jared’s working for those slimeball snake-heads… well, then there’ll be only one thing for me to do: I won’t kill him, but I will make him wish he’d never been born.

We’ll see what the future holds. For right now, I’ve got a hungry brother hiding alone with a shotgun. He needs me to chase the demons away. And I need him, because looking out for him is what I do, and I’m not much else without him. Because I’m his big sister, and keeping him safe is my life’s work.

There’s nothing more important than family, the end of the world be damned.


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Mostly, I write stuff. And, like the Egyptians and the Internet, I put cat pictures on my walls. Also, I can read your Tarot.