(© E. Meeske)
gray Cat nestled on a branch of the fir tree. He was in a fenced back-yard of
a moderately-sized People house, and it was night-time. There were Not-People
in front of the house, and behind the fence as well. They made the odd noise
they always made, but the fence was tall enough that they were hidden from
view. They couldn’t even open the gate as People could. The Cat, on the other
hand, could easily slip under a section of the fence and ran back to the colony
of cats, the clowder, hidden in an undeveloped section of the sub-division,
made up of ferals, and of those like him - those whose People had disappeared.
But he didn’t. He was held by curiosity, and by something more, to the real
People who still were in the house, hostile as they were. He stretched and
waited, his tail gently flicking at its end in tune with his thoughts.
girl in the house was named Wednesday, and the house was hers. More
specifically the house was her mother’s. Her mother was a strong brown lady
who had been falling more and more ill in the months leading up to the event.
She had abandoned an abusive husband and taken over the house from her brother,
looking for a safe-haven on the other side of the metropolis where she‘d
lived. Her daughter had come with her.
was a thin light-skinned girl who acted as though she had her mother’s strength
and her father’s size and temper. The house bore her stomping and slamming
with the stoic indifference of the inanimate, while the more delicate machinery
of modern life broke under her treatment. She had suffered some of the same
abuse as her mother, although she never acknowledged it’s having happened to
her mother. When she wasn’t blaming her mother for allowing it to have
occurred she was trying to wheedle her mother into rejoining her father.
the first hints of the Event came to people‘s notice, Wednesday was unalarmed.
She dismissed the texts from her friends as jokes, and responded in kind. and
she even found the early newscasts her mother watched humorous. One day at
work she had reported to her job at the local Super-Mart, ten minutes late but
in her official red shirt, and finally saw one of the infected. In the morning
hour traffic of the store, amongst elderly shoppers and fat young women pushing
around strollers, a middle aged man blundered in, past the white-haired
greeter. He wore a green jacket and filthy white sneakers, and dark red stains
lay over the front of his dirty jeans as though he had upended a bowl of
spaghetti in his lap. His face was blank and slack under a jet of unwashed
brown hair, with eyes as expressionless as a doll, and yet all at once that
dead face contorted, as his claw-like fingers reached into the stroller at the
rear of Wednesday’s checkout lane.
doesn’t like strangers," said the fat blonde customer, shortly because of the
man‘s shabby condition, but rather obliviously in light of the bloodstains.
The baby itself was crying, no doubt from the sheer odor of her new
acquaintance. The man glanced at the woman, pulled the baby out of its
perambulator, and bit ravenously into her side. The customer turned a mottled
red and started to scream, washing out both the baby’s own shrieks and the
assailant‘s chomping and sucking. It was a very young child; by the time one
of the managers started punching the man a good quarter of the infant was
simply gone, and she had all the liveliness of a frozen turkey. One of the
man’s yellow teeth had fallen out, stuck in the flesh below her tiny nipple.
At that point Wednesday went into a faint.
calls were made. Wednesday’s mother left work, picked her up, along with a
huge amount of canned food and bottled water and sodas - money diverted from
medical bills for a more pressing situation - and had gone home. She watched television
about the event and cooked for herself and her daughter. She tried to get
Wednesday to open up about her feelings. Wednesday hadn’t wanted to talk about
it. She took a shower and felt a little better, then stared at herself in the
mirror, spending a long time reapplying her make-up. Then she called her
friends on her cell-phone, along with the boy she was dating. Her voice had
the self-confidence of one who has a good piece of gossip to share. "It was
crazy. He just ate the kid," she advised. "Like a hamburger," the boyfriend
asked. She giggled.
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