AFTER X-DAY

Even though nothing moved among the ruins, it seemed as though there

was always sound. I watched from the top of a cliff overlooking the

town, or what used to be a town, in case any remaining . . . beings

were to still live there. As usual, my paranoia over served its

purpose. Which is to say it served it's purpose to keep me alive.

 

I knew better than to try to find anything edible in the ruins. What

was left that wasn't spoiled was infected with the neuromycological

agent that they'd spread throughout the atmosphere on that Sunday

morning. Simple spores that fed off the ion flows created by nerve

action potentials. They sought out nerve fibers, grew alongside them

and then began to moderate the sodium/potassium pump activity to

mediate the nerve firing according to some kind of program we were

never able to decode. That was the last study we were able to finish

at the lab. It'll never be published.

 

What was left of the humans had all moved south. It appeared that the

unified field force that drove the saucers worked better nearer the

equator. Not that they needed the earth's spin, like a rocket launch

-- their engines made the earth wobble if they came in too far off

center, and caused tidal waves that wiped out some of the "crops"

who'd congregated nearer the shores.

 

So, I was mostly alone, except for a few other immunes, and the

occasional ex-human who didn't adapt well to the nerve growths.

They were fairly mindless and easy to trick. They'd eat anything that

moved, so you could shake a branch at them and distract them long

enough to break enough limbs that they were immobilized. But I had to

sleep sometimes.

 

With summer in full swing, I still had time to get some crops in and

growing before the early mountain frosts, but only if I hurried. Since

it was pretty clear that there weren't any things left living here, I

headed back to what used to be the InstiToot.

 

It was risky walking the road along the river, but the alternative was

to walk the far wooded side and swim across later, or climb the hills

up and down the near side, tripling the effort and time. I took the

chance and took the road. My paranoia must have been wearing thin.

Can't say I blamed it. I was wearing thin too. Between the saucer

fly-overs and the mutated wildlife attacking the cows more often

lately, I was starting to wonder if maybe I shouldn't head south

myself before I went over the edge and . . .

 

"Oh, I don't think it's really all THAT bad."

 

I jumped sideways without springing and rolled into the brush. I

scrambled behind a mulberry bush -- and came to a stop looking eye to

eye with a pair of shiny black shoes protruding from pressed grey

slacks.

 

"Whoa there young fella, no need to get all worked up."

 

Jovial. That's how he sounded. Although I'd never heard his voice

before, I somehow knew this is what it would sound like. And who else

would sound jovial a month after X-day?

 

"You -- BASTARD. You sellout motherfucking BASTARD. I'm going to

KI..."

 

"Hey, hey, business is business. Besides, you've done pretty well for

yourself up here. Let me help you up."

 

"KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF ME." I rose slowly to face the man I'd dedicated

years of science to. "I don't NEED any help, you..." His face was just

as it was in the picture, but had a depth to it that I'd never

imagined. There was a sadness, an austerity there that I'd seen in

some of Michelangelo's works. It wasn't his eyes it was his -- whole

face. My mouth hung open, the words unfinished.

 

"Now, that's a mite better position to be talking from, don't you

think? Have to try to keep yourself presentable, after all."

 

"I don't have to SHIT, "Bob". The world is ENDED. You saw to that."

 

"Oh, don't be so gloomy. There's plenty of life left in the old gal

yet. Just a bit juggled around is all."

 

"JUGGLED? The humans are programmed by FUNGUS. Except for the few that

don't live above their cerebellum. And the Yeti are GONE. ALL GONE.

You shitsack I'll rip your fucking LUNGS.."

 

As I ranted, he'd tapped his pipe empty against the sole of his shoe

and some of the ash blew into my eyes, blinding me. My eyes clenched

tight and watering, I was helpless to carry out the murder -- the

REVENGE -- I felt.

 

"I wouldn't be so hasty. After all, YOU are the one that stands to

gain in all this."

 

I rubbed my eyes clear and looked at him, still smiling and smoking

that damn pipe. The pipe that he'd . . . just emptied.

 

"Yep, you see since Ivan and the gang were, um, SAVED, it looks like I

need me a new scribe. And unless I miss my guess, you're the right man

for the job!"

 

Shit. Oh, shit, no. No deals from "Bob". No, I have to get out of

here. I have to get away before this bastard...

 

"Well, now, I reckon it's just not going to work out that way. Nope,

when I say someone is right for the job, that just all there is to it.

There's an opening, I need it filled, and you can do it. In fact, you

were MEANT to do it. None of my ministers ever has anything happen to

them by ACCIDENT. No siree, you were PRESERVED up here in the

mountains. I NEEDED you safe up here, so you could get to work when

the time came."

 

I started to back away, but then I heard the brush moving behind me,

and to either side.

 

"Now, don't you go worryin' about these fellers. They're right

harmless when you get to know them. All they need is a little...

guidance."

 

Several of the subhuman remains surrounded us, lumbering through the

bushes like B grade movie zombies. They stopped in a circle, shoulder

to shoulder, and stared at us both. Their twisted grimaces looked just

like when they're about to eat an anything. But then they always

looked like that. I hoped.

 

"Yep, with Ivan and them gone, I need me a new leader. Got to have

one. After all, I've got me some new followers."

 

The zombies reached into their rags and pulled out pieces of paper,

cloth, old cans, all kinds of assorted trash -- and held it out.

To me.

 

"No. OH no. No, I saw what you did to Ivan in those last months. He

might as well have been one of THESE guys by last July. No, I'd rather

they EAT ME NOW than go through that shit."

 

"You know, I do believe that one behind you looks just a bit like

Philo. The big head and all."

 

I turned to look, and while doing so realized my mistake. I knew

before I could stop and turn back that he was gone. He was.

They held their garbage out to me and pressed closer.

 

From up in the trees on the hills across the road I heard, "They

really liked those rants of yours I read to them. But don't bother

with the anti-music -- they can't dance for diddly." Then he was gone.

 

 

--

(@ @)\DynaSoar\___, Doktor DynaSoar Iridium, Scienfictiontologist

ll ll Yetii Genetii Research InstiToot, Somedamnwhere, VA

Clench of The One True Pipe Dream, ElectroChurch of the SubGenius