Post-Apocalyptic Fiction by NC ReedFROM THE AUTHOR'S DESK
Billy was supposed to be a short story. I was working on a plague novel and suddenly thought about a cousin of mine, wondering how he would make it if everyone else was gone. It was a sobering thought and so I wrote a small short story about such a man. That story grew. And then grew some more. And just kept growing until it was the book you are now reading. Much of my many nephews can be found in Billy. Skills they have, abilities they have developed, things we’ve taught them over the years. If something happened to us, they would make it. They know how to survive, and even how to thrive. It would be hard, but they would make it. This story is for them.-N.C. ReedExcerpt
“We just can’t carry no more, Rommel,” he said at last. Hearing his name, the dog perked up.
“Let’s go,” Billy ordered. Rommel once again leaped into the truck, and Billy set off for home. It was only a few miles to the farm, taking no longer than thirty minutes to travel. It took longer today. There were cars all along the road. Billy didn’t understand that at first, until he looked down into one as he passed by. There were people in the cars. Dead people. They had driven until they had died, he realized. And that was where they stayed. There was no one to move them. Not anymore. For some reason, the dead people in the cars scared him more than the prospect of being all alone. Billy didn’t really believe in ghosts, at least he didn’t think he did. Suddenly he was wondering. All these people had died in a horrible manner, and close together. Would that make a difference? Would the town be haunted? The whole world?
He just didn’t know, and not knowing scared him. He unconsciously rubbed the bridge of his nose, right between his eyes, as he felt his head start to ache. No, no, no, not now! he thought to himself, on the edge of panic. He had too much to do to have one of his headaches. If he took the medicine the doctor had given him, it would knock him out for. . . .
He stomped on the brakes so hard that Rommel lost his footing and fell into the floor board. The massive dog shook himself, and jumped back onto the seat, giving Billy a look that clearly said ‘what was that for?’
My meds! I forgot my meds! He looked frantically for a way to turn the truck around. Nearly in a panic, he couldn’t focus on where he was, what he needed to do. All he could think about was his meds. As if sensing that his new person was in danger, Rommel looked around him in confusion, seeking a threat. Seeing none, he looked back to Billy, and suddenly head butted him in the arm. When he didn’t get a response, Rommel repeated the action, and then a third time.
Suddenly Billy looked at the dog, still slightly wide-eyed. Rommel ran his head under Billy’s hand, encouraging him to scratch. Billy did so without thought, rubbing and scratching the giant head for a full five minutes as he calmed down. The motion brought him back to clarity.
“Thanks, boy,” Billy gave the dog’s head a final ruffing. Realizing that the truck was still in gear, he placed in park, easing his now aching foot off the brake pedal. He took a few deep breaths, and then shook his head. “I gotta keep calm,” he said to himself. “Gotta keep calm,” he repeated three more times. It became almost a mantra as he put the truck back in gear and started down the road. He remembered, now that his panic was gone, that he had a year’s supply of all his medicines at the house. Something else his mom and dad had managed to get for him. He kept buying his prescriptions regularly, adding them to the stocks, and then using the oldest of the stockpiled medicine.
“We can always go back and get the medicine after we get settled,” he told Rommel. The dog looked at him, head cocked to the side, then wagged his stump of a tail, as if saying ‘sounds good to me’.