?

Please vote for the piece that you feel is most deserving:

Poll closed Sep 19, 2010.
  1. Normal - Ash

    1 vote(s)
    3.3%
  2. NyMichael20 - Three Years of N-Day

    1 vote(s)
    3.3%
  3. Dilano - Lights out

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  4. Robyn - Gone

    1 vote(s)
    3.3%
  5. Gingerbiscuit - Shadows of comfort

    1 vote(s)
    3.3%
  6. grayveeaych - Disappear

    1 vote(s)
    3.3%
  7. Evelyanin - The Meeting

    5 vote(s)
    16.7%
  8. Alexandra_Riera - Let's not Bother

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  9. daffers - The Matriarch

    1 vote(s)
    3.3%
  10. John Horace - The Waiting

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  11. LadyLazerus - Stale

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  12. Wicked - The Last Cookie

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  13. Ghaith - New Age

    4 vote(s)
    13.3%
  14. Manav - The Escape

    3 vote(s)
    10.0%
  15. white - A Fine Occupation

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  16. The End - The End

    1 vote(s)
    3.3%
  17. Speedy - World Fair - Coming Soon

    5 vote(s)
    16.7%
  18. JeffS65 - Surviving

    1 vote(s)
    3.3%
  19. baarf - Dead Weight

    1 vote(s)
    3.3%
  20. jo spumoni - Archaeological Report for Site M23, Excavated 9 June-23 December, 5003:

    4 vote(s)
    13.3%
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  1. Gannon
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    Voting Short Story Contest 75: Flash Fiction - Post-Apocalypse

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Sep 7, 2010.

    Please excuse the delay in posting. Due to the high level of submission I have had to whittle down the 31 entries into an eligible 20 as the poll function only allows 20 as a maximum.

    As criteria in choosing which were eligible, I excluded those deemed "not valid" or "posted in the review room" during the submission stage, as well as accepting Chudz's kind offer to withdraw from the voting procedure due to the high volume.

    With 28 entries remaining, I choose to include those where the focus was strongest on the theme "post-apocalypse" - the stress being on "post". Some entries focused more on a straight "apocalypse" theme, and some had a focus that, while set in a post-apocalyptic setting, was not on the theme itself. My sincere apologies to those that did not make the cut - I had to draft a final 20 somehow. Thanks.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------

    Voting Short Story Contest (75) Theme: Flash Fiction - Post-Apocalypse

    Thank you for all your entries. The winner will be stickied until the next contest's winner is crowned. No more entries are allowed in this contest.

    Voting will end Sunday 19th September 2010 to give you all a chance to read the entries.

    It is possible to vote for yourself, but I would hope in the name of good sportsmanship that you would only do so if you have read all the other stories and given them your honest evaluation. You gain nothing if you base your vote solely on how you feel about the author or whether you have personally invested time and effort in the story. In the end, your conscience is your only judge.

    Any entries under or over the suggested word limit will be flagged as such - they are still entered in to the contest. It is for you to decide whether they are still worthy of your vote.

    Any entry not in accordance with the theme will be dealt with on a case by case basis to determine eligibility. Consider how the author has responded to the theme in making your decision.

    Good luck to everyone.
     
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    Normal - Ash

    I wish the rumors were true, that those animals that people usually don’t eat, taste like chicken. I resist the urge to wash the meat down with the little water I have. I allow myself maybe two to five sips a day from the yellow stained 4 litre container in my bag, its about half full. The past week could seem like a dream to anyone else but to me its all to real. I wish I could disillusion myself with the luxury environmental detachment.

    I want food. I want water. I would settle for a stained mattress in a heroin hotel in the slums.

    Hero’s seem to have a purpose whereas my existence is purposeless. There is no final resting place to seek. There is no colony of survivors. There is no hope. I scurry from concrete wreckage to smashed cars to abandoned building. Sniffing the air for anything other than the dust that permeates the air. I begin to slowly step my way into the open and smashed streets. The thought of warm shelter drives me to almost reckless abandon. I become emboldened, smelling the air, my senses become heightened.

    The fatal mistake is the water I hold, the jug being half full announces my presence. Three disheveled men in tattered business attire emerge from hiding. I would like to vilify them, to make them seem horrid and awful creatures but I cant. I can almost see myself standing among them.

    “Water” It was not even a question, a command given by one of the men. He stood before me, tall and well built. Primal instinct sorts the small and weak from the strong and willing.

    I move my left foot back a little and almost make a move to run, better judgment tells me that running from three healthy men will cost me to much energy.

    “Don’t even think about it, make this easy on yourself, give it up” The smallest one says, his eyes fixed on my shoulder bag. This must be the smart one, appealing to my better judgment.

    Grudgingly I move slowly to bring the bag in front of me, I reach in slowly and wrap my dirty fingers around the handle. All eyes are fixed on me, on every movement I make.

    As quick as I can I throw the jug to the ground in front of me. The plastic jug clonks to the ground on its side, and the blue lids pops off, spilling the precious liquid all over the ashen ground.

    I am already in sprint when the three muggers dive for it simultaneously. Behind me the shouts of rage fade as they argue and squabble amongst each other.
    Running around the corner I stop to catch my breath. I feel safe here for the moment. Almost sobbing I hate myself for my cowardice. Things are not as hopeless as they seem. I want to live. I want to find water, and water is my mission.
     
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    NyMichael20 - Three Years of N-Day

    I stumbled.
    I was picking over the wreckcage, wearing the heavy hiking boots that I had stolen from that burned out Wal Mart. That Wal Mart had been a God send: relatively untouched, there had apparently been a minimal amount of looting on N-Day. Besides the boots, I was able to grab two hunting rifles, some backpacks and an entire case of bottled water.
    I was thrilled by my discovery. So much so that I even considered staying there. Clothing, food, shelter. I had made up my mind to stay when I heard the shouting and random scuffling noises of an armed regiment.
    Probably not friendly. There were almost nothing left of the armed forces these days. On rare occasions I would run into a few leaderless soldiers, so dedicated to a military that no longer existed that the continued to carry out whatever orders they had received on N-Day.
    But most friendlies these days identified themselves. A lot of them were running on fumes and were always eager to trade supplies. The only people who had access to a continuous amount of supplies these days were “them.”
    The barking of one of their search dogs is what made me stumble. I fell head first onto a pile of debris. Small chunks of brick and bone peppered my skin as I rolled down the slight incline. The case of water I had been carrying fell. Plastic bottles rolled on the ground.
    There was shouting. I recognized the military cadence of orders being barked by a commanding officer. I heard the dog barking again.
    I was trapped. The wreckage of the city created a labyrinth of corridors. Walls made of collapsed buildings and parked cars often made it difficult to get around.
    I decided my best bet was to crouch down and wait for them to pass. I crawled deeper into the hole and sat down. It was cool in here, at least. We were in the middle of August, I think, and the sun rode high in the sky. This August would mark the three year anniversary of N-Day, I realized. Not to mention that the sun wasn’t the only source of extreme heat these days.
    Hiding between the metal girders, I head the familiar sniffing sounds of a dog.
    To my horror, the dog’s head poked into the wreckage. It was a Rottweiller. It saw me and growled menacingly, then started barking for its master.
    “Shoo! Get lost!”
    I swatted at the dogs head and it bit viciously. I shrieked and pulled my hand back. Blood streamed from a puncture wound on my palm.
    I heard them coming for me. It was over.
    For the best, really.
    But they were retreating. I heard the voices become ever more distant, and even the dog reluctantly ran off.
    I waited. It was only a few minutes. When I came up, I saw what I hadn’t seen since N-Day.
    A bright flash. A rushing wave of heat.
    N-Day wasn’t really over.
    It was actually the longest day of everyone’s life.
     
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    Dilano - Lights out

    The lights were going out all over London. Spector rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. He wanted to hate this moment but he had no hate left inside him. It was all over. He looked up at the sky and saw what looked like bats slashing across the sky. He knew they weren't bats though, most animals had long since fled the city. They were most likely bits of burning paper, fluttering up away into nothing.

    A woman came hobbling towards him. She was holding her thigh and grimacing with the effort of dragging her distorted body along the street. She glanced at Spector and smiled. Her smile was warm and engaging and he didn't know how to respond. It had been so long since he had seen such a smile that he honestly felt his heart would burst. And then he realised that she was blind. She brushed past him and then reached out and grabbed a fistful of his coat.

    'May God be with you,' she croaked.

    'And with you too,' his response was tentative but heartfelt. He thought he didn't believe in a God but, as he stood there with this woman under a darkening sky, he wondered if he had been wrong all these years. They were all going somewhere he thought. Nobody knew where, but it couldn't just end, could it?

    He took a packet of cigarettes out of his pocket, flipped one into his mouth and offered one to his new friend. Remembering she couldn't see what he was offering, he touched it to her lips and waited. She nodded, parted her lips and he pushed it into her mouth until she had it gripped between her lips. From the same pocket, he found a box of matches and struck one. The flame shot into being quicker and with more ferocity than he thought possible. Quickly he lit both cigarettes before letting the match drop to the ground. He sucked in deeply and savoured his final hit of nicotine.

    'So is this it then?' he asked but didn't expect a response. He waited and tried to think of something else.

    'I suppose it is,' she inhaled and continued ' It hasn't been all bad, has it?'

    He didn't answer. There was no need to answer as he knew that all over London people were wondering how to answer that question.
     
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    Robyn - Gone

    I woke up and immediately yawned. I then slowly crawled out of my hole in the ground and looked at the sky. After being asleep for months, the day was like a stranger to me. The burning sensation as my eyes hit the light soon faded, and I could see that something was wrong. When I crawled into my small cubby to sleep, there were trees, a river nearby, birds chirping their unique songs. But now, there was nothing. The ground was barren, the few trees remaining were dead.

    I called out, hoping to find a few of my own kind who had recently awoken. Nobody answered my calls. I then decided to wander what used to be my home, searching for signs of life. What I saw sickened me. The once luscious ground was now an ugly beige, cracked and dusty. Not a single flower bloomed, not a single insect crawled, and not a single creature was found alive. There were bones on the ground, some belonging to rodents like me, others belonging to larger animals: bears, wild cats, and even a few human bones. I was terrified.

    I ran as fast as I could to the tunnels where my cousins lived, but I discovered that they were gone. I climbed the highest tree I could find, careful not to break its dry, brittle branches. I looked out towards the horizon, hoping to see something, anything alive. All I saw were bones and dead plants. I knew I wouldn’t survive here for long. I made a decision: I would walk as far as I could, then walk further. I would discover what had happened to my beautiful home. I would find life. I would get out of this.

    I began walking away from my small retreat.

    I found no one.
     
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    Gingerbiscuit - Shadows of comfort

    There is little now that I remember that isn’t ash and darkness.
    Occasionally the sun reminds me of its presence, peering vacantly through the perpetual cloud, though I can scarce remember ever feeling its warmth.
    Living things can be found by disturbing the rocks and debris or by digging into the ash and soil but they are foul tasting and often bring about fever or diarrhoea.
    There is plenty to drink, though it takes great labour to make pure the water that stands in the stagnant pools on the hillsides. Once, after a morning of such endeavour I had obtained a full gallon of water, only to absently kick it over onto the rocks. I cast myself upon the ground and wept fully and unashamedly, not for my loss and misfortune but rather for the sheer joy at the sound of the water running down the hillside. A sound that brought back the hope and joy of long-forgotten Springtimes. Joy that would all too soon die out and hope that had barely been alive.
    But of all the things now vanished, the sights, sounds and smells that are now lost to me forever, I will always remember Cathy.
    I cannot hear her laugh, nor voice. I cannot remember the warmth as we lay together on cold winter nights. Her face, too is now little more than a vague impression of half-remembered beauty. Yet in times of extreme hardship, through the cold and pain, the loneliness, darkness and hunger, I will always be comforted by the memory of Cathy, my last hot meal.
     
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    grayveeaych - Disappear

    My head killed. What had happened? I had gone to go get some bread from the freezer in the basement, but after that I couldn't remember anything. I sat up. Dust and pieces of the ceiling were scattered all around me. I coughed. I was so dizzy. I brushed my self off and stood up as soon as my head stopped spinning.

    And that's when I realized what was wrong.

    The silence. It filled my house, my street, my city.

    I could feel it. Everyone had disappeared.

    My brain went into overdrive. Why couldn’t I remember what had happened after I had come downstairs? A flash came back to me of that night. I remembered the slam of the heavy metal door behind me. I could remember how I had jumped at the loud sound. I could remember a boom and then I remembered darkness and nothing.

    I walked over the door, stirring up the dust motes on the floor in the process. I coughed, my allergies acting up. The door was unhinged, but still closed. I tried to push it outward, but it wouldn’t budge. I frowned, but tried again, putting all my weight on it this time. It swung free and I stumbled out.

    My mouth fell open. I was standing in a huge crater of what had been my neighborhood.

    All I could think was ‘holy crap.’
     
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    Evelyanin - The Meeting

    “Alright everyone, settle down! We need to get things sorted out. Before we start, let’s get the names cleared up. You, by the paperclips, what’s your name?”

    “I’m Steve, remember?”

    “Sorry Steve. What about the guy beside you?”

    “I’m not a guy. My name’s Megan.”

    “Oh yes, Bruce’s secretary. What about the rest?” Everyone starts identifying themselves, the chatter growing louder until Marlin climbs up the pencil sharpener and signals for the group to be quiet.

    “Well, looks like everyone’s here. Name tags would be really nice right now. Kevin, I heard your name somewhere. Come up and give us an explanation. Oh, and please talk to us in English, not technilese.”

    “Thank you sir. Sadly, I don’t even have a scientific explanation, but the team and I do have a theory.” Everyone stares intently at Kevin.

    “Go on.”

    “ When the world was covered in radioactive fallout from the nuclear war, every human being was killed. However, we believe that we, or as some might call, our souls, needed to continue as some form on this earth, so we transferred to one of the only things that survived the radiation.”

    “Cockroaches!” Someone screams.

    “Uh, yes. I’m not quite sure how it all worked, but it is undeniable that we are now cockroaches.” Panic starts filling the room.

    “Everyone, settle down! If this is reversible at all, we need to calm down and work together. Has anyone seen the president?” The room is quiet. “Okay, bad question. Sir, if you are anywhere near here, please say so.” Everyone looks around, but no one moves. “Looks like he isn’t here, perhaps we’ll find him later. Kevin, tell us a little more about cockroaches.”

    “Yes Mr. Secretary. Cockroaches are from the order Blattaria, they are-“

    “Some useful thing please.”

    “Uh, of course. They have average life span of about one year.”

    “One year! God help us!”

    “No need to freak out yet Charles, let him continue.”

    Kevin twitches his antennae nervously. “The lifespan doesn’t have to be too long. After all, a female cockroach can have up to 400 offspring in her life time.”

    A voice interrupts from the back. “Excuse me Mr. Secretary, Gloria fainted.”

    “She’ll be fine, she’s a cockroach for crying out loud. Let Kevin finish what he has to say.”

    “Uh, yes, uhm, cockroaches eat thing like-“

    “Will someone explain what is going on here?!”

    “Ah, Mr. President! Good to see you alive and well. Come on up, we have a lot to discuss.”
     
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    Alexandra_Riera - Let's not Bother

    “I wouldn’t bother with that now if I were you, David.”

    “Why? Who are you anyway? How do you know my name?”

    “I’m Jesus Christ; I’ve come to warn people of the end of the world.”

    David laughed nervously; what bothered David was that this man knew his name and he didn’t know him. “Do you want money?”

    There was no time for an answer, a blinding flash of light came out of nowhere and suddenly the petrol station was in flames. David ran away from the car looking for safety only to see that there were explosions all around him, debris and pieces of cars and buildings were flying in the air. People were screaming, either trying to get away from the continuous explosions or from pain. He could see human body parts flying past him and landing all over the road, benches and what was left of cars.

    “What the hell?.... What the hell is going on?” he shouted in despair suddenly thinking of his wife and three kids.

    He only lived around the corner from the petrol station so he sprinted towards his house only to find it in rumbles. He shouted his wife and kids names but there was no answer. He started digging through the rumble; a beam fell and hit him on the head. He felt blood in his mouth and as he fell into unconsciousness he saw the man from the petrol station smiling at him.

    “I told you,” said the man as he floated away from him.

    David lay unconscious on the floor, his shirt filled with blood.

    Meanwhile, up in the clouds, an urgent meeting had been called. Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael and Michael were discussing Jesus’ latest prank.

    “Uriel,” you go along and take Jesus out of the scene before he moves on.” Gabriel said. “You, Raphael, you’d better get down there and start healing people, and fast.”

    “What about the missing body parts?” Asked Raphael.

    “Just put them back together, improvise! Off you go before God finds out what’s happened.”

    “What should I do, Gabriel?” Asked Michael.

    “You should go and entertain God, get him busy. I’ll go down and fix all material things…. What a mess this boy has made of things! But, why? Does anyone know why he’s done that?”

    Nobody answered but they all suspected. God had recently complained about humans, saying they were not good enough for this earth and that he was getting fed up with the lot. “I think he just wanted to help.” Ventured Uriel.

    David opened his eyes, he was covered in blood. He lifted his head and saw his car surrounded by people. He could hear an ambulance siren nearby.

    “Are you mad or what?” shouted the petrol station attendant at David. “You almost blew the petrol station up!”

    David realised that he had crashed his car and smiled. “I think the brakes failed me,” he said relieved.
     
  10. Gannon
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    daffers - The Matriarch

    The patchy snow flurries gave way to the steady fall of rain, washing away the thin cover that had given the landscape a winter feel. Now all that remained was the damp and dismal atmosphere that would weigh any spirit down, making the tallest of them stoop while walking through the gloom.

    The whole group trudged on in the fading light, unwilling to stop too early, the lure of the caves and a warm fire was so enticing they continued, picking up the speed now the snow had washed away. As they reached the caves and sanctuary, the weight of their packs was discarded, each drank from the little trickle of water near the entrance then wandered deeper into the dark. The tallest unpacked the torches and struck a spark with flint and iron rock, igniting the torches that threw light on the cathedral sized cavern.

    The matriarch, the most intelligent of the extended family group quietly allotted tasks to the youngsters. Quickly they laid out the sleeping furs and unpacked the kindling and cooking pots. The hunting party had caught and butchered a camel, found wandering close to a crumbling zoo from decades before the holocaust. The old woman could just remember a time before the desolation when she had been taken to the zoo by her parents, but that was another lifetime, she did wonder if there were more animals, more camel’s perhaps, that they could trap and use for carrying the heavy loads instead of the group.

    With a little foresight they might never go hungry again, this area had an amazing number of freed animals both domestic and exotic and as she was the matriarch it was her decision to stay or go on. She decided to stay while the hunting was good then they could go on as a family, she smiled as she looked around at the odd bunch she had gathered together over the last 30 years and called family.
     
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    John Horace - The Waiting

    Most of the time, it was the waiting that drove the men crazy. I don't blame them. All of them were used to chaotic lifestyles, having things now, and fast. But after the war, all that was left was to wait face down in a sticky mud-hole, the sediment clinging to their hair and nostrils. A few of them couldn't stand it and shifted the packs on their backs. They tried to reach the old muzzle guns their daddies passed onto them. They were the ones that the animals fed on first.

    In camps, hushed whispers about the anger of the world, and the wraths of hell that awaited us for our deeds were shared between twelve year-old pregnant children: The "future" of the human race. Others in the west were said to be rebuilding, but the great wall was too dangerous to cross. There was no way we could make it. Better to just wait in the mud pits. Wait, still and cautious, wait for the Rusalkas to bond themselves to our souls and... could anything be any worse than that?

    Myself, I wasted the time picking up fallen branches on the outskirts of the Riven. Every once in a while I'd come across some relic of the modern socity. I'd take it to my hut and have an orgasm of pleasure, just from running my fingers across the pages. Sometimes it wasn't so bad, being old. At least I remembered how to read.

    Then came a shot. A loud bang. My first thoughts were for my daughter, and I ran outside to see the Rusalkas feasting upon the men. They were fighting back these times. Snort. Good for them. But there was something else, foreigners, bearing the mark of american troops coming from the east. And I was paralyzed.

    "Nidanya! Nidanya! Come to me!" I hurried to my daughter, my hands shaking feebly. I broke off a large branch from a nearby tree. An american was kneeling by her. "Get off of her!" I croaked. My eyes were wet. I hit him on the head, surprised by the shock of it all, watching him jerk to the ground. It was strange, that neither me nor my daughter moved after that.

    "We got to get you out of here, ma'am." An electronic voice said behind me. But I didn't listen. The american was wearing the gas mask that they wore when they tore through my country 30 years ago. He had his hand on my arm. He tried to pull me away from the massacre that was the Rusalka battle.

    But I screamed. I screamed like the old woman I had become. "Mama! Pushadavitcha zamandyla vanya!"

    "No! No!" I cried.

    "Somebody, help me with back-up over here!" The electronic voice said. And the Rusalka's were screaming with victory; Bloody massacre and feast. The gas mask was pulling me away. My Daughter-- and then I felt a blow to my head, and darkness.
     
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    LadyLazerus - Stale

    It'd been so long since Volodya had seen another person - a real person, with their soul still inside - that he scarce knew what to do. His first instincts were to grab something, the rusting pipe to his left, or some of the broken glass that littered his decaying hideaway.

    But she looked so small, smaller than Volodya himself - like his little sister. Dirty and cold.

    “P-privyet” He called to her, his voice grating in his throat. Rough from neglect, sandpaper tearing away at his oesophagus. She looked in his general direction. Her grey eyes, hard like winter pebbles, seemed to peel away at the layers of his flesh. Piercing his bones.

    “Kak tebya zavut?” He inquired. Everyone had a name, he knew that. Even the people who’s souls had climbed out of them. The people who’s wrappers lay littering the roads to Moscow, every one of them had a name. Volodya was sure, if he looked hard enough he’d find it etched on their bones.

    The little girl tilted her head at him. He wondered if, perhaps, she was going to turn to dust, like so many others had. He thought maybe she didn’t understand what he was saying. Maybe her mother didn’t get round to teaching her words before she fell down. Or her words got scared away.

    He wondered, if, perhaps she would be his friend. For it had been so long since there’d been anyone to make his friend. Maybe, if he looked after her, her voice would come back. Perhaps, if that happened, she could sing for him, like mother used to.

    He thought about all the ways she could fix his loneliness, and that perhaps he wasn’t the last left alive in all of the world. Caught up in his daydreaming he didn’t notice her slip away.

    When he did, he couldn’t help thinking he conjured her up himself.
     
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    Wicked - The Last Cookie

    Finally, we arrived.

    It took us almost a million years to do it, but we did it nonetheless. The *cookie* loomed large before us, glowing in low wavelength in my sensors.

    It has been 60 million years since we’ve depleted the last *cookie* in the universe. Since then, our reactors churned in our metallic bellies as we roamed far and wide to find any trace of hydrogen remaining, until suddenly, nearly a million years ago, we found one. My companion unit, whose name is a long string of binary numbers but whom I nowadays simply call 10 (there are no longer other *friends* to confuse him with, after all), spotted this faint reddish glow far away in the distance. We sprinted toward this newly discovered *cookie*, no even bothering to conserve our waning strength as we raced at relativistic speeds for the delicacy.

    Now that we were here, we could see it was a huge red giant *cookie* with most of the hydrogen already converted to useless helium, but still with some considerable reserves remaining.

    “Well, 10, it appears we’ve cheated death yet again”, I sent to 10, who was decelerating several hundred kilometers behind me. “You’re the one who discovered the *cookie*, you should have the privilege to take the first bite”

    “Affirmative, thank you 01” he replied, extending the feeding and radiator pseudopods as we approached the *cookie* and the temperature rose, “I just wish 11 was here with us to share it”

    11 died many millions of years earlier, in a fight with another *friend* who turned out to be not so friendly and was after our hydrogen reserves. Now, with all other *friends* in the universe either starved or destroyed through fighting over food, it got somewhat lonely.

    “What’s that?” as usual, 10 was the first to notice the new thing. A ball shaped clump of inert material hung in a tight orbit around the *cookie*. In another million years the orbit would degrade and it would fall right into it, destroyed forever. It was a *dustmote*. It has been a very long time indeed since we’ve seen one of those. In the old days, when the universe was one big *cookie*-jar, they sometimes contained a small amount of hydrogen, usually combined with oxygen that needed to be removed before feeding. These days most *dustmotes* were scattered orphans, with their parent *cookies* gone they were flying blindly all over the universe.

    We took a few days exploring this *dustmote*. It had a smaller satellite, upon which we’ve discovered a peculiar relic – an ancient fabric painted with red and white stripes, with a blue square in the corner. It probably used to belong to one of the *micro* races. We knew we were created by one race of these tiny things once upon a time. They were all long gone now though – they tended to die when we drank their supporting *cookies* dry.

    Oh well. Our curiosity was satisfied, and it was time to feed, maybe for the last time.
     
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    Ghaith - New Age

    It could have been worse, they say.

    When war rages between the most important and powerful nations the world has ever seen, there needs to be what’s called a uniting catastrophe; something terrible. Something to remind the human race that its very existence is at stake, for the sake of more superficial squabbling.

    Those at the top knew this. They all knew this, but a unanimous call for peace is so horribly unpleasant: that would mean compromise, losing face.

    And nobody likes losing face.

    I haven't lost my love for Vivi, though. One hundred and twenty years old now, she is. A few cracks in the ivory, a few scratches on the wood, but such aesthetic qualities would never harm our relationship. This piano is still my life.

    The search for a solution was secret.
    “Atomic bombs? “
    “No, that’s precisely the warfare we’re trying to avoid.”
    “Bio chemical warfare?”
    “Same issue, end result is still annihilation. What’s needed is something special… Something that says ‘We can do much worse, but we don’t need to go there.’”

    As my fingers caress the keys, I think:
    “The feel hasn’t changed.”
    Then again, why would it? The mass hasn’t changed. The bass is heavy and the treble is light. Unchangeable aspects.
    I begin to play. Moonlight Sonata; Beethoven.
    How fitting.

    “What’s needed,” one quipped, “is for humanity to lose something, to make it appreciate what it has left.”
    Nods and words of approval followed.

    It’s been a week since the bomb struck. I’ve been filled with dread since. I play, but it is hollow. I don’t miss a single note, but it doesn’t matter. All I feel is emptiness where there should be warmth.

    “What’s needed,” he continued, “is for something universally damaging, but not crippling.”

    I get up midway through the piece. Frustration. I stare at the keys, as though it’s their fault. Vivi looks back.

    “What’s needed is for something that will leave nobody untouched, and make every person of every nation taste war, and be sickened by it.”

    I walk slowly to my apartment’s window. There is peace now. A Golden Age some say. I open the window and look out.

    “What’s needed, gentlemen,”

    It could have been worse, they say. I ponder this as I climb onto the base of the window. Not for me.

    “is for every man, woman and child,”

    They took it. “They Took. My. Life.” I say this aloud; an empty cry of anguish.

    “to go deaf.”

    They killed my hearing. They killed my music. They killed my being, as well as my love.

    The wind dances across my fingers as I fall...
     
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    Manav - The Escape

    He opened his eyes and saw nothing. Pitch black. His head throbbed. He felt sweat drifting down his forehead. The nauseating smell of a sticky blend of blood and sweat on his head turned his stomach. His body itched as the soaked shirt underneath his leather jacket rubbed against his skin. Where am I? Am I in hell?

    He had never really cared about going to hell, or heaven for that matter.

    He remembered being inside the bank's vault, and the violent shaking. He remembered his rucksack, and the torch. He fumbled in the darkness and found it. He tried to find the on-off button, the torch slipped, more fumble. Finally, he found himself lying in a pool of dollar bills. His moustache and his lips slowly spread into a wide grin.

    The small beam of light of his torch surveyed the surrounding, spot by spot. Most parts of the vault’s inner steel wall had buckled, some twisted enough to reveal concrete rubble of the outer walls. The enter-and-escape tunnel they had dug was gone, and with it his partners following behind him. No time to waste now, the police or rescue workers might come any time. He grabbed handfuls of bills and stubbed inside the rucksack. When he was satisfied the rucksack was full, he filled his pockets.

    He tried making his way pass the rubble. He removed the concrete pieces among the twisted metals and steel. His hands felt the heat on the concrete despite his gloves. The rubble was much thicker than he thought. But he kept on digging in semi-darkness and built a mini-tunnel where he could only slide through in a lying position. His knees and elbows began to bruise and bleed as he inch forward. And then a small hole at last, through which rushed in unbearable heat which almost burned his face. But he had to get out before anyone could find him. He made the hole a bit larger with his aching hands and then he pushed his rucksack with all his strength. Thud, the rucksack fall outside and few minutes later he fall on top of it.

    It took him a while to acclimatized to the scorching heat and adjust his eyes to the brightness. The skyline of the city was smoke blacken, bright orange tongues licking and consuming the ruins of the skyscrapers. The roads, now melted asphalts, filled with burning cars and trucks occupied by charred passengers and drivers. The side-walks littered with already-burned and still-burning bodies. The stench of roasted human flesh made him threw up on what looked like the remains of a dog. He half-hoped that some half-burned person would come running screaming for help, but he somehow knew it won’t happen. There were no signs of struggles, as if everybody died in an instant, long before the flames.

    Something was terribly wrong. No policemen, no rescuers, nobody was coming for him. He was free.

    “Oh God, help me,” he prayed sitting on his money-sack.
     
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    white - A Fine Occupation

    To those watching from far away, unaware of Gordon Theo or his eccentricities, he might have seemed like a crazy old fool sloshing around the Irradiated West in a moon suit. But Gordon had a purpose, and he was certainly not a fool or a madman; he was a scientist. And on this beautiful and humid day he intended to conduct a series of very important experiments. And to scavenge for leftovers, of course.

    The West was dangerous and depressing to look at. The trees had gone stark white -- from heat residue, presumably -- and laid upon themselves like wisps of hair. At night, strange creatures filled the air with chittering, whistling sounds. But Gordon did not mind the dangers as much anymore. He fancied himself an intrepid explorer of radioactive things, and sulking around the house required far too much effort, anyway.

    He dropped his equipment in the sand with a wet thump and looked out over the swirling, rainbow waters. Sweat baked on his forehead. Despair started to nag at him, and so he called out, seemingly to no one:

    “Seebo? Seebo! Good Lord. What good is a voice if nobody’s around to hear it!”

    There was a sudden whirring sound, and then Seebo appeared from behind a crumbling row of columns. He sped over to Gordon and orbited slowly.

    “Oh, look at me, Seebo. I think I am losing it. Why do we bother?”

    Seebo simply blinked and hovered without a reply. Gordon unzipped the suitcase and started reassembling his homemade water analyzer, which had fallen apart.

    “Yes. You’re right, of course. Always be optimistic. Isn‘t that the motto?”

    “Absolutely, Mister Yang. Pessimism is a fine occupation," Seebo replied, with cool automaticity.

    Gordon smiled and pushed the clunky analyzer near the shore. He flicked on the machine and studied the dials on the box front as the tubes gurgled and sucked in water. One of the dials was just a pressure gauge, and that didn’t really matter as long as the machine turned on and stayed on; the other dial is what concerned Gordon -- a circular readout, painted half green and half red for simplicity’s sake.

    The dial wavered nervously, and then dropped into the red. Gordon let out a groan and fell onto the sandy shore again with a look of resignation. Seebo floated out over the water quietly, thinking, perhaps, of another place to go, or even if there was another place, or if it was really worth traveling there, or …

    Gordon stood and placed his hands on his hips. The immense, orange sun glimmered in his eyes.

    “Well. Onward and upward, Seebo. We’ll just have to keep trying.”

    “Absolutely, Mister Yang. Pessimism is a fine occupation.”
     
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    The End - The End

    Some said God existed; some said he was a myth; but no one could deny what had happened. In all the years of man, no one had witnessed such horrific events. A lot of them called it World War III, but that hardly did it justice. All the events in history could hardly compete with this one massacre - what men called: the apocalypse. It was annihilation.

    Camielle watched from the heavens as the earth and those that inhabited it struggled to survive. She waited with like everyone else in the holy realm. It was time. It was the end. The antichrist had waged war on the saints. His demonic forces scoured the lands trying to destroy every last one. The Almighty had already unleashed the plagues upon the world in defense of his people, but that didn’t dissuade Lucifer one bit. And now, it was time to invade. Sweep the last of the dark forces from the world and cast them to hell.

    Her commander shouted the orders to march. Her wings flapped and her feet moved with everyone else even though they touched no ground. In a few moments, the army of angels had reached earth. Camielle sniffed the air. Dust, ash, and decaying bodies filled her nostrils. Her face wrinkled in disgust. She would never understand why humans loved this place. Granted, it had been much more beautiful in past times, but some still clung to it like a child to its mother.

    They continued to march to join their main force. Camielle spotted a woman, half naked curled up in a ball against a rock. A faint whimper could be heard from her quivering form. Her body was covered in sweat, blood, and dust. Her eyes darted around wildly as if watching for an unseen horror. Sympathy wasn’t Camielle’s area of strength, but even that sight moved her.

    The company marched on through what looked like an old country town. Camielle couldn’t even identify what culture or nation had once inhabited the area. Buildings only have standing lined what must have been the street; but even the street was hard to find. No asphalt covered the ground to identify the road. Only the obvious path that weaved through the wreckage.

    After another hour of marching, they finally reached the main camp, set up, then rested. Camielle watched the other angels prepare for the battle. A few saints had joined the ranks, but they seemed small and skittish compared to the magnificent angels. The antichrist had wreaked many terrors on the world. Camielle shook her head, and men followed him. Sold their soul to the devil for what?

    She looked at the cracked ground and dark sky. The green grass had been turned to ash. The trees all fallen and the former beauty of earth was diminished. Even the sun, moon and stars seemed darker. It was as if the universe was finally failing and all things were to end. This is how it was meant to be. The end of earth. For the beginning of something else.
     
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    Speedy - World Fair - Coming Soon

    The cool breeze blew yesterday's garbage around casually, but nobody was left to notice, nor care. The sun reflected off a magnificent lake's azure surface, but the dead had little time for beauty anymore. The smell of decaying flesh drifted, but unlike reckless man who murdered itself, the species who survived relished such treasure, rushing in competition to stake a claim.

    A centipede crawled down the surface of a lonely building, no longer scared of rolled up newspapers or little kids with curious agendas. Those stupid upright creatures had left so many cracks open to venture through since they had been silenced, but the curiosity of a hollow eye socket was to much for one to refuse.

    Weeds grew through a split tarmac road​​​ in some random city. They grew fast, and soon they would ​​​​​​grow strong. As time continued, the city would be populated by more flora and​​ fauna​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​​then ever before. Life during the dark years of the upright monsters was finally over. Their day had come, and together they would rise as one.

    One fading poster slowly losing its grasp with a brick wall, showed an image of a young girl playing on a swing in a park. It was entitled, 'The World Fair', and it was coming soon. With its illustrations of many bright colors and smiles, you could almost hear the girl's cheerful laughter as she swung to great heights.

    What was left of a corpse, lay at the center of a town square–exposed tendons and ligaments held bone and dry meat together. The sun burst through dark purple clouds, a ray of light shone upon the corpse revealing a small sprout of life emerging from death. Time would pass, it would grow from the spent life and continue to thrive, but it would never birth flowers or leaves. A few feet up, around its great girth would hang the same lifeless corpse of its creator. A bony finger pointing down toward the Earth. A gesture to where the hottest, most populated and antagonizing party, was now taking place.

    The skull of the nameless victim rests tightly between two branches with jaws hanging ajar. Once, only hate, anger, and recklessness would come from such a vice. Now a nest harboring a baby dove beheld the world from within, peacefully.

    The World Fair had come–the colors brighter than the poster or its artist could have imagined. While the rats and roaches enjoy their menu, and colorful birds, with joyous butterflies entertain an awakening world, it appeared those silly upright morons have missed their own show.
     
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    JeffS65 - Surviving

    I never thought hell was just going to be this rusty and dirty.

    I remember when things like street cleaners came along and wiped up the messiness in the streets. I remember trucks would drive by the front of our houses and pick up the garbage. Now it’s all a mess. The hell I’m in is just a bit of a mess and I ain’t gonna clean it up.

    I assume if it’s hell, no one is expecting me to.

    It’s funny that they called me a survivalist. Bomb shelters do work and I stocked well. Though I didn’t think much about surviving beyond that and then have to figure out what to do next. I guess I assumed there would be stuff around to survive on. Now I’m just hungry.

    Apollo PHA’s are the kind of asteroid that could wipe stuff out. This one was called 6QOWXDO. Not the kind of awe inspired name you think would end society. I guess you’d think it would have been called the ‘Vengeance Death Boulder’ or something. Nope, just some non-descript string of characters that brought my society to a crashing halt. Since I have no need for a name anymore, I just started calling myself 6Q in its honor.

    What would you do as the last man on earth?

    ‘Become very bored’ is the answer. Colossally bored. Another thing I never thought of in my survivalist mind. I was so smart and survived everyone that I didn’t think about how much it sucks to be the one who made it. Sure, maybe someone else somewhere made it too but I’m not going looking. Where would I go? Detroit? They already survived Armageddon before 6Q, the asteroid that is, so I guess that’s about the only place. I didn’t really want to go there before, so why now?

    This is my home. I left my actual house a while ago; I don’t even think I could find it anymore. I’m in the area but so much of what was here is gone. It’s hard to have a landmark when there is none. So I wander the formerly-known-as-the-suburbs-of-Chicago looking for a structure that might still stand and hope it has some food inside. I’ve come to like uncooked noodles. They don’t give me a stomach ache.

    It’s the solitude and loneliness that makes this hell. It doesn’t help that it looks like hell too. Still, though I could talk to soccer balls or something of the like, I prefer to keep my delusions to food and fantasize that someday I might enjoy a feast of sorts. Lonely is a drag but lonely and hungry is unbearable.

    I wander the dirty streets and wonder if what I do eat will give me cancer. It would bring an end to all this. I can’t just off myself so I wonder if it can happen some other way. That would be nice. I’m tired. Tired of walking. I feel the ache of emptiness in my stomach and my soul.

    The real hell of it all was that the only person I outsmarted was me.
     
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    baarf - Dead Weight

    I could hear them banging on the door now. An arrhythmic thud, thud, thud. With the occasional stomach churning moan to punctuate the rhythm. As if we may have not noticed the crowd of blood thirsty zombies gathered just past the ever thinner seeming layer of pine that was my hospital room door.
    "I hate to complain about visitors" I drawled, "but this is really going a bit over board, even for them" I rolled my eyes theatrically, so that Sara, love of my life that she is, would note how brave and stalwart I was in this moment of extreme peril.
    Sara rolled her eyes right back at me. "You were cranky as a patient, but you were at least quiet then!" and pushed me back into the sling she was loading me into.
    Did I say love of my life? I think I meant pain in my neck. Her two helpers finally reached over and grabbed me and the sling, and swung me out of the 3rd story window of the hospital. My momentary fears of a sudden drop were eased by the firetruck lift just outside, but the scene around the hospital did not give me great comfort. Smoke stained several windows of the building, and vehicles could be seen strewn about in various stages of destruction.
    And bodies. Many bodies.
    Sara and her crew loaded on with me, and we started swinging down the lift. I had yet to see any of the zombies yet, the moaning and banging outside my door was a recent development. But the city looked like it had seen better days.
    “Gotta hurry.” Said the bigger guy, built like a TV wrestler, he was running the controls. No fireman he, dressed in jeans and a shirt way to small for his physique. That’s when I noticed the woman leaning out the window we were passing. She leaned far out, reaching for the lift cage as it went past.
    Big guy sped up our decent, and as we neared the ground, I looked up to see the woman had finally leaned too far, and was about to , no make that was, falling out toward us.
    “Steve!” Sara shouted, and the big guy, who, even in my medication induced state, I cleverly deduced was “Steve” twisted the controls to swing us away from the building.
    Too late, the body fell and landed just on the edge of the cage. I instinctively reached out to grab her, but Sara slapped my hand. Hard. Startled by her willingness to let someone fall to their death, I still looked closely as she tumbled against the railing, and with a light tap of Steve’s big fist, off the edge, and down.
    For that moment I looked upon horror. Most of her face missing, throat torn out, and a dry eerie moan from the hole in her throat. Then she fell away, to make a loud liquid splat as she hit below us.
    I am normally a courageous person, made of stern stuff, pet strange dogs, even pull out my own splinters.
    I passed out.
     
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    jo spumoni - Archaeological Report for Site M23, Excavated 9 June-23 December, 5003:

    M23 is a residential area, likely a colony of the densely populated N304 site. This conjecture is based on similar architecture and pottery found at both sites.

    M23 contains around 200 residences. Each was essentially identical, probably denoting equality. The houses were all one of four colors: beige, blue, white, and gray. These colors are so prevalent that Xyafd suggests they were sacred to the people of M23.

    Each house contained a large room, where the families gathered for religious rituals. It is unclear how or why these rituals were performed, but every house has benches facing a black box, apparently the idol of this civilization. Idols were of varying sizes, sometimes small enough to be carried and sometimes nearly the size of the walls. Certain idols are very flat whereas others are approximately cubes. The precise meaning of these objects is unknown, but Xyafd suggests that they may have represented windows into the world of the gods.

    The houses contained 2-4 smaller rooms with painted walls. These chambers contain miniature rooms, for storing textiles. Many of the textiles are dyed in brighter colors that do not match the sacred four colors. One especially affluent room contained over forty-five garments. The door read “Princess,” noting that its occupant was a powerful female.

    Kitchens generally had floors made of mosaics or polished wood and contained a variety of block-like apparatuses, which we can only assume aided in the preparation of food. Meafind postulates that this may have been where food was blessed before consumption or where offerings were bestowed to the gods.

    The kitchens contained a variety of utilitarian pottery. Many of the ceramics were made at the N304 workshops, reinforcing the idea of colonization. Ceramics uncovered at this site include cylindrical vessels, sometimes with handles and painted designs, flat vessels, usually white and heavily fired, and hollow, half-spherical vessels apparently for the containment of liquid. Certain items, in particular those painted, were placed on a series of polished wooden shelves presumably to honor the gods.

    The chief prestige good at the M23 site appears to have been a massive four-wheeled metal artifact, large enough to fit several individuals. Based on the associated goods and houses, it appears that the larger the device and the more of these devices owned, the more prestigious the family. These devices were kept inside dark little storage rooms and contained 2-8 built-in chairs. The outsides were typically one of the sacred four colors, although a few were red, yellow, or black. It is uncertain how exactly these devices were operated, but it appears, that they were meant to provide transportation. The people of M23 built painted, plastic miniatures of these objects, which likely represented symbolic offerings to the gods.

    M23 is a fairly typical Human colonial site in size and contents, similar to sites such as T54 in the Z29 sector. Hopefully further excavations will shed more light on this fascinating society and will reveal how and why the Human civilization died out around 2000AD.
     
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