Husked

“It’s just me,” Bobby whispers, “nobody else but me.” He looks down at the street forty stories below. The Husks – those who had been overcome by the mind-melting radiation from last summer’s solar flare – stared dumbly up at him. Their expressionless, dead eyes were wide as always.

Unblinking.

They were harmless, not like the cliché brain-hungry TV/movie monstrosities. These things just shuffled around aimlessly, bumping into one another.

Bobby almost wished they were dangerous. The challenge of survival would have at least taken his mind off the soul crushing loneliness. Ever since he climbed out of the MRI tube last summer, which he’d guessed shielded him from the jolt, he hadn’t spoken to anyone.

He spent the last eight months roaming the country, looking for anyone who still had their wits. Bobby couldn’t live alone. He had almost forgotten the sound of his friends’ voices.

The Husks were always silent. They didn’t moan or growl; the only sound they made what when they bumped into one another, or knocked something over.

“I can’t do this anymore,” Bobby says to an empty world. He simply steps out the open window.

He’s only in free-fall for a split second, plummeting toward the pavement below, before he hears something: a phone ringing. By the sound of it, it’s coming from one of the lower floors in the building.

Bobby crashes onto the hood of a rusted Volkswagen, parked curbside. The impact shatters every bone in his body, but doesn’t kill him right away. Even over the sound of the car alarm, he can pick out the distant ringing. In the lonely reaches of his mind, Bobby gets the feeling that this isn’t a robo-call. Someone real is on the other end of that line.

Somewhere in the world, there was a person as desperate as he was, maybe reaching out one last time in a desperate attempt to make contact with family or a friend – perhaps at an old phone number. As a warm darkness sweeps over him, he has a final thought.

I’m not the last person, Bobby thinks. They are.

A.H.W.

Just One Second

What Can Happen in a Second –

John fumbles for his car keys to lock the door. His arms are over-burdened with grocery bags; he’s wrapped the plastic loops around his wrists, so he can bring everything inside the apartment in a single trip.

As he digs deeper into his pocket, trying to grab his beeper, one bag slides down his arm and the plastic breaks. Of course it’s the one packed with two cartons of eggs. The weak styrofoam crumbles, and the shells shatter.

John leaps backward to avoid getting the splattering goop on the hem of his work pants. As he jumps, he stumbles backward and slams into the bumper of his sedan. It’s not in park.

As it rolls away from him and into the front fender of the next car over, John considers how much time he would have saved, had he just made the second trip.

A.H.W.