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.

The Tree that Decided

They came to the forest, checked another man’s snares,

And then took what they found though it clear was not theirs,

Burned bark from a tree, and their fire it flared,

They’d woken the tree – and its cold judging stare.

The tree that decided the fate of the lot,

It watched and it judged them from its lonely spot,

It looked from the eye in its gnarled old knot,

And it watched and decided ‘til that tree did rot.

So they cooked up the meat that they‘d gone off and stole,

Then got out their tents, and they pitched them with poles.

Their fire was dying: only left was spent coal;

So they doused it with water, and went to bed cold.

The tree that decided the fate of the lot,

It watched and it judged them from its lonely spot,

It looked from the eye in its gnarled old knot,

And it watched and decided ‘til that tree did rot.

The wild wind woke them in a late night storm gale,

The ashes were flying, and the tree branches flailed,

In horror and anger the trespassers wailed.

The tree that decided, break them and prevail!

The tree that decided the fate of the lot,

It watched and it judged them from its lonely spot,

It looked from the eye in its gnarled old knot,

And it watched and decided ‘til that tree did rot.

Into the forest, came a man with an axe,

And toppled the thing in a single swift act.

Broke straight through bark – left the eye un-intact;

The tree that decided, dragged away to a stack.

Now the tree that decided the fate of the lot,

Was ripped from the earth of its lonely old spot.

Punished justly for doing what it knew it should not;

It had watched and decided until it did rot.

Deceivers not punished by what’s brought to a mill,

In life they can steal, and pilfer their fill,

The trees can’t affect them, stuck bound in the till,

But they would if they could, as the most of us will.

The tree that decided the fate of the lot,

It watched and it judged them from its lonely spot,

It looked from the eye in its gnarled old knot,

T’was punished far more severely than those who did not.

A.H.W.