Today’s short story is part of a series inspired while writing my science fiction novel, Survivors’ Club (Coming 2018 from Not a Pipe Publishing) . It’s a chance for me to explore what other characters in the world would be doing both during and post apocalypse. Hope you enjoy my free short stories. Please share, tweet, and talk about my work. I look forward to your feedback.
Today’s story, The Best Friend, goes along with the song “The Beach” by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis on The Road soundtrack.
The parents had all gone away. After the big kids left, it was just us. I used to cry at night but now I have a best friend so I’m not lonely.
At night we creep out of the tents. They flap and creak in the wind. One of them fell down and killed some of the little kids in Camp B.
When grown ups came to the Camps, looking for food or guns or whatever, we hid from them mostly. Sometimes they ignore the little kids they find. Sometimes they try to help. Give them little packets of food or candy. They are sad, but they just can’t take any of us little kids with them. Sometimes the grown ups want to hurt us or take us away even if we don’t want to go. It’s just better to hide from all of them cuz you don’t know what kind they are until it’s too late.
That’s what I tell my best friend. She’s little like me. We built mud forts before the creek dried up with moats and rooms for all our families who are gone now. So are our forts. A group of men, who said that they were in the Army but didn’t have guns or uniforms, stomped on them when they crossed going South.
Me and my best friend sat under the fallen over oak tree and watched. There’s a dirt spot, hollowed out a little, under the cracked old trunk, just big enough for us two together. We can sit there and peek out like raccoons and no one ever sees us cuz of all the big dead branches with rattly yellow and brown leaves.
Yesterday some big kids from a different city’s camp came by. They went South, too. They said there was no more water in their city’s camp and ours would be gone soon. They said we should go South, but my best friend was scared and so was I.
Last night some dogs came to the edge of the camp. We climbed onto the roof of the food shed and threw empty cans at the dogs. They cried and snapped at us but my best friend said they were just mad cuz the cans were empty. That made me sad, cuz I was mad the cans were empty, too.
This morning we wake up on the roof of the food shed with our unthrown empty cans. One of the dogs lies on the ground, watching us. It has one blue eye and one brown one and its nose is stuck in one of the cans.
All the other dogs have left and my best friend feels sorry for the can dog. I do too and I am sorry for throwing cans cuz the dogs were just hungry like us.
We climb off the roof. The dog tries to run away, but it keeps bumping its nose so it sits down and whines. I pull the can off its nose and then it does run away. We chase it past the fallen-over oak, up the hill, and down to the creek with the mud fort ruins. On the other side, we poke between the empty tubes that were reed skeletons. The dog barks and skips away. He crouches down his chest almost to the ground, but his butt wiggles in the air.
My best friend wants to play with the dog and so do I. We break off a bunch of twigs and throw them to the dog for him to fetch, but it scares him and he runs away further. I take some crackers out of my pocket and hold them out. I walk slowly towards the dog. He whines and licks his chops and then he creeps up to me on his tummy. He snatches the crackers out of my hand and runs away a little to eat them, but then he comes right back and sniffs and licks my hand. His tongue is warm and rough, like fuzzy new corn leaves.
I giggle and give him some more crackers. I tell him we should go South like the men who were in the Army and the big kids. We should look for water.
We walk together all day, me and the can dog. I like to run, so I run and the can dog runs too, his big ears flopping, his long pink tongue waving like a flag. When he gets too far ahead I start to cry because I don’t want to be alone again. He turns around and runs back as fast as he can to lick my face.
My best friend gets smaller and smaller until she goes away. I guess when you have a real best friend, like the can dog, you don’t need a made up best friend.