We like to imagine the end. How we might survive. How we might live after the fateful moment that changes everything. That moment has arrived—welcome to Canada, after the apocalypse! Fractured is a collection of stories by more than 20 writers who imagine life after the end of days. The waters have risen around Vancouver, nuclear disasters have devastated the Prairies, a strange sickness has relocated the capital of the nation to Yellowknife, aliens have invaded Manitoba, and even ghosts have returned to exterminate the living. Across this vast nation, a country fractured and rent asunder by disasters both natural and unnatural, come the stories of survivors, of the brave and the wicked, the kind and the hostile. These are tales that reveal the secrets at this critical point for humanity, exploring a diversity of scenarios and settings from small rural communities to large cities and protagonists from all walks of life. Postapocalyptic literature finds its stories in each generation that has something new to reflect upon: Mary Shelley’s 1826 novel The Last Man is considered the first work of modern apocalyptic fiction, and many have followed in her footsteps in both print, with The Hunger Games, I Am Legend, The Road, and OryxandCrake, and film, with Mad Max, Waterworld, The Book of Eli, and others. Contributors to this volume include T. S. Bazelli, David Huebert, Hilary Janzen, Arun Jiwa, Claude Lalumière, Michael Pack, Morgan M. Page, Miriam Oudin, Frank Westcott, A. C. Wise, and more.
About the Author
Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a short story writer and editor, and the operator of the micropress Innsmouth Free Press. Her short stories have appeared in Imaginarium 2012: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing, The Book of Cthulhu, ELQ/Exile: The Literary Quarterly, and Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science Fiction. She is the author of This Strange Way of Dying and the editor of Dead North: Canadian Zombie Fiction and Future Lovecraft. She lives in Vancouver.
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Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse
By Silvia Morena-Garcia
Exile EditionsCopyright © 2014 Authors,
All rights reserved.
NO MAN IS A PROMONTORY
Kelowna has changed in the last five years. Back then, this was City Park. When Pennyweight and I snuck in under the protective shroud of darkness this morning, though, the dead trees and bare earth made it hard to think of this place as anything other than what it is now – a graveyard. Heaps of brown earth hastily scraped over the bodies of the fallen fill the void where the grass used to be, and charred bits of bone and teeth litter what used to be a kid's water park before it was repurposed for disposing of those killed by the fallout. Apart from Pennyweight, I haven't seen a kid in years. The bio-weapons killed almost all the plants above water, and some people will eat anything. Not Pennyweight and I. We're the last people in this city, and we have food for two.
There's a promontory on the beach, a little rock toe stretched cautiously into the lake. On top of it is a raft made of barrels that some keen individual roped together in an attempt to cross the lake after the bridge went out. Beneath the rusty barrels, huddled together for warmth, Pennyweight and I are scoping the lake. Pennyweight is wearing a man's medium corduroy suit jacket, the closest we could find to camouflage for a 12-year-old. He looks like a bundle of sticks in fancy dress. I'm wearing my old army uniform; with my gaunt frame and my face paint made from water milfoil, I look like a photograph in National Geographic, something with a title like Woman Soldier at the End of Days. Sometimes it amuses me that we're both Indian, but different kinds, with Pennyweight coming from across the lake and my mother having come here from across the ocean.
Despite our clothes, the seeping moisture always finds its way in, and what heat it can't take, the cold rocks leach away. The frigid air deadens my sense of smell, but I know that when we are warm in our beds tonight, the scents trapped in our clothes of plant rot and the last glacial run-off before winter will make the room smell like a camping trip. As it stands, all I can smell is Pennyweight's salty breath.
It wasn't always like this. I used to be in the Canadian Armed Forces infantry. I got back from my first tour overseas right before all this began. When I was selected for advanced training, my mother insisted that I come back to Kelowna so that she could throw a party for me. No matter how old I got, I was still a little girl in her eyes. Sometimes, when I have a hard time falling asleep, I wonder if, as I cradled her in my arms that last time, she had finally gazed up at me and seen a woman instead. I doubt it. Even as I stared down at the weak, ephemeral husk she had been at the end, I still felt as though I were looking up at her.
Across the lake is a dilapidated building on the hill, along with a gigantic wooden "L." I think it used to be part of a series of signs that said THE BLUFF, but I never really paid attention to it when I had the chance to. I linger on the "L," combing over the flecks of white paint. Pennyweight is trying hard not to shiver against my arm, but I can feel his shoulder jiggling against my ribs. Rather than pushing him away, my hands clench, steadying the scope.
I wouldn't describe myself as a soft-hearted person – I've stolen food from a woman giving birth – but Pennyweight had managed to find his way in anyway. Three years ago, I was passing by the Starbucks on the edge of Glenmore, trying to ignore the sweat dripping down the middle of my ribcage, when I came across a scene I'd seen many times before. Two winters had passed since the mass deaths and, by that summer, children had become desirable because they couldn't fight back. I watched from behind a house with melted siding as a man in his thirties slammed a bat with nails in it into a spindly goblin with skin too small for his bones. The child was beyond wailing tears, but every time the bat came down he made a sharp sigh like air being pumped through bellows. Seeing that the man was occupied, I bent down and picked up a rock, took aim at the man with my gun, then threw the rock at an overturned plastic tub on his other side. The man's head whipped toward the noise, and my finger twitched. He was dead before he hit the ground.
I was totally indifferent to the child. All I cared about was reducing my competition for the remaining food, and I'd seen wild children before. They had judged that it was better to starve than to be raped, eaten, or forced to crawl into collapsed buildings in search of food, which, more often than not, seemed to result in a stuck child starving to death. I couldn't say that I blamed them. As I approached, he folded into himself like a paper airplane but I went to the dead man instead, stripping him of his clothes and belongings. He had brought a snack, a little box of Sun-Maid raisins, which I opened and dumped in my mouth.
There are always two or three that stick to the bottom, so I lowered the box to scrape them out. Before I had even gotten the box to digging level, the child had sprung up and snatched it from my hands. I went for my gun, then thought better of wasting ammo, and by the time I had taken 10 steps in his direction, he had disappeared. Was it worth following him into his territory and risking injury over two raisins he had probably already eaten? I tied the dead man's possessions in his jacket, made a bindle with his bat, and started back to the tree house I was living in at the time.
None of my traps went off that night, or the next. It was on the third day that I heard a squeal. The boy was standing as still as possible, one of his feet stuck through rotted plywood, the other on the dirt. If he tried to pull his foot free, then there was a very good chance that he would lose his balance and fall forward. There was nothing he could do but watch as I approached, gun at the ready.
"You're lucky that you're so light," I said. "Otherwise, you would have fallen into a pit full of nails and broken glass."
He stared at me, taking in the massive knot of scar tissue that I called my left cheek, and my broken nose. I returned his gaze. He seemed to have cleaned up somehow, and whatever swelling his face might have suffered, it had gone down enough for me to tell that he would once have been considered an indigenous person. As I paused to assess him, his cracked lips broke into a tenuous smile, and he pulled something out of the garbage bag he was wearing, then held it out to me. It was a bullet from my gun. He held his other hand out as well, palm outstretched and empty, and after a moment I took the bullet from his hand. His smile widened.
"I'll let you out, but don't come around here again," I told him, and once I freed him, he ran off.
As I covered the hole in the board with Gyprock, I considered what had happened. Perhaps he had felt that he had to pay me back. I doubted that he had felt any qualms about retrieving my bullet after what the body it was buried in had done to him. Well, hopefully, he would have enough sense not to test my traps again.
A week passed, and I forgot about the child. During the second week, though, I came across a cache of ammo and food stowed away in the Rutland Salvation Army, and waited in sight of the entrance for its owner to return. I was there for almost a full day before I heard shrieking not far off. Stalking quietly but slowly, I located the source of the noise one street over. The child was standing beside the body of a woman with a broken, rusty knife stuck in her skull. She had managed to graze his ribs with a bullet before he had finished her off, and she had tiny, bloody handprints on her corpse where he had touched her in order to remove her clothes. Now, his slight, elfin frame was dressed in cargo shorts, and he was struggling with her leather jacket. When he saw me he paused, and then, setting the jacket down, he gathered everything else she had on her.
"For you," he said.
I am snapped out of my reminiscence when I feel a tap from Pennyweight on my forearm, followed by two lines down and one to the left – his left. As I swing my scope down, I feel him tap me three more times, and a glandload of adrenaline trills through my veins. He saw someone.
Sure enough, as I focus on the old docks near the remains of the bridge, two people are emerging from the shack, both male and in hunting garb. Apart from their years, they look identical. The older one has grey hair streaked brown and a braided beard, while the younger one, around my age, only has a goatee and keeps his hair under a black toque. The young one aims a shotgun at the scenery while his elder approaches the houseboat attached to the dock. Stroking his beard as he goes, he walks up and down the mildew-slicked boards, and when he sees that the boat has no leaks, his coarse face splits into a grin. Tonight, I am sure he is thinking, they will cross the lake. Tonight, they will eat again.
He turns around to give the younger man the news. When he does, I can see the M21 on his back. Though their clothes are filthy, their guns are clean. I wonder if the older man taught the younger one how to clean a gun. I feel Pennyweight quivering beside me, and then I wonder if the older man ever brought the younger one to the beach. As the older man brings up his rifle to scope out my side of Lake Okanagan, I wonder if, five years ago, they might not have been here before. Maybe they took pictures in front of the sails and got goat cheese scones at the Bean Scene before the younger one went off to play volleyball and the older one read Dean Koontz on a towel with nothing on but shorts and a driftwood necklace. Maybe they dangled their feet in the lake and fed the ducks and maybe, just maybe, the younger one went through the water park.
But that was a long time ago. The Bean Scene's been torn up for firewood, the beach is a graveyard, any ducks that made it to winter that first year did not come back the next, and Pennyweight's parents burned up in that first wave of dead set alight in the old water park.
Pennyweight buries his face in my shoulder.
By the time the older man catches the glint off Pennyweight's scope, I've already fired the first shot, and he crumples like a paper doll left out in the rain. As I reload, the younger man falls to his knees and hunches over the body of the older man, pulling it onto his lap and rocking it. His shoulders, wide as a bookcase, shake as he buries his face in the corpse's chest. He knows I'm out there, but maybe he knows he'll never get the M21 up in time, or maybe he doesn't care. I fire the second shot, and he collapses over the older man.
We don't know when the plants will come back. Maybe next spring. Maybe next decade. We can last that long provided we adhere to a single rule.
We have food for two.CHAPTER 2
PERSISTENCE OF VISION
I want you to act like this is all a movie. That'll make it easier.
If it was a movie, it would open with darkness. No credits, no titles, just a black screen that you stare into waiting for something to appear, waiting for the darkness to resolve into a picture. Instead, there's a voice reciting familiar words: "911, what is your emergency?" Then another voice; a woman, crying, terrified: "There's a man in my house. He's in my bedroom."
"Are you in a safe place?"
"Now he's in the living room. He's in whatever room I go into. He's standing in the corner, pointing at me. He's talking, but I can't hear what he's saying."
At this point, you'd get the titles.
* * *
It wasn't the first 911 call. No one knows what the first one was. There's no way to separate it out from the others, even if anyone had wanted to. There's no way to draw the line and say, "This is the first real one. All the ones before this were just hoaxes, crazy people, misunderstandings." And then there's the question, of course, about how many of the ones before were crazy people, hoaxes? How long had it been going on, before we even knew?
And once it started, it took everyone so long to figure it out, because how do you figure something like that out? What do you do with that call, the one that played there in the dark, when the police and the EMTs arrive and find the woman crammed under her couch somehow, huddled up there like a frightened cat, dead from shock, the phone still gripped to her ear, the house otherwise deserted? What do you do with the call from a college kid who says that his fiancée went into the closet and never came out? When you look in the closet and find that it's maybe two feet square, just enough room for some clothes and the vacuum cleaner and no place for a person to go? You dismiss them at first, of course. You take the kid into custody, notify the woman's next of kin. But after a while, there are too many. After a while, people are no longer calling 911. After a while, the phones don't work anymore, and when you pick them up all you hear is voices, hundreds of them piled atop one another, all whispering your name.
* * *
If this was a movie, we'd have to have some kind of song playing over the opening credits, right? Something at once unexpected and appropriate. Not Johnny Cash, because Zach Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake beat us to that punch, and besides, "The Man Comes Around" isn't quite right. So let's go just one step to the side, and get Nick Cave and company singing Dylan's "Death Is Not the End."
And while the music plays, there'd be snippets of footage in the background. Stuff from security cameras, blurry cell phone videos, clips of news shows. You'd see hands coming out of a shadow where a light was just shining, showing an empty corner. You'd see a window filling with bloody handprints. You'd see a girl, being pulled into what looks like a solid wall, sliding up it, into the ceiling. Someone is running, holding the camera. The door is just a few feet away, and they look behind themselves, turning the camera with their gaze, and there's nothing behind them to be afraid of, but as they turn back the door is gone, bricked up in those few half-seconds, and then you hear a scream, and the camera goes to static.
Yeah, that's the opening credits.
* * *
The trick, when you're trying to compress any story into a couple of hours, is how to handle the exposition so it's not so clumsy. We'd want to avoid a text crawl or an opening narrator, because those are old-fashioned; reserved, nowadays, for more epic films, or things that purport to be "based on a true story." And while we want verisimilitude here, we also want to distance you from what's happening. That's kind of the point. Hence the song, right?
If this was an indie film, or something from overseas, we'd probably not give you any exposition at all right away. You'd just get dropped into the middle of the action, and you wouldn't have any idea what was going on. Just like in real life. Nobody knew what was happening. Most people died without ever knowing, they explained it whatever way they had to, or no way at all. There were street-corner preachers and politicians alike saying that it was God's judgment, there were cults that sprang up in the last days. There were people who were trying to give it some kind of scientific explanation– hallucinogens and black holes – even as the walls were bleeding and doorknobs were disappearing under the sweaty grasps of desperate hands. Outside my window, someone had spray-painted across the side of an office building, "Now 'tis the very witching hour of night, when churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out contagion." It seemed as good an explanation as any, at the time.
The studios wouldn't stand for that, though, so your protagonist would be someone who worked at the facility. Or maybe someone who was married to someone who worked at the facility. Someone like me.
(I'm lying to myself, of course. If Hollywood had the purse strings, we wouldn't be married, we'd be dating. And 15 years younger. And our genders would be flipped, so that I was the one working at the facility and she was the one at home, tapping out movie reviews on her laptop in the kitchen window. We probably also wouldn't be in Montreal, but hey, maybe. They're filming more and more movies in Toronto these days, or they were, back when they were still filming movies.)
Maybe she'd tell me about the project in the evenings, over plates of spaghetti, like she really did. Or maybe she'd keep it all secret from me, but I'd read some notes or something, after the whole thing started. One way or the other, I'd discover how they found the machine in a bricked-up basement underneath an abandoned insane asylum. (The studios would love that!) They thought it was some kind of computer, maybe one of the first computers ever built. Not really a computer at all as we know them today, but something more like a difference engine, like the ones Turing worked on. All brass and levers and numbered keys, like a cross between some kind of ancient cash register and a pipe organ. All the project was ever supposed to do was to see what this thing did, what it was. This was going to be a big break in the history of computing, but, instead, it was the end of the history of anything.
Excerpted from Fractured by Silvia Morena-Garcia. Copyright © 2014 Authors,. Excerpted by permission of Exile Editions.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsINTRODUCTION Silvia Moreno-Garcia,
NO MAN IS A PROMONTORY H.N. Janzen,
PERSISTENCE OF VISION Orrin Grey,
ST. MACAIRE'S DOME Jean-Louis Trudel,
KALOPSIA E. Catherine Tobler,
WHITE NOISE Geoff Gander,
EDITED HANSARD 116 Miriam Oudin,
THE BODY POLITIC John Jantunen,
D-DAY T.S. Bazelli,
MATTHEW, WAITING A.C.Wise,
JENNY OF THE LONG GAUGE Michael Matheson,
SNOW ANGELS A.M. Dellamonica,
KEEPER OF THE OASIS Steve Stanton,
MANITOU-WAPOW GMB Chomichuk,
SAYING GOODBYE Michael S. Pack,
OF THE DYING LIGHT Arun Jiwa,
@SHALESTATE David Huebert,
CITY NOISE Morgan M. Page,
BROWN WAVE Christine Ottoni,
RUPTURES Jamie Mason,
RIVER ROAD Amanda M.Taylor,
LAST MAN STANDING Frank Westcott,
DOG FOR DINNER dvsduncan,
MAXIM FUJIYAMA AND OTHER PERSONS Claude Lalumière,