The After War
by Brandon Zenner
Two years have passed since mankind faced extinction. Brian Rhodes and his cousin, Steven, are leaving the protection of their underground bunker for the first time, after a cataclysmic war and unrelenting disease ravaged the earth.
On the other side of the North American continent, young Simon Kalispell is leaving the safety and seclusion of his cabin deep in the woods, traveling with his aging canine companion, Winston.
For individual reasons, these men are traveling east, where the fragmented lives of a small number of survivors will soon be decided by the choices of a corrupt few.
Simon Kalispell and Brian Rhodes are not yet aware, but the strength that resides inside them will soon be tested, and destiny will call for their fates to be forever intertwined.
Brian lowered his gun. “It’s okay, Steve. He’s dead.” He looked around. “There’s no one here.”
Steven lowered his rifle, wiping his palms on his thighs and brushing the sweat from his eyes.
“I said he’s dead, Steve—”
“I reckon he’s dead, Brian. I see he’s dead.”
“Come on now. We’re right at town.”
They sidestepped the corpse until it was well behind them. If the body was someone they had once known, it was now impossible to determine who that person might have been.
“That won’t be the last of them,” Brian said. “You better get your head on straight.”
Steven opened his mouth to speak, but then shut it again.
They stepped onto the road as the first house emerged from the woods. They walked past it, taking careful notice of the blank windows—as black as the eye sockets of the corpse—and scanned for any sign of movement, like the fluttering of drapes, or the partially covered face of a person peering out from the darkness with a shotgun clenched tight in their hands. Anything.
But there was no movement.
“Think anyone’s left?” Steven said, with a crack in his voice.
Brian shrugged. “I know as much as you do.”
The yards around the homes, and Pearl Street itself, were spotted with litter and debris of every kind blowing in the gentle breeze. Overgrown tree roots buckled sections of the sidewalk and emerged from cracks in the pavement. They passed the police station bordering the center of town. The cruisers were vacant in the parking lot, and the building was cold and silent.
Interview with Karl Metzger
The following interview was conducted under circumstances that I was fooled into believing were for the good of fellow survivors. General Karl Metzger is the leader of a well-equipped band of mercenaries, calling themselves The Red Hands.
I waited for Karl in a small room, ruined by war. I had been escorted through the town of Odyssey under escort, and the smell wafting from the guards was horrific. One of Karl’s men stood by the door, an assault rifle strapped over his chest, and a thick, red handprint plastered over his chest, which is a symbol of their order. After a half hour the door opened, and in walks a towering man wearing crisp army fatigues with a sidearm strapped to his belt. The man shone a brilliant smile of straight white teeth, and shook my hand with ferocity. He introduced himself in a bellowing voice, and we sat.
Interviewer: Hello. My name is Brandon Zenner. It’s a pleasure to meet you.
Karl: Likewise. I do hope you will find Odyssey to your liking, and your accommodations pleasurable. Would you care for a cigar?
Interviewer: I generally don’t smoke … but I suppose I can make an exception. Thank you. About the accommodations, I will be leaving shortly after the interview.
Karl: My home is your home. Stay a while and have a drink with my men—the finest assortment of fighting men you will find, this I assure you. I hear you’re a writer, a journalist. Not long ago, I would have thought your job to be an extinct practice. But I now see the errors of my ways. You have purpose to me.
Interviewer: Well … I see. Shall we begin?
Karl: Yes, of course. Ask away. (Karl leans back, putting his feet on the table, and for a moment the creaking of the chair suggests the wood might break under the man’s strong frame)
Interviewer: Fellow survivors speculate about your past, and some people believe that you might not even exist, and the tales of your exploits are only meant to intimidate your enemies.
Karl: Ha! Well, you see me before you, do you not?
Interviewer: Of course. But for the people out there, can you give me something from before the war and disease to prove your existence? Rumors have it that you were once an inmate in Hunterdon—
Karl: (Takes his feet off the table) Let me ask you this: would like to have your every fantasy played out? Would you like to live like a king?
Interviewer: Is this leading to an answer to my question?
Karl: Outside, there are three women, picked from the plunders of war, their beauty unparalleled in this existence or the next. They are yours, Sir Zenner.
Interviewer: I’m not sure how this pertains to my question.
Karl: It pertains to my question: a job offer, with a rank among the brotherhood befitting a man of your stature. My own minister of propaganda. Your words can have an advantage for me.
Interviewer: I … I’m not sure this is how an interview is conducted. I still have a number of quest—
Karl: I know (he leans across the table, the smoke from his cigar escaping with each word) how an interview is conducted. This interview is for you, not myself. Your words are mine to use and own.
Interviewer: I think—
Karl: Guard. (The man in the corner snaps to attention) Lead Sir Zenner to his accommodations. And please, make him feel welcome.
Guard: Yes, sir.
Interviewer: What the hell is going on?
Karl: (Stands and walks to the door) I will have an assortment of delicacies brought to your room; preserved meats and fruits, and the finest alcohol ever made. If you fancy something harder, we have a plunder of cocaine, heroin, pills. You will grow to see things our way.
Interviewer: I have people waiting for me. They’ll know if I’m missing!
Karl: That’s of not consequence.
It’s been a week, and I have not been let out of my room. But I do have a window with a swift stream flowing under, and not to sound like some hopeless romantic, because that is hardly the case, I do hope that someone finds my message in a bottle. These men, I fear that if I don’t do as they say, they will kill me. I’m in the town of Odyssey, follow the stream, and please, by God, help me …
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Brandon Zenner is an American fiction writer and an Amazon best selling author. His short fiction has been published in both print and online publications, the first being submitted when he was 19 years old. THE EXPERIMENT OF DREAMS, his debut eBook thriller, has reached Amazon’s best seller list many times. His second novel, WHISKEY DEVILS, was released in early 2016. THE AFTER WAR, a dystopian thriller, is available now as a pre-order, at 80% off the final sale price. You can follow the author on his Amazon page, or through his email list on his website. All email subscribers will receive his futuristic short story, HELIX ILLUMINATED, for free as a thank you. His genres of choice are thrillers, crime, dystopian, and science fiction.
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