Friday, May 25, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 7

Today's entry marks the LAST one I will be posting for awhile. I hope you've enjoyed reading this post apocalyptic novel as much as I've enjoyed writing it and posting it for you. Thanks for reading!

Chapter 7

They had scattered like kids at camp to pick the best bunks. Dell got the master bedroom. Paul and Sorrel Bay chose two adjacent rooms each with their own little deck. Sorrel Bay brought Polo Pig into her room and put him on the deck with water and a large bowl of chicken feed. They had a discussion about paper training that pig as soon as possible and in the meantime Sorrel would be responsible for any accidents on the carpet.

Panda opted to sleep on the hanging hammock bed on the deck off the living room.  Just the idea of sleeping out under the stars so high in the sky was like magic to her. This was never anything that she imagined as being possible in the old world. She didn’t run with the rich crowd! No one she knew lived like this.

They had dinner of fresh salad and feta with Greek olive omelets. The fridge was packed with fresh eggs and Panda planned on soufflés, crepes, hollandaise sauces…They ate on the main living room deck to watch the south city burning. 

Here and there, as the fire progressed, they watched other parts of the city have rolling brownouts and eventually as the night progressed, one by one the lights began to go out forever on the south side of town.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 6 Part 9

*** Chapter 6 Part 9

They entered the penthouse from the garden, into the family room. On this level were 4 bedrooms each with its own on-suite bath and hideaway . An open central staircase led down to the first floor which housed the kitchen, dining room, library, large laundry room,  maid’s quarters and a formal living room that had its own giant terrace with southern and eastern exposure. In a beautifully tiled alcove was the private  elevator. Sorrel discovered it and pointed it out to her father and then went and stood over by the windows while he checked it out. It was clean, and they all heaved a sigh of relief.

Dell was utterly enthralled. She had only seen things like this in Architectural digest.  In spite of the 30 floors of stairs and the risk of a power outage trapping one in the elevator, she felt like this was the safest place in the whole world. There must be hidden treasures like this all over the city; each one a jewel yet to be discovered and explored. But this one felt special, somehow.

Off of the kitchen was a huge butler’s pantry and a large utility room with the garbage chute next to the service elevator and stairs. This was how they moved the furniture in, as it was as large as the ones in IKEA, and it led directly to the basement level and the underground parking. The utility room and butler’s pantry shared a smaller private deck that ran the length and connected to the kitchen deck for breakfast on the terrace overlooking the city. Panda poked her head out to look at the deck and gave a squeal equal to any pocket pig facing an edible delight. 

Everyone skipped over to see what she was so happy about. She was literally jumping up and down and clapping her hands in uncharacteristic giddy delight.

Tucked into the corner of the utility room terrace was a fully contained urban chicken coop, with 3 hens contentedly scratching and clucking softly, happy to see human beings after 4 days and totally oblivious that the world around them had ended. Self-filling water bottles and renewing feed troughs as well as a chicken mister and small dust bath had kept these poultry princesses in fine shape. Industrial sized bags of  chicken feed, crushed oyster shells and Monsanto-free cracked corn were stacked under the overhanging roof, safe from wind and weather.

Dell said what everyone was thinking, “I think we should live here forever and ever!”


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Apo Calypso Chapter 6 part 8

Chapter 6 Part 8

As the sun set in the west, tiny suns exploded into flame all over the south part of the city. Watching it, Panda was reminded of the night sky scenes from Bladerunner, where tall buildings that served as housing and factory combined, let off puffs of lethal flame into the perpetual twilight sky.  It was beautiful. It was also tragic.

“What is making the little explosions, Daddy?” asked Sorrel Bay.

“I’d hazard a guess that it’s the gas lines exploding as the fire goes from building to building,” he answered.

“And the cars going up in a blaze of glory when the fire heats up their gas tanks.” Said Dell.

“A blaze of glory. A Blaze of Glory!” Sorrel liked the sound of that.

Part of their view was blocked by the rooftop penthouse wall that took up most of the southwest corner of the building. Panda started to poke around to look for an entrance on this level rather than going back downstairs and through the halls to the front door. Walking around to the north side she followed a tiled walkway all the way around between the guard railing and the building wall.  At the juncture of the North and West walls was a little garden gate. Passing through it she entered a private garden terrace that was outside the French Doors of the second story master bedroom suite of the penthouse.  She followed the windowed wall all the way around to the south corner, where, turning it, she found what she had longed for: the perfect rooftop garden.

All along the southern wall of the rooftop penthouse was a raised bed and pot garden containing every herb and savory you could grow. Miniature fruit trees, even two avocado trees in huge glazed pots lined the railings. Cascading strawberry pots were overloaded with ripe berries and the lettuce bed was ready to be harvested. Perfectly staked tomatoes of at least 5 varieties at a glance were ripening in their pots.  The solid plate glass wall of the southern exposure windows reflected the last light of the day and Panda stood there to enjoy it as the rest of the gang rounded the corner of the building to join her.

Taking a look at the well tended garden, Paul told Sorrel to run back to the garden gate and put Polo outside. No sense in letting that pig root up the entire garden if left to run amok. “We’ll get a water bowl and food out there for him until we are ready to leave.”


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Apo Calypso Chapter 6 Part 7

*** Chapter 6 part 7

The top floor of the Wells Fargo Building held executive suites with offices that were as elegant and spacious as a New York City high-rise apartment. The CEO quarters held a bedroom, on-suite bathroom as well as small kitchen and dining room, lined floor to ceiling in dark paneling and bookshelves. Both Dell and Panda were delighted to get a look at the way the ‘other half’ lived. Were it not for the 29 flights of stairs and the risk of power outage and no elevators, Dell would have wanted to spend a night or two camping out in this dive.  Panda put it into her mental file of ‘perfect hideout getaway locations’.

As well as the executive suites there were also office suites, reception areas, board rooms and elegantly appointed waiting areas. In an alcove flanked by expensive pampered potted plants was a coffee kiosk. Imagine that, they had their own private Starbucks! An abandoned sandwich trolley, looking and smelling a little worse for wear, sat waiting for patrons in the adjacent alcove filled with what had once been fresh salads, fruit compotes and gourmet sandwiches.  Paul grabbed an apple and handed Sorrel Bay a banana to munch on from an attractive display of whole fresh fruits.

They were 2/3rds around the perimeter of the hallways when they found the stairs that led to the rooftop.  Leaving the remaining penthouse apartment in the far corner of the building to be explored later, they went up the stairs through the door which had been propped open with an office chair.

“Wow! That’s convenient!” said Dell, munching on an apple of her own. They had all discussed how the rooftop was no doubt accessed via the elevator but without some kind of override key, they would not be able to use that way. They were counting on stairs or even a private elevator in one of the penthouses that would give them rooftop access. Panda was hoping for a rooftop garden on automatic water sprinklers.

What they found were the remains of an office party. A dozen charming wrought iron patio tables and 2 dozen matching chairs sat in the middle of the wide slate patio, each one decorated with an expensive and wilting floral arrangement. And everywhere were the obligatory piles of human ash complete with jewelry, shoes, wallets, purses, and office name tags on a string or pocket clip. A traveling bar was set up at one end and at the other end, looking like a disaster zone, was the toppled remnant of a large trestle table laden with food and cake, utterly trashed and destroyed.

“Oh Yuck it smells like pig shit over here!” said Dell, oblivious to having cussed in front of a child. As they turned to her to remonstrate, the sleepy head of a piglet in a bow and a polo shirt rose out of the debris and oinked excitedly.  Obviously meant for a gift for the party recipient, the pig seemed none the worse for wear having eaten high on the hog for 3 days, no doubt drinking whatever it could find from the melted ice buckets and buffet table pans once holding orange juices and smoothies on ice.

Sorrel Bay was beside herself with joy as the tiny piglet came up to her and liberally covered her hands and face in snotty enthusiastic greeting. “Oh DADDY! Can we keep him? Isn’t he sweet?!”

Paul sighed and rubbed his forehead. “A pig in a polo shirt, huh? I’ll have to think about this.”

Sorrel, who knew her animal husbandry, said, “Daddy this one is too small to just turn loose to forage for himself! He’s just a baby!” 

Paul knew he was beaten on that argument hands down. It looked like he had just acquired a sewage disposal plant of his very own. “Well get him some water from the bar over there, honey. He might be a little dehydrated.”

Dell walked with Sorrel to help open water bottles so the pig could drink its fill. It really was the cutest little bugger, fitting perfectly in Sorrel Bay’s arms and not struggling at all!  

Panda exchanged a long look with Paul. “It’s a good thing that it was a tiny piglet. Anything full grown would have eaten through all this food and available liquid 2 days ago.”

Paul, contemplating the imagined spectacle of finding a dehydrated, suffering and nearly dead full grown pig on this rooftop, realized he was going to have to make some serious decisions about how to protect Sorrel from the constant shocks to come as they moved through their new world. No matter what he did, she was going to run up against death, decay, suffering and sorrow again and again. But letting her accompany him into unknown territory was the only choice if he didn’t want to leave her behind alone waiting in the car, or in an alcove, or in a million waiting rooms across the city to kick up her heels while he was forever scouting out the lay of the land. Perhaps she would just grow up immune to all of it? It was, after all, going to be her ‘new normal.’

“What do you want to name him, honey?” asked Dell.

“POLO!” said Sorrel in a decisive tone. “Polo Pig!” Everyone got a good laugh out of that.

Moving upwind of the food mess and pig manure odors, Paul and Panda walked to the edge of the roof and began to check out the city. It was late afternoon and it would not be long before the sun was setting. The view was breathtaking, the air crisp and the visibility was incredible.

Scanning the horizon, Panda let out a gasp and pointed wordlessly toward the southwest part of the city. Dell and Sorrel, pig in tow, joined them at the rail to see what she was pointing towards.

There, in the distance, South Sacramento was on fire.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 6 Part 6

Chapter 6 Part 6

Paul got down on one knee to be level with S. Petting her hair,  he told her to look only at him and not at the grisly scene. Dell suggested she and Sorrel could go look at the museum until Panda and Paul could clean out one of the elevators for their use.  Sorrel nodded her approval for this plan and grasped Dell’s hand to walk away. Panda and Paul exchanged a look of resigned sadness touched with horror and went to look for some kind of broom and dustpan.

Of course colossal bank buildings don’t just happen to have a broom and dustpan propped up behind the reception desk.  After poking down side hallways and around corners they found a utility closet which was of course locked.  They finally found a good push broom and industrial dust pan in the kitchen of the restaurant. There were also rubber gloves and bar towels to tie around their mouths and noses to keep them from inhaling any of that human ash. Then there was the added problem of where to dispose of the skull and bones and debris. Just dumping it out the front door to bump into later on their way out did not seem wise, so Panda got several bus tubs from the restaurant and carried them, full of bone fragments and personal effects, into the dumpster out behind the restaurant.

They cleaned out 3 of the elevators that had the most fragments and visible bone pieces and decided to call it quits. There was just something about constantly having to sweep up after the dead that was grating on the nerves, and nobody really liked investing time and energy in doing a lot of it.

Retrieving Dell and Sorrel from the museum shop, who came laden with silk scarves, beaded jewelry, several picture books and some little games of the quality only found in upscale museum stores delicious enough to slaver over, they finally loaded onto the swept and purged elevator to the 30th floor. 


Friday, May 18, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 6 Part 5

Chapter 6 Part 5

Dell and Sorrel tore through the IKEA on wings and wheels. They filled two huge shopping carts with linens, dishes, down comforters, storage containers and pillows. Sorrel was in charge of gathering all the numbered papers with the bin and aisle number on them for the big ticket items that would need to be assembled. 

Dell was going to get the IKEA Ektorp sofa and loveseat and two armchairs as well as 2 chaise lounges that she could picture flanking the large windows that looked into her back yard from her den. Depending on the size of the truck they could rustle up, she thought she might enlist Panda and Paul to load up the floor models with new slipcovers so she had that much less that needed to be assembled at home.

She told Sorrel to pick out a bedroom comforter set for when she came to stay in Dell’s guest room.  This tickled Sorrel no end and since she had already demonstrated such good taste when helping Dell select curtain panels, Dell knew she would pick out just the thing. At the end of the whirlwind spree they ended up with baskets heaving in front of the cinnamon bun and hot dog station at the back of the store near the loading dock.

Dell looked at the 3 day old hot dogs on the little heated rotisserie display case and thought they looked delicious and just about ready to eat, just like the dogs at the movie theatre. The cinnamon buns were another matter; rock hard and inedible. 

She tossed out one tray that had been removed from the oven but not put on display and got into the freezer for a fresh batch. These buns were all pre-made and just needed 10 minutes of baking. Easy as pie! They were coming out of the oven just as Panda and Paul came down through the lobby having thoroughly enjoyed their rooftop foray of the solar array. They all sat and had hot dogs and cinnamon buns before loading 3 large truckloads of fabulous IKEA merchandise and driving to Dell’s.


The Anderson’s thoroughly loved Dell’s house and Panda’s too. Paul approved of the neighborhood because of the power grid but warned that there would be risk of flooding when the levees broke from lack of maintenance in the not too distant future. Dell rolled her eyes and Panda informed Paul that she and Dell had already discussed this issue at length. 

“Why don’t you guys just get a boat and park it in your driveway?” suggested Sorrel Bay.

Everyone laughed and agreed that this would be the best get-away plan ever in the event of a water emergency. Dell discussed getting a huge sea cruiser with all the comforts of home and Panda made a mental note to raid a camping and outdoor equipment store for a very good inflatable raft to add to her emergency gear.

Although the goal was to go get Panda and Dell’s stuff from their old houses, free those yard pigs at Dell’s for the last time, and to begin to get settled into their new neighborhood, they decided to take a detour from the plan and head to the Wells Fargo Center with Paul and Sorrel Bay to get a good look at the city from on high.

The Wells Fargo Center, at 420 feet tall, was the highest building  in Sacramento. Although hardly a skyscraper, it had the best view from the upper floors of anywhere in the city. With 30 stories, 13 elevators, a basement and 2 sub-basements  including a huge glassed atrium on the first floor and housing the Wells Fargo Historical Museum,  there was so much to explore and poke around in. 

Panda really wanted to get down to the sub-basements. What could be down there? That might be exciting!  Dell and Sorrel wanted to poke around in the museum gift shop for treasures and everyone agreed it would be worthwhile to tidy up the Il Fornaio restaurant and forage for a delicious dinner for later. But first, to the upper floor to explore for an opening onto the roof.

Although there was no public observation deck on the roof of the building, all buildings had some roof access and with no security to stop them, they were pretty sure they could find a way onto it. Panda had her good binoculars and Paul was betting on several of the corporate offices having telescopes by their windows.  It was just human nature to have a telescope in a high rise. But even without that, the view would be spectacular to the naked eye, with a full panorama of the whole valley and both rivers.

Sorrel skipped ahead and pushed all the call buttons for the double bank of elevators in the lobby, as she and her Dad played a game of guessing which elevator would arrive first. When the middle elevator went ‘ding’ and the doors slid open, Dell let out a terrific scream and everyone stepped back in shock. Sorrel scrambled to get behind her father and Dell clutched onto Panda who turned her face away.

The elevator—in fact all the elevators—were knee deep in ash, bones and even a human skull. Panda shuddered in horror at the thought of the people, racing to get downstairs and out into the sunny pavilion steps, who had been incinerated inside the elevators together when their DNA time bomb set itself to zero. Perhaps because there was no sunlight whatsoever, or for some other unknown reason they would never know, the bodies did not completely go up like a torch leaving only ashes behind. It was truly a scene from a horror movie as door after door of the elevators opened to reveal more piles of bone and dust. 


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 6 Part 4

Chapter 6 Part 4

Paul gave Sorrel permission to tag along with Dell as she shopped for furniture, dishes and linens  and Panda opted to climb onto the roof with Paul and check out the solar array. This IKEA was equipped with enough solar panels to power the 65,000 square feet of building space.  Paul suggested that the freezers in the restaurant kitchen as well as the ones downstairs in the small grocery store be used for deep cold storage for long term use.

Paul intended to remain in the home he had built for his family, to give Sorrel the stability she needed to finish out her childhood in relative security. The frivolous nomadic life that Dell was intent on living was not to his taste. He had plans for securing his neighborhood with parked cars 3 deep on all the intersections, creating a single way in and out of his street by way of the alley. He intended to keep a sharp eye out for strays and straggling humanity and knew that a few well placed barricades would direct them in a different direction in their meandering.

Annie had done a lot of work on a sustainable garden in the back yard, and his home was already equipped with solar and a backup generator. He did not see the need for tearing up stakes and moving to a better house when they had done so much ground work to make their home self sufficient. His plan for using IKEA as a large long term freezer would work well for him as their home was within a few miles of the IKEA.

Panda wasn’t so sure about the feasibility of that idea. For one thing, the IKEA was on the opposite side of the Sacramento River from where she and Dell were going to be living. Not a local shopping option and certainly not easy to keep an eye on. For another, the entire store was fronted with giant plate glass windows: not exactly defensible territory. They could spend days or weeks stocking the freezers here only to have a band of marauders show up with big trucks and load up all their frozen foods and make them disappear to whatever cache they had up in the mountains somewhere.  Or along the coast. Really, the amount of land that was now open and harboring little pockets of potential crazies seemed huge all of a sudden.  Panda thought about what Dell had said: why should a world with LESS people in it suddenly seem MORE dangerous?

In the past, everywhere you went, everywhere you looked, there were hundreds of people going about their business.  You would nod, wave, or chit-chat with people you passed in a hallway or stood in line with at the store. There wasn’t a sense of imminent danger coming from the people you met. Even though there were serious shortages—gasoline, eggs, clean water and air—you never really felt like someone was about to knock you over the head and take all your stuff. So why now? Now when there was a world full of merchandise, food, and free space to be divided amongst a few dozen people or so?

The rules of society, community and peaceful cohabitation were soon to become forgotten concepts.  The laws, codes and regulations that kept law abiding citizens safe and productive were now pieces of paper in law books that no one was left alive to read. Geez, she thought, this isn’t even the United States of America anymore!  The Constitution and the Bill of Rights pertained to no one and nothing, now. Hopefully whoever was left, whether they banded together or went their separate ways, would adhere to the basic tenets of civilized behavior. Treat others as you would wish to be treated. Share and share alike. Considering how rarely those principles were put into action in a world overcrowded by humanity, she wondered if, now that there was space and plenty to share, if that would be the case.

She thought that really, they were going to live high off the hog for most of the remainder of their lives. It was Sorrel Bay’s generation that was going to see the most difficulty. They would be a true scavenger generation, needing to move towards  an agriculture based society if they were going to survive. But without any knowledge of food production or preservation it was going to be a primitive, hunter-gatherer scenario.  She knew it might be up to her to teach Sorrel some of the things she needed to know. Canning, smoking and dehydrating food. How to build a fire. How to garden. Dell knew how to sew, knit and crochet, which would be valuable in a world where there was no new cloth production.

Panda suddenly had a real sense of loss. All the things that went before would fall away. Histories, landscapes, economies, computer technologies. All of that was going to be relegated to tales from the past. Tales of the ‘times before’. The world she took for granted, populated with people and dogs and a bustling industry of goods and services, would disappear; had in fact already disappeared and all that was left was a skeleton. 


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 6 Part 3

*** Chapter 6 Part 3

Panda eyeballed the Forvar jar holding Annie Anderson’s ashes and felt a real pang of guilt for how she had ruthlessly swept away the ashes of her homeowner. There was such a disconnect between the world as it was and how they were living now. All those billions of piles of ash were the connecting point between the ‘before and after’ but that world was gone forever and the idea of acknowledging and mourning each person as if they were friends was impossible. And what did it matter, after all? They were dust in the wind. Blending together and blowing away.

She then told Paul and Sorrel Bay about the animal release project, and how they had cleaned up stores and food courts for future needs. She hesitated to talk about the zoo but decided it was safest for all to have that out in the open.  Paul was not happy about the zoo predators being released and, considering the chimp event, even less happy about there being another person out there as such an unknown element.

“Just meeting up with you guys makes me relax and takes a huge weight off my mind. The burden of being totally alone in the world has been lifted off my shoulders now  said Paul, “and yet projecting forward this means statistically there could be a dozen others in this area alone; competing for resources and behaving god-knows-how.”

Dell said, “But we lived with millions of people up till just a few days ago and we never thought of them as all that dangerous. Why should just a dozen of them seem like so much more dangerous?”

“Consequences!” said Sorrel Bay. “You know, like when you don’t want to get into trouble for something so you don’t do it if somebody is watching because they will tell on you. Now if you get in trouble like robbing a bank, there won’t be anybody to call the cops and there won't even be any cops! So no consequences”

Paul nodded. “That’s right. Millions of people kept millions of people in check. Now we have a few rogue warriors out there with no accountability factor. But hey, probably they will be just as scared of us as we are of them.”

Dell asked, “Then shouldn’t we be searching for other survivors so we can do the ‘meet and greet’ and get them on our side? I mean, Panda said people alone by themselves will start to go crazy after a while and as time goes on we’d need to be even more cautious. Wouldn’t it be better to find them now instead of later when they’ve gone ‘round the bend?”

“I don’t know,” said Panda. “I don’t want them knowing about us. I don’t want anyone knowing where we live or scouting out our vulnerabilities. Who knows who survives up in the foothills where all those meth labs are? Sooner or later people are going to come down from the Sierra’s in search of whatever food and resources are still available down here. Such as electricity. Canned goods. Water.”
Paul replied, “I agree with Panda. I think we should let sleeping dogs lie. However I do think it would be a good idea to get to the top of the Wells Fargo Center with a telescope and scan around for a while looking for signs of movement.”

“That is exactly what I had wanted to do!” said Panda eagerly. She felt so happy to have Paul on board. He had a good head on his shoulders and no axe to grind. Just as he had said, the burden of feeling alone in the world had ended since meeting the Andersons. Now it was time to hash out how they were going to create their own little community. 


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 6 Part 2

Chapter 6 Part 2

Paul and Sorrel Bay drove to IKEA and searched for Annie.  When it became apparent that she had not survived—that no one had survived but just the two of them—they went home and stayed indoors and did their best to cope with the shock.

It was Sorrel who suggested after a couple of days that they go back to IKEA and find what was left of her Mom. To gather her ashes and her things and hold some kind of memorial for her. This is what they had been doing the morning  Panda and Dell had arrived.  Sorrel had found a nice decorative jar with a screw lid in the ‘small storage’ department and together she and her Daddy had scooped up the ashes and placed them inside. The keys and purse, shoes, rings and earrings, Paul put in a wicker basket to take along home.  He used a thick permanent marker to write on the concrete:
Annie Anderson.
Beloved Wife and Mother

He had almost added: X marks the Spot but knew it would have irritated Annie.  

They stood in silent vigil once they were done, and then decided to start cleaning up the food court because that is something that Annie would definitely have approved.  Paul worked in the serving area dumping the dried, coagulated, nasty food from the steam table, using the industrial dishwasher and sorting good food from bad for the incinerator while Sorrel was bussing the dining tables and making the dining room look clean and tidy. They were just finishing up when she had spotted the girls’ truck rolling into the IKEA parking lot. 


Monday, May 14, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 6

Chapter 6

Panda pulled her Glock out of the shoulder holster and told Dell to stand back and stay close behind her. She was preparing to drop into a low center of gravity crouch to make herself less of a target when she saw Dell rear up in front of her with a case of serious indignation.

“Put that gun AWAY!” Dell said firmly.

“No, Dell, you don’t understand!” said Panda, “That kid could be a Decoy!” She could feel her adrenalin pumping as she remembered tales of fanatical gangs using children, the elderly, or someone appearing to be injured as bait to lure an unsuspecting do-gooder into a trap where they would be turned into slaves or eaten!

“She’s just a little girl, Panda! She must be scared to death! Do you think she’s been stuck here the whole time?!” Dell turned and raced in the front door and up the central escalator to the second floor dining room where she had seen the girl. 

“Hoo-Hoo! Little Girl! Hey, Sweetie, are you all right?” she called as she came, with Panda hot on her heels hoping against hope that Dell’s need to rush in pell-mell and rescue everything without thinking it through first was not going to end them into serious danger.

The girl, Sorrel Bay Anderson, came rushing up to Del and Panda hanging onto the hand of her father, Paul Anderson, dragging him along. There was an awkward moment when nobody knew quite what to say or how to act, and then everyone fell to pieces with crying and handshakes converted to hugs and everyone talking at once.  It’s not every day the last two people on earth run into the other last two people on earth in an IKEA restaurant lobby.

They all sat at a table under the large window overlooking the empty world as Paul told his story. On that fatal day he had been at work, his daughter at school, and his wife at the IKEA meeting friends for lunch and spending the afternoon shopping. As he watched all of humanity disintegrate around him his first thought was for his wife and child. He did not know what was happening. He thought it must be some kind of radiation poisoning reaction from a solar flare or some government project gone horribly awry. 

He had grabbed a raincoat from a coat closet at work and pulled it over his head as he rushed to get to his car, thinking that it would offer some protection from the direct rays of the sun. Of course he knew that was a scant hope. If the sun was going to torch him, a thin layer of rubberized vinyl would do him no good. But he was nearly mad with anxiety to get to his child and dashed out into the parking garage in a frantic race to get to Sorrel’s school in time.

In time for what? The deed had been done. As he drove through the empty streets, dodging abandoned cars and driving up onto embankments to get around small pile-ups it began to dawn on him that people were GONE. Not just a few, but millions. It was OVER. Some huge shift had occurred on the planet and he was utterly clueless as to what had just happened.

Sorrel Bay, when he found her, was standing in the school vestibule with her book bag over her shoulder waiting for him to show up. At first, when all of her classmates and the teacher suddenly leapt up and headed for the schoolyard, she had followed along with the rush. But she couldn’t figure out what was happening. Why was everyone so intent on getting outside? There was no talking, no shoving; in fact none of the normal mayhem like when the bell rang and class was over. It reminded her of a quietly moving herd intent on a single purpose like getting to the water hole or out of range of a predator like she’d seen on Animal Planet.  Almost at the front door she held back and stepped into the receptionists alcove. She stood there and watched the entire school empty out in a matter of minutes. And then everyone was gone. They were there. And then they weren’t. 

After a long silence and nothing but the sound of her own breathing, she decided to go back to class and gather up her things.  Mommy and Daddy would come and get her.  Just like the time there was a bomb scare, her parents would show up as soon as they could to come and keep her safe. In order to see in both directions the farthest distance all around, she stood on the top step of the school and waited.

But it wasn’t Mommy and Daddy who came, this time. Just Daddy.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 5 Part 7

Chapter 5 Part 7

They spent the night in the house catty-corner to Dell’s new maison. Panda thought it was perfect for her. Smaller than Dell’s choice, it was a single story Ranch with all the amenities. It had raised garden beds in the back, a full pool and Jacuzzi under a gazebo, and several citrus trees at the far end of the property. It, too, was gas powered and was furnished in simple, elegant style. Even the color palette was not offensive. It was done in teals and taupe. Let Dell furnish her empty home to her heart’s delight. Panda was going to be very content to stay in this house and change nothing.

The first thing she did was grab the broom and sweep away the prior resident. Something about occupying a home with the dusted remains, jewelry and shoes of the former occupant in a pile in the driveway was just too weird by any stretch! Later she would go through the closets and get rid of whatever was personal like framed photos and the clutter of someone else’s life.

Best of all was a deep freeze in the garage that was fully stocked with free range beef and chicken. Whoever owned this home was as ‘green’ as possible. Panda felt a huge surge of relief: for once things were going to be handled for her. She really did not need to do any prep work to make this house into her idea of a home. She could imagine herself living here pretty much as-is for many years to come.

She found two good steaks in the fridge and lots of fresh veggies and a bag of salad. They had a simple dinner of steak and veggies grilled on the Weber Genesis she found on the back patio. Dell had discovered the wine cellar portion of the pantry and had selected a very nice Sonoma red for dinner.  They both showered and  then wore some of the clothes that Dell had shopped for that were still in bags in the back of her Cayenne. You could still catch a faint whiff of death in your nostrils that Panda hoped would fade over  time.

A married couple had lived here. She could tell that it was the wife who had been home that morning. The husband was no doubt blowing in the wind outside a downtown office building. Together she and Dell loaded their arms with the clothing, shoes, and  belts from the man’s closet. She didn’t feel right about going through another woman’s clothes so she loaded up all the wife’s things as well.  
She actually had no idea what to do with the stuff. Burn it? She opted for shoving it all in her truck and dropping it into a Salvation Army donation box at the shopping plaza up the street.

Utterly insane, but nothing else occurred to her. She knew they were going to have to think about garbage management.  A burn barrel was going to be a must.  They would both have to make sure they thoroughly rinsed all cans and bottles  to avoid that awful junkyard smell. They could just start a pile in the alley for that kind of thing.  And a mulch pile for the garden.

But for the first night in her new home at least, she was content to sit in chaise lounges with Dell and enjoy a bottle of wine.

Dell said, “How many people were there? I mean, what was the population of the earth?”

Panda replied, “7 BILLION last year.”

“Wow.” Dell said. “How much do you think that weighs? I mean, 7 billion people must weigh like 4000 tons or something.”

“At an average of 100 lbs per person, actually...that’s 700 BILLION POUNDS.” freaked Panda.

“Just like that. GONE. 700 billion pounds of people.” Dell said with awe.

“That means the earth is 700 billion pounds lighter in an instant.” mused Panda. “I wonder if it will cause earthquakes just from the relief of pressure on the Tectonic Plates.”

Dell ignored the remark about the German pottery or whatever but pondered the sheer volume of weight loss for a bit and then quipped, “Someone should call Jenny Craig!”

*** Day 4

First thing in the morning they had eggs and bacon and then hopped into Dell’s truck to go to IKEA. Panda had gotten the house keys from the woman’s purse and locked the front door when they left. She knew that was probably kind of silly but already the house felt like hers, and she wanted to keep it safe. There might be marauders some day. She didn’t think it likely that whoever had emptied the zoo would target them specifically—considering he or she could find them in this giant empty city—but she didn’t want to take the chance of leaving it unlocked. Old habits die hard.

Later she would move her computer, clothing and personal treasures over from her old place. For now, they were on a mission to furnish Dell’s in the full IKEA style. What FUN!!!

IKEA was in West Sac adjacent to a Super Walmart. Dell made a mental note to never set foot into a Walmart again as long as she lived. She wasn’t going to need to be shopping for bargains anytime soon. They drove right past it and swung around to the front of the IKEA.

As they pulled right up to the front door and parked, a Delta Breeze stirred up the ash of about 80 people and for a moment they were blinded by a choking dust.  In a city of 3 million piles of dust, the Delta Breezes were going to be a serious problem.  The bottom of a bowl in a deep valley, Sacramento was notorious for trapping air and smog in the hot summer months. When there were wildfires in the surrounding areas, your skin and eyes could burn for a week. Burnt human was going to blow and blow and cover everything in grit and grime for years to come. After the stench of just one rotten human body, Del thought she could learn to live with grime and soot in the air.

Peering up at the glass fronted restaurant that overlooked the parking lot of the two story building, Dell saw something that made her gasp and give a little scream of astonishment.

Panda looked up and saw what Dell was seeing.

There, standing in the window jumping up and down and waving at them with both hands, was a little girl


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 5 Part 6

Chapter 5 part 6

As a matter of fact, the crematorium turned out to be quite user friendly. There was another body there, in a body bag, lined up at the double doors of the oven. The girls hoisted the old lady inside her cocoon of sheets and Hefty bags onto the top of the body bag. Nobody grunted or anything, so they knew the person was really dead.  Together they watched as the conveyer belt moved into the oven. The doors slid shut automatically and a red button lit up that, once pushed, fired up the ovens. Both Panda and Dell felt they could take it on faith that the oven had an automatic shut off when the deed was done.

“Ashes to ashes. Dust to Dust.” said Dell.

Utterly weary now that the adrenaline and shock had worn off, they dragged themselves back to the Chevy and returned to their trucks. Even so they decided to finish up the next couple of blocks before calling it a day. It would feel good to find some live kitties and pigs to feed and let out of the house.

Eventually Dell pulled over at a 4 SALE sign outside of a midsize brick Tudor with a steep hipped roof. “Oh I just love this house!” she said. “I want to take a look at this one!”  She ran up the walk to the front door and then stopped. “Oh no!” she said! “It’s Locked!”

Panda knew right away what Dell meant. This house was for sale and therefore locked and empty with one of those Realtor Lock boxes on the front door holding the house key. But without the code to open the little lockbox they were unable to get indoors. Luckily she had her bolt cutters. She thought she might be able to just crush the box with the bolt cutters once she cut it off the door.  Meanwhile Dell was peering in all the windows she could see into and exclaiming at the lovely space inside.

It was easier than she had thought to get that lock box open. Positioning the cutters to nip off the combination was all it took to open the little door on the gadget. Inside were the front door keys. So much better than smashing in windows and having to deal with replacing them later. A good idea to do as little damage as possible in a world without handymen! She had no clue how to replace plate glass.

She unlocked the front door and handed the keys to Dell. “Make sure you make extra copies of these keys! I’d like a set too just in case.” She stood back and let Dell enter the foyer of her new home.

It really was a beautiful home. Wide plank hardwood floors, lofty ceilings, good light from the windows all around. The kitchen was any woman’s dream with of all things, a pizza oven as well as double ovens and an 8 range burner. Best of all it was gas with a gas fireplace and hot water heater.  The master bedroom had a walk-in tile shower large enough to fit a basketball team. Dell could feel herself inhabiting this space and being truly, truly happy here.

“Of course it’s empty, Dell.” Nudged Panda. “Utterly empty and in need of serious furniture…”

Dell looked at Panda. Panda looked at Dell. Together they screamed:



Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 5 Part 5

Chapter 5 Part 5

There in a recliner by the window were the remains of an elderly lady.  She appeared to have died in her chair while napping. It seemed a peaceful way to go. But how did this happen? She must have died right BEFORE everyone was dusted. As dead flesh, she would not have the triggering device in the DNA that turned her to cinders.

“Looks like she’s been dead about a week.” said Panda.

For some reason this pissed Dell off. “HOW do you know THAT? You can’t possibly look at her and know how many days she’s been dead! For Crying out Loud, Panda! That is such a load of bullshit!”

Panda did not argue. She realized she must have sounded like a poncy ass almost as soon as the words had left her mouth. “I know! I’m sorry! You’re right! I guess I’m just saying that she must have been dead BEFORE, you know. Before all the other people left.”

“Oh, right. I see what you mean.” said Dell. “What are we supposed to do about her, though? I mean, we can’t just leave her here can we?”

Panda thought about this for a moment. “I know! There is a crematorium just up the street at East Lounge Cemetery. We could take her there.”

“We aren’t taking her there in MY truck!” said Dell. “I’d never get the smell out.”

“Right. Let’s just use one from the street.” I’ll grab some blankets or sheets to wrap her in. You look in the kitchen for large garbage bags and some rubber gloves okay?”

Dell found one pair of thick rubber gloves in the first spot she looked: under the kitchen sink; and like every kitchen in the world organized by a woman, the box of thick black garbage bags was under there as well. To make up for her earlier snafu with the Vaseline/Vick’s, she grabbed 4 large Ziploc freezer bags to use as another set of gloves. She had learned that from Panda years ago in one of her lengthy preachy survival tirades. A double layer of Ziploc baggies on your hands would be an excellent substitute for surgical gloves in the event there were vast amounts of bodies to be removed from the scene. The Zombie Scene.

“Oh Cool! Good Job!” smiled Panda. At least she appeared to be smiling but you couldn’t tell as she too had grabbed a thick towel from the linen closet and wrapped it around her mouth.

Together they carefully wrapped the old women in sheets and then did their best to stuff her into a garbage bag.  Moving her made the smell even worse and before they could even get her to the street Dell had to stop and vomit on the sidewalk outside the front door. Panda’s eyes were watering and her nose was running which at least helped keep the smell out until she had to sniff and then it was a double whammy.

While Dell ran to the edge of the yard to get some semblance of fresh air in her lungs, Panda searched for a viable vehicle on the street. Right next door was a Chevy pickup with the keys on the ground and she thanked her lucky stars for a good old fashioned flat bed truck! In the back went the body, into the cab went the girls where they cranked the a/c and breathed in deep sobbing gasps.

“This is when you want to be really, really happy that the world didn’t end with a virus. Imagine living as a survivor surrounded by billions of dead rotting bodies!” said Panda as she pulled a U-ie in the middle of the street and headed the shortest route back to the East Lounge Cemetery on Folsom Blvd.

Pulling into the gates of the beautiful park like cemetery, Dell had a thought. 

“What are we going to do? Find an open grave and dump her in it? I mean, you don’t know how to fire up a crematorium oven do you?”

Panda knew just what she meant. “I know. I mean I would imagine you just fire up the jets on the gas oven, right? Slide her in on a moving conveyer belt? I’ve seen it in movies but not in any kind of documentary or anything.”

“Why does it have to be called a CRÈME-atoriam?” pondered Dell. “It makes it sound like somewhere fun. Somewhere delicious like a candy Emporium. 

Welcome to the Palace of Sweets Crematorium. Get your freshly blended cream filled candies.’ ”

While we toast your loved ones like a marshmallow!” finished Panda.  When all else fails, opt for hilarity.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 5 Part 4


Chapter 5 Part 4

The older part of Sacramento is laid out on a grid of numbered and alphabetized streets, starting at the Sacramento River with Front Street. As one travelled east into the city from the river, the neighborhoods went from trendy downtown lofts in the teens, to trendy midtown funky converted Victorians in the 20 numbered blocks , to 1930’s style bungalows on tiny lots, and eventually to the Fab 40’s which were beautiful, elegant mansions with long lawns and covered porticos for all the cars. This was the neighborhood in which Dell hankered to live. It truly was beautiful.

Dell drove in front and Panda followed. She thought she would let Dell take her pick of what she wanted and she would then take whatever was next door. She knew that Dell had not yet assimilated to the extent that she had, the importance of them sticking together. If the lights went out, the city would be pitch black at night. If their cell phones stopped working, they would have no way to reach each other or find each other in this vast city.

Later they would have to move to a place better suited for long term sustainability. But for now it would be fun to just waltz in and take her pick of housing from the finest in the city!

Driving up a block, stopping, dashing through houses to open doors if there was a cat or any other pet inside, each taking a side of the street and meeting in the middle when done with that block, hopping back into cars and up to the next block, the girls were able to clear a good portion of the houses.  Neither was happy about just releasing pets into the streets but both knew realistically they could not adopt or care for all of them. This was just the way it had to be.

Most of the houses were open, which was obvious on sight from the nearby pile of ash and the telltale pet placard or keys, shoes, purses or wallets. If they were really lucky there was a pet door installed and all they had to do was spot it and move on. But once in a while they had to hop a fence and go in the back yard to find an open door. It was amazing how many people left their back doors unlocked. Once again Dell wondered at the ease and accessibility of a life of crime.  With each house she scoped out the interior layout and décor. These were beautiful houses but not quite what she had in mind.

At about 37th and L streets, Panda started to notice a distinct odor. It grew stronger as they went down 37th to K, J, and I streets. It smelled like death. Not rotting food or decay. Death. The stench became overwhelming. But what could it be? There weren’t any human remains, were there? Could a pig have died and be rotting nearby?

Dell came out of a house ahead of Panda with a jar of Vaseline jelly and a greasy streak above her lip. She looked quite pleased with herself as she offered the jar to Panda. “I saw this on CSI. The coroners use Vaseline smeared under their noses to kill the smell during an autopsy! But it doesn’t seem to be working all that hot, frankly.”

Panda could not help but dissolve into giggles. “Oh, Dell! “ she wailed. “They don’t use Vaseline! They use Vick’s! Vick’s Vapo-Rub!”

“Oh!” said the stunned Dell. “Well I guess that would work better than this!” She rubbed at the grease above her lip with the back of her hand looking embarrassed. 

In a fit of pique she tossed the Vaseline jelly into the bushes where it would remain untouched and un-deteriorated for 200 years. “I guess I’ll go find us some Vick’s then!” she said.

Even with Vick’s in their nostrils the smell was palpable. It made Dell queasy and Panda utterly nauseous. After several more houses she was all for getting in their cars and getting out of the vicinity when she heard Dell give out a yelp and come running out of the next house.  “In here!” she called.

Panda pulled her shirt neck up over her face to use as a filter but it barely made a dent. Inside the Spanish style house the air was thick and claggy with the smell of decaying flesh. Dell had tied a dish towel around her lower face but her eyes were watering and she was retching. 


Monday, May 07, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 5 Part 3

***  Chapter 5 Part 3

It took the better part of the afternoon to unload the chickens, who shook themselves, looked bleary and disoriented for a minute, and then proceeded to peck at the sack of grain Dell sliced open and scattered on the ground in the park, apparently none the worse for wear. Panda chose the likeliest looking picnic  shelter and opened the bales of straw under a picnic table.  That should do it. Of course you couldn’t tell a chicken where to roost or lay it’s eggs but this was the best she could do for now.

Filthy and with the smell of poultry fouling their nostrils, they opted to leave the hauler in the parking lot and went together in Dell’s truck back to the mall to pick up Panda’s Sequoia and to get cleaned up. Both felt they could never eat chicken again as long as they lived, and chose burgers and fries for lunch. Dell savored a giant fountain Pepsi while Panda sipped a fresh brewed glass of China Mist iced tea. They took their lunches down to the center open courtyard of the mall and sat on a bench. The food court was not a savory place to sit and eat anymore. Already the flies were out of control and the smell of rotting food was almost enough to take the smell of chicken shit out of their senses completely. Panda had  grilled their cheeseburgers in record time so they could get out of there.

Dell took a pull on her straw and asked “How long before all the pop goes flat?”

“I am not sure.” answered Panda. “Probably a week or two?”

“Maybe I should drink it now while I can have it fresh and then later switch to cans. Cans should stay fizzy forever, right?”

Panda agreed and was glad that Dell was showing signs of thinking ahead, even if it was about something as silly as the fizziness of Pepsi. “Yes we should save the canned stuff for as long as possible and eat and drink what we find that is still fresh.”

“What are we going to do with the rest of the day? I’m kind of worn out.”

“Yeah, me too.” Said Panda. “Maybe we should go find some good housing in one of the neighborhoods on the hospital grid. I am thinking we need to live on the same street at least. Sacramento is mostly hydro-electric power which can keep running for as long as there is water running through those giant combines, but there is just no way to know how long our cell phones will keep working. I want to be within shouting distance you know?”

“Well let’s spend the rest of the afternoon going through the Fab 40 neighborhood. We can check on pets left inside houses while we are at it.”

“Okay I guess that is fine” said the weary Panda. “I still think we need to find longer term housing. Someplace gated, with fruit trees and room for a garden. A concrete or brick structure would be good. Fireplace. Tile or Slate roof. The thing is, Dell, that we are fine and healthy now but in 20 years do either one of us want to be climbing up on a ladder to repair a roof? And we’ve got to think about a water source once the electricity is gone there won't be hot and cold running water anymore.”

Dell, catching a brief, bleak glimpse of a long life ahead without a shower, stale inedible food and flat Pepsi, shuddered in disgust. And then something even WORSE occurred to her.

“We could end up wearing rags!” she gasped.

Panda wanted to chuckle but didn’t because it was a valid point after all. All the clothing as well as the cloth in the fabric stores would continue to age and begin to deteriorate over time. Even if they could save a lifetime’s worth of designer duds in a safe, dry place, in 30 or 40 years it would be disintegrating beyond wearability.  She didn’t know anything about looms, weaving, or growing cotton or linen. Didn’t rayon have to be extruded through tubes? Yes, it was likely that as the years advanced, they would be wearing a lot of rags.

Long before that happened, of course, there would be worse things to face. Either one of them could get injured. She knew she could probably sew up a deep cut if she had to but she couldn’t perform an appendectomy or open heart surgery! 

There were 5 hospitals in the area full of surgical supplies, antibiotics and blood pressure medicine, but how long would any of it stay viable? What about dentistry?  Who would clean their teeth? Who would fix their teeth or-horrible thought- pull them out and fit them with dentures? Once again Panda was facing the future;  the long-ahead future where things got worse, not better. She had never before thought of daily flossing as a survival tool, but now she was determined to floss daily and remind Dell to do it, too.

“Well, for now anyway, we can dress like Divine Divas and live in palaces.” She told Dell. “Let’s not look too far down the road.  We can pick out a couple of houses next door to each other and keep working on freeing as many animals as we can. We’ve got our cell phones and we can get some walkie-talkies to use for back up.

Eventually I want to find a place that is solar powered and has a wind generator too. I know there were several housing developments like that in the area, I remember seeing the ads for them. But in the meantime lets change residences so we live close together.”


Friday, May 04, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 5 Part 2

Chapter 5 Part 2

“And just where are we planning on taking these chickens?” asked Dell. True to her vision, she was utterly covered in chicken guano. It had taken 2 hours to load 50 semi-healthy chickens into the back of the poultry truck and to clear out the remaining chickens. Most of the facility was empty. There had not been that many chickens in the place and over half of them were dead.  She and Panda had picked the healthiest looking ones and then opened the wide barn doors to the outside world to allow the remaining birds to head out into the wide open spaces and take their chances in the grass.

Panda, peeling off her work gloves and brushing her sweaty forehead with the back of her hand, said, “ Duck Island.”

“Duck Island in McCarthy Park?”

“Yep.” Said Panda. “It’s a big gated park with a fence running all around it; it’s got tons of grass and ponds. It’s centrally located and there are lots of those pole barn picnic shelters where these chickens can roost in the rafters.”

“That’s a great idea! Wow!” said Dell. “Great thinking!”

Panda knew it would not keep the chickens safe from the wild raccoons that populated the inner city. She remembered when she had lived downtown on the second floor and heard something in the trees outside her bedroom window. She had looked out, eyeball to eyeball, on a mother raccoon with her 4 babies climbing all over the tree. The neighbor had a fountain in his yard and was always complaining about the odds and ends of half-eaten food he found in the water. She had always gotten a kick out of how the coons made a life for themselves in the roofs and rafters of buildings. Most people were oblivious to the amount of wildlife that co-existed with them in the city. She had even seen possums on several occasions, out for a stroll. But raccoons would decimate a feral chicken population lickety-split.

Anyway, the chickens were going to have a better chance in a large fenced park with plenty of water and bugs than locked in an airless dark pole barn with the bodies of their dead and dying inmates all around them. The back of Dell’s truck was loaded with cracked corn and feed from the farm. She hoped that whatever was wrong with chickens and eggs in general would begin to right itself now that they were no longer going to be fed genetically engineered grain and pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones.

They had also loaded quite a bit of straw that she planned on using for bedding for the chickens to lay their eggs. Later, once she was settled and had more time, she would get some nesting boxes from the feed store and see about housing a dozen or so near her where she could gather the eggs. For now, the chickens were going to be ‘free range’ on Duck Island.

Tossing the gloves into the cab of the truck where she found them, she climbed behind the wheel and started her up. Dell slid into the bed of the Cayenne and prepared to follow the flying chicken feathers all the way back to the city. Even though she was filthy and stunk to high heaven, she felt very happy. They had done good work on this day and although she knew in the back of her mind there were possibly millions of animals that could not be rescued, she felt like she was doing a great work by helping the ones she could.

On the Yolo Causeway, a 3 ½ mile long elevated highway that spanned some 26,000 acres of weirs, wetlands and cultivated rice fields, containing the largest ecological restoration project west of the Everglades, Panda stopped the chicken truck and got out to enjoy the view. Dell joined her in looking out over the vast sea of grass as far as the eye could see.

“I always wanted to stop here and just gaze.” said Panda. Together they stood at the guardrail and felt the quiet of the morning breeze. Relatively quiet since the chickens were clucking up a storm. Dell peered out towards the city skyline in the near distance and exclaimed, “Panda! Get out your binoculars!”

She was pointing excitedly at something walking in the tall grasses. Panda had left her binoculars in her truck at the mall, but she could see to what Dell was pointing. 

She could just make out 3 long brown spotted necks, attached to 3 tall giraffe heads. They watched the stately animals glide across the campo.
In an act of solidarity and utter geekness, the girls high-fived and then got back into their trucks to finish the drive home.

While off in the distance, the sun caught a glint from a pair of Zeiss 20x60mm Image Stabilized Binoculars, trained on the girls.


Thursday, May 03, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 5

*** Chapter 5 Day 3

Dell woke and stretched. She sat up in the elevated platform bed on the third floor of Macy’s and looked across the sales floor at the lump that was Panda, sound asleep on another bed surrounded by Ralph Lauren linens. The Tommy Hilfiger bedding she had slept in was luxurious and beautiful. She could stay there forever if she didn’t have to pee so badly. She had always wanted to sleep in a store like a queen after everyone had left! She had often imagined hiding in a broom closet somewhere until all the shoppers had left and the store was closed so she could do just that. Of course once security cameras were invented and installed everywhere, it was no longer even remotely a possibility.

Like any decent female with half a bladder, she had already scoped out all the nearest available bathrooms before crawling into bed.  Now she got up--her head pinging  only slightly from the Scotch--and padded off to the powder room in the adorable pink silk pjs she had gotten off the rack the night before. She then bopped down the escalator to the coffee kiosk on the ground floor and started a fresh pot of coffee. While it was brewing she picked out undies, a bra, and a really smokin’ pair of jeans and a designer t-shirt for the day. She would accessorize later.

She stuffed all her choices in a bag and grabbed 2 very lovely 3 day old scones from the display case. Along with 2 large cups of coffee she headed back up the escalator to wake Panda.

Panda was already awake and choosing a luxury towel ensemble to take with her to the shower. When she saw the coffee and scones she stopped what she was doing and plopped down on a bed with a bed tray. “Oh, wow! Room service!” she smiled. “A girl could get used to this!” Together they sat cross legged amidst fluffy designer pillows and enjoyed their breakfast.

“What’s on the agenda for today?” asked Dell.

“Well,” said Panda around bites of scone and sips of coffee with cream, “Let’s go down to the other end of the mall to the 28 Hour Fitness and use their showers. We can snag some hair products from Hair Mess Inc. on our way.”

“Okay. And then let’s come back here for make-up and perfume,” added the ever-eager-to-shop Dell. “And some jewelry.”

“Good idea!” said Panda. “Once we look like we are ready for the runway, we should go take care of the gun thing. I really don’t want you walking around without protection. Wild animals  are always going to be a factor from now on out. 

Also, now we know there is at least one other person in this city and he or she is armed. We should stay out of the Land Park neighborhood for a while, stick by our own turf. Give those lions time to head out onto the tundra so to speak.

 I want to see about activating some spare cell phones for us to use and we should just take one vehicle out to the chicken farm. I’m thinking we may find a large transport truck out there. I am wondering if we should relocate whatever chickens we can find left alive to some place in the city that is closer where we can keep an eye on them? I’d really like to be able to keep having eggs you know? And chickens are not so smart they can survive out in the wild. Everything eats chickens…”

Dell sighed. As Panda continued with her signature run-on  control freak blather, her idea of an elegantly dressed morning suddenly gave sway to a vision of herself covered in chicken shit and feathers loading ill and squawking chickens into the back of a poultry truck.  Guess I better grab some Reeboks, she thought. 

The Louboutins would have to wait for another day. 


Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 4 Part 9

Chapter 4 Part 9

Dinner was delicious, even though the salad greens looked a little worse for wear. Over dessert of key lime pie and double chocolate mousse, the girls hashed out their game plan. Dell was all for driving to Galt and opening up the elephant sanctuary. Panda wanted to drive to Woodland and open up the chicken facility. 

Neither felt they should do either of these tasks alone. They opted for the chickens since they would have the more immediate need for food and water, and agreed to swing into all the farms they passed along the way and see what could be done to open gates and barnyards, checking farmhouses for indoor pets as well.  

Sooner rather than later this race to save as many animals as possible would start to yield seriously diminishing returns. It was going to get gruesome. Panda thought they should work hard at it for another 3 days but after that…no more.

First, however, Panda felt they should both go to the gun store and get better weapons. She wanted to teach Dell how to load, shoot and clean her gun. They could both do a little target practice while they were there.

“You know, Panda, I think you’ve just blown the Careful Citizen of the Year award.”

Panda-- kicked back with her feet on the chair next to her-- sat up a bit and said, “Why!?”

Dell grabbed the neck of the scotch bottle and pointed it at her. “Not only are you proposing we drink and drive, you are suggesting we drink and play with guns!” 

Panda looked a little mortified and then broke into a grin. “Then perhaps we should call it a day. Hand over that Scotch”

The best thing about being alone in the world is that it’s safe enough to fall down drunk anywhere.


Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 4 Part 8

*** Chapter 4 Part 8

Nature knew what to do. Nature always knew what to do. Without the human virus mucking up the oceans, lakes, streams, air and land, the eco balance could be restored without further ado. As Panda and Dell watched the hyena eat it’s lunch, Panda realized how all the parts would fit together again and begin to heal the planet. The animals would roam and repopulate their species, no longer endangered. At least not by Man. The dogs were gone. The potato’s a mess. And chickens were –say it—as scarce as hen’s teeth. But the remaining flora and fauna could breathe again. Breathe and create life.

Panda felt it all beginning to happen around her, watching the hyena feed. She half-remembered a line from Gone With the Wind where Melanie is talking to Rhett:  “It’s life renewing itself, Captain Butler. And when life does that, no fears can stand in its way!” or something like that.  Panda felt that nothing could stand in the way of life renewing itself, now. The things of man—the  structures and pollutants—would all fade away and crumble into dust. Life would renew itself and thrive. Panda knew it was up to her to make sure that she and Dell would thrive as well.

With Panda leading the way, the girls drove out of Land Park and back into the heart of the city.

“Now what?” asked Dell.

“Now we take a break from animal management and have some dinner.” Panda replied. “What sounds good?”

“Steak!” laughed Dell. “I know how awful, huh? But watching that hyena chomp down kind of made me hungry for red meat!”

Panda looked at Dell and shook her head. This was why she loved her cousin: you never knew how things were going to affect her and you never knew what was going to come out of her mouth.  9 times out of 10 it was going to be off the wall, self centered and oblivious. But she also knew that there was not a mean bone in Dell’s body and if she had to be stranded on an empty planet without zombies and only one silly girlfriend as companion, she would choose Dell hands down every time.

“Well then I’ve got the best restaurant in mind. No crowds, great service, and the price tag is perfect for two girls with no budget. Let’s go to Morton’s!”

Morton’s Steak House was in the downtown Plaza, an open air mall that had been dying for ages but still had a great food court and two Macy’s. It had underground parking but the entrance was blocked by a stream of vehicles so Panda just pulled right up onto the sidewalk by the mall doors and parked there.  Dell swung in behind her and hopped out.

“Better than Valet!” quipped Dell.

 Like Pavlov’s dogs, the site of a mall made her salivate to go shopping. There was nothing like a good shopping spree to heal her sore heart after the day she had! 

After dinner  she would just take a quick tool through the shops…

If it was one thing Panda knew it was how to sear a steak, so she scraped and oiled the grill while Dell raided the bar for a bottle of wine. Morton’s was famous for its wine selection and also for its rare and expensive Scotch Whiskey. Dell enjoyed the opportunity to raid the top shelf for it’s finest.

Morton’s had not yet started serving lunch on that day, and therefore the place was clean and tidy, the pre-prep work done, the food safely in lockers and fridges…and there were no messes to clean up.  Dell made a mental note to eat at more uppity restaurants that had not yet opened for lunch. A life spent cleaning up rotting food court options before she could relax and eat did not fit with her world view.

“SCORE!” she called out to Panda at the grill, waving a bottle of Glinfiddich 1937 and two highball glasses.

Panda’s eyes grew wide when she saw what Dell had. “I read there are only 61 bottles of that in the whole world!”

“And at the end of the day there will still be 61 bottles…it’s just that one of them will be EMPTY!”


Monday, April 30, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 4 Part 7

*** Chapter 4 Part 7

Dell was crying and felt like retching. “Why would anybody kill chimps?”

Panda thought she knew. The person or persons responsible for emptying out the zoo was thinking of the future survival of the human race. Eliminating a large primate species would ensure that there would be no competition for food. She had already seen the orangutan cage was open and empty. The same for all the other primate dwellings. Apparently the shooter  did not want to harm the smaller or gentler primates. She felt really bad for the chimps but had to grudgingly agree with the assassin. She remembered documentaries showing chimps as far too human: aggressive, capable of murder and rape, and territorial. She thought about a pod of chimps trashing a grocery store that she and Dell would have worked so hard to preserve for future needs. Fat hairy chimp hands sucking down on the Doritos, pooping in the aisles...yeah. Maybe it was better the chimps were eliminated.

Dell said, “Come on. Let’s get out of here.”

“Okay.” Said Panda. “Let’s leave and drive through the park. Keep your windows up and keep your eye out for the lions or the jaguar. Look in the trees, too. I would imagine the lemurs will be hanging out there as well as the other small monkeys.”

Panda thought that the chances of survival for the released animals was pretty good. The zoo and park were located very close to the Sacramento river. Miles of farmland, prairie, and open wetlands surrounded the city in the heart of the central valley. She imagined the ungulates, zebras, giraffes and other grazers would make their way to the river and eventually follow its banks into the true countryside.

The monkeys were going to have to adjust to life as park dwellers. Urban living at its finest. Fruit and nut trees were abundant. Eventually they would find what they needed for a healthy diet. It was a shame about those chimps, though.  At least on this continent, no large groups of chimps would be forming. Who could say what was going on in African Jungles? Without human predators, Panda imagined the chimps and other Great Apes thriving and existing as they had before man came along to wipe them out.

As she was driving along musing, she saw Dell slam on her brakes in the rearview mirror. Just then her cell phone rang. “Look Panda! Look over there by those picnic tables!”

Panda grabbed her binoculars although she could clearly see without them the shoulders and haunches of a hyena feeding on the remains of an Eastern Bongo. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 4 Part 6

*** Chapter 4 Part 6

Panda swung her Sequoia into place beside Dell’s Porsche Cayenne, grabbing her binoculars and thumbing the safety off the Glock. Dell was sitting inside her vehicle but hopped out when she saw Panda pull in. Before she would allow them to walk through the zoo, Panda used the binoculars to spot for any animal movement. The zoo seemed truly abandoned.

She imagined that the grazing animals would have headed straight out into Land Park and the predators would have followed their scent. But she wanted to make sure before she strolled blithely into the path of a charging lion.  Humans are not exactly fast nor are they armored. To a big cat, a human was a slow moving morsel in a tough cloth wrapping; the head a succulent bon bon in a crispy crunchy shell. The gun was really a very slim protection against stealth and speed.

Together they walked the zoo paths surveying the open and abandoned cages and habitats. Dell had a feeling that the zoo had been emptied for at least a couple of days. She thought this because the primates would not have been in a hurry to rush out the door and be on their way. Like humans, they would have clung to the comfort and safety of their own home turf. She was in fact surprised not to see the orangutan still chilling in its tree.

“You know this means there is somebody else alive!” said Dell. “We are not alone!”

“Indeed! But what kind of somebody? Is it friend or foe? I mean, this could be one of those Earth Prime types that burns down buildings and enjoys a vision of the world free of any single sign of mankind.”

“In which case most of their life’s work is done.” said Dell. “Wonder if they feel happy about it?”

“I guess we will find out if they start burning down large swathes of the city,” sighed Panda. She really needed to think about what it meant to have proof of another survivor. She knew all along they would not be the only ones. But now she was looking at the reality of least one other. And if one, why not several or many? Should she try and seek them out or let them go their own way? Would the remaining survivors band together perhaps in order to form a community? They probably should…and yet Panda had read one too many dystopian novels in which women were herded up and kept as breeding stock and kitchen drudges by creepy religious fanatics like in The Gate To Women’s Country by Sherri Tepper, one of her all time favorite books. Perhaps she and Dell should try to keep their existence a secret until they knew more. They had not exactly been ‘low profile’ up to now.

Suddenly Dell let out a little scream and ran towards the chimpanzee habitat.

“What is it?” said Panda, catching a bit of Dell’s fear.

“Look! All the chimpanzee’s are dead! It looks like they’ve been slaughtered!”

Panda looked into the large chimp habitat and saw a half dozen chimp bodies strewn about. Blood and flies were everywhere. With just a quick look she thought she understood what had happened here. “Not slaughtered so much as executed: 

They've all had a bullet put through their heads.”


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 4 Part 5

*** Chapter 4 Part 5

15 hot and angry minutes later, Dell had hung up the phone and was on her way to the zoo in spite of Panda’s intense warnings about setting free large predators into the world. The security and safety and chance of survival for them just plummeted exponentially by the introduction of a jaguar, an entire pride of lions, a pair of snow leopards and a 250 lb. tiger into the city streets.

“You can’t just open the cage of that Sumatran tiger and say ‘here, Kitty-Kitty!’ He will be hungry and he will EAT YOU!”

“OMFG, Panda, I’m not that stupid!” came the hot retort, “I will feed them all first. I am sure the zoo has giant meat lockers full of haunch o’ venison or something to feed the big cats.”

“You can’t turn them loose, Dell, it’s incredibly dangerous! We won’t be able to walk around unarmed and blissfully ignorant anymore! Don’t you get it? WE are their prey. They are predators and WE are their prey!”

The conversation escalated with more back and forth until it ended abruptly when Dell yelled pettishly, “You can’t tell me what to do! You are not the boss of me!” just like when they were 5 years old.

Panda, pissed as hell and almost more afraid than she had been when this whole apocalypse thing started, took one last look around at the well-fed tiny cats, propped the front door open and left. She needed to get to the gun store quickly. She did not even begin to have the kind of serious firepower she would need to take down a charging adult male lion weighing in over 400 lbs. An adult male jaguar could weigh anywhere from 250-350 lbs and they are masters at sneaking up on their prey, low-slinking and deadly quiet.  Panda had a wry moment of being grateful there weren’t any cheetahs in the zoo, who are day hunters and can clock speeds up to 70mph. Dell was a lost goner if Panda didn’t save her.

In a survival situation it was important to survive; DUH! Why didn’t Dell get that? You could not just set those large predators free and expect them to be grateful and vow never to hunt humans however hungry and however slow, stupid and unprotected those humans may be. Panda didn’t even know if Dell would have enough common sense to open up the cages of all the ungulates and primates first to give them a fighting chance to meander out of the general vicinity. It would be just like Dell to open the cat cages first, turn her back and blithely amble over to pet the giraffe.

Her Glock was ready and loaded  as always but with a capacity of only 13 rounds she didn’t think it would do the trick. Her Mossburg double barrel shotgun held goose shot and THAT wouldn’t stop a charging chicken. Well, it would stop a chicken but never mind. She was too upset to be technical at the moment. The question was should she just drive straight to the zoo or did she have time to raid a gun store for better artillery?

She decided to head for the zoo because there simply wasn’t time. If Dell did what she said she would, she would feed the big cats first and that would give Panda time to get there and try to talk Dell out of letting those cats loose on the world. 

She was just rounding the bend on Land Park Drive when Dell called.

“Panda can you come to the zoo right away? You need to see this!”

“What’s going on? Tell me!” said Panda.

“It’s the zoo! It’s totally empty.”


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 4 Part 4

*** Chapter 4 Part 4

When Dell called in a panic from Pet Maxx she had just set free all the caged animals for sale and was on her way to the other 7 Pet Maxx’s in the greater Sacramento area. She asked Panda to come with her to let out the animals.

Dell’s oppressive feeling that morning had been the weight of all those animals failing in cages after 3 day without water or food. She could not feel the loss of humanity but the suffering of animals that were helpless to escape and find food and water for themselves was so terribly heavy on her heart. She felt guilty for having spent a day shopping and lollygagging, picking up garbage and parking cars when that valuable lost time could have been spent locating and freeing up the kitties and bunnies.

Panda agreed and also felt chagrined over the lost time. She didn’t want to inform Dell that small animals left without water for 3 days were going to be in serious kidney distress and possibly not worth saving. She could see, as Dell could not, that it wasn’t enough to just randomly stumble across animals and free them here and there. She knew they would have to focus on the best possible way to reach the most possible animals in the least amount of time. That meant finding pet sanctuaries, pet shops, puppy (or in this case piggy) and kitten breeders. Anywhere animals were likely to be caged in large numbers and unable to survive without human intervention and assistance.

In her usual organizational manner she split the map and took the 3 Pet Maxx locations on her side of the city. She knew there was a cat sanctuary and a small pet rescue center in the same vector as two of the Pet Maxx stores. She planned to go to them all and at least open cages, prop open doors to the outside world and open up the bags of food as she found them. She, too, felt the urgency and necessity of this most important work.

She had snagged a Toyota Sequoia for her personal use and it’s V8 engine and high tech GPS system really came in handy as she raced all over the greater Sacramento area that morning. In only two places was the road so clogged she had to get out and move vehicles. In one case, the car had been left running and was now out of gas and dead. She did not want to try and push it without Dell there to help but she was able to navigate around it by moving two other cars out of the way along the side.

She was at Snappy Tails Kitty Heaven cat sanctuary when the phone rang. She’d been petting the vocal and annoyed residents who had long ago chomped up their dry food and were feeling peckish and pissed. This place had a cat door that led into a nicely fenced back yard with cat trees and climbing poles and carpeted shelves along the garage wall for lounging about in the sun. However none of the 30+ cats were in the mood for a cat nap when she arrived. She could feel the distress and something like menace as she found the food cupboard and filled bowls, trays and feeders with dry cat food.

It was one of those places that prided itself in creating a loving home environment for unwanted cats. They were guaranteed for life to be kept secure and not sent to be euthanized. She felt a sense of loss as she knew this promise had come to an abrupt halt and they didn’t even know it. When she left here the front and side doors would be propped open. The cats would have to come and go as they pleased, but from now on  there would be no one filling their bowls for them. 

They’d have to go out and look for mice, birds, insects. The real cat food.

“Hi, what’s up?”

“Hi! How’s it going?”

“Great. I took care of all the Pet Maxx and the Waggy World pet rescue and I’m finishing up at Snappy Tails right now. I can barely hear you with the sound of 30 sets of hungry jaws chomping on kibble in the background. So what’s up?”

“Well, Panda, I am standing in the tool section of High Hardware. I need to know what you think is the best bolt cutter. Klein or HK Porter?”

“ Kleins.” Panda replied, “What are you doing?”

“Um.” Dell paused in what was obviously some bid to stall for time and withhold information. “Just, you know. You always told me to keep bolt cutters in my trunk in case of emergencies.”

“Yes. That’s true. Why the sudden interest though? You shouldn’t need bolt cutters for Pet Maxx all those cages open right up.”

“I need them for the zoo.” Dell answered in a rush.

A cold shot of panic hit Panda’s stomach. “THE ZOO?” she yelled into the phone. “You are NOT going to the ZOO! OMG!”