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!” 


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 4 Part 3.1

Panda spent her morning rethinking her bug-out bag. As any survivalist knows, a bug-out bag is your first line of defense in an ‘end of the world as we know it’ scenario. It contains as many of the things you need for shelter, food, safety, water, first aid, and self-protection that you can reasonably carry on your back. She kept one in the trunk of her car at all times and the major one in her hall closet by the back door of her rental home.

She looked through the array of survival gear that she had sweated bullets and leaked money to collect for her eventual worst case situation. She removed the full set of camo cargo pants and jacket and set it aside. She felt slightly silly now, thinking of herself fully suited in urban camouflage. She didn’t see a use for the camp stove and fuel pellets at this time,  either. Those could get packed into her closet that held her camping gear.

On her list of things to add to her stash was a portable yet powerful telescope. She thought it might be a good idea to get up onto a rooftop of a high-rise and survey the city, grid by grid. She was certain there were survivors out there and wanted to search for signs of life such as movement on the roads or chimney smoke. She knew that as time went on, isolation could cause fear, paranoia and instability in anyone. She had her cousin for comfort and company but what of someone who was alone and in a panic? At day three, she just did not want to turn a street corner and walk into the business end of a rifle held by someone who had witnessed the end of the world and had not been able to keep from going insane.

Right then Dell called from the Pet Maxx sounding utterly insane!


Monday, April 23, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 4 Part 3

*** Chapter 4 Part 3

The next morning Dell awoke to an odd pressure in her chest. She felt oppressed and more scattered in her thinking than usual. She had a notion she should be up and doing something but it wasn’t clear to her just what that could be. The feeling persisted through her shower and while selecting one of the umpteen new fabulous outfits she had gotten for herself yesterday at the mall. She chose her new designer jeans and a Todd Oldham blouse with tiny crochet buttons in white. She loved red accessories with her flame red hair, and chose a chunky carved cinnabar necklace and bracelet set. She picked her good old Nike’s and soft cotton socks. She knew that Panda would have her working like a parking attendant or garbage collector for most of the day so she might as well wear sensible shoes for a change. Her luxurious red curls were wound into a messy bun and as she looked in the mirror she approved of what she saw.

“I need diamonds!” she thought. “Why not go to the jewelry store and get myself the largest karat diamond studs I can find?”  She was meeting Panda at Trader Joe’s, the halfway point, at 10 am but it was early: only 8:00 am. She’d go to Pet Maxx and get a giant bag of pig kibble and then stop by the jewelry store and do a little shopping. First, though, she intended to trade in her vehicle for something a little more posh!

The pigs heard her coming down the concrete stairs on the outside of the building and were amassed by the landing waiting to be fed. Silky and Freed greeted her enthusiastically with grunts and wet snurfles. “Pigs really are the sweetest animals!” she told them. “I’ll be back later with a giant bag of kibble!  In the meantime just go dig in the garbage, why don’t ya?” She sauntered over to her car and headed up the street. It was a bright clear morning with the bluest sky, and yet she still felt slightly crushed somehow. “Whatever could be wrong?” she thought. Other than the entire human race having gone up in smoke before her eyes just 3 days ago, that is.

Pet Maxx, one of those pet-needs mega-stores, was right on her way to the Shawn’s Jewelry store she planned on looting for diamonds. As she was driving along she kept punching buttons on her car radio, trying to catch some tunes. As always in these little moments where reality was forced upon her, it did not occur to her right away that there were no more radio stations. And once it did, she quickly switched over to her CD player, barely missing a beat. “Just don’t delve into it too deeply” was her motto. Don’t think about Radio Silence over Berlin.

As she drove she kept her eyes peeled for any likely vehicle to catch her notice. And there it was! A Porsche Cayenne Turbo in Sand White. V8, 4 wheel drive. 

She saw it parked along the roadside and pulled over to inspect it for keys. Sure enough, on the ground by the driver’s side, were the keys and all the –now usual--detritus of wallet, watch, belt and shoes.  She grabbed the keys and the wallet, inspecting it for cash and credit cards as she unlocked the door and hopped inside. A full wallet and a full tank of gas and yes, written on the upper left corner of the back of the bank debit card, was the guy’s pin number. A quick check of the other credit cards showed the same tiny 4 unit number printed in permanent ink. This guy was not a genius! "Ever hear of identity theft?" she said to the pile of dust at her feet. Of course there was no answer.

It seemed funny to her that she had taken up a life of crime. Car theft, traffic violations, identity theft. Soon she was going to rob a bank and pull off a jewelry heist. She felt fantastic! Grinning from ear to ear she pulled into the large parking lot of the Pet Maxx.

It was when she went inside that the reason for her earlier oppressive gloom hit home.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 4 Part 2

*** Chapter 4 Part 2

The girls spent a happy and productive afternoon cleaning up the food court and robbing cash registers as they went. Finally, exhausted and laden with bags and cash, they decided to call it a day. They took a quick tool through the parking lot, looking for any pet pigs left behind in locked cars. Fortunately there weren’t any.

“How long does sushi stay fresh, Panda?”

“Well really I think it’s supposed to be eaten the first day. But the fish would still be good if it was refrigerated.”

“Let’s have sushi for dinner. It might be our last sushi meal ever.”

Panda agreed and swung the car into the Pavilion where the posh and elegant Sushi Noir was located. “Aren’t you so glad you took that class on Sushi making?”

“Hai! Doumo arigatou gozaimasu” giggled Dell.


Panda decided to go home after all, and Dell wanted to sleep at her own place so she could feed the pigs in the morning. Panda insisted on Dell calling her when she arrived home to let her know she had made it. They agreed on a rendezvous time and place for the next morning in case the phones stopped working in the night.

Dell really enjoyed the drive home. No traffic at all! She found herself stopping for red lights and had to consciously make herself drive right through them. Even then she would slow down and look both ways through force of habit. At home, she dumped the rest of the bag of pig kibble out into the parking lot. Silky, Freed and the rest of the pigs ambled over and proceeded to Hoover through it in no time. 

She wondered if she propped the walking gate open to the outside world if the pigs would just wander off and fend for themselves. Silky, divested of her couture and headband, had blended in with the pig pack and showed no signs of hanging around Dell unless she had food in her hands. It made Dell sad that her supposed best animal friend was happier with her piggy pals and not showing the least signs of pining for the high fashion pampered life she had been slated for!

That night Dell sat on her 3rd floor balcony with a glass of Amaretto and stared out into the city. It was lit up so brightly, just like always. Except for the lack of traffic noise which always wafted her way from the freeway, the world seemed unchanged. Lights meant life and action! Lights meant people and parties and entertainment. From her vantage point, the Sacramento night skyline looked  alive and thriving.

She wondered if the lights would go out all at once or twinkle out a little bit at a time? She knew Panda would have an answer for that.  She would ask her in the morning. 


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 4


The food court was a complete disaster. Abandoned meals were everywhere on the tables and the air was smoky with the smell of charred food.  The worst seemed to be coming from Steak Burgers of America. Panda went behind the counter and shut down the grill.  The blackened remains of a Philly Cheese Steak sandwich had been reduced to charcoal but the smell was tremendous. As she went around shutting down the grills and ovens in the other restaurants in the circle, she realized that in just a day or two this place would reek of decay. It had never dawned on her before the sheer volume of garbage that humans created on a daily basis and just left for someone else to worry about.

She had eaten in malls and food courts hundreds of times in her life and never gave it a single thought.  Those faceless attendants in smocks and hairnets always came through with their bus tubs and took it all away once she was finished. Now there was no one to do the clean up.

“You know if we ever want to be able to stand being inside this mall in the future, we need to clean up some of this food” she called to Dell who was across the court at the Sushi-San, dispensing herself a giant Pepsi from their drink  fountain. “We should at least try and bag some of this up and take it down to the dumpsters behind the mall.”

“It’s going to stink out there, too.” Dell replied. She was punching buttons on the cash register, ringing up a ‘no sale’ command to open the cash drawer.

“Yes, I guess so. But let’s at least get the smell to the OUTSIDE of the mall. Clean up this area and the other restaurants. I mean, I know we can’t clean up every single dining establishment in the city, but the places we want to come back to at least need to be sanitized.”

“Yes, I guess you are right.” answered Dell as the cash drawer went ‘ping’ and popped open. She took out all the cash, lifting the drawer to get at the 50’s and hundreds stashed underneath. “I just always wanted to do that.” She said. “Rob a cash register.”

Panda looked at the wad of cash and mused, “I just can’t believe somebody paid for Sushi-san food court food with a hundred dollar bill in this economy! What are you going to do with the cash?”

Dell hadn’t really thought about it. Money was utterly obsolete and yet she still felt the need for it. “I guess I will swing by the bank and deposit it at the ATM.”
Panda nodded. “You know that’s not a bad idea. I was thinking about paying my cell phone bill online to see if that would keep the cell service up and running. I need money in the bank in order to use my debit card.”

“Oooh! And then I can sign up for Netflix online and do all kinds of online shopping!”

“Right Dell,” said Panda dripping with sarcasm, “and then the post-apocalyptic fairies will deliver all the stuff you bought from the warehouse straight to your door!”

Dell’s face fell. “I hadn’t really thought that out, I guess.”

“But the Netflix subscription is a GREAT Idea” placated Panda. “We can watch some of those documentaries about what happens after the world ends.”

“OMG, Panda!” laughed Dell. “I was thinking comedies and chick flicks.”


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

*** Chapter 4

Panda avoided malls because they were too big, too noisy, too crowded and too expensive. She could never find anything that fit her in her size, and if she did, she could never stomach the price tag. Therefore, traipsing through the totally empty, well-lit and cheerful Harlan Flair Mall realizing as she went that she could have anything she wanted and not have to pay for it was a surrealistic experience.

Together, the two girls all but gutted Nordstrom. The cosmetics! The perfumes! The shoes! Oh the shoes! Dell tried on pair after pair in sheer delight. Panda helped herself to the most expensive bras and panties that she could find on the racks. They both found the perfect pair of For All Mankind jeans. Dell, who had worked retail for years, knew how to remove the anti-theft devices without a hitch.

“What about that Gucci bag?” said Panda as the two girls rode the escalator with their arms brimming over with loot. “I myself would like to get a Louis Vuitton.”

“Oh, no!” replied Dell, her eyes glistening as she spotted the prize of all prizes. 

There, in a locked glass case sporting a $160,000 price tag was an Hermes Birkin Crocodile Handbag. “I think I’ll go with that one!”


Panda wanted to find the Walken Shoe store. Those 4 inch heels were fine for Dell, but she wanted something buttery and soft with great support and a decent walking sole like an Ecco or Josef Seibel. As they headed for the far end of the mall a distinct odor of charred meat began to fill their nostrils.

“What is that smell?” asked Dell with a look of distaste. “It smells like burned cheeseburgers.”

“ I think it’s coming from the food court” answered Panda. “Let’s go check it out.”


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 3 Part 3

***  Chapter 3 Part 3

Grande latte in hand, Dell walked with Panda across the intersection to the large gas station on the corner. It was Panda’s idea to learn how to turn the pumps on. They had several way to go: put cash into the automated kiosk between the pumps; use their debit cards at the pumps, or go inside and figure out how the store clerk manually punched in the numbers and the amounts to turn on the gas to each pump.

“It seems completely insane to have to BUY gasoline you know!” said Dell. “I mean, look at these prices! $4.47 for the cheapest grade!” She hopped up onto the counter and elegantly crossed her legs. Taking a sip of her coffee she ranted, “I think those oil companies should be SHOT. I’ve got better things to do with my money than…”

Panda, rootling around under the counter for a cheat sheet of some kind, sat back on her haunches and looked at the back of Dell’s shoulders which were frozen and then trembling as she began to cry.

“It’s just that my WHOLE LIFE has been consumed with money,” cried Dell. “Constant worry, constant struggle to stay afloat. Always wanting more, never having enough. For years I’ve watched friends get to take fabulous trips and cruises and things; buy houses and brand new cars; shop at Nordstrom’s and never bat an eye at the price tags while I pinched and scrimped and shopped at thrift stores and savored my one indulgence—my Starbucks.” She held up her paper cup, “And now that it’s all over I should feel fantastic, right? I don’t have to worry about any of it anymore. But I don’t. I feel shitty. I feel PISSED OFF. Like I’ve been ripped off somehow.”

“I know. I’m so sorry, Dell.”

“You aren’t sorry!” pouted Dell. “Look at you! You are totally in your element! You’ve been planning for this for years. You’ve just gotten everything you’ve ever wanted and I’ve had everything just swept away.”

“Not everything I’ve wanted, Dell,” said Panda. “I mean, after all…there aren’t any zombies.”

“I’m sure there will be,” sighed Dell with the beginnings of a smile. “And they’ll come shuffling along wearing designer jeans and carrying Gucci purses.”

Panda came around the corner and Dell hopped down from the counter. They hugged. “It’s going to be all right.” They said in unison and then laughed.

“Come on, Dell. I’ve got an idea.”

“What now, Panda? Siphoning lessons?”

“No, even better!” twinkled Panda. “Let’s go to the mall. Let’s go to Nordstrom!”


Monday, April 16, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 3 part 2

*** Chapter 3 Part 2

They were sitting at the tables outside of the Starbucks on Fulton, eating fresh veggie wraps from the deli case at Trader Joe’s. What would normally be a packed intersection was now an empty graveyard of standing vehicles. The silence was amazing. You could hear birds in trees all the way across Marconi. You could hear the breeze as well as feel it. Knots of suppressed fear and anxiety started to work loose and dissolve. It was going to be all right, Dell thought. Somehow they would make it. They may never make sense of it, but they would make it.

“So,” she said, “What’s our next move?”

Panda was looking at the array of vehicle choices before her in the parking lot and on the street. “I was thinking we need to get one of these big honkin’ trucks for hauling and go find a generator that is gasoline powered. Then find some deep-freezes that we could hook up… but then I think that might wait until we know where we are going to be living. I think we need to find those solar homes I read about. See if any are off the grid or dependant on the electric and gas systems. 

And what about natural gas? Is that a safe alternative if nobody is keeping the pressure gauges working?  We should make sure the house has a good fireplace or better yet a pellet stove. 

And we need to find all the garden plots, the municipal ones, and see if they need to be watered. And antibiotics. Do those need to be refrigerated? We need medical supplies…”

Dell rolled her eyes and said, “I was thinking more like getting a Starbucks.”

Panda stopped her run-on tirade and looked behind her into the empty store. 

“Sure, why not? They’ve got to have some kind of employee operations manual we can read.”

“Oh for heaven’s sake,” said Dell, “How hard can it be to make a pot of coffee!”


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 3

Oh I know I said I wouldn't post on the weekends but, what the heck. 
*** Chapter 3

Dell was awakened early by Silky snurfling wetly in her ear, signaling that she needed to go out. She automatically grabbed her keys and cell phone from the charger and calling Freed Pig to come as well, headed down to the first floor and outdoors to the designated pig run. It was an absolutely beautiful morning, and utterly, utterly still. No noise came from the freeway; no noise came from the sky. She looked at the small fenced  ‘piggy poop zone’ and thought,” Why bother?” 
She took the leash off Silky and let her roam with Freed.

She wondered how many pet pigs lived in the complex. There were 130 units. 

How many people had been at work for the day? Those doors would be locked. She sent her cousin, still sleeping upstairs, a text: I am going to the apartment office to find a master key.

Within moments Panda had texted back: Wait for me! I will join you

Together the girls spent the morning going door to door on all three floors. They found 4 more pigs, 12 cats and 3 birds in cages. They set the pigs free to roam the grounds with Silky and Freed. They propped the doors open on the apartments that had cats, figuring that they would come and go and eventually join the feral cat population. Dell filled water bowls and food dishes as she saw them but did not know what to do about the birds.

“I think we just need to turn them loose” said Panda. “This is California. They won’t freeze.”

Dell looked at the 3 pampered pet birds—all cockatiels—in their gilded cages and sighed. She knew her cousin was right. She knew she could not keep every pet animal and maintain them herself. She opened the cages and together they watched as the silly birds hopped out and flew to the tops of the fences and then to the tops of the trees.

“At least they have a chance, now.” Said Panda. She looked at the pigs who, having been let out of their apartments and a life of domestic servitude all in one swoop, were doing what pigs do: clumping together in a pile and preparing to snooze the day away until time to eat.

“Dell?” she said, eyeballing Silky in the pile, “Will you please take that damn tutu off that pig?”


Although Panda lived fairly close by and had not yet been home, she didn’t feel she could face it just yet. Her small rental home in the Arden Arcade area was covered in wall to wall family portraits. Framed candid shots of herself with all her friends cluttered the end tables and mantelpiece.  She was afraid of what it would feel like to walk in the door and see all those faces frozen in time staring out at her.

Part of the afternoon was spent at the Trader Joe’s, which was just up the boulevard from Dell’s apartment at a halfway point between their two homes. Panda wanted to make sure the aisles were cleaned, abandoned baskets were emptied of meat and other perishables and that things were secured in general.

She knew this was just a temporary solution. The electricity might only work for 3 days and then all those freezers and refrigerators would shut down. She knew they could not possibly save enough meat, frozen pizzas, milk, and ice cream to last 3 weeks much less a lifetime. When she started to think like this the panic would rise in her. There was so much that needed to be done, and only a window of time in which to do it. And what was worse, she had no idea how much time that was.

Her mind started to whirl: gas powered generators, cold storage, battery life. All her previous survival training had been in the areas of stealth and safety. Never had it occurred to her that she would have an entire world to herself and still be facing serious shortages.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 2 Part 8

Okay don't forget that little 'donate' button in the sidebar. Even a dollar will buy a roll of toilet paper or some teabags for this starving writer.

***  Chapter 2 Part 8

The car ride home was slow and time consuming. There were far more cars clogging the busier streets. The bridge over the American River at J Street was impassable. Panda and Dell worked for an hour to drive those cars off the bridge and park them near the University before they could move on, as the two pigs slept in the back of Dell’s car.

“It’s like we are valet parking attendants all of a sudden!” quipped Dell.  Most of the cars still had the keys in them  and the others were not hard to find. Right outside the driver’s door was a pile of keys, a wallet, and much to Dell’s delight, jewelry of all kinds. When all the people went poof, their clothes seemed to go with them. But anything metal was left behind, as were most leather items. Belts, shoes, purses and wallets.

Dell grabbed a few rings, at first, and then thought better of it. By mutual, unspoken consent, the personal items left by the roadside were tossed into the passenger seat of the car they belonged to, and left there. They left all the cars unlocked with the keys in the ignition. Panda thought it likely that over time they might need to siphon off gas or drive a stray car in an emergency. Best to leave the keys and the car ready to go.

They went to Dell’s place first: a third floor apartment in a gated complex. Because she had just gotten the pig and had not told her landlord, she had not yet moved to the required first floor. She thought she would like to stay on the third floor where it felt safe. But Panda said this was not a good idea. “Dell, I don’t know how long the electricity will keep working without humans to flip switches and monitor gauges and stuff at the electric company. I do not want you getting trapped in that elevator with no way out. Please promise me you will take the stairs from now on. And move to a first floor apartment right away.”

Dell, always one for improving her lot and being upwardly mobile, said, “Panda? What about if I moved into a real house somewhere. I’ve always wanted to live in the Fab 40’s in one of those beautiful big houses.” Shoving aside any discomfort at occupying someone else’s home, she quickly latched onto the idea of being able to live somewhere elegant and well furnished without having to have spent a penny to get it!

Panda, too, was considering this option. She remembered reading somewhere about a multi-million dollar home that was fully ‘green’. Solar powered, with wind generators, and designed to last a century with very little maintenance.  She was starting to think about the need to plan ahead. Farther ahead than getting fresh groceries, at least.

“Well the 'Fab 40’s' is a wonderful neighborhood but it might be too close to the downtown flood zone for when the levees break. Remember, they never did fix those levees.”

“Panda, it’s springtime. It won’t rain again until the fall. I think I’ll be fine downtown without risk of drowning. Keep in mind that 30th through 40th streets are on the Mercy Hospital electrical grid. If you’ve told me once you’ve told me a thousand times that houses on the same grid as a hospital don’t get brown-outs or power outages because they have to power those grids no matter what.”

How long would the electricity keep running? wondered Panda. Once the electric went, the water pumps would stop. So would the telephones. Without masses of humanity using up what was available, maybe the systems would run a little longer. It would all depend on how long those systems were designed to run without human input.

Sooner or later they were bound to run into some other survivors. It was statistically impossible for them to be the only two people left alive. She could only hope that amongst the raggle taggle bits of humanity left wandering the empty planet there would be a cell phone tech, an electrical engineer and some serious survivalists. She still didn’t even know how widespread this disintegration of mankind was. Judging by the dogs, it was worldwide. Best not to think that wide. Best just to think about the immediate neighborhood, the city, and the countryside.

“Do you have lots of printer paper, Dell?” asked Panda. “I’m going to need to print out a lot of information.”

“Why?” asked Dell as she tore open packages of King Crab legs and got them ready to steam.

“Because I need to look up stuff about power plants, cell phone towers, solar houses in the area. So many things. The internet could go down at any time. I just have no way of knowing how long these systems are going to stay up and running. All the information in the world will basically be lost once the internet goes down. I need to grab what I can now. I just don’t know where to start! It’s too much!”

“Goats.” Said Dell. “We need to look up local goat farms.”

“Why?” asked Panda.

“We have to set them free. We have to set all the animals free that can forage for themselves. There are farms with cows and goats and chickens in buildings and fields they can’t get out of on their own. They will starve if we don’t help them! We just need to open some gates and some pens in barns. So they have a chance.”

“So they can populate the ecosystem” agreed Panda.

“Well, it’s not like we need to keep our day jobs!” Dell laughed.

They sat down together for what was to be the best meal of both their memories. When it was all still new and stunning. Long before the decay, attrition, erosion of all things manmade had begun to wear them away, as well.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 2 Part 7

(There is now a donate button for Pay-Pal by the site counter in the sidebar. Although why anyone would want to donate is beyond me but there it is. Just in case.)

*** Chapter 2 Part 7

Inside the Safeway, where abandoned carts stood a kilter and half full of food, Panda and Dell shopped for groceries. Silky and the freed pig remained outside. Luckily there had been no other pigs trapped in vehicles in the parking lot.

“What should we be getting, Panda?” asked Dell. She was holding a jar of lemon curd and contemplating the kiosk of gourmet olives by the pound.

“Well, this is a dilemma. We aren’t going to be fighting people for the food due to shortages. But we do have to use up the stuff that will rot the quickest. I’m thinking of taking all these meats out of the display cases and putting them back into the deep freezers.  That will keep it fresh longer but the electricity isn’t going to last forever. Once the electricity goes then we are going to lose 90% of what is in this store.”

Dell thought about this for a moment and headed resolutely for the seafood case. “Then let’s have Alaskan King Crab Legs for dinner.”


It was odd to say the least, to load up on groceries, batteries, pig kibble, and not go through a checkout line. Paper or Plastic? It felt like stealing. It was stealing, but from whom? Panda was not concerned with the idea of theft. She knew this was a survival situation and those old rules did not apply. In all her worst case scenarios the people were the reason you had to be so vigilant, so careful, and so secretive. 

Without people, what were the dangers?

Wild animals, of course. Now that there were no dogs she could cross ‘wild packs of ravenous dogs’ off her mental list. The pigs were going to be a problem eventually—very damaging—but they weren’t likely to band together and attack people.

People. What people? She felt the tears gather in her eyes again and bustled to gather her things to load into her car. She just could not allow herself to think of all the people that were gone forever. Friends, family, community and nations. She needed to shut out those thoughts for the time being.

“Make sure the doors  go shut” she said to Dell. “We want to keep critters out of the food as long as possible.”


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 2 Part 6

*** Chapter 2 part 6

The road was oddly clogged with cars that had rapidly pulled to the side, been thrown into park and were left with their doors standing open and their motors running. For the most part the street itself had a clear path going in both directions. Wherever it was blocked, Panda would jump out of her car and drive the vehicles off the street and park them, leaving the keys in the ignition and the doors unlocked.

“I wonder what the freeway is like?” said Dell. “There must be cars crashed everywhere if people didn’t pull over in time.”

“I don’t know but I think for today we should take surface streets to get home. I want to go slow so we can keep an eye out for other people…and clear the streets as much as possible between our two houses. And the store. And the gas station.” 

Panda’s mind was clicking off the places she would need to drive on a regular basis. She could not begin to calculate further than that. Long term needs like energy, heat, communication did not occur to her. Loneliness did not occur to her.

Panda drove right up to the door and parked by the curb. Dell, following, eyeballed the handicapped parking place but could not imagine herself pulling into it and parking. She swung behind Panda and got out of her car. As she looked across the parking lot crowded with cars, it started to dawn on her: there are no more people. I can park in a handicap space because there are no more handicapped drivers needing them. There are no more cops to give me a ticket.

Panda’s eyes also scanned the parking lot; looking for people and signs of movement. She saw the snout of a pig poking out of the window of an SUV. It had been rolled down enough to let in fresh air. She walked to the SUV and tried the door but it was locked. She realized that without the keys or a means to break into that vehicle, that pig would die in there.

And then she thought of all the pets trapped around the city in locked vehicles or shut in houses and apartments. They were all going to die unless they could free themselves. In an instant the future yawned before her, a vast expanse of time in which she went door to door through the city freeing as many animals as possible and never making a dent.

She had always prepared herself for the world smelling like the stench of death after the apocalypse, but now she realized it would be the rotting carcasses of animals that would fill her nostrils. And suddenly it seemed so sad to her, so overwhelming that she bent over and sobbed. Great waves of wracking sorrow engulfed her.

Dell came rushing over, taking in at a glance the trapped pig and the hopelessness of the situation. But Her toe scuffled something and she looked down and saw a man’s shoe and a set of car keys in the dust. She picked up the keys…they were right by the door of the truck after all…why not? And pressed the unlock button. She heard the happy click-click noise of the doors unlocking and reached in to let out the pig.

The pig slimed Dell with its snotty nose and whined to be let out of the truck. Dell realized the pig was not able to climb down out of the cab of the SUV on its own, so she hoisted it out onto the pavement. It shook itself and proceeded to rootle around looking for something to eat.

Panda, recovering from her panic and sorrow, took her hands from her knees and stood up and in doing so, also scuffed up something in the dust. She bent again and picked it up. It was a laminated dog placard.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 2, Part 5

Dell was standing and breathing hard in hysterical gasps while her brain tried to process what just happened. In the course of two minutes or less, she had witnessed humanity being… dusted, like on an old episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

As she stood there frozen in place, Panda took off running. Her brain flew into flight and her body went with it. She raced down the middle of the street in sheer terror and was a full block up before she came back to herself and started to think. She could here Dell behind her calling, “Panda! Come Back! Where are you going? Come BACK!”

Panda turned around and jogged back, her mind still sluggish from the shock. She found herself vaguely wondering if this was nature’s way of cushioning the body from obscene horror. And then she thought, “Nature. Is this Nature’s doing? Was this some man-made catastrophe? An experiment gone awry? First the dogs and now the people?”

As she trotted up to the café Dell came rushing toward her and together they clung to each other for dear life. Dear Life.

“What the hell was that?” sobbed Dell. “What the HELL just happened?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know. Something just incinerated all these people. I don’t know!”

They stood there holding hands, the pig Silky seemingly undisturbed as it ate the rest of the muffin from the table.

Finally Panda’s brain started to work again. She needed to discover if this thing, whatever it was that just happened, was local or global. She grabbed her cell phone and sent a text to everyone in her phone book. She told Dell to do the same.

Are You Okay? Is anyone out there?


Nobody answered. Not then and not ever. 

Their cell phones were no longer a way in which to connect with everyone they knew. They were now merely walkie-talkies for just the two of them.

Panda tried to think what to do first. This was unlike anything of which she had spent her life preparing. For one thing, without people…there weren’t going to be any zombie hordes. There weren’t going to be masses of dead bodies to contend with. There weren’t going to be any shortages…at least not for a while. “Follow me in your car.” She told Dell.

“Why? Where are we going?”

“To Safeway. I want to check it out. Pick up a few things. And then I should follow you home. We need to secure our perimeters. Look for other survivors. We can’t be the only ones!"


Monday, April 09, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 2, Part 4


Later Dell would remember it as becoming suddenly very windy, but Panda would remind her that it was just the sudden rush of humanity racing out to stand in the sun for the last time.

Because that is what happened. As the girls sat and sipped their mochas in the sweet sunshine, all of humanity that was not already outdoors, suddenly got the urge to get OUT.  Like lemmings to the sea, they rushed from buildings, subways, automobiles, trains and buses. Matinees at theatres emptied within moments. Office desks were abandoned; phone calls dropped. Prison guards left their posts and prisoners not on the yard plastered themselves to the tiny windows of their cells, trying to reach the rays of the sun. The elderly, handicapped, or those immobilized in hospitals, could be seen reaching for the doors, the windows, the quickest way.

When the dogs had died, there were a lot of burials. Animal Control and veterinarians that offered disposal services were run ragged for quite some time afterwards disposing of all the remains. City road crews and sanitation men worked overtime to clean up dog carcasses from the roads, alleys and backyards of the ones that were abandoned or wild without owners. And for a time there was a stench of death around the places where the dogs had died and not been found before they started to rot.

But this time Mother Nature had a different outcome in mind. Not one to spare her creatures pain, suffering, trauma or fear in the moments of their dramatic deaths, she chose to wipe out the virus of humanity as cleanly as possible.

The junk DNA, the hidden time bomb that detonated all human life on the planet that contained it, was designed to dissolve the human body into ash upon contact with the sun.  And built right into the sequence was the sudden overwhelming desire to be in sunlight. 

Those unable to reach the sun, or those placed in climates with heavy rains that day, died more slowly without the catalyst of heat and light to hurry the process along. 

But they died just the same. Their bodies dissolved within a minute, but what a long agonizing minute that was.

Better to have reached the sun.


Friday, April 06, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 2, Part 3

After an exhaustive yet bountiful pig-wear shopping excursion in which Dell bought several chic get-ups for Silky and  Panda spotted a persimmon tree on a side lot with easy access from an alley, the girls relaxed in mutual content over a mocha and a muffin from Mocha, Muffins and More in East Sac.

“What’s the More?” mused Dell. “I mean, what MORE could there be after a mocha and a muffin? Those two are pretty filling.”

“More belly fat would be my guess” replied Panda. “Did you know that pigs don’t have a thalamus? That means their brains never signal that they are full.”

“OMG! That makes so much sense!” declared Dell. “I don’t think I have one either!” She broke off half her chocolate chip macadamia coconut caramel muffin and fed it to Silky, who was now sitting at attention looking eager to join in the feast. Her little tail was twitching in anticipation, making it look almost like a wag.

Panda said, “You know, the weird thing? About the pigs? They act so much like dogs that it’s just a mystery to me why people haven’t had pet pigs in abundance before now.”

Dell, never one for deep thinking when there were edible distractions—or any other kind—at hand, merely shrugged. She was enjoying her day, enjoying her sweet new piggy, and content to be well fed, well shopped and in good company. She loved her cousin Panda and even though she could not prescribe to her weird theories on survival and the end of the world as we know it, she liked knowing someone with bolt cutters who knew how to use them.

And it was then—just then—that the world changed.  


Thursday, April 05, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 2, Part 2

“So what’s up with the pig, Dell?” asked Panda.

Ooooh! Isn’t she sweet? I had to have her! She’s ever so smart and she’s house broken already! And you’ll never guess what I’ve named her!”

“Please don’t tell me you named her Charlotte or Wilber.” Panda rolled her eyes.

“No! Her name is Silky. It’s short for Silk Purse, get it?”

“Yes, I get it” laughed Panda. “You could also name her Pearl, you know, for ‘pearls before swine’.”

“Oh, that’s cute!” said Dell with popeyed wonder. “I didn’t think of that!”

Just then the waitress brought their waters and menus. As she sat the drinks down a large, 8 ½ x 11 laminated picture of a collie slid forward on its string around her neck and slapped into the side of the glasses. As had become customary, now, both girls took a moment to gaze at the face of the dog-on-a-placard, before saying almost in unison, “I am so sorry for your loss!”

The waitress nodded, seemed to swallow and tear up for a moment and then got a hold of herself. “Thank you” she said, “I miss her dearly!” They all felt the frisson of mutual pain right then. The world without dogs.  So many friends lost at once, and for what? No matter what the TV had been telling them, nobody really KNEW or felt the sense of the explanations given.

Privately Dell wished that someone would pass an ordinance restricting the size of the dog placards to that of a credit card. They were getting out of hand in their largeness. Nobody was really wearing sandwich-board size signs around but she shuddered to think that it might come to that. SEE. MY. DEAD. DOG flashed in neon inside her head.

Val the waitress offered, “Today’s special is Eggs Over Easy Individual Pan Pizza. 1 basted egg with cheese and onion on a thin crust and your choice of Tabasco or Hollandaise Sauce for $18.95”

The girls nodded and looked at their menus. As Val walked away Dell slapped hers down so she could make eye contact with Panda. “Can you believe the price of eggs lately? I just paid $9.95 for a half dozen eggs. That’s SIX EGGS for like 4 dollars apiece!”

Panda quickly calculated the actual price of the eggs in her head and remembered when you could get an entire dozen for that price. She made a mental note to see how cost effective it would be to get two laying hens and set up a little hen house now that the city had passed legislature making it legal to have backyard chickens.

Chickens are not exactly quiet animals, she thought, and wondered if they would have too deep an impact on her stealth footprint if she got a couple.  Probably better to utilize the feral chicken population in Fair Oaks when the time came. Safer. Of course she didn’t know about the cancerous eggs, and the fact that all the chickens would soon be gone.

“Hey when we are done eating do you want to come shopping with me?” asked Dell. “ I want to check out this new store called Pig-Mallion.” She waited for Panda to nod before resuming. “Get it? It’s a store full of pig clothing and accessories. Designer styles and everything!”

Panda said, “Oh, that sounds like a riot. Of course I’ll go.”

She always liked going somewhere new to get the lay of the land and see what kind of visible fruit trees were in the area. You never knew how far afield you would have to forage for edibles in the dystopian future. She stretched her foot out and gave Silk Purse a nudge in the belly. The pig grunted in her sleep but did not budge. 

“You are going to need to buy  a lot of pajamas.” She said.

“Piggy Peignoirs!” quipped Dell. 

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 2

Chapter 2

While the scientific community raced to seek out and destroy the hidden DNA time bomb within humans, the world at large went on as if almost nothing bad had ever happened or ever would happen. Nothing catastrophically bad, that is. Of course, the amount of cases of PTSD quadrupled after the Dog Demise, but delayed stress syndrome had been increasing exponentially anyway what with the wars, the hurricanes, the floods, the earthquakes, the failing economy and the rise of unemployment and bread lines.

Panda Parker thought of it as the ‘Pompelmoose Pass’ syndrome; a line taken from a Dr. Seuss book. “Too many Poozers in Pompelmoose Pass” is what she thought when the freeways were jammed, the stores were perpetually low on cartons of eggs, you couldn’t buy pork chops anymore and there were movie ticket shortages.

Scientists called it “too many rats in a cage syndrome” where the effects are a display of abnormal behavior including hyper-aggression, failure to nurture young normally, increased mortality, abnormal sexual patterns and infant cannibalism.

Panda, who was Dell’s first cousin on the maternal side, shuddered when she read the description because she knew it was true. Except for the infant cannibalism which was probably right around the corner. She wasn’t in denial about the state of the world, even if Dell was. While Dell blithely went about ignoring all conditions as long as the Starbuck’s continued to flow, Panda was eagerly preparing to outsmart, outmaneuver and outlive the zombie hordes that were sure to crop up everywhere after the inevitable meltdown of society.

She spent her mental awareness on imagining worst case scenarios that she might need to overcome. Every car trip, therefore, became a potential escape route. Every trip to the grocery became an expedition to lay in supplies, and her apartment was set up so that she could block off access points with heavy furniture in the event of a home invasion.

It wasn’t ideal: ideally she would like a real bunker somewhere, fully stocked with weapons ammo and enough food to last 100 years—but she was working on it. It didn’t seem gloomy to her. It gave her hope and a mission.

She had taken gun safety classes, self defense classes, gardening and canning classes at the Co-op, and was hoping to learn about plumbing, basic wiring for electricity and how to construct a solar oven. The list of things she needed and wanted was very long, but she kept plugging away at it because she knew—she felt in her heart—that this was vital.

Six months after the dogs died, when the shock had abated a little and was no longer a palpable tang of grief, disbelief and loneliness hanging in the air, Dell texted Panda to see if she wanted to get together for lunch. She was particularly excited to show Panda her newest accessory.

Panda arrived early at Chicago Fire on Capitol and grabbed a seat outside with her back to the building. From this vantage point she could see any approaching danger and no marauder or berserker could come at her from the rear. While waiting she calculated how many floors of the high-rise across the way would likely succumb to flooding when the levee’s broke. She then amused herself with a mental picture show of herself, harnessed and loaded with grapple hooks and wearing pitons on her shoes, moving from tree-top to tree-top in a flood until she was able to reach higher ground and safety. She was winding up this fantasy to a satisfactory conclusion when she spotted the brilliant red coif of her cousin Dell mincing her way on ridiculous 4 inch heels. Behind her, not quite used to harness and leash, she half-dragged a curly-haired pig. One of those Hungarian ones that actually grew a curly pelt of hair. In a pink tutu and wearing Minnie Mouse ears on a headband. 

Panda sighed and grinned at the same time. Although adorable at 20 lbs, in 3 months that pig was going to weigh 300 lbs and be a nightmare to groom. She had a sudden vision of Dell hog-tying her sow in order to shave her on a yearly basis. Then she wondered if that kind of hair was actually good for anything. Could it be woven into sweaters for instance? Would the sweater smell like pork chops in the rain?  She’d have to Google it later and find out. In the meantime Panda knew that pig was in for a lifetime of fashion and hair-grooming torture, subjected to everything from dreadlocks to pink hair bows all over its body.  

Dell squealed as she arrived and the two girls air-kissed and hugged before sitting down. 

The pig, exhausted from the ordeal of being dragged and trotted down a busy sidewalk, collapsed onto her side with a snort and instantly fell into a deeply porcine sleep state. 

If it’s one thing hogs are good at, it’s sleeping. 

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 1, Part 2

(I'm really, really sorry about the dogs, you guys. It just had to happen, is all.)


Dell also did not register the next time she ran into a potato oddity. Her friend Abel had been trying to plant potatoes in the clay soil of his back yard in the new house he had bought for pennies when the housing market fell apart.  The plants did well—he had bought seed potatoes, after all—but they bore the most pathetic, peanut sized tubers. Shriveled. Toxic looking.

Dell stood out back with him and watched as he leaned on his garden spade and and kicked at the scrawny new potatoes with his booted foot, scowling in angry perplexity.

“I don’t know why you don’t just buy the frozen  kind.” She said. “They come in PLAIN you know.”

Abel stared at Dell as if her head had just shrunk up as small as his peanuty  taters. 

“Do you know what they PUT in that stuff, Dell?” he asked.

“I’m just saying you don’t have to get the cheese kind.”


In other arenas, things were starting to go awry as well. Chickens stopped laying eggs, for instance. And when they did lay, after serious buoying up with meta-supplements of all kinds, they would drop eggs that had no shell at all. Just plop onto the egg beltway an egg ready for the frying pan. Sometimes the eggs would come out black and cancerous. Literally cancerous. The egg industry hid this from the general public of course, and egg prices rose accordingly just as they had always done in times of scarcity. It was just supply and demand driving the market as usual.

Without eggs, of course, there could be no more new chickens.

Which came last: the chicken or the egg?

Fishing nets had been coming up nearly empty or filled with plastic water bottles for decades so that was nothing new. Still. It was a sign, if anyone had cared to act on it.

People were used to species dying out all over the planet. Since they were things like skinks or South American Rain Forest green frogs, nobody much cared.

And then all the dogs died. They just up and died.  The big ones, tiny teacup ones, show dogs and working dogs: which hardly seemed fair because working dogs worked. Keeping the flocks safe and guiding the blind to their destinations.

Scientists thought it had something to do with a time bomb strand of DNA. At least that is how Dell understood it when they finally announced the explanation for it. Something coded into a dog’s DNA that caused the entire species to die out almost instantaneously. Like an “off” switch.  

Dog on. Dog off. Doggone.

Dell thought it was most likely that Mother Earth, who seemed to be making a clean sweep of things all around, just didn’t like listening to them bark anymore. Oh sure those cute little muffin faced ones you could dress like an Ewok and carry in your purse were adorable, but they did yip so! If you really listened to the world, back before the changes, you could hear a dog barking almost anywhere almost anytime. It could drown out the birds for sure.

There was a lot of uproar and sadness when the dogs died. Grief-stricken people were everywhere, talking about their beloved deceased. Quite a few made laminated placards they could wear around their neck with a picture of their dead dog as kind of a conversation starter. God forbid you get in line behind a woman wearing a Westie placard if the cashier also had a Westie. You might as well leave the line and go stand in another even if it was longer. Even if you only had 3 items and it was the fast lane.

People needed replacement pets. There were just too many that could not live without an animal to feed, pamper, and poop scoop. It was hard, though. Dog people were not likely to suddenly take an interest in cats. Or parakeets. And monkeys were still illegal and you couldn’t take a boa constrictor out to hunt or teach it to fetch a stick in the park.

Pigs became the next best option. Not the pot-bellied kind, which were slow and rather sedentary, not to mention butt ugly when full grown. People wanted the larger pigs; ones that would stay lean and be good outdoor companions.  It wasn’t long before American Yorkshires were a common sight. Durocs, Hampshires, Berkshires. Spotted pigs filled the slot left so empty by the loss of the Dalmatian.

Backyard breeders sprung up everywhere and signs were changed from ‘curb your dog’ to ‘curb your pig’.  Breeders touting ‘teacup pigs’ advertised everywhere even though it was pretty much common knowledge that a ‘teacup’ pig, when full grown, could reach 80 lbs, easy.

All in all, the keen loss of Canis lupis familiaris was easily tempered by the  advent of the household pig. Adjustments in living were relatively slight—having to move to a ground floor apartment, for instance, because pigs can’t climb  stairs—just meant that building managers were able to designate first-floor apartments as pig-pet-zones, leaving the upper floors for cat, bird, and other small animals.

Pork belly futures fell to an all time low. People just didn’t want to eat ham now that Fido was a pig.

But if Mother Nature, in her world-wide species cleansing campaign, had hoped to eliminate the possibility of large packs of wild dogs attacking whatever was left of life by wiping out the dogs right from the git-go, She did not take into consideration how quickly man could breed pigs. And how quickly pigs--lean, feral and razor backed--could decimate an eco-system; trash buildings; tear down fences; chomp through wooden foundations.

But it really wasn’t long at all before there were bigger problems at hand than 10 pigs per litter and a growing stray pig population knocking over garbage cans and biting children who tried to pet them.

The scientists, who had enough sense and scientific know-how to probe further into the mysterious deaths of millions of dogs, started to take a good hard look at the junk DNA that was part of the human wiring.

What if there were other trip-wires in there? What if humans had a timer and a self-destruct sequence?


Monday, April 02, 2012

Apo-Calypso Chapter 1

I love to read post-apocalyptic novels and see the movies. But sometimes I am just not that satisfied with the way the writers envision the future. I decided I would write my OWN story, so that I could have it the way I want it. Obviously, therefore, this is a work of fiction, light on science and facts and heavy on post-apocalyptic decor and shopping excursions. Please enjoy Chapter 1 of my new, never-to-be-published-because-I-don't-have-a-book-agent novel:  Apocalyptic Calypso


It didn’t happen all at once. So people should have been more prepared. They should have seen it coming. And if not, they should have seen it once it was fully upon them.

And yet everyone seemed to keep on doing what they had always done. Relying on the systems that had always worked. Why learn how to prime a pump when water flowed from the faucet just as it always had? Why take a crash course in electric circuitry when the light switch, when flicked, turned the lights on just fine.

And of course the really important things: the internet or antibiotics, for instance, were far too complicated to learn at all. That was always someone else’s job. Why wouldn’t there always be an information highway available on a smart phone? Why wouldn’t there always be hospitals and medical personnel and endless streams of fresh medications for one and all? 

That was the way the world worked. That was the way the society flowed. It had evolved this way; to work as almost a seamless flow of effortless ease and accessibility. No one could possibly be expected to know how it all worked, much less how to sustain it or repair it if it broke.

Dell Carmen, as a matter of fact, could barely peel a potato. She always bought the pre-peeled kind that came in the freezer department with the cheese sauce already on them. No one had ever told her “These potatoes might all just go away someday during your lifetime.”

Certainly no one had ever told her, “You need seed potatoes and a bed of good soil to grow a potato plant. The potatoes from the bins in the produce department have all been chemically treated not to sprout, so you can’t grow them. You’d just be wasting a potato if you tried.”

Sure, off in the distance somewhere there was talk of ozone layers and global warming. Sustainability and overpopulation. Deforestation. Pandemics. Nuclear meltdowns. Zombie apocalypses. But it didn’t have anything to do with real life.

Dell Carmen was not even remotely close to running out of lipstick or nail polish. If the barista let the half and half container get empty at the Starbucks, Dell had only to hand it across the counter, wait a few seconds and a newly filled one was slid back across to her so that she barely had to miss a beat when she poured the maximum amount of cream into the space designated as ‘room for cream’ in her Grande cup.  

Tall’s were for losers. Venti’s were for overweight pigs with a nervous tic and something to prove.

That was how Dell Carmen saw it, in her world of plenty.

So about those potatoes. They started to be weird. Dell noticed it at a friend’s house who never used frozen, when she was asked to pull a couple out of the bag and rinse them for later while her friend took a quick minute to update her status and swing through Pinterest on the fly.  The potatoes were misshapen and had what looked like scythe marks in them. It reminded Dell of the crap she had gotten in a bag of goods from the senior gleaners one time. Like these potatoes were the junk that was left over after all the GOOD ones were taken up in the harvest.

“What is wrong with these potatoes?” she asked and as Marthe swung back into the kitchen she replied, “Oh they’ve been that way for a while now. I think these are what are left for the general market after McDonalds gets all the good ones for their French Fries.”

Dell felt rather affronted. “Why doesn’t McDonald’s leave some good ones for the rest of us?”

“I think the farmers get paid to sell to the Big Guns and don’t much care about the baking potato industry” said Marthe.

“Big MAC’s you mean,” said Dell. “They sell to the Big Mac’s.” Marthe laughed and pulled the tequila from the freezer.

“Is this why you won’t buy frozen potatoes? Because you keep your booze in the freezer instead?”

“Oh, Dell!” sighed Marthe, “Those frozen ones with the cheese sauce are even one step lower in the food edibility chain than the ones that look like they’ve been run over by a combine. THOSE are made from slurry!”

Dell looked vague and slightly puzzled. “YOU know,” Marthe said, “the stuff they feed to the pigs.”

As with all information that did not fit into her world frame, Dell simply did not register this remark as valid. If she had thought about it at all, she would have thought that pigs were not fed potatoes of any kind. Pigs were fed…pig feed. Or something from a bag or a granary.  And because there could be no relation between pig kibble in tidy flowing troughs somewhere and the delicious, pre-sliced, non-scythe-ridden cheesy potatoes in her supermarket freezer, Dell simply blinked it all away.

In fact, two years later when she went through the rubble that had been Marthe’s apartment, she didn’t think of this potato conversation at all. And she could have really used some tequila by then.