After the Apocalypse [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Maureen McHugh
eBook Category: Science Fiction/Fantasy
eBook Description: The apocalypse was yesterday. These stories are today.
In her new collection, Story Prize finalist Maureen F. McHugh delves into the dark heart of contemporary life and life five minutes from now and how easy it is to mix up one with the other. Her stories are post-bird flu, in the middle of medical trials, wondering if our computers are smarter than us, wondering when our jobs are going to be outsourced overseas, wondering if we are who we say we are, and not sure what we'd do to survive the coming zombie plague.
Table of Contents
The Lost Boy: A Reporter at Large
The Kingdom of the Blind
Going to France
The Effect of Centrifugal Forces
After the Apocalypse
Praise for Maureen F. McHugh:
"Gorgeously crafted stories."--Nancy Pearl, NPR
"Unpredictable and poetic work."--The Plain Dealer
"Poignant and sometimes heartwrenching."--Publishers Weekly
Maureen F. McHugh has lived in New York; Shijiazhuang, China; Ohio; Austin, Texas; and now lives in Los Angeles, California. She is the author of a Story Prize finalist collection, Mothers & Other Monsters, and four novels, including Tiptree Award-winner China Mountain Zhang and New York Times editor's choice Nekropolis. McHugh has also worked on alternate reality games for Halo 2, The Watchmen, and Nine Inch Nails, among others.
eBook Publisher: Small Beer Press, Published: 2011, 2011
Fictionwise Release Date: October 2011
"Hugo-winner McHugh (Mothers & Other Monsters) puts a human face on global disaster in nine fierce, wry, stark, beautiful stories. . . . As McHugh's entirely ordinary characters begin to understand how their lives have been transformed by events far beyond their control, some shrink in horror while others are "matter of fact as a heart attack," but there is no suicidal drama, and the overall effect is optimistic: we may wreck our planet, our economies, and our bodies, but every apocalypse will have an "after" in which people find their own peculiar ways of getting by."
--Publishers Weekly (*starred review*)
"Like George Saunders (CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, 1996), McHugh displays an uncanny ability to hook into our prevailing end-of-the-world paranoia and feed it back to us in refreshingly original and frequently funny stories. In these nine apocalyptic tales, people facing catastrophes, from a zombie plague to a fatal illness contracted from eating chicken nuggets, do their best to cope. In "Useless Things," perhaps the most affecting story in the collection, a resourceful sculptor, worried about drought and money in a time of high unemployment and increasing lawlessness, turns her exquisite crafstmanship to fashioning sex toys and selling them on the Internet with the hope of making enough money to pay her property taxes. In "Honeymoon," a participant in a medical trial that goes horribly wrong watches in horror as six men are hospitalized in critical condition; she uses her payment to take a vacation because, when all was said and done, she "wanted to dance. It didn't seem like a bad choice." That survival instinct is what makes McHugh's collection a surprisingly sunny read in spite of the global disasters that threaten at every turn. An imaginative homage to the human ability to endure."
--Booklist (*starred review*)
"All our worst dystopian fears are realized in this grim collection."
Cahill lived in the Flats with about twenty other guys in a place that used to be an Irish bar called Fado. At the back of the bar was the Cuyahoga River, good for protection since zombies didn't cross the river. They didn't crumble into dust, they were just stupid as bricks, and they never built a boat or a bridge or built anything. Zombies were the ultimate trash. Worse than the guys who cooked meth in trailers. Worse than the fat women on WIC. Zombies were just useless dumbfucks.
"They're too dumb to find enough food to keep a stray cat going," Duck said.
Cahill was talking to a guy called Duck. Well, really, Duck was talking and Cahill was mostly listening. Duck had been speculating on the biology of zombies. He thought that the whole zombie thing was a virus, like Mad Cow Disease. A lot of the guys thought that. A lot of them mentioned that movie 28 Days Later, where everybody but a few people had been driven crazy by a virus.
"But they gotta find something," Duck said. Duck had a prison tattoo of a mallard on his arm. Cahill wouldn't have known it was a mallard if Duck hadn't told him. He could just about tell it was a bird. Duck was over six feet tall, and Cahill would have hated to have been the guy who gave Duck such a shitty tattoo, 'cause Duck probably beat him senseless when he finally got a look at the thing. "Maybe," Duck mused, "maybe they're solar powered. And eating us is just a bonus."
"I think they go dormant when they don't smell us around," Cahill said.
Cahill didn't really like talking to Duck, but Duck often found Cahill and started talking to him. Cahill didn't know why. Most of the guys gave Duck a wide berth. Cahill figured it was probably easier to just talk to Duck when Duck wanted to talk.
Almost all of the guys at Fado were white. There was a Filipino guy, but he pretty much counted as white. As far as Cahill could tell there were two kinds of black guys, regular black guys and Nation of Islam. The Nation of Islam had gotten organized and turned a place across the street--a club called Heaven--into their headquarters. Most of the regular black guys lived below Heaven and in the building next door.
This whole area of the Flats had been bars and restaurants and clubs. Now it was a kind of compound with a wall of rubbish and dead cars forming a perimeter. Duck said that during the winter they had regular patrols organized by Whittaker and the Nation. Cold as shit standing behind a junked car on its side, watching for zombies. But they had killed off most of the zombies in this area, and now they didn't bother keeping watch. Occasionally a zombie wandered across the bridge and they had to take care of it, but in the time Cahill had been in Cleveland, he had seen exactly four zombies. One had been a woman.
Life in the zombie preserve really wasn't as bad as Cahill had expected. He'd been dumped off the bus and then spent a day skulking around expecting zombies to come boiling out of the floor like rats and eat him alive. He'd heard that the life expectancy of a guy in a preserve was something like two and a half days. But he'd only been here about a day and a half when he found a cache of liquor in the trunk of a car, and then some guys scavenging. He'd shown them where the liquor was, and they'd taken him back to the Flats.
Whittaker was a white guy who was sort of in charge. He'd made a big speech about how they were all more free here in the preserve than they'd ever been in a society that had no place for them, about how there used to be spaces for men with big appetites like the Wild West and Alaska--and how that was all gone now, but they were making a great space for themselves here in Cleveland, where they could live true to their own nature.
Cahill didn't think it was so great, and glancing around he was pretty sure that he wasn't the only one who wouldn't chuck the whole thing for a chance to sit and watch the Sox on TV. Bullshitting was what the Whittakers of the world did. It was part of running other people's lives. Cahill had dragged in a futon and made himself a little room. It had no windows and only one way in, which was good in case of attack. But he found most of the time he couldn't sleep there. A lot of times he slept outside on a picnic table someone had dragged out into the middle of the street.
What he really missed was carpet. He wanted to take a shower and then walk on carpet in a bedroom and get dressed in clean clothes.
A guy named Riley walked over to Cahill and Duck and said, "Hey, Cahill. Whittaker wants you to go scavenge."