The U.S. of After Chapter 4


Yeah, so I was just sitting in my house minding my own business when this skinny nerd decided to break in.  I suppose I couldn’t blame him, what with the world all gone crazy, but a girl’s gotta defend herself.  I dragged his sorry self into the house and then bound him all up with duct tape.  Handy stuff.  I pulled him up onto the brown leather couch in the living room because he was kind of light.  I decided that when he woke up I’d just have to figure out what to do then.

I wish Dad would have come back.  He went off to Europe before the war broke out and that had been like forever ago, over a year.  He picked a heck of a time to go on a business trip, but he worked for BP so I guess he had to go.  I gave up on him coming back a while ago.  The food had run out, I had gone through all the stores in the safe room and I had been going to that convenience store on the corner for a while.  I was tired of being afraid.

Sometimes I heard screams in the night.

That nerd had a backpack with nothing really of concern inside.  Just some odds and ends that really didn’t help my hunger pangs.  I mean… beans?  I suppose I could eat them, but eew.  I looked in the mirror and thought that if I really cared about this guy or he was someone I knew I would probably do more to fix myself up.  Oh yeah, no water.  I hadn’t had a shower or a bath in a long time.  I never did get used to my own body odor.  Ugh!  We won’t even talk about shaving.  When scrounging, razors are kind of second in line to water and food.  I felt so cave girl.

Besides, this dude probably was just looking for something to eat when he tried to break in.  I ran upstairs, dug through my closet and found the red aluminum baseball bat my Dad used to use when he played in that church league.  It had a sort of heavy feel to it.  I looked at what I had on, and decided that what I wore to bed would not be a very menacing look, so I sorted through my floordrobe and changed into jeans, then put on an American Eagle hoodie; the blue one, not the white one.  I looked in the mirror, tied back my hair all business, put a plain denim ball cap on my head, bore my teeth (Oh, I needed to brush) and then ran downstairs to sit across from the nerd until he woke up.

He moaned a second or two, then he lay there.  I think he probably needed sleep.  I really smacked his head good in the door.  It was kind of an accident.  I didn’t really mean to do all that.  I just got scared and kind of went overboard with the broom.  He had caught me in the middle of sweeping the hardwood floor.  I had to have something to do or I’d go crazy.  I was just about going crazy already.  I’d been cooped up in this house so long I didn’t even know what month it was anymore.  I knew that it was, like, summertime because it was so hot.  I had all the windows upstairs opened up.  Man, a house really starts to smell funny when no one lives in it and the power is out for a while.  Who knew?

I had come home from OU for the summer, like, last summer.  I lived at the Kappa house and had pledged the year before all the nonsense happened.  Dad was always a little worried about his little girl pledging to a non-Christian sorority, but that was what I wanted.  At the time I was so concerned with image.  A lot of good that did me now.

We won’t even talk about how I got home.  That was a nightmare.

Sometimes I’d feel aftershocks from the big one.  It felt like somebody picked up the house and let it fall down suddenly, and usually it happened when you were trying to sleep or when creepy looters were hanging around outside your house.  I had to go into the safe room once when that happened, and then when the noise stopped I came out to find the place in a mess.  Good thing they couldn’t get in to where I was or I’d be done.

Worse, they could have had that Volos virus everybody was talking about on the news before the world went sour.  I think it sort of resembled TB but you were contagious for like three weeks and then it didn’t respond to any vaccines or antibiotics.  I was a pre-med major before school was cancelled forever.

I would have been a really good doctor.

The nerd’s head was soaking my fine leather couch with blood.  Now was the time to see how good I could be in a pinch.  I ran to the kitchen and pulled out the first aid kit from the cabinet and then ran back to the living room to gently lift the guy’s head.  Yeah, just a superficial wound, but the head bleeds worse than anything.  I pulled out some gauze and held it on the cut applying pressure.  He moaned again, then he shifted against the duct tape but it held.  I held the tape dispenser between my knees and pulled off some coach’s tape to fasten the gauze in place, then I took one of my Mom’s embroidered pillows and propped up his head.  I didn’t think she would mind.  She didn’t mind when she left my Dad for that other guy I can’t stand.  I was only five but I just remember that he smelled funny.  I had not spoken to her since that day I turned sixteen and she called just to “catch up”.


Two months ago I sat upstairs and thought I saw her on the road down the hill.  It was just some wanderer.  The way she was staggering around made me run down to the safe room and hide for three days.  I was sick of hiding.

I grabbed the baseball bat and darted over to the recliner to sit across from my dorky hostage and watch him carefully.  He’d be waking up soon and I’d have to put on the show so he wouldn’t think I was soft.  I wasn’t soft.  I used to be a Little Axe cheerleader, for crying out loud.  We were all business.

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

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