Five Apocalyptic Stories
“It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.” — REM
“It’s always the end of the world.” — Jess Walter
Short Story Month continues! As part of our showcase, we’re looking at the end of the world and the many ways it is depicted in fiction. We solicited stories from some of science fiction and fantasy’s best writers and opened a call for submissions to our readership in order to publish a group of stories about the apocalypse based on the above two quotes. The following stories from writers Nancy Kress, Emily Devenport, Allison Augustyn, Joan Childs, and Shane R. Collins interpret the end of the world in 25 – 250 words. “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.” Enjoy!
“It’s Always The End of The World”
by Nancy Kress
A huge, parched, windswept plain. Nothing moved except dust, blowing ceaselessly. Nothing lived except Potter, trudging toward a rickety structure that had once been a barn, on what had once been a farm, in what had once been the fertile Midwest. He fell—
“John, John, wake up! You’re having a nightmare!”
Linda’s arm shaking him, her face looming over his, the huge curve of her belly bumping gently against his chest.
“I…yes…it…” He wrapped his arms around her.
“A nightmare? About your mother?”
“No.” In a little while, he slept again.
The asteroid came closer, closer, until it smashed into Asia, the shock felt in quakes even as far away as Iowa. In the time illogic of dreams, immediately came the tsunamis, the dust dark as night, the storms and die-offs of species after species, the terrible—
This time he woke himself, shaking and sweating. Linda slept on. John rose, made himself warm milk, went back to bed.
The weapons arced out of the sky, bringing searing light, deadly mushroom clouds, flames and horror. John’s eyeballs seared. His skin sloughed off—
Morning. Linda came out of the bathroom, her cell in her hand. “Sweetie, that was your sister. Your mother’s gone, I’m so sorry…”
John reached for his wife, buried his face in the bulge of her warmth.
“Nothing will be the same without her,” Linda said. “It’s like…the end of the world.”
John said, before he knew he would speak, “It’s always the end of the world.”
The child kicked from inside its secret, temporary sea.
And the beginning.
Nancy Kress is the author of thirty-two books, including twenty-five novels, four collections of short stories, and three books on writing. Her work has won five Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Most recent works are the Nebula-nominated Yesterday’s Kin (Tachyon, 2014) and the forthcoming Best of Nancy Kress (Subterranean, September, 2015). In addition to writing, Kress often teaches at various venues around the country and abroad; in 2008 she was the Picador visiting lecturer at the University of Leipzig. Kress lives in Seattle with her husband, writer Jack Skillingstead, and Cosette, the world’s most spoiled toy poodle.
by Shane R. Collins
Kayla spotted the pansy three blocks away, the purple petals a stark contrast to the grays of concrete rubble, rebar, and broken glass. The flower grew tentatively from a crack in the asphalt, hunched beneath a crumpled beer can like a small mammal emerging from its hole on the first warm day of spring.
Reaching down to pluck the flower, Kayla imagined putting it in her greasy hair, or maybe holding it as she walked, bringing it to her lips to inhale every time she saw another body. Her fingers brushed across the petals but she couldn’t do it, couldn’t kill this green, living plant, the first beautiful thing she’d seen in months. Gently, Kayla lifted the beer can from the pansy and walked away, smiling.
Shane R. Collins recently graduated from the Stonecoast MFA program. His work has been published in The Masters Review Volume III, 2 Bridges Review, and The Sand Canyon Review. Another one of his stories was a finalist for Best New Writing 2015. He’s currently seeking representation for a novel. Collins lives and writes from a homestead in rural Vermont.