WAKE: (wāk) 1. Ignite a transformation of awareness.
W.A.A.C: (wāk) Widespread Agglutinating Autoimmune Contagion.
Rain pelted his poncho as he heaved the rusted jaw-trap from his satchel, and clanged it to the mud. When Nina saw the iron adversary she flattened her ears, and whined in protest. “Still holding a grudge, my dear?” he teased her.
When he discovered the Rottweiler pup eleven months ago under his trailer window, her paw wedged in the trap, he had sobbed with relief. He was desperate for company by then…and protection. He’d recently been ambushed by three grim rapers the size of silverbacks while scavenging inside a Gas’N’Gorge. They dragged him to the parking lot where massive heaps of female bodies had been transported for cremation. The stench from those putrid piles of delicate limbs, and the sadistic jeers of the men as they took turns with him was impossible to shake. He was certain he would die that night, and he was not relieved when he didn’t.
Later, he stood under the amiable oak behind his double-wide, pulling his greasy hair into a ponytail so it wouldn’t tangle in the noose, when he heard the trap spring shut. There was Nina; clemency on tap.
She soon lumbered faithfully attached to his lanky hip whenever they explored the dilapidated city. Her monstrous size helped discourage harassment from lecherous fuck muggers.
“You’re sweet looking…You wanna choke on this cock, faggot?!”
“Yeah! You’ll be burping our cum, dick chugger!”
But it was the heartsick advances from the loneliest ones that lingered, disrupting his reason.
“I have clean water at my place, bro. I’ll take care of you…if you take care of me.”
He secured the trap’s steel jaws into position as the rain ceased, and spotted disheveled Jerry defecating in a puddle across the street, babbling nonsense about “consequences” again. The old-timer’s sanity hadn’t survived. He rolled a can of Alpo over to Jerry’s filthy feet. The old man caught it, and beamed a toothless grin of gratitude in return.
He missed the finer things but cat food spread on stale saltines was pleasantly reminiscent of his Grandmother’s tuna casserole. Before the fever usurped humanity he’d been quite a famous musician. Unfortunately, at thirty-two, his unfading pretty boy appearance wasn’t an asset anymore unless he chose to work for a ‘Toy-Boy’ brothel, and he’d starve before surrendering to perdition. Nina stretched her ham-sized head upside down across his lap, and he popped a fishy cracker into her mouth. Loafing together on their mangy plaid couch at sunset soothed him somewhat but it was no substitute…
He didn’t just miss their bodies. He craved their soft spirit more than heroin. He hadn’t seen a breathing one in years. The fever claimed them all by thirteen, and his obsession pondering past events always settled with the same awareness; it was the kindest outcome for them…
It’s origin unknown, WAAC seemed a Godsend with overpopulation out of control but it soon reached epidemic proportions late-21st century leading to strict regulation of female rights. The ‘Honorable Conception Act’ passed, and the forced insemination of ‘breeding-aged females’ began. International laws were implemented proclaiming abortion illegal, and vaginal rape legal. By the time real brawn was utilized in finding a cure it was too late. WAAC was more ruthless than history itself.
Once men grasped that they now existed solely to witness each other die, the grid crashed, and there was nothing left but regret to keep house with. The deserted boys succumbed to primal familiarities in the plague’s wake, and the decade since was a clusterfuck of males hoarding resources, and warring over any remaining females to breed with until the banality of hedonism, cults, and cannibalism conquered society.
As for loners like him, who chose to endure humanely, a hollow misery shelled their existence in resignation.
The crumbling warehouse was probably emptied but he was surprised what people missed during their ransacking. He had discovered his trusty crossbow under a moldy mattress.
As they crept into the sweltering depot, weaving through cavernous aisles, Nina abruptly hunkered down and blocked his path. When WAAC’s familiar perfume struck his nostrils, he anchored the crossbow against his shoulder before they proceeded to the ‘Import’ office. The stench grew savage as he nudged the door open…
She had built a nest of ragged blankets in the corner. Under a veil of blonde locks, beads of dried blood trickled from her nose and mouth. Her colorless eyes were frozen in unblinking fixation to the coat on her lap. She looked twenty-five. He was bewildered to see a female corpse that wasn’t adolescent.
Nina sniffed the coat, nuzzling something awake. It was around two years old, swaddled in the jacket across it’s dead mother’s legs.
It stretched and shivered before snuggling back into a ball.
I’m leaving now.
He listened to the gentle whisper of it’s breath.
It’s dead no matter what.
He exited the office but Nina was no longer in tow. She sat devoutly next to the body.
“Don’t get sanctimonious with me,” he warned the dog. Nina sprawled out further with a haughty exhale.
“Let’s go, you bitch!” he barked. Nina yawned leisurely, and nosed the bundle again. It turned it’s tiny body over to confront him.
He inhaled sharply. Her diamond eyes looked into him with poised curiosity. He tightened his lips. The infant reached out her delicate limbs, claiming him as her own. He vomited saltines onto the rotting carpet. Still patiently expecting cuddles, she regarded his collapse with tender squeaks of concern, each gentle chirp splicing devotion to his bones.
If discovered, she would’ve roasted over a man’s spit that night but she didn’t utter a peep even as he zipped her up inside his backpack, and bounced her the two miles back to his trailer. After plopping her down on the mangy plaid couch, beside her new comrade Nina, panic consumed him again. He couldn’t protect a girl during the Goddamned Apocalypse! After ten minutes of hyperventilating under the scrutiny of Nina; the drooling judge, and Baby-girl; the thumb sucking jury, it dawned on him; he’d be clueless under superior circumstances so she’d get his best attempt at fatherhood either way.
‘The World’s Largest Jack-in-the-Box!’
The rickety hinges of the sun-bleached sign creaked as Simone slid down the ladder with an acrobat’s flair. Ancient Nina, her nursemaid, paced eagerly below.
He stopped sharpening the arrow tip to gaze up at the giant clown’s head perched atop the 30-foot silo that glowered over the barren highway. He was satisfied with that demented bastard watching over them. Circus-themed rot made this remote roadside attraction appear worthless to marauders yet it was abundant with fertile soil, and prime terrain visibility.
Simone leapt to the ground gracefully. “All’s clear in clown town!” she singsonged through Nina’s sloppy kisses.
“Will my girls be alright while I’m in the city?” he confirmed.
Simone threw him a pirate smile that graduated to a giggle. He swore he saw Nina’s antique eyes roll in agreement. “I think we’ll survive, Dad.” Her grin suddenly cracked with uncertainty, “You gonna be okay?”
“I’m always aces, Baby-girl,” he winked.
She tentatively conceded an optimistic nod before snatching up the crossbow at his feet, “Maybe you’ll find a book about building beehives this time!” She glowed.
“Anything’s possible, Jackrabbit.” He loathed leaving them but Simone was an even better shot with the crossbow than she was a medic, and although Nina’s hips no longer matched her moxie, her vicious loyalty compensated their pack. He would work ‘fetish shifts’ at the brothel to earn faster, trade for seeds, and drive the four hundred miles back in time for Simone’s birthday next month.
He watched her swishing blond braid mirror Nina’s wagging tail as they trotted towards the straw-man for target practice. Feral, fifteen-year-old Simone; his sacred reason. He would chew glass for her if need be.
On his final evening in the city he neared his collapsing trailer humming the hundred-year-old Van Morrison tune Simone had suckered him into singing to her before they parted ways twenty-eight days ago.
Me and Jerry should celebrate with a can of Alpo, he mused.
He surveyed the street. Jerry’s haggard body lay face down in a puddle.
After reverently carrying the old-timer’s remains to the amiable oak for burial he searched Jerry’s pockets, and found the old man’s faded employee ID from the Center for Disease Control along with a tattered government document…
“CLASSIFIED TOP SECRET: Attention all constituents of the CDC: WAAC’s mutation has nullified intended purpose of virus’ creation. Vaccine has become ineffective. To prevent grave damage to national security, all evidence of ‘PCP’ (The Population Control Project), must be eliminated immediately.”
Numbness permeated his cells. He slowly pulverized the paper in his trembling palm.
It was midnight when he finished burying Jerry, and departed with a truckload of farming provisions. He barreled through the darkness, weeping. He needed to be there when Simone woke in the morning. After all, how often does your daughter turn sixteen?
Story by Mikeka Fellez