Not With a Bang, But a Bleat

by Alice Folkart

The electricity had come on again than morning, and for just a minute the radio had blared jumbled voices and static, some of it in Yiddish and French, almost no English, so she knew that New York was probably either gone or taken, and that she'd most likely never see Ari again. She sighed, slipped out the side door, and clinging to the shadows twilight was building against the stone walls of the house, made a quick run for the barn, hoping that their sniper was having a smoke or masturbating with his old girlie magazines or something. It would be humiliating to be killed by a gun-happy kid who thought of her as a only a two-dimensional duck on a midway target practice game, on the way to milk the goats that had been bleating for two hours, begging her to come with her bucket and relieve them of their milk; they were the last of the livestock, the last providers of anything resembling protein - the milk had made damn good cheese once she'd been able to get to the ruins of the library and find some books on goat husbandry and cheese making. The sun had fallen into a cloud bank even before it came to the hills, sucking all the light and life out of the view of what had once been, before all they'd cut the trees for fire wood and dismantled most of the houses for materials, a classic, post-card-perfect historic New England town, the town to which Fiona had escaped, a town far enough away from the carnage, the plagues and the radiation clouds to be safe, at least for a little while. As she milked, leaning her cheek against the warm flank of her favorite goat, Hannah, she knew that her time was just about up, that she could hold out alone here for only a few more days, and then the psychos from the city, disfigured by industrial-strength military bacteria and viruses, half blind, lame, insane, slowly, painfully dying, and wanting more than anything to take someone with them, would get her. She'd go on until she saw them coming, and then... well, that's what she was saving Ari's pistol and that last bullet for, and she would do it right in front of them, maybe give them one little twinge of pleasure, poor devils; her only regret was leaving the goats.

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Alice Folkart lives and writes poetry and short fiction on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.