Short Fiction: The Survivor

Six years in prison had changed Ray Stencil. For one thing, he had grown a moustache. (One does what one must to survive in jail.) Now, released back into society, he felt like a fish out of water, or a small fish in a big pond, or a lonely grouper swimming among sharks. Perhaps the aquarium was not the best place to visit first.

The world had changed much in a short time. The city was so crowded now, full of young people with nothing else to do but drink coffee and look at their phones. The old cinema on Riley Avenue had been torn down, replaced by an office block. Progress. Then there was the giant flying saucer. It circled the city limits every seventeen minutes, depositing enough laser napalm to create a one hundred feet high barrier that instantly vaporised any object approaching within half a mile. The Chinese restaurant on Weedon Street was still there though. That was comforting.

Ray had some hard truths to learn, like how employers can be reluctant to hire ex-convicts—more so when threatened with violence. The modern dating scene was also difficult to navigate. No woman took the slightest interest in Ray’s passion for watercolour painting; they just bombarded him with questions regarding the eleven current restraining orders against him.

Maybe Ray didn’t fit into this crazy new world. He considered this as he walked the streets one morning. It was a good time for thinking: quiet but for the gentle peck and scurry of scavenging critters upon the blistered corpses strewn about. That alien virus sure thinned out the human herd—and in just a matter of hours.

His immunity to the virus made Ray a kind of Superman, king among the survivors. In the end he was the only one capable of boarding an alien craft to negotiate for peace. And he might have succeeded, had he not gone on an empty stomach. The aliens’ physical form bore an indistinguishable and ill-fated likeness to Swiss cheese.



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