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FEAST - Nik Perring


Original art by Rebecca Cottrell www.rcottrell.com

We won’t have long after they drop the bomb.


Yes, for a time, we will survive on scraps and rats and jetsam, and some will become hunters. And no-one will be vegetarian any more. In times like these, you do what you can.


Soon there will be no experts or engineers. No-one to service or maintain things, and, if there are, no ways to reach the things that are worn. We will be few and we will be unprepared. And, quickly, there will be no parts to replace the old and the damaged, the perished or worn out. The dangerous ones, the fatigued will whirr and wobble and spin unsteadily in their places until...


And things will rust.


In time, our proudest cityscapes and buildings, our bridges and our towers will flake like old mortar.


But before that, the coolant in the nuclear plants, that were once trumpeted as our future, will evaporate and the generators will overheat and they will all go up, each one of them, and Nagasaki and Fukushima will be nothing more than memories of rocks thrown into ponds.


And those memories, and more like them, will fade into unimportance because there are other things to think of now. Those things we learned at work or at school or in the playground, the skills we practised so hard – will all be suddenly useless, and they will all be forgotten. This is not the time for music or for games.


This is the time of hunger. And this is the time of the animals. They will all be wild now.

First they will scavenge, like us, on the livestock we simply couldn’t feed any longer. And we will chase them off, with sticks and grunts and howls because these sheep and these cows, cancer-ridden, radioactive, deathly even before they died, will be our trophies of the grass that, once, did not cover our streets. They, for a time, will be our sustenance. And we will watch the dogs go and, some of us may call out or whisper, ‘Good boy,’ after them. You might even wish them well.


There will be no small dogs anymore. Our fancy breeds, ostentatious in candyfloss fur and pink collars and coats – the ones we only owned to parade and say, ‘Good boy, sit!’ ‘How clever!’ And, ‘Ooh, look at what she can do!’ - with their weak, impractical jaws and legs too short, too long, too perfect to be useful will have their throats choked and their bodies torn by the strong: by jaws that clamp and teeth that rip fur as easily as your flesh – and by claws that are fit for purpose.


And the big dogs – the hungry – the Alsatians and Mastiffs, the Bandogges and Tosa Inu – and those sheepdogs from the east who were bred to fight bears – will find the wolves and they will breed. It will not take long.


And their offspring will be hungry too. And they will eat well. And, somewhere, in a memory passed on, they might remember your kind and your scent. And your taste will be familiar and, perhaps, they might even remember your sticks and your howls that kept their mothers hungry and their fathers, not that long ago, obedient or whimpering. They will not remember the games and the balls and the treats. This is not the time for that.


Down boy. Good girl. Sit.


And, one day, they will be at your door, or they will find you in the woods or on some grassland, alone, somewhere. They will know to be silent and they will be in packs.

And they will not need to growl or snarl, although some might show you their teeth – and flesh, perhaps from some animal, maybe from someone you knew (a child perhaps, snatched while a mother slept) might hang between teeth like ragged shirts on a line from a laundry day long gone (and isn’t it funny, you’ll think, how you remember these things at a time like this).


And they, the pack – some, the older ones, will still be wearing collars - will be before you and when you, panicking, turn, they will be around you. They will be to your side, and that one, and there, and there - and behind you. They will be many. And they will be still for a time, some might sit on their haunches and remind you of next door’s Charlie – ball in his mouth, eyes bright. But the air will feel colder that day, and the birds will be silent, and the wind that should only be a breeze will burn your skin and you will shiver. And they will notice, and each will look up at you with their ears pricked, and then one lone bark will rise into a chorus. And they will all be calling your name.


Nik Perring is an award winning short story writer from the UK. He's the author of five books (including Not So Perfect, A Book of Beautiful Words, Beautiful Trees, Freaks!). His online home is www.nikperring.com and he's on Twitter and Instagram as himself.