Uncle Billy and the Lesbian Apocalypse (Original Version)

8/17/2014 - This is the completed four-part novelette totaling 8,282 words.

This is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead or zombified, is purely coincidental.

Part I

The old man nearly swallowed the toothpick he'd been chewing, then dropped the binoculars as he spasmed. He raised a hand to pull splinters from his tongue.

"Dang," he said to himself, and turned to his dog and repeated the same thing. The dog simply wagged it's nub of a tail, having heard the epithet too many times to worry about it now.

The man picked up the binoculars and refocused on the trail of dust that had nearly reached his fence line. He had been watching that dust for days, a sight he had hoped never to see again. Whoever it was should have been frightened by the death and decay spread all along that trail and hightailed it back to wherever they came from.

But the dust-kickers kept advancing, taking their sweet time to get close enough for him to just make out the blurry faces of this latest rag-tag bunch of trespassers. He checked to make sure his shotgun was still leaning against the wall, and turned to look back through the binoculars.

"Girls, every dang one of 'em," he said to Nobody, who simply sat staring up at his master and waiting for a command. "I count seven and pulling a travois." He squinted as if it would help resolve the image revealed to him through the scratched lenses.

"Well knock me plumb silly," he muttered, "ain't no mistakin' that curly red hair."

He sucked his teeth and spat towards the dog, who quickly lapped up the minuscule bit of fluid as if it were the last drop of water on the planet. And it nearly was. 

The old man made his way carefully down from the balcony, leaning heavily on the banister. The stairs still made his knees ache regardless that he'd lost more than 70 pounds since the Event.

"Awright dog. We got some visitors to greet so we best get to tidying up the place." He stopped at the bottom stair and massaged his left kneecap and then his right before he limped into the kitchen. Nobody followed close behind.

It wasn't much of a mess given his tendency to clean the boredom out of every lonely day the past year and a half. Still, the sink wasn't as tidy as he preferred. He picked up a filthy towel, taking his time to work up more spit before wiping down the plate and fork he had used that morning and placing them on the dish rack to dry.

He shook his head at himself knowing they were already bone dry, but he liked going through the motions. Just like old times. He imagined his wife's pestering to stop his fussing about the kitchen and get himself out to the living room to watch Jeopardy.  He had never stopped being impressed with her ability to shout out the right question to every single answer in the 42 years they'd been married.

He looked out the kitchen window to a grave marker at the top of a hill, the shadow of a dead tree hanging over it. He crossed himself and mumbled, "spectacles, testacles, wallet and watch." And nearly every item was still present and where he expected it to be.

Old times were about to pay him a visit again if the leader of that bunch actually turned out to be kin. He moved over to the table and picked up the red shells he'd filled just the other day, slowly counting each one as he loaded them into his shotgun and pocketing what remained.

The snap of the double-barrels closing gave a nice feel in his hands. Just cuz they were girls didn't mean he should drop his guard, at least not until they were rested and coherent enough to explain themselves to his satisfaction.

"Yes dear, I'll be a good host," he said to nobody in particular. He looked about, pondering what he could offer his guests. He sighed knowing he would find them bare but he opened every cupboard anyway.

He lit a candle and made his way down the basement stairs, grateful for the few degrees difference in temperature. If he didn't have to keep such a close eye on his property he might sleep down there more often.

He kicked his way along the path of empty tin cans to the shelves at the back wall. He took the few remaining cans of corn, soybeans and tomatoes and put them in the pockets of his baggy overalls, wondering what he'd be able to bargain them for. His hand hovered over the last three mason jars full of peaches, remembering the days his wife had spent preparing the hundreds of jars that had kept him steady through the worst of times.

He knew these next few days would get much worse, particularly because his niece from California and her girl gang were about to arrive at his Kentucky farm. And all of 'em expecting him to help them survive.

He carefully made his way back up the stairs and into the kitchen. As he blew out the candle and set the jars on the table, he acknowledged that his own survival just wasn't a question any longer.


"Hold that light up a bit higher, Uncle Billy."

"I'm not your uncle," he said, raising the lantern above the blonde-haired woman who was kneeling on the ground. Fay? He hoped he remembered her name. Or was it Sheri.

"Right. Billy, or Bill. What's yer preference?" Fay had a twang to her voice, reminding him of his wife's relatives from Texas.

"My pref'rence is for you to git yourself up off the ground. I told you it don't work no more."

The woman ignored him, and the screech of metal twisting on metal became loud enough to bother his old ears. Fay dropped the wrench and turned to two women who stood close by. 

"Okay, fill 'er up" she said. One woman held tightly to a hose while the other began pouring their most precious commodity into the funnel.

"Waste a good water if y'ask me," Uncle Billy muttered while Fay adjusted the hose leading down into the pump's main casing. She began manhandling the force rod and he was surprised at her strength, pumping that danged squeaky old handle up and down, up and down.

Something sputtered and she pumped faster, yelling at the other women to stop. The pump rumbled and finally a trickle of reddish liquid spurted from the faucet.

"Oh my god," one of the women yelled, jumping up and down, "you did it." 

Fay kept pumping even as the sweat poured down her face. The liquid started to flow stronger and began to clear as it swirled into a plastic bucket on the ground.

"Sometimes ya gotta give a little to get a little," Fay said. It was barely a whisper and all she could manage for the dryness in her mouth.

"Girl, let me have that," the old man said, putting the lantern on the ground and pushing Fay aside. "Yer gonna bust a gut if you keep that up." 

Fay fell back, too tired to protest as Uncle Billy began pumping on the handle. It moved so much easier since the last he'd tried and given up, and he finally appreciated all the time she had spent in the hot sun, dismantling the entire pump right down to the ground even as he complained at her doing so. He chuckled at remembering how Fay had swabbed a full tube of ruby-red lipstick all along the connecting rod before inserting it back into the pump stand and mumbling something about lubrication.

The things those girls had brought with them on their trek across the country seemed rather ludicrous when he watched them unpacking two days ago. He'd just about been beside himself at all the feminine thingies, yet so few guns and even less ammo. Still, they had knives of all sizes, from silly red pin-prickers all the way to 14-inch long machetes, and every one of 'em covered in blood.

The most troubling was the rather smallish four-year old boy who seemed to do not much else but sleep. They took turns, two women watching over him at all times. They let Nobody play with the little tyke, but for whatever reason the women kept the boy away from Uncle Billy.

As curious as he was, he new they just didn't have enough wherewithal to tell their stories when they first arrived. Maybe now that water was pumping from his well they might get to jaw-jacking and he'd just have to sit awhile and listen. His wife, God rest her soul, would have reminded him that would be the charitable thing to do.

His arm grew tired about the time the bucket was full, and when he leaned down to pick it up Fay got there first. She threw some water at him.

"What are you doin'?" he cried, stepping back and reaching for the pistol in his belt. He stopped as Fay laughed and splashed water at her companions, and finally dumped the last of it over her own head. All of them giggling in the dark like a pack of school girls. Nobody tried to lap up the water before the dirt soaked it all in.

Uncle Billy was relieved to see the bucket easily filling back up as Fay worked the pump handle again. She gently shooed the dog away before Nobody could drink too much. The old man closed his eyes and relished how the damp shirt cooled his skin. When they walked back to the house, all of the women hooted and hollered, slapping Fay on the back in congratulations. One woman (Sheri?) gave her a long kiss on the lips.

Evelyn, his niece, coughed and the two women parted. She raised her glass of water into the air.

"To Fay for fixing the pump, and to Uncle Billy for having one that could be fixed," she said.

Lantern light danced across the walls as their glasses clinked together. He watched as a few sipped daintily while others chugged like they were old army buddies. The water tasted a bit rusty, but it was wet and he was feeling rather relieved thinking he might just be able to fetch himself a bath.

About high time too. They were all crowded too close to one another and he felt a might uncomfortable, noticing an odiferous aroma rising from the group, himself included. The old man drank his glass empty and cleared his throat.

"I think we've had plenty of excitement today. We've got hard work ahead of us t'morrow."

He began taking the empty glasses from each woman and putting them in the sink.

"Off ya go now. Get yerselves another good night's rest. I'll clean up here." He turned to wipe the glasses with his cleanest rag, and listened as they shuffled out of the kitchen and into the living room.

Danged if he didn't have a huge two-story house with enough rooms for each of them, they still preferred to remain together and had piled all their bedding onto the living room floor. He tried not to be bothered by it, knowing he ought to get a scolding from his wife for his fastidiousness during such hard times.

Uncle Billy didn't need to imagine the horrors these girls had encountered over the long miles to his farm. Likely, he reasoned, they needed the comfort and safety of each other's company. Maybe in a few days they would settle in and things could return to normal. Well, at least as normal as could be given that his house had been invaded by a pack of women. Far better than the invasions he'd had to defend against in the past.

"Uncle Billy," his niece said softly, laying a hand on his shoulder.

"Yeah?" The old man didn't turn around, but kept wiping the glasses and placing them on the rack.

"Thank you."

He turned to face his niece and shook his head. It had been nearly 15 years since he had seen her last, and she was much older and thinner than he remembered. Her eyes betrayed a deep sadness that made him wince.

"No darlin'. I'm to be thanking you. I got my well water running again, and you and you're friends have promised to bring my farm back to life. Y'all keep your end of the bargain and you stay as long as ya like."

Evelyn nodded her head and slowly turned to walk out of the kitchen, but stopped.

"Uncle Billy, there's some things you should know about me. About us."

"Now now," he interrupted. "I've been alone for quite awhile now and have fought hard to keep it that way. Ya gotta give me some time to get used to y'all bein' here." He gave her a quick pat on the arm and stepped back.

"I'm sure it'll take some time for y'all ta get over what you've been through." He sighed. "You're safe now, ya hear."

He wondered if he'd said something wrong for the tears in her eyes. She hugged him tightly and for much longer than he was comfortable, then turned and walked out the door. The sounds of laughter drifted through before it closed behind her.

He almost cracked a smile. Maybe it was good to have those girls in his house, especially his kin. It certainly was good to hear woman's laughter again. Like his wife used to say, laughter heals all wounds no matter how deep. And they all had plenty deep wounds that needed some healing.

<word count: 2275>

Part II

"I think the first time I noticed something was wrong," Lucy said out of the blue, one evening after a long day of clearing a field for planting, "was when my partner pulled out his gun and shot me three times, point blank. Even wearing my vest I wound up with a few broken ribs. I lay there watching him aiming his gun at me, and if it weren't for those five guys who took him down... He fought like a madman."

All the small talk stopped and everyone turned to look at Lucy. Uncle Billy could hear Nobody grumbling through a dog's bad dream, and wondered what prompted the girl to finally speak up. He wasn't sure what to do, but his wife (bless her soul) would've shushed him to silence, whispering that it was high-time their truths be spoken.

"He'd been shot and hospitalized after our last bust together and it was his first day back from medical leave. Everyone said he was EDP but I couldn't help thinking he blamed me."

"Uh, EDP?" asked Evelyn.

"Sorry. Police-speak for Emotionally Disturbed Person." Lucy kicked off her boots and socks and stepped off the porch to stand barefoot in the newly sprouted grass and stare up at the stars.

"A few weeks later, while I was home still nursing my ribs, I got a panicked call from the operator. I could hear shots fired in the background and she was crying and screaming that they were attacking her." Lucy turned to look at one of the girls sitting on the porch. "My first reaction should've been to grab my badge and gun and fast track myself to the station."

The girl, Kara, stood up and took Lucy's hand. "And if you had we'd both be dead."

"Likely a few more of us too," Fay said, "you're a damn fine markswoman Lucy. Hold on to that and and let go of the rest." Many of the girls mumbled in agreement, and then it was as if they all moved as one. To Uncle Billy it looked like they were mobbing Lucy and Kara, and he waited silently until the group splintered and the girls went back to their seats on the porch.

"About when was it your partner shot you?" he asked. Lucy didn't hesitate.

"October thirty-first." Several other girls nodded, as if the date resonated with them.

"Kinda creepy coincidence," Evelyn said. His niece looked around and he could tell she was trying to muscle up to something, but she kept silent. Sheri stood up and slowly stepped onto the grass.


"For me, I think I got a warning a couple months earlier. I was home watching the news and it seemed like just another year full of awful things happening all over the world.

"My husband was overseas on yet another damn tour. He called me late one night and said some of the men at camp were going berserk, and that he had to get out of there. I worried that he was thinking of deserting, and I wanted to talk it through before he did anything rash. He made this weird sound, like he was laughing but not laughing, you know? And then he said he'd do his best to get back to the states and find me.

"The last thing he told me was the combination to the gun safe and that he'd stashed two bug out bags in the garage before he'd left on tour. I didn't understand what he meant, but the line went dead. I worried and cried the rest of that night and many nights after.

"The news on the TV just got worse. I hadn't heard from Jim since that night, and the Army refused to tell me anything. They repeated the same damn thing day in and day out. He was out on patrol and they wouldn't have any information until his unit reported back to camp. I got so mad, but I couldn't tell them about the phone call.

"Instead, I bitched at Base Comm every day to tell me something, anything. I didn't care if they told me he was dead, I just wanted to know what happened. The Commander finally told me the mission Jim was on was top-secret and he was not free to share any intel, and then he refused to take any more of my calls.

"I was exhausted from worry. One night, I think it was Halloween, I didn't hear them come into the house..."

She shivered and rubbed her arms.

"They hurt me pretty bad but they started fighting each other. I was able to crawl into the bathroom and lock myself in. I tried calling the police but there was no answer and suddenly it was like the whole base was on fire. There were explosions and glass breaking, people screaming and car alarms going off. And gun shots, lots of gun shots.

"I remembered what Jim had told me. So I waited until the house was quiet and then I got the gun and bullets out of the safe, went to the garage and found the bags. I didn't even know how to load the thing but I figured it out and held onto that thing for dear life. And I knew I'd use it if anyone tried to come at me again.

"I dozed and the sunlight woke me, it must've been the middle of the next day. I listened for noise but you know how when it's that quiet it just frightens you even more. I crouched there for almost an hour, straining to hear something. I finally moved because my legs were falling asleep.

"I got in the car and drove away, but I didn't know where to go or what to do. I just kept driving until the gas ran out. I walked miles until I found that little back road store. There was no one around but the shelves were full and I figured it was as good a place as any. But it seemed like forever and I got so scared and lonely. When you all showed up it was like the best day of my life."

Another group hug ensued before Uncle Billy could think too much about the story he'd just heard. Instead, he wondered if this ritual would keep happening and tried to figure out how to avoid it. For him, a million hugs would never be enough.


"The news on TV talked about pockets of violence on the east coast," Fay began, "and it was like a tsunami flooding across the country. Everyone went bat-shit crazy." Heads nodded as she spoke.

"It kept getting closer and closer, and so I started to carry my gun with me. I stopped going to work and holed up in my house watching TV, going out only to get whatever was left in the stores. And when the news reports said it had reached California, well, that was the kicker for me." She turned to Lucy and Kara.

"Thank god we still had working cell phones," Kara said, and Fay nodded.

"Once I knew where to meet you," Fay continued, "I crammed as much as I could into my truck and I was outta there. But the highways were jam packed, as if all of Southern California was fleeing north at the same time. And the crazies were everywhere, attacking the cars, each other, anything that moved. I ran over more of 'em than I wanted to count. That was some scary shit."

She closed her eyes for just a moment before putting on a grin. "A heavy duty four-wheeler can get you past any ten miles of bad road. I'm glad I found you guys, exactly where you told me you'd be."

"We waited for you," Lucy said, smiling back. "We knew you'd have all the useful gear, unlike some of the crap that others brought."

"Hey, I resemble that," Ann said, then pointed at Fay, "and you've since thanked me for my crap." She pretended to put on lipstick.

"You sure got purrdee lips," Fay said, her Texas twang more deliberate than usual. Everyone howled with laughter.

Uncle Billy shook his head in confusion, noting that even as they laughed every cheek gleamed wet in the moonlight. He remembered a song his wife used to sing, something about crying and laughing being the same release.

Nobody whimpered again in his sleep, making Uncle Billy think that sometimes bad dreams were just unavoidable, even for a dog. He cleared his throat.


"It was maybe late August when the crazy started happ'nin' around here," he said, standing up from his chair. Nobody glanced at him, sat up and waited while Uncle Billy walked over to a table, filled his glass from the pitcher of water and set it down for the dog before settling back into his chair.

"I was coming back from huntin'. Nobody here sniffed and snarled, and tore off to the house. I ran after him to find my neighbor's son straddling my wife. She was trying to push him off but it looked like he'd beat on her pretty bad. Dog had chomped down on his backside and that boy threw Nobody clear across the yard, not givin' a damn that a chunk of his ass was still between the dog's teeth." He pushed his glasses up on his nose.

"I used to think I was pretty quick on the draw for an old geezer. But he was faster than a wildcat. Cussin' and kickin', scratchin' and hitin' and bitin'. I tried to fight him off but that boy was strong as an ox and twice as mean. Abby, my wife, somehow she was able to get my gun and shoot him. Weren't nothin' but a pea shooter but sure 'nuff got his attention back on her. Nobody was snappin' at that boy's legs and I got the gun and whacked him right in the kidney beans. Then I smashed his head in. Took three more cracks before he stayed down.

"I used chains to hog tie him up in the barn. When my wife and I calmed down a bit, tended our wounds, she rang over to his family who lived about twelve miles east. They didn't answer the phone so I grabbed my Glock and left her with Nobody and a loaded shotgun. I didn't need to tell her to shoot that boy dead if he moved an inch.

"When I got to their house what I found would scare the piss out of anybody. Their limbs were tore clear from their bodies and lookin' like they was chewed on. I couldn't know for sure if it was their boy that did it, but ain't no one else around here would do something so bad as that." He sucked on his teeth, and picked up the glass and gulped down the water that Nobody had left behind.

"I recall, he got a medal and they sent him home to heal up from the hurt he got while soldierin' overseas. I know a thing or two about PTSD, but I didn't think it could make somebody do that to their parents."  He grew silent, and absently petted Nobody on the head until the dog lay down and out of reach.

"So," he said, breaking the silence, "how'd y'all figure to come to Kentucky?"

Evelyn shrugged. "Uncle Billy, what happened after that, to you and Aunt Abby?"

The old man sighed heavily, as if all the air went out of his lungs. He closed his eyes for what he thought was just a moment, then felt a hand on his shoulder shaking him awake.

"We're all tired," his niece said, standing over him, her eyes soft like his wife's used to be, "the rest of our stories can wait another day."

He nodded, grateful that she didn't insist he speak about something he couldn't quite remember. He stood and motioned for Nobody to stay on guard. The girls' chatter drifted up behind him as he slowly climbed the stairs, and the words that followed made him shudder.

"You know they all turn into zombies."

"They're not zombies," said Fay, cutting off the first girl. "Those fuckers are human and they die when you kill 'em."

"Right, but something does turn them into effing animals," Sheri said.

"Exactly," another girl said, "it's a virus that infects men."

"It's not just men. And we don't know it's a virus."

"It affects them worse."

There was a long pause and someone coughed.

"Evelyn, do you think your uncle is infected?"

The old man's foot stopped in mid-air, hovering over the last step as he strained to hear the response.

"No. I don't think so," Evelyn said.

Uncle Billy put his foot down as silently as he could.

"We need to keep him away from Aiden." Most of the women mumbled in agreement.

"I know, I know." He heard is niece sigh. "I'm tired. Let's just all go to bed."

"Let's just hope he doesn't kill us all in our sleep," someone mumbled.

"Not likely," said Lucy, "but I'll take first watch."

He heard the unmistakable sound of a clip pulled out and shoved back into a pistol, the barrel drawn back to load the first round. The murmurs of the girls drifted away as they moved into his living room to settle in for the night.

Uncle Billy tiptoed into his bedroom and locked the door behind him.

<word count: 2256>

Part III

The old man stared down at the young boy pulling on the leg of his overalls and thought several things, the last of which he acted upon. He patted the boy's head and leaned down to look into the young brown eyes.

"What can I getchya son?" The boy pointed to the barn.

"No, you cannot play in there. You can never go near that barn, ya here?" Uncle Billy's voice was harsh and the boy ran off. The next thing he felt was a heavy hand on his shoulder, turning him around to face a woman who looked madder than a three-legged cat in a room full of mice.

"What did you do to him?" She practically screamed.

Another woman ran by, chasing after the boy, while Uncle Billy stepped back and tried to defend himself.

"He wanted to play. I told him no."

"Did you touch him?" Her hand moved towards the knife at her belt.

Uncle Billy watched as the heat flushed her face, knowing his own was turning red with exasperation for all her snarling at him for no good reason.

"Look now, Ava. You're Ava?" The woman nodded, confirming he guessed her name right. "What's the harm? He wanted to play. I scolded him and that's why he took off runnin'."

She looked about fit to be tied, and finally decided to chase after the other woman and the boy. She yelled back at him as she went, "don't go near him again. Ever!" He couldn't stop himself from yelling back.

"Mind your manners, missy. You're on my property and sleepin' in my house," but knew she was long gone and wouldn't hear him. Nor did he think she would care if she had. He shook his head as he took a slow walk over to the barn and quietly checked the chains and lock that were on the doors. He put his ear to the wood and stood listening for several moments. When he turned back, he noticed his niece looking at him from the dirt path that led from the field to the house. He waved and made his way towards her.

"I hear you've met Aiden," Evelyn said. Uncle Billy put his hands in his pockets, not quite knowing how to respond to the woman who looked so much like his wife.

"One moment I was on my way out to the field and the next thing I feel is that little tyke pulling on my leg, askin' me questions." He watched as the two women walked the boy up to the far side of the yard, but still within earshot.

"He dudn't look much worse for the wear," he said.

Evelyn sighed, turned to look at the threesome and then back to Uncle Billy. "You're right. He looks fine." She changed the subject by nodding her head towards the barn. "Whatcha got in there all locked up like that?"

Uncle Billy pursed his lips and squinted, trying to decide what to tell her. He didn't want to lie, but he didn't want any more ruckus than there had to be.

"Nothing good for a little boy like that. None for any y'all neither." He sucked his teeth and turned to spit, but decided against it. He picked up the wheelbarrow filled with buckets of water he had pumped before the little interruption.

"Yer girls are expectin' this so I'm headin' back out to the field. Ya gonna help?"

Evelyn nodded, taking one of the handles to help him with the heavy load.


"Fay," Sheri said, standing up and wiping the dirt from her hands, having just finished planting the last of a row of cucumber seeds. "Did you have someone before, you know, before all this madness began?" She watched as Fay poured water over the mound and placed the bucket on the ground.

"Yeah. She didn't make it," Fay said. She pulled a bandana from her pocket and wiped the sweat from her face.

"I'm sorry."

Fay shook her head, "She knew she couldn't do all the things we've had to do to survive. So I did what she asked and left her with a pistol and one bullet." She picked up the bucket and pointed to the next row that they were supposed to plant.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Sheri asked, touching Fay's arm.

"Nothing much more to talk about."


Fay gently pushed Sheri to the next row, who crouched down to plant more seeds one inch below the pile of dirt that had been recently hoed. But Sheri wasn't satisfied and looked back up at the woman who had taken her in, protected her, taught her how to shoot accurately and calmly, hook a fish and fillet it, all without asking for anything in return.

"She wasn't strong enough?" Sheri asked. Fay stopped and put the bucket down again.

"I imagine when the time came, she was strong enough to do what she had to do with that one bullet."

"I'm sorry."

"Ya know," Lucy said, walking up with hoe in hand, "sorry don't get those seeds outta yer pocket and into the ground."

"You sound like Uncle Billy," Sheri said, and Fay laughed.

"You sound like Fay," Kara said, joining them.

"I know you've all been friends a very long time," Sheri began.

Lucy cut her off before she could say more.

"Girl, you've been through hell with us and held your own. What Fay is not explaining very well is that Ella did all the research and insisted we all be prepared for teotwawki."

"Teo what?"

"The end of the world as we know it," Fay explained, "because she had nothing fucking better to do than to hang out on the fucking internet and buy all the fucking survival shit people were selling."

"We have these seeds to thank her for having nothing fucking better to do." Lucy nodded to Fay.

"And if it weren't for all the shit Ella bought, Fay's truck would've been fucking empty." Kara smiled and punched Fay's arm, who feigned a long "Ooooow, that fucking hurt."

"Doofus," Lucy said, and gave Sheri a kiss on a very dirty cheek. She clapped a hand on Fay's shoulder. "You two kiss and make up. Now before you finish planting this fucking row."

Their laughter could be heard across the field.


It was rare for Ava to join them all on the porch at night. Uncle Billy was sure she was the one who pretty much stayed with the boy 24-7, while everyone else took turns.

"Glad you could join us Ava," he said. Even though he still smarted from the morning's tongue lashing, his wife would've nudged him to be forgiving.

The woman turned a tired look at him, and Uncle Billy figured Ava must have the patience of a saint. He remembered how he once regretted that he and his wife never had children. But it was just a memory of a feeling that had long since vanished.

"I know he ain't your son but you're always with that boy. Why are you so frightened if I get a even yard's length from 'im?"

"Well," Ava said slowly, "I'm a nurse and I know what's best for him."

"You sure about that?"

The silence was remarkable, particularly because he'd grown fond of how much the girls would gab every night on the porch after the day's work was done.

"I may be an old codger but I know when someone is avoidin' sayin' something that should be said."

Several of the girls exchanged glances, and someone coughed.

"Uncle Billy please," Evelyn began.

"I don't think we should keep any secrets," Ava said, "even from him." Several of the girls nodded their heads in agreement.

"I been around the block a few times more 'n y'all," Uncle Billy's anger was inching up his neck. "And I'm not some backwards hillbilly without brains to figure things out. Y'all think I got that virus and I'll infect that boy. Isn't that right?" He spat towards the grass, not quite missing Nobody who lay at his feet.

Lucy and Fay stood, and their hands moved to rest on the pistols they wore at their belts.

"Uncle Billy, please," Evelyn said again, waving at the two women to back off. "They just want to know that he's safe, that we're all safe here with you. You understand don't you?" She approached him and sat down next to the dog, scratching Nobody on the belly as the dog rolled over for her company.

"Ain't nobody safe," Uncle Billy said, regretting it immediately. He sucked on his teeth again, but sat back in his chair. "I'm not infected. You're here on my farm and living in my house, and I've offered you what's mine. Ain't that enough for y'all?"

"Well," Ava began, standing up and pacing. "We've seen it happen before. A non-infected male seems fine then goes berserk and tries to kill everyone they encounter. We've been lucky so far, haven't we Evelyn."

Someone gasped, and another shushed them.

Evelyn's hand stopped, and the dog wiggled to make her scratch him again. Instead, she stood and went to the grass. They waited in silence as she looked up into the night sky.


"You asked how we thought to come to Kentucky? Well, I told them about you one night at a party."

Uncle Billy shook his head, "Makin' fun of yer ole uncle ain't right Evelyn." She nodded and went to stand in front of him, her eyes full of regret.

"Most of us played softball together and were best friends. We got to laughing and joking about zombies and the end of the world. Never thinking it could ever really happen. " Evelyn shrugged her shoulders.

"I told them you had this farm and were a 'prepper'. That you stocked up on food and water, guns and ammo, could farm anything and had plenty of water. Everything we would need to survive." She waved towards the water pump and the field.

"Some of the gals didn't want to come here, thinking even if you had survived you'd be infected and could kill us all. A couple still think so, but I know better."  She reached out to reassuringly touch his knee. "Thank you Uncle Billy."

Uncle Billy peered at his niece a few moments, and slowly nodded to let her know he didn't begrudge her telling his secrets. At least the ones she knew about.

"Tell him about Roger," Ava said. Her voice was almost a whisper but not quite able to hide a cruel edge. Uncle Billy noticed that Fay sat down, her hand no longer on her pistol, and had pulled Lucy down too. Evelyn shook her head, as if to dispel something awful.

"Roger was nine," she began, but paused to take a deep breath. She stepped back into the grass, sat down and held her knees up close to her chest and closed her eyes.

"Our story is like everyone else's. A neighbor broke into our house and I tried to fend him off with the fireplace poker. Roger and I ran to the garage, got in the car and locked the doors. But that man threw himself at the window next to Roger, and I swear he was going to break it with his bare hands. I had to get us out of there. I crashed through the garage door, and through everything and anyone who got in the way.

"When I finally calmed down I called Lucy on the cell phone and learned where she and Kara had made camp, near Lake Isabella, and everyone else was headed there too. Only thirteen of us actually made it to the camp site."

Evelyn looked at Ava, her eyes red and rimmed with tears. "Roger wasn't hurt, he didn't have a scratch on him." She put her head on her knees and Ann moved to comfort her. Uncle Billy noticed that no one else did.

"A couple months later," Ann said, "Roger just went berserk. He attacked Ava's girlfriend. He killed her and another girl so quickly. I was frightened and couldn't move and then he was on me. If it weren't for Evelyn..."

"If it weren't for Evelyn," Ava mocked.

"I shot him," Evelyn said, her voice trembling, "I killed my son."

Uncle Billy swallowed hard, finally understanding the wealth of her sadness. "Was he showing signs? His voice crackin', his hair startin' to grow on his face or elsewhere?"

Evelyn took a moment to respond. "Yes."

"He come of age then," he said quietly, "they all turn when they come of age."

"Shit," Lucy said, and every female head turned to look at Ava.

"How do you know that old man," Ava said, "what evidence do you have?"

Uncle Billy shook his head. He wasn't feeling very charitable towards the woman and had a hankering to do something about it. Much to his wife's chagrin.

"Daylight," he said, "I'll show you come daylight. Noon t'morrow. And ya best get yerself prepared cuz it ain't pretty."

<word count: 2188>

Part IV

The day was cooler than usual, and the old man was not happy that winter felt as if just around the corner. He fished the key from his bib pocket and quietly slipped it into the lock. He took one last look at the semi-circle of women he had arranged behind him, making sure their guns were aimed and ready to fire at his signal.

He turned the key as quietly as he could, but the metal of the chain rattled more than he wanted as he unwrapped it from the door handles. And that’s when it began. A long low moan that grew into a piercing howl. Most of the girls stepped back, startled by the sound, and Nobody whimpered back to the house.

“What the fuck is that?” Lucy said, holding her pistol with both hands and pointing it directly at the barn door. Uncle Billy motioned her to be quiet. The howling stopped, and became a sob.

“Last time I checked,” he whispered, “they was still in the cages I put 'em in. But it's been awhile.”

“They?” Sheri mouthed, and Uncle Billy realized he was an idiot for standing in front of a gaggle of frightened girls, every one of ‘em with their finger on a trigger.

The sobbing stopped, and was replaced by a low growl.

“I don’t like this,” Ava said, lowering her gun and stepping back. Uncle Billy’s hand shot up and he pointed at her. For a moment, he hoped that what he was about to show her would make the woman scared enough to run off his property and never look back. Or at least have her crappin’ in her pants.

He slowly opened the door just wide enough to peek inside. The smell and the flies nauseated him, but after a moment he nodded back to the girls. Ava moved first.

“Easy,” Uncle Billy whispered, and she slowly put her head in just far enough to see. It took a few moments for her eyes to adjust, and then a shudder went down her back. When she turned, the horrified look on her face was enough for the other women to shuffle backwards.

Uncle Billy tried to close the door but Lucy and Fay came forward and peered over his shoulder. They both gasped and stumbled away. He closed the doors and wrapped the chain around the handles, snapping the lock back into place. The sound of it made the howling begin again.

Ava had retreated to the path and was on her knees, retching in the dirt. Lucy and Fay wiped tears from their eyes. Ava stood up and lunged for the old man with all the force she could muster.

“You’re a monster!” She screamed as she attacked him. Kara and Ann grabbed her and held her back. The howling inside the barn became a chorus and all the girls stepped farther away from the barn.

“Y’all get back to the house,” Uncle Billy said, waving his shotgun. Most of the girls turned and ran, but Fay, Lucy, and Evelyn stayed behind.

“We’ve got to put them out of their misery,” Fay said, wiping her face. “It’s the only humane thing to do.”

“They’re not human anymore,” Lucy said.

“I don’t understand.” Evelyn turned to her Uncle. “What have you done?”

The howling in the barn grew louder and Uncle Billy took her arm to lead her away. He looked over his shoulder to double-check the chains and lock.

“We best do our talking up at the house,” he said, and was glad to see the women follow. The howling finally subsided as they neared the porch.


Uncle Billy came out of the house holding his last bottle of genuine Kentucky Bourbon. He took a swig of the amber liquid and winced, before settling down in his chair. He handed the bottle to Evelyn and motioned for her to take a sip and pass it around. He patted Nobody on the head and scratched the dog behind it’s ears.

“They come ‘bout a year or so before you, nearly two dozen children. They was a sorry-lookin' bunch a nothin' but skin 'n bones 'n lice. I woulda run ‘em off if it weren’t for my wife. God rest her soul. She had a kind heart and that’s what killed her.

“We took ‘em in, fed ‘em, cleaned ‘em up, and in a little while we all got to trustin’ one another. I started to teach the older boy how to hunt and skin a rabbit. One day he up and started skinnin’ all them babies, and my wife got in the way. All I knew was them kids was fightin’ and my wife was laying on the ground with a knife in her chest.

“I shot almost every one of ‘em before I realized what had happened. I finally figured it was just the one, the oldest that went crazy and the rest of 'em was just trying to protect themselves. I stood there with so many of them kids dead or dying around me. And my wife, she...”

Uncle Billy waited for the bourbon to come back to him, and then used the bottle to salute the graveyard on the hill before he took another long swig.

“Three of them kids run off before it all began. They watched me bury the dead up yonder, and eventually they wandered back in. I tried to get us back to some kinda normal. But I kept an eye on them and got to noticing things. The older they got the more aggressive they got, and I had to lock ‘em up when they showed the signs.”

He took another long swig and quietly held the bottle out to Ava, which she refused.

“Jesus,” Ann said, “you have children locked up in that barn?”

“They’re not children anymore,” Fay whispered. Most of the women exchanged glances and Kara put her hand on Ava’s shoulder.

Uncle Billy stood and pulled the pistol from his belt. He checked the bullets in his gun, making sure it was fully loaded, and stepped off the porch.

“I best take care of ‘em now.”


“This cannot be happening, this is a nightmare,” Sheri whispered as soon as the old man had left.

“He’s crazy,” Ava hissed.

“He’s not infected,” Evelyn hissed back.

“I didn't say he was infected. I said he's insane.”

“Wouldn’t you be after all that?”

Three shots rang out in rapid fire, and all the women jumped.

Ava stood up. “I'm not staying here,” she said. “I’m packing my things and taking Aiden with me.” The other women on the porch watched as she marched into the house.

“We can’t let them go,” Evelyn said.

“Why not?” Kara stood and turned to Lucy. “I don’t want to stay here either.”

“Where would you go? Where would we go?” Lucy reached for Kara’s hand, but Kara pulled away and followed Ava into the house.

Another shot rang out.

“Oh shit,” Fay said, and turned towards the barn. The women on the porch were silent as they waited for Uncle Billy’s return. Moments passed, but he didn’t appear.

“No. No no no no.” Evelyn took off running towards the barn, Fay and Lucy followed close behind.

Evelyn screamed when she saw her Uncle laying on the ground, blood pooling around him. She dropped to her knees and pulled his head into her lap.

Lucy checked in the barn and shook her head. “They’re all dead.”

Fay knelt next to Evelyn, whose hands tried to stop the bleeding from the old man’s chest. Weak as he was, he pushed her hands away.

“Why Uncle Billy, why?” Evelyn cried.

“This is your home now,” he whispered.

Uncle Billy looked up into the green eyes that looked so familiar, shivered and closed his own.


Ann carried a bucket up the hill but stopped and waited quietly. The branches of the tree showed violet, the first signs of budding, and she knew another winter was ending. When the other woman finally stood, Ann poured water into the furrow that ran around the tree. When she was done she put the bucket down and stood close to the other woman.

She pressed her hand into Evelyn's as they turned to look out across the farm. They saw Lucy on the rooftop of the house, who waved at them before lifting the binoculars to her eyes and scanning the perimeter of the farm. Fay smiled and waved from atop the windmill she was building, and gave them a thumb’s up before climbing down.

Evelyn and Ann waved back, then turned their eyes towards the field where two women had their baskets nearly full from the winter vegetables they had just picked. In an adjacent row an older boy was working and turning the dirt. A gray-haired woman followed him, bending slowly to press her hands into the soil, while another woman followed and poured water around the newly planted seeds.

Ann squeezed Evelyn’s hand, then picked up the bucket and began to walk down the hill. Evelyn turned back to the grave she had just finished filling with dirt and rocks. She pulled a tennis ball from her pocket.

“You had a good long life,” she said, laying the ball on the grave. "We'll miss you. Rest in peace, Nobody. Rest in peace.”

<word count: 1563>

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