In my previous post, “After the Zombie Apocalypse, After Modernity,” I mentioned I would be turning from criticism to creation by putting together stories about what happens once the dust has settled on the zombie apocalypse. On the 14th Floor, we’re all about the intersection between aesthetics and politics, so I figured it’s about time we put our money where our mouth is.
The basic rules for world-building in these stories are as follows:
Here is the first installment.
By Sean Callaghan
He ran the swarms with his mouth wide open. He liked the dance of buzzing wings on the inside of his cheeks, on his tongue – the bustle of life before his teeth clamped down. The feeling was electric. The more fat, wobbling bodies he caught in his mouth, the greater the charge down his limbs that sent him flying after more. Doc at homecamp said it didn’t work that way, but he didn’t care. The flyers were mana from above feeding him liquid power down his throat.
Like he could drink the Sun in thick, black gulps.
Others still carried the old taboos. He didn’t know how they survived. Box-food was stale, static. Lifeless. He didn’t understand how anyone could wither on dried fruit and cereals when the world was fat with life. Six-leggers, eight-leggers, sliders and the ever-present swarms. The Z-plague didn’t touch the crawlers, since the eaters had only starved after meat. It got so you knew where they were by the swarms gathered like dark storms over the dead. Eventually the eaters ate all they could, and the warriors killed the rest. Still, the swarms continued their work. There was so much meat left behind, curing in the open air.
Now are the good days. Every morning, he and his friends run through the forests outside homecamp hunting for eater cemeteries. They spend their time picking maggies off cracked and broken bodies, running swarms and popping the spoils between their teeth like sweet treats. They come home with their bellies full, their bodies burning in excess.
He remembered the look on the faces of some of the Oldies when they found out what the children were doing. The committee didn’t stop them once they realized it meant less box-food going out the storage house. They gave them nicknames instead – buggers, maggoties. Committee let the words express their disapproval. He was Fly-boy. He was proud of his name, because it meant he was the best at catching flyers. It was because his mouth was so big, because he was fast. The other kids used nets.
He’d heard somewhere that survivors in another camp thought he was making the swarms. They thought the swarms were going out and not in. Like he was some life-creating God spreading his dark energy through the world.
He loved that story. Made him think it took a stranger to know what it was like.
Pretty soon the buggers started noticing more and more Oldies joining them on their morning hunts. They taught them how to use honeysticks to get at the mites, how to shake a maggie before eating so as not to catch sick on the meat. Fly-boy tried to teach them to run a swarm, but few could get over the old taboo. They’d catch a flyer and cough and hack and spit it back out. Such waste.
That’s when he really knew he was unique. He was a new kind of person born to praise the world’s bounty with his mouth wide open, his legs racing.
He was always amazed that the swarms were there each morning, shining thick and black in the early yellows that shot through gaps between the trees, reminding him they were all children of the Sun squirming like maggies in liquid light.
Sometimes Fly-boy’s eyes would tear up on a run. His throat would fill wide and deep with the world’s rich mana. Those times he was running with the Gods, his arms outstretched as though he could hold it all – the swarm, the light, the forest.
Those times he had nothing but tears to give back, and the world tasted like eternity on his tongue.
End, Part I.
After-Notes on the After Show
I’m all about economies of excess. So much of what we hear in the news about 21st Century economics has to do with a logic of scarcity. Take any Econ 101 course and scarcity will be one of the first concepts you encounter. Everything else stems from its miserly logic – laws of supply and demand, market competition, notions of austerity, blah blah blah. French writer and philosopher Georges Bataille, writing in contradistinction to this trend in the 1940s, gave us The Accursed Share, a three-volume set on economies of excess. One of the central figures of his economy is the Sun and its near infinite production of energy. For Bataille the question is how all this solar excess gets manipulated and inverted through technologies of perception to become part of the modern, restrictive economy of scarcity.
These are concerns we don’t need to bother with in the afterglow of the zombie apocalypse. Everything, after the world has fallen, becomes a matter of excess. The question is what types of economies will emerge from this? What sorts of desires wait for us once we’ve shaken off our nostalgia for humanity?
Sean Callaghan finished his doctoral degree in modern Japanese literature at the University of Toronto in 2012. He is currently at work on various pieces of long and short fiction. He lives in North Vancouver with his wife, daughter and guinea pig.
(Note: The featured image at the top of this post is Francis Bacon’s Head I (1947-8) on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.)