The day after tomorrow.
Nuclear fallout. Mutations. Deadly Pandemics. Corpse Wagons. Body
pits. Empty cities.
The human race trembling on the edge of extinction.
Only the desperate survive.
One of them is Rick Nash. But there is a price for survival:
communion with a ravenous evil born from the furnace of
radioactive waste.
It demands sacrifice.
Only it can keep Nash one step ahead of the nightmare that stalks
him--a sentient, seething plague-entity that stalks its chosen prey:
the last of the human race.
To accept it is a living death.
To deny it a hell beyond imagining.

      When the world ended on Thursday, October 17th, everyone ran blind
and screaming with panic that it had finally happened, that Armageddon had
finally been visited upon the sons and daughters of man. The optimistic
were shocked; the pessimistic vindicated. The religious said it was the time
of the Rapture. So as they waited for Jesus to call them home, the rest of us
concentrated on staying alive.
      No easy thing with the fallout.
      The marauding militias.
      The roving gangs.
      The National Guard and special police units whose job it was to put
them both down. Martial Law was declared country-wide. People were
gunned down in the streets. Raped. Murdered. Assaulted. It went on and on.
      And if all of that wasn’t bad enough, by the end of the first week―seven
days shy of Halloween―nuclear winter descended just as the theorists had
always predicted. So much dust and debris had been tossed up into the
atmosphere that the sun did not come out for almost a month. It was sheer
blackness during that time and bitter subzero cold. And snow. It snowed for
weeks on end. Nobody would ever know how many were killed off in those
dire freezing weeks.
      In the Midwest, the survivors—hardy northern types—dealt with it the
way they dealt with it every winter. They burned wood. They scavenged
pellet stoves, kerosene heaters, anything to keep them warm.
      Then the sun came out again.
      Just a ghost of it for the first few weeks. But then as the debris rained
back to earth, much of it charged with deadly fallout, the sun assumed its
ordinary cycles and though it was still cold, it was much warmer than it had
been. And at least it wasn’t pitch black twenty-four/seven.
      Towards the end of December, a weird heat wave spread across the
country and the snow melted and the rains came. Disease, which had been
kept in check for the most part by the cold, went absolutely viral, raging in
every population, creating pandemics and plagues and the already teetering
civilian populations began to die off in numbers.
      But some of us stayed alive.
      And this is how we did it.

      One thing I got used to very quickly were the corpses.
      Because they were literally everywhere. The city itself wasn’t much
more than a blasted, broken corpse itself. There had been so much fighting
between the National Guard and private militias that entire neighborhoods
were burned out, buildings collapsed from heavy firepower. Avenues were
congested with rubble and the blackened carapaces of vehicles. Telephone
poles had been knocked over and lay tangled in the knotted mesh of their
own wires.
      And everywhere in the urban graveyard…bodies.
      By April, the corpse wagon system had broken down entirely and the
dead were left wherever they had fallen or were thrown.
      They were the only raw materials the city had left and they were in
abundance. In whole and in part. Some rotted down skeletons, others
burned to blackened husks, and many more swollen up green in the sun,
clouds of meatflies rising and descending, feeding and laying their eggs. It
wasn’t unusual to see the dead moving, shivering, because they were so
infested with maggots. Many corpses had been gnawed upon. Probably rats.
But other things too that only came out when the sun went down.
      The heavy snows that had buried Youngstown had melted almost
overnight, leaving standing pools of water throughout the city in which
waterlogged bodies floated. The heavy rains had washed them into yards
and doorways, created rivers of them that lapped up against storefronts.
And what amazed me the most―and maybe frightened me, too―was that I
and the other survivors paid the heaped human remains very little
attention. We scavenged amongst them and hopped over them and kicked
them aside, and the only time they were avoided was because of the
disease vectors they might be carrying.
      After awhile, you got used to anything.
      So given that the city was inundated with the unburied dead in every
possible stage of decomposition, it really was no surprise that nature in her
endless creativity had now spawned mutants that took advantage of all the
      A few blocks from my apartment house there was a 7-11. Back in the
day I used to stop there for Slurpies and chili dogs, but within two months of
Shelly’s death it had been converted into a body dump for some insane
reason. There were hundreds of bodies there broiling in the sun, exhaling
clouds of flies and a hot, gaseous stench that would put you right down to
your knees.
      Word had it that even the incinerators and burning pits couldn’t handle
all the dead, so they were stored in alternate locations throughout the city.
So the corpse wagons just dumped them here in the parking lot.
      I passed by it almost daily, paid little mind to the piled dead. The entire
city stank like a sunwashed cadaver by that point, but it was particularly
concentrated at the 7-11 so I always wore a neckerchief over my mouth.
The only thing that intrigued me was the idea that there might be food in
the 7-11 that nobody had scavenged. But even the idea of that couldn’t get
me to brave that carrion field. The flies were so thick in the air that it looked
like a churning cloud of soot rising above the corpses which were heaped in
dozens of mounds that had decayed into rank, oozing masses.
      One day I found a box of untouched canned food at another Salvation
Army depot and I had to pass the body dump on my way home. As I did, I
saw that the bodies were moving.
      They were actually moving.
      I thought at first it was the gas making them writhe and shudder, but
that’s not what it was at all. Curious, I stood there with my box of goodies,
the hot stink blowing over me, the flies buzzing madly.
      And that’s when I saw my first corpse-worm.
      It burst from the mouth of a stiff…thick as a man’s wrist, segmented,
slick with something slimy like snot. It was flattened out like a tapeworm. It
rose right up and hovered there like a cobra preparing to strike. Now it didn’
t have any eyes that I could see, but I was almost certain with a rising
aversion that it was looking right at me. There was sort of a bulb where its
mouth should have been and it kept opening and closing like it was
breathing, the whole time dripping a black fluid like India ink.
      I just stared, perplexed, revolted.
      I dropped my box of food, cans of beans and Spaghettios rolling around
the sidewalk.
      That worm just hovered there like it was daring me to intervene. Then
another worm slid out of a dead woman’s green belly and another forced
itself free from the eye socket of a fleshy skull. Pretty soon they were all
coming out like they needed to sun themselves, like nightcrawlers drawn
out by the rain. Some of them were no bigger around than fingers, but
others big around as a human leg. They came out of nostrils and eye
sockets and assholes, slithering forth and rising up, all of them slimy and
corpse-belly white.
      I had seen things by that point, things created by fallout that would
have driven me mad a year before, but nothing like those worms.
      They soon tired of me, however, having no interest whatsoever in
living flesh, and went back to work. They started to eat, tunneling through
that heaped carrion, sucking and slurping and chewing. Once they burrowed
their way into a body, the buffet was open. That bulb or mouth or whatever
in the Christ it was, would squirt some of that black juice into the corpse and
the innards would liquefy. That juice was some sort of digestive enzyme,
like what spiders inject into their prey―they’d squirt it in and then suck up
the dissolved liquid.
      It was sickening.
      But what was even worse was that I saw a dozen worms slide up out of
bodies and wrap themselves together in a fleshy helix. They coiled together
like that, making some weird trilling sound, vibrating, a watery mucus
enveloping them.
      This is what made me run.
      For I knew, you see, that they were breeding. And that horrible trilling
sounded positively orgasmic, pleasurable…like the worms were getting off.
      And this was but another component of the world I inherited.
Copyright 2010 by Tim Curran