(Two years ago Dan Ayres, Jane Flett, Anna Geary Meyer, Tonisha Robinson, Tihana Romanic, Lesley Whitaker and Myself wrote a story together. Then we had Erin O’Loughlin edit it. We just dug it up again… It is out of control! Hah!)
Two things needed doing that morning. One was trying out the mealworm croquettes. It was a task that was bound to test Lindsey’s western upbringing.
“It’s the future,” Benny had said. And Lindsey didn’t disagree.
Benny was pushing fifty but still had the ambition of a thirty-year-old. “We’ve gotta get ahead of the game, Lindsey. Before the other suckers catch on to the inevitable.”
He was talking about the global food crisis. “I made them spicy,” Benny said, “to cover up the flavor.”
Lindsey tweezed one with her fingers. “Is it really spicy?”
Benny shrugged. He grabbed one and took a bite. Then he looked up, as if savoring the question. “Friendly,” he said. “It’s a friendly sort of spiciness.”
The second thing that needed doing was getting the damn car out of the swimming pool. Lindsey clawed through the overgrowth of trumpet vines around the metal fence and knelt by the pool. The sawtooth concrete dug into her knees. She reached a hand into the water and shuddered, a chill settling on her shoulders like a silk scarf. The jellyfish were still there, of course. Lindsey had bet on eagles with an appetite for seafood, but if they had any chance of making it South before winter, they needed wheels now.
Benny had traded the last of their meat supply for the neighbor’s monkey lift, and its silver cables were sprawled out on the pool deck like lazy snakes. Lindsey reeled them into the water and watched them sink, hooks first. When they’d tested the pool, Benny’s soft skin had been covered in hot welts, and he’d whimpered enough that Lindsey volunteered herself as official ambassador to the jellyfish. Someone had to get wet and mount the hooks.
Grandma Morgan always said everything of any importance came in threes. Three little pigs. Three musketeers. Three wise men. “Everything and anything,” she said. “Especially misfortune.” Then she’d stare straight into Lindsey’s eyes and spit three times, “Ptu, ptu, ptu.” Lindsey thought about this as she lowered herself into the pool.
In the distance a vermilion cloud was galloping towards them. If they waited any longer, they wouldn’t get the car out in time.
Those clouds didn’t belong in the sky. Lindsey had seen them before and remembered what happened to the neighbors who hadn’t made it inside.
But she wasn’t one to dwell. And she certainly wasn’t about to join them.
Shivering in the chill, she pushed off the wall, piked, and descended into the deep. The pool went about three meters down, and the Jeep had rolled to the deepest well. It had two seats in front and an open flatbed in the back. Perhaps there had been a roof once, or a canvas that fit over the frame. No complaints now.
It was the future, as Benny would say.
She fit the last hook on her third dive down and realized the jellyfish were absent.
Shit. The clouds must be close.
Lindsey emerged from the pool to see half the sky overtaken by roiling crackling reds. With a spike of fear, she remembered what she still had to do.
It was a matter of electricity. The clouds came once, twice a decade at most. If they didn’t harness them now, there might not be a next time. There might not be a next time anyway, said the voice in her head. This might be the very last bit of the future.
“Shut up,” she hissed at herself, then turned to yell at the house. “Benny? Get out here!”
Benny appeared in the doorway, holding a bowl beneath his arm like a small dog.
“You gotta try this one, Linds,” he said. “This one’s the daddy of all croquettes.”
“Oh, put your daddy away,” Lindsey said. “Look.”
The clouds were cracking open and reforming, making a noise like concrete grinding against concrete. In the holes behind the clouds, the sky had turned a hollow, sickly green.
“We have to do it now,” she said. “Get the body out here.”
A shadow passed over Benny’s face.
“The body…” he mumbled. “We…ahh, ate it,” he said. ”Except the bit we traded…”
Lindsey glanced up at the murderous sky, the murky pool water leaving trails of goose pimples on her skin. She sighed. This was what happened when you didn’t do things yourself.
“We need a body, Benny,” she said, her face still turned towards the dying sun.
She heard the wind wicking the droplets from her skin. Then Benny’s footfalls, urgent and heavy.
Run, Benny, Run.
Lindsey was strong and fast. She tackled him to the ground, his soft body landing in the dirt with a thud. He squirmed and screamed but she held him tight, riding his body like a bucking bronco before sinking her teeth into his neck and ripping into it. When Benny stilled, she spat the blood from her mouth.
Now she had a body.
But how the fuck was she going to do this alone…?
Just as the jeep surfaced from the pool, a trike zoomed out of the shrubbery, ridden by a leather-clad octogenarian smoking a trio of beedis. The Grandma Morgan special.
“Need a hand kid?”
“Got any turbo rods?” asked Lindsey.
“Sure. Three of the fuckers.”
They set about impaling. The jeep. The trike. The corpse. A bolt of lightening and the task was complete. The jeep was charged and ready to rumble. What Lindsey didn’t expect?
Fried Benny smelt delicious.
“Quick, before this rain turns acid.”
“How did you know to find me?” Lindsey asked, as the jeep barreled southward.
“This was the third storm of the decade, Lindsey!” And she spat three times. Ptu. Ptu. Ptu.
Lindsey shrugged and pulled out a kebab slicer.
“You hungry?” she asked.
GM’s Benny Biltong. Lindsey grinned. That’s how they were gonna make it down south. That was the future.
Lovingly, she fed a Benny bit to Grandma Morgan, who masticated with her trio of teeth.
“Mmm. Friendly!” she declared, “a friendly sort of spiciness!”