By Howie McLemore
John Oates sat warily on the hood of a wrecked taxicab. Gray ash swirled in the icy wind, powdering his moustache with acrid grit. All around him, a frozen sea of rusting automobiles.
Nearby buildings, those not completely collapsed, were broken into a spectral skyline of jagged spires that rose from heaps of crumbled concrete and slag. Along the scorched and buckled asphalt there lay a scattering of corpses, too charred and mutilated to contemplate eating.
With what was left of his greasy index finger, Oates coaxed the last morsels of corned-beef hash from an old, dented can he had shot a man for earlier that day. He was thinking about how it had been a good week, all things considered, when suddenly he saw something stirring in the rubble. Oates grabbed his crossbow. Then he smiled. It was Daryl Hall!
Hall staggered through the ash-covered detritus and collapsed beside Oates. He was wearing an adult diaper and a large, filthy pelt. One of his eyes was missing, and his left ear was blistered and oozing. But otherwise, Oates told him, he looked well. Oates reached into his tattered plastic bag and fished out a rotten sparrow carcass, which his old friend immediately snatched up and shoved into his mouth.
While Hall devoured his lunch, Oates began to hum a few notes from an old tune. Hall cocked his head and listened, his horribly abscessed foot instinctively tapping in time. When he had swallowed the last of the sparrow, he started humming, too. Neither man could remember the words to the song, but just hearing the familiar melody issuing forth from each other's cracked and peeling lips was enough. Any comfort, however small, was welcome in those dark times.
Before long, Oates bent over and vomited a thick, orange knot of hair and bile. And then Hall’s left ear fell off. The two men looked at each other for a moment, and then they burst out laughing, their raspy, blood-flecked cackles echoing off the ruins. Oates cleared his throat, and the song resumed.
They were two hopeless souls, adrift in a doomed world of post-apocalyptic misery. But they were together again, and that was all that mattered.
(Author Howie McLemore is fond of chives.)