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A Mother’s Courage


Corrine awoke in a moment of panic. The straps held and she clutched at her rifle. It was a little after dawn, judging by the light and she forced herself to remain still.

She was eight feet above the ground, a fall like that would not have been a good start to the day. Strapped to the thickest branch meant that no one would stumble upon her with three belts arranged at her shins, thighs and around her chest. Her rifle, cradled in her arms with a round chambered.

The night had passed without incident and she remained still, taking in damp, chill breaths whilst her eyes adjusted to the gloom. A branch snapped and she turned, swung the rifle so that the butt sank into the perfect spot on her shoulder.

It was still wearing clothes, a pinstriped suit torn at the shoulders and it’s left cheek had been eaten, revealing a line of perfect even teeth. Black eyes stared out at nothing, and yet it raised it’s head. Her finger moved to the trigger and she took a breath, aimed down the front sight and slipped the bolt back slowly until it gave a solid click.

The shot blew out the back of it’s skull. lifted the scalp like a rug being shook out and it collapsed. She rested the rifle across her as she reached and began unbuckling each belt in turn. She reached for her backpack on the branches above and slipped it onto her shoulders then slung the rifle over her arm and began the careful, slow descent onto the ground. It was time consuming and fraught with danger, but it kept her relatively dry and the rats did not venture above ground. She resumed her walk.

After an hour, she heard a sigh, breathy and uncertain. She brought her rifle up and swept it around her. She knew that they did not breathe, but they somehow found the means to moan and rasp. This did not sound like them but she could never be sure.

She moved towards it, in careful strides, until she saw the woman’s body in the clearing.

The baby girl strapped to the chest, head turned to the side and looking at her. She waved a chubby hand,giving those breathy cries that could erupt into wails at any moment. She came forward, lowered the barrel of the rifle and looked at it. On the sling had been pinned a note, held at the corner with the safety pin.  Corrine peered at it, upper case printed letters, in a careful hand.


Corrine’s eyes went to the blackened patch of skin on her forearm, bitemarks weeping with infection and the skin mottled with decay. She looked into the baby’s eyes, the ruddy pink skin and the wet, pink mouth opening and closing.

Evelyn reached out and gurgled. Corrine’s eyes filled with tears and she slung her rifle over her shoulder, swept the baby up into her arms. She was shocked by the frangible wriggling energy of an infant’s presence. She sobbed at the fresh wonder of the baby’s scent and she let it come. Weeping for people that were gone now. She had gone over to the school, watched her son press his face to the window and then torn away by grey hands and glistening teeth. Cary with Olivia trapped on the highway, penned in and waiting to the end to come.

She kissed the baby again. Shushed her and unzipped her jacket to bring her closer to her skin. Already she had began to think about what was needed, what she would be risking to get this little girl through another day.

‘It’s going to be okay, Evelyn, it’s going to be okay.’

She reached out a boot and placed the heel on the mother’s chest. She took an arm away from Evelyn and reached to the revolver on her hip. She looked down at the blank, beautiful face, pretty despite the decay and thanked her for her courage.

She showed her gratitude with two pulls of the trigger before she went on her way. She had a baby to feed. A mother’s work was never done.


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The Day

Russo adjusted her belt to alleviate the way that it always dug into her ample gut. She swore that she was going to start dieting again but she considered the trade off that came from a wife who was a trained chef worth it.  Ashford came over to her, his fingers smoothing down his failing moustache and shaking his head.
‘Oh shit Rue, we’ve got a doozie today. ‘
Russo sighed, as much because she had asked Ashford not to call her that as to the implications of what a doozie implied in a woman’s prison.
‘Theresa’s out of solitary. ‘
Ashford clapped her on the shoulder and Russo sighed as she hid the involuntary flinch that came to her.
‘She still preaching?’
Ashford grimaced and cocked his thumb behind him.
‘Oh you’ll find her in her spot’
Russo strolled through, bowing her head in greeting to the inmates until she heard a sound that was seldom heard.
Theresa Devereaux should have been in a psych ward but a perfect storm of a rare lucid period and a judge who was tangentially related to one of the victims meant she was here.
Preaching her Word.
Russo had known that siren call of faith and how those seeds found fertile soil in the hearts of the women in here. Simple answers to complex questions were common in the world. Prison was no different.
Terry though spoke of a bit player in the opera of the Old Testament.
Lillith. Adam’s first wife. Resigned, Russo, recalled to apocrypha. Wandered into the dust because She would not lay beneath Adam. Terry spoke of Her as The True Mother. Russo even thought about Theresa’s faith in Upper Case. It sounded fruity at first.
Fruity, Russo thought, as she saw the cafeteria packed with inmates because Terry was 5 feet tall, long carrot hair and buttermilk skin, engagingly goofy overbite and harsh Arctic blue eyes. Annie as the sole survivor of a tragic flight on Daddy’s private jet.Even the fog of unwashed bodies, tears and despair, present in every breath was different here.
She was talking about The Day, an essential ingredient in any intense religion.
The Apocalypse.
White Buffalo Calf Woman, Judgement Day, Ragnarok but Theresa kept it simple.

When Mother returned and Her Daughters would soak the earth with the blood of Adams Sons.
Russo swallowed her nerves, the rapt attention being afforded made her bowels shift like molten lava at the ordered rows of inmates.
‘And the skies have called the winged sisters of her rage to come.’ Theresa said.
Solitary had been reviving for her.

Made her specific.

Made her memorable.
‘And their screaming shall split the skies like thunder’
The crowd roared as one, Russo found her throat tight with panic even though her heart thumped like a thrash metal bass drum. She saw Paulson, seven years for mail fraud, shaking like a dog shitting a peach pit, eyes rolled back in her head and palms raised up.

Prison did strange things to people and Russo was less disturbed by that than she was at the sight of Esther doing the same thing.
What with her being a guard and all.
Russo backed away and reached for the radio at her hip.
The screaming made her mouth flood with rusty vomit as she staggered back, hand clamped over her mouth as she heard the rush of wings in the room.
For all the times she had mocked the idea of someone claiming to have access to a celestial spoiler alert, it came to her that no matter how much mockery was amassed against the idea, a simple maxim came to her.
They only had to be right once.
When she saw the women begin to writhe, anatomies twisting beneath their orange suits, she hoped that there was time to call home. Her feet slapping against the polished floor as the world began to end.


Wisdom From Cracked

Wisdom From Cracked

I see lots of people writing the apocalypse novel and I don’t doubt that it is an interesting subject. Probably a little overexposed culturally, and for my preference, I am more interested in the quiet apocalypse that some of us experience. The ones that we start, and finish whilst the world goes on without us. This made me chuckle and I wanted to share it with you.