The Call

I haven’t posted a writing sketch lately, so this seems like a good time. To be fair, I haven’t had much to post. I’m still working diligently on my Chuck Chaykin space western (which is shaping up well, I think). But I managed to churn out this little prompt during some downtime at work.

Prompt: Write about a post-apocalyptic world (doesn’t have to be post-nuclear war – could be a world after the financial system collapsed, after a deadly plague, after the zombie apocalypse, etc.).

I went with a zombie story, pretty much. I’ve talked plenty about zombie stories in the past, so I’ll just post the clip and move on. I’m not sure ambassadors actually have any sort of power like this in real life. The idea of a civilian whose job is to help secure peace (presumably) forced to make the difficult decision of whether to wipe out an entire city (or country even) to which he’s been assigned struck me as a powerful one. About 500 words or so.

The Call

Henry Gold straightened his tie for the fifth time in as many minutes and avoiding looking directly out the window. Out of the corner of his eye, though, he could see the front gate and the people – or what had been people – piled up against the bars. Rotting arms thrust through the gaps, clawing at the air. Several marines stood back out of reach, rifles ready.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen,” Henry said. “This was supposed to be a cushy job. I…I’m an actor.”

Colonel Howards stood at the door, his suit immaculate. Henry saw himself reflected in the officer’s sunglasses.

“I was his daughter’s favorite,” Henry said. “This wasn’t supposed to happen.”

“Yes, Mr. Ambassador,” Howards said. “I should note that the gates won’t hold long against the weight of the crowds, sir.”

Gold nodded. “All right, let him in.”

Howards pulled open the office door, admitting Dr. Cohen. Cohen had looked better. His hair was a mess, his glasses gone. Blood spattered his civilian clothes. His eyes wildly darted to each corner of the room as he limped inside. His hands shook as he laid a battered aid kit on the ambassador’s huge posh desk.

Gold cleared his throat and kept the desk between himself and the doctor. “Dr. Cohen.”

Cohen collapsed into a chair and held his head in his hands. “It’s over.”

Gold swallowed hard, felt his blood drain deep into his gut. “Did you make it to the governor’s mansion?”

Cohen shook his head. “On the way we met up with the last of the governor’s bodyguard. The mansion was overrun hours ago. Everyone dead. There’s no government left.”

Even Howards sagged at the doctor’s grim statement.

“We went to the hospital,” Cohen said. “That’s the last official holdout. What’s left of the army is there, led by some kid Lieutenant, while the doctors work on a vaccine, but…” He looked out the window, where the gates were visibly bowed from the weight of the dead. The marines had retreated out of sight, probably to the door to the main building. Gold spotted what appeared to be land mines sprinkling the courtyard.

“I think you know what to do, Mr. Gold,” said Col. Howards. He glanced to the courtyard, where the gates had finally given out. The dead began to shuffle across the grounds. Staccato pops announced the marines’ resistance, and walking corpses began to drop. The front line began tripping mines, and explosions tore through their ranks. Blood and body parts sprayed across the courtyard. Something splattered on the office window. Howards saluted. “I need to go coordinate our defense. You know what to do. We’ll buy you the time.”

The ambassador took a deep breath and lifted his phone receiver. He locked eyes with the doctor.

“They could still find a vaccine,” Cohen said, but even he didn’t sound convinced. “The hospital might hold out.” Gold grimaced.

“I’m an optimist, too, doc,” he said as he dialed. “At the moment, I’m just hoping the bunker beneath us will hold. It’s the only chance you and I have got left.”