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Volume I Emergence

Nothing to do? Nowhere to go? Time hangs heavy? Bored? Depressed? Also badly scared? Causal factors beyond control?

Unfortunate. Regrettable. Vicious cycle—snake swallowing own tail: Mind dwells on problems; problems fester, assume ever greater importance for mind to dwell on. Etc. Bad enough where problems minor.

Mine aren’t.

Psychology text offers varied solutions: Recommends keeping occupied; busywork if necessary, keep mind distracted. Better if busywork offers challenge, degree of frustration. Still better that I have responsibility. All helps.


Anyway, keeping busy difficult. Granted, more books in shelter than public library; more tools, equipment, supplies, etc., than Swiss Family Robinson’s wrecked ship—all latest developments: lightest, simplest, cleverest, most reliable, nonrusting, Sanforized. All useless unless—correction—until I get out (and of lot, know uses of maybe half dozen: screwdriver for opening stuck drawer; hammer to tenderize steak, break ice cubes; hacksaw for cutting frozen meat. . . .).

Oh, well, surely must be books explaining selection, use.

Truly, surely are books—thousands! Plus extensive microfilm library, even bigger. But hardcopy, film libraries dwarfed by data stored digitally—in wan hope that functioning reader equipment (never mind electricity!) will be available when dust settles.

Much deep stuff: classics, contemporary; comprehensive museum of Man’s finest works: words, canvas, 3-D and multiview reproductions of statuary. Also scientific: medical, dental, veterinary, entomology, genetics, biology (marine as well as dry-land); engineering, electronics, physics (both nuclear and garden variety); agronomy, woodcraft, survival, etc., etc.; poetry, fiction, biographies of great, near-misses; philosophy—even broad selection of world’s fantasy, new and old. Complete Oz books, etc. Happy surprise, that.

Daddy was determined Man’s highest achievements not vanish in Fireworks; also positive same just around corner. (Confession: Wondered sometimes if playing with complete deck; spent incalculable sums on shelter and contents. Turns out was right; is probably having last laugh Somewhere. Wish were here to needle me about it—but wouldn’t if could; was too nice. Miss him. Very much.)

Growing maudlin. Above definitely constitutes “dwelling” in pathological sense as defined by psychology text. Time to click heels, clap hands, smile, Shuffle Off to Buffalo.

Anyhow, mountains of books, microfilm, CDs of limited benefit; too deep. Take classics: Can tolerate just so long; then side effects set in. Resembles obtaining manicure by scratching fingernails on blackboard—can, but would rather suffer long fingernails. Same with classics as sole remedy for “dwelling”: Not sure which is worse. May be that too much culture in sudden doses harmful to health; perhaps must build up immunity progressively.

And technical is worse. Thought I had good foundation in math, basic sciences. Wrong—background good, considering age; but here haven’t found anything elementary enough to form opening wedge. Of course, haven’t gotten organized yet; haven’t assimilated catalog, planned orderly approach to subjects of interest. Shall; but for now, can get almost as bored looking at horrid pictures of results of endocrine misfunctions as by wading through classics.

And am rationing fantasy, of course. Thousands of titles, but dasn’t lose head. Speed-reader, you know; breach discipline, well runs dry in matter of days.

Then found book on Pitman shorthand. Changed everything. Told once by unimpeachable source (Mrs. Hartman, Daddy’s secretary and receptionist) was best, potentially fastest, most versatile of various pen systems. Also most difficult to learn well. (Footnote, concession to historical accuracy: Was also her system; source possibly contaminated by tinge of bias.) However, seemed promising; offered challenge, frustration. Besides, pothook patterns quite pretty; art form of sorts. Hoped would be entertaining.

Was—for about two days. Then memory finished absorbing principles of shorthand theory, guidelines for briefing and phrasing; transferred same to cortex—end of challenge. Tiresome being genius sometimes.

Well, even if no longer entertaining for own sake, still useful, much more practical than longhand; ideal for keeping journal, writing biography for archaeologists. Probably not bother if limited to longhand; too slow, cumbersome. Effort involved would dull enthusiasm (of which little present anyway), wipe out paper supply in short order. Pitman fits entire life story on line and a half. (Of course helps I had short life—correction: Helps brevity; does nothing for spirits.)

Problem with spirits serious business. Body trapped far underground; emotional index substantially lower. Prospects not good for body getting out alive, but odds not improved by emotional state. Depression renders intelligent option assessment improbable. In present condition would likely overlook ten good bets, flip coin over dregs. Situation probably not hopeless as seems; but lacking data, useful education, specialized knowledge (and guts), can’t form viable conclusion suggesting happy outcome. And lacking same, tend to assume worst.

So journal not just for archaeologists. Therapeutic; catharsis: Spill guts on paper, feel better. Must be true—psychology text says so (though cautions is better to pay Ph.D.-equipped voyeur week’s salary per hour to listen. However, none such included in shelter inventory; will have to make do).

First step: Bring journal up-to-date. Never kept one; not conversant with format requirements, Right Thing To Do. Therefore will use own judgment.

One thing certain: Sentence structure throughout will have English teachers spinning in graves (those fortunate enough to have one).

English 60 percent flab, null symbols, waste. Suspect massive inefficiency stems from subconsciously recognized need to stall, give inferior intellects chance to collect thoughts into semblance of coherence (usually without success), and to show-off (my $12-word can lick your $10-word). Will not adhere to precedent; makes little sense to write shorthand, then cancel advantage by employing rambling academese.

Hmm . . . Keep getting sidetracked into social criticism. Probably symptom of condition. Stupid; all evidence says no society left. Was saying:

First step: Bring journal up to present; purge self of neuroses, sundry hangups. Then record daily orderly progress in study of situation, subsequent systematic (brilliant) self-extrication from dire straits. Benefits twofold:

First, will wash, dry, fold, put away psyche; restore mind to customary genius; enhance prospects for successful escape, subsequent survival. Second, will give archaeologists details on cause of untimely demise amidst confusing mass of artifacts in shelter should anticipated first benefit lose rosy glow. (Must confess solicitude for bone gropers forced; bones in question mine!)

Enough maundering. Time to bear down, flay soul for own good. Being neurotic almost as tiresome as being genius. (Attention archaeologists: Clear room of impressionable youths and/or mixed company—torrid details follow:)

Born 11 years ago in small Wisconsin town, only child of normal parents. Named Candidia Maria Smith; reduced to Candy before ink dried on certificate. Early indications of atypicality: Eyes focused, tracked at birth; cause-effect association evident by six weeks; first words at four months; sentences at six months.

—Orphaned at six months. Parents killed in car accident.

No relatives—created dilemma for baby-sitter. Solved when social worker took charge. Was awfully cute baby; adopted in record time.

Doctor Foster and wife good parents: Loving, attentive; very fond of each other, showed it. Provided good environment for formative years. Then Momma died. Left just Daddy and me; drew us very close. Was probably shamelessly spoiled, but also stifled:

Barely five then, but wanted to learn—only Daddy had firm notions concerning appropriate learning pace, direction for “normal” upbringing. Did not approve of precocity; felt was unhealthy, would lead to future maladjustment, unhappiness. Also paternalistic sexist; had bad case of ingrown stereotypitis. Censored activities, reading; dragged heels at slightest suggestion of precocious behavior, atypical interests.

Momma had disagreed; aided, indulged. With her help I learned to read by age two; understood basic numerical relationships by three: Could add, subtract, multiply, divide. Big help until she had to leave.

So sneaked most of education. Had to—certainly not available in small-town classroom. Not difficult; developed speedreading habit, could finish high school text in 10, 20 minutes; digest typical best-seller in half, three quarters of hour. Haunted school, local libraries at every opportunity (visits only; couldn’t bring choices home). But town small; exhausted obvious resources three years ago. Have existed since on meager fruits of covert operations in friends’ homes, bookstores; occasional raids on neighboring towns’ libraries, schools. Of course not all such forays profitable; small-town resources tend to run same direction: slowly, in circles. Catalogs mostly shallow, duplicated; originality lacking.

Frustrating. Made more so by knowledge that Daddy’s personal in-house library rivaled volume count of local school, public libraries put together (not counting shelter collection, but didn’t know about that then)—and couldn’t get halfway down first page of 95 percent of contents.

Daddy pathologist; books imperviously technical. So far over head, couldn’t even tell where gap lay. (Ask cannibal fresh off plane from Amazon for analysis of educational deficiencies causing noncomprehension of commercial banking structure.) Texts dense; assumed reader already possessing high-level competency. Sadly lacking in own case—result of conspiracy. So languished, fed in dribbles as tireless prospecting uncovered new sources.

Single bright exception: Soo Kim McDivott, son of American missionary in Boxer Rebellion days, product of early East-West alliance. Was 73 when retired, moved next-door two years ago. Apparently had been some sort of teacher whole life but never achieved tenure; tended to get fired over views. Did not appear to mind.

Strange old man. Gentle, soft-spoken, very polite; small, seemed almost frail. Oriental flavoring lent elf-like quality to wizened features; effect not reduced by mischief sparkling from eyes.

Within two weeks became juvenile activity focus for most of town. Cannot speak for bulk of kids, but motivation obvious in own case: Aside from intrinsic personal warmth, knew everything—and if exception turned up would gleefully drop everything, help find out—and had books. House undoubtedly in violation of Fire Code; often wondered how structural members took load.

Fascinating man: Could, would discuss anything. But wondered for a time how managed as teacher; never answered questions but with questions. Seemed whenever I had question, ended up doing own research, telling him answer. Took a while to catch on, longer before truly appreciated: Had no interest in teaching knowledge, factual information—taught learning. Difference important; seldom understood, even more rarely appreciated. Don’t doubt was reason for apparent modest retirement income.

Oh, almost forgot: Could split bricks with sidelong glance, wreak untold destruction with twitch of muscle. Any muscle. Was Tenth Degree Master of Karate. Didn’t know were such; thought ratings topped at Eighth—and heard rumors they could walk on water. (But doubt Master Mac would bother. Should need arise, would politely ask waters to part—but more likely request anticipated, unnecessary.)

Second day after moving in, Master was strolling down Main Street when happened upon four young men, early 20s, drunk, unkempt—Summer People (sorry, my single ineradicable prejudice)—engaged in self-expression at Miller’s Drugstore. Activities consisted of inverting furniture, displays; dumping soda-fountain containers (milk, syrup, etc.) on floor; throwing merchandise through display windows. Were discussing also throwing Mr. Miller when Master Mac arrived on scene.

Assessed situation; politely requested cease, desist, await authorities’ arrival. Disbelieving onlookers averted, closed eyes; didn’t want to watch expected carnage. Filthy Four dropped Mr. Miller, converged on frail-looking old Chinese. Then all fell down, had subsequent difficulty arising. Situation remained static until police arrived.

Filthies taken into custody, then to hospital. Attempted investigation of altercation unrewarding: Too many eyewitness accounts—all contradictory, disbelieving, unlikely. However, recurring similarities in stories suggested simultaneous stumble as Filthies reached for Master; then all fell, accumulating severe injuries therefrom: four broken jaws, two arms, two legs, two wrists; two dislocated hips; two ruptured spleens. Plus bruises in astonishing places.

Single point of unanimity—ask anyone: Master Mac never moved throughout.

Police took notes in visibly strained silence. Also took statement from Master Mac. But of dubious help: Consisted mostly of questions.

Following week YMCA announced Master Mac to teach karate classes. Resulted in near-riot (by small-town standards). Standing room only at registration; near fistfights over positions in line.

Was 16th on list to start first classes but deserve no credit for inclusion: Daddy’s doing. Wanted badly—considering sociological trends, self-defense skills looked ever more like required social graces for future survival—but hesitated to broach subject; seemed probable conflict with “normal upbringing” dictum.

So finally asked. Surprise! Agreed—granted dispensation! Was still in shock when Daddy asked time, date of registration. Showed him article in paper: noon tomorrow. Looked thoughtful maybe five seconds; then rushed us outdoors, down street to Y. Already 15 ahead of us, equipped to stay duration.

Daddy common as old slipper: warm, comfortable, folksy. But shared aspects with iceberg: Nine-tenths of brains not evident in everyday life. Knew was very smart, of course. Implicit from job; pathologist knows everything any other specialist does, plus own job. Obviously not career for cretin—and was good pathologist. Renowned.

But not show-off; was easy to forget; reminders few, far between. Scope, foresight, quick reactions, Command Presence demonstrated only in time of need.

Such occurred now: While I stood in line with mouth open (and 20 more hopefuls piled up behind us like Keystone Kops), Daddy organized friends to bring chairs, cot, food, drink, warm clothing, blankets, rainproofs, etc. Took three minutes on phone. Was impressed. Then astounded—spent whole night on sidewalk with me, splitting watches, trading off visits to Little Persons’ room when need arose.

Got all choked up when he announced intention. Hugged him breathless; told him kismet had provided better father than most workings of genetic coincidence. Did not reply, but got hugged back harder than usual; caught glimpse of extra reflections in corners of eyes from streetlight. Special night; full of warmth, feelings of belonging, togetherness.

After Daddy’s magnificent contribution, effort to get me into class, felt slight pangs of guilt over my subsequent misdirection, concealment of true motivation. True, attended classes, worked hard; became, in fact, star pupil. But had to—star pupils qualified for private instruction—yup!—at Master’s home, surrounded by what appeared to be 90 percent of books in Creation.

Earned way though. Devoted great effort to maintaining favored status; achieved Black Belt in ten months, state championship (for age/weight group) six months later. Was considered probable national championship material, possibly world. Enjoyed; great fun, terrific physical conditioning, obvious potential value (ask Filthy Four), good for ego due to adulation over ever-lengthening string of successes, capture of state loving cup (ironic misnomer—contest was mock combat: “killed” seven opponents, “maimed” 22 others for life or longer).

But purely incidental; in no way distracted from main purpose:

With aid of Master (addressed as “Teacher” away from dojo) had absorbed equivalent of advanced high school education, some college by time world ended: Math through calculus, chemistry, beginnings of physics; good start on college biology, life sciences—doing well.

Occasionally caught Teacher regarding me as hen puzzles over product of swan egg slipped into nest; making notes in “Tarzan File” (unresolved enigma: Huge file, never explained; partially concerned me, as achievements frequently resulted in entries, but 36 inches thick before I entered picture); however, definitely approved—and his approval better for ego than state cup.

Regarding which, had by then achieved Fifth Degree; could break brick with edge of hand, knee, foot. But didn’t after learned I could. Prospect distressed Daddy. Poor dear could visualize with professional exactitude pathological consequences of attempt by untrained; knew just what each bone splinter would look like, where would be driven; which tendons torn from what insertions; which nerves destroyed forever, etc. Had wistful ambition I might follow into medicine; considered prospects bleak for applicant with deformed, callused hammers dangling from wrists.

Needless concern; calluses unnecessary. With proper control, body delivers blow through normal hands without discomfort, damage. Is possible, of course, to abuse nature to point where fingers, knuckles, edge of hands, etc., all turn to flint, but never seen outside exhibitions. Serves no purpose in practice of Art; regarded with disdain by serious student, Master alike.

So much for happy memories.

Not long ago world situation took turn for worse. Considering character of usual headlines when change began, outlook became downright grim.

Daddy tried to hide concern but spent long hours reading reports from Washington (appreciated for first time just how renowned was when saw whom from), watching news; consulting variety of foreign, domestic officials by phone. Seemed cheerful enough, but when thought I wasn’t looking, mask slipped.

Finally called me into study. Sat me down; gave long, serious lecture on how bad things were. Made me lead through house, point out entrances to emergency chute leading down to shelter (dreadful thing—200-foot vertical drop in pitch dark, cushioned at bottom only by gradual curve as polished sides swing to horizontal, enter shelter). Then insisted we take plunge for “practice.” Although considered repetition more likely to induce psychic block, make subsequent use impossible—even in time of need—performed as requested. Not as bad as expected; terror index fell perhaps five percent short of anticipation. But not fun.

However, first time in shelter since age three. Scenic attractions quickly distracted from momentary cardiac arrest incurred in transit. Concealed below modest small-town frame house of unassuming doctor was Eighth Wonder of World. Shelter is three-story structure carved from bedrock, 100 feet by 50; five-eighths shelves, storage compartments. Recognized microfilm immediately; identical to one used at big hospital over in next county. Film storage file cabinets same, too—only occupied full length of two long walls; plus four free-standing files ran almost full length of room. Rest bookshelves, as is whole of second floor. Basement seems mostly tools, machinery, instrumentation.

Hardly heard basic life-support function operation lecture: air regeneration, waste reclamation, power production, etc. Was all could do to look attentive—books drew me like magnet. However, managed to keep head; paid sufficient attention to ask intelligent-sounding questions. Actually learned basics of how to work shelter’s vital components

—because occurred to me: Could read undisturbed down there if knew how to make habitable. (Feel guilty about that, too; here Daddy worried sick over my survival In The Event Of—and object of concern scheming about continued selfish pursuit of printed word.)

Tour, lecture ended. Endless spiral staircase up tube five feet in diameter led back to comfortable world of small-town reality. Life resumed where interrupted.

With exception: Now was alert for suitable opportunity to begin exploration of shelter.

Not readily available. As Fifth, was qualified assistant instructor at formal classes; took up appreciable time. Much of rest devoted to own study—both Art (wanted to attain Sixth; would have been youngest in world) and academics, both under approving eye of Master.

Plus null time spent occupying space in grammar school classroom, trying not to look too obviously bored while maintaining straight-A average. (Only amusement consisted of correcting textbooks, teachers—usually involved digging up proof, confrontations in principal’s office.) Plus sundry activities rounding out image of “normally well-rounded 11-year-old.”

But patience always rewarded. If of sufficient duration. Daddy called to Washington; agreed was adult enough to take care of self, house, Terry during three days’ expected absence. Managed not to drool at prospect.

Terry? True, didn’t mention before, by name; just that had responsibility. Remember? First page, fourth paragraph. Pay attention—may spring quiz.

Terry is retarded, adopted twin brother. Saw light of day virtually same moment I emerged—or would have had opened eyes. Early on showed more promise than I: Walked at nine weeks, first words at three months, could fly at 14 weeks. Achieved fairly complex phrases by six months but never managed complete sentences. Peaked early but low.

Not fair description. Actually Terry is brilliant—for macaw. Also beautiful. Hyacinthine Macaw, known to lowbrows as Hyacinth, pseudointellectuals as anodorhynchus hyacinthinus—terrible thing to say about sweet baby bird. Full name Terry D. Foster (initial stands for Dactyll). Length perhaps 36 inches (half of which is tail feathers); basic color rich, glowing, hyacinth blue (positively electric in sunlight), with bright yellow eye patches like clown, black feet and bill. Features permanently arranged in jolly Alfred E. Neuman, village-idiot smile. Diet is anything within reach, but ideally consists of properly mixed nuts, seeds, assorted fruits, sprinkling of meat, etc.

Hobbies include getting head and neck scritched (serious business, this), art of conversation, destruction of world. Talent for latter avocation truly awe-inspiring: 1,500 pounds pressure available at business end of huge, hooked beak. Firmly believe if left Terry with four-inch cube of solid tungsten carbide, would return in two hours to find equivalent mass of metal dust, undimmed enthusiasm.

Really was convinced were siblings when very young. First deep childhood trauma (not affected by loss of blood parents; too young at time, too many interesting things happening) induced by realization was built wrong, would never learn to fly. Had stubbornly mastered perching on playpen rail shortly before began walking (though never did get to point of preferring nonchalant one-legged stance twin affected—toes deformed: stunted, too short for reliable grip), but subsequent step simply beyond talents.

Early on, wondered occasionally whether this phase of youth contributed to appearance of symptoms leading to early demise of Momma Foster. Clearly recall first time she entered room, found us perched together on rail, furiously “exercising wings.” Viewed in retrospect, notwithstanding medical specifics, amazing didn’t expire on spot.

(Sounds cold, unfeeling; is not. Momma given long advance notice; knew almost to day when could expect to leave. Prepared me with wisdom, understanding, love. Saw departure as unavoidable but wonderful opportunity, adventure; stated was prepared to accept, even excuse, reasonable regret over plans spoiled, things undone—but not grief. Compared grief over death of friend to envy of friend’s good fortune: selfish reaction—feeling sorry for self, not friend. Compared own going to taking wonderful trip; “spoiled plans” to giving up conflicting movie, picnic, swim in lake. Besides, was given big responsibility—charged me with “looking after Daddy.” Explained he had formed many elaborate plans involving three of us—many more than she or I had. Doubtless would be appreciably more disappointed, feel more regret over inability to carry out. Would need love, understanding during period it took him to reform plans around two remaining behind. Did such a job on me, truly did not suffer loss, grief; just missed her when gone, hoped was having good time.)

Awoke morning of Daddy’s trip to startling realization—didn’t want him to go. Didn’t like prospect of being alone three days: Didn’t like idea of him alone three days. Lay abed trying to resolve disquieting feeling. Or at least identify. Could do neither; had never foreboded before. Subliminal sensation: below conscious level but intrusive. Multiplied by substantial factor could be mistaken for fear—no, not fear, exactly; more like mindless, screaming terror.

But silly; nothing to be scared about. Mrs. Hartman would be working in office in front part of house during day; house locked tight at night—with additional security provided by certain distinctly non-small-town devices Daddy recently caused installed. Plus good neighbors on all sides, available through telephone right at bedside or single loud scream.

Besides, was I not Candy Smith-Foster, State Champion, Scourge of Twelve-and-Under Class, second most dangerous mortal within 200-mile radius? (By now knew details of Filthy Four’s “stumble,” and doubt would have gotten off so lightly had I been intercessor.)

Was. So told feeling to shut up. Washed, dressed, went down to breakfast with Daddy and Terry.

Conduct during send-off admirable; performance qualified for finals in stiff-upper-lip-of-year-award contest. Merely gave big hug, kiss; cautioned stay out of trouble in capital, but if occurred, call me soonest—would come to rescue: split skulls, break bones, mess up adversaries something awful. Sentiment rewarded by lingering return hug, similar caution about self during absence (but expressed with more dignity).

Then door of government-supplied, chauffeur-driven, police-escorted limousine closed; vehicle made its long, black way down street, out of sight around corner.

Spent morning at school, afternoon teaching at Y, followed by own class with Master. Finally found self home, now empty except Terry (voicing disapproval of day’s isolation at top of ample lungs); Mrs. Hartman done for day, had gone home. Silenced twin by scritching head, transferring to shoulder (loves assisting with household chores, though acceptance means about three times as much work as doing by self—requires everything be done at arm’s length, out of reach).

Made supper, ate, gave Terry whole tablespoon of peanut butter as compensation for boring day (expressed appreciation by crimping spoon double). Did dishes, cleaned house in aimless fashion; started over.

Finally realized was dithering, engaging in busywork; afraid to admit really was home alone, actually had opportunity for unhindered investigation of shelter. Took hard look at conflict; decided was rooted in guilt over intent to take advantage of Daddy’s absence to violate known wishes. Reminded self that existence of violation hinged upon accuracy of opinion concerning unvocalized desires; “known wishes” question-begging terminology if ever was one. Also told self firmly, analysis of guilt feeling same as elimination. Almost believed.

Impatiently stood, started toward basement door. Terry recognized signs, set up protest against prospect of evening’s abandonment. Sighed, went back, transferred to shoulder. Brother rubbed head on cheek in gratitude, gently bit end of nose, said, “You’re so bad,” in relieved tones. Gagged slightly; peanut-butter breath from bird is rare treat.

Descended long spiral stairs down tube to shelter. Ran through power-up routine, activated systems. Then began exploration.

Proceeded slowly. Terry’s first time below; found entertaining. Said, “How ’bout that!” every ten seconds. Also stretched neck, bobbed head, expressed passionate desire to sample every book as pulled from shelf. Sternly warned of brief future as giblet dressing if touched so much as single page. Apparently thought prospect sounded fun, redoubled efforts. But used to idiot twin’s antisocial behavior; spoiled fun almost without conscious thought as proceeded with exploration.

Soon realized random peeking useless; was in position of hungry kid dropped in middle of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory: too much choice. Example: Whole cabinet next to microfilm viewer was catalog!

Three feet wide, eight high; drawers three feet deep, six inches wide (rows of six); ten titles per card (thin cards)—72 cubic feet of solid catalog.

(Wondered, for possibly five seconds, at Daddy’s apparent inefficiency—why on earth inflict such labor upon presumed future users . . . But then—oh, yeah, EMP: electromagnetic pulse—barring extraordinarily advanced technological precautions, odds that anything complexly electronic still functioning once anticipated thermonuclear bursts’ wavefronts completed appointed rounds vanishingly small.)

Which explained (but in no way mitigated) scope of project facing me, prospect of which positively took breath away to contemplate.

Also depressed; likelihood of mapping orderly campaign to augment education not good. Didn’t know where to start; which books, films within present capacity; where to go from there. Only thing more tiresome than being repressed genius is being ignorant genius recognizing own status.

Decided to consult Teacher; try to get him to list books he considered ideal to further education most rapidly from present point, cost no object. (Giving consideration to Daddy’s ambition to see me become doctor; but regardless, no education wasted. Knowledge worthwhile for own sake.)

Didn’t feel should report discovery—would be breach of confidence—but could use indirect approach. Not lie; just not mention that any book suggested undoubtedly available on moment’s notice. Ought to fool him all of ten seconds.

Started toward switchboard to power-down shelter. Hand touching first switch in sequence when row of red lights began flashing, three large bells on wall next to panel commenced deafening clangor.

Snatched hand back as if from hot stove; thought had activated burglar alarm (if reaction included thought at all).

Feverish inspection of panel disclosed no hint of such, but found switch marked “Alarm Bells, North American Air Defense Command Alert.” Opened quickly; relieved to note cessation of din, but lights continued flashing. Then, as watched, second row, labeled “Attack Detected,” began flashing.

Problem with being genius is tendency to think deep, mull hidden significance, overlook obvious. Retrieved Terry (as usual, at first loud noise had gone for help), scritched head to soothe nerves. Twin declared, “That’s bad!” several times; dug claws into shoulder, flapped wings to show had not really been scared.

Requested birdbrain settle down, shut up; wished to contemplate board’s implications.

Which were impressive. Daddy must be truly high-up closet VIP to rate such inside data supplied to home shelter.

As considered this, another row flashed on, this one labeled “Retaliation Initiated.” Imagine—blow-by-blow nuclear-war info updates supplied to own home! Wonderful to be so important. Amazing man. And so modest—all these years never let on.

Wondered about real function in government. With such brains, was probably head of super-secret spy bureau, in charge of dozens of James Bond types.

Don’t know how long mindless rumination went on; finally something clicked in head: Attack? Retaliation? Hey . . . !

Bolted for steps. Terry sank in claws, voiced protest over sudden movement.

Stopped like statue. Daddy’s voice, tinny, obviously recording: “Red alert, radiation detected. Level above danger limit. Shelter will seal in 30 seconds—29, 28, 27 . . .”

Stood frozen; listened as familiar voice delivered requiem for everything had ever known and loved—including, probably, himself. Interrupted count once at 15-second mark to repeat radiation warning, again at five seconds.

Then came deep-toned humming; powerful motors slid blocks of concrete, steel, lead across top of stairwell, did same for emergency-entry chute. Sealing process terminated with solidly mechanical clunks, thuds. Motors whined in momentary overload as program ensured everything tight.

Then truly alone. Stood staring at nothing for long minutes. Did not know when silent tears began; noticed wet face when Terry sampled, found too salty. Shook head; said softly, “Poo-oor bay-bee. . . .”

Presently found self sitting in chair. Radio on; could not remember turning switch, locating frequency carrying Emergency Broadcast System. Just sat, listened to reports. Only time stirred was to feed, water Terry; use potty. Station on air yet, but manned only first three days.

Was enough, told story: Mankind eliminated. Radiation, man-made disease. International quick-draw ended in tie.

Final voice on air complained weakly situation didn’t make sense: Was speaking from defense headquarters near Denver—miles underground, utterly bombproof, airtight; self-contained air, water—so why dying? Why last alive in entire installation? Didn’t make sense. . . .

Agreed, but thought objection too limited in scope.

Also wondered why we were still alive. Likewise didn’t make sense: If invulnerability of NORAD headquarters—located under Cheyenne Mountain, just this side of Earth’s core—proving ineffective, how come fancy subcellar hidey-hole under house in small town still keeping occupants alive? And for how long? Figured had to be just matter of time.

Therefore became obsessed with worry over fate of retarded brother. Were safe from radiation (it seemed), but plague another matter. Doubted would affect avian biochemistry; would kill me, leave poor baby to starve, die of thirst. Agonized over dilemma for days. Finally went downstairs; hoped might turn up something in stores could use as Terry’s Final Friend.

Did. Found armory. Thought of what might have to do almost triggered catatonia; but knew twin’s escape from suffering dependent on me, so mechanically went ahead with selection of shotgun. Found shells, loaded gun. Carried upstairs, placed on table. Then waited for cue.

Knew symptoms; various EBS voices had described own, those of friends. Were six to syndrome. Order in which appeared reported variable; number present at onset of final unconsciousness not. Four symptoms always, then fifth: period of extreme dizziness—clue to beginning of final decline. Was important, critical to timing with regard to Terry. Desperately afraid might wait too long; condemn poor incompetent to agonizing last days.

And almost more afraid might react to false alarm, proceed with euthanasia; then fail to die—have to face scattered, blood-spattered feathers, headless body of sweetest, jolliest, most devoted, undemandingly loving friend had ever known.

Which was prospect if acted too soon—intended to stand 20 feet away, blow off head while engrossed in peanut butter. Pellet pattern expansion sufficient at that distance to ensure virtually instantaneous vaporization of entire head, instant kill before possibility of realization, pain. Would rather suffer own dismemberment, boiling in oil, than see innocent baby suffer, know was me causing.

Thus, very important to judge own condition accurately when plague sets in.

Only hasn’t yet. Been waiting three weeks, paralyzed with grief, fear, apprehension, indecision. But such emotions wearisome when protracted; eventually lose grip on victim. I think perhaps might have—particularly now that journal up to date, catharsis finished. Book says therapy requires good night’s sleep after spilling guts; then feel better in morning. Suspect may be right; do feel better.

Okay. Tomorrow will get organized . . . !


Good morning, Posterity! Happy to report I spent good night. Slept as if already dead—first time since trouble began. No dreams; if tossed, turned, did so without noticing. Appears psychology-text writer knew stuff (certainly should have; more letters following name than in). Catharsis worked—at least would seem; felt good on waking. Wounds obviously not healed yet, but closed. A beginning—scabs on soul much better than hemorrhage.

Situation unchanged; obviously not happy about fact (if were, would know had slipped cams), but this morning can look at Terry without bursting into tears; can face possibility might have to speed birdbrained twin to Reward before own condition renders unable. Thought produces entirely reasonable antipathy, sincere hope will prove unnecessary—but nothing more.

Despairing paralysis gone; mind no longer locked into hopeless inverse logarithmic spiral, following own tail around ever-closer, all-enveloping fear of ugly possibility.

Seems have regained practical outlook held prior to Armageddon; i.e., regard worry as wasteful, counterproductive if continued after recognition, analysis of impending problem, covering bases to extent resources permit. Endless bone-worrying not constructive exercise; if anything, diminishes odds for favorable outcome by limiting scope of mind’s operation, cuts down opportunities for serendipity to lend hand. Besides, takes fun out of life—especially important when little enough to be had.

Time I rejoined world of living (possibly not most apt choice of words—hope do not find am in exclusive possession). First step: Consider well-being. Have sadly neglected state of health past three weeks; mostly just sat in chair, lay abed listening to airwaves hiss.

And speaking of physical well-being—have just noticed: am ravenous! Have nibbled intermittently, without attention to frequency, content—mostly when feeding, watering Terry.

(Regardless of own condition, did not neglect jovial imbecile during course of depression. Even cobbled up makeshift stand from chair, hardwood implement handle; found sturdy dishes, secured firmly to discourage potential hilarity. Granted, diet not ideal—canned vegetables, fruits, meat, etc.—but heard no complaints from clientele, and would be no doubt if existed: Dissatisfaction with offerings usually first indicated by throwing on floor; if prompt improvement not forthcoming, abandons subtlety.)

Have also noticed am filthy! Wearing same clothes came downstairs in three weeks ago. Neither garments nor underlying smelly germ farm exposed to water, soap, deodorant since. (Can this be same fastidious Candy Smith-Foster who insists upon shower, complete change of clothing following any hint of physical exertion, contact with even potentially soiled environment? Regrettably is.) And now that am in condition to notice—have! Self-respecting maggot would take trade elsewhere.

So please excuse. Must rectify immediately. Bath (probably take three, four complete water changes to do job) followed by proper meal, clean clothes. Then get down to business. Time to find out about contents of shelter—availability of resources relevant to problems.

Be back later. . . .


Apologies for delay, neglect. But have been so busy!

Bath, resumption of proper nutrition completed cure. Spirits restored; likewise determination, resourcefulness, curiosity (intellectual variety; am not snoop—rumors to contrary). Also resumed exercises, drills (paid immediate penalty for three-week neglect of Art—first attempt at usual kata nearly broke important places, left numerous sore muscles).

Have systematically charted shelter. Took pen, pad downstairs to stores, took inventory. Then went through bookshelves in slow, painstaking manner; recorded titles, locations of volumes applicable to problems. Project took best part of three days. Worth effort; variety, volume of equipment simply awesome. Together with library, probably represents everything necessary for singlehanded founding of bright new civilization—from scratch, if necessary.

(Not keen on singlehanding part, however; sounds lonely. [Besides, know nothing about Applied Parthogenesis; not merit badge topic in scouts. Only memory of subject’s discussion concerned related research—was no-no; leader claimed caused myopia, acne, nonspecific psychoses.] Oh, well, considering age, prospects for achieving functional puberty, seems less than pressing issue.)

Speaking of pressing issues, however—found food. Founder of civilization certainly will eat well in interim. Must be five-year supply of frozen meat, fruit, fresh vegetables in deep-freeze locker adjoining lower level (huge thing—50 feet square). Stumbled upon by accident; door wasn’t labeled. Opened during routine exploration expecting just another bin. Light came on, illuminating scenery—almost froze tip of nose admiring contents before realized was standing in 50-degree-below-zero draft. Also good news for Terry: Daddy anticipated presence; lifetime supply of proper seed mix in corner bin. Will keep forever; too cold to hatch inevitable weevil eggs, etc.

Actually haven’t minded canned diet; good variety available—but sure was nice to drop mortally-peppered steak onto near-incandescent griddle, inhale fumes as cooked; then cut with fork while still bleeding inside charred exterior. Of course, had to fight Terry for share; may be something likes better, but doesn’t come readily to mind.

Is regrettable this could be part of Last Words; means must exercise honesty in setting down account. Bulk of organized theologies I’ve read opine dying with lie upon lips bodes ill for direction of departure. Since can be no doubt of Terry’s final Destination, must keep own powder dry. Twin would be lonely if got There without me—besides, without watching would announce presence by eating pearls out of Gate.

So despite self-serving impulses, must record faithfully shameful details of final phase in monumental inventory: assault upon card file. Intended to make painstaking, card-by-card inspection of microfilm catalog (vastly more extensive than bound collection), recording titles suggesting relevance to problems. Grim prospect: 72 cubic feet holds dreadful quantity of cards—each with ten titles. Even considering own formidable reading speed, use of Pitman for notes, seemed likely project would account for substantial slice of remaining lifespan—even assuming can count upon normal duration.

However, could see no other way; needed information. So took down first drawer (from just below ceiling, of course; but thoughtful Daddy provided rolling ladder as in public stacks), set on table next to notepad. Sighed, took out first card, scanned—stopped, looked again. Pulled out next 20, 30; checked quickly. Made unladylike observation regarding own brains (genius, remember?). Reflected (after exhausted self-descriptive talents) had again underestimated Daddy.

Humble healer, gentle father was embodiment of patience—but had none with unnecessary inefficiency. Obviously would have devised system to locate specifics in such huge collection. Useless otherwise; researcher could spend most of life looking for data instead of using.

First 200 cards index of index. Alphabetically categorized, cross-referenced to numbered file locations. Pick category, look up location in main file; check main file for specific titles, authors; find films, CDs from specific location number on individual card. Just like downtown.

So after settled feathers from self-inflicted wounds (ten well-deserved lashes with sharp tongue), got organized. Selected categories dealing with situation; referred to main index; decided upon specific films, CDs, books. Cautioned Terry again about giblet shortage, dug out selections. Settled down to become expert in nuclear warfare, viral genocide; construction details, complete operation of shelter systems.

Have done so. Now know exactly what happened. Every ugly detail. Know which fissionables used, half-life durations; viral, bacterial agents employed; how deployed, how long remain viable threats without suitable living hosts. Know what they used on us—vice versa. Found Daddy’s papers dealing with secret life.

Turns out was heavyweight government consultant. Specialty was countering biological warfare. Privy to highest secrets; knew all about baddest bugs on both sides. Knew how genetically reengineered, how used, countermeasures most effective—personally responsible for development programs aimed at wide-spectrum etiotropic counteragents. Also knew intimate details of nuclear hardware poised on both sides of face-off. Seems had to:

Radiation level often key factor; in many cases benign virus, bacteria turned instantaneously inimical upon exposure to critical wavelengths. Only difference between harmless tourist and pathogen: Soothing counsel transmitted from pacific gene in DNA helix to cytoplasmic arsenal by radiation-vulnerable RNA messenger. Enter energy-particle flood, exit restraint; hello Attila the Germ. Clever, these mad scientists.

Undoubtedly how attack conducted—explains, too, fall of hermetically sealed NORAD citadel. Entire country seeded over period of time with innocuous first-stage organisms until sufficiently widespread. Then special warheads—carefully spaced to irradiate every inch of target with critical wavelength—simultaneously detonated at high altitude across whole country. Bombs dropping vertically from space remained undetected until betrayed by flash—by which time too late; radiation front travels just behind visible light. Not a window broken but war already over: Everybody running for shelter already infected, infectious with at least one form of now-activated, utterly lethal second-stage plague. Two, three days later—all dead.

Supposed to be another file someplace down here detailing frightful consequences to attackers; haven’t found yet. Only mention in this one suggests annihilation even surer, more complete among bad guys—and included broken windows.

Tone of comment regretful. Not sure can agree. True, most dead on both sides civilians—but are truly innocent? Who permitted continuing rule by megalomaniacs? Granted, would have been costly for populace to throw incumbent rascals out, put own rascals in—but considering cost of failure in present light . . .

Must give thought before passing judgment.

Enough philosophy.

Have learned own tactical situation not bad. No radiation detectable on surface, immediate area (instrumentation in shelter; sensors upstairs on roof of house—part of TV antenna). Not surprising: According to thesis, nuclear stuff to be used almost exclusively as catalyst for viral, bacterial invaders. Bursts completely clean—no fallout at all—high enough to preclude physical damage.

Exception: Direct hits anticipated on known ICBM silos, SAC bases, Polaris submarines, bomber-carrying carriers, overseas installations—and Washington. . . .

Where Daddy went. Hope was quick, clean.

Plague another question entirely. Daddy’s opinion holds infection self-curing. No known strain in arsenals of either side capable of more than month’s survival outside proper culture media; i.e., living human tissue (shudder to contemplate where, how media obtained for experiments leading to conclusion). Odds very poor such available longer than two, three days after initial attack; therefore should be only another week before safe to venture outside, see what remains of world.

However, wording, “should be,” erodes confidence in prediction; implies incomplete data, guesswork—gamble. Considering stake involved is own highly regarded life, placing absolute reliance on stated maximum contagion parameters not entirely shrewd policy.

So shan’t. Now that can get out whenever wish, no longer have such pressing need to; claustrophobic tendencies gone. Shelter quite cozy (considering): Dry, warm, plumbing, furniture; great food (brilliantly prepared), safe water; good company, stimulating conversation (“Hello, baby! What’cha doin’? You’re so bad! Icky pooh!”); plus endless supply of knowledge. Delay amidst such luxury seems small price for improved odds. So will invest extra two months as insurance.

Figure arbitrary; based on theory that treble safety factor was good enough for NASA, should be good enough for me. (Of course theory includes words “should be” again, but must draw line somewhere.)

And can get out when ready. Easy: Just throw proper switches. All spelled out in detailed manual on shelter’s systems, operation. Nothing to it. Just pick up book, read. After finding. After learning exists in first place. (Daddy could have reduced first three weeks’ trauma had bothered to mention, point out where kept—on other hand, if had learned how to get out prior to absorbing details on attack, doubtless be dead now.)

Manual fascinating reading. Shelter eloquent testimonial to wisdom of designer. Foresight, engineering brilliance embodied in every detail. Plus appalling amount of money, shameless level of political clout. Further I got into manual, more impressed became—NORAD headquarters miniaturized, improved: hermetically sealed; air, water, wastes recycled; elaborate communications equipment; sophisticated sensory complex for radiation, electronics, detection, seismology, medicine.

Power furnished by nuclear device about size of Volkswagen—classified, of course (talk about clout?). Don’t know if works; supposed to come on automatically when municipal current fails. But according to instruments, am still running on outside power.

Let’s see—nope; seems to be about everything for now. Will update journal as breathtaking developments transpire.


Hi. One-month mark today. Breathless developments to date:

1. Found stock of powdered milk: awful. Okay in soup, chocolate, cooking, etc., but alone tastes boiled.

2. Discovered unplugged phone in hitherto-unnoticed cabinet. Also found jack. Plugged in, found system still working. Amused self by ringing phones about country—random area codes, numbers. But no answers, of course; and presently noticed tears streaming down face. Decided not emotionally healthy practice. Discontinued.

3. Employed carpentry tools, pieces of existing makeshift accommodation to fabricate proper stand for brother. Promptly demonstrated gratitude by chewing through perch (which had not bothered for whole month!). Replaced with thick, hardwood sledge handle; sneered, dared him try again. Thereby gained temporary victory: Fiend immediately resumed game but achieving little progress. Wish had stands from upstairs in house. Are three, all 11 years old—still undamaged (of course, perches consist of hard-cured, smooth-cast concrete—detail possibly relevant to longevity).

Guess that’s it for now. Watch this space for further stirring details.


Two months—hard to believe not millennia. Einstein correct: Time is relative. Hope doesn’t get more so; probably stop altogether. Have wondered occasionally if already hasn’t.

Not to imply boredom. Gracious, how could be bored amidst unremitting pressure from giddy round of social activities? For instance, just threw gala party to celebrate passing of second month. Was smash, high point of entombment, sensation of sepulchral social schedule. Went all out—even invited Terry (desperately relieved to find invitee able to squeeze event into already busy whirl of commitments).

First class event: Made cake, fried chicken thighs; broiled small steak; even found ice cream. All turned out well. Preferred steak, cake myself; honored guest chose ice cream (to eyebrows), chicken bones (splits shafts, devours marrow—possibly favoritest treat of all). No noisemakers in inventory (gross oversight), but assemblage combined efforts to compensate. At peak of revelry birdbrain completed chewing through perch. Was standing on end at time, of course; accepted downfall with pride, air of righteous triumph. Then waddled purposefully in direction of nearest chair leg. Had to move fast to dissuade.

Replaced perch.

Also have read 104 microfilmed books, CDs, regular volumes. Am possibly world’s foremost living authority on everything.

As if matters.



Ever wanted something so bad could almost taste, needed so long seemed life’s main ambition? Finally got—wished hadn’t?

You guessed: three months up—finally!

Went upstairs, outside. Stayed maybe two hours. Wandered old haunts: familiar neighborhood, Main Street shopping area, Quarry Lake Park, school, Y, etc.

Should have quit sooner; would, had understood nature of penalty accruing. By time got back was already too late; trembling all over, tears running down face. Scabs all scraped from wounds; worms awake, gnawing soul. In parlance of contemporaries-past, was bad trip.

However, conditions outside are fact of life, something must face. Must overcome reaction unless intend to spend balance of years simulating well-read mole. Nature works slowly, methods unaesthetic; tidying up takes years. Inescapable; must accept as is; develop blind spot, immunity. Meanwhile will just have to cope best I can with resulting trauma each time crops up until quits cropping.

Well, coping ought be no problem. Catharsis worked before, should again. But wish were some other way. No fun; hurts almost as much second time around. But works—and already learned cannot function with psyche tied in knots. So time to quit stalling. “Sooner started, sooner done; sooner outside, having fun.”—Anon. (Understandably.)

Only just can’t right now. Not in mood; still hurting too bad from initial trauma. Guess I’ll go read some more. Or pound something together with hammer.

Or apart.



Okay. Feel no better yet, but feel less bad. Is time got on with therapy.

Suspect current problems complicated by déjà vu. Still retain vivid mental picture of body of Momma Foster minutes after pronounced dead. Bore physical resemblance to warm, wise, vital woman whose limitless interests, avid curiosity, ready wonderment, hearty enjoyment of existence had so enriched early years.

But body not person—person gone. Resemblance only underscored absence.

So too with village: Look quick, see no difference. Bears resemblance to contentedly industrious, unassuming small farm town of happy childhood. Same tall, spreading trees shade same narrow streets, well-kept, comfortably ageless homes.

Old-fashioned streetlights line Main Street’s storefront downtown business district, unchanged for 50 years, fronting on classic village square. Hundred-year-old township building centered in square amidst collection of heroic statues, World War One mementos, playground equipment; brightly painted, elevated gazebo for public speakers.

Look other direction down street, see own ivy-covered, red-brick schoolhouse at far end, just across from Y.

Next-door, Teacher’s house looks bright, friendly, inviting as ever in summer-afternoon sunshine.

But open door, step out onto porch—illusion fades. Popular fallacy attends mystique of small towns: Everyone knows are “quiet.” Not so; plenty of noise, but right kind—comfortable, unnoticed.

Until gone.

Silence is shock. Is wrong, but takes whole minutes to analyze why wrong; identify anomalous sensation, missing input.

Strain ears for hint of familiar sound: Should be faint miasma of voices, traffic sounds drifting up from direction of Main Street; chatter, squeals, laughter from schoolyard. Too, is truly small town; farmlands close at hand: Should hear tractors chugging in fields, stock calling from pastures. Should catch frequent hollow mutter as distant semi snores down highway past town; occasional barely-perceptible rumble from jet, visible only as fleecy tracing against indigo sky. Should be all manner of familiar sounds.

But as well could be heart of North Woods; sounds reaching ear limited to insect noises, bird calls, wind sighing through leaves.

Visual illusion fades quickly, too. Knee-deep grass flourishes where once had been immaculately groomed yards. Straggly new growth bewhiskers hedges, softening previously mathematically-exact outlines. Houses up, down street show first signs of neglect: isolated broken windows, doors standing open, missing shingles. Partially uprooted tree leans on Potters’ house, cracking mortar, crushing eaves, sagging roof. Street itself blocked by car abandoned at crazy angle; tire flat, rear window broken, driver’s door hanging open. Closer inspection shows Swensens’ pretty yellow-brick Cape Cod nothing but fire-gutted shell; roof mostly gone, few panes of glass remain, dirty smudge marks above half-consumed doors, windows; nearby trees singed.

And the smell . . . ! Had not spent last three months sealed in own atmosphere, doubt could have remained in vicinity. Still strong enough outside to dislodge breakfast within moments of first encounter. And did. Happily, human constitution can learn to tolerate almost anything if must. By time returned to shelter, stench had faded from forefront of consciousness—had other problems more pressing:

Learned what knee-deep lawns conceal. Three months’ exposure to Wisconsin summer does little to enhance cosmetic aspects of Nature’s embalming methods: Sun, rain, insects, birds, probably dogs too, have disposed of bulk of soft tissues. What remains is skeletons (mostly scattered, incomplete, partially covered by semicured meat, some clothing). Doubtless would have mummified completely by now in dry climate, but Wisconsin summers aren’t. At best, results unappealing; at worst (first stumbled over in own front yard), dreadful shock.

Yes, I know; should have anticipated. Possibly did, in distant, non-personally-involved sort of way—but didn’t expect to find three bodies within ten feet of own front door! Didn’t expect to confront dead neighbors within three minutes after leaving burrow. Didn’t expect so many! Thought most would be respectably tucked away indoors, perhaps in bed. That’s where I’d be. I think.

Well, lived through initial shock, continued foray. Was not systematic exploration; just wandered streets, let feet carry us at random. Didn’t seem to matter; same conditions everywhere. Peeked into houses, stores, cars; knocked on doors, hollered a lot.

Wasn’t until noticed twin digging in claws, flapping wings, protesting audibly, that realized was running blindly, screaming for somebody—anybody!

Stopped then, streaming tears, trembling, panting (must have run some distance); made desperate attempt to regain semblance of control. Dropped where stood, landed in Lotus. Channeled thoughts into relaxation of body, achievement of physical serenity; hoped psyche would heed good example.

Did—sort of. Worked well enough, at least, to permit deliberate progress back to shelter, deliberate closing door, deliberate descent of stairs, deliberate placing of Terry on stand—all before threw screaming fit.

Discharged lots of tension in process, amused Terry hugely. By end of performance fink sibling was emulating noises. Ended hysteria in laughter. Backward, true, but effective.

Recovered enough to make previous journal entry. Granted, present (therapeutic) entries beyond capacity at that point; but after spent balance of day licking wounds, night’s rest, was fit enough to make present update, discharge residual pain onto paper.

Amazing stuff, therapy: Still not exactly looking forward to going outside again; but seem to have absorbed trauma of dead-body/deserted-city shock, adjusted to prospect of facing again.

Forewarned, should be able to go about affairs, function effectively in spite of surroundings.

Which brings up entirely relevant question: Exactly what are my affairs, functions . . . ? Now that am out, what to do? Where to go? What to do when get there? Why bother go at all?

Okay, fair questions. Obviously prime objective is find Somebody Else. Preferably somebody knowing awful lot about Civilizations, Founding & Maintenance Of—to say nothing of where to find next meal when supplies run out.

Certainly other survivors. Somewhere. So must put together reasonable plan of action based on logical extension of available data. Sounds good—uh, except, what is available data?

Available data: Everybody exposed to flash, to air at time of flash, to anybody else exposed to flash or air exposed to flash or anybody exposed to anybody, etc., either at time of flash or during subsequent month, anywhere on planet, is dead. Period.

Shucks. Had me worried; thought for moment I had problem. Ought be plenty survivors; modern civilization replete with airtight refuges: nuclear submarines, hyperbaric chambers, spacelabs, jet transports, “clean assembly” facilities, many others (not to forget early-model VW beetles, so long as windows closed). Ought be many survivors of flash, initial contagion phase.

But—loaded question—how many knew enough; stayed tight throughout required month? Or got lucky; couldn’t get out too soon despite best efforts? Or, with best of intentions, had supplies, air for duration? Or survived emotional ravages; resisted impulse to throw open window, take big, deliberate breath?

Could employ magnet to find needle in haystack; easy by comparison. Real problem here: Is needle in there at all?

Well, never mind; leave for subconscious to mull. Good track record heretofore; probably come up with solution, given time.

Other, more immediate problems confronting: For one, must think about homestead. Can’t spend balance of years living underground. Unhealthy; leads to pallor. Besides, doubt is good for psyche; too many ghosts.

Where—no problem for short term; can live just about anywhere warm, dry. Adequate food supplies available in shelter, stores, home pantries, etc.; same with clothing, sundry necessities. Can scavenge for years if so inclined.

However, assuming residential exclusivity continues (and must take pessimistic view when planning), must eventually produce own food, necessities; become self-sufficient. Question is: Start now? Or wait; hope won’t prove necessary?

Not truly difficult decision: Longer delayed, more difficult transition becomes. Livestock factor alone demands prompt attention. Doubtless was big die-off over summer. Too stupid to break out of farms, pastures, search for water, feed, most perished—“domestic” synonym for “dependent.” And even of survivors, doubt one in thousand makes it through winter unaided. Means if plan to farm, must round up beginning inventory before weather changes. Also means must have food, water, physical accommodations ready for inductees beforehand.

Means must have farm.

However, logic dictates commandeering farm relatively nearby. Too much of value in shelter; must maintain reasonable access. Availability of tools, books, etc., beneficial in coming project: provisioning, repairing fences, overhauling well pumps, etc.

Plus work needed to put house in shape for winter. Wisconsin seasons rough on structures; characteristic swayback rooflines usually not included in builders’ plans, zoning regulations. After summer’s neglect, buildings of farm selected apt to need much work—none of which am qualified to do. Expect will find remainder of summer, fall, highly educational, very busy.

So perhaps should quit reflecting on plans, get move on. Best reconnoiter nearby farms. Be nice to find one with buildings solid, wells pumping, fences intact, etc. Be equally nice to meet jolly, red-dressed, white-bearded gentleman cruising down road in sleigh pulled by reindeer.


Hi, again. Surprised to see me? Me too. Thinking of changing name to Pauline, serializing journal. Or maybe just stay home, take up needlepoint. Seems during entombment, character of neighborhood changed; deteriorated, gotten rough—literally gone to dogs. Stepped out of A & P right into . . .

Nope, this won’t do. Better stick to chronology; otherwise sure to miss something. Might even be important someday. So:

Awoke fully recovered—again (truly growing tired of yo-yo psychology). Since planned to be out full day, collected small pile of equipment, provisions: canteen, jerky, dried apricots, bag of parrot mix; hammer, pry bar (in case forcible investigation indicated). Went upstairs, outside.

Retained breakfast by force of will until accustomed to aroma.

Took bike from garage, rode downtown (first ride in three months; almost deafened by twin’s manic approval). After three months’ neglect, tires a tad soft (ten-speed requires 85 pounds); stopped at Olly’s Full Service BP, reinflated. And marveled: Utilities still on, compressor, pumps, etc., still working—even bell rang when rode across hose.

Started to go on way; stopped—had thought. Returned, bled air tanks as had seen Big Olly do. Had explained: Compression, expansion of air in tanks “made water” through condensation; accumulation bad for equipment. Found was starting to think in terms of preserving everything potentially useful against future need. (Hope doesn’t develop into full-blown neurosis; maintaining whole world could cramp schedule.)

Set about conducting check of above-ground resources: Eyeball-inventoried grocery stores, hardware, seed dealers. Took ride down to rail depot, checked grain elevators. Found supplies up everywhere; highly satisfactory results. Apparently business conducted as usual after flash until first symptoms emerged. No evidence of looting; probably all too sick then to bother.

And since power still on, freezers in meat markets maintaining temperature; quantity available probably triple that in shelter. If conditions similar in nearby towns, undoubtedly have lifetime supply of everything—or until current stops.

Personally, am somewhat surprised still working; summer thunderstorms habitually drop lines, blow transformers twice, three times a year—and winter . . . ! One good ice storm brings out candles for days; primary reason why even new houses, designed with latest heating systems, all have old-fashioned Franklin-style oil stoves in major rooms, usually multiple fireplaces. Doubt will have electricity by spr

OH HELL! Beg pardon; unladylike outburst—but just realized: Bet every single farm well in state electrically operated. I got troubles . . . !

Well, just one more problem for subconscious to worry about. Can’t do anything about it now—but must devote serious thought.

Back to chronology: Emerged from A & P around ten; kicked up stand, prepared to swing leg over bike. Suddenly Terry squawked, gripped shoulder so hard felt like claws met in middle. Dropped bike, spun.

Six dogs: Big, lean, hungry; visibly exempt from Best Friend category.

Given no time to consider strategy; moment discovered, pack abandoned stealth, charged. Had barely time to toss twin into air, general direction of store roof, wish Godspeed. Then became very busy.

Had not fought in three months but continued kata; was in good shape. Fortunate.

First two (Shepherd, Malamute) left ground in formation, Doberman close behind. Met Malamute (bigger of two) in air with clockwise spin-kick to lower mandible attachment. Felt bones crunch, saw without watching as big dog windmilled past, knocking Shepherd sprawling. Took firm stance, drove forward front-fist blow under Doberman’s jaw, impacting high on chest, left of center. Fist buried to wrist; felt scapula, clavicle, possibly also humerus crumble; attacker bounced five feet backward, landed in tangle. Spun, side-kicked Shepherd behind ear as scrambled to rise; felt vertebrae give. Took fast step, broke Malamute’s neck with edge-hand chop. Spun again, jumped for Doberman; broke neck before could rise.

Glanced up, body coiling for further combinations—relaxed; remaining three had revised schedule; were halfway across parking lot.

Wildly looked about for Terry; spotted twin just putting on brakes for touchdown on shopping cart handle 20 feet away. Wondered what had been doing in interim; seemed could have flown home, had dinner, returned to watch outcome.

Retrieved; lectured about stupidity, not following orders—suppose had been flankers? Would have been lunch before I got there.

Birdbrain accepted rebuke; nuzzled cheek in agreement, murmured, “You’re so icky-poo!”

Gave up; continued sortie.

Wondered briefly at own calmness. First blows ever struck in earnest; halfway expected emotional side effects. But none; only mild regret had not met attackers under favorable circumstances. Doberman in particular was beautiful specimen, if could disregard gauntness.

Decided, in view of events, might be best if continued explorations in less vulnerable mode. Decided was time I soloed. Had driven cars before, of course; country kids all learn vehicular operation basics soonest moment eyes (augmented by cushions) clear dashboard, feet reach pedals.

Question of which car to appropriate gave pause. Have no particular hang-ups: Familiar (for nondriver) with automatics, three-, four-, five-, speed manuals, etc. But would be poking nose down vestigial country roads, venturing up driveways more accustomed to (suitable for) passage of tractors, horses; squeezing in, out of tight places; doubtless trying hard to get very stuck. Granted, had been relatively dry recently; ground firm most places. But—considering potential operating conditions, physical demands . . .

Would take Daddy’s old VW. Happy selection: Answered physical criteria (maneuverable, good traction, reliable, etc.); besides, already had driven—for sure could reach pedals, see out.

Did give thought to Emerson’s Jeep, but never had opportunity to check out under controlled conditions. Further, has plethora of shift levers (three!). True, might be more capable vehicle, but sober reflection suggested unfamiliar advantages might prove trap; seemed simpler, more familiar toy offered better odds of getting back.

Pedaled home quickly, keeping weather eye out for predators (can take hint). Arrived without incident. Found key, established blithe sibling on passenger’s seatback; adjusted own seat for four-foot-ten-inch stature, turned key.

Results would have warmed ad writer’s heart: After standing idle three months, Beetle cranked industriously about two seconds, started.

Gauge showed better than three-quarter tank, but wanted to make sure; lonely country road frequented by hungry dog packs wrong place to discover faulty gauge. So backed gingerly down drive (killed only twice), navigated cautiously to Olly’s. Stuck in hose, got two gallons in before spit back. Beetle’s expression seemed to say, “. . . told you so,” as capped tank, hung up hose.

Went about tracking down suitable farm in workmanlike fashion, for beginner. Picked up area USGS Section Map from sheriff’s office. Methodically plotted progress as went; avoided circling, repetition. Drove 150 miles; visited 30, 35 farms; marked off on map as left, graded on one-to-ten basis. Were many nice places; some could make do in pinch. But none rated above seven; nothing rang bell until almost dark.

Found self at terminus of cowpath road. Had wound through patchy woods, hills; felt must go somewhere, so persevered to end, where found mailbox, driveway. Turned in; shortly encountered closed gate. Opened, drove through, resecured. Followed drive through woods, over small rise, out into clearing, farmyard. Stopped abruptly.

Knew at once was home. . . .

To right stood pretty, almost new red-brick house; to left, brand-new, modern steel barn, henhouse; two silos (one new), three corn cribs—all full.

Got out, walked slowly around house, mouth open, heart pounding. No broken windows, doors closed, shingles all in place—grass cut! For glorious moment heart stopped altogether; thought had stumbled on nest of survivors. Then rounded corner, bumped into groundskeepers—sheep.

Owners quite dead. Found remains of man in chair on porch. Apparently spent last conscious moments reflecting upon happy memories. Picture album in lap suggested four impromptu graves short distance from house were wife, three children; markers confirmed. Fine-looking people; faces showed confidence, contentment, love; condition of farm corroborated, evidenced care, pride.

Grew misty-eyed looking through album. Resolved to operate farm in manner founders would approve. Had handed me virtual “turnkey” homestead; immeasurably advanced schedule, boosted odds for self-sufficiency, survival. Least I could do in return.

Farm nestles snugly in valley amidst gently rolling, wooded countryside. Clean, cold, fast-running brook meanders generally through middle, passes within hundred yards of house; and, by clever fence placement, zigs, zags, or loops through all pastures. Perimeter fence intact; strong, heavy-gauge, small-mesh fabric. Probably not entirely dogproof, but highly resistant; with slight additional work, should be adequate.

Contents of silos, cribs, loft product of season’s first planting; second crop still in fields—primary reason stock still alive, healthy. Internal gates open throughout; allowed access to water, varied grazing (including nibbling minor leakages from cribs, silos). Beasties spent summer literally eating “fat of land”; look it.

Besides five sheep are nine cows (two calves, one a bull), two mares, one gelding, sundry poultry (rooster, two dozen chickens, motley half dozen ducks, geese). No pigs, but no tears; don’t like pigs, not that wild about pork.

From evidence, losses over summer low. Found only three carcasses: two cows, one horse. Bones not scattered; doubt caused by dogs. More likely disease, injury, stupidity—salient characteristic of domestic ruminants: Given opportunity, will gorge on no-no, pay dearly later.

Wandered grounds, poked through buildings until light gone. Found good news everywhere looked. Nothing I can’t use as is, put right with minor work.

Clocked distance on return: 17 miles by road. Not too bad; can walk if necessary—should breakdown occur while commuting—but perhaps wiser to hang bike on bumper.

Still, machines can’t last forever; only matter of time before forced back to horseback technology. Will have occasion to visit shelter often. Map shows straight-line distance only nine miles; guess better learn bulldozer operation, add road-building to skills. (Goodness—future promises such varied experiences; may vary me to death. . . .)

Was late when finally got back to shelter, tired but glowing all over at prospect. Can hardly wait for morning, start packing, moving in; start of new life.

Demented twin shares view; hardly shut up whole time were at farm. Or since. Lectured stock, dictated to poultry, narrated inspection tour throughout. Hardly took time out for snack, drink. Must be country boy at heart. So urbane, never suspected.

Hey—am really tired!

Good night.


Oh! Hurt places didn’t even know I had. Suspect must have come into being just for occasion.

Six trips to farm. Count ’em.

Light failed just before self. Packing stuff from house no problem: Eight, ten trips to car; all done. Stuff in shelter is rub. Aye.

Two hundred feet straight up, arms loaded. Repeatedly.

Must be better way.

Good night.


This is embarrassing; guess is time quit posing as genius. Proof in pudding. What matters 200-plus IQ if actions compatible with mobile vegetable?

Occurred this morning to ponder (after third trip upstairs) how excavated material removed during construction. Hand-carried in buckets . . . ?

Counting stairwell, material involved amounts to 200,000 cubic feet plus. At half cube per bucket, assuming husky lad carrying doubles, 15-minute round trips, that’s 32 cubic feet every eight hours. Would take ten-man crew 625 days—not counting down time due to heart attacks, hernias, fallen arches. . . .

And what about heavy stuff? Doubt nuclear generator carried down by hand—must weigh couple tons.

Okay. Obviously done some other way. But how? Oh—shelter manual; had forgotten. Thumbed through quickly, found answer: elevator! Of course. Missed significance of small, odd-shaped, empty storeroom during first inspection. Other things on mind; didn’t notice controls.

Balance of day much easier. Still tired tonight but not basket case.

Tomorrow is another day . . . !


STOP THE PRESSES! Strike the front page! Scoop! I’m not me—I’m something else. No—we’re not us—no— Oh, bother; not making any sense. But can’t help it; hard to organize thoughts—so DAMNED excited . . . ! Will try, must try. Otherwise will end up leaving out best parts, most important stuff. Then, by time get feathers settled, blood pressure reduced, will have forgotten everything! Oh, must stop this blithering. Must get back to chronology. So . . .

Deep breath . . . release slo-o-ow-ly . . . heart slowed to normal. Physical tranquility . . . serenity . . . ohm-m-m. . . .

Amazing, worked again.

Okay. Resumed packing this morning. Took two loads over, returned for third. Finished; everything in car, at farm, felt would need. But still fidgeting; couldn’t decide why. No question of something forgotten; farm only short drive away; omission not crisis.

Finally recognized source of unscratchable itch: Was time I did duty. Had avoided at first; knew couldn’t face prospect. Then got so busy, slipped mind. But now remembered: Soo Kim McDivott. Teacher. Friend.

To friend falls duty of seeing to final resting place.

Generally inured now to face of death per se; unaffected last few days by myriad corpses have stepped over during course of running errands. Had no problem, for instance, removing Mr. Haralsen from porch to proper place beside wife, children; even finished job with warm feeling inside. (Suspect original trauma caused by sudden shock of events; enormity, completeness of isolation.) Condition improved now; felt could perform final service for old friend—more, felt need to.

Went next-door, looked for body. Checked entire house: upstairs, downstairs, basement—even stuck head in attic.

Finally returned to library. Teacher had used as study; desk located there, most of favorite dog-eared references close at hand. Hoped might find clue regarding whereabouts amidst clutter.

First thing to catch eye was “Tarzan File” standing on desk. Large envelope taped to top, printing on face. Glanced at wording. Blood froze.

Was addressed to me!

Pulled loose, opened with suddenly shaking fingers. Teacher’s meticulous script, legible, beautiful as Jefferson’s on Declaration, read:

Dearest Candidia,

It is the considered opinion of several learned men familiar with your situation, among them Marshall Foster and myself, that you will survive the plague to find and read this. The viral complex employed by the enemy cannot harm you, we know; it was created as a specific against Homo sapiens.

Almost dropped letter. Surely required no genius to note implications. Took deep breath, read on:

I know, my child, that that statement must sound like the ramblings of an old man in extremis . . .

Ramble? Teacher? Ha! True, was old; condition intrinsic to amount of water over dam—of which lots (all deep, too). Probably also in extremis; lot of that going around when wrote this. But ramble? Teacher? Day Teacher rambles will be day Old Nick announces cooling trend, New Deal, takes up post as skiing instructor on glorious powder slopes of Alternate Destination. I ramble; Teacher’s every word precise, correct.

Precise, correct letter went on:

. . . but please, before forming an opinion, humor me to the extent of reading the balance of this letter and reviewing the supporting evidence, which documents 25 years of painstaking investigation by me and others.

Note that of the 1,284 incidents wherein wild animals of varying descriptions “adopted” human children, none (with the exception of the very youngest—those recovered from the wild below age three) developed significantly beyond the adoptive parents. They could not be taught to communicate; they evinced no abstract reasoning; they could not be educated. IQ testing, where applicable, produced results indistinguishable from similar tests performed on random members of the “parents’ ” species. Further, except for the 29 cases where the adoptive parents were of a species possessing rudimentary hands (apes, monkeys, the two raccoon incidents; to a lesser degree the badger and the wolverine), the children possessed no awareness of the concept of grasping, nor did it prove possible to teach them any manual skills whatever.

Finally, most authorities (note the citations in the File) are agreed that Man is born devoid of instincts, save (a point still in contention) suckling; therefore, unlike lesser animals, human development is entirely dependent upon learning and, therefore, environment.

This principle was deeply impressed upon me during the years I spent studying a number of these children; and it occurred to me to wonder what effect this mechanism might have within human society—whether average parents, for instance, upon producing a child possessing markedly superior genetic potential, might raise such a child (whether through ignorance, unconscious resentment or envy, deliberate malice, or some unknown reason) in such a manner as to prevent his development from exceeding their own attainments; and if such efforts took place, to what extent the child would in fact be limited.

Then followed narrative of early stages of investigation, solo at first, but producing preliminary findings so startling that shortly was directing efforts of brilliant group of associates (including Daddy!), whole project funded by bottomless government grant. Object of search: reliable clues, indicators upon which testing program could be based enabling identification of gifted children (potential geniuses) shortly after birth, before retardation (if such truly existed) began operation.

Efforts rewarded: Various factors pinpointed which, encountered as group, were intrinsic to genetically superior children. Whereupon study shifted to second phase. As fast as “positives” found, identified, were assigned to study group. Were four:

AA (positive/advantaged), potentially gifted kids whose parents were in on experiment; guided, subsidized, assisted every way possible to provide optimum environment for learning, development. AB (positive/nonadvantaged), potential geniuses whose parents weren’t let in on secret; would have to bloom or wither, depending on qualities of vine. BA (negative/advantaged), ordinary babies, random selection, whose parents were encouraged (for which read “conned”) to think offspring were geniuses; also received benefit of AA-type parental coaching (and coaches didn’t know whether dealing with AA or BA parents), financial assistance. And BB (negative/nonadvantaged), control group: ordinary babies raised ordinary way. Whatever that is.

As expected, AAs did well in school; average progress tripled national norm. Further, personality development also remarkable: AA kids almost offensively well-adjusted; happy, well integrated personalities. BAs did well, too, but beat national figures by only 15 percent. Were also generally happy, but isolated individuals demonstrated symptoms suggesting insecurity; perhaps being pushed close to, even beyond capabilities.

ABs also produced spotty results: Goods very good, equaling AA figures in certain cases. However, bads very bad: ABs had highest proportion of academic failures, behavior problems, perceptibly maladjusted personalities.

BBs, of course, showed no variation at all from national curves; were just kids.

Study progressed cozily; all content as confirming evidence of own cleverness emerged from statistical analysis, continued to accumulate (Teacher, in particular, basking in glow emanating from vindication of theory), when suddenly Joker popped from deck:

It became obvious that AA and AB children lost vastly less time from school through illness. Further breakdown, however, showed that approximately one third of the positives never had lost any time, while the balance had attendance records indistinguishable from the norm. Detailed personal inquiry revealed that these particular children had never been sick from any cause, while the balance had had the usual random selection of childhood illnesses. It was also determined that these unfailingly healthy positives were far and away the highest group of achievers in the AA group and constituted the best, worst, and most maladjusted of the AB group.

At that time study blessed by convenient tragedy: AA “healthy” child died in traffic accident. Body secured for autopsy.

Every organ was examined minutely, every tissue sample was scrutinized, microscopically and chemically, and DNA/chromosome examination was performed. Every test known to the science of pathology was performed, most three, four, and five times, because no one was willing to believe the results.

And thereafter, quickly and by various subterfuges, complete physicals, including x-rays, and biopsy samples of blood, bone, skin, hair, and a number of organs, were obtained from the full test group and compared.

The differences between “healthy” positives and the balance proved uniform throughout the sample, and were unmistakable to an anthropologist . . .

Shock upon shock: Folksy, humble, simple Teacher was Ph.D.—three times over! Physician (double-barreled—pediatrician, psychiatrist) plus anthropologist. Predictably, renowned in all three—qualities leading to Tenth Degree not confined to Art.

. . . but none was of a character itself to attract the notice of a physician not specifically and methodically hunting for an unknown “common denominator,” using mass sampling techniques and a very open mind; nor would they attract notice by affecting the outcome of any known medical test or procedure. The single most dramatic difference is the undisputed fact, still unexplained, that “healthy” positives are totally immune to the full spectrum of human disease.

Difference proved independent of race, sex: Makeup of AA, AB “healthy” kids 52 percent female; half Caucasoid, one third Negroid, balance apportioned between Oriental, Hispanic, Indian, other unidentifiable fractions. Breakdown precisely matched population area from which emerged.

The conclusion is indisputable: Although clearly of the genus Homo, AA and AB “healthy” children are not human beings; they are a species distinct unto themselves.

Quite aside from the obvious aspect of immunity and the less obvious anatomical characteristics which identify them, these children possess clear physical superiority over Homo sapiens children of like size and weight. They are stronger, faster, more resistant to trauma, and demonstrate markedly quicker reflexive responses. Visual, aural, and olfactory functions operate over a broader range and at higher levels of sensitivity than in humans. We have no data upon which to base even a guess as to the magnitude, but evidence to this point suggests a substantially longer lifespan.

A study was begun immediately, a search for clues which might help to explain this phenomenon of uniformly mutated children being born to otherwise normal, healthy human couples. And these couples were normal: To the limits of our clinical capabilities to determine, they were indistinguishable from any other Homo sapiens.

However, it was only very recently, after years of the most exhaustive background investigation and analysis, that a possible link was noticed. It was an obvious connection, but so removed in time that we almost missed its significance, due to the usual scientific tendency to probe for the abstruse while ignoring the commonplace.

The grandmothers of these children were all of a similar age, born within a two-year span: All were conceived during the rampage of the great influenza pandemic of 1918-19.

This “coincidence” fairly shouts its implications: Sweeping genetic recombination, due to specific viral invasion, affecting either of the gametes before, or both during, formation of the zygotes which became the grandmothers, creating in each half of the matrix which fitted together two generations later to become the AA and AB “healthy” children.

Personally, I have no doubt that this is the explanation; however, so recently has this information come to light, that we have not had time to study the question in detail. And in science, suspecting that something may be true—even a profound inner conviction—is not the same as proving it. I hope you will one day have the opportunity to add this question to your own studies. It needs answering.

After much reflection, and despite the fact that doing so technically violates the naming conventions of taxonomy, we named this new species Homo post hominem, meaning “Man Who Follows Man”; for it would appear that the mutation is evolutionary in character, and that, given time and assuming it breeds true (there is no reason to suspect otherwise—in fact, chromosome examination suggests that the mutation is dominant; i.e., a sapiens/hominem pairing should unfailingly produce a hominem), it will entirely supplant Homo sapiens.”

Wonderful thing, human nervous system; accustoms quickly to mortal shocks. Didn’t even twitch as other shoe landed—or perhaps had anticipated from buildup; just wondering how would be worded.

Very nice; no fanfare, just matter-of-fact statement:

You, my child, are a Homo post hominem. You are considerably younger than your fellows among the study group, and were never involved in the study itself. Your identification and inclusion in our sample came about late and through rather involved and amusing circumstances.

The Fosters, as you know, had long desired a child and had known equally long that they could never have one. When your natural parents died, it was entirely predictable that they lost no time securing your adoption (which is certainly understandable; you were a most winning baby).

Neither Daddy nor rest of staff thought to have me tested; had been exposed to months of “unmonitored parentage”; was “compromised subject.” Besides, Daddy wasn’t interested in studying me; wanted to enjoy raising “his little girl.” Professional competence crumbled before gush of atavistic paternalism. Most reprehensible.

Momma disagreed; felt determination of potential would provide useful child-rearing information. But in keeping with formula long established for maintaining smooth marriage, kept disagreement to self; however, Took Steps: Prevailed upon staff to test me—all unbeknownst Daddy.

Tests proved positive, but follow-up determination as to “healthy” status not performed—didn’t occur to discipline-blindered scientists, and Momma didn’t know any better.

You were a genius; she was content. And she thereupon took it upon herself to see that you were raised in the same “advantaged” manner as the rest of the AAs—with the exception of the fact that the doctor did not know this was taking place. He continued to enjoy his “daddy’s little girl” as before, prating endlessly about the advantages of “sugar and spice,” etc. And as for the rest of us, after swearing each other to secrecy about your test results and our involvement, we forgot you. You were, after all, a “compromised subject.”

Was almost five when next came to their attention. Had soured “sugar and spice” by glancing up, commenting living-room wall “. . . looks awful hot.” Was, too—result of electrical fault. Would have burned down house shortly.

Remember incident clearly. Not that caused any particular immediate fuss, but Daddy spent balance of evening trying not to show was staring at me.

The doctor had spent much time during the previous few years observing children whose visual perception extended into the infrared and ultraviolet; and, as shortly thereafter as possible, without letting Mrs. Foster know, he had you examined and tested.

Oho! Finally—explanation of what triggered Daddy’s reaction that day—and of friends’ inexplicable night-blindness, even during summer. Of course, could understand difficulty seeing at night during winter; is dark outside on cold night. Only perceptible glow comes from faces, hands; and, after short exposure to cold, cheeks, noses dim perceptibly.

And do remember also that testing session. Salient feature was expressions of other staff as repeated tests done on previous (conspicuously unmentioned) occasion: utterly deadpan.

It was only after the tests (performed fully this time) identified you as a Homo post hominem; after the doctor had diffidently broached this fact to Mrs. Foster and she, giggling helplessly, confessed to him; and, finally, we also came clean, that further testing demonstrated that you were substantially more advanced in intellectual development than the profile developed by our studies suggested you should be at that age.

How nice. Even as superkid can’t be normal; still genius. Is no justice.

Detailed analysis of this phenomenon brought forth two unassessable factors: One, you had experienced several months of unmonitored parentage; and two, your subsequent upbringing had been AA from your mother but BB from your father. Since we could neither analyze nor affect the first of these, we chose to continue the second factor unaltered, observing you closely and hoping that in some way, then unknown, the whipsaw combination of indulgent spoiling and accelerated, motivational education you had received to this point would continue to produce these outstanding results.

Momma’s death terminated experiment; but before she left, made Teacher promise would take over overt management of education, keep pushing me as hard as would accept while Daddy (apparently) continued classic BB father rôle. Momma felt hunger for knowledge already implanted; abetted by Daddy’s careful negative psychology, seeding of environment with selected books (Ha!—always suspected something fishy about circumstances surrounding steady discovery of wanted, needed study materials, always just in time, just as finishing previous volume [not complaining; just wish planting had gone faster]), would carry on through interim without lost momentum. Was right, too—but now know how puppet must feel when wires too thin to discern.

Phase Two of scheme hit snag, though; was not anticipated would take four years for Teacher to extricate self from public complications attendant profession(s), “retire.”

Fortunately the delay appeared to be without consequences. Mrs. Foster’s opinion of you was borne out: Dr. Foster reported that you located every book he planted—and not a few that he didn’t. He said it was rarely necessary to “steer” you; that you were quite self-motivated, distinctly tenacious, and could be quite devious when it came to tracking down knowledge in spite of the “barriers” he placed in your way.

By the time I managed to delegate those of my responsibilities which I could not manage remotely to others and devote my entire public attention to you, your advantage over other AAs had increased impressively. There were only a very few individuals showing anywhere near as much promise. And by the time the blunderings of our late friends behind the Iron Curtain put an end to all such research, you were—for your age—quite the most advanced of our hominems.

If I seem to harp on that point, it is because you must remember that this study was initiated some 20 years ago. You are ten years younger than the next youngest in our group; and, as advanced as you are for your age, you still have considerable catching up to do—see that you keep at it.

Yes, I know; in the beginning, the exigencies of solo survival will occupy much of your time, but do not neglect your studies entirely. Cut back if you must, but do not terminate them.

Now, if I may presume to advise a singularly gifted member of an advanced species, there is security and comfort in numbers. You will doubtless find the preservation and extension of knowledge more convenient once a group of you has been assembled. Within the body of the Tarzan File you will find a complete listing of known Homo post hominems. I can anticipate no logical reason why most should not be alive and in good health.

Pawed through File with shaking hands. Found listing referred to: collection of minidossiers. One had small note attached. Read:

Dear Candy,

It is now almost time for me to leave, and a number of things still remain undone, so I must be brief.

The subject of this dossier, Peter Bell, is the direct, almost line-bred descendant of Alexander Graham Bell (would that I could have tested him). A measure of his intellect is the fact that he, alone of our hominems, deduced the existence and purpose of our study, the implications regarding himself, and most of the characteristics of his and your species.

To him, not long ago, I confided your existence, along with my impressions of your potential.

As well as probably being your equal (after you reach maturity, of course), he is also nearest to your own age, at 21; and of all our subjects, I predict he is the most likely to prove compatible with you as you continue your unrelenting search for knowledge in the future—in fact, he may give you quite a run for it; he is a most motivated young man.

However, I was unable to reach him following the attack; therefore he does not know that you are alive and well in the shelter. The burden is upon you to establish contact, if such is possible—and I do urge you to make the attempt; I feel that a partnership consisting of you two would be most difficult to oppose, whatever the future may bring you.



Hands shook, blood pounded in head as turned back to first letter. Balance consisted of advice on contacting other hominems—AAs from study.

Cautioned that, based on (terribly loose) extrapolation of known data, should be perhaps 150,000 of us on North American continent—but virtually all must be considered ABs, replete with implications: high proportion of maladjusteds, discontents, rebels, borderline (or worse, after shock of depopulation) psychotics, plus occasional genius. Plus rare occurrences of surviving Homo sapiens.

Teacher suggested moving very deliberately when meeting strangers: Evaluate carefully, rapidly, selfishly. If decide is not sort would like for neighbor, hit first; kill without hesitation, warning. No place in consideration for racial altruism. Elimination of occasional bad apple won’t affect overall chances for lifting species from endangered list; are enough of us to fill ranks after culling stock—but only one me. Point taken.

Letter continued:

Well, time grows short. So much remains to be accomplished before I leave, so I had best hurry.

I leave with confidence; I know the future of the race is in hands such as yours and Peter’s. You will prosper and attain levels of development I cannot even envision; of that I am certain. I hope those heights will include much joy and contentment.

I might add this in parting: When your historians tell future generations about us, I hope they will not be unduly severe. True, we did not last the distance; also true, we did exterminate ourselves, apparently in a display of senseless, uncontrolled aggression; equally true, we did many other things that were utterly wrong.

But we did create a mighty civilization; we did accumulate a fund of knowledge vast beyond our capacity to absorb or control; we did conceive and aspire to a morality unique in history, which placed the welfare of others ahead of our own self-interest—even if most of us didn’t practice it.

And we did produce you!

It may well be that we were not intended to last more than this distance. It may even be that your coming triggered seeds of self-destruction already implanted in us for that purpose; that our passing is as necessary to your emergence as a species as was our existence to your genesis.

But whatever the mechanism or its purpose, I think that when all are Judged at the end of Time, Homo sapiens will be adjudged, if not actually a triumph, then at least a success, according to the standards imposed by the conditions we faced and the purposes for which we were created; just as the Cro-Magnon, Neanderthal, and Pithecanthropus—and even the brontosaur—were successful in their time when judged in the light of the challenges they overcame and the purposes they served.

Single page remained. Hesitated; was final link with living past. Once read, experienced, would become just another memory. Sighed, forced eyes to focus:

Candy, my beloved daughter-in-spirit, this is most difficult to bring to a close. Irrationally, I find myself grieving over losing you; “irrationally,” I say, because it is obviously I who must leave. But leave I must, and there is no denying and little delaying of it.

It will be well with you and yours. Your growth has been sound, your direction right and healthy; you cannot fail to live a life that must make us, who discovered and attempted to guide you this far, proud of our small part in your destiny, even though we are not to be permitted to observe its fulfillment. I think I understand something of how Moses must have felt as he stood looking down that last day on Nebo.

Always know that I, the doctor, and Mrs. Foster could not have loved you more had you sprung from our own flesh. Remember us fondly, but see that you waste no time grieving after us.

The future is yours, my child; go mold it as you see the need.

Good-bye, my best and best-beloved pupil.

Love forever,

Soo Kim McDivott.

P.S.: By the authority vested in me as the senior surviving official of the United States Karate Association, I herewith promote you to Sixth Degree. You are more than qualified; see to it that you practice faithfully and remain so.

Read, reread final page until tears deteriorated vision, made individual word resolution impossible. Placed letter reverently on desk, went upstairs, outside onto balcony porch: Teacher’s favorite meditation setting. Settled onto veranda swing, eased legs into Lotus.

Terry understood; moved silently from shoulder to lap, pressed close, started random-numbers recitation of vocabulary in barely audible, tiny baby-girl voice. Held twin nestled in arms as pain escalated, tears progressed to silent, painful, wracking sobs. Sibling’s uncritical companionship, unquestioning love all that stood between me and all-engulfing blackness, fresh awareness of extent of losses threatening to overwhelm soul.

Together we watched early-afternoon cumulonimbus form up, mount into towering thunderheads, roil and churn, finally develop lightning flickers in gloom at bases, arch dark shafts of rain downward to western horizon; watched until fading light brought realization how long had sat there. Brighter stars already visible in east.

Reviewed condition with mounting surprise: eyes dry, pain gone from throat, heart; blackness hovering over soul mere memory.

Apparently had transcendentalized without conscious intent, resolved residual grief. All that remained was sweet sadness when contemplated Daddy, Momma, Teacher; were gone along with everything, everybody else, leaving only memories. Suddenly realized was grateful being permitted to keep those.

Cautiously moved exploratory muscle, first in hours. Terry twitched, fretted; then woke, set up justifiable protest over starved condition. Arose, shifted twin to shoulder; went inside, downstairs.

Picked up Tarzan File, Teacher’s letter, went back to Daddy’s house. Fed birdbrain, self; settled down, skimmed File’s contents.

Presently concluded Teacher correct (profound shock, that): Peter Bell doubtless best prospective soulmate of lot. Very smart, very interested, very conscious; educational credits to date sound like spoof (nobody that young could have learned that much, except, uh . . . perhaps me—okay); very strong, quick; very advanced in study of Art (Eighth Degree!); plus (in words of Teacher): “Delightfully unconcerned about his own accomplishments; interested primarily in what he will do next.” And, “. . . possessed of a wry sense of humor.” Sounds like my kind of guy. Hope turns out can stand him.

Sat for long moments working up nerve. Then picked up phone, deliberately dialed area code, number. Got stranded after a few moments’ clicking, hissing when relay Somewhere Out There stuck. Tried again; hit busy circuit (distinct from busy number; difference audible—also caused by sticky relay). Tried again, muttering in beard. Stranded again. Tried again. Failed again.

“That’s bad!” offered Terry enthusiastically, bobbing head cheerfully.

Took deep breath, said very bad word, tried again.

Got ring tone! Once, twice, three times; then: “Click. Hello, is that you, Candy? Sure took you long enough. This is Peter Bell. I can’t come to the phone right now; I’m outside taking care of the stock. But I’ve set up this telephone answering machine to guard my back. It’s got an alarm on it that’ll let me know you’ve called so I can check the tape.

“When you hear the tone at the end of my message, give me your phone number if you’re not at home—don’t forget the area code if it’s different from your home—and I’ll call you back the moment I get back and find your message. Boy, am I glad you’re all right.


Caught agape by recording. Barely managed regroupment in time to stutter out would be home; add if not, would be at farm, give number before machine hung up, dial tone resumed.

Repeated bad word. Added frills tailored specifically for answering machine.

Did dishes, put away. Refilled twin’s food dish, changed water; moved stand into study, placed next to desk, within convenient head-scritching range.

Settled into Daddy’s big chair, opened journal, brought record up-to-date. Have done so. Now up-to-date. Current. Completely. Nothing further to enter. So haven’t entered anything else. For quite a while.

Midnight. Might as well read a book.

Stupid phone.


Awoke to would-be rooster’s salute to dawn’s early light. Found self standing unsteadily in middle of study, blinking sleep from eyes, listening to echoes die away. Glared at twin; received smug snicker in return.

Took several moments to establish location, circumstances leading to night spent in chair with clothes on. When succeeded, opened mouth, then didn’t bother—realized bad word wouldn’t help; no longer offered relief adequate to situation.

Casual approach had worn out about one a.m.—by which time had read possibly ten pages (of which couldn’t remember single word). Featherhead snored on stand; nothing within reach to disassemble, had lost interest.

Yawning prodigiously myself by time abandoned pretense, grabbed phone, dialed number.

Got through first try. But was busy!

Repeated attempt at five-minute intervals for two hours or until fell asleep—whichever came first.

Have just tried line again. Still busy. Better go make breakfast.


Contact problem no longer funny. In two months since last entry have averaged five tries daily. Result: Either (usually) busy signal or transistorized moron spouts same message. One possible explanation (among many): Recorded message mentions no dates; could have been recorded day after Armageddon, yesterday—anytime.

Not that am languishing, sitting wringing hands by phone, however; have been busy. Completed move to farm; padded supply reserves; shored weaknesses; collected additional livestock, poultry. Have electrified fences, augmented where appeared marginally dogproof; trucked in additional grain (learned to drive semi, re-re-re-replete with 16-speed transmission—truly sorry about grain company’s gatepost, but was in way; should have been moved long ago); located, trucked in two automatic diesel generators, connected through clever relay system so first comes on line (self-starting) if power fails, second kicks in if first quits. So far has worked every time tested, just as book said.

Have accumulated adequate fuel for operation: Brought in four tankers brimfull of diesel (6,000 gallons each); rigged up interconnecting hose system guaranteeing gravity feed to generators—whichever needs, gets. At eight gallons hourly (maximum load), should provide over four months’ operation if needed. (However, farm rapidly taking on aspect of truck lot. Must think about disposing of empties soon; otherwise won’t be able to walk through yard.)

Overkill preparations not result of paranoia. Attempting to make place secure in absence; improve odds of finding habitable, viable farm on return, even if sortie takes longer than expected. Which could; is over 900 miles (straight-line) to File’s address on Peter Bell. And he’s only first on AA list; others scattered all over.

Have attempted to cover all bets, both home and for self on trip. F’rinstance, chose vehicle with care: four-wheel-drive Chevy van. Huge mud/snow tires bulge from fenders on all four corners, provide six inches extra ground clearance, awesome traction. Front bumper mounts electric winch probably capable of hoisting vehicle bodily up sheer cliff. Interior has bed, potty, sink, stove, sundry cabinets—and exterior boasts dreadful baroque murals on sides.

Though might appear was built specifically to fill own needs (except for murals—and need for build-ups on pedals), was beloved toy of town banker. When not pinching pennies, frittered time away boonies-crawling in endless quest for inaccessible, impassable terrain. Bragged hadn’t found any. Hope so; bodes well for own venture.

Personal necessities, effects aboard. Include: ample food, water for self, Terry; bedding, clothing, toiletries; diverse tools, including ax, bolt cutters, etc.; spares for van; siphon, pump, hose for securing gas; small, very nasty armory, including police chief’s sawed-off riot gun, two magnum revolvers, M-16 with numerous clips and scope. Not expecting trouble, but incline toward theory that probably won’t rain if carry umbrella.

Leaving this journal here in shelter for benefit of archaeologists; keep separate book on trip. Can consolidate on return; but if plans go awry, this account still available for Posterity.

Well, time to go: Unknown beckons.

But have never felt so small. Awfully big world waiting out there.

For me.

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