Apocalyptic short story about apocalypses will leave you moved, glum

The latest Futurismic short-story is an incredibly grim but sweetly smartassed apocalyptic tale called "Tupac Shakur and the End of the World," by Sandra McDonald. Tupac is the story of band of survivors of a plague that paralyses its victims and leaves them to die; as Susan, the narrator, slogs down the Interstate to Orlando, she has plenty of time to ruminate on what makes apocalypse stories so compelling. Neat narrative trick, and carried off well. Great way to cure your early-March-happiness.

The worst part - well, one of the worst parts, disregarding the collapse of modern civilization - is that it was my own stupid choice to leave Florida in the first place, and here I am spending my last days trying to get back there. I don't have the Creep yet but let's not pretend I'm special or mysteriously immune. I'm not the plucky heroine of a summer blockbuster who will find true love (shaggy-haired Brendan Fraser would be nice, or Daniel Craig with his icy blue eyes) and then become matriarch of a community of ragtag survivors. I'm just me - Susan Donoghue, thirty-one, former textbook writer, currently hiking down I-95 in North Carolina armed with a .45 handgun, pepper spray, and a hunting knife. I won't let anyone touch me.

Let's not pretend, either, that I'm on anything but a fool's errand. My sister Marie, her husband Mike, and my baby niece Monica are probably already dead. The best I'll be able to do is bury them. Take their hardened, Creepified bodies and put them in the dirt, then drop down beside them.

With me on this southbound hike are Lazy Lamar, Crazy Chris, Tipsy Tina and Jumping Jack. The alliterative nicknames were Tina's idea - some trick she used to do as an icebreaker when she used to teach equal opportunity seminars in Baltimore. The only one I really trust is Jumping Jack. He and I left Brooklyn eighteen days ago. He's a lot like Brendan Fraser, except gay. He wants to die in Miami.


(Image: The Apocalypse Is a "Once in a Lifetime" Thing! a Creative Commons Attribution photo from Sister72's photostream)


  1. Hmm. this ‘creep’ sounds like the low-rent version of ‘medusa’ from the King of Thorns manga. Which is, incidentally, one of the most awesome of the lesser known manga out there.

    1. I believe it’s intended to illustrate the apocalyptic portion and not the Florida portion.

  2. How appropriate that a week after checking out from the library and viewing the DVD “On The Beach” that something like this would pop up.

  3. Years ago they interviewed the former Soviet Union’s top bioweapons engineer. One of his proud creations was highly infectious, but designed to be easily destroyed by your immune system. The sinister part was that it trained your immune system to attack your myelin. So shortly afterward, you’d end up with raging MS or other neurodegenerative disease.

    He bragged about how easy it was to do.

  4. A piece of brilliant advice a fellow writer once gave me was to cut the first paragraph after you write your final draft. I think this story would be stronger if she had and just worked those details into character dialogue. Just my .02

  5. Is it just me that had my suspension of disbelief thoroughly jolted by the bullet in the fuel tank moment (in this case, cans of gasoline in the car)?

    Intentionally ironic or not, the story lost me right there. You can’t snark about genre convention and then immediately employ it afterwards. Well, you *can* but then all the snark seems a lot emptier and a great deal less poignant.

  6. Wow, that was really cool, even though I cannot possibly imagine how a contagion like “the Creep” could spread: someone starts getting stiff, just burn ’em where they stand. Everyone should be walking around with flamethrowers and filter masks.

  7. I didn’t want to litter in the linked story’s thread, but I gotta complain somewhere (having spent my never-to-be-restored time and invaluable attention): the story’s pacing is junk; it needs proofreading; the main character’s reveal regarding Tupac turns her into an unsympathetic character, one the reader finds has wasted her life writing books whose subjects she despises. Turning the main character into an unsympathetic character at the story’s ends makes any self-aware reader feel betrayed.

    A character who writes about topics she hates? That’s some metafictive commentary right there.

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