Ken Brady’s latest story, “Walkers of the Deep Blue Sea and Sky” appears in the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology, edited by Jay Lake and Frank Wu.

Read Rudi’s story “Detail from a Painting by Hieronymus Bosch” at Behind the Wainscot.

Read Daniel Braum’s story Mystic Tryst at Farrgo’s Wainscot #8.

Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

Wooden Ships

by Daniel Braum

David’s Geiger counter went click, click, click. The melted copper dome had once been part of a fancy church brought over brick by brick from Europe. Once upon a time it had stood next door to what was once David’s favorite Deli, an odd but welcome sight among the suburban sprawl.

It had been six months since it all happened, and supplies in the bomb shelter were running low. David had donned one of the suits and went scavenging. If he ran into soldiers from the other side he was done for, if he stayed put, they were all done for anyway.

The counter clicked away at every ruined building. David pointed the counter at the mass of vines snaking over the rubble where the pet store once stood. And the clicking stopped. David walked over and found a man reclining in reclining in the sun, having a smoke and a snack. He could tell from his coat he was from the other side.

David expected an attack and thought maybe he should attack first. The man noticed David and smiled. Why didn’t he have suit on, David thought.

Everything was gone and nothing mattered anymore. Still David was curious and hadn’t heard any news since it all happened.

“Is there something you could tell me please,” he asked. “Who won?”

The man shrugged. He motioned for David to take off his suit. David didn’t comply.

“Don’t trust me, check your counter,” the man said.

David did. It was all clear. He reluctantly took off his helmet.

“I’m out of supplies. I need to find some food,” David said.

The man pointed to the vines spread around the rubble. Ripe dark purple berries hung from under their green triangular leaves.

“They keep us all alive,” the man said. His tongue was stained purple.

“Us all?” David asked.

“Come,” the man said.

They followed the vines away from the rubble- a line of green snaking through cindered remains of trees and burnt out strip malls. They led into a settlement, bustling with people.

Dozens upon dozens of vines converged into one giant vine, thick as a hundred trees, reaching up into the sky, like from Jack in the beanstalk. The massive vine reached as high as David remembered the highest planes used to fly.

Where the vines thickened and combined at the base of the main stalk were organic pods that looked like the hulls of wooden sailing ships without masts or sails. People walked into them. The vines rustled and moved the wooden-ship-pods up the stalk, slowly, then faster as they climbed higher in the sky.

“Where do they go? Up into space?” David asked.

“I don’t know,” the man said. “Somewhere far away, I bet. Where we might laugh again.”

David radioed the shelter to reported his find.

“Come in alpha-bravo. Uh, I’ve found a settlement of sort. Um, there are vines. With berries. You can eat them. The vines seem to take away the radiation like a houseplant sucking cee-oh-two.”

“You’re crazy, gamma-delta,” the shelter radioed back. “You’ve got radiation sickness. Come back at once.”
“No. This is real. You should all come.”

The radio went dead.

“Come, if you’d like,” the man said. “You’ve told your friends. Its all you can do. Or stay. We are leaving, you don’t need us.”

“Guess I’ll set a course and go,” David said.

He tried the shelter again, then took off his suit and climbed in the nearest ship.


* inspired by the song, with the same name, by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young *

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