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Boys & Their Monsters: Post-Apocalyptic Stories

Boys & Their Monsters: Post-Apocalyptic Stories

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From "The End of the World is Better with Friends":

I stood on the bridge over the eastern dam, a dozen feet above the water’s surface, and followed Michelangelo’s trail as he whizzed by the pedestrian bridge and then past the collapsed bridge where the bats lived. Ripples in the shallow lake water trailed the quadruped robot as he zoomed toward me.

I noted the time on my stopwatch—just under two minutes—as Michelangelo rounded the corner and came along the final stretch. In the water beside the road, the beast’s slimy tail undulated as it hurried to keep up with the speeding robot. The hair on my neck stood on end. Seeing its wake always gave me the creeps.

Michelangelo took the last corner sharply, barely losing any speed. His dust cloud blew across the bridge, and the robot finally came to a stop next to me. I clicked a button on the stopwatch to mark the time.

“Five oh three! Now that’s what I’m talking about!”

I smacked the solar panels that doubled as the robot’s protective shell—it was squat and low like a turtle, six feet wide at the center. An orange stripe of paint crossed his central panel diagonally. “You didn’t even give Slimeball time to break the surface this run. That’s a new record, Mikey.”

Michelangelo merely tilted his solar panels toward the setting sun, taking advantage of the pause to recharge. He may have been a wicked fast transport bot, but Michelangelo didn’t have the capacity for speech.

With no one to talk to, it could get lonely in this dead city. Since the alien ships inexplicably rose through the atmosphere and departed like a cosmic swarm of satiated mosquitos moving on to their next victim, I had been this city’s sole inhabitant.

Everyone else I had ever known had died during the invasion.

The beast I called Slimeball, whom the alien invaders had left behind, turned and began to make its way back to the center of the lake. Its massive wake described a large, legless serpentine form wriggling under the surface. It was likely heading to its bed at the lowest depth, but I couldn’t really say for sure where it went to rest.

I sniffed.

A dam at either end of the lake kept this stretch of water from drying up—and kept Slimeball penned in. I suspected the only reason the aliens hadn’t sucked the fresh water out of this lake, like they had out of Lake Michigan and the other great lakes, was for the sake of this monster.

I had no idea why they left it behind. Maybe they were in a hurry. Maybe they left it to torment the scattered fraction of humanity still struggling to survive on this ravaged world.

Unfortunately, the lake was also the only source of fresh water I had left. That’s why I was making Mikey race. I figured that if I could create a reliable distraction with the robot, I could retrieve enough fresh water to fill my water catch system. This, my last test run, seemed to indicate that the plan had legs.

I pulled aside the panel covering one of the passenger seats inside Michelangelo’s shell, then jumped in and let his guidance system lead us home.

I hung on, gripping the padded safety bars while we drove along streets lined by abandoned and dilapidated skyscrapers. As we turned to head back to the shelter, something moving down near the river caught my attention.

I pulled Michelangelo around in a sharp U-turn, my eyes scanning the tree that lined the lake.

My heart pounded. Had my eyes deceived me?

No. There! A thin figure in a oversized green Army surplus coat and baseball cap. The figure dropped off a tree branch and crept toward the water. I pulled Mikey to a stop and jumped out as I saw the familiar ripples on the surface of the water glide toward the shore.

“Get back!” I shouted. My shock at seeing another person was tempered by the conditioning of fear that several close run-ins with Slimeball had instilled. “The water’s not safe!”

A boy turned and regarded me. His eyes narrowed with distrust. He crouched on the thick tangle of tree roots and lowered a plastic jug into the water.

“Are you deaf? I said the water’s not safe! There’s a monster in there!”

He let the jug fill while he watched me, licking cracked lips. Apparently, fresh water was worth the risk. That was something I could understand, having gone through the trouble of figuring out how to distract Slimeball so I could get fresh water for myself. But the dark hump of Slimeball’s back was rising out of the river now. If I didn’t do something—and fast—the only human I’d seen here in years was going to become a Slimeball snack.

“Mikey, run!”

Civilization has been laid to waste…

…and the sand blasted ruins populated by monsters.

But for a few intrepid survivors, the real adventure has only just begun.

Escape into five science fiction stories of survival and grit with daring heroes that journey through post-apocalyptic wastelands, forge new alliances, and face down their greatest fears.

From bestselling author M.G. Herron, this collection includes:

– “The End of the World Is Better with Friends
– “Centurion
– “Make Like the Roaches and Survive
– “The Road Is Three
– “Low Desert, High Mountain, Big Lizard

Are you ready for a post-apocalyptic adventure? Get it now!

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Boys & Their Monsters is a standalone collection of post-apocalyptic sci-fi short stories.

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