Underlanders: When the world ends …

When the world ends, I’ll be sitting on my back porch with a bottle of scotch, toasting the zombies on their way to eat me. I don’t see myself as much of an apocalyptic fighter. (I mean, how do you expect me to live without Netflix?) However, some people are fighters: namely, the people in my new short story, “Underlanders,” featured in Arizona State’s literary magazine Canyon Voices. Here’s a teaser …

“Underlanders:” An Excerpt
By Sara Dobie Bauer
Published in Canyon Voices

Marie found her boys in the library, where they rested in all manner of recline. Tiny sat in the large, leather desk chair, with a book in his hands. The other boys sat on couch cushions and cafeteria seats. Some were on the ground—others stood in corners—but they all listened as Tiny stuttered through the rhyme of “The Raven.”

Marie listened to the words, but she also listened to the sounds of the abandoned hospital at night. She knew what sounds were welcome—the settling of the building, rain against windows, boys shuffling to the restroom. She knew sounds that were not: heavy, adult footsteps; the slamming of doors; inhuman growls. She heard none of these noises, nothing at all, and yet, the stranger suddenly arrived at her side.

He said, “I’ve always loved Poe.”

The boys turned. Shippy was the first to stand up, squint, and point. “Did you hear him talk? He is James Bond!”

Voices surrounded the stranger as he walked to the stacks of books, arranged in messy piles on heavy, metal bookcases that covered the windows and walls. She noticed he walked with no sound.

Yellow stood behind Shippy and shouted, “Can he stay? Will he stay, Mother?” His blond head shined silver.

Marie was too busy watching the stranger to respond. She could see his eyes change. From cold, dark blue, his eyes began to shine. He reached out long, pale fingers and took hold of a battered volume of William Shakespeare. She thought she saw his hand shake, and his eyes watered.

“Where did you get all these?” He put the book under his nose and sniffed.

“People left them behind.”

Then, Shippy ran to the stranger’s side—out of character for a boy taught to trust no one. “Are you really James Bond? You are, aren’t you?”

The stranger ran his thumbs over the picture of Shakespeare’s face. He glanced at Marie before looking down at the boy who needed glasses. “Yes, I am.”

“I knew it!”

The sad hospital library erupted in sound, but Marie hushed them until the room was silent.

“Would you read to us?”

“Tiny, the man needs to rest,” she said.

“No, I …” The stranger rubbed his eyes. “I would love to.”

“Can he, Mother? Please?”

Marie nodded.

“Do we call you Mr. Bond or double-oh-seven or—”

“James is fine.” He put his hand on Shippy’s head as he walked past the boy. Tiny vacated the desk chair and gestured with dusty hands. The other boys returned to their states of recline, but their eyes were bright. Unaccustomed to a new voice, they waited. They were the most patient group of children in the history of Earth, and they remained that way, frozen.

(Read the whole story at ASU’s Canyon Voices HERE. I promise nothing bad happens …)

 

 

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