The End: Surviving the Apocalypse

The End: Surviving the Apocalypse by Richard Palmer Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: The End: Surviving the Apocalypse by Richard Palmer Read Free Book Online
Authors: Richard Palmer
her, firelight flickering across his face, and say something beautiful and sad, like, “I never thought it would be like this.” She would place a hand on his cheek and lean in and kiss him, letting her hands play across his—
    “Are they nice?”
    Q flushed. “What?”
    “The other kids?” Hannah said again. “Are they nice? You’re spending a whole weekend with them. What if you don’t like them? What if they don’t like you? What if the food’s weird and they don’t let you have top bunk and everyone wants to watch a different channel?”
    “They’ll be great,” Q said. “I meet them tonight.”
    “Wow, Q. You’re really brave.”

Chapter Nine
    Q walked the walk of a woman condemned to spending a whole evening with a bunch of hippies. It was a slow and ponderous walk that involved a great deal of chewing: she was stocking up on real food ahead of three days of enforced veganism. She discarded the evidence of her meal (fried chickeny goodness with a side of dairy-whip sparkle icee) and entered the community center.
    There were about thirty people in the small room. Most of them were female. She tried to smile and remember names as Rabbit introduced her, but found her mind drifting, as it always did in new environments, to the location of the exits and which pieces of furniture would make the best weapons in an emergency. As usual, she found herself forming two separate plans, one for Nazi terrorists and the other for sewer monsters. She sat down next to a heavy woman in her forties with short blond hair and an easy smile who introduced herself as Angela.
    A slender woman with long red hair, sharp features and a large wooden pendant hanging around her neck stood up at the front of the room and spoke in a clipped voice.
    “Thank you for coming,” she said. “I’m Kate, for anyone who doesn’t know me.” She paused, as if to indicate that in the unlikely event that there was someone in the audience who didn’t know her, the fault lay with them. “We have a full agenda, so I’ll get started straight away. Why are we here?”
    A lifetime of sexual bliss?
    “To stop the slaughter and save the world,” twenty-nine voices recited.
    Oh God. Rabbit was in a cult!
    “That’s right,” Kate said. She read over the sheet of paper in her hand. “William, have you got an update on the newsletter?”
    William was a thin, bearded man in his forties. “I’m starting a new contest called— wait for it— ‘Name My Fungus!’” he said.
    Kate didn’t even raise an eyebrow. “And how will that work?”
    “People send in pictures of field mushrooms and have them identified as edible or not.”
    “Right,” said Kate. “What’s the prize?”
    The meeting moved on. Kate’s tone turned to honey as she called on Rabbit for an update about the weekend retreat. Q drifted away on a mattress of his words.
    After the meeting, she chatted to Angela as she waited for Rabbit to emerge from a circle of women. It turned out that, despite being vegan, the older woman was quite nice and barely strange at all.
    “Life changed when I had kids,” Angela said. “I got scared about the world. You worry about the future they’re gonna have. I started getting nightmares about where it was all headed. Everything spiraling down into decay.”
    “I know exactly what you mean,” Q said. “Hordes of the demonic undead?”
    “No, climate change, but that sounds bad too. You should chat to Michelle. She’s passionate about eco apocalypse and global warming.”
    “Me too. I hate winter. Which one’s Michelle?”
    Angela pointed to a woman with hair the color of flames at midnight.
    “You mean the Scarlet Terror?”
    “I’m bad at remembering names,” Q said. “But I’m great at picking out what someone would call their avatar.”
    “We’re very different, you and I,” said Angela. “Let’s join the line for food.”
    Q grimaced. “I hate queues.”
    “That’s ironic and

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