5 of 5 stars.
An apocalypse is a failure of society–a failure to keep the bad at bay–a failure to keep from unraveling when tested. The opposite of society, is the individual in isolation. In this second installment to a 3-part short story series [along with “Removal Order” and “Carriers”] the failure of the herd [ie society] to keep it together leads to the opposite extreme of isolation for protagonist Nayima. This, too, is tested when she spies another lone individual . . .
The better part of a year has elapsed since Nayima’s post-apocalyptic journey began after a fatal flu pandemic wiped out 99.99% of humanity. At first she had wanted to find other people, survivor camps, that promised vaccines and herd immunity, but science failed and the herds turned rabid before they died [not unlike insomiac or rage zombies], but die they did.
She escaped the herd first by car, then bicycle and then by foot, until she finds herself on a generically named state road in central California having not seen a soul in 3 months. Every marooned car is out of gas and low on provisions. Her loneliness is nearly complete when she spots a man with a guitar walking ahead of her the same direction. When she abandons safety to yell out to him, he pauses then keeps walking. It takes her 3 days to catch up to him as he encamps in a sad county fair / abandoned Red Cross Survival Center.
Now that the world is reduced to the NIs [Naturally Immune], Nayima is desperate to start teaming up and sharing resources and maybe companionship. Guitar-playing Kyle is less convinced that everyone is naturally immune and credits his survival to his wits to leave everyone well enough alone . . .
Appearing in the anthology, Ghost Summer, this short story first appeared in The End is Now, eds. John Joseph Adams & Hugh Howey (Broadreach Publlishing) / Lightspeed, September 2014.
[Check out my other reviews here.]