Author : Glenn Blakeslee
After The Fall Carlos was at loose ends and alone, so he hot-wired Daniel’s old Chevy, siphoned gas from abandoned cars and drove north. He hadn’t seen Daniel for a while and was sure he was dead. He saw people from the freeway but didn’t stop.
He drove the pass and the long incline to the high desert. There were cars along the way, some with dead people still in their seats and some not, and he took gas where he found it. The country was sere and without life but he found the way without trouble, remembering fishing trips with Papa long ago.
The country gradually changed and the air became cooler as the road ran alongside the mountains still with snow, the manzanita giving way to fir and bristlecone pine. He stopped at isolated gas stations and finding them abandoned helped himself to food still on the shelves. Once he found a store full of jerky and he took it without guilt. Further north there were no people, none at all.
Daniel’s Chevy stopped running as late shadows from granite peaks fell across the valley. Carlos looked under the hood, found dark oil running along the motor, dripping to the ground. He didn’t know about fixing cars so he took his pack from the seat and Daniel’s gun from under the seat and began walking north.
At dusk Carlos followed a road lined with trees up the slope to the mountains, thinking he’d find water. The road ended where it couldn’t climb higher, blocked by ridges and gullies, and there he found a building, big like a church, built of stone with a high white tower, fronted by a pond choked with weeds. He called but no one answered.
He forced the door like Daniel had shown him. Inside were displays and photographs, stuffed fish covered with dust, old stuff from long ago. In other rooms there were beds, and televisions which no longer worked. Outside he climbed stone steps to a low concrete wall.
Over the wall he found water, and in the water were thousands of fish. The concrete formed a long narrow pool and as he walked the fish followed him, boiling across the surface like a single thing, swimming over one another and submerging. The fish were dark, slick in the dying light, and they followed him.
He found bags of green crumbly pellets in a shed and he carried a handful to the pool, threw it in. The fish jumped for the pellets, flowed and gathered and followed him, and he brought more to the pool until it fell dark. He found a place in the building and slept.
Every day he fed the fish. He moved a bed into the tower and slept there. He’d never liked the taste of fish and forgot how Papa cleaned them so he ate jerky and food from the building. He watched the sun rise over the mountains and fed the fish.
One morning he heard a car. He pulled Daniel’s gun from the pack and climbed down from the tower. A man and a boy stood next to the pool, watching the fish. The man said hello. He was big with blonde hair falling to his shoulders, the boy a smaller version. They were smiling, happy to see Carlos.
“Here’s food!” the man said pointing to the fish, but Carlos knew the fish were his and he shook his head his hand on the gun at his back. The man reached into the pool the fish swarming to his hand and he pulled out a fish and swung it at the concrete, breaking its head, and so Carlos pulled out the gun and shot him and then the boy. He pulled their bodies to the bushes off the concrete.
Carlos sat on the wall of the pool in the morning sun, away from the slick of blood on the concrete, and he fed his fish.