Long after the apocalypse, the pandemics and zombies had come and gone; the nuclear bombs detonating in their bunkers poisoning the ground and water…humankind survived.

Fifteen years after the last piece of toilet paper went extinct in the deep woods on a dark night, an old man walked into a decaying department store. This was a rare occasion as the human population had dwindled to a mere 42,000 worldwide, and a mere six hundred in the United States…or what it was formerly known as.

The store being raided by both mice and men was a mere shell. Bones of humans and animals alike littered the store from front to back from the battles and the struggles to survive all lost within these walls.

The old man chuckled at the stupidity of it all as the skulls crunched under his feet. He imagined he could tell the difference between the bones of the dead, the undead, and the animal inhabitants of the great walmartian graveyard. Being alone so long, his audible hallucinations made him hear the angry cries of the mad shoppers trying to buy the meaningless trinkets for the pointless holidays.

Climbing over a pile of carts that once held TVS, Furbees, and Tickle Me Elmos, he spotted his prey. The reason he had traveled the wastelands. The speck of humanity no one cared to raid, or horde…the phone cards and gift cards. These were his dearest prizes. He filled his semi- quickly with all the store had. While the sun was visible through the toxic clouds, before the creatures came hunting for him. He shoveled a few bodies into the flames on his steam engine and went off to the next place. Year after year, store after store. Across the country, he collected the plastic prizes. He drove on the power of flame and death until he had fulfilled his quota. A mountain of plastic cards once worth billions, now worthless to all life, save his own. When not on a GC expedition, he build himself a home with real plastic walls.

One night after too much wine drank out of a fairly putrid skull, the formula came to him as if completed by the gods, his eureka moment, given to him during a sex dream. The thing he had been pondering since the troll took office.

The way to escape. He immediately began and finished twelve years later on his eighty-second birthday a ship powered by the greed of man. A ship powered by GCs would take him beyond the stars. Sadly, he died of exhaustion once the shuttle left the atmosphere. But the auto pilot took over, launching itself outside the Milky Way, past the viewable galaxies and to the very edge of space itself. The last GC breaking down into molecular power as the ship crashed into the barrier of flat space into whatever lies beneath and beyond.

[James Merritt writes short material bordering on science fiction–futuristic and the macabre. He lives in Maryland. James is a teacher, caretaker, adventurer and writer. A published collection of his work can be ordered from Amazon.com]