Mark Taylor

Aaron sat in one of the two chairs adorning what could be called the living space of his log cabin. The other chair had long been vacated. And the cabin was only his because he said it was his. No one had ever argued.

No one argued because Aaron was alone. He had been now for many years.

He’d had that dream again last night. It was now officially recurring. Five times made it recurring. At least in Aaron’s mind it did. The dream was about small birds. Hundreds and hundreds of yellow chicks - like the ones you used to get on Easter cards. The first time he had it, after he awoke and rose, sitting at his table he’d toyed with his homemade marshmallow squares and small wooden cocktail sticks. As his mind wandered, his hands found themselves fashioning a baby chick out mallow and stick. It was quite cute really.

He decided to keep it.

At least mallow hardens and doesn’t go moldy. Well, it doesn’t in two weeks anyway.

He stared at his five marshmallow effigies; one morbid, misshapen reminder of his bizarre dream after another. An army standing upon the mantle. One for each recurrence of the dream. Staring at him.

He looked away as if they might judge him for staring. He even went as far as to cover his face. Maybe if he did that, they’d stop staring back.

Sitting alone, hiding his face, there was a knock at the door. A slow, somber, knock.

He must have imagined it, of course. No one had knocked on the door of the cabin since… well, not long after The Event. Not since Caden had left. Caden left to get supplies from the city - or what was left of it - three - maybe four? - years ago now. Aaron was beginning to think he might not be coming back.

But if that was a knock at the door?

Maybe Caden was back. Aaron stood, turning in excitement towards the door, and then stopping himself. But what if it wasn’t Caden? Is this how he was to die?

Aaron stood. Silent. His mind torn between opening the door, and leaving it - pretending he wasn’t home. Surely they’d just leave if there was no one home?

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Each thump against the wood reverberated around the cabin. Definitely knocking. Someone really is there. Aaron shook himself out of this waking paralysis he seemed to have drifted into. Hm. He should do something. He walked over to the door, sucked air deep into his lungs and swung the door open.

Half expecting Caden, half expecting some sort of horrid death to befall him, Aaron looked somewhat bewildered at the young girl on the other side of the door. She looked about fourteen. She had dusty blond hair tied in pigtails, deep penetrating blue eyes and was wearing a Girl Scout uniform. She looked Aaron straight in the eyes and nodded passed him saying, “Is it alright if I, um, come in?”

With a sudden sting of natural politeness - a flashback to days long passed - Aaron stepped aside, allowing the girl to enter, and watched her walk over to the two chairs and sit in Caden’s.

“Please,” the girl gestured into the opposing chair.

Aaron looked out of the still open door onto the grasses overlooking the lake, glanced around, and then closed the door, satisfied that the girl certainly appeared alone. He looked at her and smiled. His smile was crooked. “Would you like coffee?” he asked, “I can boil a drum of water.”

The girl shook her head. “Please Aaron,” she said, “sit.”

Aaron did as she asked, sat opposite her, and asked how she knew his name.

“I know many things. Just as I knew that this was Caden’s chair did I know your name.” She spoke beyond her years. “Tell me, why have you been so sad recently?”

Aaron was unsure of how to react and so fell once again on natural instinct. He sat back and crossed his legs in front of himself, resting his hands in his lap: Like he was at a job interview. “I have been struggling to stay… myself these days,” he explained, “I have become disillusioned spending all this time alone. It has depressed me. I’ve also started acting…” he stopped short.

“Yes?” the girl’s tone was insistent.

“Strangely.” Aaron concluded. “I don’t think I’m quite myself anymore.”

“That is not a surprise though,” she said, “is it? You have been here alone with no one to talk to, touch, or share your feelings with for so long. Do you blame yourself?”

Aaron shook his head and spoke calmly but with conviction. “No. I blame…” he thought for a second, “the government for not telling us what was happening when the things fell from the sky. I blame the military for not protecting us from what came with those things, the monsters inside. I blame God for letting it happen.”

The girl nodded. “Good. None of this is your fault Aaron. It was all God’s fault. Those things,” she continued, “they still live in the cities, the monsters from the sky.”

Aaron glanced over to the window as if he expected to see one of them there, ready to break through the glass and reach inside: A nightmare that Aaron had had four times. It didn’t bother him. It wasn’t recurring.

“Don’t worry,” the girl continued, “you are quite safe here. You see, they don’t leave the city. They are more than at home there, where they are.”

Aaron was visually relieved. “So, what can I do for you…?” He trailed off. He didn’t know her name.

“Lucy,” she said, “my name is Lucy.”

“So what can I do for you, Lucy?” Aaron smiled. It was a pretty name. It suited her.

“I need…” she stopped and thought, looking continuously into Aarons eyes. “I need someone to take charge for me. You see, I’m not the person I used to be.”

Aaron shook his head. “I don’t understand.”

Lucy frowned. “I need someone to lead an army.”

Aaron chuckled. “Oh. I see. An army of dolls? Are you sure you wouldn’t like to have a coffee? I can heat up a drum.”

Lucy’s frown deepened. “You do not understand. The war must be fought. You must be the leader. You must take back what once was ours.”

Aaron shook his head. “But little girl, what would you have me do? I am but one man. Possibly not an entirely… together one, at that.”

Lucy stood. “You must take a mighty army and lead them into the city. You are the last. The only hope.”

Aaron continued with the head shaking. “I’m sorry,” he said, “you have the wrong man.”

"Aaron Littlebottom.” Lucy became agitated, she stood and raised her voice - still squeaky as it was. “You are the only one left. You are the last man. You must lead the army.”

“What army?” Aaron countered in a shout. He withdrew quickly. He knew that shouting at little girls was wrong… although he couldn’t quite remember why.

“The army is of your choice.”

“What!?” Aaron became flustered. His first human contact in what felt like a lifetime had led him to be shouting at a little girl that he did didn’t know about an inconceivable war with soldiers of his choosing. He slumped back in the chair. His eyes wandered over to his marshmallow chick army and he smiled.

Lucy rubbed her eyes. “You really are mad aren’t you?” she said, rhetorically. “No,” she said, “not those.”

Aaron’s eyes darted back to the girl, then to the mallow army, then back to her. “Why?”

“Shut up,” she said. “What about Caden?”

“Caden? Caden isn’t coming back.” Aaron had reverted to looking at the mallow chicks.

“I can make Caden come back, Aaron, him… and everyone else.”

“How?” Aaron didn’t understand. How could she? None of this made any sense. He was the last? The last man? But Caden could come back?

Lucy shook her head. “Tell you what. You open the door. You see the army before you.”

Aaron stood and walked over to the door. He gripped the handle and looked back to Lucy. “I’d like to see you pull this one out of the hat…”

Aaron opened the door. Caden was standing at the front of a large group of shambling, mindless looking grotesques. More of them were shuffling towards the cabin to join the group.

Aaron closed the door. “Army of the undead, huh?”

Lucy smiled. “Well,” she said, “God would have done angels, I’m sure, but I am left with the dregs. All to clean up his mess…”

Aaron looked at his marshmallow chick army. She was right. They were no good. He needed zombies. Zombies were, after all, the solution to everything.​