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by Chia Evers

Nobody knows what brought the first wave – the flesh-eaters – but everybody had a theory. Government experiments was a good one. Some of the older people thought it was radiation, maybe. Whole websites went up to talk about rays from outer space. A lot of people, though, thought it was something in the food. They talked about pesticides and hormones and a whole lotta other Michael Pollan/gen mod/Monsanto bullshit. I never bought it, but my girls sure did. The older one went all “locavore” on me – wouldn’t eat anything she hadn’t grown herself, or that she hadn’t seen produced. The other one went full vegan. So far as I could tell, she wouldn’t eat anything at all. Didn’t matter, though. The second wave got them both.

There are people who say we should just leave these critters alone. “Let them live,” they say. “They’re not hurting anyone.” I say it’s not living, what they’re doing – stinking of death, their ears and fingers dropping off with decay. And as for “not doing any harm,” they’re doing plenty. They feed like locusts, except locusts get full. And locusts don’t have thumbs. These people’ll understand the damage being done when their pantries are empty, and their grocery stores, too. My girls would have understood it, if it hadn’t taken them. They grew up in this orchard, and they raised animals for food. My girls knew their dinners didn’t come shrink-wrapped on styrofoam plates.

The younger one, the vegan, left the the orchard for art school in San Francisco. She fetched up with the band of critters  that ravaged Gilroy. They broke into the processing plants, tipped over full truckloads of bulbs. All that garlic must’ve done them some good, because they found their way back to I-80 and made it over Donner Pass. I can’t imagine what’ll happen to them when they reach the Salt Flats, but that’s not my problem. She’s not my problem. Not anymore.

My neighbors can’t understand me when I talk like this. “She’s your daughter!” they say. But she isn’t. My daughter died in The City. Whatever’s dragging her body around is nothing to do with me.

Her sister lasted a little longer. This thing moves like a wave, in from both coasts. She was in the viticulture program up at UC Davis. I’d told her she could have some acreage here when she finished. There are some good wineries starting in the Central Valley. I suppose it’s only natural that she went west when it took her, toward Napa. A boar hunter from Michigan took her down with a 12 gauge. He sent me her driver’s license, and an apology.

So that’s my girls, and truth be told, I’m glad they’re gone. Never mind what I said back there – I don’t know if I could have brought myself to kill my own kids, even if they are dead already.

But they’re only two. There are thousands more. Hundreds of thousands. The cities are almost empty now, and those bands of critters are roaming the countryside, looking for food. Whatever sense they have left draws them to farms, vineyards, orchards and sometimes, processing plants like that one in Gilroy. They’re not flesh-eaters, like the first wave. Not unless you make them mad.

Last week, one of my rice-farming neighbors took out a few hundred with his combine, before the survivors climbed up in the cab and ate his brain. I knew one of those critters, when he was at school with my girls. Nice kid. Had a 4-H pig in the 7th grade and never ate meat again – not until Harrison ran over his friends. I’ve got something a little… bigger in mind.

It’s the irrigation that makes our crops grow, and without the dams, the irrigation doesn’t happen. There’s a lot of water bottled up behind those dams, and there are a lot of abandoned construction sites since the first wave took so many of the road workers. That means a lot of equipment, and a lot of dynamite, that isn’t guarded. The dams aren’t guarded anymore, either. I know these critters can’t be drowned, but I’ve seen cows left in water too long. The skin and muscle all washes away from the bone, and I can’t see how even a dead thing can move after that’s happened.

Tonight, I’m going out to shake fruit from the trees. Tomorrow, when they come, I’ll be ready.

Pray for me. I think I’m going to need it.