Sympathy of a Gun
by Gary Kloster
Twenty miles outside Sarasota, I stopped the motorcycle and puked my guts out
on the highway. My stomach roiled at the smell, vomit cooking on hot asphalt, the
bitter stench overlapping the sweet rot reek of the dead. I retched again, then I
heard them coming. Fighting the nausea, I stood and waited to see if they would
take me this time.
Their buzzing was high and thin, like the whine of a distant power line, but when
they surrounded me it was all I heard. Tiny wings stroked my skin, and their blue-black bodies, brimming with poison, bumped and blundered against me. They
touched me, judged me, and again found me somehow unworthy. The swarm flew
on, and left me shaking and alone to clench my teeth against a new wave of nausea
that had nothing to do with morning sickness.
"Damn you," I whispered when the feeling finally passed, and though I hadn't
spoken in two days my voice was still raw from screaming. I opened my eyes and
went to the motorcycle, reached out and flipped on the radio. "-- shelter and
safety for you there. If you are a survivor in south Florida, please go to Miami.
There is --" I snapped it off. "Damn you too." A flock of buzzards started up
shrieking from the corpses in the westbound lanes as the cycle's motor thundered
to life and I moved on, driving toward the rising sun.
The air in the rest stop was trapped and stifling, but blessedly free from the taint of
decay. There were bodies outside, ones the gators hadn't yet dragged away, but
no one had died inside. With the rain beginning to hammer down I stepped in,
cradling a crowbar as I headed toward the vending machines. I was almost to them
when I saw the broken glass, the spilled snacks and soda, and stopped. I turned
my head and saw her, huge and wrapped in pink, hunched on the bench across the
room. Her eyes were bright with pain and loss. "Hey," she whispered, voice
almost lost in the rain. "You want a coke?"
Her name was Belle. Tanned and blond, nine months along in her third pregnancy.
"My family's dead," she told me, wrapped in the calm of her shock. "We was out,
and Johnny'd cracked the windows cause he was smoking. It got in, and I heard
June, little June, say something about a wasp . . ." It took awhile for her to tell it.
One blue-black wasp, death on small wings, it killed them all. Left her alone,
surrounded by a family slumped still in their seats, left her to scream and run from
the car out into the honking traffic, looking for help. That's when the sky fell,
when a million-million shining wasps swept down the street and silenced them all,
left her alone among the running engines and falling glass and quiet dead.
"You going to Miami?" she asked me when she was done, when her tears had
stopped. "You going cause of what they say on the radio?"
"Oh." Belle shifted, looked me over. "How far along are you? You don't show."
"Couple of months. How'd you know?"
Belle shrugged. "That's all who's left, I think. Why we're not dead."