by Gary Duncan
They found a crumbling farmhouse on top of the hill, just outside the village. A good spot, on high ground, three miles from the coast. Close enough to see the sea; to see the island.
Charlie and Sally were upstairs, in the main bedroom, watching. They’d lost four people the night before: four good people. The others had wanted to head inland, to higher ground, but Charlie said the island would be safer. They’d have boats and they could fish and go ashore for supplies. They’d go in teams, armed and ready, and take whatever they needed.
“They’d still be alive,” Charlie said. “They shouldn’t have listened to me.” He’d carved his name into the old dresser next to the window, and was picking at it with his hunting knife.
“They’d have frozen up there,” Sally said. “Two days and they’d all be dead.”
Sally looked out over the fields, towards the island. She wanted a hot bath and clean sheets and breakfast in bed. She wanted Chris and Alex and Robyn, the way it used to be.
“How’s everyone?” Charlie asked, turning to face her.
Sally shrugged. “The girls are sleeping. Tom’s watching over them. Carrie and Steve are watching out back. Carrie found a couple of old hunting rifles in the cellar.”
Bob had lost his wife and son the night before. Bob’s son had been the same age as her Alex.
Sally shook her head. Eventually she said, “Connor says there’s a farm on the island, so there’ll be tractors and equipment, plenty of food and fuel, enough to keep us going. There’s cattle and pigs, and we can-”
She stopped, and smiled. It was the first time Charlie had seen her smile for a long time.
“What?” he asked.
“I was going to say we can live off the fat of the land. And have rabbits, you know, like George and Lennie.”
Charlie looked blankly at her.
“Of Mice and Men. George and Lennie, the two main characters, they have this thing, this dream. They’re going to buy some land, just the two of them, and grow their own vegetables and keep rabbits and chickens and-”
“I’ve never read it,” Charlie said, turning back to the window.
They were quiet for a while, and then Charlie said, “Is it a happy ending? The story?”
“No,” Sally said quietly, “it’s not.”
Gary Duncan is a freelance writer and editor based in Northumberland, England. His short stories have appeared in Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, The Pygmy Giant, Shotgun Honey, Yellow Mama, and Near to the Knuckle. He is the founding editor of Spelk.