I was feeding the cats and Barack Obama was there, at my back door, standing on the deck. He wore aviator sunglasses and a blue chambray shirt and jeans. I wanted to let him in but I had to keep one hand on my belt loop because I didn’t have a belt and my pants kept slipping and how awful would it be if my pants fell down in front of Obama?
I had things I wanted to talk about with Obama. I wanted him to convince Joe Biden to drop out of the race. Joe Biden is not our man, I wanted to tell him. Although I sort of liked that cop-buddy movie thing they used to have going on.
Obama was like that one ex you don’t hate. The one you’d go back to, if you could. Only he’s dead or married or something, so you can’t.
But Heaven Knows
I was happy drunk, spinning in circles in my backyard. I wore a flouncy skirt with tiny broken bits of mirror sewn into every flounce, and when I whirled and twirled, they could see me on the moon.
We were sitting in the zombie café.
No one would notice us as long as we pretended to be dead like them.
We ordered ice cream sundaes. We didn’t say a word when the waitress brought us Mexican soda instead. Tall green bottles of Sprite with paper straws.
The thing about zombies is they never complain about bad customer service.
The world was covered in vomit. A sea of vomit, only a sea has a shore, a line where dry land begins, and this didn’t.
There were places you could go to get away. Tall, fortified buildings that somehow were still climate-controlled and had fresh air piped in. The people who could afford to live there met to discuss the state of the world. One man showed a diagram explaining how humans could be genetically modified to grow gills.
The adapted surface dwellers, he said, would thus be able to perform manual labor for those who lived in the towers.
I lost interest in what was said after that. Obviously nothing had changed.
I opened my bedroom door and saddle shoes came dancing out from under my bed. They were doing a two-step. I was frightened but vindicated. I had always known my room was haunted.
I was at a country club, being chased by a man in a golf cart. I kept running, looking for places to hide. I knew I couldn’t tell anyone he was chasing me, because he owned the club. I knew this had happened before.
I hid in the pool house. Inside I found a diary. It was open to a page that said:
No one will help me
He took me and tied me up and drowned me
I ran outside and jumped in the pool. Something was floating there, long hair waving like baby snakes.
An old man singing into a 1920s Rudy Vallee megaphone:
Oh, she was young and per-ty
I was old and dir-ty
But I had lots of money
So she said she’d be my honey-bun tonight!
A Wing and a Prayer
He was flying, almost out of gas. Somewhere over Kansas, Oklahoma? Long flat plains, plowed fields. Somewhere that was not yet underwater.
He was flying under the radar. There was no radar. No instruments, no airport he could find. No sleep. Guided by stars.
The moon lit a white steeple and he saw a town, could even make out the shapes of people, gathering, pointing. He made a low pass, returned.
Then he saw something he hadn’t seen for a while. Lights. Sparks that flickered, then grew. Torches, lanterns, flashlights. Two rows of lights, a runway. A wide, empty street, and lights to guide his way. Calling him down.
As he came in for a landing he saw them looking up at him, holding their lights, waiting. Waiting for news, for hope. How long had it been since a stranger had come here? He had fallen out of the sky and they didn’t know if he was an angel or a demon.
The worst thing was, he didn’t know either.
Everyone was a vampire now, or maybe not everyone—where would they get new victims? Whose blood would they suck?—but it felt like everyone. It felt like you’d be better off to cut your losses and find somewhere else to live. A place vampires hadn’t found, if there was such a place. I walked home from my vampire high school with its vampire teachers and vampire kids, the vampire football team kicking around something red and wet, the vampire cheerleaders leaping into the air, then hovering in a bat-winged pyramid.
They always had to show off, those vampire girls.
I was tired of fighting them for so long. I needed my mom to tell me to keep fighting, that it would all be worth it. I needed her to make me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich cut into six triangles, exactly the same size.
But my house felt empty. When I called my mom she didn’t answer right away, and then she came out of her bedroom with a man who was not my father (I knew this, because my father was dead). She tried to introduce him, her vampire boyfriend, but I wasn’t going to go there. I wasn’t going to make nice with my new vampire stepfather.
How could you betray Dad like that? I asked.
Her face was weary and she looked way past me, an adult kind of tiredness I hadn’t reached yet and didn’t want to know.
Kathryn Kulpa is the author of Girls on Film (Paper Nautilus) and Pleasant Drugs (Mid-List Press). She is a flash fiction editor at Cleaver magazine. Her stories are published or forthcoming in Okay Donkey, Lost Balloon, Pidgeonholes, Milk Candy Review, and Smokelong Quarterly.
Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower