Now released on Amazon.com for the Kindle and devices with free Kindle application. 2012 Rabbits and the Happy Apocalypse on Shortwave Radio, is now available in an electronic edition for $2.99, text to speech enabled, 88,000 words, from Amazon.com in Canada, United Kingdom, Germany. Released in the USA.
E-book ISSN: 978-09877363-0-7 Paper 978-0-9877363-1-4
There have been many apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic books. The field is turning into a genre. I wanted to write something that wasn’t dismal and horror based. No crazed violence or porn. It’s hard to top Mad Max, THX-1138 or On The Beach. Those are tall shoulders. I wondered what a pleasant end of the world story would be like? Could it be tastefully Canadian, could it be a whopper of a story? This book took about four years to write. I think watching geese in the park helped. Last Man Standing discovers, radio, dogs, travel then nature vs humanity. I suppose, basic themes. Editing from Michel Basilieres and advice from John McFetridge went a long way.
One of the features of electronic books is you can download a ten percent sample for free. When I started writing this novel, the e-book was still an expensive novelty. When I finished, the Kindle had become a reality. For $2.99 it’s like you bought me a beer.
2012: Rabbits and the Happy Apocalypse on Shortwave Radio, will soon be available on Smashwords for Kobe, B & N, and also print editions. Here is an excerpt. copyright Roy Berger, Cornwall, 2011.
Table of Contents
Chapter One – Liquor, Guns and Dogs
Chapter Two – Nancy Wanderlust Explains Herself
Chapter Three – Motel Skull
Chapter Four – Spiders and Rats as Big as Houses
Chapter Five – Tango Romeo Foxtrot Charlie
Chapter Six – Cheer Across The Land
Chapter Seven – Happy New Year
Chapter Eight – End of the Wold Party
Chapter Nine – Honourable Goats
Chapter Ten – Demented Perversions of Nature
Mr. Berger has authorized us to release a sample from the book:
Liquor Guns and Dogs
I don’t know much about what really happened but it definitely started off with a little disaster that, in turn, caused a bigger one. By coincidence there were also attacks of sabotage by disgruntled worker intrigues, terrorists, cabals and the great unwashed. Oh, yeah and there was this flu too and on top of that it snowed. It snowed and it didn’t stop snowing. The net, the social safety net, it disappeared. Poof.
My time had come.
I hadn’t opened the store yet. I had a used and rare book store not far from the inner city. Christmas was just a few weeks away. I didn’t know I’d be thinking about shooting my neighbours in the face long before then.
The sky was grey and the snow steady and gentle with big puffy flakes. You didn’t need a magnifying glass to see the crystals.
I did an uneventful and routine day at the store. I entered a stack of books on Amazon. They were leaning into an ashtray on the desk. I insulted two customers. This couple I’d never seen before walked in. The woman looked at the bargain shelf. It had a big sign above it that said, ‘Two For Five Dollars’.
“Are these two for five dollars?” she asked.
I looked at her. I looked at him. “Yes, the two for five dollar books are two for five dollars.”
They caught a tone in my voice. They looked at one another. “It’s a good thing you’re in business for yourself.”
They walked out.
I sold ten bucks worth of kid’s books to a concerned mom. While I was bagging I stuffed in an Agatha Christie and a Huckleberry Finn. This guy came in. He had a car load full of hard cover university text books. They were in perfect condition from 1996. My back hurt looking at them. He kept pointing to the sixty and eighty dollar price tags. We got into an argument about why I didn’t want to buy five boxes of dated text books.
I was tired of paying to store crap no one wanted.
They bring me crap. I had one a few months ago. Her father had died and she was clearing out the estate. She drove up in a station wagon with a forty year run of Reader’s Digest. Then she told me about all the negatives she had put out in the garbage the week before. Her father was a photographer during the second world war and had been assigned to cover the Nuremberg trials. She said the negs were two by two squares. That meant a portrait camera, probably a Rolleiflex or Hassablad I figured. Something for close-ups. She tossed the negs because she figured they couldn’t be developed. In this business you’re not allowed to continually punch people in the face. You ought to be able to but there it is.
The last customer came in at seven thirty, a lady with a preference for Nora Roberts. I forced her to buy a Steinbeck as well. I kept pushing the strong female qualities inherent in The Grapes of Wrath. I closed at ten to nine that night.
I came home. The dogs barked. I cracked open a cold one. I took aim with the cap. It bounced off the lip of the garbage can. I didn’t drink enough. I didn’t like the neighbourhood I was in. It was way easier to push cocaine than Dickens or le Carre. I don’t think it was always that way but it was at the moment. All the homes around here were built in the mid sixties. I’d checked the government statistics about local demographics. Most people stayed in this area their whole lives. We knew better but all the plumbing was put together with lead solder. Everyone was bathing in it and boiling their spaghetti in it for generations. It was a mad house. Just to make it sweet, I knew that seventy percent of the world’s used book stores had recently closed up due to the general illiteracy and internet alternatives. Social cohesion was a losing race slowed by abstract values and chemical additives. We were reaching the tipping point of dumbness.
I always thought that was so odd. Honestly, if drugs had anything to do with fantasy, ten bucks worth of Asimov lasted a lot longer than ten bucks worth of coke.
People preferred taking a chance on lottery tickets to a good old Sherlock Holmes book. “Written for blue collar blockheads just like you but a hundred years ago.” I’d often think. Even if I talked about the seven percent solution, the locals weren’t hip to Holmes and his medicine. They wouldn’t risk three dollars and a couple of evenings. They couldn’t come out of the cold. The screaming, plodding, quiet brilliance of George Smiley had nothing to offer against a pack of smokes and a gram bag of weed. The neighbours preferred to hang themselves in their basements, drink themselves to death and watch their kids take hammers to each other at parties. “You looked at my girl!” Splat. Somehow it made more sense for folks to pay an annual cable fee of four hundred and eighty dollars, having nothing to show for it at the end of the year, then it did to buy hundreds of used books. Their walls could have been filled with heart pounding, head shaking, expostulatory, hair raising, mind blowing, fantastic yarns, potboilers and blow hard autobiographies. I was surrounded by sleepwalkers. I’d loved to have talked with Koestler. If I ever opened another retail business I’d call it, ‘Get Out. We’re Closed.’ At the tail end of the literacy era it was sour grapes by me. It was nice to sip a beer.
I ate dinner and went to bed. During the night a warm front of
air swept up from Texas and slipped between a cold
front of air that had surged in even
faster. It was a northern
arctic front creating a
The snow turned into sloppy cold rain and the streets began to glaze over. At four in the morning there was a thunderclap that woke the whole city. It was a massive sound and we all spoke of it. Weird weather. By six in the morning it was still an hour from sunrise and you could hear the locals scraping their car windshields. Wives and kids left for work and school. People cursed.
I slept in, as was my routine. I dreamt of a long haired woman. Her hair fell into my face. She kissed me on the nose and said, “I fed the dogs.” I pulled the sheets a little closer.
I got up a bit before nine. The snow drifts were glazing over and getting crunchy. I had toast, tea and cigarettes. I turned on the radio.
I picked up the paper. The Montreal Canadians had beat the New York Rangers 3 to 2 last night. I turned the volume up on the radio, fished around for my favorite rock station and reached for the cigarette papers.
I couldn’t tune in a music station. Couldn’t find one. It was all talk. It was all just news. I listened. Airplanes had slammed into the World Trade Center, the Eiffel Tower, the Kremlin and at least two nuclear reactors that were being talked about. A series of dikes had collapsed in Holland. Hoover Dam had blown and Las Vegas was now a memory. The alarm bell was ringing from coast to coast. I sat down and pressed my hands to my head. There was something about New Orleans. Apparently the Chevy had indeed been driven to the levee but it had been abandoned there with an explosive load. The city was rapidly filling up with water. No one would figure out why. I stared at the radio. “Holy smokes!” Someone had finally got mad enough or weird enough. I turned on the TV. There were a lot of live shots from around the world but no answers yet. Very important people looked worried and perspired. Some frustrated high school teacher blew up Charlotte Town, Prince Edward Island by way of the local propane tank complex. There were no commercials. Amateur video were being shown as it became available. Sheets of paper were seen embedded in car doors and telephone poles in the aftermath of explosions.
It was too late to get ready. Too late to panic. I thought of a kid’s game we used to play. ‘Simon says, Freeze.’
The rain came down a little harder and a little colder. The local radio disc jockeys had us at negative 25 Celsius and were cracking a few jokes about it but with plenty of advisory warnings about the wind chill making it feel like negative 41, or, as Bad Pete said, “It’s like negative one million out there. The oil in my car was like molasses this morning. It’s really a good day to wear pants if you have to leave the house this morning, folks. Would you agree, Ted?”
“Keep your pants on. Bring the pets in.” Ted replied.
The upper layer of the atmosphere was warm. By the time the warm rain passed through the lower negative 25 layer it was a second or two from freezing onto what ever it hit. It was quite a phenomenon. Our good friends who lived in the Northern climes of Europe and Russia were being presented with the same stuff. Had the precipitation come down as snow or hail it would have bounced off materials or just lay there on the surface ready to blow over. Ice piled up in thin layers and expanded into thin crevices. That two inch thick layer of ice on a parked car’s roof grew to six inches, then weighed a ton. Car tires looked deflated under the weight.
A week or so earlier at Our Lady’s Hospital a young intern was transferring a 10 milliliter sample of urine from a test vial on Tray A to Tray B. A tiny spot of non-specific virus KG-43 from Tray B splashed onto his latex gloved hand. Who knows where the heck it came from? Someone from out there had it and brought it into the hospital. Someone who was probably still out there.
At the end of his shift Dr. Godfrey only washed and rewashed his hands for four and a half minutes instead of the required six minutes, leaving about ten million spores under a loose cuticle. Then he wiped his nose, put on his coat and boarded the rush hour bus. He took that bus to a subway train to another bus and then climbed up three flights of stairs to his apartment. In all this travel he’d laced hundreds of feet of chrome rails and several yards of hand straps, seat edges and escalator grips with his hand slime, nose slime and mustache slime. All of it acting as a medium for this big surprise mutated virus. Young doctor Godfrey had transferred this nasty quiet little contagious viral bacteria everywhere he went. He would continue to repeat this pattern for as long as he could. Everyone he’d passed it to would work just as hard to do the same. It had a three week gestation period before the symptoms started. Then the mammal host started to cough. Without a host it could live dormant on a door knob for six months. The virus had a real Darwinian lust. It was ready. The host was ready. The conditions were ready. It was just one of those things, maybe.
Godfrey kicked off his shoes and reached for the remote control.
In a long line of professionals that say, “Oops,” he was tired. He rested in bed, slept, woke up in the morning and provided another few million spores to arrest man.
Up on the sixth floor of St. Mary’s Hospital Godfrey continued his internship. In one room lay a coughing, congested Mrs. Beardsley, one of many patients he and the team would attend. She worked in a tobacco shop and her first husband use to work in the asbestos mines up north. The dust was forever getting into everything and you couldn’t even see it most of the time. So I guess with her history, no crime was committed when she wasn’t screened for this KG-43 nonsense. Improper assessments happen and we just hope it won’t be critical. Was it really even improper? So it goes.
In reality she was released with that flu transmitted by Godfrey. No one would know. It was a cold that wouldn’t quit. She would carry it for the three weeks and spread its cells from whatever her dormant position was from there. If you do the math and add in a few airports, retail outlets that might have been heightened by the bustling Christmas traffic, targets for runny noses, more handrails and baskets of door knobs this thing would hit hard. That wouldn’t make it to most newspapers by then due to dying distributors and a rapidly dying staff.
It was a few days before anyone began to claim responsibility for the spectacular and horrifying crashes and simultaneous acts of sabotage. It was lots of groups. Lots of people did it. It was timed and planned and all over the place. There were too many groups with opposing views and the news continued to be confusing and contradictory. There were also retaliations from other groups that wanted to get in on things before there was nothing left to destroy.
The roads got thicker with ice. Major electrical grids were being used to capacity while their lines increasingly sagged under the weight of ice. More than the allowable percentage of transformers fried. Electricity exports were cut. The temperature continued to drop. The warm air kept hitting the cold air at just the right angle and the rain continued to fall in the sub-zero temperature, freezing to whatever it hit first. The trees were something out of an Arthur Rackham illustration of a dark crystal forest. Their limbs were all bare, bent and glistening with clear glass against a grey sky.
It didn’t matter if you saw it coming or not. There are a finite number of power lines coming in to feed any city. The overloaded cables swayed in the wind. After a few days of steady ice buildup the first power line snapped. A series of towers bent sideways like crumpled foil toys and pulled down miles of wire in a chain effect. Then the rolling brown outs started, and then brown outs turned into black outs. It didn’t really matter what might have been on the mind of terrorists in domestic or foreign lands. Maybe a circuit breaker in Montauk, New York got tripped. A relay in Niagara Falls probably burnt out because some squirrel had a lick and a sniff. Someone screwed in an extra light bulb and in a series of totally unbelievable reactions one electrical bridge and generator station after another began shutting down from Ohio to Ottawa and all the way down the east coast. It was as if a bag of monkeys were running the future.
After five days of ice rain most of the lights were out in our neighbourhood. People were being thrown together out of desperation. Strangers knocked at the door looking for shelter. We were served by one failing grid after another. We were also disappointing our cousins to the south with intermittent power. The unrelenting ice rain finally brought down the last power line from the last generating station. This took one week and one inch of ice. The veneer of civilization was at egg shell fragility.
Most people in the cities had gravitated to centrally located public shelters outfitted with portable generators and two rolls of toilet paper. Most cities had wisely prepared eight days of emergency fuel against an eternity. The outside temperature had dragged down another five degrees to negative thirty and the internal temperature of homes without wood or kerosene heaters had dropped below freezing. Apartment buildings were about to be turned into meat lockers.
Bank machines didn’t work. Zero banks opened. Thanks. We experienced immediate deflation, there was next to no cash. People had what they had in their pocket, purse or cookie jar. Bank accounts, safety deposit boxes and electronic money were inaccessible. Credit and Debit cards were useless. Even in my cynicism I was surprised by that. After the San Francisco earthquake at least the Bank of America opened up with card tables on the street to help people out. “Just lazy or just greedy now?” I wondered. If banks could have used mechanical accounting skills cash could have been in circulation.
Buffeted by only pain and duty, line workers continued to labour under war-like conditions to restring cable and clear electrical towers in the middle of frozen forests. They were running up hill against overwhelming odds and stood no chance at all. Nine hundred towers had to be rebuilt. The workers walked through snow that was as high as their hips. The top layer of snow was frozen into knife sharp sheets. In this they pushed and arc welded and zip-cut steel. They had little back up, not enough crew, no roads, no sweet help, no hot coffee and only frozen injuries as a reward. The massive towers were specialized, each many tons of steel and requiring tons more cable to be rolled out in the middle of nowhere and precisely lined up. No one could quit because there was no where to go. Many, so many, would work to death. It was pointless endless work that couldn’t be accomplished and it was urgent. CB radio transmissions and walkie talkies relayed the plight of their families to them. Morale was crushed in hours. They couldn’t accomplish the tasks and worked in frustration.
People stayed in shelters. It became government decree. Authorities were quoted, confirming it. Sustained and continuous coughing ripped people’s lungs out. It spread. Radio and TV continued for as long as it took for their generators to crap out. It wasn’t so bad as long as one was listening to a radio station but then their power supplies were depleted and they would suddenly wink out in the middle of a broadcast leaving a low hiss. Creepy. One minute I knew what was sort of happening and then CHOM 97.7 was off the air. Gone. No CKUT93, so much for the Dikes On Mikes, show. No FM96. CBC Radio one and two turned into Radio Zero. Stare at the wall. Batteries were long sold out. Candles long gone. Cell phones relied on radio towers that were bent in half or twisted into the ground. The internet required electricity and was replaced by nothing. Text messaging was to inscribe the word, “Help,” on a frosted window.
So there we all were. Zillions of us, mainly standing around with our thumbs up our asses or overwhelmed beyond capacity. We were pretty much unprepared and shivering in the dark. The water pumping stations failed after a few days of emergency fuel was expended. I had been a thick headed paranoid bastard and refused rides to the city shelter fearing an – ‘Escape from New York’ – scenario which I was now sure would happen.
I had blocked off all the rooms in the house by stapling up sheets of plastic across hallways to cut down on ventilation. The temperature was kept up to above freezing by burning strings as candle wicks in a pan filled with cooking oil. The room stank like french fries. I didn’t have much food and no way to cook it anyway. Where was I going to get the money to pay a plumber to drain the pipes? They were going to burst soon. I didn’t know anything about draining pipes. What about the hot water tank? The two stupid dogs kept wanting to go outside to do their thing but every time I opened the door for them, we lost warm air.
The outdoor barbecue wasn’t working. The deep freeze had shattered the rubber hose leading from the propane tank to the control panel valve which fed the heating ring. I had another argument with a neighbour, pounding on the door, who wanted me to go to the city shelter. I lost a minute and a half of heat. I stayed with the dogs. There was no provision for either pets or those normally homeless in the city shelters. One issue was about insurance and the other was the smell and so many of the homeless were mentally ill. Pretty much everywhere the smelly and crazy people were pushed outside or not admitted in the first place. It wasn’t law, it was new-found custom. It was ethical because people felt bad doing it.
It was dark, cold and frozen. Our prior knowledge was that geo-political tensions were high and the world looked to have been starting a war. Then the information flow stopped. As the freeze reached deeper into the earth the ground shifted more than was called for in engineering tables. Underground water conduits were exploding from the deep freeze all over, flooding city blocks. Sewer drain pipes plugged up and caved in. Ports and markets were cut off all over the place. I captured the dogs and we hunkered up under the sheets with a portable radio. It got AM, FM and a few shortwave bands. No one was broadcasting.