Every time that Sirens Call Publications releases an anthology, we ask each of the authors to provide us with a guest post; something that speaks to the inspiration for their story that you will read. With the release of Carnage: After the End – Volume 1 &Volume 2, our inspiration series may run a little longer than our other anthologies. But that’s okay, we love Post-Apocalyptic Horror and both volumes have a fantastic mix of tales. Continuing on with our inspiration series, today we feature Charlie Fish, author of Clean World in Carnage: After the End – Volume 2.
Charlie Fish is a popular short story writer and screenwriter. His short stories have been published in several countries and inspired dozens of short film adaptations. Since 1996, he has edited Fiction on the Web, the longest-running short story site on the web. He was born in Mount Kisco, New York in 1980; and now lives in Brixton, south London with his wife and daughter. You can find him on Twitter and at Fiction of the Web, where he invites you to come and read as well as submit your own stories.
Without further ado, I give you Charlie…
The Inspiration for Clean World
Post-apocalyptic fiction is a genre I enjoy, especially when something new is done with it. But there are so many great stories already out there – from Earth Abides to The Road; from I Am Legend to The Hunger Games. I wanted to find a new angle, something that had never been done before.
There are plenty of possibilities. But the character of this anthology would brook no levity – the story had to be unremittingly dark.
Then it hit me. What if my protagonist had himself intentionally brought about the end of the world? I imagined the Hollywood opening: He stands atop Big Ben, in a protective suit, looking over the debris of a dead London. The giant bell chimes; a cry soars from his throat into the poisoned air.
To his surprise, his cry is returned. A lone survivor staggers into view in the distance. He descends the tower and runs towards her. She calls to him, desperately, for help. They meet and, methodically, coldly… he strangles her to death.
At this point the reader will realise that this is not a typical post-apocalyptic story. This man does not represent hope. Quite the opposite; he is an agent of death and destruction on an unprecedented scale. A god of nihilism run riot.
But I didn’t want him to be a caricature. Verisimilitude was important to me. I wanted to make sure his outlook had a valid (if twisted) internal logic. So I started asking myself: Why would a man want to wipe out humanity? What kind of person would he be? And, for that matter, how on earth would he do it?
That, I thought, sounded fun to write.
Another element that I thought I could do differently was the ending. Typical post-apocalyptic fare remains open-ended, but I wanted to avoid the obvious. I’m satisfied that the ending I came up with reinforces the bleak, amoral character of the story.
Clean World is the last story of the anthology and if you read apocalyptic fiction to seek out the flickers of hope in the embers of catastrophe – to grow your faith in the endurance of humanity against impossible odds – then I suggest you skip it.
The ten stories in Carnage: After the End – Volume 2 tell of the frighteningly horrific and cruel lives the survivors must face. Each one takes us to a place where humanity’s stragglers are forced to battle for their very existence against their own grim reality; creatures from different worlds or times, individuals or groups of miscreants who feed on the fear of the weak, and even the terrifying threat of unknown bacterial organisms. Their will to go on diminishing among the tatters of the civilization they once knew.
In a world where society has collapsed and terror lurks around every corner, no one can be trusted and nothing can be taken for granted.
The Apocalypse has come, leaving in its wake small pockets of survivors battling to stay alive; each carving out a new beginning for mankind…
Contributing Authors in Volume 1 include:
Kimberly A. Bettes, Shane Cashman, Shane R. Collins, Laura Diamond, Rodney James Galley, Michael Griffin, Russell Linton, Adam Millard, Christofer Nigro, and Julianne Snow.
Contributing Authors in Volume 2 include
Angel D. Callido, Charlie Fish, Harper Hull, Magda Knight, Jason Lairamore, Harry Manners, Zachary O’Shea, Wednesday Silverwood, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and L.E. White.
Interested in picking up a copy of both volumes?
Here’s an excerpt from Clean World, Charlie’s contribution to Carnage: After the End – Volume 2…
With my bolt cutter I clipped the last few struts of the grill and kicked it out. Waited for the sound – longer than I expected before the grill hit the ground with a metallic clang that vibrated in the air. Even through the helmet of my bio-suit it was pin sharp, like a musical triangle. I stood on the sill to take in the view. Above, marshmallow clouds sat languid in the poisoned sky, tinged golden-brown like an Impressionist painting. Far below, the Thames flowed gently upstream.
There were cars on the bridge, boats on the river. Many of the traffic lights still worked. Some of the windows in the buildings across the river had shutters down, as if there was someone left to operate them. Except for the bodies, I could take a picture and believe that London was still alive.
It was, in a way. I could hear the ticking of the giant clock beneath me, the mechanical pulse of the city, boasting of power and iron, each tick a satisfyingly Victorian whirr-CHUNK; that, and my own breathing inside the mask. No more sirens. No more public address. The screams and sobs were silenced.
This city, this world, belonged to me now. I could explore every niche until I had consumed the entire metropolis. I could travel and let my mind grow fat with the vestiges of all human endeavor. The world and time stretched out before me.
The quarter bells sounded their familiar tune to mark the passing of the hour. I heard giant cogs engaging below me, wheeling together in a symphony of silken engineering that spurred the swell of emotion in my gut. After a protracted moment of anticipation, the Great Bell – Big Ben – struck noon. Each gong seemed to shake the very fabric of the tower, or perhaps it was my eyes shaking in my skull. I crouched on the sill to be sure of my balance.
As the stentorian chimes continued, I cautiously regained my feet until I stood proud against the sky, head back, chest brimming. Punctuated by the deafening toll, I let out a primal roar that rose and sailed across the barren scape, leaving a film of mist on the inside of my mask.
Silence again. But as I waited for the condensation in my mask to clear, I heard something else, on the fringes of perception. I tried to persuade myself I had imagined it, but it came again. An unmistakably human sound. Once more. A distant scream, echoing my roar.
I scanned the opposite bank, looking for signs of movement, wishing I had a scope. There. Near the far end of Westminster Bridge, emerging from Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital, was a stumbling figure. I stepped down from the sill and hastened to the stairs, abandoning my tools…
Don’t forget to come back tomorrow when we’ll feature Harry Manners’ inspiration for A Birthday to Remember in Carnage: After the End – Volume 2!