The Girl's Guide to the Apocalypse (20 page)

BOOK: The Girl's Guide to the Apocalypse
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“You know,” I said. “It occurred to me that maybe if I give those closest to me a better goodbye, I’ll be able to face the future more grounded.”

“It’s an interesting idea,” Rachel said. “So many people I wish I could have said goodbye to, even though I don’t like thinking we’ll never see them again.”

We organized a mass funeral. We stuck sticks in the ground and wrote names corresponding to those we had lost. I made one for Jake, two for my parents and one for Bruce. We stood in a circle and each of us spoke of a memory of those being laid to rest. It came to my turn, and with hesitancy, I stepped forward.

I heavily cleared my throat. “Jake,” I said. “You had a heart so big that too many tried to fit inside and broke it for good.”

“What does that mean?” JB muttered.

I gave her the side eye and continued. “Bruce,” I said. “You had a passion for something, which I mocked. Not that you were a lousy smug actor, but because you truly loved something, which if that could be formulated, well, would probably make the world better. Or something.”

Brittany shook her head.

“Look, I’m not very good at speeches,” I said defensively. “Now if I may continue.” I took a deep breath. “Mom and Dad,” I said. “I’m sorry we didn’t get along. I thought your wine and cheese gallery shows were silly, which I still stand by, but at least you tried to bring beauty into this world. I’m sorry you were embarrassed that I followed a boy to the opposite coast who thought a writing career was really going to pan out instead of a better dream that would have made you proud.”

It was a lot of words that seemed to fall out of my mouth. I let them just float there in the air for a moment. Stephanie opened hers, but I realized I wasn’t done yet. So I held up my hand.

“One more thing,” I said.

“Jeez,” Stephanie muttered. I ignored that.

“I’d like to apologize for my half-hearted attempts at survival and helping others,” I said. “All I’ve done is tag along with others and let decisions be made for me. Frankly, I’m lucky to be alive with that kind of attitude.”

“Is that it?” Stephanie asked.

I thought about it. “I guess so.”

I stepped back into the group as Stephanie stepped forward. She shook her head.

“Good thing that wasn’t the last speech of the night,” she said.

* * *

I had been there for about a week when Stephanie gathered us up and told us of another mission—there were three women they wanted to rescue out of a commune that had formed in the abandoned Costco that I left Robert in.

“The strip club isn’t there anymore?” I asked.

Stephanie shook her head. “Our scouts say that once they ran out of peanut butter and Wheat Thins, the business just fell apart. It got ransacked, and the women there are just living in fear. There’s even a baby.”

I nodded. “Poor Robert Jr.,” I said. “I’m in. What’s the plan?”

Stephanie gestured me over while drawing a rough sketch of the Costco property. “You have to help me on this one because I know you were there. What’s the leader like?”

I sighed. “Be easy on him,” I said. “He’s probably just as confused as the rest of them. He can get overexcited and he likes risk management a lot.”

“Agreed,” she said. “But I’m putting you in charge of him when we bring him back. He’ll have to do whatever you say or you can throw him out.”

I nodded. “Maybe it won’t be that harsh, but I think we can pull it off.”

Rachel raised her hand. “We should come up with a survival guide,” she said. “We can’t take every girl in, but maybe if we can give as many tools as we can, we can bond even stronger or at least give us better chances at survival.”

Everyone liked that, and I volunteered to put it together.

“Great, “Stephanie said. “You do that. Rachel, JB, Brittany, let’s go blow up a Costco.”

“Do we have to blow it up?” I asked. “Seems a little extreme.”

“No one listens to you until you’re blowing something up,” she said. “Watch a movie.”

“Not every movie,” I said. “I don’t think any of that happened in

She folded her arms. “Just for that, you get to stay here and write the rule book.”

I watched them leave. Rachel shrugged at me and mouthed the words,
I’m sorry

* * *

They returned early the next morning and only brought back Robert. I was sitting on the floor looking at maps of the southern California water lines, when there was a bang at the door. He wore a pillowcase over his head and his hands were bound. JB and Rachel dragged him in with confused looks on their faces. His feet dragged against the floor as he made a kind of whimper sound.

“What’d you do to him?” I asked. “What happened to everyone else?”

“He was by himself,” Rachel said. “He insisted on the head covering and that we tie him up. He wants us to know that he’s very bad—” She sighed heavily, then winced uncomfortably. “And wants to be punished.”

Batman entered, looking tired and annoyed. “He begged us to bring him back with us. I wanted to leave him, but I guess we don’t always get what we want.”

Robert stood helplessly still.

“He can stay for a little while, right?” I said. “Maybe earn his keep? Car repairs or something?”

Robert snorted under his pillowcase.

Batman rolled her eyes. “He doesn’t get to sleep on the furniture. And if he has a mother to look for, we only go find her after we’ve found all of ours first.”

“Deal,” I said.

“Whatever it is,” he said. “I’ll face up to what I’ve done. Just FYI, I have very tender nipple buds so you should probably start there first.”

Batman and Rachel rolled their eyes.

“I’m out of here,” Batman said, marching outside. Rachel followed. JB eyed him curiously and crept up to him. She inhaled deeply.

“What are you doing?” I said.

She shook her head. “Just been a long time since I’ve been around a man. I wondered if they still smelled the same.”

She held her hand up lingering over his chest, but didn’t touch him. She exhaled with choppy giggly breaths. “Don’t know what’s coming over me.”

“I do,” Robert said, his voice a little muffled. “Go where your heart tells you darling.”

She leaned in but I jumped up and held her back. I didn’t want to know where this was going.

“JB,” I said. “Maybe this can wait for another time.”

She breathed a sigh of relief. “I just wasn’t ready. Someday I will be again.”

“Of course.”

She skittered out of the room. I ripped off the pillowcase. He looked with excitement at first, but then his face registered that it was me standing in front of him.

“Oh,” he said. “It’s you. I should have known that the one funsucker left would follow me wherever I went.”

“What are you so bummed about?” I asked. “Did you have an application in to a better gang?”

He shrugged looked around. “No one’s wearing anything skimpy. Thought maybe you guys wanted to get some aggression out, but I see you’ve put a stop to that. ”

His voice just sort of trailed off. I rolled my eyes.

“No one’s going to make you stay.”

“Fine,” he said heavily. “That Costco’s a dump, everyone left and I lost everything, including my risk management book, so might as well. Get me out of this.”

He held up his wrists. Begrudgingly, I picked up a nearby pair of scissors and cut him out of it. He put his hands in his pockets and took everything in.

“You guys renting this place or…”

“Let me show you where your room is,” I said.

I took him to my bedroom and gestured to a blanket on the floor and his little makeshift desk.

“As of right now, you work for me,” I said. “And we have work to do.”

“I need guidance from somewhere,” he said weakly. “I feel lost without the guidance of my book.”

He stared off into the landscape which was dusty and barren. His face had changed so much from when all of this started. He had aged but his mouth trembled like a scared little boy.

“You don’t need that book,” I said, tenderly touching his arm, at a loss for how distraught and helpless he looked. “You have the answers now. So now you can help guide us.”

He processed what I said and it seemed to give him a license to some joy. He then took in the cracked and crumbling walls, the burned carpet and my sadly dirty yet superior bed to his own.

“My wives left me,” he said. “Rebecca ran away with that girl who had a baby and said something about how the world doesn’t need men anymore. They called themselves Women Who Run With The Wolves or something like that.”

“And do what?”

He shrugged. “Interior design maybe? I don’t know.”

He sat on my bed. “I don’t know where they’re going to get the start up. It’s a down market for home improvement, I think.”

He cleared his throat. “So what’s on the list of things to do?”

“We’re going to go out and find our families,” I said confidently, thinking he’d respond to the humanity of it.

Instead he shrugged. “I was hoping you were going to say pillow fights or mud wrestling.”

I withdrew, annoyed.


His face brightened up. “Kidding. Honestly. I’m looking forwards to knowing what priorities actually are.”

I stared down at him, his sadness and loneliness practically sliding off his dirty clothes and onto my rumpled bed.

“Robert,” I said.

He held up his hand. “Fine,” he said. “I’ll work for you, but no overtime, and if you think I’m going to bring you guys lunch, you can just forget it.”

I sat on a cinder block across from him.

“I’m going to interview you,” I said. “Now, where do you see yourself in five years?”

“That’s funny.” He smiled. I handed him some paper.

“So you want to know how to find people?” he said. “Fight weird losers who worship cartoon characters?”

“Not exactly,” I said, brushing off the comment. “We’re writing a survival guide.”

He looked at the paper and frowned. “
The Girls Guide to the Apocalypse
?” he asked. “What about my needs? Where’s the guide being marketed to my demographic?”

“We’ll add a chapter about strip club management if you want,” I said. “But for now, just write down what I say.”

He shrugged and held the pen over paper. I saw Rachel and Brittany hovering nearby, peeking through the doorway. I cleared my throat. Brittany scampered away like a skittish deer but Rachel leaned herself up against the doorframe.

“Chapter one,” I said. “I think we should talk about finding a water source. Remember how important that was at that one house?”

He squinted his eyes. I could see he was thinking hard. “Was it? I seem to remember finally having to use those conflict resolution skills HR was always bugging me about.”

I thought back to everything that had happened and didn’t know how we were going to fit everything in all at once.

He shook his head. “Nope, I’ve got it,” he said. “Being flexible to change. That’s what you should start with.”

I nodded, and he happily scribbled it down. Rachel gave me a thumbs-up as I cleared my throat and started to dictate.

“Chapter one,” I said.

Robert wrote a few letters and sighed. “Oh, that reminds me. You wouldn’t happen to know a Marilyn Sonobe, would you?”

I froze at the sound of my mother’s name. “What about her?”

He shrugged casually. “She came in looking for work, but I didn’t have anything. So I sent her out north where they’ve got that Sam’s Club being run by that group that calls themselves Soldiers of Anthrax.”

I stood up, fear and horror washing over me.

“Sonobe,” he said. “Not a common name. I immediately thought of you.”

I ripped the paper out of his hands. “We have to go. Right now.”

He folded his arms. “We write your guide,” he said defiantly. “Then we go.”

I shoved the paper at him. “Write fast, you jerk.”


Thanks go to my Mom. Not only has she been a source of encouragement and support, but she’s the one who instilled my love of story and writing to begin with.

Thanks to those of my closest friends who are always willing to listen, give notes and patiently nod to every story idea I have – no matter how bonkers or ill advised it may seem.

Finally, thanks to my wonderful team at Booktrope, Kellie, Briana, Marisa and Greg. Without them, this book would probably be sitting in a dark drawer somewhere.

About the Author

Daphne Lamb was raised in Colorado but now calls Los Angeles home where she writes and performs comedy. She lives in an apartment building that also houses a few D-list celebrities who will not allow her to hang out with them. She loves bad movies, science fiction and looks forwards to someday owning a cat.


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