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The Cost of Living by David Moody

The Cost of Living by Daniele SerraWe wouldn’t have lasted a week if it hadn’t been for Tom. He switched off his emotions and focused on our survival. I used to criticise him for being so pedantic and anal. He used to make me account for every penny, always going on about the cost of living. He was bloody infuriating.

But it was his attention to detail that ultimately saved us. When everyone else was running around terrified, fighting over the last loaves of bread on supermarket shelves and stepping over the bodies in the aisles, we were safely locked away.

Tom saw this coming. Smartarse even modelled it on his bloody computer. He showed me how the infection would multiply; how the outbreak would inevitably become an epidemic, then a pandemic, then something worse. Typical bloody accountant. He showed no emotion. He went out to the cash-and-carry and bought enough food and water to fill the garage. Then, when everyone else finally caught up and realised the end really was nigh, he’d already cleared out the DIY store and got everything he needed to make the house secure.

We locked ourselves down. By then the rest of the world was in utter chaos. The germ spread through direct physical contact and killed within hours, so we just cut ourselves off from everybody else.

It’s been six weeks and four days now.

We survived on adrenalin to begin with, living on our nerves. The girls were more upset about losing the cat than anything else, but Tom said she was a contamination risk and she had to stay outside.

After the first couple of weeks, everything became quiet. Too quiet. The screaming, the helicopters, the engines, the gunfire… everything stopped. Then there was nothing. A vacuum.

Each new week has been harder, but we’ve kept ourselves busy distracting the kids, checking and re-checking the house was secure, and rationing the supplies. Tom said he’d worked out precisely how much food and water we’d need each day, and that we had enough to last a couple of months. I asked him what happened after that. He didn’t have an answer.

We knew we couldn’t help anyone else, even if we wanted to. A woman tried to get in once. She must have seen one of the girls at the window. It was hard leaving her out there, listening to her screaming. I stayed with the kids upstairs. Tom stayed down on the other side of the door, just in case she got in. It was a relief when she died. Her body’s still on the driveway where she dropped.

Tom and the girls are really struggling now. I can’t let them see that I am too. I’m doing what I can, but I don’t know how much more I can take. The garage is three-quarters-empty and we’ve no way of getting more food. Tom and I are fighting all the time. Last night was the worst yet.

‘We have to keep doing what we’re doing,’ Tom said. ‘We ration the food even more, and we wait.’

‘Wait for what? The food’s running out. There’s no one else left alive. We’re all that’s left.’

‘So what’s the alternative? I’ve done everything I can for you and the kids. I’ve kept us safe.’

‘We’ve built ourselves a prison, Tom,’ I told him, and I held him as he sobbed.

And that’s why I did what I did today.

I did it this morning before Tom and the girls woke up. I’d been keeping some good food back, and I cooked them the best meal I could with the little I had. I made something I knew they’d all like, and they ate every scrap and didn’t even notice. For the first time since this started, they were all happy: bellies full, the nightmare outside temporarily forgotten.

It took about an hour for it to take them. The girls first, then Tom. I took infected blood from the body on the drive and added it to the food.

And that was that – a few minutes pain and panic, then it was over. No more sitting here for hour after hour, helpless and scared, waiting for the inevitable.

And now, as I sit close to their still warm bodies and finish my food and wait for the infection to take me, I know I’ve done the right thing.

I loved my family more than anything else, but sometimes the cost of living is too high a price to pay.


David Moody writes post apocalyptic fiction including his successful Autumn and Hater series. In the latter half of 2011 he released the climax to the Hater trilogy Them Or Us and the latest Autumn instalment Autumn: Disintegration.

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1 comment

  1. Chilling and taught tale of survival and sacrifice. With another great piece of art by the always amazing Daniele Serra.

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