The looted store looked like a bomb had gone off inside a decade earlier. All that was left was the unwanted refuse of society. Faded gossip magazines littered the floor revealing the juicy secrets of the Hollywood elite or the human-interest story of ‘people, just like you!’ When society collapsed so did Hollywood and those who lived therein. When the choice boiled down to feeding yourself or putting a .22 in your own brain pan, what the glitterati were up to never entered the conversation.

The store front had been blown out for a few years. Which meant he was about the 10 thousandth vagrant to scavenge the place. All the plastic had been burned for heat long ago and the metal shelving had been pulled out for make shift weapons or shelter. It was an empty hall that once held America’s breadbasket, but now, like much of America was laid to waste. It’s broken promise as chaotic as the winds of nuclear winter.

In the back storerooms, the story was the same. There was nothing to burn, to barter, to fashion into a weapon or most importantly to eat. Last year he had eaten cardboard thinking what was good enough for termites was good enough for him. Luckily his gag reflex worked better than his mind as he wretched up the goo before it did permanent damage.

Night time was approaching and the best location to catch a few hours of sleep were the walk-in butchers locker. It no longer smelled of food, rotting or otherwise. It was just a safe, thick-walled sanctuary to spend the night. He could have slept in the middle of main street; it being unlikely that anyone was about. The harsh winter had thinned the survivor’s numbers down to only handfuls now.

When day broke, there was a glint of light that hit is face just so. On a cloudy day, or if he had slept in the other corner it would have been missed. But not today. Crawling over to the glint, he pushed away rotting promotional materials, and other grocery store paraphernalia to reveal a single number 10 can. Unopened, unspoiled and as good as the day it was sealed. He could go 3 days with this can, 5 if he was disciplined. The lingering taste of cardboard nearly pushed out of his mind.

Vegetable Medley the label said.

A .22 in the brain pan was beginning to look pretty good.

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