MONDAY: The Gas Station


Copyright is held by the author.

GRACE ENTERED the gas station. Broken windows and a door that swung back and forth in the wind greeted her. A light covering of radioactive dust coated everything in the store.

The dust had long ago bleached her hair blonde. She pulled down the handkerchief that had been covering her face and lifted her sunglasses. Patches covered her leather jacket. She had taken it off the body of some preppie biker wannabe. The denim overalls she had on were rugged and well-worn. Leather cowboy boots that had been patched more than a few times were a size too big.

Grace swung her sawed-off shotgun over her shoulder after sweeping the area for dangers. A Bowie knife hung from her waist on one side and an extending police baton hung from the other. While the place looked empty, she was prepared for anything to happen.

Her dog, Kelly, followed by her side.

“I sense nothing in the store,” Kelly said telepathically. The radioactive wasteland had developed her brain and given her psychic powers. “I am sensing life under the store. Radivores. Hundreds of them. There is a tunnel system that runs deep and wide.”

“Are they awake?”

“No, they’re asleep. I can keep them under. They aren’t very intelligent, so it won’t be a problem if we don’t make too much noise.”

Peeking through the cracks in the floor planks, Grace could see the giant termites resting in an organized formation. If she listened closer, she could have heard the light, rhythmic breathing of the clan.

“No cannibal families or anything?”

“Nothing that I can sense. Although there is something big out there, I can’t quite get.”

“Good enough.”

Grace and Kelly moved into the gas station store. The goal was food and water. They had been short of supplies for days. They had shared their last can of beans a week ago. Their clean water supply was nearly exhausted. This gas station in the middle of nowhere was a godsend.

God send. That was funny. All this time crossing the wasteland that was now Earth, she had rarely thought of God. He had long ago abandoned humanity. Leaving them to their own devices.

Walking through the store, Grace realized what kind of jackpot they had found. It looked like no one had been there. The shelves were fully stocked. Rummaging through, she found rice, vegetables, and ground coffee, all canned and likely safe to eat. Kelly pointed to the jerky hanging on the end of the aisles.

In the long-dead coolers were bottles of water and Coca-Cola.

On the shelves there was toilet paper. Feminine hygiene products.

It was all like hitting a vein of gold.

She tucked as much as she could into the saddlebags and the duffel bag they had. This haul would keep them supplied for weeks.

Grace moved behind the counter while Kelly continued to sniff around.

There was a skeleton lying in the corner with a shotgun in hand. Checking under the counter, she found two boxes of shells. She immediately reloaded her empty gun and tucked the rest into her bandolier and pockets. With the shells were two bottles of iodine pills and an unused anti-rad kit. She cracked open the bottle and popped a few pills, washing them down with a bottle of Coke.

Grace lifted the metal covers on the wall behind the counter and stood in awe. A near completely full stock of cigarettes. Best of all, they had cigars. Cheap ones, White Owls, but cigars nonetheless. She took all she could and then lit one up with a lighter from the countertop. It tasted like crap, all dried out, but man, it was still good to have.

She took a moment to inhale the terrible yet divine flavour.

“Kelly, how are we doing?” She asked as she got ready to leave.

“Everything is a go.”

Just then, a shelf creaked and fell over hard on the floor.

Grace brought her shotgun up and looked at Kelly.

“Oh, shit. They’re trying to wake up. So is something else. Outside. Goddamned, it’s big. I can’t keep them under much longer.”

As Kelly said it, a termite head broke through the floor. By instinct, Grace spun around and fired. The shotgun blew the head to pieces. The body hung there half in and out of the hole, leggings still twitching to try to get out.

Suddenly, the room filled with the chitters and the movement of a hundred human-sized termites.

“That did it. Run!” Kelly said as she ran out of the store.

Grace climbed the counter and jumped out a window as floorboards began cracking and popping out.

Grace and Kelly ran to their bicycle and sidecar. Grace loaded their treasures on the vehicle while Kelly kept guard.

Termites began emerging from the gas station and the surrounding land.

“Holy shit,” she said.

Grace turned to see a radivore the size of two elephants break through the ground, pushing the gas pumps and tanks up with it. It was the Queen. The Queen looked towards Grace and Kelly and hissed. Worker radivores started tearing through the ground.

“Kelly, get in the car.”

The mutt jumped into the sidecar.

Grace walked forward, letting off a shot or two to keep some workers away.

That pissed the Queen off something fierce. It began spitting out acid on the ground.

Grace neared it. She looked around at all the gasoline raining down on the beasts.

She smiled.

Taking the cigar from her mouth, Grace held it for a moment, then flicked it at the pumps. There was a whoosh. A fire engulfed the Queen and her workers in flames. The hissing was nearly deafening for a minute.

Grace turned and walked back to her bicycle. She mounted the bike, pulled down her sunglasses and the handkerchief up, and pedalled away as the fire engulfed the area.

The gas tanks exploded, raining radivore parts down everywhere, and Grace and Kelly sped along.

Grace pulled down the handkerchief and lit another cigar. Still tasted terrible, but it was the right thing to do. She turned and smiled at Kelly while the dog ripped into a bag of jerky.

Life would be good while the supplies lasted.

Behind them, the fire and smoke reached into the sky. But out of the smoke, a winged radivore rose above the devastation and flew away.


Image of John-Paul Cote

John-Paul lives in St. Catharines, Ontario with his wife and two children. He’s been writing for years but only started submitting his work recently. His story “Nostalgia” was published in the Niagara-On-The-Lakes’ Writers Circle’s anthology Beginnings and EndingsA Winter’s Dance” as well as several other short stories have been featured on CommuterLit. He is a person of few words so he enjoys writing short stories and novellas the most.

1 comment
  1. Nice. Hoping there’s more.

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