Horror and Thriller Science Fiction posted September 16, 2022


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Story mentioned in the interview

White Things

by Thomas Blanks


"What will we do when the last of the food is gone?" Andy said, nervously running his hand through his thick, red hair.

"It depends," Hank said, "on whether those white things are still out there. If so, you'll have to weigh your fear against your hunger. It takes a long time to starve."

"I'm not going back out there."

"Then, I know what you're going to do."

"What?"

"Starve."

"You don't have a plan?"

"Of course."

"Well?"

"My plan doesn't include bringing food back here for a sorry coward," Hank said, lifting his ballcap to wipe the sweat from his brow. "If you want to come with me, that's fine, but you must walk out that door." Hank's words seared reality into the clueless haze of Andy's normal state of mind.

"You'd just leave me here?"

"In a New York minute without a second thought."

"What's a New York minute?"

"How did you survive as long as you have, Andy?"

"I've never heard of a New York minute, okay?"

"Everything is faster in New York. You snooze; you lose in the big city. Get it?"

"Uh-huh. So, where are we going?"

"There has to be a grocery store out there with canned goods, packs of beef jerky, bottled water, stuff like that."

"What about the white things?"

"We need to find a gun, too."

"My dad had a rifle."

"We need shotguns, which fire pellets in a large pattern. You don't want to have to aim when one of those white things is making a run at you."

"They sell shotguns and groceries at Wal-Mart."

"Yes, and it's only about a mile away, but we would never make it on foot. With a car, we have a chance."

"Where are you going to get a car?"

"There's one right outside; the red Nissan parked on the street."

"Whose is it?"

"See the blonde woman in the gutter with no legs?"

"Yes."

"It was hers. The keys are probably in that purse next to the body."

"What if the doors are locked?" Andy said.

"If the doors are locked, which they probably are, the white things would be on us before we could find the keys in the purse, unlock the doors, get in the car, and shut them again."

"So, how do we keep them off of us? We don't have a gun. Is there something else we can use?"

"That's what I have been thinking about, Andy."

"You have?"

"Yes, for days. I've also been watching the white things out the window while you sleep, eat, and pick your nose. The white things don't like water."

"Water?"

"That's right. I saw them chasing a dog, but when the dog crossed a creek, they stopped."

"Why?"

"Ah! There's the question. I'm not sure, and it doesn't matter as long as it works, right?"

"As long as what works?"

"I go for the purse, and you spray any white things that come near me with the hose in the front yard."

"The hose?"

"Yes."

"That's insane!"

"I'm the one at risk. I'll have no weapon."

"Those white things are small, but they run fast on those stubby, little legs, and when they bite you - BAM! They explode. That's why that lady in the street has no legs. They're like land mines that chase you down."

"Have you wondered why they explode when they bite people, Andy?"

"I figured they were just evil."

"I think it's a chemical reaction, probably sodium. It makes sense that they would avoid water if they were sodium-based. Sodium bursts into flame when it touches water."

"Why do they want to explode but not burst into flame?"

"You never studied, did you, Andy?"

"What do you mean?"

"If they touch water and burst into flame, the chemical reaction is different - the sodium changes to sodium hydroxide powder (lye) and hydrogen. The heat produced by the reaction ignites the hydrogen. However, When the white things bite into a carbon-based lifeform, the violent reaction forms carbon dioxide, water vapor, and sodium oxide. The explosion produces many chunks of sodium oxide, which form into more of the white things."

"You're saying they spread by killing people."

"I would say that's how the white things proliferate."

"I don't know what that means."

"They spread by killing people, Andy. Go get the hose."

The hose was coiled on a caddy in the flower bed near the concrete slab that served as a front porch. Grabbing the nozzle, Andy started into the yard, the hose uncoiling. Hank reached down and turned on the water. "How have you lived this long, Andy?"

"Huh?"

"Nothing. Let the air out of the hose." Squeezing the nozzle's trigger until a shower of water sprayed out, Andy dialed the stream selection ring until he found the "jet" setting. A stream of water shot forty feet into the front yard.

"Yeah, baby! Now we're talking," Andy said. "Let's light up some white things." Wielding the water jet like a sword, swiping it back and forth, Andy walked out near the red car.
Hank walked to the woman's purse in the street, found the car keys, opened the car door, got inside, started the engine, and drove away.

"How have you survived as long as you have, Andy?" Hank said to himself.



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This is the short story from the book Short Stuff which Katherine Kean mentioned in her interview with the author.
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