My story "As Good As New" is up at Tor.com. And I'm pretty sure you've never read a post-apocalyptic story like this one. Let's just say that the only thing guaranteed to survive the end of the world is a magic bottle — containing someone who's bound to grant three wishes.
Unfortunately, making the right three wishes to put everything back to rights turns out to be a bit more complicated than you might expect. That's why the story's main character, Marisol, has to use all of her creativity and ingenuity to figure out a solution. Good thing she's not just a pre-med student, but also a budding playwright.Here's how the story begins:
Marisol got into an intense relationship with the people on The Facts of Life, to the point where Tootie and Mrs. Garrett became her imaginary best friends and she shared every last thought with them. She told Tootie about the rash she got from wearing the same bra every day for two years, and she had a long talk with Mrs. Garrett about her regrets that she hadn't said a proper goodbye to her best friend Julie and her on-again/off-again boyfriend Rod, before they died along with everybody else.
The panic room had pretty much every TV show ever made on its massive hard drive, with multiple backup systems and a fail-proof generator, so there was nothing stopping Marisol from marathoning The Facts of Life for sixteen hours a day, starting over again with season one when she got to the end of the bedraggled final season. She also watched Mad Men and The West Wing. The media server had tons of video of live theatre, but Marisol didn't watch that because it made her feel guilty. Not survivor's guilt; failed playwright guilt.
Her last proper conversation with a living human had been an argument with Julie about Marisol's decision to go to medical school instead of trying to write more plays. ("Fuck doctors, man," Julie had spat. "People are going to die no matter what you do. Theatre is important.") Marisol had hung up on Julie and gone back to the pre-med books, staring at the exposed musculature and blood vessels as if they were costume designs for a skeleton theatre troupe.
The quakes always happened at the worst moment, just when Jo or Blair was about to reveal something heartfelt and serious. The whole panic room would shake, throwing Marisol against the padded walls or ceiling over and over again. A reminder that the rest of the world was probably dead. At first, these quakes were constant, then they happened a few times a day. Then once a day, then a few times a week. Then a few times a month. Marisol knew that once a month or two passed without the world going sideways, she would have to go out and investigate. She would have to leave her friends at the Eastland School, and venture into a bleak world.
Sometimes, Marisol thought she had a duty to stay in the panic room, since she was personally keeping the human race alive. But then she thought: what if there was someone else living, and they needed help? Marisol was pre-med, she might be able to do something. What if there was a man, and Marisol could help him repopulate the species?
The panic room had nice blue leather walls and a carpeted floor that felt nice to walk on, and enough gourmet frozen dinners to last Marisol a few lifetimes. She only had the pair of shoes she'd brought in there with her, and it would seem weird to wear shoes after two barefoot years. The real world was in here, in the panic room—out there was nothing but an afterimage of a bad trip.
Top image: Yuko Shimizu/Tor.com.