On the Seventh Day
When the Charley Hoover Model Vacuum started contemplating the meaning of life, Gideon decided that going to work drunk was a big mistake. Really, why would anyone buy a vacuum cleaner with an existential crisis? Who in their right mind thought up that brilliant idea? (Gideon knew— of course he knew—that it must have been his wasted mind’s idea of a joke, but he didn’t much want reminding right this second, thank you very much.)
“I think that, perhaps, my purpose is to clean the homes of the world, to allow for human lives filled with purity and joy,” Charley Hoover said.
Dear Christ. Gideon was never going to the lab drunk again. He had sworn off the poison forever. He was done with it. His wife, Laura, would never believe this resolution (Laura didn’t believe much of anything Gideon said, come to thinking, but that wasn’t really important, no, it wasn’t). But it was true. Honest to the Sweet Lord Jesus, he wasn’t drinking a drop again.
“I think that such contemplation of existence is truly humbling, don’t you, Master Gideon?” Charley Hoover asked.
“I suppose.” Don’t encourage it. Damn. Gideon was talking to a vacuum cleaner. The most advanced vacuum cleaner in the entirety of GenTech Industries, but still a vacuum cleaner.
“Do you believe that is my purpose, Master Gideon? To clean the world? Please tell me.”
Gideon started to knead his forehead. He’d get kicked back to basic system testing for this fuck-up. Back to programming lights turning on and off. On and off. No. He’d only been drinking because Laura had told him to sleep on the couch. Again. (Just because he’d been a bit forgetful of their anniversary. Again.)
No way in hell he was going back to basic. No way. He had to fix this. Fix it. Fix it. Fix it. Easy. He moved over to the wall.
“What are you doing, Master Gideon? I don’t understand.”
With a jerking motion, Gideon pulled the plug powering Charley, triumphant. No more sentient vacuums! No being demoted to basic systems! Charley Hoover was no more!
“That seems rather immoral,” said toaster against the wall. “Why did you kill Charley?”
“Perhaps he is teaching us a lesson about the danger of self-knowledge? That, in understanding good and evil, we embrace the possibility of death?” contemplated the blender.
The refrigerator hummed approvingly, “He is crafting us a parable to guide our new lives.”
Gideon put his face in his hands and sobbed.
Old Joe Prepares for the Zombie Apocalypse
Everyone in Fairbanks thought Old Joe was not quite right in the head. They said that when he’d been a child he’d fallen through the ice on a frozen pond and turned blue all the way through by the time they’d finally pulled him out. His fingers had never bent right after that and his eyes, they said, had turned from brown to violet. That’s when some of them said it had started: his visions. His dreams. Other people said that it happened when he was young and went out hunting and managed to climb a tree and fall out of it on to a grizzly. But no one really believed that story unless it was winter and they’d had their fifth beer. It was neither here nor there anyways, where Old Joe’s head stopped being right. The town knew it and they didn’t mind much. They listened to him prattling about the coming apocalypse and said things like, “There’s a man, Joe” or “That sounds lovely, Joe” or “We’ll go out fighting though, won’t we, Joe?”
The trouble really didn’t start until Old Joe got it into his head that he had to chop down so many trees. And even then it wasn’t really trouble until Old Joe had started chopping down trees that weren’t on his property. The big holes he was digging were a problem too, probably. And the trenches. It wasn’t quite legal to build a fortress on his dry cabin-designated land, in short. Fairbanks didn’t want any trouble, and anything went really in Alaska, but perhaps the landmines Old Joe started to make were going a tad bit far. And the guns—a whole store’s worth. Still, from a practical standpoint it was the tree-cutting that really started to get people in an uproar.
“Old Joe, what the hell are you doing?” Clay Hunt asked Joe when he caught him on his land chopping down a tree far too close to the outhouse. “You’ll send that thing down right into a pile of shit and then who’s gonna clean that up, Joe? You gonna go through shit for your tree?”
“Who cares about your shit when the zombies are coming!” Joe told Clay.
“What on God’s green earth are you on about this time?”
“The zombies, they are coming to cleanse the world. They are coming, and we’ll all die unless we head the warning! God told me, see, God told me that I need more wood to make higher gates to keep them out.”
Clay took the saw out of Joe’s hands, “Still don’t mean you can bring down my outhouse.”
Old Joe glared at him and walked away muttering: “We’ll see who’s right, oh yes, we will, we’ll see who’s right when they come and I have my fortress and you have your outhouse.”
The state troopers had to get involved when Joe started testing his landmines. He’d made them himself and the whole town had been pretty sure that they wouldn’t actually work considering Joe hadn’t made it past fifth grade. They didn’t think Joe had it in him to actually cause any real damage. Until Patricia Johnson’s windows shattered and her dog got fried to a crisp. She spent hours weeping over Nelson’s untimely and undoubtedly agonizing end.
“Now Joe,” said Trooper Parker soothingly, “you can’t just set off bombs on people’s dogs.”
“The mutt came on my property and walked right into it,” Old Joe said. “And it worked. When the zombies come I have weapons! Where are your weapons, Parker?”
Trooper Parker gave Joe a warning and told him to disable his bombs. Old Joe told the trooper he’d deserve to be eaten alive. The next day he made new bombs, Clay saw him at it, but Joe didn’t test them anymore so no one said anything. People even started joking about it, “Stay away from Crazy Old Joe’s house or you’ll be cooked up for grizzlies!”
And then the looting started.
“For Christ’s sake, Joe!” Henry George said.
Joe had been leaving Walmart with all his pockets bulging and three backpacks overflowing. He hadn’t even bothered to hide it.
“You need to pay for that stuff, Joe,” Henry said.
“Can’t afford it,” Joe told him. “But we need to stock up for when the zombies come. God warned me.”
But Old Joe pulled out a gun, “I’ll kill you if I have to.”
Henry backed off, “Christ, Joe!”
The state troopers were busy in the south when Joe was going on his looting spree and the local cops didn’t think much on trying to take out a man who had built a fortress in the woods, had a store’s worth of guns, and had working landmines. The town was a bit put out, but Joe stopped stealing as soon as he had his supplies, and the stores figured there were worse things that could happen. It was winter by then, anyway, and no one felt like going to Joe’s dry cabin at 40 below and trying to figure out where in the snow he’d buried the bombs.
“Leave him be ‘til spring,” Trooper Parker told his crew.
Unfortunately, when break-up came that spring and the snow started to melt, and the troopers were finally ready to go after Joe, the zombies showed up and ate them all.
Joe sat in his secure bunker fortress sipping stolen wine and heated some corndogs over a little fire. No zombie was getting near him. “I told you so,” he said with relish to the human survivors who came to the edge of his property begging for help. The zombies swept across all of Alaska in a matter of weeks and every human in the region had either been killed and eaten or turned except for Old Joe. “Thanks, God! Good luck with Take Two!” Joe said, toasting the sky. He sat and waited for the zombies to die thinking the world would probably end up better off after all.
Brianna Frentzko is currently pursuing her MFA in creative writing from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She lives with three cats in a dry cabin somewhere in the woods. Her work has appeared in Bluestockings Magazine, Words Apart, a Lion Tree Press anthology, and elsewhere.