I’d recognize those tags anywhere – Zack and his crew are close.

I motioned for Sid to stay close behind me and wondered once again why we were doing this. 

“Penny, look at this,” Sid whispered. He was close to the wall, peering at something written in small block letters beneath one of the tags. 

I squinted, but couldn’t make it out in the dim light. “What does it say?”

“It says, ‘Penny, you need glasses.’ No–” Sid dodged my playful slap. “It says, ‘Stay alert. What you need is close’.”

“What does he think we need?”

Sid shrugged. 

The truth was, we needed everything. No matter how well you stock up for the end of the world, you never have enough.

We continued down the tunnel, following the tags we’d identified as Zack’s. There were others, but they looked old. Ancient, as far as the last world was concerned. I never understood Zack’s fascination with tagging, but he had started designing his signature method of communication when we were kids, after reading some old graphic novel Daddy found in a gas station. 

Zack and a few other kids had left the camp a couple of years earlier. They had no family, but were survivors of the military base like Sid and me. We were luckier; they’d been captured and tormented, while we’d managed to stay hidden. We’d all been rescued, but Zack and his crew had never felt like they belonged anywhere.

Still, they stayed in touch, and the tags were useful in locating them. 

“I feel like we’re heading for a dead end,” Sid complained. 

“It’s not a trap,” I retorted. “It’s Zack.”

We came upon a large marking, and underneath a small note, which read simply “Ta-da!”

Entering the small chamber just beyond, we found treasure: toilet paper! 


Author’s Note:  This story came to be because I responded to a prompt on Writers Unite! on their Facebook page. I have come to anticipate their prompts as a way to kick my imagination into gear. You can visit their blog here: Writers Unite!

Those familiar with my work are by now familiar with Penny and Sid, who first appeared my novel Starting in the Middle of The End.

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