Francis (aka "Jed") tells how he went off into the Sierra mountains for a few weeks of peace in order to write a novel and accidentally left his world behind. Fragmented radio reports hint that a catastrophe is brewing; appeals to avoid panic splutter to a silent stop. A trip to the nearest gas station confirms his impression that an Ebola-like epidemic must have wiped out most of the people of America. He worries about friends and family, but he worries too about himself and decides to stay put with his large cache of food.

Soon, wiry Sarai storms out of the wilderness demanding help. She has lost her hiking companion and refuses to believe in the full extent of the horror. They return to a city trying to build a life, but they dislike each other too much. They and other scattered survivors dwell in whatever house and drive whatever vehicle they choose; they avoid rotting corpses and each other, furtively taking what they need from shops and leaving the aisles undisturbed. Francis finds a compatible companion in Felicia and they engage in a polite, easy courtship. Their peace is disturbed by the rantings of Sarai, until they are saved by a survivor ex machina.


A grimly ironic, end-of-the-world fantasy, which trades on the premise that patterns of human behavior may be more resilient than the species. It gives a macabre twist to the statement, "I would not want you, even if we were the last people on earth!" The enormity of the losses is so great that the few survivors dwell within the residual patterns and indulgences of the previous life.

Primary Source

After the Plague and Other Stories



Place Published

Harmondsworth, UK



Page Count