After the Asteroid: A Science Fiction Short Story

Excuse me Mister, can I pat your horse? Is this a horse, or just a big donkey? I’ve got a donkey at home. Yup. He’s nine. Same as me. He eats verge-grass. That’s his favourite. And clover, when he can get it.

Is this really a horse? Is he broken-in? My Mum says I have to ask permission to pat someone’s horse, in case it’s a wild one. I love horses. They’re my favourite. Do you know my uncle has a car? He lives in the city. Only rich people drive cars. My uncle doesn’t drive his because he’s not rich and he can’t buy the oats for it. He just leaves it out in the paddock and I nused to sit in it sometimes but now it’s full of weeds. Can you believe that? He just let weeds grow up around it and now it’s not ever going nowhere.

I wouldn’t want to drive a car anyway. I love my donkey. His name’s Fido. Do you have a dog? Three dogs! Oh my god, you must be a farmer. I knew it. My Mum nused to have a collie, don’t you know? But she had to get rid of the dog when she got me. Not because of me. I’d love a collie. She had to give her to a farmer, because of The Effort. But we still go to see her sometimes. Her name is Patsy and she’s nothing but skin and bone.

Do you know my Mum nused to be real fat? I seen some photos once in an album. My mum nused to take heaps of pictures and stick ‘em in the album and back in the olden days everyone nused to be fat. Did you? I wish I was fat. Mum said she nused to hate being fat but now she got a boney bum and it’s real cold in the wintertime. She never knew that until after ten-thirteen, and now she spends all her days moaning and groaning about her cold toes.

Spuds. My Mum only grows spuds ‘cos she’s got black fingers – not actually black – that’s just a Figure of Speech. Did you know in the olden days people nused to plant grass and waste good fuel cutting it short every weekend? What a waste of time! You can’t even eat grass.

You grow ‘sparagus? Every Tom Dick and Harry grows ‘sparagus and we won’t be trading you any of that, not if I have any say in it. I hate ‘sparagus. It’s all right with salt I spose, but Mum won’t let me use much salt. She says I’m too liberal with it.

My Mum remembers way back when salt was cheap as chips, which is dumb ‘cos chips aren’t cheap either. Do you know I get to eat chips every night? Without salt though. And my Mum, she swaps carrots with Mrs Wilson, onions with a lady at church and beans. Green beans. I hate green beans but I have to eat ‘em up before I’m allowed to read my book. Did you know my Mum has a whole shelf full of recipe books? Yup. She looks at them sometimes but she never makes any of the recipes inside because you can’t get the stuff to make recipes no more. Did you know they’re not stocking jam this month? Nup. It’s off the government list but you can still get peanut butter. But it’s disgusting because it’s got no salt. It’s just crushed up peanuts and they’re passing it off as butter. You ever had butter? I never had butter.

Did you ever go to India, Mister, before ten-twelve? My mum, she wishes she went to India before it got wiped off the face of the earth. She reckons it would’ve been an Eye Opener.

I’m not sure what’s an Eye-Opener. Was that another type of lolly? Do you remember the olden day lollies? Grown-ups are always going on about olden day stuff, like lollies and ice-cream and lemonade. I found a liquorice strap down the side of the couch when I was seven and a half, but I haven’t had any other kinds of lolly. It was okay but nothing to write home about. I don’t know what the big deal is.

Do you remember ten-thirteen, Mister? What were you doing at the time? I was a foetus. I don’t remember much about that but it was pretty boring. My mum, she was hanging out the washing. That’s pretty boring too. She says she saw a big blackness in the sky and she won’t say much more than that because it’s Taboo.

Are you a Racist, Mister? I seen some Racists last week holding signs outside the old bank. Charity begins at home, ya know.

Do you know any Asians? My teacher’s an Asian. Do you know we’re doing algebra at school? My mum says algebra’s no use and we should be learning agriculture. I hate algebra. Did you nused to learn about Asia in geography? We have to nuse really old books because they don’t print no more books, you know. Our teacher makes us skip the pages that got wiped. Our teacher, she was born here in New Zealand but now she can’t ever go home to her own people. My Mum says don’t worry because there’s not gonna be another ten-thirteen, not unless I live to be a real old lady. What do you reckon, Mister?

Were you a Believer? I guess you were ‘cos you’re still here. Where did you bunker down? Oh, okay. Mum says I’m not meant to ask them questions.

Hell, I dunno. You grown-ups are always saying stuff like, ‘What you want to be when you grow up?’ Broken record! I don’t even know if I will grow up ‘cos I’ve recently started with the coughing, you know.

Want to know the truth? Really? I want to be a farmer. I don’t want to be a nurse. I’m sick of The Effort. Grown-ups are always going on about The Effort and Electricity and Necessities and Recycling. I don’t ever want to have babies but if girls don’t have babies you have to be a nurse. Or if you keel over at the sight a blood you have to look after other ladies’ babies and I don’t like kids, even though I am one. So I’m gonna be a farmer.

I’m going into cats. Cat farmers got it easy, I reckon. You just catch a few in a possum trap, look under their tails and lock ‘em up together. Cats’re randy as randy so you don’t need to do much with ‘em and soon you got a farm for free. You got to feed them, but I know where to find rats.

I got a pet rat, did you know? I got pet worms, some slaters in a jar, and a pet rat. My friend Corker, he reckons worms aren’t real pets ‘cos they don’t interact, and rats don’t make for pets ‘cos real pets live in cages. But it’s against The Effort to have pets, eh. So us kids just got to do the best we can nowadays. Those days are gone.

Did you know that Mrs Wilson, my neighbour, she nused to have three whole Cha-wa-was, back in the olden days when I was still a foetus? Have you ever seen one a them? They nused to be a cross between a cat and a dog and they’re stupid as stupid, and the farmers didn’t even want ‘em so they got ate. My mum says they should a been left alone to see out the rest of their days. They were all skin and bone and didn’t eat much anyway, but they got gobbled by one of our neighbours. Do you know dog livers are poisonous for humans? It’s true. He ate ‘em and died, ya know, not with The Coughing. It was Suspicious Circumstances and you can ask anyone you like.

I’m not ever risking dog. That’s why I stick to cats. My teacher, she’s Asian you know, and she says she never ate cat before in her life. Not before she had to. She said it’s only Racists that think the Chinese nused to eat other people’s cats. Do you know, some people nused to keep cats for pets? In their house, leaving hairs all over the duvet? Can you believe it?

I don’t actually like cats. I struck a bad one once and it was sour, like a lemon. I’ve never had a lemon ‘cos lemon trees won’t grow round these parts, but I heard lemons are sour like Tomcats on heat. It’s better for cat farmers not to like cats anyway. You don’t want to eat your own profit.

But I do like cats when Mrs Wilson comes around. She has to come to our house every Monday, ya know. For The Effort. She cooks up her own food while Mum’s oven is all heated up. We go round to hers on a Wednesday, right before Mum goes to her nursing shift. Mrs Wilson, she’s a renowned cook, did you know? She can make gravy from Scratch. My mum can’t make gravy. She reckons she needs instant gravy powder and they don’t sell that no more. I guess they’re fresh outta Scratch, too. Is that not on the government list? My mum, she complained to the manager, but he says gravy powder’s ‘not deemed a necessity’. So he won’t be getting any more in. No instant gravy for me. Not this side a heaven.

I nused to like Cat with Curry. That was all right, but nobody has curry anymore ‘cos that nused to get shipped out from Madras. Do you know Madras wasn’t called Madras, even before ten-thirteen? But they called it Madras anyway, on the side of the box. We still have an empty curry thingee at home ‘cos one day it’ll be a Collector’s Item. I like to open it up and sniff it, but Mum says not to waste the sniff. So I can only have two sniffs and then I have to put the lid back on. Curry makes me sneeze. And sneezing makes me cough.

I like it when Mrs Wilson nuses our oven. She gives me some of her own dinner. She’s a much better cook than my mum but Mum says I’m Grabbing, so I’m not allowed to take scraps off of Mrs Wilson except when Mum’s not looking and then I can. I’m not allowed to accept food from strangers either, did you know? Except carrots. Carrots are in short supply this year, ‘cos of The Blight. Do you grow carrots, Mister? Had any luck?

Do you know my friend Corker? He’s nine too. There’s only two nine year olds in our village and he’s the other one. Yeah, thought you’d know him. I’ll probably have to marry him. That’ll be the day. Anyway, Corker says I should just farm rats. Cut out the middle man and not bother with cats. I don’t know about that. I wouldn’t want to eat no stinking rat.

Would you?

Okay, see you round, Mister. That is a real nice horse you got there. Horses are my favourite, don’t you know?


On paper, things look fine. Sam Dennon recently inherited significant wealth from his uncle. As a respected architect, Sam spends his days thinking about the family needs and rich lives of his clients. But privately? Even his enduring love of amateur astronomy is on the wane. Sam has built a sustainable-architecture display home for himself but hasn’t yet moved into it, preferring to sleep in his cocoon of a campervan. Although they never announced it publicly, Sam’s wife and business partner ended their marriage years ago due to lack of intimacy, leaving Sam with the sense he is irreparably broken.

Now his beloved uncle has died. An intensifying fear manifests as health anxiety, with night terrors from a half-remembered early childhood event. To assuage the loneliness, Sam embarks on a Personal Happiness Project:

1. Get a pet dog

2. Find a friend. Just one. Not too intense.




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