Aphelion Issue 279, Volume 26
December 2022/January 2023
Long Fiction and Serials
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Flash Fiction
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Last Man

by Chris Wood

“Ew!” she says. “Look at that .”

He looks up from his spoon of soup. “What?”

“That . . . thing .” She points at the terrazzo floor. “How did it get in here?”

She scuttles up, scrapes her chair in front of her, creating a barrier
between her and the vermin, her wings beating behind her.

Her husband rises from his seat.
The soup’s getting cold.

They look at the man on the floor, waving at them
as though to halt traffic. “What you suppose it wants?” he says.

“How the hell should I know? Kill it, Harry!”

“But maybe it’s trying to say something. Maybe it needs us.”

He stoops down, scrutinizes it.
The man is jumping up and down now, waving
its limbs, rubbing its lips together
to form some obscure chirp.

They listen but do not understand.

“They’re smart, you know,” says Harry.

“They can survive a nuclear attack.”
His antennae twitch with interest.

“And they multiply like chickens!” she says. “Just let one of them in. . . .”

He rolls his multiple eyes. “All right! All right ! Je-sus!”
Between his claws he lifts the man by the tie.

The man’s feet pedal air. Blood rushes to its face.
It keeps chirping that same strange song.

Harry says, “Maybe someday,” and saws
it in half with his mandibles. “Happy now, Doris?”

She scoots her chair back in place. They return to the table.

“Ugh!” she says. “How could you love such
a thing? Now eat your soup, Harry.”

They slurp their soup in silence.

© 2011 Chris Wood

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