- Epilog -

- I -

"Hey! Look, Father Simon! Look what I caught."

Suppressing the smile on my face would have been as impossible as touching the moon. Being called 'Father' amused me. I was neither a priest nor the boy's biological father. He, on the other hand, might argue. Swear as he will, he will not be convinced that I am anything other than his dad.

"That's quite a catch," I relied looking at the trout he held up. Scales shimmered like rainbows as the fish flopped back and forth.

"A rainbow...Helen I hope you found your peace."

Everything had happened only four short years ago; yet it felt much like an eternity. It was a slow transition at first. Somehow, I managed to keep Mickey safe. We had a few close calls but we survived. Four years of traveling might be tough, but Mickey never once gave up.

Sometimes he still dreams of his mother. I convinced myself long ago she didn't make it. Mickey would also disagree with that. He believes that someday we will find her. We had traveled all the way to Kentucky and back. We only returned with the faint hope that some friends were not lost.

For now, time by the stream in the early summer morning was enough to calm us. There's not much left of this world but somehow humanity survived. Months after 'The Pulse' was aired around the world, the zappies started to act strange. They first set to turn everyone into one of them but the second dose wasn't as strong. Eventually they either killed each other or committed suicide. The zappies that managed to survive, despite that, were extinguished by norms either in self defense, pity or in the war.

The war lasted eight months. Almost every norm contributed by the end of it. Since the zappies where in such a state of confusion, they weren't hard to kill. Most went mad and could no longer control the strange powers they had accumulated by The Pulse.

In the end, humanity survived. But survival carried a heavy price.

"I think we will be there by tomorrow, Mickey. But...don't set your hopes too high. There's no tellin' if it's even still there."

"I know," he said sitting beside me on the grassy mound.

Tomorrow we were going to check on the house his grandparents had lived in when he was four. Next to that was the house he lived in with his mother. I feared what we would find but Mickey was so like Helen. He had enough hope for the both of us and more to spare.

- II -

To my surprise both houses (along with the rest of the neighborhood) were standing and in fairly good condition. The years had been unkind; keeping the yards very unkempt.

The first place Mickey wanted to go was his own home. The small house was modest. Once around the waist high grass we tried the front door. Thanks to neglect, it nearly crumbled under the pressure of a simple push.

I followed Mickey into the dimly lit house. Mold and musk assaulted us subtly.

The front door opened into the living room. Two couches, two coffee tables and a TV stand (complete with TV) rested with a thick layer of undisturbed dust. Pictures of dragons and other mystical settings adored the walls in most places and the floor (from falling) in others.

The living room opened to a small dinning room and kitchen. Once again dust had made its home here along with a number of crawling insects and mice. Any food that had once been gathered there had long ago been scavenged by the elements.

Through the dinning room was a small hall. To the left was the bathroom, straight ahead was the room Mickey claimed as his and to the right was Helen's room. Mickey slipped into his old room. I turned and stood at the doorway to Helen's.

"I understand why you left us. I know that they were after you and you couldn't protect Mickey like you wanted. I only wish you were still here. He needs you..."

Whoever said that real men don't cry can go to hell for all I care. I cried. Silent tears accompanied me as I stared blankly at the room. I tried to imagine it as it had been four years ago. I'm sure I was close but doubted that I could capture all the details. It was a shame I hadn't known Helen before all hell on Earth broke loose. I would have liked to have known her when the end of the world wasn't nearing.

Mickey finished what he had needed to do and guided me back out of the house. The eight year old was resilient and coasted through without a single tear. Surely he had inherited Helen's inner strength.

Entering into Mickey's grandparent's house was a bit tougher. The hinges to the screen door had rusted over and it took us both to pry it from the doorway. The wood door beneath was sturdy but unlocked. We entered the larger house and immediately saw a big difference. Where Helen's house had been neglected, it was evident that someone had taken residence in this house - though they were no longer here.

Dust layered everything much as it had Helen's house but in far less quantities. A fireplace tucked to the side didn't conceal that a fire had been burning only last winter.

Mickey stopped halfway into the living room and knelt. My view was obstructed but I could see him shake slightly. I gave him a few minutes before breaking his trance.

"Mickey?"

He stood and turned slowly. "F-father Simon..." he whispered. Clutched to his chest was a stuffed panda - dilapidated with time. Keeping one arm clasped tightly around the stuffed animal, he handed me a folded sheet of paper.

For a second more, I watched him. His dry eyes clouded and a storm of tears covered his cheeks. I stepped toward him. Playing my mirror, he stepped away. Nodding his head, he indicated the paper I had momentarily forgotten. I unfolded it and read it silently.

Mickey,

I hope that you get this someday. I've lived in this house for three years now and it's time I move on. But before I do I had to tell you about your mother. She was the best and I wanted you to know just how much she loved you. She wanted you to grow up and live a happy full life. That is why she decided to fight. Those craze-bakes (as I called them) would never stop hunting her down and she knew if they found you with her then you would have been killed. She sent you away because of how much she truly loved you.

And I love you too. I've been here, in my parent's house, too long and it is time for me to move on. Please come and find me if you get this note. I'll be headed toward Pennsylvania. Come find me at the chocolate factory. Check you later, kid.

Uncle Shawn

I extended my arm and Mickey fell against me. The eight year old looked like a scared four year old. I remembered many nights the child had asked for Panda when he realized he had left it behind. Now panda and boy were reunited.

We settled for the night. Right now I'm not sure if we'll stay here for a while or head up to Pennsylvania soon. We'll worry about that later, after we've had time to rest.


Thanks bunches Goddess of the Deep – you notes really kicked my inspiration back into gear. Sorry it had to end so soon.

Also thank you to all who reviewed, emailed me and read my story.

This is the first story I've ever done with such a somber ending. I knew how I wanted it to end before writing. I've always done the 'happily ever after' endings and had to try at one that was 'not-so-happy'. Though it was happy not to kill of everyone. I hope you all enjoyed my venture through this story.