Now the final installment of the "Vegas Sage", starting a little sooner than I planned. Hey, how could I pass up a chance to write story 200 (or 201)? And this is just a funny vignette I thought up for an original character; the chapter title is a parody of a fairly famous "cave man" film. Picture accompanied by Also Sprach Zarathustra/ the 2001 theme...
The Quest For Pineapple
Four months into the Pandemic, large portions of the stored food supplies of the former USA were beginning to spoil, a process which accelerated as refrigeration units failed. Canned foods were quickly becoming the food of choice, not just for uninfected humans but for "zombies" as well. Unfortunately for the latter, it was quite difficult to extract food from a can when their average aptitude with tools made Homo habilis look good.
The loading dock of a mid-sized grocery store a few miles east of the Vegas Strip was a typical scene. A panel van had crashed halfway down the ramp, throwing the back doors open, spilling dozens of cans of fruits and vegetables and revealing hundreds more. Zombies came frequently, and might stay long after creatures of no greater intelligence would have given up. At present, thirty-five zombies were swarming over the truck, and even more wandered about the store and the parking lot. The cans on the ground were getting rusty and dented, and many had lost their labels. Yet, even the most battered specimens were grabbed up eagerly. Whether the zombies held residual memory of the cans' function, or with their keen senses could somehow detect the food within, was unclear. It might be said in defense of the latter theory that the zombies showed the least interest in cans of green beans. Fruit, on the other hand, seemed to be highly desired, especially peaches and pineapple.
Scene after scene seemed to harken back to the dawn of the naked ape. Cans were battered with all manner of blunt instruments, and frequently flung or dropped. Unfortunately, when such methods met with any success, it tended to become a pyrrhic victory as the contents splattered everywhere, to spill into nooks and crannies, disappear down drains, seep into the dirt or simply be devoured by the other zombies. Prying cans open was preferable, but far more difficult. Some zombies went at it with ingenuity, like a zombie banging a can with another can. Some were systematic, like a zombie trying out various parts of a Swiss army knife. Some used teamwork, like one zombie that held a can in place while another used both hands to gouge and pry with a screw driver. A few even showed glimmers of full-blown civilization, like the zombie that offered two unopened cans to another holding a half-open can of spinach. But for every success, many more ended with cuts, bruises and cans rolling away, and for every pair of zombies that worked together, scores wrestled, scuffled or openly battled, frequently with the can as the main weapon. An especially fierce battle was being fought for and with a large can of name-brand pineapple.
The can was already dented and bloody as the largest of five combatants wrested it from a rival. But the victor had no better idea than to bang the can against the truck gate, and he could scarcely do that with three others trying to take it away. The label tore and the can slipped away. As it rolled down the ramp, a sixth stopped it with his foot and scooped it up. The newcomer's eyes gleamed red in the shade of a British flat cap. The rest snarled and advanced, but hesitated when the infamous "Andy Capp" brandished an especially large implement. Then the Capp slammed the can down on the raised curb and swung his big, slightly rusty manual can opener into place. The zombies retreated from the sound of grinding gears and tearing metal.
Capp had to set down the can opener to pick up the can. Lifting with both hands, he swigged from it like a flagon, spilling juice and fruit.
When he lowered the can, he grinned around a massive mouthful of pineapple chunks. The other zombies stared. Then a small, shy female stepped forward and set a can at Andy Capp's feet.