“Law of the Primal Age” by Justin Kassab
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
Law of the Primal Age
by Justin Kassab
Peter stood over the bathroom sink, checking in the mirror to be sure that the lines of his suit were straight. Assuring himself he looked as good as circumstances permitted, he leaned over the sink and rubbed a smooth beach stone between his hands. Seventy-three days ago he would have used water, but now their community had strict water usage policies.
Seventy-three days ago, Peter had been a lawyer and everything in the world had been normal. Then the flu vaccine had been released, promising to save the country, but instead turned the vaccinated into rabid monsters. Peter and two hundred other people had been at Costco when the transformation happened. Some of them, like Peter, had refused the vaccine on principle, and after fighting the monsters, the survivors were fifty-seven strong.
Fifty-six, Peter remembered. He pocketed the stone and felt his pistol in his shoulder holster, then left the bathroom and entered the shantytown the survivors had erected within the Costco. In seventy-three days they had killed to survive, but now, for the first time, a murder had been committed.
Peter could feel the eyes of the survivors on him as he walked down the aisle towards the tribunal; being the only lawyer, he had been selected to defend the culprit, Will. Will had drunkenly murdered his best friend because Will was in love with the guy’s girlfriend.
Peter knew it was impossible to prove Will’s innocence because Peter was a witness at their makeshift bar during the murder. Will had casually approached his friend, said hello, slammed a knife into his kidney, and then sat, deranged and giggling.
Obviously, Peter could prove Will had lost his mind in the Primal Age. They didn’t have a jail, though; even if they did, it would only cause more problems. Sacrificing one person to watch the prison and continuing to feed the prisoner was a waste of resources that they couldn’t afford.
Peter hated to admit that he sympathized with Will. The end of the world had changed all the equations. In the past, it would have been simple to wait until the relationship ended, but in the Primal Age, pickings were slim. The only two options left were murder, or suicide.
Sadly, Will hadn’t picked suicide.
As that thought crossed Peter’s mind, he darted for the nearest trashcan and regurgitated his morning’s ration. He had been a Catholic before the Primal Age, when suicide had been a cardinal sin. He was shocked by his reaction to who he had become in seventy-three days.
Peter searched his jacket pocket, removed a handkerchief, wiped his mouth, and proceeded towards the tribunal. He considered a drunk plea for Will, pinning the crime on evil alcohol. This approach had worked for him in the old world, but here that would lead to legislation against booze, and likely a prohibition. Survivors had already lobbied the tribunal for a prohibition, and if Peter made the case, they would win the argument—but that would deny him whiskey, which was his last pleasure in the Primal Age.
Even if he blamed alcohol, that still wouldn’t solve Will’s situation. Jail was a terrible idea for the survivors. They could, of course, release him outside of their boundary. Most times that would be a death sentence, but Will might meet up with a paramilitary force and barter his life for information. Then their enemies would know their defenses as well as their stores. So setting him free was impossible.
Without jail, or exile, the only option was the death penalty. However, it wasn’t a simple murderer sentencing: they would then have to address which crimes would be punishable by death and which wouldn’t. This first trial would set the stage for every crime committed moving forward.
Peter entered the makeshift courtroom. Two empty shelving units held most of the survivors who were watching from above like vultures. One table held the five survivors that formed the tribunal, with two shorter tables for the prosecution and defense.
Peter proceeded past the prosecutor to the defense table where Will waited. Upon seeing Peter, Will’s bloodshot eyes ran rivers of tears down his stubble-covered cheeks.
Peter glanced from Will to the tribunal, to the avidly waiting crowd, to the sneering prosecution, and back to Will. Peter couldn’t make such an enormous decision, one that would influence the community forever.
Watching the tears flow down Will’s face, Peter reached into his coat and withdrew the pistol. Peter pulled the trigger. Will’s body hit the ground as red flowers bloomed on his chest, and Peter took his seat.
JUSTIN KASSAB graduated in 2009 to the worst job market since the Great Depression: the end of the world didn’t look so bad. To pass his time of being unemployed, he took an interest in survivalist skills. The hobby carried over into his writing and led to the crafting of The Primal Age Chronicles, a series of short stories and novels about the end of the world. He studied under Kaylie Jones at Wilkes University and now serves as her graduate assistant at Kaylie Jones Books.
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected] Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Jun 3, 2013
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