‘Little Grey Weirdos’, Anna Ziegelhof

Illustrations © 2018 Miranda Jean



 [ Wardrobe Party, ©2018 Miranda Jean ] Leigh

We first noticed the end of the world because all of our music was gone from all of our devices, which really were one device because it was all made and stored and provided and lost by the Monopoly that everyone used for everything because it was so convenient.

“Some glitch,” I said to Nono and she checked her MoPo but: same. “Let’s go get coffee,” she said, “it’ll be back when we get back.”

But they couldn’t make our coffee because their barista system was down and then it took around two or three days from there for everything to go full-on zombie apocalypse without the zombies but with the looting and the eerie quiet, people evacuating in long lines of cars but where to I’m not really sure.

Then Nono remembered that her uncle was this paranoid retro dude who had a bunker in his backyard that was stocked with everything needed until things would go back to normal. Since no planes, no trains, yay automobiles, we road-tripped a part of the way until we ran out of gas and then started hiking. It’s kind of funny how we didn’t notice that we were in a disaster-survival movie until we were in one. It’s also really funny to notice how money doesn’t buy you anything when there’s nothing to buy and that you’re lacking basic survival skills. (Shit, was it freezing in the woods.)

Nono, Jimmy, and I got pretty rich when our music got pretty popular and although we didn’t get along sometimes, we all enjoyed having some fame and money, so we kept making the tracks that sold well. I guess they sold well in part because they’re catchy but mainly because Nono is pretty cute and Jimmy, too, and I sort of stayed in the background and pushed buttons on the drum machine. It was easy money. We just put some prefab tracks together. I don’t know why not more people got stupid rich like that. Maybe there’s something in-if-able still about the right combination of cute and catchy.

We had probably been on the road for a few weeks. It’s a really big place if you’re not on a plane; humbling, actually. We didn’t know much about how public life was progressing but San Francisco looked pretty shitty. Pretty dangerous, really. When people recognized us they tried to rob us because they thought we had rich-people stuff on us but our MoPos were as useless as everyone else’s. We tried spending the night in some hostel that Nono knew but it, too, had been broken into, just not a nice place.

By that time I was sore and exhausted. It must have been there, with all the robbing, that Nono mentioned that our money was probably gone because if everything was gone, then MoPoBank was gone, too, and that’s where a figure sat that represented our money. Whoever had hoarded cash was a Big Daddy, or whoever had stuff to trade. We noticed that in San Francisco. As things were, we couldn’t buy food. We couldn’t go on TV and do a gossip show because TV was down. We couldn’t even play instruments on a street corner because we couldn’t really play instruments and the tracks were gone. Weeks after the outage, we were still in the process of noticing that everything had gone to pieces for good.


Becky

Dane dropped off the mail and everyone on there was like, ‘harr harr, society as we know it is finally seriously over’. So much gloating. I didn’t even know my people anymore. Who were we, after all, if we didn’t have society to critique? I read the zines, briefly feared that in a network of opinions and dependencies so intricate there was no place for haughtiness if one side crashed and burned, because sooner or later, our side would crash and burn, too, or we would just lose our identity without our unifying enemy. Then I watered the gardens between my building and Dane’s, fed the fishies, fed a dead fishy to the kitty, cleaned the solar panels and went back to the lab to work on a 1970s TTY commission to finally connect Phoenix.

Soldering is good for thinking, so while soldering I started thinking that maybe this was our utopia, or at least our clean slate: the place where we, the weirdos, would step in and build a new world for everyone, a better future. I didn’t go as far as Dane or as the people on the zines some of whom all but declared themselves kings of the new world order: triumph! The Man had finally choked on his own poison! But I couldn’t help but think that a lot of probably okay people had been thrown into a really shitty situation just because nobody ever taught them anything beautiful or useful.


Leigh

Nono had this life-straw thing but you needed a filter for it and after we had all used it a lot I suppose it wasn’t any good anymore. It’s really painful when bodies adjust to stuff, so we were all in a lot of pain. By the end of our disgusting shit-fest somewhere in the beautiful redwood forests of the Bay Area, we were dehydrated, depleted, but not dead yet, astonishingly. Eventually we started drinking creek water again, out of desperation.

We stumbled down the hills, away from the ocean, into the suburban wastelands from the megaquake our teachers had talked about sometimes when they tried to explain to us how come the Monopoly was so popular. It was quiet there. The sun was beating down on the cracked pavement of the highway we walked on. Nono’s skin was peeling off her face because we had run out of sunscreen lotion. Jimmy was limping because someone had stolen his shoes in San Francisco. My stomach was still cramping every once in a while. Everything was just sizzling hot in the sun and broken and creepy. We took a break close to this lagoon lake just off the bay. There was a sad sailboat bobbing around on it, otherwise it was owned by water fowl, like egrets.

Suddenly Jimmy said, “Look!”

He sounded neutral about it. But in survival disaster movies, you should be scared when you see another person, another breathing, drinking, eating organism that needs the same resources you need.

So Nono said “Fuck!” and pulled me behind a bush. Jimmy followed, confused, not quite getting that another person might mean more harm than good. The other person was actually difficult to spot: she sat motionless, cross-legged, on a boardwalk right across the lagoon from us. She was fishing and looked way adjusted.


Becky

I first noticed the intruders in the evening when I was upstairs and the alarm starting flashing. Naturally I assumed it was our resident coyote on his evening round.

“Hey, Pepe, Pepe,” I cooed into the curving tunnel slide that led to the ground floor, two stories below. I sent a bit of scrap food down the slide and stepped to the side to watch Pepe through the plexi-glass partition next to the slide’s entry hole. No Pepe. Instead, the silhouette of a human in the semi-dark, almost as scruffy as the coyote, shuffling around nervously down there. I got out of their potential sightline and used the surveillance monitor instead while morseing Dane across the courtyard. The grainy black and white image on my screen showed me three slight figures, gesturing, looking around, poking at my stuff, which I really couldn’t have.

Dane says I forget how small I am. So I forgot how small I am again, grabbed the gun, shouted down the slide, something along the lines of “Don’t touch my stuff!” and jumped after the echo of my voice. A fire station’s pole, I suppose, would also have been cool but the slide was fine for dramatic entrances: I stood up on the end part of the slide for some added height, gun at the ready. It charged with a whining sound, lighting up its Bellagio fountain of diodes. My intruders’ bony little arms were up in the air quicker than you could say freeze. My gun lit up their faces with its reddish glow: matted hair in moldy rainbow colors, peeling skin, aged ageless, post-racial, probably young, formerly pretty, with wide eyes and clenched jaws, their neck tendons stiff and bulging from fear. A really terrible smell emanated from the trio.

“Oh please don’t shit your pants in my foyer,” I sighed and used the gun to gesture them outside into the courtyard, even at Pepe risk.

Dane arrived, running, at the same time my little posse and I did. If I forgot how small I was, he never forgot how big he was, so he didn’t have anything like a weapon with him.

“Everything a-okay?” he asked, a little bit out of breath, holding up two tentative thumbs.

“Coming up roses,” I replied, but he still hung around between the aquaponics to watch.

“Please,” I said to the intruders, “introduce yourselves.”

“We’re the Wardrobe Party!” the boy said, indignant about my apparent ignorance.

“You’re the what now party!?”

I scanned my peripheral memory. That nonsense didn’t ring a bell. I must have looked it because next the smaller of the two girls explained,

“The band? The WP? And we’re just trying to get to this place in Mariposa county, but we aren’t really doing so well.”

“We got pretty sick,” the boy added, sheepishly.

“And then we saw you fishing earlier and it looked like you knew this place and how to live here and all…” the third person, the taller girl, added.

I nearly laughed at them. “Mariposa county! Well, I guess if John Muir did it, why couldn’t you?”

They all nodded eagerly and pleasantly. People do that when you have a gun aimed at them.

“You need a place to crash? To start smelling less… offensive?” I asked.

Nods and gleaming eyes and pleasantness all around.

“Dane…?” I checked. He agreed gracefully with a sarcastic smirk.


Leigh

So Jimmy did actually shit his pants when that fisher girl apparition with the giant-ass gun appeared out of nowhere in front of us after we had followed her away from the lagoon, along a deserted street and into some sort of abandoned village. Nono said it must have been a company rather than a village, the buildings didn’t look like people would have lived there. The buildings didn’t look like much anyway, though. Just chippy and broken with weeds everywhere.

And like some retro hippie dude the fisherman girl just left the door wide open. Not that there was much of a door. So we went in after it got dark to look for food and stuff. And then she appeared out of nowhere and had this insane gun aimed at us. Like something out of a sci-fi movie. She didn’t even know who we were and this 300 pound Black dude, Dane, didn’t either, so now we didn’t even have our reputation left. But they showed us to their showers. Showers! With running water! And towels! And while we were in there, they took all our clothes, which was awkward, but then we got them back all cleaned and dried.

Even though Nono marveled out loud at every single one of these luxuries, we didn’t actually ask Dane and Becky (that was the tiny fishergirl’s name) questions until after they had shown us to this place that must have been a cafeteria before the megaquake, and fed us this hyper organic homegrown superfood meal.

“Okay so how?” I asked Dane and Becky, who looked at each other confused.

“How do you live here?” I specified. “You can’t just have lived here since the MoPocalypse!”

They laughed. They hadn’t. Their parents had somehow been left behind after the megaquake, after everyone hadn’t really felt like sticking around. And Becky was like, you know, when you get left behind in such a way—she didn’t say in which way but it sounded pretty bad—you eventually say fuck it and get to work figuring things out on your own. So that’s what everyone who had been left behind and survived had done and taught their kids to do. They were their own little society and probably the only part of society that was doing well right now.


Becky

After I had put the kids to bed I sat outside in the sand pit of the beach volleyball court with Dane who didn’t say anything for a while. I wasn’t so sure how he felt about me inviting in these strangers.

“So the Man has sent us his wayward children…” he finally grumbled.

“We can kick them out.”

He grunted. “They’ll die before Modesto.”

He had a point.

“We teach them some things, then kick them out.”

“If they’re going to some mythological relative’s survival bunker just to bide their time until capitalism is back up and running, they might as well stay here and be useful,” Dane suggested. I considered it.

“Those solar panels don’t clean themselves. And I guess we have a few empty buildings to spare,” I added.

“Yea, I guess.”

We both didn’t sound or feel super excited. But when someone that helpless comes crawling past your coyote and into your living room, what can you do?


Leigh

“You’ll be Dante, I’ll be Virgil,” Becky said after breakfast in the morning and Jimmy was like, “Beyoncé? Virgin? What?” and I swear to god I wanted to smack him because it was becoming really embarrassing how we were so nothing without our fame, our money, and our tracks. I mean, we didn’t even know anything.

“She’s offering to show us around hell!” Nono hissed. She was actually the only one who had sort of finished school despite our success with the band.

“Hell?” Jimmy asked, confused and a little scared.

“Not literally,” I sighed.

“Well,” Becky said and smirked, “The inverted place? Where everything is different and uncomfortable, where everything takes effort and it’s not a place you’d want to go?”

Nono looked serious and worried. Jimmy looked confused. I felt ashamed and alone.

“We don’t know that yet. Thanks for the tour, Virgil,” I said, politely. Honestly, some of the stuff I had seen already was pretty badass. Their planters with the fish inside that somehow was a cycle. The solar panels. How they knew about their own plumbing and so on. That gun! Like wow.

There was tons to see. So much I felt like I would never be able to wrap my head around. First it felt neat, then it felt like giving up. I trudged along with the others and after a while I just sort of couldn’t listen to Becky’s explanations anymore. I was just full. My brain was.


Becky

 [ Little Grey Weirdos, ©2018 Miranda Jean ] Kids. Seriously, that’s what having kids must be like: constantly telling someone not to touch something, to get out of there, to do this, not to do that, explain things in the smallest possible words and everything takes forever. I was exhausted after day one of our MoPo invasion. The rift between the three kids happened as soon as they were cleaned, fed, and rested. They got so annoyed with each other and at night, the taller girl, Leigh, was hugging her skinny knees out in the sand pit of the beach volleyball court and crying big round bubbly baby tears about how sorry she felt for herself and Dane just raised his eyebrows at me, so of course I felt obliged to go check on her emotional well-being, too.

I went over to her and gave her an Oreo-hack that my other neighbor, Moira, made. She sniffled and ate the cookie.

“So you were a band?” I asked because it was the first thing that came to my mind that might be distracting. She shook her bleachy rainbow hair.

“All we did was put these prefab tracks together and then kind of hopped around and giggled.” She sounded whiney.

“You put things together! That’s all Dane and I do! That’s cool!”

I was so not a natural at being encouraging. Leigh looked at me and tears welled up in her eyes again.

“I was supposed to be the drummer but I really wanted to be the bass player but I can’t even drum or anything!” The crying had made her already difficult to interpret personality even more volatile and surreal. She babbled some more Dadaist poetry. I didn’t have any more cookies to stuff her with. So I said this:

“Do you still really want to be a bassist in a band?”

She nodded but also immediately disqualified herself from that option by adding another drawn out “I caaan’t!”

I decided to take her across the highway to the building off Villa Street.

“Just one thing,” I said before opening the door. “This has got to be the last time you cry because something is hard.”


Leigh

At first Nono still really wanted to hike to her uncle’s place and Jimmy was catatonic, Becky said, which meant that Jimmy just shrugged and didn’t say anything on the topic of staying or leaving. I really wanted to stay after Becky had shown me the guitar center and told me that I should just do it. You know, like, just do it—not wait for someone else to tell me it’s okay to do it. So I picked this red bass off a hook on the wall, Becky cabled it up for me, and even just feeling that thick sound when I plucked a string was so awesome.

I guess not asking Becky first was not that great but when she caught us one day she just smirked, which is her way of laughing. She never really laugh-laughs. I suppose there’s too much wrong with the world in her opinion.

She and Dane caught us one time when I had taken Nono and Jimmy to that building a little way off from where we were staying. I suppose I figured it might change Nono’s mind about leaving and it might help Jimmy with being catatonic.

Nono and I sort of fussed a little bit about who would get to be the bassist. My final argument was: I had already practiced some. So she took a guitar and Jimmy had actually been so catatonic because he had been thinking and was pretty upset with how everything had gone, so I guess banging out some of his rage on the drums suited him. We sounded pretty terrible, but at least what we started making didn’t belong to anyone else.


Becky

Leigh once said that maybe their success before the collapse was due to something ineffable at the intersection of catchy and cute. She has a way with words, really. It kind of smacks you in the face. It also made me more sympathetic and even sadder. The longer they kept at it, the angrier they became, too, the Little Grey Weirdos and that was somehow good for all of us.


© 2018, Anna Ziegelhof

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