Salt of the Earth

[So this week’s flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig was to come up with a new spin on the apocalypse, something that’s never been done before. Which is really a doozy of a challenge when you consider all the fiction that’s been written about the end of the world. I think this approach is unique, but I’m fully expecting comments from you lot saying, “Hey loser, Bob Whathisface wrote that same scenario way better back in the summer of 1953.” So whatever. I’ve always said originality is overrated anyway. Enjoy.]

“Did the world used to be bigger pappa?”

“Used to be, punkin.”

“Uncle Mark says there used to be other towns. Lots and lots of them. I can’t imagine lots and lots of other towns pappa.”

“Well it’s true. They’re still out there, I guess. Somewhere under the Green.”

“Where did the Green come from?”

“No one really knows. Some people say it was a government project that went wrong, but there’s really no way of telling now. Anyone who did know is long dead.”

“What’s a goverman papa?”

“Government, sweety. It was the people who told everyone what to do, and kept them safe.”

“Like you papa?”

“I guess so. In a way.”

“What happened to the govermans papa?”

“The Green got them. Just like it got the rest of the world.”

“Uncle Mark says the Green is evil.”

“I suppose I can understand why he might say that, but you know it isn’t. Not really.”

“What is it then?”

“It’s just a plant punkin. Just like the tree that grows in our yard. Or like the bean we grow in the field.”

“But we can’t pull it up like the beans or cut it down like the tree.”

“That’s right punkin.”

“Because the prickers would get us and kill us. Just like they got Mrs. York’s baby.”


“He swelled up all purple and he couldn’t breath. I saw it.”

“….I know.”

“I’m never gonna touch the Green papa. Never gonna go near it. Because I don’t want to swell up all purple and choke like Bobby.”

“Let’s…let’s talk about something else.”

“But the Green can’t get us. Because of the salt. It doesn’t like the salt.”

“No…it can’t grow in the dirt where the salt is.”

“The Green makes you sad, doesn’t it papa?”

“It’s just a plant.”

“But you cry sometimes when we talk about it.”

“…just a plant.”

“Do you think the Green will ever go away?”

“I don’t know.”

“We could make it go away. We could burn it.”

“They tried that, back when the world was bigger. Back when the government still meant something. They tried…everything.”

“What happened?”

“When they burned the Green…there were these tiny seeds, spores they’re called, and they went everywhere and made the Green grow that much faster. They tried poison too. There was a thing called Agent Orange-“

“That sounds funny.”

“Well it wasn’t funny. It was poison. They thought it would hurt the Green. They knew it would hurt the people, but they thought it would hurt the Green more.”

“But it didn’t work.”

“It worked a little bit, but by that time there was so much of the Green that it grew back faster than they could make the poison.”

“What happened then?”

“I’ve told you this story before.”

“But I wanna hear it again.”

“I don’t like this story.”


“…we ran away. It was hard because there were a lot of people trying to get away from the Green. There wasn’t much food or water. All the gas to make the cars go was gone.”

“And mommy was there?”

“Yes…mommy was there.”

“Was I there?”

“You were there too.”

“I don’t remember.”

“You were very little. Anyway Uncle Mark said the Green was slower by his town because of the cold, so we were trying to get there. But there were a lot of other people doing the same thing. They all wanted to get away from the Green. And there wasn’t enough food…”

“What happened then?”

“We kept walking. For a long time we kept walking without food. There weren’t so many people with us then.”

“What happened to them?”

“A lot of them died. Some of them just sat down and gave up.”

“But not you.”

“No…no not me. We had you to think about, see? So we kept going. We kept going until we couldn’t go any further.”

“And what happened then?”

“We just…stopped. Sat down and…waited.”

“Were you hungry?”

“…so hungry. So hungry…we couldn’t move.”

“But mommy found the food!”


“Tell me about mommy and the food! Its my favourite part.”

“Not today.”

“But she saved us.”

“Yes…yes she did.”

“Even though she was dead.”


“You woke up and she was dead. But then there was food! And you cooked it, and we ate, and mommy was the hero!”


“Why are you crying daddy?”

“I’m sorry punkin. I’m so, so sorry. I never should have…”

“Don’t be sorry papa. We were safe then. We were safe because mommy was the hero.”

“Yes…she was.”

“Tell the rest.”

“We walked the rest of the way. It wasn’t far. Just…just over the next hill. So…so close.”

“You’re crying again.”


“But we were saved.”

“We were saved….we were damned.”​

“You miss mommy.”


“I wish I remembered her.”

“It’s okay punkin.”

“She’s gone and I never got to know her. But Uncle Mark says she’s a part of me now. Is that true daddy? Daddy?”


12 responses to “Salt of the Earth

  1. Oh my, that’s so sad. And disturbing, but such extreme circumstances and a child to look after makes you do crazy things, I s’pose.

    It’s very difficult to keep the pace in a story carried only by dialogue, so well done!

    • I’ve wanted to try a dialogue-only story for a while and this one seemed to lend itself to that form pretty naturally. I was worried I was being to subtle with the ending, but I didn’t want to beat it over the head either. Glad you liked were disturbed by it.

  2. I am very happy I read this…and a bit sad.

    The turn was subtle and beautiful. Well done. It works so much better than “this is how we got the food…”

    • I think sometimes writing is like a good horror movie. The less you show the better it is. Because when your mind fills in the blanks it makes it all the more terrifying. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. The ending wasn’t too subtle in my opinion. But maybe that’s because I’m a horror writer, and I simply assume people are going to eat each other in a survival situation. 🙂

    Well done. Mine goes up tomorrow.

  4. Great, though creepy, story, Al! I agree, you did well with the dialogue.

  5. Nicely done. I think you applied a nice, light touch with this story. You’re right: in a horror story, you can increase the reader’s participation in the story by not serving it all up on a platter – let them fill in the details.
    Cool dialogue story.

  6. This was amazing. Really beautiful and believable (in a disturbing way). I liked it being delivered as all dialogue, too. Nicely done.

  7. So disturbing and well done. It creeps up on you, just like the green, I imagine. I’m still shuddering. Thanks for the post.

  8. Omigosh that…was…awesome!!! Woah! I love the way it creeped up on me. It was sad and chilling at the same time. 😀

  9. High five! We both scored bling. 🙂

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