AUTHOR'S NOTE: This flash fiction piece about Doc and Mundo in the early days of the Regents precedes the action of the novel and contains no spoilers.
Shivering in the drizzle, waiting for the pyre to ignite, the teenage gang leader turned to the fifteen-year-old who served as doctor to his group of survivors. “We can’t do any more after this one. Not unless it’s urgent.”
“They’re all urgent.” Johnny squinted at him through glasses misted with rain. “Leaving them to rot is a health hazard. And it’s disrespectful.”
“Hey, I respected my elders as much as the next guy,” Mundo said. “But there’s too many. First all the grownups, and now all the kids who can’t make it without them.” He shook his head. “Dearly departed or not, we have to look out for ourselves.”
“Rotting corpses spread disease.”
“And so does rotten food, which is why we need to focus on laying in supplies for winter, before some other gang gets all the good stuff.”
Johnny turned away without answering. The kids who had been delegated to set the bodies on fire were still struggling to light the pyre in the bad weather.
“You gave me quite a lecture about vitamins and nutrition the other day, Doc. Were you bullshitting me or not?”
“Of course not,” Johnny said. “It’s just…”
Mundo slicked his wet hair out of his eyes. “Priorities. We don’t have enough people to forage for food and collect dead bodies, too.”
“Good, so quit getting sentimental on me. No more funerals after today, unless they’re our own people.”
“Food and vitamins, top priorities,” Johnny agreed. He took off his glasses and tried to wipe them clean on his shirt. “But they’re all our people,” he said softly.
When he put the glasses back on, he made a surreptitious swipe at a few drops on his cheeks that weren’t from the rain. If Mundo noticed, he said nothing. Someone had succeeded in lighting the fire, and the flames roared up, orange and greasy, burning the drizzle to a fine mist, and then into nothing at all.
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