AUTHOR'S NOTE: This flash fiction piece was written for Magpie Tales. It is not part of the novel and it contains new characters that have not been mentioned in the novel or previous short stories. Be sure to drop by Magpie Tales for more fun!
Petra saw it first, sitting on a desk in the corner with a piece of paper stuck in it as if its owner had stepped away for a snack instead of gone away to die like the other victims of the pandemic. The little machine was so like a computer, yet so different! She touched a key and jumped back when something inside moved with a sharp clack.
Jamail came running, gun drawn. "What was that?"
"It's all right." Petra suppressed a smile. How like him to think he still needed to protect her, after all they had been through. "Look what I found."
"So what?" Jamail put his gun away. "We need food and water filters, not another useless invention."
"But it's not useless. Petra approached the typewriter again and examined the piece of paper. Her random keystroke had resulted in a neat letter q. "Since it doesn't need electricity, we can use it to type things."
"We don't need to type anything. Come on." He gestured toward the door. "The others found some boxes that look like they might contain something useful."
Petra followed him, but her thoughts were elsewhere. Of course the typewriter was useful. People had once used them to write books, conduct business, and... "I've got it!"
"No, silly. A newspaper."
Jamail glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. "Are you finally losing it? We've all been under a lot of stress since the die-off, but—"
Petra stopped in the musty hallway. "We can start a city newspaper. We'll take subscriptions and ads, and make people give us food in exchange." She clasped her hands in excitement. "There's news everywhere, with all the gang wars, so we've got plenty of material. We'll become journalists and we won't have to forage every day. It'll be just like civilization!"
With an exasperated shake of his head, Jamail grabbed Petra by the sleeve of her coat. "Quit dreaming. There might be MREs in those boxes the other guys found, and survival is all that matters."
Petra allowed herself to be pulled down the hall, but no power on earth could drag her away from her fantasies. They couldn't live like beasts forever and civilization had to start somewhere. Why not begin with words on paper?
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