- Foreword: Writing Rochester's Futures
- "Interesting Times"
- "Culinary Capital, 2034"
- "Night Bells"
- "Hollow Lives"
- "The Naked Girl"
- "Time Enough for Love"
- "Day of the Bicentennial"
- "One City at a Time"
- "Want Not"
- "The Costs of Survival"
- "Getting Wet"
- "Top 10 Headlines, Rochester, NY, 2034"
- "North Star Pipeline"
- "The 2034 Lilac Festival"
- "Scotch and Sizzlenuts on the Resolute Bay"
- "Fads (or Why Jerry Loathes the Aliens)" [FULL TEXT, AVAILABLE ONLINE ONLY]
"The Costs of Survival"
Toby blinked in the sunlight. He’d expected outside to be gloomy like the house had been since the plague had forced them to shutter the windows. But instead it was bright, the breeze cool on his skin. Birds sang to each other in the stillness. A great day to play baseball in the park.
He clutched a little tighter on the wooden baseball bat in his right hand. He’d promised to return it to Mikey, but people had started getting sick, and he’d never gotten the chance. Everything looked just the same as it had before, except there was no Mikey or Jim racing on bikes, no adults mowing lawns. Nothing moved at all, and the houses around him looked like something out of a model train set. All the same and not quite real.
If he squinted, he could see the ashes where Mrs. Green’s house had been. Until she got sick, Mom had said they were safe. “The one good thing about living outside of Rochester, instead of in the city,” she’d said. When Mrs. Green died, they burned her and her house. Just to be safe. Toby forced his eyes wide so they wouldn’t close; he saw his mom, sick and dying, whenever he shut his eyes. He jacked up the volume on his music player. The birds sang too loudly in the silence.
There had to be other people alive. The curfew just kept them inside, like it had him and Mom. He missed her, but he refused to cry. Big boys didn't cry. Tears were for babies. Tears were for kids who had moms to wipe them away.
Toby needed to find food. No one had brought anything in weeks, and now he had nothing left at home.
He knocked on the Phillips’ door. Mikey’s parents had always been nice to them, and Mrs. Phillips baked the best cookies. Plus, he could finally return the bat.
No answer. He knocked again and peeked through a window. Mikey’s dad sat on the floor, partly sprawled against the couch. It looked like his eyes were open, but he must have been sleeping. He’d have answered the door otherwise.
Toby pounded on the door until the skin over his knuckles split and he was leaving red lines with every knock. Still no one answered.
Obviously, the Phillips still observed the curfew. The rules stated no one could open their doors or be on the streets. That’s what the soldiers had said at Toby’s house. Mikey and his parents were okay, probably playing Monopoly; Mikey liked Monopoly. They just couldn’t answer without getting in trouble. Besides, all Toby’s knocking had probably gotten the attention of the soldiers. No one would want to risk that. They’d be here any moment to take Toby away. Maybe they’d have food. He curled up in the doorway and waited.
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