It all started with the goddamn pumpkin spice.
She sighed, remembering when it was simply a seasonal beverage that was simultaneously adored and mocked for its adulation, and not what it is today. She kicked her Ugg into a wet pile of leaves, and looked around at the vast expanse before her. A fire burned far off on the horizon; a sign that her camp and campmates were still alive, one of the few small comforts left in this wasteland. That, and her sheepskin boots, flannel shirt, and leggings combination, of course.
She trudged along, using her spear as a walking stick to help ease the burden of walking so many miles. It might be Uber that she misses the most, but who can really quantify something like that? Besides, there was so much to miss: the internet, being able to enjoy seasonally-flavored-and-scented food and home goods, plumbing, oversize sunglasses, electricity, not having to hunt for every meal, the mall; everything about how her life used to be.
But she was learning and adapting to this new way of life. For some reason, she was spared, and now has to survive in this post-apocalyptic landscape. It hasn’t been easy; far from it. Realizing she couldn’t post Instagram stories about how difficult this was was one of the first real blows she had endured; one of the first things that made her see that this was for real and not just a recurring nightmare from that bad Ayahuasca trip back in South America a few years ago.
She had set up that camp, after all, and welcomed fellow survivors with open arms. Together, her motley crew had survived this year with minimal sickness and death. It felt good to step up and become a leader, like using muscles she’d forgotten she had. Although, she was pretty ripped now, like all good apocalypse survivors. Turns out, you build up a lot of muscle when you can’t eat any pre-packaged food and every day you could potentially be eaten by flesh-crazed monsters and you have to completely fend for yourself at every moment of every day. Who knew?!
That’s what she was out doing now: hunting. Scavenging for any type of suitable meat, although she preferred rabbits and deer and generally passed up any other animal. That is, until recently. It’s gotten much harder to find food as the summer died and fall swooped in like a bat, covering everything with darkness.
What she wouldn’t give for a cookie. Or some toilet paper. Something soft, like the kind in those old commercials where the cartoon bears…
Nearby, there’s a rustling in the trees. She freezes, bear butts forgotten, suddenly alert. Is it an animal, or something far more treacherous? She turns her head, squints her eyes at the tree line. Fuck, it’s dusk and she hasn’t caught any animals nor started making her way back to camp. Shit, shit, shit fuck dammit. The rustling is noticeably closer now. There’s nothing she can do but prepare herself. She’s killed before; she’ll kill again if it means staying alive.
Spear poised at the ready, she’s about to lunge into the trees when her camp-mate, Danny, comes out.
“What the fuck?! Don’t stab me, dude!” he yells. “I went hunting, too. I caught two rabbits!” He holds them up triumphantly in his right hand. He smirks. “Guess it’s a good thing I went out hunting too, huh?” he says, while staring at the lack of fresh animal corpses proffered from her hand.
She rolls her eyes, already back to a standing position. “Oh my god, Danny, you scared the hell out of me! You asshole! And nobody told me you were hunting tonight, too!” She pauses and looks him in the eye. “Although, you’re right; it’s a good thing you did. Thanks for the food; we should definitely head back to camp. It’s getting dark.”
He nods and begins to walk back toward the camp with her, dead rabbits swinging from his right hand. His bloody machete is tucked safely in its holster on his belt, his left hand tucked into his pocket. They walk in silence for a while; mostly because she needs to recover from the adrenaline rush and subsequent crash after realizing it was just Danny in the woods.
They’d known each other before all of this, well enough to walk in silence but not so well as to know what the other was thinking about.
She was thinking about when they had worked together at the coffee shop. You know the one; the one responsible for this whole goddamn pandemic and apocalypse they now found themselves in. It was only because she worked there that she was spared, really. She’d needed some extra cash and started working there on weekends, thinking it would be fun, plus all the perks: free drinks on your shifts, a decent employee discount, health care benefits, her friends all thinking it was so cool and coming to visit her while she worked. She’d loved it, for a while. But she soon got bored of the seasonal brouhahas, and all of the blending, and the insane drink requests. By the time pumpkin spice season rolled around, she wasn’t even interested. Plain black coffee, or a simple Americano, thanks; none of this faux-artisanal stuff. It made her sad to think about, as it had once been one of her favorite things, the return of pumpkin spice in all of its autumnal glory.
But then the outbreak happened. It started small, on the other side of the country. People were coming down with what seemed like a massive flu, but they all craved pumpkin spice everything. Then suddenly, it spread like wildfire, and those people who were sick weren’t just feeling like they had the flu and the pumpkin spice wasn’t enough; they started eating human flesh. Her fellow Ugg-boot-wearing, pumpkin-spice-drinking brethren were the undead, and they had wiped out most of the country with them. Word had it that it had spread overseas, too. It’s possible everyone was gone minus small outlying camps of survivors. But there was no way to tell without traveling, and that was a treacherous task.
She pulled herself out of her thoughts and turned to Danny. He looked worried, but when he felt her looking, he turned and smiled a weak smile.
“Sorry I’m not very talkative now,” he said, “I was nearly killed not long ago.”
She rolled her eyes. “Danny, I was absolutely NOT going to stab you, I swear! Here, give me the rabbits; we’re almost to camp. I’ll go ahead and get them cleaned so we can all eat tonight.”
He handed her the rabbits. “Thanks, yeah, sorry, I’ll be fine,” he said meekly.
She smiled, noticing for the first time that he had kept his left hand in his pocket this whole time. Weird, but, whatever; guys are strange creatures. She went ahead; they weren’t far from camp now, and dinner had to be prepared. Think of how excited everyone will be! Two rabbits!
Danny trailed behind, looking more uneasy with every step. He hadn’t been talking about her almost-spear attack on him. He took his left hand out of his pocket. It was deeply scratched, perhaps even bitten, bleeding profusely, and turning a very noticeable shade of orange.
Scent notes: Pumpkin spice is the star of this sexy scent, in combination with some spicy chai tea. Burnt sugar, like marshmallows roasted on a campfire, and a bit of that campfire’s smoke, to boot. Because it’s the apocalypse and the world is burning, there’s a quick hit of tar when it’s first applied; but that fades into the delicately sexy, sweet, and spicy blend of pumpkin, chai, smoke, and burnt sugar. Everyone’s gonna want a bite out of you.