the last man in regina

This and my most recent entry (the last cigarette) were submissions to the next print issue of The National Pist. Editors and executive, please don't hurt me for throwing this stuff up on the web.

If it weren’t for post-apocalyptic B-movies, I don’t think I’d ever have stayed in Regina.

Let me give you some background. In late July of 1989 I took my first walk through Regina’s downtown, having flown in from Halifax only days before. It was a Sunday afternoon, pitilessly hot, the streets wide and bright and empty, and all the silent buildings radiating reflected heat. For a boy raised on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, it felt like a quick dip inside a nuclear attack (remember, the end of the Cold War was still four months away).

Or maybe it was a neutron bomb that had dropped, because as far as I could tell, downtown Regina was utterly empty. Stores may have been open, but no one was entering or exiting. Was this city run from underground bunkers or something? Were tunnels running from deep beneath the earth into The Pant Shack and the Robins Donuts, where pale Reginans with watery pink eyes and blue-veined skin could buy discount jeans?

I began to feel like Cillian Murphy walking the empty streets of London in 28 Days Later, or less presciently, Vincent Price in The Last Man on Earth. Price plays the title role, a lone human wandering the deserted cities with a rifle in his hand and a desperate hope in his eyes. The rifle is there to ward off everyone who’s become a vampire, which seems to be everyone in existence. Eventually he runs into a group of people managing to stave off the vampiric pathogen by means of regular vaccinations. They all dress like extras from La Dolce Vita and live from injection to injection, holding bravely on to their humanity. For some reason that isn’t good enough for Vincent Price, who runs around calling them freaks until they shoot him.

It was pretty clear to me that some sci-fi scenario had cleared Regina’s downtown of all life. Despite the horrific heat, I figured that the Soviet Union hadn’t made a last-ditch nuclear attack on Western civilization (I would have seen the Emergency Broadcast Signal on TV, followed by instructions on where to gather). And that whole business with underground tunnels leading to retail outlets seemed a bit too complicated. The vampire sickness seemed the most likely, being at once an elegant an efficient solution to the creepy emptiness of the city streets.

Maybe if I was lucky I could find that enclave of stylish well-armed semi-vampires. Unless, of course, they’d run out of serum, and now my new city had become a horde of bloodsucking zombies and some American tourists up for the Royal Red Horse Show. Any scenario would be better than the alternative – that Regina was populated by people who would sooner shoot Vincent Price in the head than go for a walk on a summer day.

That possibility was so ridiculous that I dismissed it immediately and set about the brutal business of survival in a fallen and forsaken world. Following the example of Mr. Price, I built a small fortress in the south end of the city, foraging by day and defending against vampire attacks by night. It’s something to see these hideous mimics approaching my building as twilight gathers, all of them dressed in the tattered reminders of their former lives and still displaying their habits of old: police in their cruisers at night, postal workers at dawn, Jehovah’s Witnesses in the mid-afternoon. The JWs aren’t vampires, but the garlic seems to keep them at bay as well.