Wonderland

Life After the Zombie Apocalypse

by J. Scott Coatsworth

Zeke is a hermit in his late forties who lives a quiet life in a small cabin in the Western Montana mountains, a few miles outside of Thompson Falls. He’s gotten used to being alone since the end of the world, and has everything he needs. Everything but someone to talk to.

Nathan is a younger man on a cross-country trek, searching the country for someone... anyone still alive. Saddled with a ghost from his old life and a case of OCD, he stumbles upon Thompson Falls and a pack of rabid dogs.

Rescued by Zeke, he has to figure out how to be human again. And with Christmas just a week away, both men have to figure out if there’s something left to be hopeful for, and if they might have a future together.

Published:
Publisher: Other Worlds Ink
Editors:
Cover Artists:
Genres:
Tags:
Pairings: M-M
Heat Level: 1
Romantic Content: 2
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 46-65
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Age Difference, Biological Urge to Mate, Coming Home, Coming Out Later in Life, Everyone is Queer, Hurt / Comfort, May/December, Trapped Together
Word Count: 20000
Setting: Montana
Languages Available: English
Excerpt:

Zeke returned to the kitchen and pulled a couple dirty plates from the sink.

Nathan had flinched when Zeke had hugged him. He had started to shake.

Did that mean Nathan liked him? Was afraid of him, disgusted by him? He didn’t know how to read the signs. He'd always been crap with all that touchy feely stuff.

He glared at the stacks of dirty dishes. He hadn't quite finished cleaning the place, but maybe he could keep Nathan out of there until he had a chance to get things organized.

His visitor seemed like a nice guy. Zeke wished his gaydar was better.

He washed the plates with some dish soap, giving them a good scrub, and dried them with some of his precious paper towels. He pulled out the last of his smoked salmon and put it on the plates, along with the fruit salad. "I have a few Snapples left," he called. "Lemon or peach?"

"Peach is fine."

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Zeke hauled the plates and a couple forks out into the living room and presented one of them to Nathan with a flourish. "Compliments of the chef."

Nathan laughed. "What I wouldn't give to go to a nice restaurant again." He took the plate and set it on his lap.

"I would love to have cheese again. Especially mozzarella."

"I would die for a Hershey's Special Dark chocolate bar."

"I loved dark chocolate." Zeke returned with the drinks and a couple more paper towels and took a seat on the floor against the wall by the fireplace where he could see Nathan properly. "Where did you start out on your journey?"

"Vermont. Seems like I've been walking forever." Nathan took a bite of the salmon. "What about you? Ooh, this is delicious."

Zeke looked around the old cabin. So many memories. "I grew up here. This was my Dad's place. He passed away a few years ago."

"It's... nice." Nathan took a drag on the bottle of Peach Snapple.

"It's a pack-rat's heaven," Zeke corrected him.

"Yeah." Nathan smiled wanly. "Sorry. My OCD is getting the better of me. I thought I had it under control, but the dog attack, and being in a place like this... Stress is a big trigger for me."

"Oh man. I'm sorry." A light went on in Zeke's head. "That's why you wanted the Xanax." He glanced outside. It was getting dark. "I can run to town right now—"

"It's all right. I can cope until tomorrow. The Xanax just helps take the edge off for a few hours; gives me time to cope. I've learned other ways to manage it."

"So... OCD. Like that TV detective, Monk?"

Nathan winced. "Yeah. Kinda. It's more complicated than that."

"How long have you had it?" Zeke's gaze lingered on Nathan's naked chest. He was feeling warmer than he ought to.

"Since I was ten." Nathan looked at the piles of stuff around the room.

Poor guy looked nervous as hell. "You think hoarding is a kind of OCD?" Zeke joked to lighten the mood.

Nathan snorted. "This isn't hoarding. It's survival."

"Yeah, I suppose you're right." Nathan was handsome, even dirty as he was. Zeke decided that he wanted to kiss him rather badly.

He shifted his trousers. He wasn't usually so out of control like this.

Of course, Nathan had the whole only other living human being on the face of the Earth thing going for him too.

COLLAPSE

About the Author

Scott lives with his husband of twenty five years in a Sacramento suburb, in a cute little yellow house with a brick fireplace and two pink flamingoes out front.

He inhabits in the space between the here and now and the what could be. Indoctrinated into science fiction and fantasy by his mom at the tender age of nine, he quickly finished her entire library. But he soon began to wonder where all the queer people were.

After coming out at twenty three, he started writing the kinds of stories he couldn't find at Crown Books. If there weren't many queer characters in his favorite genres, he would will them into existence, subverting them to his own ends. And if he was lucky enough, someone else would want to read them.

His friends say Scott's mind works a little differently than most - he makes connections between ideas that others don't, and somehow does more in a day than most people manage in a week. Although born an introvert, he forced himself to reach outside himself, and learned to connect with others like him.

Scott's stories subvert expectations that transform traditional science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something different and unexpected. He runs both Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, and is an associate member of the Science Fiction Writer's Association (SFWA).

His romance and genre fiction writing brings a queer energy to his stories, filling them with love, beauty and power. He imagines how the world could be - in the process, he hopes to change the world, just a little.

Scott was recognized as one of the top new gay authors in the 2017 Rainbow Awards, and his debut novel "Skythane" received two awards and an honorable mention.

You can find him at Dreamspinner here, Goodreads here, on Amazon here, on QueeRomance Ink here, and on Facebook here.


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