Tonight, we had a Quiet Year (by Avery Alder) in a burned out mall where a hundred souls have sought refuge now that the Jackals, the hoard of zombies who until recently ravaged our land, have been defeated. Our society is built around the rites of the wishing fountain at the mall’s center, where we plead with the fates and they take more than our coins from us in exchange. Early in the year, a series of events shape us profoundly: the pre-teen girls form a hermetic enclave in the Claire shop, a man named Joel who has been ravaged by Jackals but remains uninfected arrives, and a pack of wild dogs arrive and begin nosing through Jackal corpses as they thaw in the mall’s parking lot. More pressing, however, is the war that begins with the Moneytaking Clan, who kidnap and murder our emissaries and attack any who come near. By scavenging far and near, we accumulate enough guns and makeshift weapons to teach them not to mess with us. Soon thereafter, the Claires begin scientific experiments on Joel.
To deal with our shortages of food, sleep, and shelter, we plant veggies in the median strips in the parking lot, compile every available piece of bedding or cushioning, and work to repair any holes in the outer walls. But across the parking lot a jeep of soldiers arrives and set up camp; soon afterward a small band of Jackal stragglers arrive. The two groups fight and the Jackals are wiped out, but the soldiers mysteriously disappear that night. To restore the communities connection and trust, the former mall employees begin planning an orgy festival, but the planning goes poorly and the event fails to come together. Joel and several of the elderly members of the community are found dead in various places. No one knows why. And winter is coming.
We build fire barrels to warm the halls, but tests reveal that a number of our members have contracted the Jackal disease so must be quarantined; the Claires inject one of the employees with an unknown substance and throw him into the quarantine. Coins mysteriously reappear in the fountain after having been thrown out long ago. We harvest our vegetables and collect some miraculously still frozen goods from a local Arby’s in preparation for the coming cold. The Claires reveal that the employee they threw into quarantine was a test of the vaccine they created from their experiments on Joel, and they inoculate the population. We’re ready for winter when the Frost Shepherds, at last, arrive to evacuate us from our home.