1. A Sharper Lynch by Heston H. Snodgrass

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SUMMARY: Just surviving the night can be extraordinary in a world where society has collapsed. Able Lynch has survived a long time.

In the middle of a lonely stretch of desert in the American Southwest sat an old bed and breakfast with an unused gas pump out front. The paint on the pump was chipped and the metal underneath was as rusty as the few cars that remained, abandoned, in the small parking lot in front of the building. The sign hanging over the double door entrance was dilapidated and faded beyond recognition mirroring the weather-stained boards covering up windows that once held glass. A loud hum from a gas generator competed with the wind for the title of being the only sound for miles.

Inside, two men sat at a bar on the floor level of the three story abode. One man, his hair gray and skin like leather, sat on a stool with a glass of dusty whiskey in hand. The other had feint red hair and stood with a slight hunch behind the bar, cleaning a glass with a dirty rag.

Neither one talked much but occasionally the sitting man would grunt and wave a hand. The bartender would pour him more ancient whiskey out of a dirty bottle with an unreadable label then go back to washing dishes as the sitting man stared into his drink.

Light from the setting sun shone through gaps in the plywood over the windows and doors. It reflected at obtuse angles off of the old bottles of liquor behind the bar, cutting trails through the ambient light provided by two dim bulbs at either end of the bar. The dust in the air became illuminated with streaks of reddish orange beams that complemented the wood interior of the small room.

"Rustic," the sitting man said in a low tone of voice, never taking his eyes off of the auburn liquid in his glass.

"Yeah?" the bartender sat his glass down and it sparkled for about five seconds before dust gathered on it, rendering the cleaning pointless.

"Like a cabin in the woods. Wooden bar, shelves, walls. Even the felt on the pool table compliments it. You build this place?"

"Naw, after the war I wandered a bit. I hit some trouble and decided I wanted to settle down. I wound up here, it was abandoned, and decided to set up shop." The bartender leaned over the bar, resting his elbows on the wood.

"Not bad. You get a lot of visitors?" the sitting man now raised is face from the drink and sat up straight.

"Every once and a while, generally wanderers like yourself. The name's Devlin, Devlin Sharp."

Devlin extended his hand towards the sitting man, who shook it briefly.

"Able Lynch. You ever have any problems with raiders or cannibals posing as guests?" Able hunched over the bar again, face down.

"Strange question, stranger. I did once. Raider came in here, drank with me and talked, then in the middle of the night let his two friends in the door. I woke up when they were robbing the bar. I didn't even fire a warning shot, just three from my twelve gauge. Dropped every one dead. Never happened again. I'm a damn good shot and sleep light, you'd do best to remember that."

Devlin stared at Able's lowered face, noticing the deep creases of age and the large scar over his right eye.

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