The New American Apocalypse, Pt. 4

(insert another shameless No Grave plug here.  Oh, you already own a copy?  Nevermind, then!  I hope you enjoy it…and maybe also give me a review?  Please? And, now, let’s get on with the New Show.)

(The New American Apocalypse

Table of Contents: Part One; Part Two; Part Three; Part Five; Part Six; Part Seven; Part Eight; Part Nine; Part Ten; Part Eleven; Part Twelve; Part Thirteen; Part Fourteen; Part Fifteen; Part Sixteen;

Part Sixteen:…)

 

It’s hard to recall what, exactly, happened after the whiskey.  I remember she had told me about the cult and the rising of the Great Phallus M’Ra, and I had told her about the money-fingered Wall Street bigwigs and tech start-up new agers unhinging their jaws to eat the young, and then we had a fourth or fifth drink somewhere in there, finishing all 24oz of whiskey between us, and….

And the next thing I know, we’re out on the streets of Queens in the lightless night, stars obscured by decades of smog to leave us only with the blanket of a cold, black universe.

“Where are we going?” I ask.

“We’ll need the whole team for this one.”

I nod.  “Sounds right.  Who do we pick up, first?”

“The Sleeper Agent and the Voice.”

“They’ve got the most books, besides myself,” a logical leap to then assume they would have the most weaponry, both intellectually and otherwise.

“They do.”

“We should bring a bottle of something with us,” I suggest.  “It’s the polite thing to do.”

“What?”

“It would be rude to show up empty-handed, bearing only bad news and no good whiskey to wash it down with.”

She nods.  This makes sense to her, yes–this would make sense to anyone.  It’s impolite to show up on someone’s door part-way through the opening chapters of The Apocalypse(tm) and tell them it’s much worse than we originally thought and no, sadly, we’re already out of whiskey.  Stories of the Great Phallus and class cannibalism are best swallowed with a heavy numbing agent.

So begins our first quest in this new wasteland world.

“There’s a big liquor warehouse up by the subway station.”

And so, you might think, ends our first quest in this new wasteland world.

But you would be wrong.

We walk up toward the big liquor warehouse, a massive cathedral in dire times, and on the way pass a cop car.  The thing inside–how to describe it?  A thing, certainly, for it could be no man, though the officer in the passenger-side seat is human enough (facing away, head pressed to the window as though trying to escape, as though trying not to look at the entity, the monstrosity, the THING sitting next to him), the one at the driver’s seat can’t be.  Maybe once, some days or weeks or years earlier, but no longer, no.  Its face is a flat, pale mask with but one feature: a slitted camera-eye amidst a pane of blurry white.  It has no mouth, no nose, no hair, and its skin is the color of sweating lard.

But that camera-eye…ah, ‘what does the scanner see?’ indeed.

“What the hell is that?” I hiss, giving Anna a soft nudge.

“Ignore it,” Ms. Bradbury advises.

“What!?”

“Ignore it,” she repeats.

“How am I supposed to ignore that thing?  What man in his right mind would ignore something like that gazing into his history, into his very soul?”

“You’re not supposed to be in your right mind.  It’s a control unit.”

“Of course.”

Control unit, yes.  That makes as much sense as the trip to the liquor store.  Of course there are control units, now, because this is the hellscape that America has become.  Militarized police forces wage open warfare in ghetto streets.  Protesters are hit with sound cannons to induce double-ended spew.  It was only a matter of time before Dark Things became involved, before the Boys in Blue traded the last of their unmarred badges for a little extra security.  And I bet it goes all the way up, all the way to the top.  Maybe that unholy camera doesn’t just feed the NYPD, no, that would be too narrow-minded, and in this age of broadband and cloud technology there is no doubt the police are attached to an even larger entity, feeding digital data to the hive mind of Darkness, itself.  ‘What does the scanner see?’–and who does it see for?  Do the men eating children in Tompkins Square park know, now, that I’ve found an ally in Queens?  And if they don’t, how many pounds of flesh would such information cost in the new cannibal economy?

I shiver.

Anna grabs me, “Don’t.”

“What?”

“Don’t react like that.  They’ll see.  You’re supposed to trust them.”

“That’s insane.”

“Keep your head down and walk.”

The camera watches us through the cop car windshield until we turn the corner.  The elevated subway line arches over our heads.  Posters are plastered along its green edges reading ‘IF YOU SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING’ over and over again, hundreds of them, creating a mantra collage.  On each poster is a photo of a community member, a tax-payer for God’s sake, asking the question, ‘COULD THE TERRORIST BE YOUR  NEIGHBOR?’

‘ALL CITIZENS MAY BE REQUIRED TO UNDERGO A SEARCH.  SUSPICIOUS LOOKING CITIZENS MAY BE REQUIRED TO UNDERGO A CAVITY SEARCH.’

There is a winking emoji face next the phrase ‘Suspicious Looking Citizens.’  My intestines quiver at the sight of it.

Anna keeps moving.  In the past fifteen days, she’s seen it all.  I struggle to keep up, distracted by the posters and thoughts of The Thing In The Cop Car.

We stop when we see the liquor warehouse by the subway stairs.  I am suddenly glad that Anna is armed (her shotgun has been stowed in a long coat and her handbag is full of knives and ammo — mine is full of the same things I packed it with, before, sans the whiskey).

They’ve taken over the liquor warehouse.  This much is immediately clear.

Where once overstocked shelves packed against each other in tight, angular corridors, now there is floorspace.  Floorspace and understocked displays showing only the finest of top- and middle- tier alcohols, and the people behind the cashiers’ counter wear dead eyes and vacant smiles, dressed in the same khaki pants and shirts and soothing cerulean blue aprons.  Another refuge has bitten the dust, transformed by the onslaught of the cannibal class.  The wide, comfortable aisles of the liquor emporium carry mindless zombies through a store that could never be confused for Discount Liquors Emporium.  No, no, this place is New and Improved, ready to serve the Overlords of the Future, ready to sell its overpriced wares to the zed population, ready to yield up its finest grain alcohols to the maws of the cannibal class, to slosh vodka in their skulls as they savor the veal of underprivileged children.

“We have to turn back.  There’s another liquor store on the way, a little hole-in-the-wall owned by this Vietnamese couple, really lovely married couple, they’ll–”

“We can’t,” Anna interrupts, her voice shaking the way it did when she told me about the M’Ra cultists and their rampage toward the City.  “The control unit is watching us.  It’ll see us if we turn around.”

“But…look at them, in there!  They’re all gone.  Far gone.”

“No choice.  We can’t look suspicious.”

“I’ll admit, I’m in no mood to have my cavities searched, but this is a suicide mission.”

“We have to blend in.”

And what choice did we have?

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thesrhughes

I'm a writer of horror, dark sci-fi, and dark fantasy.