(The New American Apocalypse
I don’t even bother picking up my food. By the time my wits are back about me, the zombies are moving. At least they’re shufflers, more Dawn of the Dead than 28 Days Later, at least these drooling fast-food-fed carcasses. I’m up and over the serving counter before any of them can get a hold of me. I almost slip on the blood spattered on the floor, but I manage to get a hold of myself before I go tumbling to the ground.
“NO CUSTOMERS IN THE BACK!” the voice from Beyond Reality shudders through my bones but I’m not about to start listening to rules, now, goddamn it, not by a long shot, not with my face still spattered in droplets of the poor cashier’s blood.
A long, purple, spidery appendage swings out from the hole in reality and I duck under it as I haul ass into the kitchen proper.
“Unions provide collective bargaining abilities to otherwise powerless workers!” I scream in response, shoving my way past the fry cook, whose arms and face are scarred from too many encounters with hot, sputtering oil.
He turns toward me wild-eyed, “Shhh! Do you know what will happen if It hears you!?”
“Only through unity can the proletariat overcome the accumulated power of the plutocrats!” and I dive out of the way as someone bursts out of the manager’s office with a face full of fangs and six malformed arms sprouting from his/her/its back. One arm swings at me with a mace (really it’s just a large club with a dozen nails driven through it and what looks to be broken glass superglued to its head, but in the parlance of the story we’ll refer to it as a “mace”) and I barely dodge out of the way. The manager’s face peels open like a banana to reveal even more teeth lining all of its many-folded visage–I mean just jagged rows of them going all the way down a too-broad throat, just so many teeth you’d never be able to count them–and it emits a terrible shriek. I clutch my ears at the sound of it and struggle to keep running as my head fills with the image of five thousand fingernails scraping one thousand chalkboards. I stagger and crash into a stainless steel countertop, rebounding to face the monster head-on (unwillingly.)
“THE CORPORATION BELIEVES IN THE GOOD OF ITS WORKERS!” the Unreality Voice bellows, the basso accompaniment to the Manager’s awful treble. “THE CORPORATION PROVIDES NECESSARY EMPLOYMENT FOR THE UNEMPLOYED!”
“You are all galley slaves chained to whims of a great darkness!” I backpedal away from the mace-swinging manager, my voice hitting a pitch I haven’t hit since I was six years old. “Feudal peasants forced to labor under a wage that allows you no mobility and no future!”
The walls shake with the roar of the Monster from Beyond Reality and the screeching wails of its open-faced management underlings. Where the hell is the back door!? I spin away from another blow from the Manager and scramble across cracked tile to the very rear of the burger joint, praying to every deity in history to provide me with a waiting alleyway.
Luckily for me, the zed out front seem to be set on the rules. Since no customers are allowed in the back, the drove of flesh-eating brain-dead half-people remain clustered at the cashier counter, unable or unwilling to pursue me through the kitchen.
See kids? Breaking the rules just might be your only hope of survival.
The humor of the situation is quickly lost on me, however, as something the size of a pipe hits me in the side with the force of a very small car. One of the Manager’s over-long limbs strikes me in the ribcage and sends me rolling across the tiled floor. I can’t tell which limb did the damage (save for knowing it wasn’t the one holding the mace, thank the stars) but it hardly matters since I’m on my back clutching my aching body a half-second later in any case.
I groan and whimper in blind pain, rolling to my side and trying to push myself up. I can hear the slavering Manager coming for me, and as I rise to my feet I now see tongues protruding between its fanged, banana-peely face, three tongues like stamens sprouting from its throat. I reach for my man-bag, going for my knife, and I realize it came off during the struggle–my booze, pills, water, and weaponry are all zipped shut in a satchel (and/or murse) about ten feet in the wrong direction, and all I have to fight with are my weak human hands which, let’s cut the bullshit, aren’t going to be very helpful against a mace-wielding monster from another world.
And then: a miracle.
Twin waves of bubbling, sizzling oil crash into the Manager, searing its flesh. A screech like a swarm of cicadas fills the kitchen as its flesh cooks. My nose fills with the odious stench: imagine, if you will, a desiccated carcass stuffed with rubber and covered in shit being set suddenly ablaze. And the gentle undertone of lilac.
I stand stunned for a second, until I see the fry cook panting by his vat.
“You’re a real American hero, you know that?” I say.
“What you were saying, about unions–”
“Yes, yes, of course, you should get to work on that!” I’m already walking past him, collecting my satchel and goods, eyes wandering as close as they can back to that tear in reality as something new starts to force its way through. “I think if the whole lot of you worked together you could see some real changes around here.”
“You think so?”
“Oh, yeah, definitely.” I get my bag over my shoulder and unzip it to check my supplies. The scotch bottle isn’t broken, or is the water bottle, and my pill phials are intact…the knife is in fine condition, though I realize now it’s somewhat smaller than I thought when I first packed it. I re-zip the man-bag and turn back to the fry cook. “Where’s the back door?”
“Right over there,” he gestures with his head, his hands holding fry cages.
“Great. Good luck with the union.” I can hear the thing slithering out of the Reality Gouge–this one doesn’t have spider-legs, no, this is a different beast entirely, more traditionally Lovecraftian, part-aquatic, tentacled and slimy. I don’t want to be here when it finishes its entrance. “Anyway. Ah. Cheerio.”
Cheerio? I’m American goddammit. But that’s what I say as I rush off toward the back door, leaving the fry cook and his fellow employees behind to deal with whatever dark monstrosity is crawling its terrible way into the world. Another envoy of the Great Darknesses…or, I guess, just the Middle Management of the Great Darknesses. Either way, really, I’m out the back door as quickly as I can be, and slamming it shut behind me.
Unions, in this cannibal economy? Best of luck. It’s zed-eat-zed out here in Apocalypse County, one loud, awful meatgrinder churning brains into beef, and if the best armament these poor souls can get together is a vat of boiling oil and a few spatulas, well, whatever’s left of their humanity will be gone by the morning. Eldritch abominations don’t have the best civil rights track record, after all, no matter what kinds of lies they utter behind the dreams of man.Share This: