The New American Apocalypse, Pt. 5

(Another shameless No Grave plug!  Please purchase/read/review my book, I swear it’s worth the entry fee.)

(The New American Apocalypse

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

Part Five:…)

In Lovecraft’s work, he writes about ‘that Innsmouth look,’ the appearance people had in a town that had been cross-breeding with undersea monstrosities for generations, giving them a greasy, big-eyed demeanor, slimy and aquatic, and an occasional extra finger.

So let’s say the liquor store was full of people with ‘that Tompkins look.’  Members of the Cannibal Class.  Suits, beards, man-buns, stylized glasses that they probably don’t even need, and hunger, blank indifferent hunger stirring behind their glassy zombie eyes.  Christ, they frighten me.  More than I even frighten myself.

Anna takes point, leading us through the liquor store at a slow, precise pace.  It’s quiet…quiet as the grave, one could say, quiet as the dead themselves whispering through the cemetery grass.  One of the Cannibal Class plucks a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue from a shelf and the ring of its glass against other nearby bottles nearly makes me jump out of my skin.  Anna shoots me a look that I read to be a kind of scolding, a way of letting me know to keep my shit together, and I nod my agreement.  I can’t be like this, in this place.  Scanners outside, zombies within…no, no, this is no place for a civilized man, anymore.

Or maybe this is the next step of civilization.  American Capitalism taken to its own dark extreme.  Maybe I’m the uncivilized man, in this position.  Maybe I’m the backwards man, the artifact of a lost era…

I don’t believe in God, but I pray that this isn’t the case.

We come to a display of scotches.  Five shelves tall, it’s loaded with every overpriced single malt a bespoke-suited monster could want to guzzle down.  I have nothing against scotch, I should mention, only against its price–but this is on a very different level even than what I was used to.  There’s a bottle of Macallan 12 being sold for $166.60.  I won’t afflict your mind by mentioning the price of the Johnny Walker Blue, save to say there are four digits before the decimal.

“Well, this is fucking absurd,” I mutter.

“Shut up,” Anna replies.

“This is highway robbery.  Shouldn’t the scanner-cop-thing be in here arresting these zombies?”

“Shut the hell up!”

“They’re trying to deprive of us good whiskey!  Us and every poor, struggling human like us!  These price-gouging fiends are shaking us down, good working people and artists, keeping our palms spread against the wall, running our damned pockets, and you want me to stay calm!?”

I realize, at that point, that the hungry eyes of the zed populace have all found us and that I have, in fact, drawn a modicum of attention to myself.  But if there’s one thing I’ve learned to do in my life, it’s to mortify, terrify, and discomfort droves of people, to afflict the careless masses, to get the mass and herd of mankind to give wide berth.

“‘s the aliens!” I scream, grabbing a bottle of Macallan and waving it around, “the damned aliens shrieking in my head!  I’m mad as a tinfoil hatter!  I’ve blocked out all reception, buzzing homeworld messages lost in space!”  I grab a second bottle, too, because why not?  The zed seem to be parting, their eyes suddenly wary of the shrieking mad homeless man invading their store.  I stagger forward, slurring, and head toward the door, daring the cashiers or customers to stop me in my rabid, mouth-foaming theft.  “Animals!  You’re all animals!  Feasting, fucking, fighting, look at you,” I pause to make eyes at one zed in particular, one who sweats awkwardness and stares at me like I’m a zoo animal out of its cage, “you…” I growl, “you…have got something in your teeth.”

He covers his mouth, pushing his body back against a display of quintuply-filtered, overpriced vodka.

Of course, I should’ve known better than to press my luck.

“Wait!” one zed yells, “I know that guy!  I saw him walk into an apartment earlier!  He’s not really homeless!”

Anna sighs.  “You idiot.”

The sweating zed in front of me shifts.  I watch fear drain from his face, replaced by a smirking confidence.  He  knows, now, that I’m not nearly as crazy as I put off, that I’m not that different from him…closer to the fringes, sure, closer to The Edge, but…not that different…no…not different enough, by far.

I gulp.  “Ms. Bradbury,” I squeak, voice quieter than usual and at a higher pitch, “I believe I may have got us into a situation.”

Her shotgun appears in her hand.  “No shit.”

“My deepest apologies.”

The zed surge forward, hands reaching toward us–Christ, it’s like we’re the last toys on the shelves of a Christmas Eve sale, the way they come at us, like we’re their last hope of pretending intimacy to each other, of acting like they still in some way care.  I clutch my bottles of scotch close and pray for a quick end.  Pray that they break my neck or slit my throat before they start eating.

Anna squeezes the trigger of her gun and sends one of the zombies to the ground, his finely tailored shirt ruined by his own blood.  In an instant, the other zed turn on him, falling on his half-dead form with wide, starving mouths.  Jesus.  These fuckers are eager enough just to eat their own kind.

And the sounds…the sounds!–the greedy smack of bloodied lips and wet squelch of raw feast–I hear them over the dying zed’s screams, so crisp and awful they are to my ears.  The monsters, the goddamned monsters, they’ve forgotten all about us!  They’re so excited to have someone to eat, even one of their own, that they’ve left the two of us standing there, unharmed, while they rip and tear at their own species!

Anna grabs my arm and drags me for the exit, “We’re not off the hook, yet.”

“What?”

“Shit!”

The store owner leaps over the counter and sends us stumbling.  He’s a large, salt-of-the-earth type man, dark hair and sweat-smelling, a long-suffering small business owner.  He should be on our side, dammit, and yet there he is, shoving me into a wall of fine bourbons and pouncing on Anna.  She struggles with her gun, using its long barrel and her own locked elbows to keep his gnashing teeth at bay, inches from her face.  He screams, spitting with every word: “FOOLS!  HELP ME DEAL WITH THESE NONBELIEVERS!” (I’ll cut the caps, of course, but know that they are there, in spirit): “Progressives!  Socialists!  You heard what they said!  They want to lower the prices, leave the businesses gutted!  They’ll raise your taxes, they will!  They’ll raise the minimum wage!  Kill them!”

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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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The New American Apocalypse, Pt. 3

(before we continue on our trek across modern apocalyptic America, I’d like to shamelessly plug No Grave, the second part in a book series I’m writing that you can now purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, etc…)

(The New American Apocalypse

Table of Contents: Part One; Part Two; Part Four; 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 Three:…)

 

I get off at my stop and make my way through deserted streets to my apartment.  People part their blinds to watch my progress, panicked eyes tracking me as I make my way to my front door.  Nobody steps outside.  I’ve never seen Queens so empty, not even in the pre-dawn darkness when all the bars have closed and everyone has crawled into bed.

The first thing I do is take a shower, possibly the longest one I’ve taken in my life.  It takes a while to wash off the fourteen-or-fifteen days of filth I accumulated during my blackout, and longer still to wipe clean the clinging sensation that the world is ending and the strange sense that I am, in part, responsible.  That my hands are dirty with more than just ink and mud and whatever else I’ve scraped off the world for the past two weeks.

Then I throw out my clothes (there’s no way to save them, now, no, they’ve been too long bathed in my excretions and given to the filth of the Earth) and put on something sensible but also (hopefully) attractive.  Sturdy boots, flexible jeans, and a plain gray t-shirt.  Not ideal for the baking summer sun, of course, but sturdy and reliable.

Next stop: gathering forces.  My friends have dealt with such Evils and Darknesses, before, and though I’ve usually served in the role of the scribe, accounting for events and writing them down as the bards of old might’ve done if they’d had amphetamines and whiskey and a smartphone and a handheld voice recorder, I get the sense that I’m playing much more of a leadership role in the new apocalypse.  To my great dismay.  So I pull myself up by my boot straps and start packing a man-bag.  A phial of powerful pills, a 24oz water bottle full of water, another 24oz bottle full of whiskey, a notebook, two pencils, two pens, a knife (the only actual weapon in my possession), my wallet, and a Ziploc full of multi-vitamins.  Yes, multi-vitamins.  That is not an euphemism.

I set out on foot, having, as I  mentioned, no other choice.  The atmosphere is heavy around me, yes, heavy with dread and fear.  Last week’s newspapers blow around like tumbleweeds and I catch a headline off of one: WAR IN THE MIDWEST.  For a second I don’t believe my eyes (surely they mean “the Middle East?”) but no, there it is, clear as day, in big, bold, Front Page lettering.  I pick up my pace, knowing things have just gotten much more serious.

Already I wish I had more room in my bag for additional whiskey.  Will there be liquor stores in the new apocalypse?  Will there be bars?

My first stop is to a female friend’s apartment, by name of Anna Bradbury (no relation, insofar as I know).  As I approach, I notice all her windows have been boarded shut and someone has constructed a barrier of furniture and barbed wire in front of the door.  It seems the spare key will not be terribly useful.

I buzz her apartment and wait, not sure what else I should do.  Time passes, and so I buzz, again.  More time passes, et cetera.  Eventually I find myself leaning against the buzzer, applying constant pressure.

Finally, she answers: “GET AWAY FROM THE BUZZER BEFORE I BLOW YOU TO PIECES YOU LITTLE SHIT!”

Not exactly the warm welcome I had hoped for.

“It’s me!” I yell back.

Something moves behind her door.  I hear more furniture scraping against tiled floor, the rattle of chains being undone, the clack of bolts being opened, and the tick of small locks.  The door opens and I see the top of her head over the defensive barrier, a flash of dyed silver with mouse-colored roots.  A small passage opens at the base of the barrier, just large enough to squeeze through on my belly.  “Hurry up,” she says.

So I do.  I pass my bag through, first, and slide my own way in after she’s taken it.

“What’s up with the Great Wall?” I ask.

“Get inside, quick.”

She claps the barricade entry shut  and ushers me into the apartment, closing the door behind us.  She has a shotgun and four knives.  I don’t question this fact: it seems like a good time to be armed.  I watch as she hooks chains up along the door’s width and seals it with four deadbolts.  A secondary barrier made of desks and antique chairs blocks the foyer, which requires another feat of maneuvering and agility to navigate after she’s done.

“So, uh…what’s up with the Great Wall?” I repeat, hoping she’ll chuckle at my incisive humor.

She doesn’t.  “Where have you been?”

“I dunno.”

“You asshole.”

“No, I mean it, I don’t know.  I’ve been out for two weeks, give or take, and have no memory of anything.  I like to think of it as romantic, like pulp fiction amnesia, but mostly it’s been problematic, as the Apocalypse seems to have kicked off without me.”

“It’s full-scale evil,” she replies, and when she speaks I realize we are in near-darkness, with only one pale light bulb buzzing in her whole apartment and the rest lit by candles.  “A Lovecraft-scale emergency.”

“It’s dark in here.”

“It’s dark everywhere.”

“I meant literally.”

“I had to turn off all the lights.  And my phone.”

What she tells me next harrows me: she had to turn off her cellphone and disconnect her laptop because they were coming for her.  It started a week and a half ago with full Twitter outrage, a sudden tsunami of bile-spewing tweeters (or Twitterers or whatever) flooding the internet with viscous hatred.  It only escalated from there.

They’d sent her a thousand Snapchat dick pics and then someone had dug up her private number and started texting them.  The texts became so constant she couldn’t even answer a phone call from one of her fellow Fighters of Evil, so constant she couldn’t even touch her screen without summoning a veiny, baby’s-arm-sized cock.  So she turned off her phone…and they started to come through her computer screen.  Her laptop bulged with penises and hands and dark, angry-browed faces, all of them pressed against the screen trying to birth themselves into the physical world.  They tried to crawl out and rape her and kill her in ways too vile to describe and then rape her again in the eyes afterward.  One of them got a hand through before she pulled the plug and now the severed appendage twitches and spurts blood on her floor, somehow still bleeding even as I sit there listening.

She tells me there’s a cult, worshipers of the Great Phallus M’Ra who hunt women down across the country in great, violent mobs.  By the time I showed up on her doorstep (given, that is five minutes before she tells me the tale), they’d already hit Jezebel headquarters and left a trail of butchered corpses in their neckbearded wake.

That’s why she’s carrying a shotgun and four knives.  That’s why her doors and windows are barricaded shut and all the lights are off.

“But you fought Evil, before!  I know!  I wrote about it!” I wave my hands to emphasize the point.

“This is too big for us,” she replies, shaking her head, “it’s too big for anyone.”

I stare at her, slackjawed.

How has this happened?  How has this been allowed to happen?  This isn’t the world I know, certainly not the America I know.  Certainly not.  And even Anna Bradbury, heroic Fighter of Evil and icon of many of my tales, seems disheartened?  Has she given up!?  This is the work of something vile, vile, vile–yes, this is a Lovecraft-scale emergency!  Some dark, foul thing has awoken, I’m sure of it, some abysmal creature that has spent the last two decades chewing at the broken, desiccated heart of our country, growing strong on all our despair and insecurity and secret secret hatreds…

“No, no!” I declare, grabbing up my bag, “I know just the thing!  You can’t be hopeless, not you!”

I fish out the whiskey, a strong enough magic to get the fire coursing through anyone’s veins.  “Drink this,” I prescribe, handing her the bottle, “drink this potion and we’ll have you back on your feet and doing battle in no time!”

I pray I am right, because I have already seen and heard too much to do it alone.

And, I might mention, I am something of a coward.

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The New American Apocalypse, Pt. 2

(apologies to those who will notice: my verb tense in pt. 1 was past-tense and now I’ve switched to present-tense…present-tense recounting of past events, a method of writing I’ve never employed before and so expect to screw up.  Don’t hate me too much.  Just buckle up and get ready for some flaws.)

(The New American Apocalypse

Table of Contents: Part OnePart Three; Part Four; 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 Two:…)

 

Times like these, I wish I had a car.  But I’m just a lowly starving artist, bank account limping its way month to month supported by a trickle of royalties, survival jobs, and the consideration of strangers and heavily-abused friends.  So when I see those fatcats bibbed up to eat the youth of the Lower East Side, aging suits and young professionals gathered for a feast like maggots writhing under the skin of the world, I run not to my car (the everpresent symbol of the American Dream) but to the subway, where I take filth-encrusted stairs down to a horrorshow station…

I realize I’m surrounded by zombies!  They pile through the turnstiles, shambling beyond death!

They’re not zombies in the traditional way of being zombies, with the flesh all hanging down and arms dangling by worn tendons like lepers and black plague victims, no!–they wear the same clothing they’ve always worn, t-shirts and jeans and button-ups with ties like nooses wrung around their necks.  The zombie-factor (if you’ll allow such a thing to exist) is in their mindless shuffle, their dead, hollow eyes and groaning useless tongues.  They speak to each other in something that used to be language, but now is only absurdity, only the shallowest and most meaningless gibberish:

“God, it’s hot, today…”
“Wish that fucking train would get here.”
“The MTA is useless.”
“I’m going to be late for work.”
“We’re all going to be late for work.”
“We’ve all always been late to work.”
“The MTA is late to work.”
“Did you hear about Kim Kardashian?”
“Kim Kardashian should take control of the MTA.”
“She has a baby.”
“The baby will eat the MTA.”
“…and it’s so humid, too…”

None of them seem to know that the future of our country is being cannibalized outside, or if they know, they must not care, they must have more important things to talk about (like Kim Kardashian and how good she looks even after the baby).  I pull strands of hair out of my head and grab one of the zombies by his shoulders.  I shake him.  “Haven’t you seen what’s going on out there!?  Don’t you hear the screams!?”

He looks at me with stupid corpse-eyes, confused and dumber than a brain-damaged chihuahua, “Is there a celebrity out there?”

I stamp my feet down the length of the platform looking for some sign of intelligent life, but there isn’t one.  Something has gotten its tongue into their skulls and licked out their brains, cleaned the plate, and now their minds only run on the local line.  For a second I worry that they might come for me, might use the mass of their mindless horde to seize my limbs and tear me apart and devour my soul, but luckily for me I smell like the shit that shit shat, and that seems to give me some breathing room.

It is, for the record, both hot and humid.  Gross sweat steams from my skin and hangs in the air.  I feel less confident about the breathing room as I inhale all the dead grime coming off of me.  I smell like exhumed graves.

The rails rattle with the train’s approach.  The zeds were right about that.

I hear the metal growl deep down the dark tunnel.  The train sounds like some ancient wyrm snarling out its hunger.  FEED ME.  I step into the yellow-painted caution area out of habit.  Sometimes it’s good to feel the train whip by, the air against your face, the steel body inches away — a momento mori for the underground set.  Those that can’t afford the luxury of collectible funerary garb and stolen death-shrouds and trips to museums of the exhumed dead in Italy.

The train is the color of oil stains when it rumbles in.  It howls monstrous through the tunnel and the brakes scream as it comes to a stop.  Doors roll open like heavy-lidded eyes and a polite machine-voice announces “This is a Queens bound Death Train.  The next stop is 14th Street, Union Square, with transfers to the 4, 5, 6, Q, R, and Hell trains.”  I push my way onboard into a crowd packed shoulder to shoulder sweating together on their way to whatever personal hell they’ve chosen to destroy themselves with.

In an effort to make some space around me, I decide to put on a show.  “‘scuze me, ladies and gentlemen,” I say, doing my best to fill my voice with as much phlegm and human despair as I can, “I am not homeless, but I am very, very broke.  Actually, I may be homless.  It’s hard to tell, since I remember nothing of the past two weeks.  In any case, I am taking donations!”  I maneuver my way between tight-packed shoulders and hold out my hand (dirtier than I remember it being, to be honest, with something like ink soaked in around my nails), “Alms for the poor!?  Alms for the poor!?”

People make a lot of space pretending not to see me.  They press themselves against the walls, against the screaming body of the train, and suck in their guts to avoid getting too close.  To touch me would mean filth, a kind of human dirt they’d have to bathe in alcohol to get rid of.  They stare at the floor.  They tuck their legs in under the subway benches and hug their bags to the their laps.  The bodies part like the red sea around me, all the zombies preferring the snug embrace of a stranger’s armpit to the idea of acknowledging me.  Ah, yes, and now there’s the breathing room I was looking for!

I walk up to one of them and wave my hand in his dead-eyed face.  Either he is a very good actor or he is truly, truly vacant inside, for he doesn’t even blink.  I lean in close so he can catch the stench of me breathing from the collar of my shirt.  “You with me, man?” I ask.

“You’ll just use it for drugs and alcohol!” he screams back.

“What were you going to use it for!?” I snarl indignantly.

He doesn’t respond, but he lifts his copy of The New York Post in front of his face and starts  muttering to himself in a language I don’t speak–a language I don’t think anyone speaks, except for the child-hungry old men in the park.  The newspaper headline says nothing, but the photo on the front is an infinite darkness drooling tar and I can feel something alive pulsing beneath it.  Oh, it’s the end, alright.

We stay like that until the subway bursts out of the dark underground onto the elevated track running through Queens.

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Buy No Grave Today!

NoGraveCoverAs some (all?) of you know, No Grave is finally available for purchase as eBook and paperback!  A very exciting time!

It’s available in paperback through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble right now!

It’s also available in eBook, for those who prefer your literature be electronic (and/or you just really want it RIGHT NOW! which I understand and am deeply grateful for) — you can pickup a digital copy of the book at Smashwords, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Check it out, today!  If you live in the Rochester or NYC areas, I’ll even sign it for you!  I promise not to write anything crude!

I’ve also started work on a blog project, which I’ve very very very loosely outlined.  You can find the first entry here and the second one here.  I’m trying to release an update every week or two, to keep you all entertained while I work on the next book in The Furies series (…as well as a couple other projects I shan’t announce, yet).

Thanks for stopping in.

See you soon, readers.

See you…very soon.

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The New American Apocalypse, Pt. 1

(The New American Apocalypse

Table of Contents: Part Two; Part Three; Part Four; 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 One:…)

 

…but you can’t kill Evil, I mean, not completely, because Evil lives inside of us just as much as it lives inside black holes and in the stomach lining of monsters and the mad minds of shapeless beings, it lives between the synapses of our brains like the gaps between stars, it swims in the chemicals stewing our skulls, lives in our old, broken hearts, so, no, no matter what grandiose heroics my friends and I may or may not have ventured into in the past (not to mention, of course, the long and storied history of People Fighting Evil), we always knew we wouldn’t destroy Evil, not as an abstract concept (see, abstract concepts can’t be destroyed, they’re immortal like that, living on some fifth or sixth dimension where they exist as iconic deities) and I think that’s how I became obsessed with the Apocalypse.

Not any specific kind of Apocalypse, mind you, not any specific genre of The End. I’m not much in the way of religion, having always considered it a kind of scam being pulled on desperate people hungry for hope, and nor have I been any kind of scientist studying the inevitable heat death of the cosmos, so I have my doubts on the whole thing insofar as THE GREAT BIG FINALE…I’ve always considered The Apocalypse™ on a much more intimate scale. Y’know, as in “just all the humans” or “just planet Earth” or maybe “just our little corner of the cosmos sucked down the hungry maw of a black hole.”

Something like that.

Because it occurred to me one night (can never remember which, on account of the blackouts and the many various unhealthy habits I’ve grown accustomed to having) that maybe The Apocalypse™ is the only way to actually end Evil, insofar as it exists in our little section of the infinite (possibly dying) universe.

This epiphany, drawn out of a depraved mind swimming in various unnameable, potentially Lovecraftian substances, led me to about a two-week blackout, by far the longest blackout I’ve ever had. And, when I woke up, it seemed like The Apocalypse™ had already started up, that its grinding gears were working its treads through the Earth and burying human bones beneath them. People were going insane. Worse than insane. They seemed *possessed*.

I should clarify. After my dark midnight epiphany, the next thing I remember is waking up in a New York City street wearing the same clothes but much smellier. After the initial shock of my own reek, the first thing I’m aware of is the sound of distant screams. A cavalcade of voices cry out through the urban architecture in several different languages and several more that weren’t languages at all, at least not on Earth, at least not the Earth I’ve spent the last thirty-something years inhabiting.

I stand up and brush dirt and dust off my clothes (as if that will help the smell) and realize I’d collapsed somewhere just outside of Tompkins Square Park. Being of unsound mind, I decide the first thing to do is investigate the screams. So I hoof it toward the Park smelling like undead homeless zombies and feast my eyes on a buffet of nightmares.

A half-dozen men in suits cattle-prod small children into unconsciousness. They gibber between themselves in alien languages and wear bibs over their ties (the kind you see, or used to see, at restaurants when fatcat businessmen throw out greenbacks to stuff their faces, their rolls of unsightly obesity a visible representation of their bloated bank accounts). Three of them hold carving knives and I don’t want to look over at the picnic table by the playground, where the “young professional types” sit with mouths haloed in what is definitely not barbecue sauce.

I do what anyone else would do, given the situation: I run.  I run like hell.

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