The New American Apocalypse, Pt. 21

(The New American Apocalypse

Table of Contents: Part One; 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 SeventeenPart Eighteen; Part NineteenPart Twenty;

Part Twenty-One:…)

[Day 26, Cont’d]

I read the words of the Dark Ones, in the tongue of the Great Darknesses, yes, I spake!:

“A woman’s place is in the home! The Lord himself seeds all wombs! Abortions shall be performed only with hooks and hangers! A child of rape is a beautiful creation, deus vult!  Hupadgh’fhalma!  Goka gof’nn!  Damn the sluts to a thousand squirming young!  Damn the prudes to barren wombs!  Serve!  Serve!”

My mind clouds!  My vision dims!  Oh, forgive me!  Ms. Bradbury, especially, forgive me!

But I go on!:

“He was a troublemaker!  He stole something!  Look at his social media photos!  The police are endowed with the right to decide what constitutes reasonable force!  The burden of protecting the citizenry is a heavy one and wears on their nerves!  De-escalation is an impossible option!  All lives matter!  Mnahn’orr’e!  Bow!  Bow!”

The starless cosmos glowers in my periphery!  Mr. Ballard, Mr. Baldwin, Mr. Conrad, ah, I swear though my mouth betrays, my heart is not in it!

A portal forms in the center of the room, small and growing, purple and photo-negative light coils around us…the spell continues:

“The great Phallus M’Ra, worship!  M’Ra’fhtagn!  Rise up hard and vast, oh massive godlike Phallus, rise up and into our spirits!  Come into our hands!  Give us strength, M’Ra, strength of hand to silence, strength of grip to serve, strength of finger to spread the gospel wide!  Ia!  Ia!”

Neverending gospel of the Great Dark Ones!  My lips seem to peel away from my face as I speak!:

“Uln’Vanderbilt!  Uln’Pullman!  Uln’Reaganomics!  The worms and slaves beneath shall serve as meat for the monster of industry!  Chew between the white-collared teeth those back-broken wretches, hunched in inferiority!  Chew against lean muscle and fatty gristle, burn their calories empty, devour their spines!  Hain’t I got the money?  Hain’t I got the power!?  Vanderbilt’fhtagn!  Robber King of Gutted Economy, rise!”

The tenebrous portal devours all light as it opens like a vast maw in the earth!  I lose my voice and it is Mr. Baldwin who smacks me over the head and keeps me speaking, even as the words I utter turn my guts and raze my weak and harrowed soul:

“Plug in!  Download the Hollywood programming: yea, first we believe in the bootstrap mentality, that all men and only men and maybe a couple very attractive women are created equal and have access to equal opportunities and therefore any failings are failings of the character; yea, and second we believe in the doctrine of the meaningless, that no story shall afflict the brain with questions, no story shall drive us to act, all tales exist for the sole purpose of entertainment!

“Yea, and download the News Media Add-on: that third we believe in the news cycle, we adhere our attentiveness only to a spread of five-to-seven-days before moving on, that all problems not solved in the time frame are unsolvable, that the entertainment ends and curtain falls, that out of the camera’s focus nothing exists; yea, that fourth we believe that class does not exist, that wealth is a byproduct of competence, these men and primarily men and maybe a couple acceptable women with the right parentage are pillars of industry, Messiahs of Commerce striding among poor shriveled indigents, worthy the vault of fortune they possess; yea, that fifth we believe in Fair and Balanced reportage as labeled by articles set forth by the blinded gods of chaos chirping in the far reaches of space, that our duty as journalists rests on strong research, on finding the most disarming photographs available of white killers and most alarming photographs available of the black and brown ones, that our duty as journalists rests on adherence to the principals of the party, the writhing chaos gibbering around our meaningless lives;

“Yea, and download the Fast Forward Tube Feed: that sixth we believe in strict overabundance, that fatted bodies cannot fight and fatted minds cannot think and so we must stuff the mouths of the Cattle Class with all the cheapest feed available; yea, and that seventh we believe in the blinding flash of overly compressed frames in every minute, of pumping out a kaleidoscope of entertainment and reportage instantly overwhelming, of generating sensory overload on a scale that cannot be contained, cannot be expressed, cannot be understood except in the glibbest, blithest, most meaningless of observations delivered in under 140 pithy characters!”

And so the portal opens wide its endless mouth and down the throat of that terrible maw we see the hideous truths.

There: the American Heart of Darkness.  There: the pulsing balls of the Great Darknesses.

This is dead land; this is city land.  Moonlight crawls along broken columns.  A horde of human flesh is fed to a machine tyrant.  It devours factories full of four-fingered children.  It devours poor neighborhoods and low-income housing.  It devours streets and counties and parishes and dead-end towns miles away from the nearest grocery store.  Its innards roar like the mouths of a thousand garbage disposals.  It defecates money and meat, both equally bloody, and leaves a trail of half-digested bodies still twitching in its wake.  Its eyes are black holes.  Its mouth is a black hole.  Its hunger is bottomless.  It feasts forever.  It feasts not with agenda but out of blind idiot instinct.  It feasts because it can.  It feasts because it feasts.  There is no ‘why’ and maybe there never was.

Its world is a shattered grayscape of wasteland.  The subway cars are oil-slicked worms eating their way through the mantle of the earth.  The highways are taut strings clenched in its clawed fingers.  The mountains are the spines of Its brethren.  Smoke gutters its way up from everywhere.  Charred skeletons stare up empty-eyed from mass graves lining the globe.  Tentacled robber barons and zed middle-management types eat the remains of mankind with paired wines behind picture windows. The skyscrapers are great phalluses.

And every radio station and every TV show and every newspaper and every cheap liquor ad with a pouting woman on the poster all say the same thing: This Is The Way Things Are.  This Is The Way Things Are.  This Is The Way Things Are.

No!  No!  This is the way the world ends!  This is the way the world ends!  Not with a bang but an advert!  Between The Way We’ve Always Done It and the Way We Could Change Things falls the fucking shadow!

I am screaming, I realize.  I shriek with horror.

The thing, the monster I now realize is leading the Great Darknesses in their newest assault on our world, the Beast itself, peers up at me through the portal we opened and I see the infinite darkness of Its eyes shift like oozing tar.  Its gaze upon me, It grins.  Its teeth are smeared with blood.  Viscera hang between its many fangs.  It is in sore need of floss.  But worse: Its breath.  Or worse, still: that I can smell Its breath, that It laughs at me, at my smallness and my weakness and my cowardice, that It snickers so giddily and so happily that the reek of Its corpse-enriched breath reaches me.

Mr. Baldwin wrenches me away from the portal, clutching my wrists in his grasp.

He tells me I was trying to claw my eyes out.

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The New American Apocalypse, Pt. 19

(The New American Apocalypse

Table of Contents: Part One; 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 SeventeenPart Eighteen;

Part Nineteen:…)

[Day 14]

I wake up furious and by the end of the day I am too exhausted to do anything about it.  I am beginning to think this is how the place is designed.  It is easier just to wait and die than it is to fight.  On the plus side: I have found drugs.  If I corral enough of them, potent pills in particular, I might be able to draw something similar to courage out of them.  I may need it.

Imagine me, courageous.  What a change of pace that would be.

For now, though, I bide time.  Wake up hateful and fiery, full of the passion that revolutions are sparked from, work until the passion is drained out of me, and return to my bunk to collapse in defeat and forfeiture.

It seems there are few here who have the inner spirit to rise to Mr. Baldwin’s level.  I was surprised, at first, to see so few men and women in the spirit and soul of protest, so few angry faces screaming out for more.  After my first weak I felt beaten, yes, certainly, but it has been this second week that has taught me the meaning of defeat: to give up.  How easy it would be just to subsist, here, to let the banks wear me to my bones and brainwash me with the mindless TV images constantly berating my fellow workers, to let them pump me full of numbing, thoughtless bliss and let it carry me into a sleep as dark as the bottomless guts of the eldritch abominations who run the place.  How easy it would be to sag my tired bones into the dimple of a couch and let the flickering re-runs stretch my time into oblivion…

But Mr. Baldwin is there to remind me.  He and his small crew of secret rebels meeting in the quiet corners of this damnable place…they keep me awake and thinking.  They remind me that I am not…that we are not cattle.  We were not bred to work and slaughter.  And, yes, the fight is grim, and we are not winning, but there is still a fight.  To listen to him speak, even at a bare whisper, is to listen to the voice of revolution.  Of suffering given hope.

He brings in news from the front.  How it travels all the way here, I don’t ask.  He wouldn’t tell me anyway and considering my weakness against fear and interrogation…it’s better if I don’t know.  The news is as follows: it seems Mr. Swift and Mr. Conrad have joined a group in DC.  They’re limited to guerrilla tactics and have thus far been unsuccessful in dismantling the abyssal hold the Dark Ones have over the Capitol.  Ms. Bradbury and Mr. Ballard were last seen only days ago, alive, in retreat from a horde of rampaging zombies that have invaded the western coast of Queens.  One of them snapped a photograph, uploaded to Instagram with the tags #nofilter, #undeadgentry, and #TheEndIsExtremelyFuckingNigh.  It shows dozens of shuffling creatures flooding the streets, each wearing an off-the-rack suit and many holding bottles of craft beer, as they batter down apartment doors to claim their new residences.

I deflate at the news.  My old apartment is likely reclaimed, now.  I think of my roommates torn asunder, devoured by the zed onslaught, their bones bleaching in the New York sun.  Or worse: perhaps they joined the Cannibal Class.  Perhaps in the fight between the human spirit and the Great Darknesses, they elected to join the Great Darknesses…to exchange their threadbare lives for a wealth of status symbols and mindless servitude to gibbering, unknowable Gods.  In either case, I doubt my keys will still work.

Making the blind and foolish assumption, of course, that I ever get out of the particular hell I’m living in, now.

 

[Day 20]

I’ve accrued a solid collection of drugs.  Enough to keep me unafraid of death and debt for a week or so, should I delve into heavy use.  Which may be necessary, considering that my latest paycheck has come in with the ‘Owed’ line in big bold font, alerting me that not only have I failed to make a dent in my debt, but I’ve somehow grown it.  An attached letter from the bank CEO (a form letter, naturally, and the copy likely written up by some zed assistant who was happy to take on the work in exchange for an extra sliver of gray matter offered him by his masters) — it accuses me of not working hard enough, of failing to produce the numbers required to make good on the gracious loan they’ve made to keep me out of prison, of being a leech on the body of their goodwill.

This letter, combined with the general sense of anguish aching in my bones, has driven me to meet with Mr. Baldwin in discussion of certain ideas I’ve been toying with, ideas that his own inspiring voice has planted in the previously fallow trenches of my brain.

He has a network of informants and messengers, of course, though I stay clear of the details — which means he is able not only to bring news in, but to get messages out.  What he’s been using these means to do, thus far, is not on my mind.  I assume he’s acted as an intermediary between groups, the middle man of a small, quiet rebellion… but there are other methods.

“You know what I’m talking about,” I whisper.  We stand inches away from each other in an ‘Employee Lounge’ the approximate dimensions of a coffin.

“You would risk the lives of dozens of men and women.”

“But you know!  You must know the sway such things can have!”

He looks over his shoulder–an unnecessary and paranoiac reaction considering the claustrophobic confines we meet in–and purses his lips.  “You’re talking about making art.”

“It may be the only weapon we have left.”

“It will not work, alone.”

“You think I don’t know that?  I’m not proposing a solution, here, dear sir, I am proposing a step.”

“A dangerous step.”

“The good ones always are.”

He considers this for some time, his serious eyes boring into me somehow even further than the Scanners’.  What does he see?  What does he see that the monsters do not?  What does he see, at long last, that makes him nod?  And when he nods, he says: “I thought you might have it in you.  And you’d better not squander it.”

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The New American Apocalypse, Pt. 11

(The New American Apocalypse

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

Part Eleven:…)

Goddammit.  I should’ve seen this coming.  I really should’ve seen this coming.  There are a lot of reasons why, to be honest, ranging from the basics of classic genre story structure to…well, to taking a good hard look at myself and realizing that in my darkest moments, the people I love are the ones I tend to destroy.  But isn’t that true of everyone?  Isn’t that true of all of us?

I clear my throat, aware that the rest of my party of Tarnished Knights is staring at me.  “Um…um, hello?  Yes.  Ah-ha.  Ha.  Excuse me, I think I must have dialed the wrong number, ah-heh, heh, heh…could happen to anyone…”

“But you didn’t,” the Beast replies, its voice so foul it feels like a long, nasty tongue in my ear.  A long nasty tongue attached to a bottomless bank account and a face that would drive someone insane just to look upon.  “You dialed the right number.  You’re looking for the girl, right?  You warned us this would happen.”

“Oh, I did?” my voice ratchets up a whole octave, I swear, and I’m very happy that I didn’t put the call on speakerphone.  “When did I do that?”

Mr. Conrad rolls his eyes, his body following suit–yes, it’s a whole-body eyeroll, an expression of such pure and complete exasperation that your average man will never have to see it.  I see it, myself, merely on a weekly basis.

“Five days ago,” the Beast answers.  Oh, God, it sounds almost as bad as The Market.

“Oh?  Ah-heh.  Five days, well, well, well…” I can feel the first hint that the pill is working, the beginning of a hard-edged buzz under my perception, “You know, I wasn’t really in my right mind, at that time.  My wits were not about me.”

“I beg to differ.  You were smarter, back then.  You knew how to play the game, how to bet the winning horse, so to speak.”

Oh, shit.  Ohshitohshitohshit.  I fucked up.  Man, I fucked up.

Better not to let the others know, right?  Maybe this is something we can keep close to the vest.  Or maybe not.  Maybe this is something I should share.  I don’t know.  I don’t know…

“Well, um, look, is she there, at least?”

“Oh, she’s here, alright,” like being licked by something that could eat me, I swear I could feel its sandpaper tongue grind my face, could feel its breath, the reek of all the bodies it ate….  “She’s not in the mood to talk, right now.  She seems angry with you.  Seems to think you’ve betrayed her trust.  I’m sure she’ll come around after the re-education…”

“The–the what?  Ah, heh, ah, it sounded like you said…”

“Re-education?  Oh, I did.”

I make a sound like a crying animal, which I’ll admit is very embarrassing.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Hughes.  You just remember to bet the winning horse and I’m sure everything will turn out just fine.”

It hangs up and I’m left clutching the phone to my ear, white-knuckled and sweating.  Everyone else stares at me.  I can see the questions behind their eyes.  After a couple seconds I set my phone back down and swallow.  “Well.” I say.

“Well?” Mr. Swift asks.

“Well.” I repeat.

“Oh, stop that,” Anna finishes the last of the scotch in the first bottle and gestures to me with the butt of it.  “What happened?  What did you do?”

“Well, you know the story.  I was reckless with a brilliant woman’s heart, et cetera…had an existential panic about the breadth and length of my life, did something stupid, made someone cry…the usual sort of thing…”

Anna sighs.  She’s heard this story, before.  On more than one occasion.  She even played one of the roles, some time ages and ages whence.  She rolls the empty scotch bottle around in her hand and I think I see her consider hitting me with it, for a second, but she opts not to.  “Well.  We’ll add that to the long list of things you screwed up, these last couple weeks.”

Why did I lie?  Why?  There’s no going back, now, is there?  I could clear my throat, change my story, tell the truth, tell them I’d somehow betrayed this young woman to forces so dark and mad that I can’t fully comprehend them, that I’d not only thrown them and the American Public under the bus but also the girl, for fuck’s sake, that I’d thrown the whole world under the damned bus–yes, I could tell them that, I could, but, but…

As I mentioned, I’m something of a coward.

And, like a coward does, I lied.  Too late to look back, now.

“Anyway,” I continue, feeling the drugs ramping up in my system, feeling the impulse to act scratching at the inside of my skull and at all the muscles running through my body, “tonight we strike out, right?  We begin the Good Fight.  We take to the streets in the Blue Whale and make a run for Justice or something like it.”

“Right,” is the general din of agreement in the room.

“Then let’s get to it!”

We head down the stairs and back to the streets.  The screams have died down, now, and I wonder if the daily slaughter has really reached its end.  Are the Cannibals satiated?  Have they feasted to their fullness on the zombified civilian populace?  How many apartments have changed hands, tonight?  How many converts has the Beast scored?

Mr. Swift opens the doors of the van.  “We’ll have to split up for the first leg, I think.  Some of us will need to head out to connect with whoever’s still running The Feed…Conrad and myself, if I had to choose.”

“And what do the rest of us do?” Ballard asks.

“Well, Spencer will need to head into Manhattan to destroy the Poems of the Apocalypse.”

“He’ll need backup.”

“Right.  You and Anna accompany him.  I’ll take you as far as the river, and then Conrad and I will need to head out…we’ll maintain radio contact whenever possible.”  Mr. Swift, Esq, ushers Mr. Conrad into the passenger seat before opening the sliding door for the rest of us.  “I don’t think I need to remind anyone, but failure is not an option.”

“No it is not,” Ballard agrees.

I nod and smile.  Nod and smile, yeah.

I think about rocks and hard places.

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The New American Apocalypse, Pt. 9

(Have you stopped the check out No Reflection and No Grave, yet?  Please do!  You already read them?  Oh, I see.  Well, then…maybe you wanted to write a review?  Please?)

(Also, check out Issue #38 of Sanitarium Magazine, featuring one of my short stories: “A Man Wakes Up Any Morning.”)

(The New American Apocalypse

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

Part Nine:…)

 

And this is the truth: we’ve always been heading in this direction, since the inception of the nation, a delicate curve of roadway getting tighter and tighter up until now, until it became a spiral, a corkscrew turn downhill into madness, abomination, destruction…death.  And I threw caltrops and oil over the asphalt in front of the car, in front of the half-blind American public squinting through the windshield, and the car lost control.  It spun out, careening in squealing 360s right up until it crashed through the guardrail and plummeted into darkness…and as if all that knowledge isn’t enough, as if knowing now what I know isn’t enough…I also have to accept the knowledge that the public at large, the great mass of the American Republic…don’t care.  That they, for some reason, imagine the car tumbling through darkness into endless cleavage and some aberrant mutations of Truth and Justice nobody in their right minds would recognize.  The truth is, Mr. Swift is right.  I only ever added the straw.  The rest of it, well, we did it to ourselves.  Staring into my scotch, the Feed playing on low volume in the background, I know nothing so well as I know this.  We did this to ourselves.

So now what?  Is there some emergency parachute in the trunk of this Great American Car, a Ford of some metaphysical, archetypal variety–or are we truly lost?  Can we be saved?  And if so, what are we being saved from?  Is this what we really are?  Is it all we’ve ever been?

I imagine the future, as directed by the Great Darknesses:

In this future, the streets are patrolled by mutant cops, Cthulhu from the waist down with big badges and giant, blocky guns clutched in their six-fingered hands.  They scan into our souls with their camera lenses, they read our minds with their sensors, they stand at the ready with truncheon and tentacle to act on the merest hint of sedition.  They fall upon protesters and under-privileged youth with ravenous bloodthirst, fanatical in their devotion to the ‘Greater Good.’   Remember: your enemies walk among you.  They could even be your neighbors.  They could even be yourself.  Remember: you are only safe if everyone else is dead.  Remember: you can trust us.

In this future, the great priests of the Church of the New American Jesus lead us in Megachurch Prayers for a small pittance, a tax-exempt tithe taken from our corporate-controlled bank accounts.  They have bombed out all the abortion clinics and banned sex for any purpose except for reproduction.  Gays and other sinners are lynched by the dozen in the name of the new American Christ, whose blond-haired blue-eyed John Doe visage gazes smilingly down on us from towers of opalescent wealth.  Muslims and Atheists soon join the queer fruit hanging from the trees, but eventually other sacrifices will be necessary, too.  The Jews, again?  Or the Buddhists?  Or will the New American Jesus soon demand the blood of a different Christian sect?  One whose teachings are less in-line with the Corporate-Approved Scriptures?  The Quakers, maybe.  Unitarians.  Anyone who strikes out against the booming declarations of the morally Right American Jesus and his Hobby Lobby Apostles.

In this future, the Eldritch Abominations strut through board rooms in crisp suits, their unreal faces ignored by the numb, mindless population.  They smoke cigars and drink $5000 cognac and carry suitcases made from leathered human skin.  Their bank accounts are padded by selling children into sex slavery after the poor kids lose too many fingers trying to put sneakers together.  Exploitation after exploitation, not unnoticed but simply unpunished.  Because nobody cares, mesmerized by reality TV and celebrity gossip.  They don’t even glance up from the screen as the Cannibal Class and its Dark Masters devour their neighbors, more meat for the market, more food for the horde.  The middle-management types, the zeds with a little extra brain in their skulls, tell the toiling workers that if they try hard enough, they, too, might one day earn a comfortable living.  In the meantime, it’s toil, toil, toil, and pray to New American Jesus that you keep your job until your debt is paid off (and it never will be, the Abominations have seen to that–at your current interest rate, it will take the rest of your natural life plus twenty years paying from the grave.)  The homeless and other inferior economic specimens will be shuttled to work camps, yes, like Gypsies in the old days.  They’ll be housed, of course, and given cots on which to rest their weary heads, so that should be an improvement over a park bench, shouldn’t it?  Never mind the fact that the showers aren’t connected to running water…

Never mind that, at all.

In this future, the Cult of M’Ra persists through allotment.  It has found a brother organization in the Church of the New American Jesus and so its teachings are allowed to filter through to the docile public.  Women will be ushered out of the workplace.  It will be taught across the nation that their brain power is diminished by the blood requirement of menstruation.  And with all the calculations going on in their tiny, adorable heads in search of an appropriate mate, how can there be room for extra maths?  These things can’t be helped–it’s just the way we’re built, biologically.  It’s not sexist, remember, it’s science.  And they will teach these things instead of Evolution, a silly theory if ever there was one.  Remember: men have challenges, too, and they shouldn’t be ignored.  The Cult of M’Ra has several pamphlets regarding prostrate cancer.  They haven’t put any money into research for a cure, and they haven’t exactly assembled an awareness council or even staged a march or a marathon…they just want you to know that it sucks, that they have to deal with it and you don’t, that their problems are very pressing, more pressing than your own concern over safety or privacy or rape culture or the breast cancer eating you alive from inside.

This future:

Don’t vote.  It doesn’t matter, anyway.  When has one vote changed anything?  Come and sit down.  Read a Bible.  Watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians.  Do you see what’s on Bravo, now?  Aren’t these Housewives hilarious?  Take these pills.  What do they do?  Oh, it’s nothing.  They make you feel good.  Isn’t this a funny show?  Don’t you feel better about life, now?  Oh, those people?  They’re your friends.  They live in your apartment.  Sorry, did I say your apartment?  I misspoke.  It’s their apartment, now.  You’re going to go live in one of the labor, er, Employment Camps with the other welfare recipients.  It pays minimum wage.  No benefits, but you’ll get cable TV.  Voting?  You won’t have time to vote.  No, no, no.  You have to work.  To pay the bills.  You only make minimum wage, after all.  Do you really want to take time off to register a vote that hardly matters?  Of course not.  Don’t stress about it too much.  There’s always Kim Kardashian.  Look at her little baby.  Look at her oiled up ass.  Take these pills.  No, I’m sorry, there’s no running water in the showers, but if you’re tired of feeling dirty all the time if you’re tired of all the sweat clinging to your pores if you’re just tired, tired, tired of the whole filthy world, I can turn one on for you.  There we go.  It’s not so bad, is it?  Shhhh.  Shhhhh.  Just close your eyes and let go.

I finish my scotch.  This is the Great American Dream, huh?  This is where we’ve all been headed.

To hell with that.

“What are we going to do?” I ask.

For a long time: silence.

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The New American Apocalypse, Pt. 8

(Have you been enjoying The New American Apocalypse?  Feel like helping a poor author?  For only ten cents a day–paid for a couple months in advance–you can feed a starving artist.  All you have to do is purchase the paperback or eBook copy of either No Reflection or No Grave!  And, if you’ve already read them, why not review them?  Isn’t it worth it to know you’ve saved a young adult from starvation?

And, if you’re interested, you can also check out Issue #38 of Sanitarium Magazine, featuring one of my short stories, “A Man Wakes Up Any Morning.”)

(In the meantime, please enjoy The New American Apocalypse, a semi-improvisational foray into the genre of Political Horror.

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

Part Eight:…)

 

Of course, we all always knew that reality television was a sedative, didn’t we?  But the concept that it functions on this magnitude, that Mutant Super Police could prowl the streets while M’Ra Cultists chop up journalists and the Church of the New American Jesus conquers DC and…and people are still sitting there, asses glued to seats, watching celebrities pretend to cry on camera?  Watching clever editors cut the world together into trite sound effects and misleading dialogue?

“How did this happen?” I ask, on my second glass of scotch on the rocks.  “How the hell did this happen?”  (I wish I could say I say it half-exclamatorily, but at this point my energy is deflating, my hope shriveling up like a man’s balls after a dip in ice cold water.)

“It was always happening,” the Voice, Mr. Ballard, tells me.  “The People have been hypnotized by daytime television for so long it’s hardly worth noting.  Come.  We’ll talk in the Liberty Den.”

Generally, we refer to this room as merely The Den, because it is just that: a den.  But every team of heroes, however motley, needs to have a fancy name for their headquarters, especially in times of strain and conflict.  So, ‘the den’ becomes ‘the Liberty Den,’ though its inherent function doesn’t change.  Some couches, a couple chairs, a large, beautifully sculpted coffee table topped in crystal, etc… the decor and purpose of the room isn’t changed with its title.  It’s just a den.  Don’t get too excited.

In the Liberty Den, we find the Sleeper Agent (Mr. Conrad and, once more, there’s no relation insofar as I’m aware) staring at the television, mouth agape in consternation.  He is slender and lean, wearing a tailored suit and a silk scarf.  Don’t let his appearance fool you!–he’s just as much at war with the Dark Powers That Be as any of the rest of us, he’s just approaching from a different angle.  Espionage.  Infiltration.  Et cetera.

“What’s on the Feed?” Ballard asks.

“I can’t…I just…” Conrad shakes his head, buries his face in his hands.  I turn my attention to the screen and see what has him so wearied: in DC, the Church of the New American Jesus has built crosses out of old CRT television sets and the M’Ra cultists are showing a constant stream of veiny cocks being jerked off.  Cannibals and zeds stand in the glow of the screens, praying.  I sputter on my drink, only managing to choke it down by reminding myself how much a single sip would cost, had I not stolen them.

The horror, indeed.

“One must imagine,” Ballard says, “that these are curated cocks.  Surely not every member of the M’Ra cult can have such massive equipment.”

“I’ve seen enough curated cock to last the rest of my natural life,” Ms. Bradbury plucks the open bottle of scotch from my hand.  “Turn that shit off,”

The shit is turned off.  There will be no cumshots tonight, ladies and gentlemen.  Not if we can help it.

Conrad, Sleeper Agent and Man in Havana Supreme, turns his eyes toward me.  “You blacked out?”

“That I did.”

“So you…you have no idea what you did?” he continues.

“That I don’t.”

“We thought it better to consult you before we dumped it on him,” Ms. Bradbury pours herself a couple fingers of scotch and takes a sip.  “Considering his state…sorry, honey, but it’s true, you’re a mess…it might be a little much for him.”

“I was just going to leave him to the Scanners,” Mr. Swift shrugs.

“Stop,” Anna huffs.  “Really.”

I drain the rest of my glass and clear my throat.  “So,” I say, “I propose, then, lady and gentlemen, that I very quickly have another swig of very nice scotch, and you tell me what I did that was so…was so…”

I can’t find a word to describe the magnitude of the situation.

The Poems of the Apocalypse,” Anna replies.

“The what?” having never heard of this bit of work, myself.

“You wrote a shitty book.”

Another shitty book,” Mr. Swift contends.

“Hey now!” I start, but then…I’m not exactly cranking out masterpieces, am I?

“Anyway, it was just the straw that broke the camel’s back or whatever,” Anna goes in on her drink, apparently quite thirsty (or trying to avoid a hangover after her earlier drunkenness…hair of the dog or the dog entire or just the parts of the dog most useful to her).

“So you’re mad at me because…because I wrote a shitty book of poems?”

The shitty book of poems,” Mr. Swift picks up, “a book of such awful poetry and prose and utter nihilism, a work of such searing cynicism and senseless rage, of such hopelessness and helplessness, lacking all substance, in such fragmented, nonsense verse that it just…well…” he gestures at the dead-black television screen.  “Now we’ve got that.  Nobody fighting back, nobody voting, nobody bothering to stand up for their neighbors, their community, their basic civil rights… while these new monsters trample all over them, while these dark forces tear us apart.”

I sit down next to Anna.  On the one hand, yes, this seems like a relatively small change, a minor footnote in America’s acceleration toward The End, and yet…I was supposed to be the scribe of the group!  I was meant to play the Bard to those Paladins who Fought The Good Fight…and instead I’d betrayed them, thrown them under the bus in one of my moods, turned away from them to offer supplication to Dark Forces and Evil Entities…to support the Heart of Darkness pulsing in the center of our nation.  The camel was huffing and puffing over the dunes, to begin with, and I, for one reason or another, felt it necessary to shower it with blackened, poorly-edited poems of the nihilistic apocalypse?  What had possessed me during those two blackout weeks?  What awful things had I turned to?…

The answers will all have to wait.

Now isn’t the time for self-pity or self-loathing or the myopic pursuit of my blackout memories.  Now is the time to rally.  To set right what I wronged.  To finish this glass of scotch and pour myself another and top off Anna’s glass and slump back down on the couch and shake my head and figure the rest of it out maybe tomorrow morning after we shake off our various hangovers, yes, I think tomorrow is the best place to start, sometime after the sun rises and all the ghastly creatures running amok in the streets have gone in to work…

“Shit,” I mutter.  “I really fucked up.”

Ballard turns a sarcastic eye toward me, “Really?  You think so?”

“Um.  Yes?”

Well, at least I can still make them laugh.

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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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Zombie Flash Fiction!

Zombies.  You can always smell them before you see them, the half-rotted corpses steaming in their custom suits, their hipster flannels or punk leathers, their organs liquefying in whatever fashions they adorn themselves with, the reek of it wafting through the seams and hitting you like burning garbage and stale piss.  This one’s wearing a faded blue suit as he walks up, no socks, his bare, dry ankles open to the air.  One of his feet had been twisted around a bruised, swollen ankle, giving him a telltale shamble, a harsh stagger that makes him list with every step.

“Hey, baby,” the zombie rasps, vocal chords strained by rot, “you got a little brain to spare?  Just a bite, baby, I promise.”

You keep your head down and try to ignore the flesh-crazed monster, even as he shuffles after you on that bent and broken leg.  The hot noon sun scorches the sidewalk, and you think it makes his stench even worse, the sun accelerating the decay of his innards even as he shambles on.  You make it about half a block before he starts talking, again.

“Come on, I can smell that brain from here, that juicy juicy brain.  I love brain, baby.  I love brain!”

He’s wearing aviator shades, gold-tinted with steel frames, an almost stereotypical FiDi bro/douchebag, and you wonder what firm hired him.  Those companies have never been very forward thinking, definitely not so much as to hire the dead.  But there he is, half a block behind you, blue suit, shades, nice shoes, no fucking socks (maybe he’s just got the low profile socks you can’t see?), a broken ankle, and a mouth that just won’t stay shut.

“I’ll treat that brain right, baby, you know it!  I’ll stew it in a pot for a couple hours, add some spices, really flavor those folds…”

You almost turn around to yell something at him.  These zombies know no bounds, dead-heads like him always walking up to people in the street, begging or demanding, their snarling voices all scratching out the same question, “brains?  brains?  brains?” — you’re sick of it, goddamned sick of it, all the constant harassment spilling from their lips like viscous spittle.  Can’t someone just walk down the streets of New York with a brain and not have to deal with the dead?  Is that really too much to ask?

“Come on, I’m dyin’ here…” the zombie croaks out as you walk away.  He’s given up his shuffling pursuit, throwing his arms up in frustration as you make it through a crosswalk right before the traffic starts up, again.

You feel guilty, afterwards, but for a moment you have a cruel thought: good, you filthy corpse, rot, rot and leave me the hell alone.

zombieSuit
COME ONNNNN BABE
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