(While you’re enjoying this somewhat-improvisational story, based loosely on my experiences in New York City, maybe consider picking up one of my darker, less-whimsical works, such as No Reflection and/or its sequel No Grave. If you already read them, why not review them? Even a couple short sentences would help.)
(The New American Apocalypse
Johnny Swift slows the car after a dozen or so blocks. Now that we’re clear of the Scanner Darkly, the air of immediate emergency has calmed. Now it’s time to blend, to match traffic speed and try not attract too much attention as we make the last five minutes to our destination…
The Cannibal Class is on the march in Astoria, Queens. The screams, Jesus…it’s the kind of sound you never really get used to hearing. I stare out the window and watch as a pack of young, bespoke-suited zombies breach the door of a nearby apartment building. They pull an aged, raisin-wrinkled Greek man from his home and drag him, shrieking, onto the sidewalk. I look away, turning back toward the windshield, and let my ears do the rest of the narrative work for me. That apartment is theirs, now. When they’re done with the Greek man, they’ll have the rest of his family for dessert–an old-fashioned butcher shop feast. Then they’ll go for the Bangladeshi neighbors. It makes me wonder…how many real people are left, out there? And how long can they hold on?
Will the screaming ever stop?
“What the hell is going on here?” I ask.
“Same thing that’s always been going on,” Anna replies, shadowed in the front seat, “just…worse.”
I lean forward, reaching out to tap Johnny Swift, Esq. on the arm, “And you’re saying I’m somehow responsible for this?”
He shakes his head, “You’re not responsible, per se. I said that out of anger. What you did was more like the straw that broke the camel’s back. You tilted the scales at the opportune moment.”
“We’ll talk about it later.”
His phone buzzes, the essential Batphone to our battles against Evil. He and Anna exchange a look, and she ends up picking it up. I return to my seat (stationed on the bulk of A Brief History of Constitutional Law) and do my best to absolutely eavesdrop on every word. It’s not that I don’t trust Ms. Bradbury inherently, as I do (in fact, probably more than I trust any other singular person in the world), but after Mr. Swift’s scolding and the strange tension hanging in the car, I worry that I might not be being given the whole picture. I worry that there are certain elements at play that I have, for one reason or another, been left ignorant of.
Her end of the call is brief: “Hello…Anna Bradbury…I’m out, now…They got where?…Already?…Worse than we thought…We’re already headed over…Spencer’s in tow…I know…I know…He blacked out…” (here, the sound of raucous laughter on the other end of the line, and my assumption that the Voice said something like “Typical Hughes”) “…We’ll be there in two minutes. Bye.”
She hangs up and turns to Johnny Swift. “The M’Ra cultists are in DC. They hooked up with the Church of New American Jesus.”
“Shit,” Johnny says.
“Shit,” I agree, having never dealt with the Church of New American Jesus but having an innate fear of religions. When you aren’t religious, you see, you begin to think of all religions as being innately cult-like, and my particular opinion on the American interpretation of the Christ Cult is a matter of public record.
Swift puts the accelerator halfway through the floor and before I know it, we’ve arrived at our destination…a small, beautiful little apartment on [STREET NAME REDACTED FOR THE SAFETY OF THOSE INVOLVED]. I mean, it’s a gorgeous place. The Sleeper Agent and The Voice have incredible taste, and it really shows in the splendor of their apartment. The interior, I mean. The exterior is shit. Utter shit. And, looking up at it, I can still hear the distant screams of lower-class Queens residents as the new Cannibal Class eats them alive…and that isn’t something that ever adds to the beauty of an apartment building. No. I think any Real Estate agent will tell you that the resounding echoes of bloodcurdling screams are bad for property values.
We’re buzzed up to the apartment in short order, leaving Mr. Swift’s massive van tightly parked between two little Fiats.
The Voice, AKA Jason Gerald Ballard (and, again, no relation insofar as I’m aware) greets us at the door. He’s a hugger. I am, too, actually, but he’s on a different level, a true believer in the healing effects of the ritual. At first impression, it’s somewhat uncomfortable, but after a time it becomes comforting, a promise of support so profound it can’t be denied. We all receive such a hug on our way in–mine is somewhat clumsy, between my manbag and the two bottles of scotch.
“How goes the world outside?” Ballard asks, his voice the precise reason for his nickname–it’s deep and resonant, rich and perfectly enunciated.
“Here,” I hand him a bottle of scotch. “You’ll need this.”
“Mr. Hughes…back among the living?”
I nod, “Rumors of my death, et cetera.”
“Good to know.”
Johnny Swift clears his throat, “We should get down to business, shouldn’t we? Is The Feed still running?”
Ballard shrugs, “What little we receive, now, yes.”
The Feed is the alt.news outlet the global network of…well, there’s no official name, per se, because the network is made up of dozens of smaller groups, freaks and weirdos and activists and artists all working toward a better world and largely getting hell in return for our efforts. Fighting the good fight and paying the price, etc. In any case, I rarely involve myself with it except in very serious issues, Red Alert scenarios, Code Black and the like, situations in which all members must be called to arms to beat back some dark entity coming either from within or without. In the day to day, I don’t really play a role…but now, today, in this New American Apocalypse, I have no choice. Who does, really? Who can afford to sit back and let this madness play out before their eyes, slouched in a barcalounger while the country, maybe even the world, tears itself apart?
Apparently, the answer is ‘an uncomfortable percentage of the still-surviving population.’
“What?” I ask, following the Mr. Ballard, Mr. Swift, and Ms. Bradbury down a long hallway. “What do you mean nobody’s watching?”
“Precisely what I said, Mr. Hughes,” Ballard goes on. “Those people who are members neither of our legion nor the, as you put, the Cannibal Class simply don’t seem to care what’s going on…even as they are eaten alive.”
My jaw drops wide open. “But…but how…? I mean, surely, even the mainstream news networks, surely they must have something to say about the Apocalyptic State of the Union!”
He shakes his head, “That’s part of the issue, you understand. The monsters in question, leaders of the Cannibal Class and those still darker entities that lord over even them, they’ve concocted a perfect sedative.”
“What? Impossible! What is it?”
“Kim Kardashian’s oiled-up ass.”
The first nip of scotch that night goes down my own throat. I feel a sudden need to drown my sorrows.Share This: