Friday, September 2, 2011

Sic Semper Tyrannis

He began to regain consciousness gradually becoming aware of the dull throbbing in his ankle and the searing agony in his neck. It was several moments later before he could open his eyes and take begin taking stock of his surroundings. He was on his back staring up into an impossibly bright light that forced his eyes shut. Trying to raise an arm to shield them from the glare he found it would not respond. It merely continued to lay limply by his side. Alarmed, he checked the rest of his body and it too was unresponsive.
 “Hello?” he called out.  His voice was low and it creaked with dryness in his throat and a tinge of panic. He could not remember the last time he’d had anything to drink or how’d he come to be such a strange room unable to move. His last clear memory was of being trapped inside a burning building surrounded those who wished him dead.
“Hello John.” The reply seemed to come from everywhere at once, though from his prone position John couldn’t see who had spoken. The voice was musical and resonant and it was nearly impossible to tell if it belonged to a man or woman.
“Who are you? How do you know my name?”
“There is little that remains hidden from me for long John.”
“But that doesn’t make any sense. What is your name?”
“I have been known by many names in my time on this earth. In Greece I was known as Hades. In Egypt I bore the name Osiris.  Your European cousins call me the Reaper. My true name is Azreal and for time eternal I have shepherded the souls of the departed to their final judgment. “
“Wouldn’t that make you an angel?”
“My kind has been called such yes.”
“Then am I…?”
“Dead? Yes. You were trapped in barn while trying to evade justice. When you refused to surrender one of the men who pursued you opened fire. You were paralyzed and died as a result of your injuries.”
Slowly the gaps in John’s memory began to fill in. He remembered the war that torn his country apart, the plot to kill the tyrants responsible. He remembered the flash of gun powder in the darkened balcony; the terror and panic of those too afraid to see the truth. He remembered the broken ankle and the journey southward that left him wounded, trapped, and about to die. He couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry at such irony.
“Justice? What mockery! Everything I did I did in the name of God and my country!”
“John Wilkes Booth, do not attempt to convince me that the sins you have committed are the will of the Father,” Azreal’s disembodied voice became edged with anger. “But I have not come to pass judgment upon you. I merely come to offer you a choice.”
“Choice? What choice do I have? Has my fate not yet been decided?”
“Only the Father has power to decide your final reward. In this instance he wishes to offer you a chance at redemption so that you may be absolved of your Earthly sins.”
 “And what does God wish of me in return? Surely there is little I can offer him in my present state.”
“There a number of entities who have taken residence on the Earthly plane. They do not belong there but have taken measures to ensure that they are beyond the Father’s reach to deal with. He wishes for you to return to the mortal realm and deal with them. Your physical body will be fully restored to its condition prior to your death. If you complete this task then the Father shall forgive your sins and you will be given a place of honor among the host of Heaven.”
“And if I refuse?”
“Then you shall go to your final reward with your sins unabsolved and you must face whatever judgment befits you.”
Suddenly the scales tipped away from crying and firmly toward laughing. John had been alive long enough know a threat when one was given. He had risked, and in fact lost, his life in an attempt save the country he loved from damnation at the hands of a bold-faced traitor. He had only acted in accordance with what he believed to be right and was now being threatened with damnation of his own as a result.
“Then it seems God has given me little choice. I must accept his terms.”
“Excellent. The Father will be most pleased.”
The harsh light surrounding John began to grow in intensity until he thought he would go blind. The air grew hotter until he began to sweat, causing small beads to form on his forehead. The bullet lodged in his neck prevented him from crawling away or wiping the sweat away. He could only shut his eyes and wait.
It receded nearly as suddenly as it appeared leaving the room with more normal lighting. To John’s surprise the pain in his ankle was gone, leaving only a slight stiffness behind. He found he was able to flex the previously broken joint and even to climb to his feet. His hand drifted to where the soldier’s bullet had pierced his neck. Where he expected to find a wound or even a scar there was nothing to indicate he had ever been injured.
 The pain in his ankle was gone, leaving only stiffness behind as he climbed to his feet and began to walk. He placed a hand where the soldier’s bullet had pierced his neck, expecting to find a bullet or perhaps a scar, though he found nothing to indicate he had ever been injured.
“Hello? Azreal?”
There was no response save the slight breeze behind him, flapping what sounded like paper. He turned to find a small wooden box with a piece of brown paper sticking neatly out from under the lid which he pulled free. A quick glance revealed it was a map of what appeared to be Southern Nevada. Printed at the bottom of the page were the words Yea; though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil. Lifting the lid of the box John found a pair of Colt pistols, highly polished and gleaming in the light. Inscribed in the bottom of the lid were the words for thou art with me.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Food Fight

There I was just minding my own business in the middle of the Stomach Stuffer, trying to decide which sandwich-flavored nutropaste to buy when the wall behind me exploded. Where there had been a solid and reassuring wall seconds before there was nothing. Tiny fragments of plaster and brick rained down across the store, covering everything with a fine layer of dust. The fragile silence erupted into large scale panic: women screaming, babies crying, the usual signs that the world has gone to hell.

Throwing an arm over my face to keep the dust out I reached into my jacket, fingers wrapping around the grip of my pistol with the comfort an old lover. Pulling the weapon free I turned, thumbing off the safety and moving behind the nearest shelves. Carefully I poked my head out into aisle to see hazy neon light filter through the swirling dust, casting eerie shadows on the pair of humanoid shapes moving toward the gap in the wall. They walked casually through the debris like they were taking a summer stroll and began climbing over the rubble and into the store. My heart instantly relocated to my stomach.

It was obvious that they had been dead for quite some time. Their skin sagged unnaturally was just beginning to turn a pallid grey color as it decomposed. Their bodies were covered with bruises, welts, and what looked small incisions sloppily sewn closed. Intermittent flashes of light illuminated the pus dripping from the barely contained wounds. Tongues hung free from open jaws and saliva dangled in thin ropes from their rotten lips. Dead eyes scanned the store, like they were looking for something though I doubt they had the brainpower between them to know what it was. I swallowed hard as I realized I was standing face to face with a pair of savage techzombies.

Just the act of making techzombies requires seriously bad mojo and some pretty malevolent science, maybe magic depending on who made them. But whoever that had been hadn’t left well enough alone. These bad boys had been given the full upgrade package. Their arms below the elbow had been replaced by a series of nasty looking implements. The front corpse was sporting one arm ending in a fistful of serrated talons while the other arm looked more an oversized lobster claw. Then there was techzombie number two who had an auto targeting device wired into what was left of his brain and a pair of multi-barreled monstrosities where there had once been hands.

The panic in the store was beginning to boil over. Women and children were crying hysterically. Most people were rooted to the floor in fear though a few jostled their way toward the door only to get cut down by talon or bullet. Taking a slow breath I leveled my gun at the gunzombie and prepared to fire. As I was about to squeeze the trigger the clerk appeared behind the counter, looking like he might need fresh pants at any moment. He nervously clutched a shotgun in shaking hands. He managed to squeeze off two rounds into the gunzombie’s face before it turned and unleashed a steady stream of fire its bionic chain guns. It casually returned to searching for its prey as the clerk fell lifelessly to the floor.

I could only shake my head as the poor bastard was unceremoniously cut down. Obviously surviving this mess was going to be a little more complex than point gun, fire till shit stops moving. Making mental note of where the techzombies were I began searching for something that might help me get out alive. Normally there isn’t all that much in the typical convenience store that is useful for fighting a pair of bionically jacked-up super corpses, so call it providence or sheer stupid luck that the same aisle where I was hunkered down was a large rack filled with bottles of high octane booze. I don’t just mean the kind that puts hair on your chest and makes you a man. I mean the kind that rearranges your DNA and turns you into a crazy one-armed Russian. The bottles were tossed about a little during the explosion but didn’t seem to be any worse for the wear so I grabbed the nearest one and started crawling my way forward.

I found a new place to hide behind an overturned counter before checking on the zombie situation. The talonzombie was nowhere to be seen, probably digging through the rubble for whatever they had been sent after. The gunzombie on the other hand just stood in front of the gaping hole staring at nothing in particular. I had hoped to get them both at once, but time was running thin. Leaving the relative safety of my hiding spot I moved into the open space of the aisle and tossing the bottle in a single motion. A handful of well placed bullets shattered the bottle, turning the liquid within into a small scale firestorm raining down onto the gunzombie. Ducking back into cover from the molten booze shower I watched the aftermath in the reflection of the polished metal wall.

The gunzombie bellowed in rage, firing wildly into the ceiling as it caught fire. An unexpected bonus really, I had only meant to scorch its circuits and shut it down. After a few seconds later began to move in a sluggish and jerky fashion as the implants began to fail. A few seconds more and it was nothing more than a heap of burning rotten flesh on the floor. There was no time for celebration, not with a whole other hulking mass of bionic dead flesh lurking nearby.

The only warning that I had that the talonzombie knew of its partner’s demise was the muffled, gurgling roar it let out before throwing another rack of shelves aside and locking its dead and hungry eyes on me. It lunged forward, swinging its talons in a lazy arc. Using the little space to maneuver that was available I managed to avoid being sliced open. Using my free hand I took hold of the zombie’s elbow as it passed taking advantage of its momentum to spin it around and send it sprawling to the floor.

Moving to the clearest part of the floor, I fired twice into the creature’s back, aware that it would only buy me some time at best and waited for it to scramble back to its feet. Regaining its footing the zombie lunged forward again, a snarling mass of decaying teeth and razor-sharp claws. I let the creature close the distance, careful to avoid being slashed apart. Again using the creature’s momentum against it I rolled backwards, bracing my feet against the sagging flesh of the techzombie’s chest. The instant my back hit the floor I pushed my legs out, flinging it into the wall with a sickening wet crunch.

The zombie slid down the wall, leaving a trail of pus and slim behind. Judging from the support rod piercing its chest my aim was still as good as ever. Thankfully the rod protruded far enough that without its hands the zombie was unable to free itself from the predicament it now found itself in. Grabbing the shattered broom handle that lay on the floor nearby I slammed it down into the creature’s skull repeatedly until the spasms subsided.

“Clean up, aisle seven,” I said, smiling at my own terrible joke as I threw the gore covered implement aside. The puppets were no longer any threat which left only one thing for me to do: head out into the night and kill the puppeteer.