jack_babalon: (Default)
Continued from Part 2

The brick walls gray in the last trickle of moonlight. Weeds sprout wild through the cracks. Glassless windows pried open with iron bars. A hollow doorframe grows at his approach, waiting with the impenetrable patience of a coffin. Inside the cold glitter of shattered bottles. A train wails mournful in the distance. The wind shifts and hits in a sustained burst. Through the doorway a tumbling cascade of dead leaves sweep across the parking lot, crash against the shores of an invisible circle surrounding his steps and spark golden out of existence. When the train's dirge fades along with the passing gust, it drags from the building's depths the roar of some vast impossible beast. A bone rattling rumble that sounded somewhere between a whale's call and a jungle cat's growl; louder than thunder yet falling on his ears alone.

This would be his Adversary, anchored in another reality and telepathically screaming through a wound torn open in our own. A wound that just happened to also be the mind of the woman he was here to rescue.

Adam pushes on through the cacophony, until he reaches the doorway where he pauses. He closes his eyes. Relaxes his muscles. Narrows his focus into a single arrow sharp breath. Dives along its current and recedes from the extra-dimensional bellow of his opponent. He feels the pulse of the city throb beneath his veins and the steel purr of her traffic hum resounds from his belly. He stills the panic, allows himself to submerge into an immense web of random chances, vicious synchronicities and invisible absurdities that graft to his nervous system as gently as an old blanket on fresh sheets. The city drains his fear into her streets, disperses it across the dark canyons laying narrow between sleeping towers and leaves in its place the cool, gun fighter's confidence of every unforeseen hook-up still lingering from the long closed bars within her perimeter.

When he opens his eyes again it is with the Sight.

Before him his magick circle ignites red radiant and mutes the roar into cold silence. Along the walls of the circle's invisible shell four flaming sigils revolve around his center. Four secret names of his city with their letters compressed into a single symbol. He raises his hand and one of the sigils halts before him. Staring through its center his vision shifts spectrums.

Six Kirlian violet silhouettes light up and hover through a milky gray fog. Behind them a bright silver shadow paces around restlessly. He touches the sigil by its corner with the tips of his fingers and expands its width with a drag. The sigil burns fiercer now, hyper-luminescent shades of charged aerosol crackle through the air. When he does this the silver shadow magnifies into view. The glare is too much for him. He shifts spectrums. Dials it to the frequency he calls 'Chakra Vision'. The silver shadow is replaced with what appears to be one of those old 'Visible Woman' anatomy dolls you used to see sitting in the corner of a high school science class. Raw muscles interlaced with neural webbing, the bones of the skull prominent with two eyeballs floating in their sockets, arterial rivers flowing beneath the translucent flesh. The body emanates a steady infrared aura . Lined perfectly down the center of the body, lit up in Vajrayana hues and rotating with the psychedelic 'trails' of seven blistering suns. But connected behind these incandescent spheres are seven oil slick purple tentacles, dangling from the sky before vanishing into the mist. Adam shifts spectrums, and with a slow crane of his neck beholds the full width of his Adversary.

About two stories up, a jellyfish the size of a small cloud hovers above him. Its lucid shell has a milky orange sheen, containing within a radon green gas that flashes with occasional bursts of lightning. He drags the sigil a little wider and narrows his vision into the lower frequencies. The creature dissolves into a fractal spiral of grinding ebony fangs spinning perpetually into the depths of a bottomless black hole. From the arms of the spirals onyx bright tendrils weave and flutter in the gasp of incinerated universes yawning from the heart of its void.

Adam whistles appreciatively and defaults his vision back to 'reality'. Eyeball fuck the abyss... and apparently the abyss will eyeball fuck you right back.

Real sight adjusts clumsy, he can barely register the six murky figures waiting in the expanse of the dark. He doesn't have to see them however to know they're staring at him. Inside he can begin to hear a wounded animal shrieking hysterical, muffled significantly but still grinding to the ear. It takes Adam a moment to realize that it wasn't an animal he was hearing, no matter how much he might wish it to be otherwise, but rather a human throat being torn open with the chant of an impossible language.

He fires up his Bic and holds the flame high over his head.

Reluctantly, the memory of a light flickers into life from the ceiling, a pale ghost bulb burning from the center of the ceiling and casting a sick yellow gloom over what might have once been a lobby of some sort.

He lowers the flame and lights up a cigarette that has literally just appeared in his mouth. Inside his magick circle he is free to take small short-cuts with time. Like all young magicians, he thinks the seconds squandered for show will never add up and they never quite do the math until it's too late. This sadly is a lesson no sage has yet to be able to successfully impart to even the most earnest of adepts.

Before him the glare of six hard face. Some bruised, some cut, but all with that cruel acuity of someone who's about to kick your ass. Ronnie's Hate Patrol standing watch after a rough scrap. Adam notes the patrol seems a bit short on manpower. He matches up cars he recognized in the parking lot with missing faces and realizes that half of Ronnie's preferred muscle were most likely on their way to either the hospital or the morgue. Still, the survivors were clearly jacked-up, fucked-up and ready for more.

Meanwhile the Hate Patrol continue to size him up, take his number and are clearly not impressed. Not with the sudden phantom light crackling above, not with the hideous mockery of a voice that has been wailing incessantly behind them, and certainly not with the scrawny, ghetto punk wannabe posing all dramatic in the doorway allowing the wind to ruffle scraggly peroxide blond hair.

"You the 'specialist'?" The biggest one croaks while stepping forward menacingly. Adam couldn't help but note the baseball bat that seemed impatient in his massive fist, the sharp bouncer squint narrowing in on him nor the demented snarl dangling off a meat slab of chin.

"If you mean whether or not I'm the asshole dumb enough to walk into a room I should be clearly running away from? Then yeah, that'd be me." Adam shrugs and strolls on in.

What he sees is pretty much what he expected. Standard issue shit hole, top-to-bottom. Moss coated and jagged mounds of shattered dry wall, eviscerated office desks scattered about, amputee chairs hobbled in a pile, a heap of coverless paperback novels, water damaged magazines, brittle newspaper pages and fast food wrappers. Behind the Hate Patrol were two iron doors, painted a drab green and recently chained shut with a padlock. Behind it the basement he presumed, and down there was the job - ready whether he was or not.

But there was also something else in the gutted out office. Something of immense value to Adam. Sprayed across the brick wall bones - the gold. A series of bright vibrant graffiti tags in Anime style letters as big as a man. "ARSN", "FaDE", "DROP", "kNOw". There are others, but these four have been bombed across Terminus and resonate with the psychic charge of every set of eyes that has fallen upon them. The city has revealed to him another page from her grimorie. He grins at the graffiti and feels their power soaking into his will.

"So what'cha gonna do there, Mister Specialist?" One of the smaller mooks asks impatiently, standing at a mere 6 feet in his stomp boots and resting a crowbar over a broad shoulder.

Adam pries excited eyes off the wall and sneers towards Lil' Mook. "Alright, Rule #1 and that's the help don't talk to the talent while the talent's working."

"Th' fuck did he just say to us? " Lil' Mook grumbles and as one the Hate Patrol move in towards Adam. Specialist or not, it's been a long day followed by a longer night and there wasn't a man in their ranks ready to abide having some bitch-ass scarecrow run his mouth to them like they were a bunch of cunts.

Adam raises a single admonishing finger. "Rule #2... fuck with the talent and the talent will fuck with you."

The Hate Patrol trade dismissively baffled looks that say "this guy over here" and stare back at Adam with menacing grins. Before any of them can utter a word though... he beats them to the draw.

"DROP!" Adam barks and a split-second later the concrete floor chimes with discarded weapons.

The Hate Patrol stare dumbfounded at their crowbars and baseball bats, their brass knuckles and 'smileys' (an improvised flail made of thick chain and a bouquet of padlocks) laying at their boots. The biggest of the mooks bends down to pick his bat back up but finds he can't. Two hands and a lot of elbow grease prove to be of no help. He stands back up.

"How'd you...?" Big Mook mutters looking up perplexed from his weapon to Adam's smirk.

"See Rule #1" Adam winks smug. "Now if you boys'll excuse me. FaDE!"

At the utterance of that last word, he begins to dematerialize. Vanishing quickly, until only the faint wisp of a neon blue smoke outline remains before wafting gently away.

The mooks can't help but visibly shudder and more than one betrays a gasp. None of them notice that on the wall to their left the tags 'FaDE' and 'Drop' are gone, leaving behind only the dust of spent possibility. Above them the ghost light flickers out of being and plunges them back into the shadows to wait.

Read more... )
jack_babalon: (Default)
The storm has finally passed. Three slices of dust speckled sunbeams filter through the blinds lighting up a dead room. The man sits hunched over on the edge of a bed with sheets the color of cobwebs, reeking of cheap aftershave and cheaper whiskey, hands in his lap holding both a beaten up old Stetson and a cigarette curling blue smoke off a red cherry. His hound dog eyes, covered in two pools of shadows, looks back on one, long vicious cock sucker of a day.

Read more... )
jack_babalon: (Default)
Alright, I want to close my little experiment in serial narrative off by thanking some of the good folks who made this possible... first and foremost to my editor Jennifer Word who was kind enough to go over this 38 page "short" story for me, all despite a gruelling schedule at the time, and helped me keep the wheels rolling on RIDE!. Also a big shout out to Julie Jansen and Axel Howerton for getting the coffin hopping:)




RIDE!~Pt.1
RIDE!~ pt.2
RIDE!~ pt.3
RIDE!~ pt.4
RIDE!~ Pt.5
RIDE!~ pt.6



Five minutes to go:

Darkness has almost completely fallen and Mitch burns full speed ahead.

The last light drains from at the skyline horizon, leaving only a receding gray haze that drifts faintly over the passing streets and rooftops. Without the illumination of the city to compensate, Mitch isn’t a hundred percent he’s even going the right way. So far he’s been navigating by muscle memory alone, the countless circuits he’s cut through Terminus have hotwired his instincts and shepherd every sudden turn, twist and pivot he’s taken.

He does his best not to second guess himself, knowing doubt is the enemy now, doubt will get him lost and close the window on his escape.

Almost there, Baby… almost there, the thoughts whispered to sooth his Ride, just hang in there a little longer for Daddy.

Sporadic flashes of crimson lightning briefly illuminate lurking Infected ahead, as they drag themselves in tics and shudders across the road before being swallowed back into the shadows again. The road is flooded with them now. Mitch isn’t sure whether that’s due to the growing dark or if he’s just had the shit fortune to roll into a migratory herd of the Ambulatory Dead.

It doesn’t matter, he reminds himself weaving wild through a forest of downed tree limbs, car crash mounds and grasping hands, I’m almost there.

On the bright side at least, it seems they’re having as much trouble seeing him as he is of them. Most of the creeps don’t even notice until he’s but a few yards away.

Mitch dodges a snarling old woman with her hair still in rollers, pops over a massive branch and indulges his impulse to take the next corner in a sharp shriek of brakes before banking out of the way of an overturned police cruiser.

A demonic belch of thunder tears through the sky and another red bolt ignites the road…

… and up ahead… is it?

Yes!

He recognizes it instantly. Her Old Man’s street, with the tiny, rickety white church across the street and the empty lot he’d wait in before sneaking in through Val’s window for intermittent nocturnal distractions.

The block is relatively deserted too. A few creeps shambling around the mowed lawns or belly crawling along the sidewalk.

Mitch opens up the reserves, pours out one last burst of speed and closes the distance to roll up swiftly on the third house across the street from the church.

The Old Man’s house sits squat and architecturally unremarkable from the two homes flanking it. They all have matching, fenceless lawns, matching car ports, matching gray walls. Windows boarded up hurricane style and a few bodies lie face down in a shroud of buzzing flies. He spots Val’s Chevy parked out front, the windshield smashed in and the driver side door wide open.

Terror plummets into his stomach with a dry gasp.

No. She’s fine. You talked to her on the phone. Remember?

Mitch catches movement through the gloom ahead. He dismounts his Baby for the final time and runs up the lawn to the front door, stopping halfway as he simultaneously realizes…
One-It would most likely be boarded up from the inside.

And..

Two-That the Old Man’s truck wasn’t in the driveway.

But…

And Mitch pulls out his phone, clicks the screen on and checks the time.

10 Seconds to go:

Mitch drops the phone. He looks around desperately for any sign of the truck – parked maybe across the street or maybe he was in the wrong driveway or maybe…

… no maybe.

Gone.

He pulls down his respirator mask. Nods sadly and whispers: “No blame, Val.”

Mitch just stands there shocked a second before realizing there is a steady tide of Infected pouring down the road he just traveled, spilling around the corners on the other end of the street in a silhouette wave, dragging themselves out of the adjacent homes, staggering out of the backyard and into the driveway.

He just now realizes their collective groan, undulating along with the blowing wind. Somehow, he had just tuned it out.

With a nod, he begins walking forward towards the front door of the Old Man’s place. Along the way he reaches into his saddlebag and withdraws a can of red spray paint.

He arrives and immediately begins tagging the door.

It’s not his best work, a scrawl of his usual Wild Style virtuosity. But it bears proudly his tag, his vandal alias, his nom de guerre, the one he spread across a hundred walls within the city – “HERE!”

He turns around and can see them descending in on him, closing the small puddle of life between him and the Infected.

Pulling off his helmet, he spots something.

There inside the church, through the small attic window – a light. Faint. White. A shadow pauses, turns to Mitch and the light douses.

“Pfff…,” Mitch snorts dismissively, throwing the helmet with all his might towards the church and misses the cross that he was aiming for. He tears off his respirator. He reaches into his saddlebag and produces the joint he packed. He lights it up, quickly sucking at the ember to get it going and not even feeling the usual rasping cough the first hit offers.


He reaches into the bag and produces the last Roman Candle.

Lighting the fuse off the joint’s ember, igniting a shower of sparks, he holds the Candle high above his head, untangles the bicycle chain wrapped around his wrist, knowing the first few creeps to step up are going to get a lock shot to the face for their troubles, and he stares deep into the moss green clouds and blood soaked lightning, laughing into the falling sparks and looks back over at the church.


And the candle fires a brilliant volley of Christmas Reds, Arcade Bulb Yellows, Summer Vacation Greens and a blue the color of Val’s eyes up, up high into the indifferent Heavens as the last light wanes; as damnation closes around him.


“At least I fucking tried!” Mitch roars at the shadow hiding in the church, at the advancing dead, at the love that escaped without him.


***
jack_babalon: (Default)
The Coffin Hop continues...



RIDE!~Pt.1
RIDE!~ Pt.2
RIDE!~ pt.3
RIDE!~ pt.4
RIDE!~ Pt.5


13 minutes to go:

Mitch is cruising parallel along the side of a small park when the handlebars begin shaking violently in his grasp. The front wheel starts trembling uncontrollably and Baby begins bucking wild under the seat. He wrestles the bars steady and it’s all Mitch can do to keep from crashing on the spot. Light pumps of the brake steady the balance and he manages to wobble to a halt, feeling every bump off every crack he passes run through his body, spreading wider the crack of panic fracturing across the windshield of his attention.

No, no, no, no… please no! But no matter how hard he tries to will another option into being he cannot deny the obvious: a flat tire.

Mitch throws up the goggles and hops off Baby.

Kneeling down while steadying his bike, he mechanically pinches the front tire, even though a casual glance would confirm that there’s barely an asthmatic breath left trapped in the tube.

Biting his lip beneath the respirator, Mitch recons the scene. There are five Infected total, all in the park and all children. The contagion has hit them especially hard. Their trembling is noticeably more uncontrollable. Their gnawed limbs flail with an air puppet’s abandon, their groans high pitched and vaguely reminiscent of swine squeals. They stagger through the sparse terrain of the park’s playground, advancing through the swings and slides and spring-mounted rocking horses.

C’mon man, a voice whispers in his head and says no more.

Thoughts shift from panic narrative to a steady calculation of instincts. There is nothing left to think, no words because he already knows exactly what to do.

He straightens up, taking Baby by the top tube and the seat post, flips it over and balances it resting upside down.

Kneeling in front of the tire, he steadies the rim, flips the quick-release lever on the axle and yanks free the tire. He rummages through his saddlebag and retrieves the tool kit buried and blanketed in the folds of an old bandanna. Looking up, he glances behind him.

Four of the five children are shambling in closer, with one tangled in the chains of one of the swings, straining hopelessly against his tether, to reach Mitch. Between them is a small fence, chest high and enough to slow them down.

He begins un-wrapping his kit when a motion in front of him sparks off his peripheral vision.

A full grown Infected; snarling through a mangled grimace, a crooked neck perched unnaturally on a permanently shrugged shoulder. One arm is paralyzed to the side and the other gesticulates wildly towards its prey. It is twenty feet away at best and closing.

Mitch reaches back into the bag and removes a fistful of Roman Candles along with his lighter, laying them down carefully at his knees.

S’okay, man… you can do it.

He slips the rounded end of the tire tool between the rim and tire. Slowly, he jiggles and slides the tool down the rim until he pops the two free.

The squealing has picked up and the fence behind him is rattling. A glance up confirms ‘Daddy’ Infected a few yards away now, along with a spread out creep- flock dawdling down the street from both directions.

Mitch slides a second tire tool through the rim, repeating the process from the other side until the tire pops free in his hand. Quick, steady fingers skin the tire from the wheel with an economy of motion. When it’s free Mitch sets the tire down calmly, picks up one of the Roman Candles, lights the fuse, looks up and aims the sparking end towards the rotted visage hovering only a few steps away.

Sparks trickle and hiss menacingly. The creep shivers and advances steadily towards Mitch, despite the eyes obviously locked on the phosphorescent glow of the candle’s tip .

The hissing ends with a soft puff as the candle heaves a Technicolor flare straight into the creep’s face.

Wailing with bestial pain, the Infected goes staggering blindly past Mitch, its pace quickened under the damage and goes toppling over the fence.

Mitch reaches back into the saddlebag, praying he remembered to… but yes, yes, he did pack the extra tube. Frantically, he peels open the box, shakes the tube out, finds the air nozzle, twists the cap off and dives back into the bag, this time with a small, handheld pump in his hand. He slips one edge of the tire back into the rim, lines the inner tube inside the tire, taking care to match the valve up through the rim’s valve hole, and begins to carefully tuck the rest of the tire back into place.

A dull thud crashes behind him, one he can barely register between the relentless shrieking of the burning Infected and the squealing of the creep-kids. He glances behind him and one of the little bastards has managed to topple themselves over the fence. It’s a little girl with pigtails and no lower jaw. Unable to get back up under the seizures wracking her lithe physique, she instead begins to crawl towards Mitch, slapping her arms forward and using them to drag her body closer.

Mitch drops the pump, picks up a second Roman Candle, lights it, and aims.

Another swoosh of ignited air, another electrified rainbow heave, and the flare hits just inches in front of the kid’s face, sending it to shriek horrifically.

In answer, a series of wails, groans and growls rumbles along the road.

Scanning around, Mitch realizes they’re starting to get closer and bringing plenty of company.

Then something else yanks his visual sweep along the street.

There on the rooftop, four houses behind, he sees people.

Real people. Though there’s some distance and gloom between them, he can tell by the way they’re scurrying around the ledge that they’re infection-free.
“Heh,” Mitch snorts, balances the tire between tucked legs and picks up the pump. He pops off the cover, attaches the nozzle to the tire’s valve, locks it in place, extends the pump’s arm and begins furiously pounding in air.

With each pump, the Infected flock moves in another step closer.

Focusing, Mitch pounds faster, watching the tire swell with each breath rammed into it until it can expand no more. Not wanting to overdo it, he pops off the pump, a brief hiss of air escaping from his efforts to trap it, and bounces it satisfactorily twice off the pavement.

Stepping forward to attach the tire back to the front forks of the bike, something grabs his ankle.

Skin horribly burnt, with smoke trailing from the hair, the crawling kid-creep has snagged Mitch’s boot and is trying to drag her half-face forward to take a bite.

Mitch shrieks, kicks his leg free and jumps back – toppling ass- backwards over the bike to collapse tangled over its frame.

The kid launches a shaking arm forward, slaps a hand down and pulls herself in closer to her meal.

Mitch, looking at the world upside down, can see the Infected massing around, only scant yards away. He pulls himself backwards, away from the kid, ignoring the pain shooting up his back and his right arm. Freeing his legs of the bike’s frame and still somehow clutching the tire, he manages to scramble back to his feet. He steadies the bike up, attaches the tire to the forks, locks down the quick-release lever, flips Baby over and remounts her.

With a boot thrust off the pavement he launches himself back into the race… barely registering the resounding bump as he rides clean over the little girl’s outstretched hand.
jack_babalon: (Default)
The Coffin Hop continues...



RIDE!~Pt.1
RIDE!~ Pt.2
RIDE!~ pt.3
RIDE!~ pt.4

RIDE!~ Pt.5

13 minutes to go:

Mitch is cruising parallel along the side of a small park when the handlebars begin shaking violently in his grasp. The front wheel starts trembling uncontrollably and Baby begins bucking wild under the seat. He wrestles the bars steady and it’s all Mitch can do to keep from crashing on the spot. Light pumps of the brake steady the balance and he manages to wobble to a halt, feeling every bump off every crack he passes run through his body, spreading wider the crack of panic fracturing across the windshield of his attention.

No, no, no, no… please no! But no matter how hard he tries to will another option into being he cannot deny the obvious: a flat tire.

Mitch throws up the goggles and hops off Baby.

Kneeling down while steadying his bike, he mechanically pinches the front tire, even though a casual glance would confirm that there’s barely an asthmatic breath left trapped in the tube.

Biting his lip beneath the respirator, Mitch recons the scene. There are five Infected total, all in the park and all children. The contagion has hit them especially hard. Their trembling is noticeably more uncontrollable. Their gnawed limbs flail with an air puppet’s abandon, their groans high pitched and vaguely reminiscent of swine squeals. They stagger through the sparse terrain of the park’s playground, advancing through the swings and slides and spring-mounted rocking horses.

C’mon man, a voice whispers in his head and says no more.

Thoughts shift from panic narrative to a steady calculation of instincts. There is nothing left to think, no words because he already knows exactly what to do.

He straightens up, taking Baby by the top tube and the seat post, flips it over and balances it resting upside down.

Kneeling in front of the tire, he steadies the rim, flips the quick-release lever on the axle and yanks free the tire. He rummages through his saddlebag and retrieves the tool kit buried and blanketed in the folds of an old bandanna. Looking up, he glances behind him.

Four of the five children are shambling in closer, with one tangled in the chains of one of the swings, straining hopelessly against his tether, to reach Mitch. Between them is a small fence, chest high and enough to slow them down.

He begins un-wrapping his kit when a motion in front of him sparks off his peripheral vision.

A full grown Infected; snarling through a mangled grimace, a crooked neck perched unnaturally on a permanently shrugged shoulder. One arm is paralyzed to the side and the other gesticulates wildly towards its prey. It is twenty feet away at best and closing.

Mitch reaches back into the bag and removes a fistful of Roman Candles along with his lighter, laying them down carefully at his knees.

S’okay, man… you can do it.

He slips the rounded end of the tire tool between the rim and tire. Slowly, he jiggles and slides the tool down the rim until he pops the two free.

The squealing has picked up and the fence behind him is rattling. A glance up confirms ‘Daddy’ Infected a few yards away now, along with a spread out creep- flock dawdling down the street from both directions.

Mitch slides a second tire tool through the rim, repeating the process from the other side until the tire pops free in his hand. Quick, steady fingers skin the tire from the wheel with an economy of motion. When it’s free Mitch sets the tire down calmly, picks up one of the Roman Candles, lights the fuse, looks up and aims the sparking end towards the rotted visage hovering only a few steps away.

Sparks trickle and hiss menacingly. The creep shivers and advances steadily towards Mitch, despite the eyes obviously locked on the phosphorescent glow of the candle’s tip .

The hissing ends with a soft puff as the candle heaves a Technicolor flare straight into the creep’s face.

Wailing with bestial pain, the Infected goes staggering blindly past Mitch, its pace quickened under the damage and goes toppling over the fence.

Mitch reaches back into the saddlebag, praying he remembered to… but yes, yes, he did pack the extra tube. Frantically, he peels open the box, shakes the tube out, finds the air nozzle, twists the cap off and dives back into the bag, this time with a small, handheld pump in his hand. He slips one edge of the tire back into the rim, lines the inner tube inside the tire, taking care to match the valve up through the rim’s valve hole, and begins to carefully tuck the rest of the tire back into place.

A dull thud crashes behind him, one he can barely register between the relentless shrieking of the burning Infected and the squealing of the creep-kids. He glances behind him and one of the little bastards has managed to topple themselves over the fence. It’s a little girl with pigtails and no lower jaw. Unable to get back up under the seizures wracking her lithe physique, she instead begins to crawl towards Mitch, slapping her arms forward and using them to drag her body closer.

Mitch drops the pump, picks up a second Roman Candle, lights it, and aims.

Another swoosh of ignited air, another electrified rainbow heave, and the flare hits just inches in front of the kid’s face, sending it to shriek horrifically.

In answer, a series of wails, groans and growls rumbles along the road.

Scanning around, Mitch realizes they’re starting to get closer and bringing plenty of company.

Then something else yanks his visual sweep along the street.

There on the rooftop, four houses behind, he sees people.

Real people. Though there’s some distance and gloom between them, he can tell by the way they’re scurrying around the ledge that they’re infection-free.
“Heh,” Mitch snorts, balances the tire between tucked legs and picks up the pump. He pops off the cover, attaches the nozzle to the tire’s valve, locks it in place, extends the pump’s arm and begins furiously pounding in air.

With each pump, the Infected flock moves in another step closer.

Focusing, Mitch pounds faster, watching the tire swell with each breath rammed into it until it can expand no more. Not wanting to overdo it, he pops off the pump, a brief hiss of air escaping from his efforts to trap it, and bounces it satisfactorily twice off the pavement.

Stepping forward to attach the tire back to the front forks of the bike, something grabs his ankle.

Skin horribly burnt, with smoke trailing from the hair, the crawling kid-creep has snagged Mitch’s boot and is trying to drag her half-face forward to take a bite.

Mitch shrieks, kicks his leg free and jumps back – toppling ass- backwards over the bike to collapse tangled over its frame.

The kid launches a shaking arm forward, slaps a hand down and pulls herself in closer to her meal.

Mitch, looking at the world upside down, can see the Infected massing around, only scant yards away. He pulls himself backwards, away from the kid, ignoring the pain shooting up his back and his right arm. Freeing his legs of the bike’s frame and still somehow clutching the tire, he manages to scramble back to his feet. He steadies the bike up, attaches the tire to the forks, locks down the quick-release lever, flips Baby over and remounts her.

With a boot thrust off the pavement he launches himself back into the race… barely registering the resounding bump as he rides clean over the little girl’s outstretched hand.
jack_babalon: (Default)
The Coffin Hop continues...



RIDE!~Pt.1
RIDE!~ Pt.2
RIDE!~ pt.3
RIDE!~ pt.4



23 Minutes to go:

The tracks have been yanked out with all the nostalgia of long neglected teeth, the rail lines ripped from the dirt and the kudzu defoliated leaving a snaking path of dust to slither through the city. Eventually it was going to be some kind of Beltway – twenty- two miles of Terminus history face-lifted and gentrified to provide an ambulatory distraction for a rapidly dwindling middle class.

As such the trail is sporadically populated with works of public art: towering abstract shambles of wrought-iron and copper hovering out of the gloom. Mitch passes the backs of garages, empty utility companies, vast parking lots and chic Cubist-inspired apartment complexes. Along the sides of the trail, there remains the occasional stretch of bramble with green vines greedily swallowing abandoned husks of stolen cars and rusted chain link fences. He see’s shadows moving within their depths, but steels his pace at a steady drift, conserving his energy for when he has to hit back into the streets.

Up ahead lies the bridge that runs over North Avenue. On the left-hand side, two buildings flank each other across the avenue. One is a stone husk of an old turn-of-the-last-century cotton mill that was gutted and converted into a three-tier night club in the early 80’s. The other is a former department store catalog distribution center of considerable breadth that briefly served as Terminus’ City Hall East in the 90’s.

When he passes the husk of the old cotton mill, he slows some to risk a glance down a potential two-story fall into the wide swath of green field behind it. The club’s music park is encased within a barbwire lined fence with the word HELP burnt into huge letters along the grass.

If he’s been there once, he’s been there a hundred times.

The 80’s nights, the Fetish nights, the Rave Nights along with the endless procession of Shows, watching the seasons of the Scene shift as the faces wilted under blooms of wildly dyed hair until gradually replaced by younger faces to bear it witness.

Drifting over the avenue he catches the front of the club. A vast flood of creeps ripple around the two-story mill, its windows long boarded up and painted black to keep the ambience in. The gates to the park are buckling under the relented press of the collective damned. They number in the hundreds. They claw at stone walls and pound at the two steel doors to the entrance. They stumble around the kiosk booth and drift under the marquee advertising what was no doubt now some bands unexpected farewell tour.

Dead center over the horizon of South Avenue behind, the 55 story obelisk silhouette of the BOA Building hovers over the carnage and smolders. A flash of red lightning ignites behind the ziggurat tip of the building and illuminates a cascade of Infected shambling down the rolling four lane wide roll of the Avenue. In the hundreds, possibly the thousands, they shuffle-march forward to join the growing pool just below him. All of them roaring, growling, wailing hungrily for their place on the club’s growing guest list.

Mitch figures whoever was down in there, wouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon – leaving the anonymous survivors stranded for good in an endless club night, a wish for many he knew, now a blacked-out nightmare from which there was no waking.

Well, at least they have plenty to drink in the meantime.

As if able to hear this thought as clear as a shout, one of the Infected – vaguely discerned as a woman through the mob scene below - turns away from the forward press of the crowd and raises a blanched face to peer through the distance directly towards him. She raises a slender arm upward and with a trembling hand – reaches for, or beckons at, or waves to him.

Mitch barely represses a shiver and ups his velocity, racing over to the next bridge, this one crossing over Ponce De Leon. This time he doesn’t repeat the mistake of taking in the sights, but instead cuts off the trail, banking right into the rear lot of an orange painted brick antique store, cuts up an alleyway and reemerges back into the City’s grid.

18 minutes to go:

Time is dwindling quickly and Mitch is doing his best to catch up with it.

Add to that the fact that a pack of foam-at-the-mouth feral dogs have been chasing him for about two blocks now. Seven of them total and all of them as big as they looked nasty. So far, shaking them has been a bitch. Even with his Baby going full speed, they remain a few paces behind and closing. If it weren’t for the fact that the next ½ mile was all downhill they’d most likely be tearing away at his legs right now and dragging him down. However, this neck of the woods is Town Home Country and as such the road’s Infected packed.

Mitch picks up momentum with a corresponding burst of adrenalin – but with the dog pack doing the same. He weaves through them in a fury, circling around overturned cars, ducking under spastic tackles and swinging bear hugs. He pops up on the sidewalk to weave sharply through the foot traffic and jumps the curb to glide down a brief stretch of open road.

One by one, all the dogs except one breaks pursuit to attack en masse a baffled Infected shambling oblviously towards Mitch from the wreckage of an overturned Subaru

A glance over the shoulder shows the last of the pack, a ‘roided out Rottweiler, leaping over a downed scooter and gaining on Mitch quick.

Ahead of him he catches five creeps filing in through the narrow openings of a blockade of abandoned police cars, ambulances and news vans.

Mitch takes a deep breath, let’s the screaming jangle of thoughts dissolve into the pounding rhythm of his heart. He feels the heated breath of the Rott on his right calf and watches the Infected zoom in closer with their bloodied, snapping grins and horrified glares bolted open into an involuntary awareness. Closer and closer and…

… Mitch swerves a sharp left, circling back up the hill at the last second, staying just out of reach of the advancing creeps and surprising the Rott just long enough for its momentum to send him crashing into them.

Looping back through a tangle of cop creeps, Mitch sees the pack of Infected and the Rott. They are a huddled mass of gnawing teeth, pained barks and squirming limbs.

Leaving plenty of room for him to dive on by and out through the other side of the barricade unnoticed.

Not far now, Mitch snorts. He emerges, thankfully, onto a relatively lightly infested other side of the street, Just hang on, Val. I’m almost there and nothing in this city’s gonna stop me!
jack_babalon: (Default)
Continuing our week long Coffin Hop celebration:



Ride!~Pt.1


RIDE!
~ Pt.2


57 minutes to go:

He’s suited up and got his old walk-man loaded with a mixed tape he hasn’t heard in over a decade. His satchel bag packed. Contents; aerosol spray paint cans in a dozen flavors, a plastic soda bottle filled with the last of the tap water, a framed photo of his parents before the divorce, a sketchpad with most of the pages clean, a handful of markers, a bouquet of charcoal pencils, a sharpener, a bicycle repair kit, an extra tube, a change of socks, an extra pair of boxers and, because you never know, a fat joint rolled with the last of his weed.

There’s only one last thing to do.

Mitch hoists the sack of dry cat food up and tears the small opening all the way open. He then dumps the entirety of the bag across the floor of the kitchen/dining room. Wattie comes running out from underneath the bed and immediately begins eating. “Another day up here,” Mitch laughs humorlessly, “and I’d be joining you right now.”

“Hey man,” Mitch crouches down and scratches the back of Wattie’s neck, “I’m afraid I got some bad news for you. Yeah, I’m, uh, I’m moving out today. Sorry about the short notice, but I have to go and I mean, like, now. Just want you to know that it’s not you, okay? You’ve been great, you’ve been… straight up, the best roommate I’ve ever had.”

Wattie looks up from his mound of feast and meows plaintively at Mitch.

“Would that I could, little man…,” he huffs a humorless laugh and reaches down to scratch Wattie’s ear, “but it’s gonna be a rough ride and one I’m not even sure that I’ll see to the finish. So naw, little man, think you’ll be better off here. But feel free to go nuts while I’m gone. Have some girls over, party it up, whatever.”

He leans up and Wattie resumes eating, betraying not the faintest hint of remorse. Mitch turns around and opens the window. The exact same one Wattie used to stroll into his life a year ago and the one with which he still used for the occasional nocturnal perambulation when the mood struck him so. Mitch approaches the door, gets as far as unbolting the lock and laying a single, reluctant hand on the knob. An atavistic instinct tells him not to go, to stay in the cave until danger has passed. He nods to himself and turns around to Wattie. He fishes from his pocket the key to the apartment. He lays it down on the ledge of the open window.

“It’s all yours, man.” Mitch waves goodbye at the oblivious Wattie and opens the door.

He is immediately greeted by the rictus grin and black veined countenance of his downstairs’ neighbor. The skin is the green-gray of the sea. A sizable chunk of meat is missing from his collar bone. Mitch truncates the terror with a slam of the door. He staggers back and almost trips on the spilt cat food. He’s never seen one. Not even on the TV. The initial news report blacked out any images of the Infected. Absently, he notices Wattie hissing before bounding up for the window sill, perched on the edge of escape.

“S’alright,” he tells both Wattie and himself, using the words to dam back the panic breaths, “there’s the other door.”

The efficiency did indeed have two doors. Had to by law. In case of a fire apparently, but he was pretty sure cannibal virus zombies or whatever the fuck they were certainly qualified as an equally pressing emergency. This exit was just a few steps behind him, into the nook of the apartment that served as his dining space for one. He makes his way over. He presses his ear to the door’s surface. Hears nothing. He unbolts the door and is about to exit, when he remembers the cat door he installed for Wattie, who in return for his hard labor seemingly vowed to never use it. Mitch kneels down and very, very carefully slides up the panel to the cat entrance… which happened to open a window wide enough to reveal a pair of snarling teeth that snap at him mechanically.

“Fucking A!” Mitch leaps back and bumps directly into the wall behind him.

He just stands there, stupidly, staring at the teeth framed in the cat door biting mechanically at the air. He mouths a curse, grips the side of his helmet and collapses to his knees. A moment passes before he fishes out his cell -phone and checks the time.

“Okay,” he croaks back the fear, “Door number one it is.”

Mitch gets up, grabs an umbrella dangling off a nail in the wall, and walks over to Door Number One. A deep breath and he swings it open. He barely registers the rapidly decaying visage of the thing that was his neighbor before it staggers in towards him. Thinking fast, he thrusts the umbrella up into a set of lunging jaws and snaps it open. Startled, the creature from the downstairs apartment stumbles back involuntarily in shock as Mitch pushes forward through the door. Using the umbrella as a shield, he charges down the stairs, driving the wailing infected back in retreat even as it grasps for him around the umbrella’s bloom. They manage to descend almost a full flight of stairs before it trips and goes toppling backwards down the steps. Mitch barely tumbles himself, but catches his balance, drops the umbrella and uses the built up momentum to leap over the fallen creature. He takes the remaining steps in bounds of threes and fours before barreling out through the screen door leading to the apartment’s patio.

There he sees his Baby right where he left it, chained to the patio’s banister railing and ready to go.

Then he catches another one approaching; another of the Infected.

This one’s in khakis and a polo shirt, limping forward with one leg while dragging the other, stripped of most of its meat to a footless stump, behind it. Its arms flail about in spastic bursts of gesticulation. The bottom half of its face chomps blindly at Mitch, the top half has eyes that dart around in anxious confusion.

Mitch stands there mesmerized before the approaching Infected. It’s different than he expected. It’s not like the movies. Framed within the screen’s distance, he couldn’t have imagined the foul combination of rotted beef and loosened bowels wafting off them. Even through the stale chemical funk of the respirator as it registers across his senses. Then his brain jams up, intuitively recognizing that this isn’t make-up or CGI that he is witnessing, and he responds with a primal impulse to freeze before what he knows to be impossible. Then nothing can be heard but the wet scrape of the stump against pavement, the distant cawing of crows, the constant sniffling of oil black tears bringing the sickening realization that it is weeping uncontrollably. It is only when it has covered half the distance between them that it releases a creaking moan that resounds as a gasp of last breath from an opening coffin.

Mitch hears another growl from the hallway behind him.

He spins around, there’s enough light penetrating the entrance to illuminate the bottom half of the steps. Crawling upside down the steps, the neighbor descends out of the shadows, with head dangling off a broken neck and a bulged glare of raw pain locked on him.

Mitch snatches the door and slams it shut. He turns to catch that the khaki nightmare has already crossed the street and is lurching its way up the walkway towards him. He hears the neighbor slide down the remaining stairs and screech in anguish. Mitch swoops down to his baby. Adroitly, the fingers flicker over the combination of his bike’s lock. He pops it open. He glances over and the thing’s limping its way up the steps of the porch, the spastic flailing of its arms grasping across the diminishing expanse.

Calm but quick, Mitch weaves the chain through the frame of his Baby, snaking it free through the spokes of the front tire and with a flick of the wrist, he whips the padlock straight for the chatter-grin. The lock impacts dead- on and the target howls in bestial frenzy through shattered teeth. The creature limps back with eyes bulged in fear and without a foot to balance off of, goes tumbling backwards down the step.

It begins wailing louder and louder upon impact. Mitch notices three more Infected coming down the block to his left. Before he can react, the neighbor’s fist bursts through the bottom corner of the flimsy screen veil stapled to the door’s frame and grabs Mitch’s ankle. Mitch shrieks, panicked, kicks his foot clear and delivers it back down with a stomp across the hand. A monstrous wail ensues. But he doesn’t have time to register it.

Two more Infected are tottering out from the backyard to the house just across the street.

Mitch assesses that while they don’t shuffle, they also don’t run. They seem to move in jerking starts and sudden stops; staggering forward with the swift, awkward steps of a toddler, before pausing inexplicably, then, as if suddenly remembering how to make their legs obey their hunger, they approach again; arms wailing about in spastic fury and teeth chattering mindlessly the whole time.

He also sees the flicker of a face peeking at him from the house directly across the street. A distinctly still human face, peering through blinds briefly before they abruptly snap shut.

Yeah that’s right. Just enjoy the show, Motherfucker, Mitch snorts, shaking his helmet in disgust.

The front door creaks open slightly, just as the crawling neighbor tries to squirm its way out; the dangling head emerging first, with futile air- chomps directed Mitch’s way, followed by the crooked stump of the broken neck as the shoulders squeeze through the screen. Mitch has seen enough. He weaves the chain around his wrist, picks up the bike by the top tube, levels it shoulder high as if about to hurl a spear, plants instead a palm down across the banister and leaps off the porch.

Mitch lands in a slight slip that he recovers from instantly, settling his Baby down upright, and mounts her in one fluid motion.

With the Infected closing in on him, he risks a quick glance at the Clock…

… 52 minutes and change.

On a good day, a Sunday maybe or a Holiday with no traffic whatsoever, it was about a 45- minute- long ride to Val’s old man’s on his Baby from here. He’d made the trip plenty of times, back when she had to move back in with him after she lost her job that Summer. But that was on a good day…

… and Mitch glances at another Infected ambling into view. It’s one of the college kids that lived in the apartment complex down the block. There’s no gore on this one at all and the necrosis is not noticeable from the modest distance. For some reason though, this makes him the most unsettling of the bunch. Because for a fleeting moment Mitch thinks he isn’t alone, for a second, the instinct to reach out almost opens up and there is nothing worse than the feeling of hope deflating. The kid, chubby and bearded, jerks to a stop, freezes, and begins wailing with naked despair. Then he jerks back into motion, arms flailing wildly and stagger-lunging towards Mitch.

Yeah, today definitely isn’t a good day.

Mitch chuckles nervously through the respirator.

“Ready men!” He barks with faux martial authority and promptly answers himself with a charged, “Yes, sir!”

Mitch clicks ‘Play’ on the old, battered walk-man. Blitzkrieg rock hornet-drones through his helmet and he kicks off to launch into a ferociously pedaled flight.
jack_babalon: (Default)


Alright boppers, welcome to the Coffin Hop! a tour de force of the spookier side of the blogosphere! To celebrate, we're kicking things off with part one of my serial narrative...

RIDE!



50 minutes to go:

Twin roads flow across the mirrored lens of Mitch’s bug-eyed goggles. A black respirator mask covers the bottom half of the face. The helmet is straight out of the local army-navy surplus and patched in overlaying stickers of old-school punk bands. Cheap headphone wires dangle out of its battered shell to connect to an archaic Walkman. Skate-Punk Bushido armored in a cracked plastic carapace of shoulder, knee and elbow pads. Fingerless gloves throttle the handlebars. A saddle bag stuffed with last minute essentials thumps rhythmically against the hip. Scuffed up steel-toe combat boots pedal a steady momentum off Mitch’s ‘Baby’ – a three thousand mile old 24 speed mountain bike.

Mitch thinks in narration, staying sane by telling himself he’s in a bad story:

You kidding me? Nothing beats the Ride, man. Nothing. What’s the Ride you ask? Well, let me tell you! It’s escaping the car’s bubble, but without having to hoof it around on foot like some asshole. It’s the liberation of a motorcycle, only with the stipulation that you must be your own engine. It’s fighting the long harsh climb, straining, burning for every inch of the hump up in a city that’s nothing but hills built on top of hills. Only to reach the top and...

… drop back down again.

Surrendering to the plummet.

G-force snagged.

Releasing the brakes defiantly, with the wind roaring against a wide shit-eatingen grin as the passing trees, homes, cars, clouds melt into a wave of rushing color until you’re swept into an Impressionist’s vision of a rollercoaster ride. And for a moment, for just one brief holy moment in an otherwise unspectacular life, you actually feel free. Free from all the drama and bullshit and heart-ache that drove you pedaling out the door in the first place. Times like that you wish, just fuckin’ wish, you were the last man on Earth so the Ride would never end.


A belly rumble of thunder erupts and segues into a monstrous groan; a trapped final gasp escaping at last from a coffin’s yawn that drowns out Mitch’s ruminations. Something springs out of the corner of his left eye. Mitch is going too quick to register it as anything but a blur, just the silhouette snap of a grasping hand snatching desperately at the place his neck was approximately one second ago. He veers right and pours on the momentum.

But it’s like my Dad always said about wishes, the words ripped aloud now between a steady stream of short jagged breaths, how when they come true… it’s only just to bite you on the ass.

The city skyline behind his flight back-dropped with an overcast sky hanging low; shimmering in a pallor of stone-gray and radon-green. Red lightning sparks within the cloud’s gut and the thunder ruptures with the roar of a biblical leviathan rising from an ancient slumber. Spread out around the narrowing road before him, a small mob of the Infected, aimlessly shamble and twitch with spastic tics towards him. Black veins web across exposed flesh and spread a pustulant necrosis across rapidly decaying skin. Most of them are splattered in blood – and it’s hard to tell where theirs ends and their victims’ begins. Their lips and cheeks have peeled back into a relentlessly chattering sardonic grin. But it’s the eyes that freak Mitch out the most. Because when you look into them, even for a second, that’s when you knew that someone was still in there. Frightened, lonely, powerless, aware. With stares screaming in mute horror at the hideous croak their throats bellow, with repentant black tears trickling into the ravenous scythe of their grins.

Fingers caked in dry blood reach futilely for his shoulder from just off the right, and from out of nowhere. Mitch pedals faster and reminds himself that forward is the only way to go when you’re knee deep in the Shit.

Hours 45:30:22 – 1:08:03:

How long can you just sit on your ass waiting for the world to hurry up and end already?

Mitch lasted 45 hours, twenty-two minutes and nineteen seconds before realizing he had had enough.

It all began three days ago. The Green Storms rolled in from God knows where. At first it just knocked out everyone’s cell phone service and drowned the radio waves in a strange insect static. Before anyone had time to properly freak the fuck out, the rains fell and with them the Infected rose. The rain was piss colored and stunk twice as much, it stuck to the skin with a slow acidic burn. Everyone on TV said it was this rain that created the Infected. Or at least that was their best guess. Maybe it got into an open wound, or some fool tried drinking some,or maybe it carried an airborne bug that mutated rapidly, maybe it was the meltdown in Japan, maybe it was Climate Change, maybe it was God’s Long Overdue Wrath or perhaps even his esteemed competition picking up the slack… the only certain thing was that there were no shortage of either theories or the hysterical talking heads with which to expound them. Not that he got much TV time pre-catastrophe.

Within an hour of the storm’s arrival a banshee wind rumbled through Terminus and killed the power in his neighborhood. This left nothing to do for Mitch but wait it out in the dark. That’s what they said to do before the power died: Hold the fort down. Board up. Don’t open the doors. Stay inside. Hide. Wait it out. So Mitch did just that, sitting there in his attic efficiency apartment. Scared that they, whatever the fuck ‘they’ were, might see his flashlight through the window somehow, he promptly made a tent of his comforter across his bed and used the top of his head as the pole. There he read old comic books the way he did as a kid after bed time.

Around the improvised tent, with Wattie quivering in his lap, the apocalypse serenaded them. A piss rain cadence sizzled against the windows. Sirens. Gun fire. Screams. Car crashes. Helicopters. Loudspeaker squawks. Moaning thunder that rattled every dish in the sink and shook the walls until the paint cracked. More gun fire. More screams, only closer now. The Green Storm erupted. The thunder shook the earth and for a minute he wasn’t sure if it wasn’t an earthquake. It’s din swallowed up the screams and firearm crackle and raged through the night. Finally… when it had passed in what Mitch could only guess was the early morning there was nothing left but a terrible, lingering silence.

So he stewed in it. Sweltered in the attic heat sans air-conditioning. Ate cold soup from the can. Smoked immense amounts of weed until the buzz amplified the silence and paranoia to unbearable levels. Did street recon from the corner of his blinds. Caught nothing, just a few neighborhood cats wandering about the abandoned lawns and porches. When there was light, he read and he tried not to step too heavily when he moved and was careful not to flush the toilet lest someone, or something, would hear him. Mainly he wished what little food he had wasn’t microwavable and that he could risk cracking a window open.

Then the second night. He spent it listening for 'them' in the dark, lingering perhaps down the hall or in front of his door. Wattie squirmed in Mitch’s teddy bear clutch until managing to free himself before finding an appropriate shadow to nestle in. All he could hear was the absence of the refrigerator’s motor, the missing hum of electricity, the distinct lack of ambient traffic, nor the white noise lullaby of night in the city signaling that everything was okay in the world. Eventually Mitch passed out in that dark and woke to the dirty gray light filtering through. Early morning: Birds twittered and with a resolve equal parts desperation and boredom, Mitch decided, “enough.”

One hour, eight minutes to go:

Mitch is in his downstairs neighbor’s apartment. He’s perched on the arm of a dour recliner over an archaic land line with the receiver cradled shoulder to ear. The number he dials miraculously rings but his eyes are on the bedroom door; hastily barricaded with the couch Mitch dragged in front of it shortly after kicking in the front door.

For the record though he did knock first.

The phone seems to ring endlessly before his mother’s voice answers. He recognizes the greeting automatically as that of the answering machine. When the beep resounds he finds himself unable to say anything and hangs up. He scrolls through the numbers in his cell phone’s directory. The problem was almost everyone he knew had a cell phone. He considers trying 9-1-1 again but knows he’ll just get the same busy tone. One number does jump out at him. A long shot. Val’s Dad. He fishes his cell phone out of his pocket and pulls up the number. At least it was good for something still.

There is a crash from behind the bedroom door. Then the sound of something fragile crackling under a mindless tread.

He jabs the number quickly. The phone rings. He holds his breath.

It rings once…

… and a bump resounds off the door.

Twice, three times, four…

… another bump or was it something on the stairs?

The door’s shut but not locked. Locked not being an option. He’s needs to be ready to bolt back up to the attic when –

“Hello, hello, oh please god, don’t hang up…!” Val’s voice drowned in static and desperate hope.

“Val!” Mitch can’t help but laugh victoriously and catches himself with a slap over his mouth too late.

“Mitch?” the hope deflating into flaccid confusion.

“Who else?” he whispers the words with forced nonchalance; eyes steady on the barricade. “You okay?”

“What?” she huffs imperiously, “Have you looked outside?”

“I mean are you… well, y’know like those people on the news?”

“’Infected’? No, no… I’m fine. We’re both fine. How’d you…?”

“I’m at the downstairs’ neighbors. Remember him… the crazy cat guy? Anyway, I remembered he had a land line. Got lucky, I guess they’re still working for some reason. Long story short, there was no one here and the phone’s still working. Well his is at least.”

“Have you been able to reach anyone else? Have you heard anything? Do you know…?”

A thump hammers across the bedroom door. Mitch about leaps out of his seat but gulps back down the terror with a forced smile.

“Nothing…, I mean it’s like I said, I’ve been stuck up here,… I mean stuck at my place since everything went down. I haven’t been able to reach anyone but you.”

“Great…,” she sighs and a muffled voice shouts incoherently in the background. Val’s response comes exasperated even through the static, “… it’s Mitch, Daddy. What? Yes, that Mitch. No, he… what? No, he doesn’t know anything. I…, Daddy, please.”

Mitch snorts a laugh. Apocalypse or not, some shit never changes.

Val pops back on: “Look Mitch, I’m… well, I’m glad you’re still… well y’know. But I really can’t talk right now. We’re packing up to leave…”

“’Leave’?” Mitch bolts upright, “Where?”

“The vacation house in Tennessee. Daddy figures he knows some back roads there, it’ll take awhile, but since it’s up in the hills and there’s hardly anyone around for miles, well, maybe we can hold out up there until everything calms down.”

“Jesus, Val… that’s great!” Mitch laughs and punches the air victoriously. This is met with a croaking groan from the other side of the bedroom door and the start of a lackadaisical pounding across its surface.

“What is that?” Val gasps somewhere between concerned and annoyed.

“Nothing…,” Mitch looks around the apartment for somewhere to hide or a weapon or another way out but remains tethered by the phone cord, “Val, listen. Don’t leave yet. Wait. Take me with you.”

“What?”

“Take me with you.”

The silence that follows grinds up a handful of seconds and spits out an eternity. Mitch is afraid she’s hung up, but then he realizes he can hear her breaths crackling through the static.

“Val?”

An exhausted sigh: “I don’t know, Mitch. We’re gonna be leaving here in like, an hour, once night falls. Daddy figures maybe if we leave then, they might not be able to see…”

“I can be there in an hour.”

“How? You don’t even own a car…”

“I can be there.”

“How?”

“I got my bike.”

“And what?” Her voice shifts to that unique harmonic between bemused disbelief and mounting annoyance she usually reserved for their ‘talks’. “You’re just gonna pedal here?”

Mitch shrugs in that unique way she especially despises, not caring whether or not she can see it: “Yeah, I’m just gonna pedal there.”

“Mitch, no, no, no… please. Think something through just this once…”

“What?”

“You won’t last a minute out there.”

“I’ll last sixty if I know you’re waiting at the end of them…,” Mitch forces the laugh and rubs a nervous hand through his scalp.

“Jesus, Mitch. Look, I’m sorry, but… but I really don’t think Daddy’s going to just sit here and wait around for you to show up.”

“Why?”

Val sighs again, much softer and Mitch knows she’s rubbing the bridge of her nose the way she always does when he puts her on the spot: “Look, I don’t want to sound like a bitch or anything, but, well you broke up with me, remember? You were tired of all my…”

“C’mon, Val!” Mitch catches the anger in his voice and quickly shifts tactics.

“I mean, sure, I get it. But, really? I mean whatever else went down between us we’re still talking about the end of the world here. That’s gotta go beyond whatever happened to us.”

“Don’t do this to me, Mitch...”

The pounding continues and the door buckles on the hinges.

“Val, please listen… I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry for everything I did and didn’t do. I know I fucked up. I’m not pretending otherwise. But I’m not asking you for a second chance here. I’m asking you, as one living human being to another, to wait. Please… give me an hour. That’s all. Just give me a chance and I can be…”

…And he realizes there is no one there. Even the static is silent. The phone’s dead. He goes to dial the number again just when a sharp bang splits the center of the battered bedroom door.

He blinks the fear off and sighs the shock straight out of him. He looks around the apartment, dumbfounded, as if emerging from a dream. He glances down at the phone, sees the wall clock hanging off the doorway to the kitchen right as the minute hand clicks to the next notch in a blink…

…and it is right then that he knows exactly what to do.
jack_babalon: (Default)
No exit. Four boarded windows and a single door propped shut with a book shelf. Through the cracks between the boards necrotic hands reach as far in as they can and snatch away feverishly. Sitting dead center in the room, huddled around the TV on the floor, sit Charlie and Ollie staring blank-faced into the glow of hissing static.

“What else is on?” Ollie whines.

Charlie flips through some channels – gets static, static, static, test signal drone, static, static, a preacher – “… well folks, it sure looks like all them there atheistarians and secular feminists were talking out their asses when they said that Judgment Day was an antiquated metaphor at best…”

“Wait!”, Ollie perks up, “Go back a few.”

Charlie dutifully cycles back past the static until hitting the high-pitched wail of the Emergency Broadcasting System.

“There!” Ollie shouts excitedly, “Turn it up.”

Charlie shrugs and complies.

Ollie starts bobbing his head furiously and begins spitting out an improvised techno drum beat to accompany the signal drone: “Daa-da-da-daa-da-da-daa…”

Charlie blinks at him with naked astonishment as Ollie continues the beat well past the point of reaching complete and utter absurdity. Once Ollie switches the flow and begins human beat-boxing, Charlie snaps out of the shock of his friend’s spectacle.

“Enough!” Charlie kills the power with a jab of the remote and throws it towards the window.

One of the necrotic hands catches the remote, points it towards the TV and clicks the power back on. The drone fires up again and Ollie immediately goes back to human beat-boxing.

“Aw, c’mon…,” Charlie groans as Ollie starts weaving his torso into a sitting dance.

Finally Charlie gets up and turns off the TV manually.

Ollie stops dancing and lowers his head in a sulk.

The hand at the window clicks the set back on.

Ollie pops back up and resumes dancing and beat-boxing.

Charlie kills the set again. Ollie sulks. The hand turns it back on and repeat as necessary.

Charlie yanks the TV up and throws it towards the window but misses and it crashes into the wall instead. The hand mechanically clicks away at the smashed set, gives up and drops the remote to resume blindly reaching for Charlie… or Ollie, it isn’t particularly picky.

“Dude,” Ollie gasps shocked at the wreckage, “what’re you doing? This ain’t even our place.”

Charlie stands there and stares at Ollie with a silence set somewhere between confusion and contempt.

“I’m just saying…,” Ollie shrugs and stares around the room as if seeing it for the first time. Outside the window the collective moan of the horrors outside begin to seep through the small room. Ollie looks more bored than terrified. His face then lights with the glow of inspiration, snapping his fingers victoriously before producing his cell-phone.

“It’s no good, man.” Charlie snorts and shakes his head sadly, “9-1-1’s been down since this whole dead coming back to life thing started.”

“What’re you talking about?” Ollie huffs and shrugs. He keys away at the phone pad until producing a simple game involving monkeys and holes.

Ollie starts to say something but fails to. Instead he clears his throat to get his friend’s attention. Failing he tries again with a more direct - “Ollie, I need you to listen to me for a second here.”

Ollie rolls his eyes with frustration and pauses the game.

“What?”

“I...,” Charlie tries to summon the words but fails.

“Yeah?”

“I…, look uh, so here’s the thing…,” and Charlie rolls up his sleeve and produces a noticeably infected bite mark on the inside of his arm.

Ollie whistles appreciatively, nods once and then after a respectful period has elapsed in awkward silence, says the only thing a friend can say at a time like this – “Shit.”

“Ollie…,” Charlie chokes and speaks up with a trembling voice, “it’s bad man. I don’t… I don’t how long I got ‘til I… I dunno, become one of them.”

“Which one?” Ollie asks.

“What…?”

“No, I mean which one bit you?”

Charlie glares at his friend: “Does it even matter?”

Ollie thinks about it for a minute and offers: “Well, no, I s’pose not in the long run. But if I had to get bit I would hope it was by one of the hot ones.”

“…?”

“I mean, like, sure I know they’re dead and kinda gross. But, like that naked one that was chasing us through the parking lot with the big…”

“Okay, just stop right there…”

“… fine.” Ollie shrugs peevishly. “Just saying is all.”

Neither man says anything for a charged moment. Finally Ollie, eyes ticking between Charlie and the phone, finally hits resume. He dives blissfully back into game and taps his thumbs away energetically.

Charlie storms over to Ollie, snatches the phone and hurls it towards the window. One of the hands plucks it out of mid-air, gives an appreciative grunt and begins tapping away at the game with another hand.

“C’mon, dude!” Ollie protests, looking longingly at his phone in the creature’s hands, “Now that thing’s gonna fuck up all my scores.”

“Listen to me, man.” Charlie kneels down besides his friend. “I’m going to ask you for a favor. The biggest I’ve ever asked you. Asked any man, really…”

“Charlie, dude, you’re my brother from another mother and always will be… but I’m sorry. I can’t do it.”

“Do what, man?” Charlie looks around confused and back to his friend, “I haven’t even asked you anything yet.”

“I know man and I want to save you the embarrassment of having to. I know it’s your last night on earth and all, so you don’t wanna go out, um…” Ollie pauses then makes air-quotes around the word “alone.”

“Wha…?”

“I mean, maybe if we were drunk…,” Ollie pontificates with a scratch of his chin, “or if I got to be on top.”

Charlie shakes his head and pulls out a pistol tucked behind the back of his shirt.

Ollie continues to stare off imagining the possibilities for a few drawn out seconds before noticing the gun pointed at him. When he does he jumps up startled – “Holy Bejesus!”

“Ollie… I need you to shoot me.”

“Whoah, whoah, whoahhhh… how long have you had that thing?”

“Some hillbilly type when we were hiding out in that truck stop… pried it from his cold dead fingers.”

“Damn!”

“So, uh… would you do the honors?” Charlie hands the gun over to Ollie.

“I’ve uh, wow… I’ve never well…”

“I know man. I know it’s a lot to ask. But please, bro. Please, I don’t want to be one of those things and I can’t, I can’t do it myself.”

Ollie nods solemnly and accepts the weight of the pistol with reluctant hands.

“So, how do I, uh, how do I do this?”

Charlie grimaces and shrugs, “It’s just like everything else. Just point and click.”

“Well, uh, when do you want me to… you know?”

“Sooner than later. I mean, why put it off, right?”

Ollie nods – “On three then?”

“On three.”

Ollie counts down slow – “One… two… three!”

He closes his eyes and fires.

He holds his eyes closed for a second and after a few moments finds the will to look over.

Charlie is still kneeling there looking at his friend impatiently – “You missed.”

“I can see that.” Ollie looks at pistol bewildered and with a single finger jammed in his ear tries to wiggle the ringing out of it. “You want I should try again?”

“Yeah…”

Ollie looks away, levels the pistol at his friend and fires.

An inhuman scream tears through the room.

Ollie looks over and sees Charlie clutching at his now significantly bleeding shoulder.

“Shit…, sorry, sorry.”
“S’okay…,” Charlie gasps clutching at the wound and growling between gritted teeth, “I know… I know this’s gotta be hard for you man. But I need… I need you to look at me when you shoot. Okay?”

“Okay!” Ollie stands up, paces around for a few seconds, huffing and puffing and getting his game face on.

“You ready?” Charlie croaks.

Ollie spins around and fires.

Another wail of pain as Charlie’s kneecap explodes in a sea of bloodied bone shrapnel.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck…” Ollie throws the gun down to the floor.

The gun goes off on impact and discharges. Narrowly missing a wincing Charlie…

… sending the bullet to ricochet around the room like an angry wasp, zig-zagging impossibly around the room before burying itself into Charlie’s other shoulder.

Charlie releases an animal scream of pure agony that segues into open sobbing.

“Okay, okay… just give me the gun fer chrissakes!” Charlie snarls reaching out for the pistol with snapping fingers. Ollie picks up the gun carefully and hands it gently to his buddy.

“I thought, you couldn’t do it yourself?” Ollie says and Charlie jams the pistol straight into his friend’s face. He holds it there a moment, fighting the urge not to squeeze the trigger… before finally thrusting it to the side of his temple.

“I’m sorry, Mom.” Charlie mutters through winced eyes and pulls the trigger.

Click.

Charlie’s eyes bolt open. He tries again. Click. He tries again. Click.

“You stupid son of a bitch!” Charlie howls and throws the gun at Ollie.

Ollie doesn’t dodge but Charlie’s shot careens wildly off course and straight to the window.

There one of the hands through the window grabs it, points the barrel towards Ollie and pulls the trigger.

Bang… and Charlie and Ollie just stare stupidly at one another for a second, before Ollie collapses to the floor in a thump.

The hand then turns the gun on Charlie and fires…

… click.

Click. Click. Click… until the creature grows frustrated and throws the pistol at Charlie.

Sending the pistol to bounce directly off Charlie’s head.

“Ow!”

Charlie just lays there slumped rubbing his head and looking at Ollie.

“Idiot!” He hisses and fights back the tears.

Another second or so passes before with a sigh of resignation – “Well, if you can’t beat ‘em.”

And Charlie finds the strength to rise up from a puddle of his own blood, shamble towards the door, with great effort slides and the last of his ebbing strength, he slide the shelf out of the way to begin prying open the door.
jack_babalon: (Me)
Terminus: Late Monday hustle of a crowded city street.

Against the opposing tide of human traffic, a not-so-very-young man pushes and shoulders his way down the busy sidewalk. Hands pocket thrusted, head down low, broad shoulders pressed forward against the opposing gravity of some invisible drama. Lips mime his thoughts frantic with the occasional fragment slipping out under his breath - "... leave or stay?"

The question escapes on a mutter, butterfly flutters up and bubble bursts over the flowing street. A small pop signals an implosion as white noise and crowd chatter around him are sucked in to fill the question's void.

A miracle of true silence descends and he doesn't even hear it.

With an instinctual grace that offers no interruption to his focus, he steps around a cross legged old man; one decrepit in poverty with bulged eyes peering from within a feral gray beard that seems to have swallowed up most of his face. The eyes, wild and nakedly leering, track and hone in on the passing man.

"Change!" he thunders after the man, who doesn't seem to hear him under the raging torrent of his own internal arguments and continues his way on home. The bum staggers to his feet and hobbles quickly after him.

"Change!" he roars, "Otherwise you'll just keep making the same mistake you always make!"

This snatches the man's consciousness from his distractions, and though his march doesn't stop, he does slow down enough to look over his right shoulder towards the old bum catching up with him.

He turns back around and steps directly into a expensively suited young professional, who herself was in the middle of a very heated conversation on her wireless headset. Though this collision doesn't deter her conversation, she turns around and, joining the old bum, follows the man. Shout-talking and gesticulating passionately at an executive level, her voice fades in -

"'Change?' Fuck that! Why are you always the one in the wrong? Why are you always the one apologizing for what you want or what you say instead of what you do? Isn't it time you focused on your needs for a change...?"

"What about her needs, you selfish bastard?" the old bum interrupts loudly, though without directly addressing the young lady flanking him. "How about all those times when you were down, when you were in trouble, when you needed love and money and sex no questions asked? How many times has she said 'yes' when all you could give her was a 'no'?"

"No, no, no... listen!" The professional cuts in before the question can settle properly. "We both know you've been there. That you've paid your dues. And not just with her either. How many times have you played 'Paladin-of-the-Broken-Heart', only to find yourself carrying love's luggage all the way across town to another man's bed? Wouldn't it be nice to be on the other end of that equation for once?"

The man says nothing, instead he pivots suddenly down a side street. The bum and the professional pursue close behind, he to the man's right, she to the left, both locked in unison steps and opposing views. The side street opens up on what looks like an almost different city. No one but the three of them.

"Your betrayals weren't delivered by her hand." The old bum speaks much softer now, "You would punish her for someone else’s transgression? Is that the kind of man you are?"

"Yes!" the professional sneers, waving dismissively with one hand while cupping her earpiece with the other, "The kind of man who's strong enough to be honest with their desires. Strong enough to not lie to himself about what he wants. Strong enough not to lie to her. Life's short. One day you'll be an old shriveled up prick and all you'll have in your dwindling memories is a few maybes because you were too scared to risk being happy!"

"Is the gratification of every impulse really all there is to a 'happy life'? There's no sacrifice of even the most passing of whims? Didn't you believe that happiness was a thing to be worthy of and not just merely obtained?"

"That's all he has you know - questions. Questions are romantic creatures, fragile and whimsical in their innocence. Why they can practically be anything at all really, no matter how silly or naive. Answers, however, are governed by a much more brutal economy, not of Truth but rather Will alone."

"Can you 'will' two plus two equals five?" the old man rumbles a laugh, "Will without truth is a terrible thing, son. A beast blind with power chasing its instincts off a cliff. Pride cometh before the fall..."

"... yes, but it also comes before the flight. Some plummet, sure... but others soar. It wouldn't be much of a leap of faith otherwise."

"You love her!"

"You love yourself more!"

"What's it going to be then?" they ask as one just as the man is about to cross the intersection. Behind the light shifts from Walk green to Don't red and freezes in between until both messages are juxtaposed over the other.

The man stops and turns around.

"I..." and at that point, directly in the path of a few steps further, a very large truck roars by and drowns out his response.

The man turns around and stares at the emptiness where death has passed.

He turns back around and the old bum and young professional are both gone. Only the empty way back behind him.

Nodding to himself with the conviction of some unspoken resolve, he continues solo on his way back home.
jack_babalon: (Default)
Under a sanguine moon, hanging bloated and pocked with shadows, the Hunt.

This is the Shattered Garden. Where skeletal trees of wrought iron and rust are draped in vines of raw wire; each strand knotted with the fruit of dangling earphone-speakers that squawk and hiss an endless loop of hysterical weeping. There are patches of tinted light bulbs that bloom waist-high off stalks of erect power cords. Their light seeps into the darkened shores of the Garden, fills as flickering puddles of sickly illumination and it is not long before you find that you cast no shadow within their glow. Step carefully as well! Grass sharp as razors glisten with the dew of a viscous poison and sprout like threats from the red clay earth. The best bet is to stay on the Path... though by doing so it will only be that much easier for the Only-Opponent to find you. There will be a temptation to follow the winding trails of ancient footsteps spied just off the Path. The tracks at first glance will appear to be filled smoothly with a sheen of ice that glistens bright as hope, but upon careful inspection the realization occurs that it is actually broken mirrors that fill their depths and their progress leads only to Sorrow's Empire.

I remember (vaguely as I remember all things here; where memory corrodes quick and self-identity wanes with each step taken) being told that this was once Frequency Eden. A paradise of golden splendor and silver inspiration that in its center held the Tree Eternal. These gates were once watched over by an arch-angel who bore both flaming sword and celestial grace. Then after the millennia shed and epochs passed as seasons, for reasons inconceivable, this arch-angel suddenly commanded the gates to be flung open, stepped (floated?) inside and immediately upon arrival tapped the tip of that terrible sword to a single blade of grass (so green, so delicate as to have been plucked from a Walt Whitman poem)... and paradise burned.

Perhaps the angel grew bored with waiting for either its creator or its beneficiaries to return. Perhaps it went insane with grief or rage or love or... maybe this was never Frequency Eden at all.

Whatever it is it's a bad bardo, one where even ghosts are prey and the only way back is to remember how you got here in the first place.

But there's no time.

The Only-Opponent is closing in.

***

Read more... )
jack_babalon: (Default)
We now return to VH1's Behind the Infamy.

The Legion of Substitute Villains? Yeah, I was a member. Back in the early 90's when all the capes were still dark and angsty. *bleep* was crazy, man. None of that retro crap you got going now. Back in the day everyone had a gun and I'm not talking about a pistol either. I mean some crazy-*bleep* Rambo *bleep* that ended up wiping out half the neighborhood in order to stop a simple jewelry heist. That or they had to have a set of claws on them or a sword or something sharp. It didn't matter if you shot death-beams out from your eyes or could punch through a steel wall. If you wanted to look cool. If you wanted street cred and to be what all the kids were talking about, then you best believe you packed a huge *bleep*-ing machine gun or had a set of retractable blades stitched into the gloves... with some of the real hardcore types going for an under the skin graft job. That and you had to have pouches for some reason. A lot of them. Don't even get me started on the...

... well yeah, anyway, comes as no surprise then that your average super-villain didn't exactly have much of a life expectancy on them. Believe you me I was one of the lucky few to come out of the game alive.

I'm sorry what... my name? You mean my 'mask-name'?

*snorts* The F**K-Up Artist.

In the early 1960's a trio of second-tier supervillains arrived on our earth from the distant future of a nearby parallel universe. They were the Living Puzzle, Doc Eniac and Atom Queen. Upon arriving they immediately tried out for membership in the then prominent Doomsday Society. Their powers however were voted by the Black-Star Chamber as being too quirky and eccentric to be of any use in the Society's long-range goal of a hostile take-over of the planet.

Tyrantosaurus Rex:
Grawwwohhhh-yeah, I remember them guys now. They said they found our secret headquaters in the history books and how we got beaten for good by the Justice Templars of America in 1971. Not exactly the best way to start off let me tell you. I mean for one thing there was no 'Justice Templars'...

Undettered by their failure to join the ranks of the infamous Doomsday Society, the temporal-tossed trio decided instead to form their own club of injustice. The Legion of Substitute-Villains. For reasons to this day unknown, they vowed to prove themselves as worthy opponents of law and order, rising as one to terrorize citizens and law enforcement officials in the absence of more significant threats. Having established a home-base in the free-floating pocket dimension they came to call 'The Slip', the Legion of Substitute villains wasted no time in opening their doors. Soon their ranks were joined by other minor league meta-criminals. Those who had been deemed by the vigilante community, and their enemies, as being too inconsequential to warrant their attention. For awhile the Substitute Villains proved themselves to be an amusing nuisance, occasionally showing up to disrupt sports games and charity events before being chased off by the half-hearted efforts of the city's champions.

Mister Murder - the Man of a Thousand Deaths: You have to understand that the life of crime was a lot more fun then. Everyone was just rolling with the vibe. One day you found out you could become a shadow and the next you were out fighting some guy dressed as a large bird. It was just the thing to do, y'know? I mean sure you could be a good-guy, but, c'mon... that meant you had to go out and fight a giant monster or space invasion every other week. Who's got time for that? So, if you wanted to have a little fun... you went rogue. Now of course not everyone who did really wanted to rule the world. Most of us just had a bad day and decided getting powers meant a little karmic payback. So you laid low. You pulled a few jobs and if you got bored you did it in a city with a large cape presence. Sure you usually went to jail. But a week later you were back out on the streets and ready for more. So if you wanted to keep it simple and maybe have a little fun in the process, well then you hooked up with the Subs.

However it wasn't long however before the team quickly degenerated into a drug and superpowered masked orgy.

The Red Sinistress: Let me tell you, it was the place to be, darling. Their parties were every bit as legendary as you heard and then some. Everyone was there - Anton LaVey, Sammy Davis Jr., Truman Capote and at least a senator or two whose names have still kept me out jail. Most of the time the Legion pulled low risk jobs in the mid-west to finace their operations. Fly-over country where masks were few and far between. They blew most of the money on coke and whores. Hell even a few 'heroes' showed up every now and then claiming to be bizarros or evil-twins.

F**K-Up Artist: It was a helluva ride, man... too bad it couldn't last.

Next week on VH1's Behind the Infamy, part 2 of The Legion of Substitute Villains

Aggronaut: So I'm standing there with Johnny Omni's kid sidekick o.d.ed on the bathroom floor while the Green Dream starts pounding his way through the lab door. So I called in the Human Puzzle for a favor and that's when the *bleep* really hit the fan.

jack_babalon: (Default)
Continued from here:

The instructions were simple enough.

First Skinhead Ronnie was told to cut his finger open and smear a line of blood over all the doors to the house. Which were three in counting - the front, the one to the porch out back and the side basement door they never used (narrow, crooked, descending treacherously down slippery stone steps into a darkened doorway laced with cobwebs). He performed this operation with the help of a buck knife stashed in the glove compartment. It was not the first time the blade had tasted Ronnie’s blood and the weapon was kept as a memento of an after show stabbing he took back in the day.

Next up he had to lay his fingers on the biggest, nastiest piece of metal he could find. It didn’t matter what so long as it did some damage. Ronnie recalled a rusting crowbar buried in the foot high grass of his unkempt lawn. It took a few minutes but he finally found it but not before discovering the skeleton tri-pod of a grill and the carcass of a bicycle. A few practice swings off the bar proved satisfactory and left little doubt of its potential for inflicting cracked skulls with ease. Now all he had to do was wrap the bar in a bundle of flowers.

This proved to be a little more problematic since Ronnie and Joan’s lawn barely had enough life to support the English Ivy climbing the walls and the kudzu swallowing the chain link fence in a suspended wave. Finally Joan got an idea and took off. When she came back minutes later it was with an armful of buttercups, gardenia blooms and withering roses – all plundered from various neighbors, still asleep in the sluggish morning.

The third step now was to wait there until Adam arrived.

Which was supposed to be twenty minutes ago. In the meantime, deciding to spare any prying neighborhood the spectacle of a boxers and boots only Ronnie pacing impatiently outside the front door, the couple decided to wait it out in the backyard. There they snuck up to the the house slipping nervous peeps through the living room window. There they saw the Guest, with its drooling baby face emerging from the frozen scream of the adult face that bore it. The eyeballs of the host, still clenched in tiny hands whose arms emerged from the socket, joined the baby’s face in mute fascination of the television’s incessant info-barrage.

As far as they could tell he… it hadn’t moved since they escaped the apartment.

“What’s it doin’ ya think?” Ronnie whispers. Only the top half of his face was visible over the window’s still.

“Dunno…” Joan counter-whispers with her chin stacked totem pole style over Ronnie’s stubbled dome, “… why don’t you go in there and ask him?”

“Woman, I swear…”

“S’up guys?” a voice stage whispers from behind them.

Joan spins around startled and strikes blind.
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jack_babalon: (Default)
After parties are the best parties really.
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jack_babalon: (Default)
The railroad tracks, though abandoned and almost entirely consumed by a dense kudzu jungle, run with the pride of a rusted scar through the gentrified Steam District of Old Terminus. Flowing through the huddled brick factories recently gutted into a honeycomb of studio apartments, beneath tired gray bridges who shelter the invisible lost under a perpetual shrug, through a sea of wind restless brambles and littered with the occasional remains of a stolen car, the tracks have become a dead river - one long forgotten by the city that it once nourished from the ashes of hubris and war. However, since their vast length skirts the edge of memory itself, the tracks have become a graveyard to distant secrets and can lead, if one is not careful while traveling along them, to the shores of hidden worlds that lie outside of time's boundary.
It is from here that the great fleet of black iron ghost trains are launched to go roaring into the dreams of midnight America. Where once a year the crows and hawks meet at the edge of the tracks just off Gallows Town, to send their respective champions out to race each other across the tracks and back. Where runaway pets from the surrounding neighborhoods gather before beginning their long pilgrimage back into the wild. Where junkies can mainline a poisonous heaven in peace and graffiti artists can hone their skills before tagging the big time.

Where currently four teens in cheap suits and rubber horse masks surround a paunch bellied man dressed in an ill-fitting equestrian uniform. The teens, three girls and one boy judging by the curves and lack of, bare a variety of weapons. The girls wield a series of club sized pipe wrenches painted in splashes of gaudy pink and neon green. The boy carries a automatic pistol that he keeps leveled at the equestrian.

The equestrian is bent over, panting frantically and his outfit is drenched in sweat. He cannot catch his breath long enough to form a coherent sentence, so instead he pleads with them with a single raised palm. Though wearing fresh tears in their jackets, loosened black ties and muddied sneakers, the teens betray no exhaustion in the chase they delivered.

"Whuh-whuh-why?" the equestrian gasps straightening up and looking around frantically for help that is clearly not there.

None of the 'Horsemen' answer, maintaining the collective silence they have met the equestrian with since they first met. The equestrian doesn't remember much before the moment he has become inextricably attached to. Flashes of stepping out of his office in midtown. Running late for his flight to Miami for the Pearson conference. Stepping into a cab, barking his destination and only two blocks later realizing the horse masked man keeping the barrel of a pistol aimed at his belly. Before he could scream the driver, similarly disguised, stared back and clicked on the meter. When they arrived at a side street dead ending with a vacant lot and a derelict boxing gym he had already exhausted every conceivable question, threat and plea he could offer. The riches of his prodigious banking account, the fat wallet stuffed with untraceable 'fun funds' for after the conference, the promise of a reward befitting a man of his status within the corporation whose name surely everyone recognizes... all of it was met with the same mute indifference. When the cab was parked in the lot, the equestrian was led by the driver and the boy to a hole in the chain link fence, ordered to climb through he met the other two girls who ordered him, through a series of gestures and pokes of their wrenches, towards the outfit he now wore.

When he had finally changed, awkwardly and ashamed before their gaze, he was finally given a single word. Muffled through the rubber snout, one of the girl's with a squeaky voice befitting a cartoon mouse, shrieked - "Run!"

To emphasize this command the boy fired a single round between the boots the equestrian could barely squeeze his steps into.

The man took off and ran as far and as fast as he could. Despite being hobbled by the boots, sporadic bouts on the treadmill at the gym and the remnants of his Red Bull breakfast put some considerable distance between him and the four horsemen who stood in the receding distance. Waiting until he passed the burnt shell of a Pontiac Cutlass, before walking briskly in pursuit. The equestrian more than once tried to veer off the tracks towards an open street or trying to climb the buttress up one of the bridges back towards sanity. Each time a bullet ricocheted inches away from him - marksmen delivered by the advancing boy. Occasionally he would pass an encampment of homeless, some wrapped in blankets around a fuel can fire or staring at a dead television set propped on top of an overturned shopping cart. He tried beseeching each of these strangers for help. He tried thrusting cash into their dirty hands only to realize that he left his wallet back in his discarded pants. None of them said a word to him, sharing as spectators the vigil of silence his pursuers had enacted. At one point he tripped over the railing at a sudden bend and cut his knee open on a puddle of broken glass. The horsemen continued to walk briskly towards him and heart pounding and muttering curses to the very god he just begged to be delivered from, he limped off...

...as far and as long as he could before exhaustion drained the last reserves of adrenalin and he decided he could run no more.

"Jus-heh-jus' tell me whuy?" he pants the tears flooding his eyes.

The four teens exchange knowing looks and the boy with gun just shakes his head 'no'.

Was it the latest round of lay-offs he ordered to keep the stock holders happy and his bonus secured? Did he make an enemy somewhere, those indiscretions with Tom-in-Accounting's wife or Jeff who he thoroughly character assassinated three years back to get that one run higher view of the rat race below? Were these perhaps just homicidally bored children who discovered a drug more addictive than anything they could simply buy? Had he found himself somehow the sacrificial goat to some remote and alien god? Were they enacting some ancient ritual to Was it something he did or didn't do?

All of these were good questions and no doubt worthy of being asked, but nevertheless they would remain unanswered as one of the girls, the one who told him to run in fact, stepped up and delivered a perfect golf swing of her wrench to the equestrian's lower jaw, sending a spray of shattered teeth to rattle down his truncated scream. Then, one by one, the other two girls joined in. Hammering away at the equestrian, their blows delivered even long after he dropped, yet falling with an almost imperceptible precision to avoid battering the skull so as not to render him unconscious and allowing him to look up at the pointed barrel whose deliverance he would soon beg for.

Later, whether simply no longer amused by their whimpering prey or satisfied that their efforts had reached a predetermined result, the simply teens walked away, back from which they came, leaving the broken and crippled equestrian to meet the descending night along the quiet tracks.

jack_babalon: (Default)
Vicky Penumbra had no shortage of talents. She could sculpt faces out of a puff of cigarette smoke, drop Rilke verses in German while absent mindedly belly dancing and by staring into her cat's eyes tell the exact time of day down to the minute. However none of that was of interest to me. It was only her unique gift of divinging the future by playing a game of strip poker with tarot cards that bought her to my attention.
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Door Demon

Aug. 16th, 2009 11:45 pm
jack_babalon: (Default)
Picked up a few nights working as a door demon at Club Duat. Weekends mostly, though that's an arbitrary distinction on this side of the Gates. My primary responsibility is checking ID's, verifying talismans for authenticity and making sure no one tries sneaking in on a fake Ren (Secret Name). Once past me they have to deal with the Hyena headed woman at the counter, my partner, the Guardian of the Guest List. If they fail to name the correct goddess that corresponds to the current hour, the soul will not only be denied entry... but will be immediately taken out back and summarily fed piecemeal to the crocs. If you don't believe me go ask my boss... the big ugly mother fucker other there with the jackal head. Management caters to an exclusive clientelle and as such can't just have any Joe Asshole soul come meandering off the street.

The price of admission is a cherished memory, one once spent you can never own again. But in exchange you will be given a new memory - a night in the Garden of the Assassins, the fabled paradise of Hassan i Sabbah, providing splendors both sordid and sublime as to exhaust the imagination of all possibilities. Little surprise then there has been no complaint amongst the souls for the loss of a childhood's summer afternoon or the first time they ever kissed someone. Of course that could be because they've forgotten exactly what it is they've sacrificed... but it's not my place to judge. They have people for that down here after all and the duties of a simple door demon are constant enough to keep the mind from idle curiosity.

We get a pretty diverse crowd here. Magickians out playing astral tourist, the shadow meat of the privelged dead, stray dreamers lost on the wrong side of the Gates and even the occasional mystic looking for new temptations to overcome. You'd be surprised the numbers this place pulls on the Ghost of Saturday Night. Lines out the door and everyone hustling to get in quick. Works for me so long as it keeps me working. Come one, come all - "Welcome to Club Duat, your talisman please".

***
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Orlando, Florida. Downtown, Mousetown where the majority of the population are made up of Faberge Egg People - beautiful but fragile and normally too expensive to handle. The faceless and confident. Executives of jobs too dull to mention, drinking themselves into a mild savagery. At night they stagger out of bistros and wine bars texting last minute hook-up's that might grant a few hours reprieve from the medocrity of their own existence. The rest of the city is made up of the invisible armies of elderly retirees and the dwindling service industry staff that can still afford to live intown.

It was here I found myself house sitting for the summer. Doing a favor for a couple I knew who had the rare combination of money and imagination to spend their free time traveling abroad. Their place was off of Lake Eola. A spacious and immaculate white two bedroom located in a gated five story complex called Post Regency Falls Apartments. My orders were simple. Feed "Her Majesty - the cat, smoke only on the balcony and generally try not to burn the place down in their absence. In return I would live a few months way above my pay grade in listless splendor and luxurious decadence. A wide screen tv with more channels than my patience can count. A high speed wi-fi connection for the magick porn window. A kitchen bigger than my apartment back in Terminus, stuffed enough to keep drunk and fed a small tribe of post-apocalyptic survivors through many a nuclear winter. A pool down in the courtyard, a pass to the gym in the lobby and an ounce of Purple Kush left under my pillow with no questions asked.

Things started to get weird on my second week in. I was out on the balcony, enjoying a cigarette and mindlessly watching the boats shaped like swans drift across the lake. The normal flocks of joggers and power strollers had trickled down by the late afternoon to a handful of health fanatics. The humidity had been brutal all day, an overcast sky seemed to bottle the heat over the city. The pool was full. Apollo chisled man-children, all sandals and backwards baseball caps, playground shouting on their Blackberries to anyone who would listen. Designer women in European swimsuits, starved angels who smiled vacantly with perfect lips that have never had anything to say. One of the locals bought out a boombox and was blasting out some sort of eunuch-metal, featuring the high-pitched squeal of a recently neutered guard dog accompanied by a barrage of grinding electric guitar. They turned up the volume during one paticularly brutal solo. A small mosh pit formed around the diving board. A beer bottle broke. A scream was swallowed up whole by a sudden cannon-ball splash. I was ready to go in when I happened to glance over at the neighboring building to my right, an extension of the complex whose walls jutted out at a right angle that framed the courtyard in a tight corner. It took me a few seconds to be sure, but there, in one of the windows of that wall, was a naked woman. She was bent over, leaning forward with her palms pressed against the glass. With a little effort I could discern the outline of her partner behind her, a vague shadow bathed in the cathode light of a television set. Read more... )
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CLUBPOCALYPSE


If anybody's out visiting imaginary cities next Saturday, may I recommend stopping by Clubpocalypse if you happen to find yourself looking for a good time in the Dirty South's dirtiest little secret - Terminus. "NIGHTERROR" is a monthly event held on the first Saturday of the month where the patrons are encouraged to dress as the nightmare of their choice. Not necessarily their own mind you. This usually consists of no small number of vampires and serial killers, of course, but an inspired few do offer a surprising twist of outfit every now and then. By tradition, a secret panel of promoters and regulars vote for the five most interesting 'nightmares'. The winners are then asked to take the stage and improvise a small show. They are given access of course to a fully stocked arsenal of sex toys, esoteric weaponry, full choice of musical selection and a small troupe of willing slaves. This tradition goes back five years now and is probably due to the efforts of co-founder Mistress Arachnid Smile, who has long been a patron of the performing arts both outside and inside the club. To be honest most of the shows are so-so at best, but occasionally an inspired act of absurdity will possess the performers to deliver a mesmerizing bit of ritual and stage-craft. One patron even became possessed apparently, when a mock invocation of a lesser demon resulted in very real results. Thankfully the staff are well trained for such an occurence on the rare occasion that they arrive. Nothing a blast of Holy Pepper Spray to the face (basically mace blessed by a priest) or a flashlight-baton to the back of the head can't handle. This is why talismans are such a popular fashion accessory this season. I would like to take a moment to remind the reader that protective sigils are highly recommended as an addition to your safe sex routine.
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Welcome to Parallel 23: You are now inside the briefing room of the Tesla Institute, located in New York City's famous Buckminster Fuller Dome - an orgone powered geodesic fortress floating above the island of Manhattan. For over seventy five years now the Tesla Institute has been home to some of the greatest Science Heroes of recent history. Including, to name but a few, founder Nikola Tesla, rocket magickian Jack Parsons, the orgone pioneer Wilhelm Reich, White Sox catcher/spy-master Moe Berg... and you.

Doctor Daedalus Mocksparrow - noted cryptozoologist, self-styled master of ontological-combat and the first man to successfully capture a moth-man alive presiding:


Alright people, listen up.

It's the weekend and word on the street is shit's definetly going to start getting real weird, real fast. We are now at Condition Epsilon. Meaning, all agents are officially activated under Paradigm One-Fiver-Seven. All previous assignments are to be considered on Standby Status. All Leave requests have been cancelled. So if no one minds I'm gonna skip the roll call and get straight to business.

Here's the story. We got nine, count 'em, nine rouge Egregores reported on or around your sector. I'll direct your attention now to the photo chart inside the envelopes provided...

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY )
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Eleven years ago in another city, in another life*:

Shit was going down.

Carlos Chameleon had gotten Intel that over the course of the last month; some fuck-head had been selling triple dipped hits of blotter at every occult night club, underground fetish party and psycho-orgy in Philadelphia. That this rogue dealer was operating in the Chameleon's exclusive territory with neither his permission nor having paid a minor cut of the profits to his crew was enough to piss him off on general principle alone. Still all this would be a minor offense at best to the easy going Chameleon. Kids will be kids after all. A broken wrist or ankle would normally suffice to correct this narco-faux-pas and serve to remind an ignorant dealer of the penalty for unapproved sales in his quadrant. It was only fair after all - by bullet and ritual - much blood had been spilt to win the sparse cut of territory from the competing coven-cartels. But what really sent the alarm bells ringing for the Chameleon was when a trusted road agent brought in one of the highly sought after sheets of blotter for his inspection.

Carlos knew what it was in a glance:



This went beyond some schmuck trying to make a quick buck and score themselves some righteous college pussy. This was straight up Enochian Acid Magick, the beginnings of some dangerous ritual work, utilizing the four watchtowers and artificially expanded consciousnesses to summon something big, bad and scary. The whole scheme came together in the Chameleon's head. So far there had only been three sheets of watchtower blotter sold - the north, west and south - each sold at events that corresponded map wise to the cardinal directions of his quadrant. Putting two and two together it only stood to reason that the fourth watchtower would be the east and most likely would show up at the annual Blitzkrieg Ball over at Club Never. That was only two days away. Word on the street said that the mystery dealer was going by the nom de plum of "Doctor Ellis Dee" and that no one had ever heard of this cat prior to a month ago.

The Chameleon put a new word on the street: Bring him the head of Doctor Dee in the next 48 hours and receive a reward "worthy of a king's remembrance". He also put together a 'maniac squad' of his own - comprised of his most loyal muscle and led by his apprentice and top dealer, Adam Last for a search and destroy mission. When the whole gang was summoned his men balked at the idea but only one, Skinhead Dan - Carlos' oldest and most trusted ally, voiced their concerns out loud. He laid it out and pulled no punches: Adam was smart no doubt, but had more balls than brains as most young men his age are prone to possess. Besides that it was no secret that Adam had been on a Hunter Thompson diet for the last three days. The kid was geeked out and serotonin dry and in no condition to be leading a maniac squad much less be on one.

Carlos knew all this and stated the opportunity would be as good a test of Adam's character as any. Besides, Dan would be there to keep an eye on his admittedly reckless apprentice.

Adam smirked at this news. With a confidence that exceeded his experience he told Skinhead Dan not to worry. That he'd work slow so the old man could keep up. Adam boasted about possessing a few contacts that had even eluded the Chameleon's almost omniscient knowledge of the Philadelphia underworld.

Big Dan the Skinhead laid a heavy hand on Adam's shoulder and gave it a squeeze that was anything but reassuring. The big skin only had seven fingers. Four on the right (missing a pinky) and three on the left (minus a pinky and ring finger). His surviving knuckles bore faded tattoo's of alchemical symbols - one for each of the seven planets. No one knew what happened to the missing three fingers - only that their cost had rendered the man as one of the best gunmen on the east coast. When that hand landed on Adam's shoulders a fierce chill went down his spine and froze the spin of his chakras in their cycle.

"You better be right, kid!" Dan sneered, "You ain't Carlos' first apprentice... and you won't be his last. Don't think your training gives you shit talking privileges to those who've proved themselves the hard way. We clear?"

Adam looked nervously to his mentor. Carlos only cocked an eyebrow at him and turned away to make some calls. Adam dry gulped and nodded meekly. Skinhead Dan removed his hand and Adam felt several dozen pounds of invisible weight lift from his shoulder.

"Good" Skinhead Dan grunted. "Alright, enough fuckin' around... let's get the Squad together and see about these contacts of yours."

***





* - This Adam story takes place over a decade before the other one currently running on my blog (which you may or may not have read). This is before Adam was banished from Philly and forced to hide out in Terminus. I did this as a sort of fast-fiction thing while I wait for a ride. I hope to continue one of these plot lines when time and inspiration make themselves available.
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You come upon an antiquated photograph.

Lateral view of two fencers locked in the embrace of a heated duel. Their sabers crossed at the blade into a slanted ‘x’ with the taller fencer on the right pressing the advantage of their bulk against the significantly smaller opponent. Each wear hooded masks of faceless mesh. Matching uniforms with target hearts embroidered over their plastrons. Behind them we can make out bowed walls latticed with rivet bolted steel girders. The whites of the photo have aged into a dull sepia. The shadows faded into the browns of long dried blood.

Compelled without any obvious motive, you reach out to trace the combatants with a gentle finger and find an odd satisfaction in the wake of dust your touch produces. It is then that you notice that the photograph has changed slightly – the taller fencer leaning a fraction closer against the other. The stance of the smaller duelist has shifted by a step. You pull back the hand, hoping to revoke the act and notice now that the photograph is beginning to flicker slowly. The duel begins to animate with the speed of a waking cinematograph. Lumière camera strobes across the surface, a faint crackling of phonographs resonates against the ear.

Step closer.

Watch. )
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Read more... )
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Just killing some time before I head out for D&D over at Andy & April's (today I'm playing a 5th level Shadar-Kai Rogue in case you're curious) and thought it would be fun if I designed a flyer for an imaginary Fetish Night at an Imaginary night club.

"CLUBPOCALYPSE" is a long running scene standby here in Terminus ('the City to Busy to Dream'), having survived several venue changes, internet induced Dramawars, impromptu police raids, a fire in 2004 and a gallow themed suspension show gone wrong (resulting in the death of suspension artist Jerry Hook - whose final performance may or may not have been a live suicide). Still it remains the place to be seen for the myriad Torturati, Frequency Junkies, Sex-Punx, Rivetheadz, Weekend-Vampires and Fetishitas that make up the Terminus Underground. There are rumors that Clubpocalypse promoter Jack-Sin Gray is a 'closet' chaos magickian and has been psychically draining the peak emotional experiences generated off his clientelle for purposes of an arcane sort... whether these are just My FaceJournal rumors spread by gossip hungry hipsters or the surface of a truth too horrible to fathom remains to be seen.
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Recently unclassified documents reveal that in the closing days of World War One, the United States MIS (Military Intelligence Section) experimented with contacting the dead for the purpose of intelligence gathering. MIS command - whose ranks did not want for the company of ardent spiritualists, Freemasons or amateur occultists - believed that valuable information could be gleamed from the spirits of recently deceased enemy officers. One result of these endeavors was the MK-IV Necrotransmission (NT) Helmet, better known amongst the 'volunteers' who field tested it as the 'Seance Hood'. Designed to amplify latent psychic abilities within those who wore it, the Seance Hood operated off the then emerging field of Vril technology to allow rudimentary communication with the dead. However it soon became apparent that even briefly donning the helmet led to extreme mental duress. Symptoms of paranoia, uncontrollable weeping, 'possession' and visions of what was described as 'The Great Old Ones' were reported amongst the volunteers after each use. When it became apparent that those few enemy spirits successfully contacted were in a state best described as shell shocked and as such were in no position to offer any pertinent information, the project was quickly abandoned.

Though each of these helmets were believed to have been destroyed by MIS, one did resurface some twenty years later in 1938. The Chicago based vigilante, Johnny Nocturnal, appeared and was evidently in possession of the last Seance Hood. It was believed that he wore this device in order to communicate with the restless spirits of the wrongfully slain. These spirits were purported to have identified their murderers in order that Johnny Nocturnal could avenge them which allowed them to pass from their confinement to our world. However Johnny Nocturnal disappeared in the Summer of '47 and the helmet along with it. It has been rumored that one of the ghosts had lied to the vigilante, manipulating him into the killing of an innocent man. I must stress however that this is no more than an urban myth and currently the final fate of Johnny Nocturnal and the last Seance Hood remain a mystery.

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