Even the Dead Have to Earn a Living

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A single street lamp shone forlornly in a dark parking lot.  A gruff man known locally as Mr. Crowley stood next to his black sedan.  The lights were off but the exhaust from the running engine puffed out into obscurity.  He wasn’t alone though.  Four very large men with their hat brims pulled down low stood around him.  There was a tenseness to all of them as if they were waiting for someone, or something.

A slender man in a very dark suit stepped out of the shadows.  Mr. Crowley jumped nervously at the sudden arrival.  He shook himself and his expression went flat.  Seconds passed as the new arrival to the party squared off in front of the five men.

Mr. Crowley cleared his throat, “There’s something odd about you, Dominique Sanctus.”

Dominique’s gaze ignored the four men and zeroed in on their leader, “I have disposed of your problem Mr. Crowley.”

“Yeah.  I saw it on the news.”

The four men shifted uncomfortably.  Dominique continued to stare through Mr. Crowley and waited.  When no response was offered, he stated loudly into the quiet, “I am expecting payment.  Now.”

Mr. Crowley glanced at his men and slightly dipped his head into a nod.  As he began to back away slowly, he muttered, “Yeah, let me get that for you.”

As the words rolled off his lips, the four thugs opened fire.  Dominique just stood there as round after round punched into his flesh.  With a preternatural speed, Dominique whipped a pistol out of a shoulder rig and another from his waist.  Both guns barked into the night.

One of the thugs spun from an impact and crumpled to the ground.  Another screamed as a slug ripped through his leg.  The remaining bodyguards bolted for cover between the parked cars.  Dominique strolled up to the limping man and broke his neck with a quick snap.

He whirled and his long coat fanned outward.  With a flying leap over an automobile, he landed on one of Mr. Crowley’s brutes.  With a shivering relish, he tore the man’s throat out with his teeth.

Dominique jerked at the sound of a shoe as it scuffed against the asphalt.  He reached out and grabbed the wrist of the ruffian who ran toward him. With a quick tug on the wrist, the thug lost his balance and his head impacted with the roof of a car.  Dominique slowly stood up. He gingerly picked the man up by the scruff of his neck and bashed his skull against the side of the vehicle.

He wiped at his hands and his strange eyes reflected in the solitary light.  Mr. Crowley looked on in horror as the blood drenched Mr. Sanctus moved inexorably toward him.  Mr. Crowley scampered to his right and backed away from him.

A strange smile lit across the assassin’s face as he pulled the flaps of his long coat outward, “Satan laughing spreads his wings, wouldn’t you say Mr. Crowley?”

Shaking, Mr. Crowley ran to his car.  He hopped in and flipped on the headlights. He slammed on the gas as he drove toward Dominique.  But that strange man just stood there.  His eyes looked like silver coins in the glare of the headlights as the automobile sped toward him.  Just before impact, Mr. Crowley squeezed his eyes shut.

There was no sense of impact and the car sidled to a rolling stop.  Mr. Crowley pried one eye open at the clunk of the passenger door as it closed.  He slowly turned his head to see a blood spattered Dominique in the passenger seat.  Shaking with a fear he didn’t think a man of his position could feel anymore, Mr. Crowley began to cry.

“Where is my money, Mr. Crowley?”

He replied stutteringly, “In the trunk.”

Dominique’s eyes bored into the man, “Never cross the dead, Mr. Crowley.  We are not known for forgiveness.”

The car shook wildly as screams erupted from the vehicle.  Blood splashed against the windshield.  A hand scrabbled against the window, looking for a handhold.  Slowly, the screams and the shaking died down until there was only stillness.

Dominique stepped out of the vehicle.  He opened the trunk and yanked out a bag. He slammed the trunk shut and with bag in hand, strolled off toward another car in the parking lot.

He slid into the driver’s seat, pulled out of the spot and drove past the dead bodies in the street.  It’s a harsh world when even the dead have to make a living.

Do Not Eat

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I can feel the sickness affecting my brain.  My thoughts slow and I watch the movements of my cat with a decided obsessiveness.  It doesn’t help much as she bats the finger I lost last week around like a toy.

My body decays faster than I can keep up with it now.  I have been fighting it for what feels like forever but I know it’s only been a few weeks.  I force myself to look away from my cat.  My hand looks like a chew toy for my neighbor’s dog.

I remember that I need to keep myself together.  Ha, at least I can still make jokes.  I am not completely gone.  What was it I need to do?  I need something to slow the sickness down.

I search frantically through the kitchen for salt as it seems to be the only thing that slows the rot down.  But there is none to be found.

Dejected, I catch myself watching my neighbor Bob mowing the lawn.  Part of my vision disappears as my eyeball falls into the sink.  I am running out of time.  What else can I use?

A rictus grin explodes across my face as a light bulb of thought comes to me.  I shamble my way into the crawlspace of my home and clumsily tear through the boxes in storage.  Searching… searching for what?

I can sense a mouse down here.  Its warm little body calls to my need to crunch and tear it apart.  It was then that my remaining eye caught sight of what I had been searching for… a silicate packet.

I grab for it and stuff it into my now vacant socket and a touch of clarity comes to me.  I should be able to make it another day as long as I do not eat.

The Gallows Tree

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Her white dress fluttered in the breeze as she struggled for breath.  The rope slowly cut into her neck all the more deeply.  Her hands leaped wildly at the knot in a last desperate attempt to pull it apart but to no avail.  Clumsily her arms fell to her sides and her kicks slowly ground to a halt.  With a last expiating breath her movements stilled.  Her shadow swung slowly in the light breeze.

She had chosen her own sentence but it had been too late.  Her choice in destroying those who had hurt her and those she cared for had led to her to losing her humanity.  To becoming a demon; an avenging spirit.  The cry of an infant echoed out in the stillness.  Her dead white eyes snapped open and looked down to see the newborn boy hanging below her like the pendulum of a clock.  A broken cry escaped her lips as a tall and ancient man with a single eye exposed strode forth and plucked the child from her.

As he cleared the blood and mucus from the child’s eyes and throat, he uttered the words and the child’s fate was sealed.

“Born of a demon on the hanging tree, a new hunter is born.”

Disappearing Act

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What had the headlines said?  That we, the human race, had finally conquered disease.  That we had conquered obesity and addiction.  We had laid to rest a myriad of other ailments that had plagued our species for centuries.

The procedure itself was simple.  All it took was a single injection and for the rest of your life, you were clear.  One injection that sent a colony of nanobots through your bloodstream.  This colony of interlinked robots were programmed to search for and destroy anything that was thought to be detrimental to the body.

But something had gone wrong.  People began to disappear.  The only sign that could be found for the missing was their nanobots.  The nanobots had begun to break people down into carbon particles.

Once this was understood, changes were made.  We thought we had it under control but we were mistaken.  We couldn’t stop it.  We couldn’t prevent it.

Some believed it had been a viral program that had been put in place by a terrorist group to stop those who acted against the better interests of God.  Others believed it was a simple programming error.

Eventually it was found that human contact with a person whose nanobots had been affected caused it to replicate in another.  The world came to a screeching halt as people were ordered to stay in their homes.  Fear was rampant and people avoided contact with their family members. No one knew what could be done to stop it.

All of these thoughts ran through my mind as my hand began to fall to dust before my very eyes.  My scream was cut off as my throat was dissolved into a particulate matter and sifted into the carpet on the floor.

My nanobots had come to recognize me as the threat to the body.  That it was the decisions that I made which were detrimental to their host.  And there was nothing I could do to stop it.

Why had this happened?  Was it a decision made my man or machine?

Sub Orbital

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The battle was not going well.  They had made it up to the enemy fortifications and dug in.  Their trenches dotted the field of battle but their forward progress had come to a grounding halt.

The chemical bombs that had been dropped from on high erupted all over the terrain and the numbers of the dead left in its wake was astronomical.  Many others had drowned in the flash floods as the waters had swept in and filled the trenches.  But those that were still there had survived.

The orbital laser was another story.  It had burned its path in the wake of the last attacks and there was nowhere left to run.  It came from on high and incinerated so many that there was little to nothing left to fight for.  It was inexorable, plodding and it left nothing but death in its wake.

The war was over and the toll had been high.  It became known as the Day of the Dental Appointment and bacteria quailed at the memory.

Beans and Cornbread

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The zombie scourge had come and it had happened faster than anyone expected.  The government had not been prepared and communications had failed rapidly across the country.

In the beginning of the scourge, Bob and Larry had narrowly escaped their apartment building.  They had been on the run since.  Supplies were always a concern so they had been searching for a place to scavenge.

The zombies were everywhere.  Their slow shambling movement could be heard echoing down the alleys and streets.

“I think I see a building over there!” pointed Larry.

Bob followed after him and they locked the door behind them.  It was difficult to see in the gloom but moans emanated from the inside of the building as well.  The sound of a dragged foot, the clack of loose teeth filtered through the oppressive silence.

Larry shouted, “I think we’re going to have to clear this place out!”

The two men both leapt forward into the quailing mass that moved to surround them.  They struck for the heads of the creatures as this was the only thing that seemed to stop them permanently.

Once they were the only two left standing, Bob looked around in confusion, “Wait. Isn’t this an old folk’s home?”

A Purple Future

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A young man, roughly the age of fifteen, left the front door of his home and wandered away.  A dark cloud followed him around while his face held an intense expression of doom.  So much darkness.  Blackness.  Blacker than black.

“My soul is black.” muttered the teenager as he stumped his way down the street.  “There is little left to salvage my darkened soul, so why even bother?”

His pace did not change as he passed house after house but his demeanor grew more downtrodden.  It was from the corner of his eye that he noticed a shadow following him.  He stopped and turned and a little girl, maybe the age of nine, smiled back at him.

“Hi!” she waved at him.

“Stand back little girl.  For I am evil and there is nothing anyone can do about it.” he muttered as he continued on his way.

She hurried to catch up to him and tried to take his hand.  He pulled away and hurried his pace.  She caught up to him and yanked with a preternatural strength and he was forced to heel.  He brushed her hand away and glared at her.

“Do you like colors?” she asked as she twirled back and forth.

He gestured angrily at his outfit that was all black.  “No.”

She threw her hands up in the air, “Come on!  Everyone likes colors!”

“Not me.”  He tried to back away from her but she was persistent.  His shoulders slumped.

With a silly grin painted across her face, she asked,  “If you had to choose one color that would be yours forever, what would it be?”

“Black.  Black as night.  Black as the blackest black.”

“Black is not a color!” she pouted.  “Pick a color!  I have lots!”

It was only then that he noticed that the inside of her little jacket was painted like a rainbow but the colors seemed alive.

‘What can I do to make this little girl leave me alone?’ he thought to himself. “Fine.” he said to her.  “Purple then. Purple so dark it borders on black.”

“Purple it is!” she cried in delight.  She pulled a strip of purple from the inside of her coat and tossed it to him.

“This is lavender, not purple!” he cried as he tried to keep the color from falling to the ground.

“Purple!” she shouted in joy as she pirouetted in place.  “See?  I’ve brightened your day!  Happy day to you!”

She ran over and gave him a hug.  He had to admit that he did actually feel better.  Maybe everything wasn’t as dark and gloomy as he had initially thought.  Suddenly she pushed him and he fell through the open manhole.  His head smashed against the concrete.  He lay there unmoving as the neighborhood flotsam soaked into his clothes and hair.

“Purple is yours forever!” the little girl cheered.  “Forever, forever, forever… “

Remembering

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The moon shone down upon the tops of the ragged trees in this broken forest.  The moonlight helped but it was little trouble to track his prey.  He could smell him.  His human stink permeated the very air.  The demon’s laughter shook loudly against the foliage.

He strode toward the man who just stood there and waited with a cane in his hand.  The man who had a ring of thirteen bars tattooed around his neck.  The man who had an odd little monkey perched on his shoulder.

“I will crush you little man!  I will wear your bones as a necklace!” the demon cried with relish.

A note from a stringed instrument came back to him in response. The man slowly strummed on a ukulele and sang… sang a very old song.

“What is this?” shouted the demon.  He slowly came to a standstill in the small meadow.  Moonlight beat at his skin.  “Why do I know this?  Why do I feel sadness?  Why do I feel… remorse?”

The man continued to sing that ancient song as he swung the ukulele to his back. He limped his way into the meadow and took his measure in front of the demon.  The moonlight glinted off of the sword blade as it slid its way out of the cane.

“I’m sorry.” said the man as the blade slipped into the demon’s heart.

The demon transformed back into the man he once was.  The rage in his eyes changed to fear, then regret.  “You are the hunter?” escaped his lips as he toppled to the wet grass.

“Another one bites the dust!” the little monkey chittered in amusement from the hunter’s shoulder.

Shafted

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Elevators.

There was something about elevators that bothered her.  She couldn’t quite put her finger on it.  It wasn’t fear that it would get stuck and she might starve to death.  It wasn’t fear that it would fall and she would die a horrible death.  So what was it about elevators that concerned her?

It was just a machine driven pulleys and ropes.  True, it was a containment device but then so was a car or a room for that matter.  This one just moved in a vertical manner.

She glanced over the surface of the one that she was in.  The one that had set dread in the center of her chest.  It had finger smudged metal paneling and a filthy drop ceiling.  There was smut ground into the corners and the square of carpet underneath felt moist.  The smell of strong perfume and old cigarettes was only slightly off putting.

So what was it about elevators?

She was just trying to get to floor 23 but the elevator doors opened on floor 9.  A single man in a slightly disheveled suit stepped in and pushed the button for floor 26.  He leaned against the back wall and she could feel his eyes all over her.  She could just make out the smirk painted across his lips as he folded his arms.

This other passenger, this man, began talking at her, “Twenty third floor, huh?  Looking to get hired, is that it?”  He sidled right up behind her, “You’re pretty enough.  I could probably help you with that.”

She could feel his breath on the back of her neck.  Her mouth slowly curled into a frown but understanding lit up in her mind.  That’s right, it’s not elevators.  It’s being trapped in a small room with assholes that bothered her.

And assholes were everywhere.

Totally Tanked

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Being a fish is hard.  Being a fish that lives in a tank is even more difficult.  You look out at the weird wide world and it doesn’t make any sense to your fish brain.

Sure, there can be a riot of colors and you can’t quite figure out what you’re looking at but is that really any different than living in the coastal reefs?

The hardest part is coming to the realization that you’re trapped.  It seems like you should be able to go on forever but then you run into that clear barrier.  And that barrier is almost in all directions except up.

Once you make that distinction, it all kind of goes downhill from there.  Food magically arrives at a pretty consistent time every day.  Consistent enough that it gets dull.

So you try exploring.  The little plants are fun to play in but even they lose their mystique over time.  And there are only so many times you can swim through the castle.

That leaves you with attempting to have a conversation with Bubbles the Diver.  But that guy is like a broken record. And what the heck does he eat that makes him so gassy?