War Sisters – Chapter Ten – The Stacks

War Sisters

Chapter 10

The Stacks

——————————————–

The stacks were glorious and endless. Rows and rows of books and books extended into infinity down a giant, open hallway.

Greencoat awoke chained to a chair. Facing him were three of the oldest and most severe-looking people that he had ever seen. One of them was a old lady with a face as craggy as a rock fissure and steely gray hair tied up in a bun. The other two were men, and just as old and just as severe. All three were clad in gray, hooded robes.

The old lady was looking at him.

“Omm, you have awakened.”

“Oh, well hello, Great Head Archivist of the Known and Unknown. How are things?”

She frowned even more than she had been. “You know how things are, Omm. To call them a state of disarray would be a gross understatement.”

Greencoat shifted a bit in his chains. “Oh really? What’s the problem?”

The old lady’s crags grew more crags. She squinted coldly his way. “You Everlasting Ones and your little ideas and plans. Did you really think that you and Wuu could break into here and steal one of our texts?”

Greencoat smiled a kind smile. “I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“Do you know the penalty for this transgression?”

“No idea.”

“Neither do I, since this has never happened before.” The old lady was hissing words at him.

Greencoat shrugged. “Listen, I know it seems bad, but let me explain.”

The old lady let out an indignant laugh. “Seems bad? Seems? You helped Wuu get in here. Wuu, the fourth-worst thing that exists, in here. Didn’t you realize what he could accomplish with the total and combined history of everything that has or ever will have existed?”

“I needed to fix something that was wrong.”

The old lady’s eyes tightened into little pursed slits. “What did you say?”

Greencoat leaned forward and stared hard at her. “I needed. To fix something. That was wrong.”

“Wrong? The unmitigated arrogance! The stacks are perfect. They have been written since the beginning of time! Everything is in them! Everything everywhere, from the largest star to the tiniest virus!”

“Wuu was wrong. He needed to be stopped. You know what he does.”

“What he did. To us, even to you, this already happened. I know you’ve been living as a human, but don’t tell me you’ve started to think like one!”

“600 million people dead is wrong. Genocide is WRONG.”

The old lady laughed derisively, a queenly humph. “What narrow focus you have, Omm. Such a dim view from someone who has literally seen all of creation unfold. Do you think 600 million is a lot? Do you want me to pull the lives of Eranjian 9, or the lives of those that lived in the Panjurus galaxy or the Rajinus galaxy when they collided? Whole galaxies have been blown into hot plasma in an instant, and you are sweating the details of that little prosaic dirtheap of a planet. Do grow up. Mortal things die and are replaced by other mortal things. ”

Greencoat sneered at her. “Don’t talk about death. You don’t know anything about death except the encyclopedia entry. Don’t you know what a wound is made in the world when one person dies, just one? Don’t you know how far humans get set back by 600 million deaths?”

“No, but Wuu does. So spirited you are concerning this topic, considering it was your own kin that did it.”

Greencoat grew grave. “He’s no kin to me.”

“You certainly were kith and kin traipsing in here though, weren’t you?”

“I never meant to help him. I was going to give Wacker the book the whole time.”

The old lady smiled. “I am sure your brother appreciates your guile and treachery.”

“HE’S NO BROTHER TO ME!” Greencoat’s words echoed loudly down the library hall.

The two elderly librarians behind the old lady shot each other worried glances.

“This needs to end. You are going back to make sure that this ends up as it should. At the very least, Wacker has to kill Wuu and then die herself. Too much hinges on that. Too much.”

Greencoat strained at his chains. “But 600 million people are going to die!”

“Well, who knows if they are or not now? We just reorganized the stacks for the ninth or tenth time. The books are changing. What we wrote at the end of time, is, and it pains me to say it, no longer canon. Do you know the strain on the continuum? How reality hasn’t swallowed itself by now I don’t know.”

The old lady’s tone shifted to something more motherly. “This is why Wacker and Wuu must die, and must die together in combat. You mourn the hole that the millions of death with cause, but you know ultimately how Wacker’s heroic act will inspire greater things than any of them could ever dream.”

Greencoat sputtered incredulously. “But what about her? What does she get out of it?”

“I’m sorry?”

He looked at her, eyes full of pain. “What does she get? Does she get a moment of happiness, of peace?
Who says that she has to suffer her whole life, while others, who are not as good or not as kind, get rewarded for nothing? What justice is that? How is that remotely right? How can this reality be set up with such an indifference to quality and righteousness? Can you answer me that?”

The old lady shook her head. “You have definitely been staying with the humans too long. Fix this, Omm. Make it right. If you want to play it righteous, fine. Save as many lives as you can. I don’t care. But make sure the event happens the way it should.”

Greencoat cast her a sideways glance. “There’s is an or-else in there.”

“You know the or-else.”

His eyes widened. His voice dropped to a whisper. “You can’t. . .”

“Wipe the stacks? When the limbs of humans get sick, they cut them off to save the rest of the body, don’t they.”

Greencoat’s voice turned to ice. “You dirty monsters. You’re worse than him.”

“You are free to judge, but I and my colleagues have the sum total of existence to worry about. Right now, the waves of what you done are buffeting reality. As this has never happened before, reality doesn’t know what to do with itself. You wanted to roll the dice, as the humans say, but you didn’t now you were betting everything. However, it matters little, because here is where we are. Goodbye.”

In a flash, Greencoat found himself in a wide, green expanse framed by tall pines. Above, a string of electric wires dangled from tall poles, and those poles went on almost to the horizon.

“Not a smart move, brother. Not a smart move at all.”

Greencoat spun around like a spooked jungle cat.

He found himself looking at a tall prim man of Latin descent, Spanish perhaps? He was wearing a very sharp white suit, which gleamed pristinely in the hot sun.

“Not you too!”

“I am afraid so, brother. I should not be surprised to see you have muddied the waters yet again. The rest of our family is practically up in arms about it.”

“Oh really, then where are they? Oh, are they also too fancy to get their hands dirty on this mudhill?”

The man in the white suit laughed gently. “They wouldn’t come here and you know it. You never change, do you.”

Greencoat started walking away. “I don’t have time for this. I have a planet to save, in case you haven’t heard.”

“Oh, I heard, believe me. You really stepped in it this time, like that thing a while back, what was it called again?”

“The Black Plague.”

The man in white laughed. “Oh, yes, that’s right. You were going to save the humans, weren’t you.”

“I did save them. I did do that.”

“You couldn’t have stopped the plague if you tried, and you know it, brother.”

Greencoat continued walking.

“Aren’t you even going to say goodbye?”

Greencoat stopped, and spun around to face the man. “Of course. Here, let me give you the traditional human salute.” He gestured, then trudged away.

The man wasn’t sure, but he suspected the gesture, which involved only one extended finger pointing skyward, was less than amicable.

Copyright 2015 Brian Stacy Sweat

War Sisters – Chapter 9 – The Black Glass

War Sisters

Chapter 9

The Black Glass

——————————————–

“Quiet! I’m doing science!” Taffy had a butter knife in her hand and was poking at the severed head of the zombie.

Wacker was completely and utterly awake. “We need to get out of here right now. More of those things will be coming. I’m sorry, but I shouldn’t have come here. We’ve been watched the whole time and it is my fault. I am so sorry.”

“Science!” Taffy gestured to Wacker with her butter knife, which was now visibly cruddy with, apparently, zombie filth.

“Didn’t you hear me? I said. . .”

“Yes, I heard you go on and on about danger and warnings and ble bla blo. It was all very super dramatic.”

“You don’t understand! We…we are going to get killed if we…”

Without warning, something cold and slimy struck Wacker hard on her left cheek.

“Did…did you just hit me with a fish?”

“Yes, it was a fish. I hit you with it because you were interrupting my science learning. I take sciencing very seriously.” Taffy grinned widely and resumed poking randomly at the zombie head.

Wacker’s eyes narrowed and her lips tightened. “Now you listen here and listen good. I don’t like to admit it, but I have gotten us into a great deal of trouble, serious life-or-death trouble. This whole building is obviously compromised. You no doubt have cameras and microphones all in here, and…”

Immediately, Wacker found herself on her back. On top of her was an even bigger fish, a sturgeon maybe? A swordfish. Of course.

“Shushers while I do my sciencing! Silence, I tell you man! I can’t be interrupted at this delicate stage in the…oh wait okay I’m done.”

Wacker found herself looking up from the flat of her back into Taffy’s deranged face as she leaned over the top of the swordfish. Up close, it was an interesting sight. Taffy’s eyes were big and round, and they were mismatched colors, one brown and one green. Without her helm, her hair was a huge bushy mess. It was also mismatched, not only in color, but in style. The hair on the right side of her scalp was mostly taken up with a sloppy braid which dangled aggravatingly in Wacker’s face. It was mostly pink, but it also had some neon blue and orange in there too, and it was bedecked with little berettes, some of them bows, some of them just weird items stuck in there, like a fairly fancy metal ballpoint pen along with a few toy plastic dinosaurs and even a little treasure troll toy, its own hair poofed out at a parellel angle to the braid. The other side of her hair was mostly hot pink, and it was a giant mass of frizz.

“See this? I scienced up that head real good and that came out of it.” Taffy was holding a pointy chunk of what looked to be black glass, and she was casually showing it to Wacker as they both lay there on the ground. In fact, Wacker was more taken aback by Taffy’s demeanor than anything else. She looks like she’s leaning on the bar and talking to the bartender.

“What is that?” Wacker asked, for a moment forgetting her awkward position.

“I Googled it. Obsidian.” She was looking at a cell phone. She started to read, changing her tone to sound something like a tour guide. “It is a . . .volcanic glass formed from igneous rock.” Casually, she tossed the cell phone over her shoulder. “Nothing here says that it grows in zombie heads, though. Check this mess out, flapjack!”

Taffy jabbed the back of the zombie’s head into Wacker’s face. “Ughhhh! Get that out of my damn face!”

“See that big hole in the back of the head?”

“You mean the hole with the gore dripping out of it?”

“I saw the tip of this stuff sticking out the back of the thing’s head, so I dug into there to see how far it went. Turns out it went pretty far up in there. And I had to dig and dig because…”

“I have a question.”

Taffy looked surprised. “A question?”

“Could you get off of me please? Also, could you get this fish off of me?”

“Oh. One second.”

Taffy got off, kicked the fish off of Wacker, and helped her up. She even helped adjust the collar of Wacker’s black t-shirt.

“Now, as I was saying, I had to dig and dig and dig in there because the thing was rooted in there.”

“Hmm…like it was grown in there? Well, that is interesting, right?”

“Sorta, yeah. Creepy, huh? I mean…”

WHAP! Without any warning, Wacker punched Taffy hard in the jaw, sending her flailing backwards. Wacker quickly noticed a few guards coming for her, a few more big troll creatures. One of them reached for her arm, but Wacker countered by throwing a swift chop to the creature’s throat, making it double over in pain. Another one tried to grab her, but she dropped to a crouch and kicked the troll hard in the shin, which sent it crashing face-first into the floor.

Taffy had gotten up, rubbing her chin in confusion. “What was that for?”

“Listen to me right now. We need to leave here. This whole area is under surveillance, and…”

“No it’s not.”

“Yes it is.”

“No it’s not.”

“I am telling you that it is.”

“Why would you say that?”

“Because I…well…um… I had a dream about it.”

Taffy’s face widened in mock-surprise. “Ooh well! You didn’t tell me that you had a dream about it! That’s a real horse of a different color, isn’t it! Frank, did you hear that? Frank? Oh pooh! Y’know in the future, I would ask that you refrain from knocking out the royal guards, ‘kay? That would be great.”

“We need to get out of here right now.”

“Oh, yes, well there I agree with you! For you see I, your queen and savior, am about to embark on a holy mission of mercilessly kicking the everlasting crap out of whoever is behind killing my people. Frank?! Are you conscious yet?”

Frank the troll stood up and rubbed is big ugly nose sheepishly. “Yes, your highness.”

“Please gather the Expatriates together, especially the able-bodied ones. I have need to address them momentarily.”

“Yes, m’lady.”

Taffy turned to Wacker and continued. “Anyway, if your little dream is correct, then it must be something you have on you, a tracker or a beacon, because this place is surveillance-proof. I made sure of that.”

Wacker grew annoyed. “Oh, right. This is a regular Fort Knox. You do realized that I, along with three zombies, were allowed to walk the hell in, right?”

“Yes, but you got caught, didn’t you! They would have too.”

Wacker huffed incredulously. “Sure they would have.”

Taffy folded her arms. “Listen, I know that I have the looks of a sexy-yet-mindless movie starlet, but in this head is quite a little brain, sweet friend! Heavy is the crown that wears the head, after all.” Taffy nodded smugly.

“Unbelieveable. You just don’t have a cl…”

But Wacker was halted by a nagging thought. Taffy may be right, though, because in the dream it really seemed like she had been being watched for a long time. The way that Ford was talking seemed to imply that she was being watched for a while, which really would be impossible, unless…

“Oh crap.”

“What is it?”

Wacker was approaching a disturbing conclusion. “What do you think the obsidian is for?”

Taffy shrugged. “No idea?”

“What about remote controlling? Sending commands from a distant location.”

Taffy snapped her fingers! “Of course! Science!”

“Well, maybe not science, because obsidian’s just a rock. It’s not metal, it’s not magnetic. It must be some sort of other energy at work. One that we haven’t discovered yet. One that could allow the controller to not only control these zombies, but also see everything that it sees. And what if…”

“What? What is it?”

Wacker realized the implications. What if I have obsidian growing in me right now?

“I need a biopsy and a strip search immediately.”

Taffy smiled with awkward politeness. “Um, no offense, but we just met.”

“No, we need Dr. Clayton, our ME. He can check us both to see if we have those things growing in us right now, and he can also autopsy these zombies and give us info about where they came from.”

Taffy looked confused. “Waitaminute! I don’t care about that! I just want to go find the person responsible for killing my people and set him on fire and throw him off a building.”

Wacker shook her head. “Are you nuts? What are you going to do, just start chopping up passersby with an axe? Don’t you realize that the guy that is doing this is dangerous?”

“Yeah, well I’m dangerous too, sister!” From the folds of her coat, Taffy pulled out a grenade launcher, the older model that Rambo used. “I am the god of hellfire, and I bring you…” Suddenly, the grenade whooshed across the big empty space of Taffy’s lair and blew up a whole section of scaffolding.

“Will you stop it! You don’t even know who we are fighting!”

“Well, don’t you? In your little dream you saw him, right ?”

Wacker slapped her forehead. “Wait, yes! And I have his name! Idiot!” Wacker felt around for her cell phone. “Morgan Ford! Does that ring a bell?”

Taffy scratched her head with the tip of her grenade launcher. “Nope.”

“Well, let’s see. Image search…nope….nope….nope….crap!”

“No pictures of him?”

“There were Morgan Fords, but none of them were the guy. Weird, since he seemed to be a big business muck-a-muck.”

“I guess he doesn’t want to be found eh?”

“Without a doubt. But I am pretty sure he is close. In town.”

“Why do you think that?”

“Only a hunch, but it seems right.”

Taffy threw the exhausted grenade launcher over her shoulder. “Okay, we go get doctored, but then promise me we will then go on a vengeful spree of destruction and slaughter, okie-dokes?”

Wacker nodded solemnly. “I promise.”

“The Expatriates, m’lady.” Frank the troll was leading a small group back to where Taffy and Wacker were talking. There was Discowolf, the little antheaded guy, the three guys with the bird masks, a rather regular looking little old lady in a 70s pantsuit, and a big guy that looked like some sort of granite golem.

Taffy began to address the group. “My dear subjects, I apologize that I have to leave you now to attend to this disagreeable business at hand, but I am afraid the situation calls for it. I have called you here, as you are the most able-bodied of all the Expatriates, because I need to ask you a favor. Please hold down the fort for us while we are gone. Do not go anywhere else, especially outside of this building. I understand that your status among your own people means that it is impossible for you to go to your home dimensions, and I am sorry for that. Please understand that my lair here is completely yours for the duration of your exile.”

Discowolf spoke, his deep voice cracking with emotion. “You are so good to us, my queen.”

Taffy smiled. “On the contrary, you are good to me! You support me and endure my many lapses. Stay safe. I shall return!”

Taffy turned to Wacker, a giant maniacal grin threatening to reach around to the back of her head. “Alright! Time for action! Blood and thunder!! Stuffing and potatoes!!! To the Queenmobile! AWAAAAYY!!”

Wacker was standing there, her arms folded. “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

“No?”

“These zombie corpses? We need to load them up and hope we don’t get pulled over.”

Taffy frowned and stomped her feet like a baby. “Oh pooh! And here I was giving a rousing speech and everything! Way to kill the moment, Wacker. Come on then. . .I guess. Sheesh.”

Copyright 2015 Brian Stacy Sweat

War Sisters – Chapter 8 – Voyeur

Chapter 8

Voyeur

The man in the gray suit sat in front of his computer monitor silently, the light of the screen playing along the angular geometry of his face in the dark, small room. The light cast odd shadows here and there across the light pink of his skin but never obscured the classical handsomeness of the man’s face. The room was small and bare except for the computer desk along the back wall on the opposite side of the door.

“Now let’s see here. Sleeping? You have had a busy day, after all.” He shifted sideways a little in his seat, propping his severe chin up on his fist. “Well, you have earned it, I would say.” He was speaking to no one in particular, his voice detached and soft, yet within this voice was something paradoxically icy.

He is interrupted by a knock at the door.

“Enter.”

A man enters the room, a huge white man with dark slicked-back hair. He is so big that he almost completely fills the doorway as he comes in. He is wearing a black tuxedo.

“Franklin, come here. Look at this. The signal’s coming through loud and clear. Look at that! It’s like we are really there!”

Franklin nodded sheepishly. “It looks very good Mr. Ford. ”

Ford turned his head slightly towards Franklin. “You can call me Morgan, Franklin. We are all part of the same big family here.”

“Okay, Mr. Ford,” said Franklin. “Did everything go okay so far?”

“Oh yes, I would say so. They certainly live up to their press. This little Asian girl now . . .now she is really something special. Look at this. Let me pull it up here…”

On Ford’s screen, a window popped up, obscuring the image of Wacker sleeping.

“Now watch what happens here…Bang bang bang! A Tommy gun!” Ford picked up his hands and made two little fists like he was gripping the gun himself and made bullet sounds with his mouth. “Isn’t that wonderful?”

“That’s really something, Mr. Ford. What’s she doing now?”

“Oh, this is the best part! Look at her go!”

“Where did she get that axe from, Mr. Ford?”

“You remember the story we briefed everyone on… oh well, maybe you don’t since I had just made you a few weeks before that. She can pull out everything she needs from her pockets, or from her sleeve. Well, most places actually. It is a really wonderful side-effect from her insanity, I would say.”

Franklin’s deep-set eyes widened. “She’s magic.”

“She is at that. So is my dear Yolanda here. If only she knew the whole story. But who ever knows the whole story.” Ford grinned a content little grin at Franklin. “I know I don’t, at least the current one. My old friend saw to that.” He grinned again, only this time it was not so content.

Ford leaned closer to the monitor. He was so close now his breath left steam on the screen. “I wanted to change everything, but she’s doing it instead. That tough little nut of a girl. Look at her now. Oblivious to the horrors she has witnessed as she dreams her little human dreams, and ignorant as to what she will do and say tomorrow, or next week, or ten years from now. Incredible, the randomness of these creatures. Randomly, one sperm fertilizes one egg, and randomly that one creature stumbles along as haphazardly, not knowing where they are going or why, until something goes wrong, who knows what, and they keel over and go who knows where. What a wonderful horror their little lives must be!”

Ford leaned back in his chair and folded his arms. “I am a lot like them now, though. Isn’t that a laugh? Now I don’t know exactly what is going to happen. I don’t know who is going to live and who is going to die. I must admit, it’s . . .refreshing, in a way. I thought I had the bet rigged, but it turns out that my old friend had an ace up my sleeve.”

“An ace . . .?”

“Oh, it’s a dumb human expression, Franklin, pay it no attention. It makes as much sense as anything else the humans say. I wonder how they ever crawled their way out of the primordial muck sometimes. It beggars the imagination.”

Franklin scratched the back of his head. “But Mr. Ford, wouldn’t it be a good time to, y’know, kill them? I mean, they seem pretty exhausted.”

“Yolanda stays exhausted Franklin. She’s had a hard time sleeping since we came into her life. It must be hard to sleep with everything that she has seen so far rattling around in her little head. But no, Franklin. This is not about anger or revenge. Those are shallow human emotions. No, this is about getting everything where it needs to be. It is harder now to see where all the chess pieces are going to go, but the concept remains the same. These young ladies have a big part to play, bigger now thanks to my new modified plan.” Ford had interlaced his fingers in front of him. He explained all of these things to Franklin as a father would explain something to a child: slowly, simply, and gently. “We all have our little parts to play, our little moves from square to square, after all. They may hate me and curse my name at the end of it, but these moves need to be made.”

“But, isn’t she going to, y’know, kill you?”

“Oh Franklin, my little sweetheart. She may have been able to before, but how could she when I can see every move she makes? The story might change, Franklin, but she is the same character. That makes her predictable. Sure, every little detail might not be consistent, but she is she. I know her whole story up to now. I know what makes her tick. I get her in a way that she could never get herself. Isn’t that funny? She has her whole life in her hands and can’t read one word of it! Some advantage!”

“So you do have an . . .ace? Up your sleeve?”

Ford smiled. “Aces. Plural. I have a stack of them, you might say. And who knows? Maybe by the end of it, we can see eye to eye, put our heads together. We could all work together, be part of the same family. Could you imagine that? Imagine what we could accomplish together? What a wonderful world this could be!”

“Wasn’t there supposed to be some other girl?”

“War Sister Number Three? She’s been dealt with. A preemptive strike. Stuck on the reservation, if you will. She isn’t as important to the story anyway. Just another ghost in the machine. No, Wacker is the most important of the three. We go way back, you see. Now if you will, let’s get ready for the meeting. We mustn’t keep our investors waiting.”

Together, they left the room.

. . .

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGHHH!!!”

Wacker awoke, screaming like she had been set on fire. She flailed and fell sideways out of a large easy chair in the middle of Taffy’s great hall, now mostly empty.

“Mmmhm…did you say something?” Taffy was sitting not far across from her. She was wearing spectacles with thick Coke-bottle lenses, and taped to one side of them was a small flashlight. In front of Taffy stood a small table, and on that table was the head of the zombie that she had killed earlier.

Wacker suddenly realized what her dream meant.

I am being watched, and I have been the entire time.

Copyright 2014 Brian Stacy Sweat

War Sisters – Chapter 7 – The Beheading

War Sisters – Chapter 7 –  The Beheading

“This little piggy’s gone to market.” The girl was hitting the pig’s head with a stick.

Wacker was still wedged between two trolls up on the dais for all to enjoy, and indeed the crowd was now getting into it, greeting every whack of the stick with a triumphant whoop.

None of it hurt much, of course. The pig’s head was very sturdy for something so musty and old. However, it was extremely annoying to have to be forced to endure such a pointless display.

“And this little piggy’s house is made of cardboard. And this one ran to the store to pick up some Q-tips. And this one. . .oh I forgot the way it goes…ran down the spout or something. Arriba!”

Crack! Crack! Crack! The stick was buffeting the pig’s head, which was finally beginning to show some fractures and chips from the beating.

“Something isn’t right here,” the crazy girl said half to herself, tucking the dowel rod she was using on Wacker under her arm like an old British martinet surveying the troops. “Aren’t these things supposed to hang from a string or something?” As she was saying this, she reached into the pocket of her half of a leather jacket and procured a quite sizable roll of hemp rope, but only after pulling out a rubber snake and a length of barbed wire first and tossing both casually over her shoulder. She looked at the hemp, and then scanned the area above them, presumably for something to tie it to. “Oh, that will take too long! The strike will iron when it is hot! Ok, Tom? Mike? Be a couple of dears and grab Piggles here by his legs sos he’ll dangle good.”

The two trolls hoisted her up as if she weighed nothing. Now she was upside down.

The pig’s head fell on the floor with a sad dusty thud.

The crazy girl looked at Wacker’s face, turning hers to the side to get a better look at Wacker. Wacker in turn got a good look at the girl’s face, albeit a mostly inverted one. She was around Wacker’s age by the look of her. It wasn’t until she was right in Wacker’s face that she noticed that the girl was Asian, Japanese by Wacker’s estimation, although the girl had the condition that Wacker had seen in a number of examples where even though details like race, gender, and age were discernible, the person still managed to look like him or herself and no one else, as if she was a category unto herself. Maybe it was the way her eyes, rimmed with too much mascara, were always staring vacantly at her, or the fact that she was usually smiling too widely, her teeth set at a weird angle so that they always seemed to be amused at some private joke, or the missing front tooth that she somehow seemed proud of, he tongue often finding it and peeking out like a red worm as she was lost in either contemplation or reverie.

She still had her bizarre headdress on, but she had to hold it with one hand as she crooked her head to examine Wacker, and it was threatening to join the pig’s head on the ground. Wacker really had to appreciate the thing up close. It truly was a spectacularly ornate piece of headwear, an explosion of jade and diamonds and gold, and now Wacker could see that there were more details on it than she could ever keep track of. There were tiny raised carvings of dragons and tiny ink drawings of a language she could not come close to identifying and other various icons and graphics, some understandable, some not. It was like a whole perverse history museum condensed into one glorious, absurd helm. It was resplendent, even if it seemed to be about as practical as wearing a filing cabinet on your head.

Now her head felt tight like an overripe tomato as all the blood in her body seemed to pool in it.

“You’re not a piggy at all,” the girl said, matter-of-factly.

All of a sudden, Wacker’s cop guts kicked in. A red bolt of hot fear stabbed her every nerve. Someone else is here, waiting for me to show, and now we are going to die. And it is going to be easy to do it too. To call us sitting ducks would be a massive understatement. Up here under spotlights, we might as well have bullseyes painted on our chests.

She looked around at the madding crowd, who were still standing dutifully and watching their queen, and she saw scattered throughout it movement, just tiny motions at sporadic points in the crowd, that Wacker saw before during the tensest moments of her job, the movements that a body made when it was about to commit to doing something incredibly stupid or violent.

Sorry Tom and Mike, Wacker said as she hammered a fist into each of the trolls’ groins. She fell to the ground like a broken tree branch, but luckily the pig’s head absorbed much of the force of it as it collapsed under her like a falling cake. Instinctively, Wacker dove at the crazy girl, knocking them both out of the way as an arrow whizzed past them mere inches from Wacker’s head, imbedding itself into the wall. Another arrow, then another, then several more sizzled up from the assassins in the crowd. One hit Tom (or Mike . . .she wasn’t sure which one was which) and he shriveled up like a dead leaf and fell into the crowd below.

“Stay down,” Wacker said to the girl.

Down below them, the crowd had broken into panicked chaos.

“They killed Tom. There killing my subjects. THEY ARE KILLING MY PEOPLE!”

“They want to kill us! Stay down, dammit!”

The crazy girl’s vacant, mad grin had been replaced with a contorted grimace of pure, malicious fury.

“NOBODY KILLS MY PEOPLE! NO ONE!”

The girl threw Wacker off of her. The mad girl was now facing the crowd as arrows flew all around her, and she was screaming, almost howling.

She reached into the folds of her half-a-leather jacket and jammed her helm into them, where it, somehow, disappeared, and pulled out instead a Tommy gun, the kind with the drum cartridge, the old-gangster kind, and started unloading into crowd. Wacker turned, sure that she was taking out everyone in the crowd, but she wasn’t. The first burst found the first archer, who was wearing a black mask over his face. He looked to Wacker like a combination of a bank robber and a ninja. He crumpled to the ground as the rest of the crowd was running around like a flock of startled gazelles. She found another archer, clad much the same as the first, and shot him full of way more holes than necessary.

Again and again she took out archer after archer, until only one remained.

By now, most of the throng had cleared out, gone who knows where. The archer was still lobbing arrows at the girl. She dropped her gun, and glared at the archer. An arrow came her way, but she tilted her head slightly and it passed by her cheek, almost a kiss of death. Another one came right for her, and she very petulantly swatted it out of the way with her palm.

She jumped down to the floor. The archer never stopped with the arrows, but none of them seemed to matter. The girl swatted them away like buzzing flies, and walked right at the guy.

Now she was right in front of him. He drew another arrow and pointed it in her face.

He shot.

Are you kidding me?

She caught it! Two feet from her face and she caught it! Wacker was still up on the dais, for once too stunned to do anything but watch.

“WHO ARE YOU?! WHO SENT YOU HERE?!” The girl had the guy by the collar. She took off the guy’s mask.

Even from here, Wacker could see what the guy was.

“ZooooooOOOOOOOMMBIEEE!” The girl said the word until it turned into a screech.

A flash of silver shone for an instant, and the zombie fell apart into a pile of pieces. The girl was standing there, and in her hands was a huge two-handed ax, an executioner’s axe. She breathed heavily, visible even from Wacker’s perspective, as sick blood dripped from the edge of her weapon.

Wacker had climbed down to the ground, and was walking towards the girl.

“Stop there,” said the girl softly without looking back at her.

“It’s okay. I am here to help you.”

“How do I know that? You snuck in. You were disguised.”

“Yes, but they snuck in too, and they tried to kill you.”

“But you . . .saved me. They . . .would have killed me dead.” The girl was talking very quietly, sounding very much like a little child trying to wrap her head around something confusing.

“That’s right. I saved you. I came here to help you.” Wacker was talking slowly and quietly as well. She was used to talking like that to junkies and crazies that she had to deal with on the force. Every now and again, a cop turned into someone’s mom or dad, talking them off of a bridge or coaxing a knife out of their hands.

The girl dropped the axe and turned to look at her. Her look of almost unbearable sadness shot through Wacker like a hunger pang. “Why?”

“Someone wants to kill us.”

“But…why?”

“Because I’m going to kill him.”

“What for?”

Wacker shrugged. “I have no idea.”

“That’s insane,” the girl said. “So insane that it is probably true.”

“My name is Yolanda Wacker, and if you want an insane, true story, I have a good one for you.”

The crazy girl laughed, a little cough of a laugh. She pulled out a bottle of Jack and took a very long swig of it.

“My name is Taffy Holiday, Queen of Earth, Sovereign of All Exiles, Friend to Animals, and Protector of Children. Very nice to meet you.”

Copyright 2014 Brian Stacy Sweat

War Sisters – Chapter 6 – A Disorienting Party

War Sisters – Chapter 6 – A Disorienting Party

Wacker stood agape in her piggy mask.

All around her were the oddest assortment of individuals that she had ever seen, and all of them were in flux, undulating almost, in what felt like a giant river burbling with energy but not intent on going anywhere in a hurry. In fact, the going was decidedly slow, belying the immense size of the place.

As Wacker slowly shuffled in a long conga line of freaks and weirdos and monsters and who-knows-whats, she took the opportunity to look around. The building on the inside was far bigger than it seemed on the outside. Over the din of mad revelry surrounding her was a ceiling architecture that almost hurt to look at. Directly over her head was a dome that looked like something Da Vinci could have designed, but it was intersected at an oblique angle by a patch of Gothic spires and buttresses, some connected to nothing and jutting out like broken limbs, while another patch on the other side of the dome looked to be lifted from some 80s coke bar: flashy lightning-bolt neon signs and polished and burnished metal obelisks, some cut off abruptly into stubs like the Gothic spires were.

She had passed under an arch to enter this giant room, only realizing that it was a balcony, one that ran along the back wall of the place seemingly into infinity. The balcony was as piecemeal as the rest of the architecture. The part that she passed under looked like the prow of a yacht, as if the boat had crashed through the wall, and strung from this were what looked to be several hammocks, in which several partygoers were hooting and drinking and swinging. In one of the hammocks were three creatures that resembled humanoid bears, and they were eating sloppily from oversize bowls and drinking huge draughts from tankards the size of fire hydrants, and in another lay a blond woman, her long Nordic pigtails swinging down from between the netting of her hammock, who had apparently passed out while reading a paperback. The balcony itself was packed, so much so that it seemed at times that unfortunates near the edge were at any time to be either crushed on the railing or knocked off altogether.

But this was just one place along the walls of this crazy quilt of a building that held partiers. In several spots, old-style opera boxes dotted the huge wall, and up higher was what looked like several bridges that connected one part of the wall to another at acute and random angles.

She tried to take as much of it in as she could, but there was just too much to keep track of. Even gauging her immediate surroundings was a tough chore, since all around her was a sea of madness. On her right were a few guys dressed like the prince in Sleeping Beauty, but they were wearing gas masks straight out of World War One, and on her left were a bizarre set of weirdos in black velvet robes who were wearing huge black masks, shiny like chrome, that were in the shape of stylized bird heads, and they were very loudly whistling out of the small opening in the beaks of their masks. Wacker was reminded of the way Henrietta Pussycat talked on the old Mr. Rogers show, where every word was “meow” yet the inflections made it clear what she was saying. The same went for the bird-wizards, who seemed to be talking to each other with each tweet. Behind her, a finger was tapping on her shoulder, which made her spin around so fast that her pig head went slightly crooked. She found herself looking into the faces of two creatures – one a large and quite deranged looking rabbit, and the other a very stoned and placid tortoise. Each were holding a silver plate. The turtle’s plate held small tablets with a blue arrow printed on them, while the rabbit’s had tablets with orange arrows printed on them. All of a sudden she realized that she was not looking at two creatures, but one creature with two heads. Wacker raised her hand to politely decline the invitation, then kept flowing onward in that huge mad river.

She realized that the river was slowing, however, as it approached a huge dais that towered over the crowd. This dais was as tall as the balcony, but its base went all the way to the floor of the building, tapering as it went. The dais itself was visually stunning. Along the entire length of it ran row after row of pulsating old-timey lightbulbs, big thick-glassed ones, that pulsated along with the blaring music, and interspersed around them were designs that would have looked at home on one of Mark Twain’s river barges, or on an old calliope, like wooden fleur-de-lis and stylized magnolia flowers and bits of antebellum moulding framing gaudily-painted lion heads.

Wacker had honestly seen too much recently to be impressed by any of this. At some point, even the absolutely amazing becomes a daily grind, and now she was fully annoyed by her surroundings. Who exactly was she supposed to meet here? A madwoman is what Greencoat said, but this was a vast understatement. The person who lived even a second in this din was of no use to anybody for anything, much less as an ally in some supposed epic battle of good versus evil that was dropped unceremoniously in her lap.

Not one for pretenses or ceremonies of any kind, she now felt much as she did on her graduating night from high school, bearing the speeches, the endless musings on changing the future and taking the road not taken and all of that graduation talk, the hours of it, the incessant chatter of the knots of friends gathering and giggling and crying like idiots, all of it, with gritted teeth and rolling eyes. She could feel a meeting or a presentation coming the way prairie dogs could feel storms coming, deep within her bones, and she always made sure to be otherwise occupied when that old feeling hit. However, even the wiliest of us will have such events forced upon us from time to time, and even though the setting was in no way reminiscent of any place she had ever been before, she felt the setup brewing. Tonight there will be a presentation. Tonight someone will climb onto that dais. Everything here is orchestrated to that effect, even if no one but her noticed it.

Well la-di-da, let’s get it over with so we can get out of here. We are in danger. Partying is not on any worthwhile agenda. If this person is part of my story, then they need to be informed. Just being here puts her life at risk, and mine. So come on out and do your little dance or whatever and let’s get going.

Also, this pig’s head is very stuffy.

Suddenly, there was silence, complete and cold and unmitigating. Everyone, and everything, froze. After the endless cacophony, the silence sizzled electric in Wacker’s ears.

After a what seemed to Wacker to be a silent eternity, the dais erupted into bright blue flame so tall that it licked the patchworked ceiling, predicated by a deafening pop that threatened to crack her ear drums in half.

When the flames died down, there was a solitary figure standing on the platform above the throng, a lone girl. A spotlight kicked on and wreathed her in light.

Still, there was silence.

Out of nowhere, a small creature appeared on the dais beside her. It looked to be a tiny child in a black suit, but Wacker squinted and saw that it was actually more like an insect, an ant maybe, its rusty flat head balancing a really quite dapper top hat atop it. It was carrying a microphone like Wacker used to see in old boxing movies, old vented metal with a thick tail of black cable coming out of it. The little guy very dutifully tapped the mike to see if it was on, and once his tapping shot very loudly through the silence, he handed it to the girl.

She stood there, and Wacker could make out what she was wearing from her vantage point, only none of it made any sense. She could see pants, big baggy ones too, but she also saw that the girl was wearing a very frilly dress over this, a pink number that may be a ballerina’s tutu. She also appeared to be wearing a t-shirt, but one side of it had the sleeve ripped off, while the other side had what looked like half of a biker jacket over it.

The real kicker, however, was what was on her head. It looked like what would happen if a tiara , a samurai helmet, and an African tribal mask had been trapped in a transporter accident and combined in all the wrong ways. A stylized dragon head jutted out from each side of the thing, their eyes glittering in the spotlights, while along the top of the thing twinkled a looping line of white diamonds that shone like a city’s skyline. Red and green tassels were jostling vibrantly at random intervals, and throughout the empty spaces of the helm wove a level of intricacy too delicate to be seen from Wacker’s vantage point. The thing, in short, would be what someone would design if they had been huffing paint fumes in the basement for four years and then found religion. However, the helm did, for some reason unknown to Wacker, convey a sense of dignity and honor to the wearer, even though the overall effect of the ensemble was unsettingly jarring.

Now the girl looked out over her respectful throng of mutants, and began to speak.

“Esteemed subjects, I, your queen, welcome you to the festivities tonight. I hope you all have a very nice time here,” she said with a disturbingly vacant half-smile, her eyes wide.

“However, I regret to inform you that someone has crashed the party, and while normally I would welcome such intrusions, I nevertheless must act in light of recent violent attacks on my constituents by destroying the intruders with great violence and fury.”

Suddenly, Wacker was seized on either side by two large troll-like creatures, each well over nine feet tall, and each ugly beyond even what she had seen so far tonight.

“Bring the pig forward for public execution!” said the crazy girl to her troll minions.

This could have gone better, Wacker said to herself with a resigned sigh.

Copyright 2014 Brian Stacy Sweat

War Sisters – Chapter 5 – The Madwoman

War Sisters

Chapter 5 – The Madwoman

Previous chapter here.

Wacker found herself across the street in front of an old factory, large and imposing, that cut sharp black against a very full moon. She was standing in a thicket of roadside bush so that she was not visible even in all that moonlight.

She looked around to try to gather where she was. The factory was the only building visible along the road she was on, and it was ensconced within a wall of trees and shrubs on all sides but the front, which was seemingly loose gravel punctuated with the remains of a very tall chain-link fence that stood in a few spots but lay lazily in most others. Scattered in front of the place were all sorts of incongruous items that really should not have been sitting in front of an abandoned factory in the middle of nowhere, such as a giant pile of Christmas trees, a semi turned on its face with a large cedar tree growing out of the back of it, an old WW2 jeep that still had a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on it, the decrepit remains of a 50s roadside Big Boy-type character who was missing his arms Venus De Milo-style, and a whole lot of other oddities.

She checked the sky to see where she was. It was Atlanta, but she didn’t have a specific reason why she knew that except for the familiar orange glow of the city that was shining from the northeast. Ah, so it is one of those abandoned building in southwest Atlanta, then, she thought, built back when the area was bustling and left to rot after it was not.

As she was about to go investigate, headlights in the distance made her reconsider. After a long time, she saw an old-model Chevy car pull up and stop on the side of the road in front of the old factory. She crouched down in the thicket across the road and watched. Out of the car came…

Something…

Wacker cringed back into the foliage. Even though it was hard to make out, whatever came out of that car was not a human being. It was too big and wide, and it moved too fast. Even though it had the stride of casual walking, it was booking to the front of the factory like some huge hockey player had slapshot the thing along the ice.

In an instant, the thing had slid its huge self to the front of the door. It knocked a very special knock that reminded Wacker of the old Woody Woodpecker laugh, at least the cadence of it. After a brief pause, a slit in the door slid open and a kaleidoscope of colored lights pulsed into the night. A password exchange? She laughed inwardly as she remembered watching an old movie with the Marx Brothers where the password to a secret bar was “swordfish.” She couldn’t remember the particulars, except for the one who didn’t talk, Harpo she though it was, pulling out a plastic fish and sticking a sword into its mouth to get in, but she remembered her Grandpa laughing his deep Santa laugh as they watched it together all those years ago.

Whatever the password was, the doors slowly opened. From Wacker’s vantage point, several meters away from the building, the lights coming from inside that building were bright enough to make her squint. She was amazed that, until that little slit opened, the outside of the building looked to be straight-up abandoned. Now she could see all the lights and hear all of the sounds coming from the place, and, even from where she was, she could tell what was going on in there. . .

It was a party, one hidden completely in an abandoned factory out in West End somewhere . . .

where monsters drive up in classic Chevies.

Again her Grampa came to mind. What was it he always said whenever I came home crying? Oh yes, I remember: “Life ain’t easy, and it ain’t getting any easier.” Right as usual, Gramps.

Suddenly an idea struck her. If this devil guy read this book, and this happened in my future, then couldn’t he just, y’know, have some guys watch the building in case I show up and then kill me? Why couldn’t he just do that? Surely he knows I will be here at some point, right?

She felt vulnerable, even though she was hidden in a thicket. Maybe she could get a disguise together. Obviously, the party guests were at least partially composed of nonsensical freaks, so maybe she could…

Then she noticed something. In one of the many piles in front of the factory, she could see something that might help her. Smiling at her in the moonlight was the head of a mascot costume, and one she recognized. It was an old chain of stores whose mascot was a smiling pig in a top hat, and now that very pig was smiling at her, or at lest its head was.

A pig. Well, it’s not like I haven’t been called that before.

She started to make a break for the pig’s head, when she realized something was around one of her ankles. It was the strap of a black backpack, with the handle of Lord Smashingstone sticking out of the top of it. At least he thought of that, Wacker thought, as she rifled through the bag, finding some packs of crackers, a bottle of water, and her service piece and holster with a couple of extra clips for good measure. She put the bag on and wolfed down some crackers and drank some water, then she crept like a ninja over to one of the gaps in the fence, and nearly yelled when the leg of her black pants got caught by an unruly bit of wire. Finally, after disentangling herself, and after tiptoeing over a junk shop’s worth of stuff, she got to the pile where the pig’s head was and put the thing on. The inside of it was relatively clean, but it was musty and hot in there.

In a flash, she hesitated. She suddenly felt how enormously ridiculous she was right now. There she was, a decorated police officer and the first in her family to graduate from college, standing in the dark with a pig’s head on, about to sneak into a party filled with monsters so she can meet a crazy person and convince her to help kill a demon.

She breathed in deep, the mustiness settling in her lungs like dust on a mantle.

Hell with it.

She managed a fairly good crouched run; even though she was sure that no one on the outside was watching, she was taking no chances. As she made her way along the jagged, soot-blackened bricks that made up the outer wall of the factory, she looked for some sort of other way to get into the building. Obviously the front was out, but maybe there’s a broken window or a vent. So far, there was nothing helpful along the side, but there had to be a back door to the place. As she made it to the rear corner of the building, she crouched and peered over to her left to check out the scene. From her oblique angle, she saw that, yes, there was a back door, and no one seemed to be guarding it. After a nervous moment of waiting, she decided to round the corner. Luckily, there was a row of hedges in front of the rear wall that she could crouch-walk behind. She moved like a cat for the most part, even though the pig’s head obviously was putting her a bit off balance. In a few feet, she would be at the door…

And then the door opened.

Wacker froze. Out of the door came…well…to Wacker it resembled what would happen if a werewolf had mated with a bear. It was massive, so much so that it had to duck itself almost in half in order to get through the door. But more unsettling than that was the fact that it was wearing a perfectly-tailored. . . Wacker fumbled for the words . . .leisure suit? Yes, it was definitely a leisure suit from the 70s, and it was the color of melted orange sherbet. Behind him, the party raged. Wacker still couldn’t get over how dead silent it was on the outside. Normally, even if you can’t hear anything, you can feel it pulsing through the rock and dirt, but not this party. Whatever was keeping in all that ruckus was no joke.

But they really needed better security, Wacker thought. At least a bouncer or two outside.

Indeed the back door was left swinging open on its hinges by Discowolf, and nobody seemed to care that much. Alcohol and hallucinogen use, probably. Stoned people, even professional criminals, are sloppy people.

She poked her pig head from behind the hedge. Discowolf was…

Oh dear lord…

Peeing and peeing, Discowolf was, arcing a stream of it far into the night.

And it kept going.

Wacker just sat there for a while, strangely entertained. It’s the little things that keep you going.

Discowolf was now done, and he has shaken the dew off his wolf lilly, and zipped up his puke orange pants and turned to go back inside.

Wacker, however, was already in.

Copyright 2014 Brian Stacy Sweat

War Sisters – Chapter 4 – The Lifebook

Previous chapter HERE

Chapter 4 – The Lifebook

“Into my squad car!” Wacker and Greencoat ran and jumped into Wacker’s police cruiser.

“Wow, that’s a lot of buttons. What’s this button do?” asked Greencoat, for a moment an oblivious five-year-old.

“Don’t touch anything!” Wacker threw the key in the ignition and cranked it hard, waking the big block engine under the hood and making it roar to life.

“Buckle up. I mean it.” Wacker slammed the car into reverse, making the tires squeal and smoke.

“We should really leave now,” Greencoat said matter-of-factly

“Good advice.” Wacker slammed the car back into drive and spun out.

Just then the entire car rocked violently like it had been hit by a falling tree. Both of them looked back. It was the zombie, who had hit the trunk hard with an overhead axhandle blow, denting it as easily as a soda can and sending a spider-web of cracks into the back windshield. The zombie then swiped wildly like a bear and caught the back windshield and sent it flying into a million twinkling pieces.

“Something’s wrong,” Wacker barked as she began to fiddle anxiously with the car’s wheel and gearshift.

“That goes without saying,” Greencoat said.

“No, the car, it’s not….” She was cut off by the zombie, who had ripped off the front bumper and was taking huge, Major-league swings at the back of the car. Little bits of car pelted them.

Truly, the car seemed to not be going anywhere. It was making noises like the engine was doing what it was supposed to do, but the wheels weren’t doing anything.

“We’re going to have to kill it,” said Greencoat. “I mean like again.”

“How do we do that exactly?”

“Do you have any tinder?”

“What the hell is tinder?”

“Fire maker? Flint?”

“What are you, a damn caveman? Wait! Gasoline! What side is the….OK move out of the damn way!”

Wacker leaned sideways at a painful angle and fired several rounds from her 9mm pistol. She had an idea with a slim chance of working, but it was all she had. But did she pull if off. She looked and saw a puddle of gas spurting down the front of the monster. Lucky shots, but now she needed to find something to light it with…

Just then, the car jolted like it had been charged by a crazed rhino, which wasn’t too far from the truth, and went up on its passenger side, lolled for a minuted, then crashed down on its roof, sending fragments of blue and red police light scattering as all of the remaining windows shattered into a million little cubes of safety glass.

“Move!” said Wacker, scurrying awkwardly out of the place where the windshield had been, Greencoat close behind. Suddenly, a robust-yet-still-quite-rotten arm grabbed Greencoat, who got slung like a bag of trash over the creature’s rotten shoulder to crash violently into the side of a neighboring building some twenty or thirty yards away.

Wacker froze as the beast turned its attention to her. Then her heart sank as she realized she had nothing to defend herself with. She had no bullets left in her sidearm, the bat was still in the trunk of the car, which, of all things, was still clearly firmly shut. She remembered that she was trying to find matches, but now the chance of that was done.

The beast started lumbering her way as she tried desperately to get to her feet. As she scrabbled, her hands rested on something strangely reassuring. It was a big chunk of rock. She looked around. Another chunk. Could this work?

The thing was now nearly right on top of her, his hands reaching for her throat. Wacker instinctively, in one sudden,violent motion, crashed the two chunks of rock together like a cymbal player in a marching band just inches from the thing’s outstretched arms. The sparks that were produced were relatively tiny, but sure enough the thing’s arms lit up, and then the rest of it, turning the whole thing into a walking bonfire. Wacker finally got to her feet, which was a good thing since a giant, flaming zombie was now after her.

She had had enough, however. “Die! Again!” She through the two rocks at the thing, connecting with one of them on its torch of a head, which was enough to stagger the dumb thing backwards, making it ultimately, thankfully, fall on its dead ass, where it finally came to rest as a big, smelly load of char and body fat and bones.

“We need to get out of here,” said Greencoat, who had appeared out of nowhere.

“We have to go on foot. I hope you can run as fast as I can.”

“Too dangerous. We need to get back to my house.”

“Where is your house?”

“In the center of a mountain.”

“Oh, well why not?”

“Hold onto my hand. What we are about to do is extraordinarily dangerous and may destroy our sanity and/or spinal cords. But I am afraid we have no choice. More of those things will be on the way. I am very sorry. Hold your breath. There’s won’t be any air for a while.”

“What?”

“Hold on! Wait for it…..NOW!”

The both of them seemed to jump, but none of them had moved. Now they were both in a vortex of odd lights and sounds and impressions. Simultaneously, Wacker felt like a little kid and an old lady, and she felt somehow that time wasn’t passing like it should. She had no sense of time. Was she in there for five seconds, or five centuries? She honestly could not tell.

Suddenly, there was darkness.

Was she dead?

Then all around her, tiny flames started to sprout from hundreds of candles.
They were standing in what looked like a huge cave, the walls shimmering in the surprising brightness of the candlelight. Strewn around the cave were a few old ratted-out sofas, a cooler, some stacks of books, and a military cot. It wasn’t bad, actually. Plus, it was quiet, and it felt safe, as if she were in a big granite womb.

“No way.”

“It took a while to carve out, honestly, and I cheated a bit, but not a bad place if you ask me… very quiet of course.”

She looked at the rock walls around her, and suddenly realized where she was. “In the middle of Stone Mountain. Huh.” Wacker was running her fingers along the walls of flickering granite.

“Yep, and the only way in is to teleport. Not a lot of fun, but it will keep us safe until we decide what we need to do. Granite is slightly radioactive, but it also has some other weird properties too. Basically, it will conceal us from anyone trying to find us.”

“Too bad I die in three weeks, because I could use a rest in here.”

Greencoat turned sharply and gave her an incredulous look.

She was standing in the middle of the cave, looking at the candles distractedly. He looked her over. All the parts were there, but something wasn’t right. It was as if she were in some kind of trance. Her eyes weren’t focusing on anything in particular, and she was subtly listing to one side as if she was suffering a slight vertigo.

“What did you say?”

She looked up at him, but not really at him. “I said I could use a rest in here.”

“No, that is not what you said. You said you were going to die in three weeks. You don’t remember saying that?”

Wacker shook her head slowly, her brow wrinkling as she tried to process what he said to her. “I didn’t say that.”

“Yes you did. Tell me, what are we going to eat for dinner tonight?”

“Easy, we eat those packs of beef jerky in that cooler over there. Wait..how did…it hasn’t happened yet?” Her eyelids were now twitching.

Greencoat held her by the shoulders. “I think you need to lie down now.”

“You…yes…I am…”

As she collapses, Greencoat takes her in his arms. He places her on the old cot. He tucks her in.

The trip here…it messed up something. She can’t live like this. She can’t exist all at once. She needs to forget. She needs to. It will be too much for her.

Greencoat rummages through some of his old duffel bags in the corner. After a few minutes, he finds a blue stone. It is rounded like it had been in a river for centuries, and it is about as big as a quarter. He places it on her forehead as her chest slowly goes up and down with gentle breathing.

“Forget,” Greencoat whispers. “Forget.”

She awoke slowly, almost painfully. The lights from the candles had not dimmed, but it felt later. She was starving.

She kicked off the musty sheets of the cot and went for the beef jerky in the cooler. She chewed distractedly, then drank some bottled water.

She realized she was alone.

Now she listened. A subtle whoosh of air was coming from somewhere, just audibly if she stood still and didn’t rustle her clothes. After a bit of looking around, she saw what seemed like a piece of lead pipe sticking up from the floor: venting, perhaps, leading to the outside. We do have to breathe in here, right? She accidentally kicked it over, however,and it rolled around on the ground. When she picked it up, the air was still coming through somehow. She moved it around in front of her face and then peered inside a long, impossible tunnel. Not as weird as some of the stuff I’ve seen, but still pretty weird. She placed it back where it was before.

She was still alone. Funny how much being in the center of a mountain makes you feel like you’re in the center of a mountain.

She looked at her clothes. Gross. Beef jerky and candles and no change of clothes.

Just then it struck her. She. Was. Alone. The idea sat on her like a tired elephant and would not get up.

Where is Greencoat? What if he died?What if he can’t get to her? She’ll starve to death. This safe womb would become her tomb, and no one would even know.

She was scrabbling around, but she couldn’t say what she was scrabbling around for. She might as well have been on Mars. She had no idea what she was doing or why. She was stuck, trapped, lost. She remembered something terrible. It was just a story she heard from her Grampa. Good old Grampa. There was a boy that went missing when Grampa was a boy himself, and the couldn’t find him for weeks. Finally, some junkman smelled something coming from an old fridge in his junkyard, one of those old numbers that had a handle that would lock from the outside…

She almost slapped herself. Enough uselessness. Let’s get out of here. Let’s find a way…

She crawled along the walls. Nothing. She looked up towards the ceiling. Nothing. Under the cot there was nothing, and up there was nothing and down here was nothing. NO, there is SOMETHING.

She was not going to give up. She was not going to relent. The same tenacity that made her a good cop, a pristine island surrounded by a sea of rottenness, was sustaining her now, even though, logically, she was pretty sure she was doomed.

No, I AM NOT DOOMED. This time she actually did hit herself.

But now there was something, a wisp of something that she clung to for dear life. Along one wall, very faint but still audible, she heard a slight, muffled high-pitched whine, like that of a dentist’s drill. Was he coming for her? Something must have happened, then. Before they teleported in. Something must have happened.

But now there was a new noise, a loud hissing. It was coming from the air vent…

Clouds of blue-green smoke were now billowing in. She caught a whiff of the smoke, and she nearly coughed herself bloody. Could she stop it up with a rag or something? No, there was no way she could get over there now; the smoke was too thick. She covered her face, but it was no use. The smoke was choking her to death. Her throat wasn’t working right. Everything was shutting down.

Just then, however, something happened.

She felt like she had been yanked backwards through the floor, and now she was nowhere again. There she was as a little girl sitting with Grampa, watching old television shows and eating ice cream on his old couch with the big tear in one corner. And there she was in high school, painfully inward, always walking with stacks of books in her hand. And here she was dead, lying on the ground. Blood stained the dirt all around her… her lifeless eyes stared at nothing.

This was when she was going to die. She knew it. It was as sure as if it had already happened. It was a certainty. Somehow, she knew this already. She wasn’t scared now, but she felt a numb sadness take hold of her. She felt it when she graduated from high school. Even though she didn’t really like high school, she mourned its passing. She always thought that the end of anything was sad, like all that importance and effort just withers up and blows away and leaves you with an empty space that you have to fill with the next thing, and then the next thing, again and again until you die. It was weird to her that a moment before she was basically clawing around fearfully for her life, and here she was looking at her own dead body quietly, resignedly.

At least, that’s what she was doing until the waiter came.

Greencoat and Wacker were sitting at a white table. Extending from them in all directions was a white landscape under a white sky. Wacker thought she was sitting in a huge white room, for there was no hint of a sky, just white, white, white. She fought off the sudden notion that she was a tiny insect placed by the gods into a giant box. It suddenly made her feel slightly nauseous.

The waiter was even worse. He, or it, was like a department store mannequin come to life. His form was human, but, like a mannequin, all the detail was missing, so when he looked at Wacker with smoothed-over divots where his real eyes should be, she could not resist her urge to cringe.

“And how is everybody doing today? My name is Bob. Welcome to Exitus! Here are some menus. Now, what would we like to drink tonight?”

Greencoat, graciously, did the talking, which was good because all Wacker seemed to be able to do was stare uncomfortably at the waiter.

“We will have toast and coffee please. And here’s a little something for your trouble.” Greencoat pulled out, of all things, a small plastic army man, the one with the bayonet raised over his head.

The waiter took it from his like it was the Holy Grail. He was cupping it with both hands, and Wacker swore that if he had eyes, they would be tearing up.

“Oh… t.tthank you sir! Thank you so much!”

Greencoat smiled and patted him on the shoulder, and the waiter disappeared, blinking out of existence like a fever dream.

“The currency at Exitus is color, see? This dimension doesn’t have any, so they prize it as if it were gold. They feed off of its unique spectrum. That little army man will keep them going for years.”

“I was half-expecting the waiter to attack us. It would have fit in with the rest of my life.”

“Not everything that exists is terrible. Most things are just sort of boring and flat. A small percentage of existence, however, is quite genteel. Of course, this dimension only has a few inhabitants, and they do crave the energy from colors, but they would consider it an abomination to go into other worlds and take it by force. So they have Exitus, the coziest little bistro in the universe.”

“So they sit here and wait for weirdos like us to show up? Seems like a bad business model.”

“It would be if they experienced time like you do. Meaning, if they experienced time at all. Exitus has no time.”

“What does that mean? How could anything happen if there is no time here?”

“The only time here is that created by our, mainly your, perception of it. You brought the time here. Only you really can’t age here because it would break the rules of this dimension. So your sense of time will eventually dry up and you’d be stuck for all eternity. Make sense? ”

“If you say so. I don’t like it here.”

Greencoat smiled. “Of course you don’t. A person like you would die here if you stayed too long. Your brain would shrivel up. Some humans could stand it, sitting here for an eternity, but you never sat still for long, did you? The food is good anyway.”

Just as he said this, the waiter popped back into existence, this time with a tray with two plates of toast and two cups of coffee. He sat them down in front of the two of them. Wacker looked at her coffee and toast. White, and also white. “I like mine with cream, but this is ridiculous,” said Wacker ironically.

“Oh, I am so sorry. Here you go.” The waiter pulled out three little containers of cream and set then down beside her coffee mug.

Wacker forced a smile. “Thank you very much.”

“Here, take this,” said Greencoat with no segue whatsoever.

“What is this?” She took it from him. It was a small book, by the looks of it, but it was unlike any book she had ever seen before. The cover shined like hammered gold, but when she touched it, it was supple like the finest suede, and embossed into it were what seemed like millions of tiny symbols, some grouped together like letters in a word, but a lot of them jumbled into almost scribbles, while still others were arranged to form geometric patters like repeating triangles or stair steps. In the middle of the cover was what looked to be a polished, smooth ruby, and carved into the front of it, very cleanly and plainly in a serious, all-caps, severely-serifed font, were two words.

YOLANDA WACKER.

“Now what the hell is this?” Yolanda’s face screwed up into a ball of confusion.

“You don’t need to know that right now…”

“But you can hand it to me? Don’t play games with me. I have had enough of this crap to fill two lifetimes. I don’t need…”

Greencoat held up one hand to tell her to stop. Something in his face, in the motion of his arm, compelled her to take him seriously, and, quite honestly, scared her a bit.

“I will tell you as much as I can, but you need to pay attention to me, because lives are at stake now, yours, and, possibly, many more. This is your Lifebook. It is now the most valuable thing that you own or ever will own. I want you to keep this on you at all times.”

“Why?”

“Because it is important. It is important because I found out something.”

Wacker was thumbing through the pages. More incomprehensible squiggles in odd combinations. “What did you find out?”

“I found out who is trying to kill you. And why.”

Wacker stared at him. “Why would anybody want to kill me?”
Greencoat pointed his finger at the book. “Because he read that, and he knows what I know.”

“And what is that?”

He stared right at her. “He knows that you are going to kill him.”

She glared at him. “Kill who?”

“The worst thing that ever existed. Every bad thought and feeling personified. You’d call him the Devil, but he is much much worse. And now he knows that I am helping you, which doesn’t help matters at all.”

“Wait a damn minute,” Wacker set the book aside. “You’re telling me that I am going to, for all intents and purposes, kill the Devil.”

“Yes.”

“And just how will I do that?”

“With a sword.”

“Of course. A sword.”

“But he cheated. He looked at your Lifebook. He knows your story and his part in it and he is trying to change it. That zombie at the diner wasn’t the only thing after you, and if we didn’t go into the mountain we would have never made it out of the city. You’re lucky it took him a while to figure things out, but I was ahead of him. The first time we met, I knew things about you. I saw you, beginning to end, start to finish. The Aemette just confirmed what I saw in you already, so after we fought that thing together, I knew what I had to do. So I went and got your Lifebook, but he already had it, so I had to steal it from him, which was not easy.”

“But none of it makes any sense! It’s just a bunch of squiggly lines!”

“To you it is, but to an Everlasting One, it is plain text. It was written by the Archivists, really advanced types out there, and all they do is observe, chronicle, and shelve the stories of every living thing in the universe. I mean, everything…protozoa, Henry the Fifth, trees, bees, the works.”

“Must be a lot of work to keep up with all of that,” said Wacker, wryly.

“No work at all. They did the work already, a billion years in the future. See, they are outside of time, like we are except when we inhabit human forms. To them, everything is past tense, done. They just read the books from time to time as an amusement, or so the legends claim. It must have taken some doing to get this, some real power, because normally, unless, you are, y’know, God or something, there would be no way to get into their archives and steal anything.”

“But, won’t they find the book missing, the Archivists I mean?”

“Oh they probably already know that it is missing.”

“Will they be mad if they find it on me? I mean, I don’t want them after me too.”

“If you are found, I’ll be the one to get reamed over this, but I figure if you kill the guy why stole it in the first place, then all will be square.”

“I don’t see the point anyway. I mean, this Devil guy has read this thing, and so have you, and I can’t. Why give this to me anyway?”

“Ahh!” smiled Greencoat. “Now you are asking the right questions! Why I gave you this can be found on the pages I marked towards the back.”

Wacker looked and saw that there were two pages in the back that were glowing a bright blue-green, like one of those Halloween glowsticks. When the book was closed, the pages were just two pencil-thin lines of light, but when the book was opened, the pages illuminated her whole face.

“This is the tricky part, the nasty fun part. Do you know what a human could do with their Lifebook that no one else could?”

“No idea.”

“A Lifebook is the chronal imprint of a person, meaning that after a person has lived through their time, that time is used to make these books. After all, you won’t need it after you die, right? So they take that energy and store it in these books! Isn’t that neat?”

Wacker looked down and tried to wrap her head around the idea of holding every moment of her life in her hands like some Airport novel, casually and naturally. To her credit, she managed to, but it did hurt.

“But the Devil wants to change the story? How could he do that?”

“The only way for him to change it is by killing you before you kill him. But you could change it if you had the book, which you do. Because it is your chronal energy, meaning that you could, if you wanted, use the book to travel to any point in your timeline, from birth to death. I mean, all your time is in your hands, quite literally. In some ways, as long as you lived, you would not be tied to any time, since you could go to all times in your life.”

“So the glowing pages…they are someplace that I am going to go?”

“Yes, important places where you meet people that are important. Only you are going to meet them without all the middle bits. We’re going to get to them at once, because we are going to need their help.”

“You mean I could just…skip ahead in my own story?”

“With the book, yes. The kicker is that it will make you almost impossible to track. I mean, keep your head low, but good luck getting a bead on you. It will change the story, so the second page will move to right after the first one. It is probably the greatest cheat in the history of cheats!”

“I have one question.”

Greencoat smiled. “Shoot!”

“If this is my Lifebook, my life, then why are these pages so close to the end?”

Greencoat’s smile faded.

“I die, don’t I?”

Greencoat looked down at his folded hands. “Yes.”

“I kill him, but I don’t make it.”

“Yes.”

“I’ve seen it. I remember it now. I am lying there, the sword by my side. All around me, the dead, for miles and miles.”

Greencoat straightened himself. “Listen, we are changing your story. We are messing with things. Just keep that in mind. We are going to fix things, you and I. Well, mostly you. Like I said, we’re cheating! So chin up! Remember though, these people are important. They need to be family. Maybe if you knew that going in, you’ll have a better chance. Never let them drift away. Family, do you understand.”

“I never had much of a family.”

“I know that, and maybe that was the problem before. But I am telling you now. You need them. Find a way to make them family.”

Wacker nodded uncomfortably. “Okay.”

“Oh, one more things. Two things. One: this Devil guy, he has an army of ghouls and demons and regular human tools at his beckon call. Don’t trust anyone but the two people you need to find. Hell, our bad guy has probably kicked over enough interdimensional anthills that all sorts of gross stuff is floating around out there.”

“How will I know who I am supposed to find.”

“The first is a Madwoman, and the second is a Ghost Girl.”

“Is this some sort of code.”

“No.”

“Also, and this is important…under no circumstances are you to go anywhere else in your timeline. Doing so may mess up things so badly that we’ll never sort them out.”

“Okay.”

“And another thing…you may encounter a man. A man with a sword named Galler…”

“His sword is named Galler?”

“No, he is named that. His sword is called the Monster Sword, and it looks like it sounds. Anyway, you stay away from him. He is nothing but trouble. Got it?”

“That’s three things. And I got it.”

“Now, open the book to the second marked page.”

“Second…?”

“Yes, it will be better to go out of order, really mess things up. Open it to that page, place your right hand on the page, and say your name. It is that easy.”

“Were will you be?”

“Oh I will be around. I need to take care of some things. You go though. Go on!”

She did as she was told, and she was gone.

Greencoat finished his coffee. He signaled for the waiter.

The strange milky waiter walked up to him. Greencoat smiled at him. “I would like to give you a large tip for such exquisite service.” He stood up, and unbuttoned his coat, revealing three or four huge gashes in his chest and upper stomach. “Please, if you would, enjoy my gift. Lots and lots of red.”

He collapsed in front of the waiter, who looked at the man with awe as a pool of blood started to spread underneath him. No one had ever tipped him so much before.

Copyright 2014 Brian Stacy Sweat

War Sisters – Chapter 3 – Trouble at the Pancake Palace on Peachtree Street

Previous chapter HERE

Chapter 3

Trouble at the Pancake Palace on Peachtree Street

Wacker had arrived at the Pancake Palace on Peachtree Street. However, this was no palace at all. It was a leftover greasy spoon from the 50s that had limped into the modern era and refused to die, its besmudged chrome exterior and it flickering neon signage shining defiantly in the cold, gray air of the morning. It was now 5:15 AM and Wacker was wide awake, rattled into such a state by the weird text that told her to come to this place.

She pushed her way through the Coke-bottle-green glass doors and surveyed the place. It was just barely not a dump. The floors were scuffed and dirty, the ceiling tiles all looked that they had been peed on, and the booths all had tears in the red seat vinyl with tufts of white fluff poking out. The sole customer, a homeless man by the looks of him, was slumped over a cup of coffee in the stall near the bathrooms. The waitress, an older lady with sad, baggy eyes and bad teeth, was making coffee. Wacker slowly took the seat closest to the door and, facing it, waited and watched for the sender of that text.

The waitress, who, if her badge was correct, was named Vera, came over and asked her for her order, and Wacker told her coffee and toast.

“Mmmhmm…and for your friend?”

Wacker stared blankly. “Friend?”

“I’ll have what she is having,” said the man who was now sitting in the seat right in front of hers. It was the man in the green trenchcoat, who, in the split second she was noticing the waitress, had slipped into the seat right in front of her without her noticing.

The waitress took the order. The man in the green trenchcoat smiled at Wacker. “I’ve never had toast before. What is it, a kind of animal? Or do you eat animals? I know some humans don’t.”

“How did you do that?” asked Wacker, a look of confusion and suspicion on her face.

“Coffee I have heard of but I haven’t tried. I hear its really something. Oh, I was just in the bathroom checking on some things with this body. Really, the waste removal system is something else, even if it is unsettling a bit. What do you think about that?”

Wacker narrowed her eyes. “How are you not dead?”

“Oh, well technically I can’t be dead. What is this stuff?” The man in the trenchcoat had picked up a salt shaker and shook some into his hand and tasted it. “Ah, salt! You know, this stuff can kill most trans-reality devils if you throw it in their eyes?”

Wacker crossed her arms disparagingly. “Shame we didn’t have some a few months ago when we fought that monster.”

“Oh, so you remember it all? Very good!”

“Of course I remember it all! How could I forget fighting off a monster? It happened to me, didn’t it? See these little scars here?” She was pointing to her forearms, where little puckers of discoloration showed where the monster’s fingernails had dug into her.

“Yes, but your mind didn’t invent a cover story for it. You remembered it. You faced it. That’s almost braver than the fight, the remembering. That’s rare in humans, historically. Your race does like its little visions of normalcy, doesn’t it?”

Vera the waitress brought them their coffee and toast, eying the two of them warily as they continued their unusual conversation.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“It means what it means, doesn’t it? Did you know that a town a few years ago was flattened by a horde of interdimensional giants and everyone remembered it as a . . .a . . .what do you call those storms that spin around and around?” He made a swirly motion with his index finger.

Wacker helped him, mainly to get his to stop with his finger twirling. “A hurricane? A tornado?”

The man in the green trenchcoat snapped his fingers. “That’s it! Tornado! The hurricane is the bigger one, right?”

“Okay, stop. That is damn well enough of this.” Wacker was looking at the man intently. She had had enough congeniality. Now, her cop brain kicked it. “You are going to tell me what is going on right this instant. What are you and what was that thing we fought, and why are you alive, and what’s with the stupid bat . . .”

“Oh, you brought it!” said the man happily.

“Answer my questions!” Wacker snapped loud enough that the waitress and the homeless man in the corner took notice. “Answer them right now or I’m going to take you downtown for questioning, and I can guarantee that won’t be pleasant, because I have had a crappy month, and you really don’t want me taking it out on you.”

The man seemed hurt and confused. He rubbed his head, slicking his dark hair back. “Alright. There’s absolutely no need for an emotional outburst.”

“Then answer my questions. First, who are you?”

The man fiddled with his silverware. “I am an Everlasting One.”

Wacker paused to see if more was coming. There wasn’t.

“What the hell is that? Some kind of vampire or something?”

The man shook his head incredulously. “What? No, vampires aren’t everlasting. They just live a very long time. I am an Everlasting One. I exist outside the parameters of time and space.”

“Is that why you didn’t die when that thing tore you up?”

“Well, my body died repeatedly on me, but after you tore that hole in the universe with Lord Smashingstone, I took the opportunity to shortcut through the rift to my own dimension, where time and space don’t exist. There I kept my body alive for as long as it took to knit back together. Good thing too, since it would have taken me a very long time to do that on your plane of existence. Of course, I could have switched bodies with another dead person, but I’ve grown attached to this body. I really like the hair, especially.”

Wacker held her hands up. “Wait, you mean to tell me you’re a dead guy? A zombie?”

The man seemed baffled. “Where do you get your information from, for the love of goodness? A zombie? Absurd! No, I am an Everlasting One animating the corpse of a recently-departed human, obviously.”

“That’s disgusting! Get your dead hand away from my toast!”

“I’m not rotten or anything! This body was fresh when I crawled into it. And I routinely clean it and keep it nice. It’s important to take pride in your body isn’t it?”

“Yes, but that’s not your body!”

“Well, I’m using it, and I think I do a decent job of keeping it in good shape, thank you very much.”

“Okay, okay. Fine.” Wacker shook her head gently and rubbed the bridge of her nose. She then sighed and ate a bit of her toast. “It’s just gross, is all I’m saying.”

“Y’know, I’ve got to hand it to you, Wacker, you seem to be handling this pretty well. Most human beings would have stuck their fingers in their ears and starting going la-la-la by now.”

“Well, it would be harder to believe if no evidence were left behind.”

The man in the green coat interrupted her. “Yes, but I am willing to bet that the evidence was never really looked into by anyone else was it? You supervisors and fellow officers, they just forgot about it, didn’t they? And whenever you brought it up, they got a pained expression on their faces and changed the subject, didn’t they?”

Wacker was surprised by this. “You are right. How did you . . .”

“But not you, Officer Yolanda Wacker. You never forgot, did you?”

“No. But I got attacked. I got hurt. You can’t ignore a thing like that.”

The man smiled, almost to himself. “You’d be surprised how many people do forget a thing like that.”

Wacker felt a chill run through her.

“So that’s why everything disappeared then, because it got sucked into another dimension?”

“Yes, that’s right. I am amazed that you weren’t sucked in yourself. You must have some serious business to attend to in this plane to keep you here.”

Wacker took a sip of lukewarm coffee. “One more thing. What is your name?”

The man furrowed his brow. “Name? Oh, well, hm . . .I didn’t think about that one. Our names in our dimension are a combination of musical tones and light spectra. I can’t believe I didn’t think of a human name! What a dummy I am!”

“So what do I call you? Johnny Greencoat?”

“Johnny Greencoat . . . is this a good human name?”

“Not really.”

“Well, just call me that until you think of a good name, then.”

Wacker ate some more toast. “This is some crazy crap, Johnny Greencoat.”

Greencoat laughed. “Indeed it is.” He finally picked up his coffee and distractedly took a sip, and nearly coughed it into Wacker’s face. He stared into the cup like he lost a wedding ring in it. “I think I like coffee a whole lot.”

Just then, the table that they were sitting in doubled in on itself, having been crushed by the fists of the homeless man that was sitting in the corner. Wacker didn’t have time to wonder how another person had sneaked up on her, because she was busy dodging a wild haymaker punch from this man, who upon closer inspection seemed less like a homeless man down on his luck and more like a cadaver that had been dead for a while. His skin was light blue and his eyes were rheumy and yellow.

“Let’s get out of here!” said Greencoat. The both of them scrambled out of their booths as the monster swung wildly at them.

“What about the waitress?” Wacker was yelling as they got to the door. Vera was hollering like a wounded dog in the back corner, her senses shocked briefly out of her by the current scene.

“She’ll be fine. It’s after us. It will ignore everyone else. Its got a spell on it to keep it on our trail like a bloodhound.”

“Why is that?” asked Wacker.

They both barreled through the doors. Greencoat paused and looked back, a gleam of strange admiration in his eyes.

“Because, my dear officer, that is what a zombie looks like!”

The Man Who Killed the World – a short story by Brian Stacy Sweat

The Man Who Killed the World

a short story by Brian Stacy Sweat

I walk alone in a overgrown patch of weeds called Highway 75. I sniff the air and it smells sweet, sweeter than I can remember. Of course, that’s probably because I am the last human on Earth.

This was a busy highway once, filled with angry commuters driving crappy little beige and gray cars to their gray and beige offices to surf the web and, occasionally, do some work. It was America, the Dream. Now, cracks are showing, and through those cracks sneak little shoots of dandelion and other former weeds peeking at me like green pixies from the magical earth. Now I sit in the middle of the road, in a place devoid of crashed cars and debris, and look out from atop my little kingdom. Far in the distance, there is a forest of towering billboards, the newer electronic ones, that are now as blank and inscrutable as the stones in Stonehenge. Fast food joints and gas stations and other roadside stores in the distance were rapidly being overtaken by mold and kudzu vines and moss, some becoming indistinguishable from hills and rocks. I wonder how long it will take before they are swallowed up by the Earth?

I crack open a can of Vienna sausages and eat them. I wash them down with a warm can of soda. I watch the indifferent Sun rise as it has always done. It will set too as it always has. It matters not that I am the only one around to appreciate its majesty and beauty. It matters not that I am the only one to see the stars at night. I have long since realized that the world really didn’t care if we were on it or not.

And now here I am in the remnants of what humankind found so important, its cars, its food, its buildings stuffed with hard drives full of information, its forms in triplicate, its bank accounts, its shoes and ties and suits. No one is around to appreciate these things either. Well, I am around, but I never appreciated them in the first place.

I suppose that is why I was picked out of everyone else. I never felt too involved with the human race. Sure, I played along as well as anyone, said whatever nonsense they wanted me to say, did the song and dance that we all did. But I as always acutely aware that it was nonsense. I never felt too involved in things that I should have been, like politics, religion, jobs, social statuses, and, well, everything. I always felt like somebody was playing an elaborate trick on me, like someday the curtain would rise, and some powerful Greek-god version of Allen Funt would come out and say, “Aha! Got you! We really had you going, didn’t we?” and I would breathe a sigh of relief and we’d laugh.

But then one day, funnily enough, something like that happened to me.

It was a cold day in December when I was approached by two very clean-cut and dapper gentlemen while I was walking home from my dismal little job. They asked me to come with them to a coffee place downtown, explaining that they had a business proposition for me. Having nothing better to do, and being slightly intrigued by these two men, I went with them.

When we got there, it was very busy. People were hustling and bustling all around us as we ordered some espressos. I got a closer look at the two gentlemen. It seemed upon closer scrutiny that these gentlemen were either brothers or twin brothers, since one looked a lot like the other. However, the strangest thing about the two men was not their similarity with each other, but their utter lack of distinguishing features. I mean, they had faces, and their noses and eyes and mouths were in the right place, but these features were so generic that to this day I could not specifically describe either of them. In my mind, they have the indeterminate features of characters from dreams half-remembered after waking.

They handed me something that looked like the box that a wedding ring would come in, only it was black and metallic. They asked me politely to open it and I did. In the box, there was what looked like an old-style toggle switch, and above it was a square panel of plastic that had the words THE END printed on it in stark white letters.

They told me that this was the switch to end the human race. They laid out their proposition: if I didn’t flip the switch, I would be awarded with a billion dollars, but if I did, the human race would disappear, and I would be the last person on Earth. They told me that my choice was important because out of the whole of the current population of the Earth, I was the most, as they put it, “impartial.” I asked them how in the world they could ever determine that. I also asked them how in the world they ever thought I was dumb enough to fall for their little song and dance.

Just then, one of the gentlemen reached out and grabbed my wrist. In an instant, I saw and I understood. This test is built within the fabric of reality itself. This test has happened on innumerable other worlds going back to the dawn of time. Whenever a civilization gets to a certain population level, the test is administered. One representative from the entire world is picked for his utter impartiality, and this person alone decides if his or or her race will live on. In a flash I saw the fate of billions of world play out, and on some the switch is turned on and some it is not. It was that simple. Some races live and some races die.

The gentleman let go of my wrist and asked me if I understood the importance of the test. I said that I think that I understood. I asked if it hurt people if the switch was turned on, because it struck me that it would be cruel to hurt others. They assured me that no one would feel a thing. They would just blink out of existence, just like that.

I would like to say that I gave it awhile to mull it over, but I turned on that little THE END light after a scant few minutes of deliberation. Suddenly, all the people around me were gone, leaving behind their lattes and espressos steaming into the vacant air. The two gentlemen were gone, and the switch was gone. I went out into the street. No one. I went from building to building to building. Not one person. I was now completely alone.

I think back now to why I did it, and I try to imagine what I would be doing now if I allowed the human race to live. I tried to imagine all the cars around me filled with their owners, all the restaurants filled with the clatter of silverware and the chatter of men and women. I tried also to think of my past. I tried to think of warm memories and fun times and friends and family, but somehow I can’t remember anything of the sort. I know I had a life, but I cannot for the life of me remember much about it. I know that I met thousands and thousands of people, but I have no specific memories of any of them. It is as if they were erased not only from existence, but from memory too. I know that they should be there, but there is only a void there in the shape of a person in my mind, a perpetual haze of faces that I cannot see and voices that I cannot hear.

Anyway, I need to find somewhere to sleep soon. I’ve sat here eating Vienna sausages all day long, but now I really need to find a bed somewhere, in some house owned by some forgotten somebody. Daytime is okay. The indifferent sun makes it okay. But at night, under an indifferent moon and indifferent stars, it starts up so bad that I have to pile covers and pillows on my head until I pass out from exhaustion. Every night the faceless voices echo louder and louder in my brain, and I have to hum to myself to keep out their incoherent screams.

Copyright 2014 Brian Stacy Sweat

Stall – A One-Act Play by Brian Stacy Sweat

Stall

A Play By Brian Stacy Sweat

(Empty, dark stage. Slowly, weird lights and music fade in. Our hero, John Stack, walks to the center of the stage, as spotlights of various colors and intensities dance about him. He is dressed in a t-shirt and boxers, and has lanky black hair that hangs over deep-set eyes.)

Stack: (monologue) I feel like a fish in frozen water, and I watch the thing change colors and stare at me. Every smell is a color and every color’s a smell, and every flash of light is another universe blinking in and out, and it sees me and it feels like it’s shaking its infinite head at me like I should know something important but don’t. What is it?

(Lights up on a big fulminating cauldron. Beside it, a mannequin strikes a pose. She is painted in a myriad of colors, but still totally naked. A monstrous, black-clad figure, face fully painted in a disturbing pattern, jauntily steps up to the cauldron and starts casually dismantling the mannequin while whistling a jaunty tune. After he puts a few body parts in, he stirs the pot a bit with a big spoon, and then looks directly at Stack…)

Monster: Y’know, I’m a really great guy. I really think you’d like me . . . I’m really nice…hahahahaahahahahaha

(The monster’s laughter echoes as the lights go down. Suddenly, an clock radio goes off…

Clock: TONIGHT ONLY AT THE RAMPY MEMORIAL AMPHITHEATER ITS TURBO MONSTER TRUCK CRUSH TIME EXCITEMENT AS WINSTON “THE ELIMINATOR” LE FRISSON ATTEMPTS TO BREAK HIS RECORD OF 14 PANZER TANKS IN ONE JUMP WITH HIS LEGENDARY MOTORCYCLE “WRECKSCALIBUR”!!! PREPARE FOR CARNAGE AS 24 MONSTER TRUCKS BATTLE HEAD ON FOR GLORY IN THE…

(Stack, upon hearing this, springs out of his bed with a start and fumbles awkwardly with the off switch)

Stack: Jeez, I’m gonna be late for work….

(Curtain)

(Scene goes dark, lights come up on a string of three office cubicles. Stack is a mailboy, and he goes to the first cubicle and gives out mail)

Stack: Good morning.

Lilly: Oh, good morning to you. How are you doing this morning?

Stack: I’m doing just fine, and how are you?

Lilly: Great. Really good. Feeling just…just fine this morning. (Awkward laughter) Need some coffee, though

(They both laugh. As Lilly talks, the lighting shifts, turning a pale green. As she rubs her eyes, dark circles appear around her eyes. When she laughs, black fluid trickles out of the corners of her mouth.)

Stack: (Awkwardly, but calmly) Welp, take care now.

Lilly: You too.

(Stack walks a bit and pauses)

Stack: (aside) That’s Lilly. She’s worked here for years before I ever started. I see her every day, but I really don’t know her that well. I mean, such is the nature of this job — you come around and deliver the mail, say a few trite office-type phrases, and then move along. So, when the consolation card that went around the office came my way, I didn’t pay much attention. It was a cheesy card, y’know, lighthouses and seagulls on the cover, nice pastels. And in cursive, on the front of it, “Thinking of You in Your Time of Loss.” A dead husband, and she’s not even that old yet.

(Stack shakes his head, then starts to move, then stops, as if he just remembered what he wanted to say)

Stack: (Still aside) I wonder how many people can see she’s dying.

(Stack starts to continue again, but again something crosses his mind…)

Stack: (Still aside) Or, maybe not dying, I dunno. She’s young…ish, still. That face I saw isn’t always just on people who are dying. Either way, it’s hard to keep up the small talk, y’know. I do wonder if anyone else notices though, if there’s anyone else just going through the office-style chumminess like I am. It’s hard to tell. It’s all so…manufactured here. But I do wonder if anyone else can see it. I wonder…

(Stack goes to the next cubicle. Seems very dark, full of shadows)

Stack: Good morning.

Gladys: Hmph.

Stack: Here’s your mail.

Gladys: Just put it down, thank you.

Stack: OK….uh…see you later…

(Gladys says nothing. She somehow always looks like she is in shadow, like light has trouble escaping from her).

Stack: That’s Gladys. She just started working here a few weeks ago. I don’t know why she’s so…angry? Depressed? She always looks like she’s far away, even when she is right in front of you. I’ve seen people like her: long shadows cast from vast distances. And yet miraculously, knowing what I know and seeing what I see, I still hate her.

(Stack rolls on to the next cubicle)

Stack: Morning.

(Rainbow is a colorful person, literally. She has unnaturally yellow hair, done up with motley bows in a weird ponytail. Her makeup is glittery and colorful without being garish, and she is wearing a motley dress. She greets him enthusiastically.)

Rainbow: Good morning!

Stack: Here’s your mail.

Rainbow: Wow. “Here’s Your Mail.”

Stack: Huh?

Rainbow: Oh, sorry, but that’s all you ever seem to say.”Here’s Your Mail.”

Stack: Well…I…am the mail guy.

Rainbow: Yeah, but, y’know, you could say something other than “Here’s Your Mail.”

Stack: Um…like what?

Rainbow: Like, hey, y’know, that’s an interesting pair of shoes you have on there. Or, like, hey, do you ever listen to Tom Petty, or…

Stack: You want me to look at your shoes?

Rainbow: What? No, not necessarily, but, y’know, like I don’t even really know your name. How much small talk needs to take place before I learn the secret of your mysterious name…?

Stack: Don’t you know my name?

Rainbow: Why would I know your name? You never introduced yourself..

Stack: Oh, well, it’s Stack. Um..John Stack. But everyone calls me just Stack.

Rainbow: Just Stack. Okay, now we are getting somewhere. Wasn’t so hard, was it. I’m…

Stack: Rainbow McGillicuddy

Rainbow: How..oh, right…the mail guy…isn’t it weird to know everyone’s name without knowing everyone?

Stack: Not really. Are you always this inquisitive with random people?

Rainbow: I see you every day at 8 am. That is the exact opposite of random. Am I bothering you?

Stack: No..

Rainbow: Because, see, I like to actually get to know people, especially interesting people.

(There’s a slight, awkward pause, as both of them try to figure out if that was an embarrassing statement).

Rainbow: …by that I mean …mysterious. (fumbles for a word)

Stack: Oh, well…okay…less mysterious now.

Rainbow: Yes.

Stack: I do like Tom Petty.

Rainbow: Me too.

Stack: And …those are very pretty shoes.

Rainbow: Really?

Stack: Yes. I like them very much.

Rainbow: Thank you.

(a beat)

Stack: Well…

Rainbow: Well…?

Stack: Uh, any other questions for me?

Rainbow: I do have just one more. How…

(Her phone rings.)

Rainbow: Who calls at 8:00? Hold on a sec.

(As soon as Rainbow pics up the phone, a high-pitched feedback-type of squeal is heard. Stack grabs his ears in pain, but Rainbow does not notice. She continues talking on the phone:)

Rainbow: (over the phone in a coquettish manner) Oh……hi Devin! You surpised me! What….you are? Okay….no, I’ve never been there before. No. Yes. Monster Truck Show? Wild. If that seems like fun to you, then I’m game. Okay then, see you at five? Out in front of the building. No, the other street. Yeah, ok then. Byeee.

(As soon as she hangs up the phone, the high-pitched whine stops)

Rainbow: Hey, you okay?

Stack: (Regaining composure) Uh…yeah. Muscle spasm. Who does call that early, anyway?

Rainbow: (sheepishly) Oh…this guy I met. We’re goin’ out after work. (very awkwardly) He’s really great…I think you’d like him, he’s really…nice.

Stack: (sudden realization) What did you say…?

Rainbow: Yes, well, y’know, he had this extra ticket, and, y’know how that goes…I mean, it’s nothing serious. We’re going to a monster truck show. That’s not serious, y’know.

Stack: Unm…yeah.

Rainbow: Yeah.

(Awkward silence)

Stack: OK, well…(putting a facade back up)…good. It sounds like you guys will be having a lot of fun.

Rainbow: Yeah, well, you know….

Stack: Yeah.

(very awkward pause)

Stack: Welp, see you later.

Rainbow: Ok. See you.

Stack gives a long look of dawning consternation

(weird music starts, weird lights fade in. Curtain.)

ACT II

(Curtain up on Stack miming walking with the mailcart, face-on with the audience.)

Stack: Work ends at 5. That’s a long time to wait. At least it gives me time to come up with a plan. How should I handle this?

(behind him, a melodramatic scene is taking shape. Rainbow, dressed in a flowing dress, is being menaced by the same monster from the earlier dream.)

Monster: Now, my dear, you will be my bride, or else! Bwahahahah!

Rainbow: Never, you fiend! I’ll never marry such verminous scum.

Monster: Oh, you’ll marry me …if you want your father and mother to live!

Rainbow: Inhuman monster!

Monster:Mwahahahahahaha!!!!

(Suddenly, Stack swings in like Errol Flynn, only it is Stack’s projection of himself (AKA a different actor). As such, it is way more buff and handsome than the real Stack, and even though they are wearing the same clothing, the projection manages to make the plain-jane white shirt and green tie look sexy and mysterious. He is brandishing a rapier.)

Stack: Not so fast, fool!

Rainbow: Stack!

Monster: Witless underling! You cannot possibly defeat me!

Stack: Think again, villain. My steel will make short work of you!

Monster: (pulls out his own rapier) Not so short, it would seem.

Stack: Then let us dance, you and I!

Monster: Have at you!

(The two lunge at each other. A furious swordfight takes place. The Monster gets it in the heart.)

Monster: Alas, I am slain!

Stack: It’s no worse than you deserve!

Monster: I’m coming home, Mother! (dies)

Stack: A sweet homecoming awaits him….in hell!

Rainbow: My hero!

Stack: Yes.

(The two embrace, as cheesy music swells. Lights go down. Lights up on the real Stack, who is still where he was.)

Stack: No, no. Do not embellish. It won’t be like that. Think about the facts. You always forget about the facts. It’s probably just a guy…it has to be just a guy, but a fast talker, a smoothie. He has to be someone you wouldn’t pay attention to unless you were paying attention to him.

(Behind Stack, this new image of a “player” guy, real smooth, real fancy clothes, gel in his hair, but nothing too gaudy. That perfect mix of panache and vanilla-bland-nothingness that women seem to go far more often than they should.)

Stack: Yes, he’s got it all figured out. He’s confident, aloof. Everything orchestrated to get what he wants, nothing beyond that.

Devin: (from behind him) I’m really great…I think you’d like me, I’m really…nice.

Stack: Of course you are. That’s you whole game, isn’t it. They’d never suspect…no one ever suspects. That’s the whole problem with humanity: we have faith in the sanity of strangers when all evidence points against it. We’re always surprised when the inevitable happens, like it has never happened before, even though it always has. But I can tell, Devin. At least one person can tell. And I won’t let you harm her..

(from behind him, The Monster version of Devin pipes up)

Monster: Ooooh, you won’t let us hurt her! (to Devin, mockingly) Oh heavens, I guess…..I better fold my cards and go back to church camp. Hehehehehh! How melodramatic can you get! You’re a regular Galahad, off to save the princess on your charging white steed, huh. Feh! Can’t you tell that the truth of the matter is that no one gives a crap what happens to her. No one cares about anybody but themselves! All this lofty crap!

Stack: That’s not true.

Devin: (puts arm around Monster) I think we are right on this one, don’t you think so, pal?

Monster: Without a hint of doubt. The only reason you want to “save” her is to make your life, your little-mail-clerk-who-gives-a-crap life, and turn it into some grand adventure, something worth recording in storybooks. How pathetic.

Stack: No.

Devin: It’s a fact. You’ve got some kinda magic sense? Sure you do.

Monster: You had a dream, so now God or whoever’s sent you on some holy mission?

Devin: You have to admit, it does sound crazy. And, lest we forget….(dramatic pause) you have been wrong before.

Stack: Once.

Monster: A big once.

Stack: It doesn’t count.

Devin: Why not?

Stack: I was…drunk.

Monster: (laughing) Oh, yes, that makes it so much better. Punching that old man in the face…please Mr. Officer, I’m drunk, so it doesn’t count.

Stack: I though he….

Devin: What? Had a gun?

Stack: A knife.

Monster: An old man with a knife! At his son’s wedding!

Stack: Look, that was…that was years ago. I was a teenager. I was stupid.

Devin: Remember the look on your sister’s face when she saw you standing over her soon-to-be father-in-law, all splayed out in the wedding cake.

Monster: I mean, what the hell were you thinking…?

Stack: I still think that there is something wrong with him. That was the impulse. It was so much booze, and, when he put his hand on my shoulder…

Monster: Five across his damn eyes, for no reason. Whap! Friggin hilarious.

Devin: Is that how you’re gonna handle us, Stack?

Monster: Give us a fat lip so Little Miss Hippie can nurse us back to health, her sweet, pouty lips kissing our boo-boos?

Stack: No, I’m not so dumb now.

Devin: By that you mean less drunk.

Stack: That’s right. I just need to be subtle.

Monster: That rules out swordplay.

Stack: I guess I’ll just have to…stall or something…

Devin: Stall?

Devin: That’s not much of a plan.

Stack: No, but sometimes just being there is enough

(pause)

Devin: That. . . was the corniest thing I’ve ever heard.

Gladys: (storming onstage) You! Mailboy!

(The figments of Stack’s imagination run away.)

Stack: Uh..wha…

Gladys: Gimme my mail! You’re even later than usual, and my boss is breathing down my damn neck about his damn mail!!!

Stack: Oh….uhm…….(fumbles) Here you go.

Gladys: Hmph.(Exeunt)

Stack: (Checks watch) Oh crap! It’s 4:30 already….

ACT 3

(Lights up on Rainbow waiting on the street. She is dressed for cold weather. Sounds of traffic everywhere. She is checking her watch. After a moment, the real Devin appears. He is dressed in a black overcoat and a black suit. He has moussed hair. He is unlike the Devins in Stack’s mind — hence, he’s a totally different actor.)

Devin: Hey!

Rainbow: Oh, there you are.

Devin: Sorry, I had to park up the street. (Kisses her on the cheek).

Rainbow: It’s okay. I was just dying of boredom is all.

Devin: Well, I’ve got the cure. (brandishes tickets) 40cc’s of Monster Truck Excitement!

Rainbow: Oh yeah…

Devin: Remember, I told you, over the phone….

Rainbow: (disingenuous) Oh, yes, right. Sounds awesome…

Devin: I swear it will be a blast.

Rainbow: (sigh) It’s a little bizarre date fodder, though, dontcha think

Devin: Trust me on this one.

Rainbow: I dunno. (slightly squeamish alla sudden) Aren’t monster trucks really…loud? I mean, like jet engine loud?

Devin: (reeal smooth) Honey, it’s going to be a fun time, I promise you. And afterwards, I’ll take you somewhere really nice.

Rainbow: Oh, I don’t mean to be a jerk, it’s just, I don’t like loud noises, is all.

Devin: It’s really not that bad. (laughs) You make it sound like I’m trying to torture you or something.

Rainbow: No, I’m…no, it’ll be fun. We’ll have fun.

Devin: There now that’s the spirit. Y’know, I’m real glad to be going out with a girl who’ll try something new. You’re a very open-minded person, and that’s rare.

Rainbow: (half-flattered and half-vaguely-suspicious) Yeah, well, that’s sweet.

Devin: Welp, I’m parked thataway, so we’d better…

Rainbow: Oh, yes. Let’s…

(Suddenly, Stack “casually” comes walking the other way. He looks at his feet until he passes the two of them.)

Stack: Oh, hello!

Rainbow: (surprised, and a bit happy) Hey, its you.

Stack: Rainbow.

Rainbow: John.

Stack: Well, well, well fancy meeting you here. What a strange coincidence.

(Feeling awkward, Stack overplays his part by explaining what he is doing there)

Stack: I was just…uh…waiting..looking for my ride, a friend of mine, who was supposed to be here by now.

(a slight pause.)

Rainbow: You look cold.

Stack: No, I’m not cold. I’m…I’m used to it now, I mean, by now, the cold weather in the city I’m used to it. I mean.

(a slight pause.)

Devin: Rainbow, dear, aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend.

Rainbow: This is John Stack. John, this is Devin.

Devin: Pleased to meet you.

(He stretches out his hand for a handshake. Ominous tones start to play. After a beat, Stack shakes. He acts as if he just touched a corpse).

Stack: Pleased.

Devin: So, you work with Rainbow, huh. That must be exciting.

Stack: (disingenuous) Sure is.

Devin: It must be nice to have friends to talk to at work.

Stack: Oh, um, yeah it’s…

Rainbow: Oh yes, we talk all the time.

Devin: Really.

Rainbow: It’s amazing sometimes the conversations we have. My stars. Sometimes I have to give him a horse tranquilizer just to shut him up.

(Devin laughs, just a bit too much. Rainbow laughs a bit, not taking her eyes off Stack. Stack does a really fake laugh. Like a bad segue, Devin looks at his watch.)

Devin: Well, I’d hate to cut this short, but we do need to get going.

Stack: Oh. So, where are you guys going tonight?

Rainbow: It’s a…monster truck show.

Devin: It’s really great.

Stack: Y’know, I’ve always wondered what that would be like, a monster truck show.

Devin: Well, I would definitely invite you along, but I only have the two tickets, and the event is completely sold out, so…

Rainbow: It’s very loud, I hear.

Stack: (picking up on something) Yeah, I’ve heard that those engines really, um, let loose and are pretty loud at times…

Devin: It’s not really…

Rainbow: I heard the same thing, actually, but Devin said that…

Devin: …that bad. It’s really a lot of fun.

Rainbow: …it’s not so bad. So, I am being adventurous tonight. As long as it’s not too loud…

Stack: Well, you know, I heard some, some really scary stories about these kinds of events.

Rainbow: Scary?

Devin: There’s nothing scary about…

Stack: Oh yeah, some scary stuff can happen. (a pause, as Stack confabulates). I heard this one time a piece of a blown tire shot up into the stands, and, there was this little kid, like six or seven, that was standing, leaning over the railing, and this piece of tire hit the kid and he fell like 20 feet.

Rainbow: Oh, that’s awful…

Devin: I don’t think…

Stack: And that’s not really the worst of it. (rolling with it…) When he fell, he landed right in..a… one of those big fans that, y’know, cools the crowd off when it’s hot, and, well…

Rainbow: Oh my sweet goodness…

Devin: I don’t think anything like that actually happened.

Stack: Oh yes it did, because I…saw it on the..Outdoorsman Network…a special on extreme, uhm, monster truck accidents one night. It was a…it was rated for mature audiences, I’ll put it that way.

Rainbow: (Truly horrified) Can you imagine, though, something like that happening?

Devin: But…(bemused laughter) things like that can happen anywhere.

Rainbow: Huh?

Devin: (annoyed and backpedaling) I mean…a lotta people go to these things, and they are perfectly fine afterwards. Nothing happens to them. Sometimes one person will have a bad experience and it was on tape and the tape winds up on the Outdoors Channel.

Stack: Outdoorsman Network.

Devin:(slightly chagrinned). Right. The Outdoorsman Network.

Rainbow: I…I suppose you’re right.

Stack: Yeah, its, y’know its probably not as bad as I am making it out to be.

Devin: There, you see?

Stack: Although…(a pause stops Devin and Rainbow from leaving) I would be very careful where you sat. I mean, when those trucks get going, they really kick up a lotta dirt.

Rainbow: Really?

Stack: Oh yeah. It’s like that big Killer Whale show in Florida, only with mud, y’know…

Rainbow: Gross.

Devin: It’s not…

Rainbow: Is it muddy?

Devin: Well, there is mud there.

Rainbow: Well, I didn’t think about that.

Devin: What?

Rainbow: If there’s gonna be mud, I need to go get my jogging shoes.

Devin: Huh?

Rainbow: They’re just up in my office; I can run and get them real quick. I won’t last long in fancy shoes.

Devin: B..but…we’ll be late.

Rainbow: Oh, I’ll be fast, don’t you worry. I’ll be right back. Just chat with John for company.

(Rainbow leaves)

Devin: You must watch the Outdoorsman Network a whole lot.

Stack: I like to watch all kinds of things.

Devin: Apparently so.

(awkward pause)

Stack: So, what do you do?

Devin: Oh, I do a little of this, a little of that…

Stack: I mean job-wise.

Devin: well, mostly I’m into…well…let’s call it distribution supervising.

Stack: And what item do you supervise the distribution of?

Devin: (a pause) Recreational material.

Stack: Sounds in-depth.

Devin: It can be.

(Suddenly, the Monster appears and starts talking to Stack…)

Monster: Well, what are you waiting for? Lop his damn head off!

Stack: You shut up. I’m winning this one.

Monster: You haven’t won anything. You have no idea what you are doing, do you?

Stack: I stalled them a bit, didn’t I?

Monster: Yeah, but she’s still gonna go with him after all that. Little kids falling into fans, and she’s still gonna go.

Stack: I am still here. I can still do this.

Monster: You don’t even know what’s gonna happen. You don’t know what to do at all.

Stack: I know that this guy is a tool. That at least is self-evident.

Monster: In that case, you’d better get busy, because you’re in a world of damn tools, and they all have dates tonight.

Devin: My job, though, is a pretty fun one, and it lets me experiment and improvise. But I’m sure you wouldn’t care about that, what with your exciting job and all…

Stack: You’re probably right. I probably wouldn’t care…

Devin: Experimentation is the hallmark of innovation, wouldn’t you agree?

Stack: Huh?

Devin: And innovation is the direct result of experimentation. Take for example, what I have planned tonight.

Stack: (confused by his suddenly strange statements) Aren’t you watching monster trucks tonight?

Devin: Sure, but I also have other plans. Come here and let me tell them to you…

(Devin comes over and whispers into Stack’s ear. Stack grows horrified. Weird lights and weird music come on).

Devin: I would invite you along, but, as I only have two tickets, and my car is only a two seater, I guess you’re stuck out here in the cold all by yourself. Too bad really. So, is there anything else we can chat about until Rainbow comes back. No? That honestly is a shame. I was so enjoying our little conversation…

(It looks like Stack is about to jump the guy, but here comes Gladys, who bumps into Devin)

Gladys: Watch where you’re going, you…YOU! It’s you, you inhuman…

Devin: (cooly) Now take it easy, Gladys. Remember, your heart…

Gladys: You shut up! Just shut up! I ought to kill you right here for what you did to my granddaughter.

Devin: But she enjoyed it, Gladys. Every blessed minute of it. I swear.

Gladys: You’re gonna pay for what you did, you filthy pervert.

Devin: Oh no. I’d better hide. Wait, on second thought…

(Devin pulls out a gun and shoots her)

Devin: I really should have warned you about that. And probably also about this.

(Devin shoots her 3 or 4 more times)

(a shocked pause)

Monster: I didn’t see that coming…

Devin: Why wouldn’t you?

(a shock runs through both Monster and Stack. How could he see Stack’s imaginary monster…?)

Devin: After all, I am a monster, like you, low-down and dirty, cold as a Montana well. How else can you explain this…?

(Devin shoots the Monster, who falls down dead).

Stack: How are you doing this?

Devin: What’s the use in explaining? You are insignificant and stupid. Just know that I can do anything I want to anybody I want. Nothing on this Earth can stop me. Absolutely nothing and no one.

Stack: But…

(Devin shoots him.)

Devin: There. All better now. You can rest now.

Stack: I….I can still… stop you, I…

Devin: You are mistaken, I’m afraid. She won’t let you stop me. For you see, she’s already taken the bait. She’ll take a bullet for me. She won’t bother to peek behind the curtain. It will never occur to her that this is all a sham, because, deep down, she needs this, far more than she needs your flaccid protection.

Stack: N…no…..

(Rainbow comes back. She does not seem to notice all the carnage)

Rainbow: Okay, now we are ready. Hey…where did John go?

Devin: He said he had some muffins in the oven, so he left.

Stack: (faintly) Nooo….Rainbow…I’m here…..don’t………don’t………

Rainbow: Oh well, I guess we should get a move on.

Devin: Oh yes, we have a long night ahead of us….

Stack…no…..wait…….come back…….come back………(collapses)

(stage goes dark for an uncomfortable amount of time)

(All of a sudden, a radio alarm clock goes off…)

Clock: TONIGHT ONLY AT THE RAMPY MEMORIAL AMPHITHEATER ITS TURBO MONSTER TRUCK CRUSH TIME EXCITEMENT AS WINSTON “THE ELIMINATOR” LE FRISSON ATTEMPTS TO BREAK HIS RECORD OF 14 PANZER TANKS IN ONE JUMP WITH HIS LEGENDARY MOTORCYCLE “WRECKSCALIBUR”!!! PREPARE FOR CARNAGE AS 24 MONSTER TRUCKS BATTLE HEAD ON FOR GLORY IN THE…

(Suddenly, Rainbow wakes up screaming. She fumbles for the off switch)

Rainbow: What the hell was that? What kind of. . .? Why did….Who was……..good God. Oh good God.

(Curtain)

(Rainbow is at work now. She looks pensive and disturbed. All of a sudden, the phone rings. After many rings, she tentatively picks up the receiver.)

Rainbow: No…no…I’m sorry….I can’t. I just can’t. In fact, don’t call me here anymore. Goodbye.

(She slams the receiver down. Stack walks up to deliver her mail…)

Stack: Here’s your mail.

Rainbow: Wow. “Here’s Your Mail.”

Stack: Huh?

Rainbow: Oh, sorry, but that’s all you ever …(she trails off)

Stack: What?

Rainbow: Oh, um, nothing…listen, you’re John Stack, right?

Stack: (quizzically) Yes…

Rainbow: The mail guy…

Stack: Yes…

Rainbow: Great, well, ah, well can I ask you a weird question?

Stack: I suppose…

Rainbow: Do you like….monster trucks?

Stack: Come again?

Rainbow: Monster trucks….do you like them?

Stack: I…guess so. Why, um, do you ask?

Rainbow: Well, this might seem weird, and I may seem weird for asking you this, but, well, my grandfather is pretty rich, but he’s pretty senile, so I usually end up getting birthday presents that are weird. And so, what do I receive on January 4 (which incidently is not my birthday) but these two tickets to the monster truck show tonight. The point is that I’ve never gone to anything like this, and I don’t know what it will be like, what kind of people will be there and so forth. I mean, this is not what I normally…how I normally spend my free time, you understand? But my grandfather paid through the nose for these stupid things, and I might as well go to it, even though I really don’t want to, and even though, like I said before, this is not how I normally spend my free time.

(Stack struggles to comprehend the meaning of all this).

Stack: Um…..what?

Rainbow: What?….What do you mean “what”?

Stack: Are you asking me out? To a monster truck show?

Rainbow: Well, I’d like you to accompany me please.

Stack: Uh…you do realize that we have never actually spoken to one another ever.

Rainbow: Yes.

Stack: And that you have no idea what kind of person I am, and I have no idea what kind of person you are?

Rainbow: Look, I just have this, this feeling that I should ask you to come with me. You seem like a really great guy,… and I think you’d like me.

Stack: Hm.

Rainbow: I’m really…nice.

(There is an incredibly long pause)

Stack: Okay.

Rainbow: Great. Meet me here at 5.

(Stack walks off. Rainbow sighs a little, and smiles a bit to herself. The phone rings, she looks at it, then immediately picks it up and slams it back down).

THE END

Copyright 2014 Brian Stacy Sweat