Friday, October 31, 2014

The First Annual Halloween Story: Benny (Part Six)




Part Six: Gary drank three more beers and thought about Shelia. Gary knew better. He knew better than to socialize. He knew better than to even think about a woman. But they were all screwed anyway, right? Hell, he was doing all the dirty work and chances were he’d be the last one eaten, but he was still a dead man. “Keepers”? Is that how people saw him? Gary knew it was. He might die tomorrow, just one day later than some, six months later than most, but he was still a dead man. They were all going to die, horribly, and there wasn’t anything he really wanted more than just to talk to a woman, that woman, right now. But he knew better. He knew he was talking himself into more trouble than he needed, or she needed, or anyone else needed. But Gary kept walking towards the elevator. The doors opened and Gary blinked. There was no one, and nothing, inside. He pushed the button for the second floor and in a few seconds the doors opened again. There was no one there and nothing there. 209 was on the left, three doors down. It was odd to see people sitting on their beds watching movies as if the world was still the same. The doors were gone, but people were doing people things. They had adjusted to it enough to pretend that death couldn’t just walk in and take them at any moment.

209 has been stenciled on the wall next to the doorway and Gary wondered how people announced themselves. He had never been in anyone else’s room before, not unless there was a body, or parts of a body to remove. Gary had stepped into the doorway before he realized what he was doing. It was a shock to see two people in bed doing anything but the act of lovemaking, so close to a public hallway, stopped Gary in his tracks. Benny was on top of Shelia, she was thrusting away in time with his body, and Gary just eased back into the hall. Why wouldn’t they be making love? Gary discovered he was not only jealous but he was angry. Not twenty minutes after she had come to him for a new room she was breaking it in with another man. Gary tried to fight back against the irrational emotion flooding through his body but the more he fought it the deeper it got. He stormed through the lobby without looking around and walked out into the street. It was the beer talking, Gary told himself, and the stress. For all he knew Benny was a decent person and hell, Gary paused to consider this, he had hired the man. How could he be jealous over a woman he had seen twice, well three times if the last time counted, and a man he had only met once? Hell, Benny seemed like he could be an asset…

One of the monsters was standing right in front of him and Gary nearly bumped into it. In the harsh glare of the street light the iridescent scales looked obscenely colorful. Gary took a step back then forced himself to stand still. He tried to empty his mind.


“Bennnnnny” the creature said and it stood up and walked around Gary as if it were a dog sniffing another. Gary closed his eyes and tried to think about the collection for the week, the number of people he had, over or under for the feeding, he tried to think about anything but the creature nudged him with its snout. “Bennnnnnnny” it said and it nudged Gary hard enough to push him forward.

Gary knew what was going to happen next. They had done this before but this was the first time he had gotten someone killed over a woman. Gary tried not the think about as the creature’s pointed feet ticked away on the pavement as it danced around him like a dog happy to see its master, “Bennnnny! Bennnnnny!” Gary thought of numbers, of herding people into the stadium, or how they might get more and how he might get the rails running again. Gary had trained himself, had steeled himself hundreds of times against letting the monsters into his brain, to think about nothing and nothing and nothing and…

“Sheeeeeliaaaa” the monster reared up on its hind legs and pranced as the though came unbidden into Gary’s mind. There was no more hiding now. Gary’s greatest fears came rushing into his head and he knew he was going to have to watch them both die.

The creature nudged him up the stairway, and Gary had no idea why it wanted to use the stairs, but it killed a man who had started down. Gary was covered in blood and before he knew what he had done, he hoped that Benny and Shelia weren’t in bed together. The monster picked up on the thought as Gary tried to hide it. It nudged him harder and it began making the hooting noises they made as they began getting excited about feeding. It sounded like a two year old who was about to open a present.

Gary walked into the room with the monster behind him. Benny was sitting up in the bed and the creature spiked Benny through the chest with one of its feet and dragged him down to the floor. Benny shrieked in pain as the creature tossed him across the room. Shelia, still nude, stood in the doorway of the bathroom and screamed. Everyone had seen them feed before. Everyone had seen them feed slowly before. Gary closed his eyes and didn’t watch and tried to think of numbers. He could hear Shelia moaning, “No, no, no, please no.” but the monster didn’t stop. Eventually, Benny stopped screaming. Gary hoped he would be next. He opened his eyes and she was still in the doorway of the bathroom, still nude, and still beautiful. He hoped this would the last thing he saw. He hoped he didn’t have to watch her die like that. He didn’t want to listen. But when the monster was done it sat on its haunches, its head ducked to miss the ceiling, and it stared at Shelia. Gary could hear in his mind, he could see it, the images that the creature was sending to her. Despite the gore and the horror, Gary felt his body warming to the idea, he wanted her and he couldn’t deny it. Maybe she…
“I rather die,” Shelia hissed at Gary, “and so would any other woman on earth. You’re a goddam traitor and before I let you touch me I’ll die slow.”

And she did.


Gary thought about numbers and rail cars and anything else he had left in his mind as the screams rose and fell. The monster stopped feeding before Shelia was dead and simply left the room. Gary looked Shelia and knew there was no way to save her, no way to heal that sort of damage, but there was no way to end her suffering. Shelia moaned, tried to speak and used her one arm to try to move. “Benny,”she whispered. Gary went downstairs, picked up a bottle of Scotch from the bar and told Kim room 209 needed a cleaning, please, thank you. And then Gary went up to his room and drank until his mind shut off.


Gary woke up to the sound of his cell phone ringing. He answered it and to his horror there was someone screaming. He nearly threw the phone across the room but he realized it was Kim. He was yelling, screaming, but he was happy. There were other people cheering.
“They’re leaving! They’re leaving!” was all Gary could make out.
Gary went out on the rooftop and there were streaks of silver light all over the city, reaching out for the sky. They looked like falling stars but they were all heading up and up and up. Falling back to the ground were thin strands of iridescent threads. Gary tried to count them, tried to focus on the numbers but there were too many. He looked down at the street below and saw monsters lined up. One by one they shimmered brightly, seemed to dissolve, and then disappeared into the sky. Silvery threads rained down like confetti during a celebration. After the last one left the hotel emptied. People were coming out of buildings and Benny didn’t realize there were so few left. He could hear the sound of cheering in the streets far below. They were leaving. The monsters were, for reasons unknown, leaving.


Gary cleared his mind of all things, thought of numbers and railcars. Gary took a deep breath and a step forward off the roof. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

One and only

The First Annual Halloween Story: Benny (Part Five)



Part Five: The applicant’s name was Benny and his wife was Shelia. Gary tried very hard not to make friends. The monsters tended to kill people he liked or worse, cared about. He lived alone, ate alone, slept alone and didn’t get attached. Benny seemed to be okay, not terrified, and Shelia, damn, Shelia struck him as beautiful. There wasn’t a lot of beauty anymore. Most people were traumatized. Everyone was afraid all the time. No one was safe, no place was safe, and everyone knew it. There was an army tank and the crew had been killed by the smoke. A man had hid in it, coming out to steal food and then going back in as quietly as a ghost, but the monsters had seen him. One waited for him outside the tank. For an entire week it sat on its haunches and waited, day and night. The man had to come out, forced out by dehydration and filth. The monster chewed off both of the man’s feet and left him to die. No one dared help him.

Gary knew better. He knew better than to go downstairs and socialize. But Shelia had stuck in his mind. She had long black hair and deep dark blue eyes. Her skin was that creamy color that came with a mixed heritage and spoke of an incredible beauty. Gary knew better than to go downstairs at all, much less in hopes of seeing her again. But it had been weeks since he had spoken to another person socially. Since Deane, no one would get close to him again. It was obvious to everyone, even Gary that Deane was trying to survive, she would do anything at all, and her desperation was like a cologne she wore. Gary didn’t know what the monsters would think of him having a girlfriend but it didn’t take long to find out. Deane, gripped Gary’s arm one day as one of them passed, and she squeezed closer to him and whimpered. Gary shut his mind down, thought of numbers, of how to get more people into the city, and tried not to watch. The monster whipped around and lashed out at Deane with one leg, flinging her away from Gary’s side. He didn’t move at all. She ran, screaming his name, and then two more of them gave chase. They toyed with her, knocked her down, and finally, in a panic, she ran right into a building the monsters had demanded be burned. They liked fire for some reason. Deane screamed once then went silent. A monster went into the flames and dragged her out by one leg. Deane was still alive but she had been badly burned. They left her there for two days until she died and then one of them ate her. That was the last woman Gary had looked at, had touched, had put his hands on, and had felt her touch. But he didn’t want any of that right now. He just wanted to talk to a woman.

 Gary hoped she would be there, alone at the bar, or in the cafeteria, and he could sit down and talk to a woman without the subject of feeding coming up, or one of the monsters coming in. How long had it been since a woman had looked at him without seeing him as the monsters’ pet human, a man who held life and death over everyone else? How would Shelia look at him? Those eyes, Gary was mesmerized by those blue eyes, and he knew this was trouble.

The lobby was very still and the few people there were all sitting in silence. One of them was near. People knew better than to run, they knew better than to hide or even leave the room when one of them came in. Gary went to the bar and the bartender said simply, “It went upstairs about a minute ago” and served Gary a beer. No one spoke or moved and Gary didn’t turn around when the elevator doors opened with a cheerful ding. They liked riding in the elevators. They liked grabbing people when the door opened or just lunging with their mouths open, just to feed on the fear, just to feed the fear.
“Gary?” It was Shelia.
“Yeah?” Gary tried not to stare. There she was, a foot and a half from him. He had never seen a more beautiful woman in his life. She was wearing a tee shirt and a pair of shorts. Eighteen inches away from him was the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen. “Yeah?” he repeated and he realized how weird he sounded.
“There’s, uh, blood on the floor in our room, Benny is trying to get it cleaned up, but, you know, you think you could get us another room, maybe?”
“Uh, sure, yeah, I mean, yes” Gary hated sounding like he was a teenager with a crush on a girl. But he was afraid he did. He knew he did. She had to know.  Shelia was grinning at him. Gary reddened. “Come on, let’s see what’s open.”
They went over to the front desk that doubled as sort of an operations center. Kim, the Asian man who acted more than a little afraid of Gary quickly found a new room, “Try 209, please, there has been no killed there that I know of,” Kim told Gary. “I’ll send someone, to check.” Before Gary could protest Kim ran from the counter.
“Uh, so where are you and, uh…” Gary’s mind refused to work as long as Shelia was standing in front of him.
“Benny”
“So where did you two come from before…”

“We were in Oakland, and when it started we got caught stranded after our house burned. People were setting fires to everything, and I still don’t know why. We got herded into the stadium, and there must have been fifty thousand people in there. The monsters blocked all the exits and they turned off all the water. After three or four days people were jumping. Then they talked to some guys, human guys, and they told us to line up on the goal line. They lined one hundred people at a time and told them to run. Young, old, cripple, crazy, it didn’t matter, if you were there you got lined up. Then they told us to run. One hundred people ran like hell for the other side and the ten people who were last to cross the ten yard line were eaten. Well, the first ninety were pretty freaked out but the next one hundred were inspired. They turned the water back on at the goal line where we finished. We were two of the second one hundred. We finished close to the front but after the first five hundred ran we all noticed that people were cheating. They would knock other runners down and the monsters seemed to love it. They kept this up, day and night, night and day, until there were only forty-five thousand of us. By then they were letting the keepers feed us and they brought us sleeping bags. But they still ran us, one hundred at a time, and pretty soon we were lined up again. We kept away from the pack, let those who were fastest go on ahead and tried to stay away from anyone who looked like they couldn’t make it. As a team, we did better than average and that was all we needed to do. We ran five times. After the fifth time they started taking the slowest twenty, and they started hunting those of us who helped each other. If you pushed someone or tripped another runner one of them would come after you. It didn’t matter if they knocked a dozen down to get to you they knew how did what out there in that hundred yard dash. We ran five more times and each time it was worse, much worse, than the last. The generators failed one night in the middle of a run and we made a dash for the exits. All we could hear was screaming. We think they shut down the lights so they could kill as many people as they could. I think they got bored with us.” Shelia finally stopped speaking and Gary discovered he had stopped breathing. “Those keepers, those people who fed us to them, I hope it was slow for them.” Shelia said bitterly. “I’m sorry, I’ve never, spoken about this before.” And she put her hand on Gary’s arm.

Kim returned and told them that 209 was ready. “There you go, 209,” Gary said and he fought against the urge to walk her to the room. He watched as Shelia walked towards the elevator. Her hips had a slow, natural roll, that Gary hadn’t seen, hadn’t looked for in a while.  Please, please, please, don’t let there be one in there, Gary prayed. The doors opened and Shelia turned and waved, and lived. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The stars above, the ground below, and the moon guides us with shadows.



I’ve never feared the dark, not even as a child. I grew to fear it less as I grew older because I trained myself to walk in the darkness. Our local school bordered a cemetery and to get to the school for a football game I would take a short cut through the graveyard in the darkness. I knew the paths, I knew certain tombs, I knew the stars and I knew the night.

The darkness you fear is not the darkness you know. The darkness you fear is the unknown darkness, that inky pool in which nothing can be seen. Ah, but the night! When in the darkness but not alone, do you grope in vain for the hand of your lover or do your fingers interlock as if guided by light? Do you not find with your senses that which you seek, when in darkness, you are not alone? When in passion, the deepest passion, is sight not limited, at best, and with your entire existence, do you not live in that moment, without regard to light, or darkness or sight?

You would not wear shoes or clothes into the night, when you are not alone, and you should always do that which protects you, certainly, but I have laid bare feet onto the path in the woods, naked but to be clothed in the silver light of the moon, and the shadows of the stars, and I have found my way.

Why the need for certainty? Would you ask for more light to find your way to your lover’s passion or would you allow your hands to explore that which is known but unseen? Do you not kiss with your eyes closed? Where is the need for sight when passion guides the entire body in a simple kiss, that first step into the darkness of one another, but both eagerly awaits?

Do you watch to see where your feet are, where your hands are, or will your senses guide you no matter how little light there might be, when someone hold you tightly in that first embrace? Is there some guidance you would ask of your lover in the first kiss or would you trust your senses blindly, as love always is. But love is never wrong. How can sight always be right, if we would only love the night?

The first time I walked alone, in the deepest night, without clothes or shoes I fears I might stumble, become weak sensed, and fumble my way out of the night totally inept and briar whipped. How very much this feeling is when we first look into someone’s eyes and wonder if they see the same light as we do inside?

I do not see darkness, not in love and not in the night. I see falling stars, wheeling galaxies, shadows created by moonlight, and the near light of stars, like the silhouette of a lover, slipping off the first bit of clothing, outlined by the moon’s faint stare. I see the long forgotten shapes that lovers named the collection of stars, holding hands, pointing to first one star and then another, out of the billions, the two are focused enough in each other to know what pattern the other sees, as if their minds were bonding as their bodies already have.


The path finds the feet and the feet finds the path. More sure now, I am also very slow and very particular as to where my flesh might touch. The dogs go out before me, my vanguard, my family, the pack which ensures my night. It is only I, and the darkness, but the darkness does not exist. My sight, the most limited of my senses, I do not miss at night, alone or no. For I do so love the darkness and I fear it not at all.

Take my hand, please, and I will guide you into the night, and you will never know a moment of darkness.

Take Care,

Mike

The First Annual Halloween Story: Benny (Part Four)





Part Four:  Gary wondered if he should think of this as a promotion. He was given a suite at one of the best hotels but he didn’t have a door. The monsters didn’t like doors. Everyone who served them could live inside but all the doors were removed. Gary told people that putting up a door or keeping a door or even so much as closing a door was in invitation to dinner. The monsters roamed through the hallways at will, filling the entire space with their bulk. As solid as they seemed they were nearly snake-like in their ability to get into tight spaces. He had seen them squeeze into manholes, with nothing but their hindquarters sticking in the air, to fish out escaping humans. They went everywhere they wanted but the monsters were living in the parking garage. They had flooded it with seawater and they seemed to like being partially submerged. It was his job to round people up so the monsters could feed. He had enough soldiers left over from what was once the army to help him but they were having to go out further and further to find people. They were putting out signs in the country that pointed in to the city, “Free Food! No Monsters!” and that was at least half true. People trickled in by the hundreds at first but now they were only coming in a dozen or so at a time. It was the same everywhere. The monsters were using people to help bring them more people and it was getting slim everywhere.
Six months had passed. Gary didn’t know how much longer he could find people and he knew what would happen if he ran out. There was an internal population in the city, maybe ten thousand, someone had to keep the place running, but if they started using the natives some would bolt and that would mean fewer still, or worse, some sort of revolt, and the monsters might kill them all. Gary wondered if they were going to simply feed on humans until extinction. He didn’t see anything stopping that from happening.

Gary went down into garage and waded into the water. He had a report of how many people had been rounded up and led into the stadium where the monsters liked to feed. He had their ages and their gender, their names and how they were. The monsters liked the details, but Gary didn’t know why. He knew better than to show fear. They liked fear. They loved playing with a human that was terrified. As long as he was relaxed they wouldn’t bother him at all. One of them stopped in front of him.
“Speak”

And Gary gave the report as calmly and as slowly as he dared.  It reminded him of going to speak to the Board of Directors and how there were men in that room who would pick apart any report for any sort of error at all. Was the spacing right? Did the font meet their standards? Gary wondered how much of what the monsters did to him was pulled out of his head. The monster defecated in the water and a wave of revulsion swept over Gary before he could stop it. The monster made him kneel and drink the water. Gary didn’t hesitate.


 There were an even one hundred people living in the hotel with Gary and the monsters in the garage. He had set the operation up like a sales team, the only way he knew how, and everyone obeyed him without hesitation. The monsters knew who dissented. The guy from the interstate and his wife had started some action about getting someone to try to talk to the monsters, to replace Gary, and the monsters had eaten them both, very slowly. Gary had posted a job opening on the internet, and it was totally weird that so much still functioned, and he was stunned to find that someone actually wanted it. The reasoning of trying to get closer to the monsters to keep from being eaten had shown itself, very recently, to be flawed. But Gary needed the help. The logistics of trying to get one hundred people week into the feeding bowl was getting to be a bitch. Gary knew if he got fired it was going to get real ugly real quick. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The First Annual Halloween Story: Benny (Part Three)






Part Three: Once back in his apartment Gary put it all out of his mind. Whatever Franks said couldn’t be trusted. He was nuts.  Gary heard the tic-tic-tic of one of the monsters and then a shot, and then another. Gary didn’t look out of the window for the rest of the day. The next day, Gary pushed the curtains out far enough to see the monsters were milling around, as if they were waiting for something. Then they all took off running. Gary waited but they didn’t return.  The internet told him that the monsters were being stopped cold but they were being stopped cold only in grainy videos that lasted a few seconds. Meanwhile, reports said, in downtown San Francisco the creatures were slowly herding everyone into the middle of town. Gary was already there so he was safer than most, he hoped.

On the morning of the first month of the invasion, Gary was looking at his kitchen in horror. There was no more food. The water was still running but he didn’t understand why. The power was still on but again, Gary couldn’t understand that. The news had stopped pretending that humans were winning and instead urged people to hide. But he had to go out. There was no denying the fact that if he was going to live he had to leave his apartment. No one answered the knocks on doors and Gary was afraid he’s be shot if he tried to force his way in. Gary took the elevator which was running smoothly. It seemed obscene that the lights were on and the music was playing while the world was ending. The doors slid open and the lobby was empty yet lighted and cheerful looking as always. The street was a mess. There were smashed cars and overturned trucks everywhere. Pieces of bodies littered the sidewalks. Gary heard the sound, the unmistakable, tic-tic-tic-tic noise and turned around. One of the creatures stood over him with its mouth half open, rows and rows of needle teeth glittered in the morning sun.

Gary ran. He ran down the street, thankfully it was downhill, and Gary ran faster than he had ever ran in his life. For a moment, for the briefest moment in time that existed, Gary felt good about how fast he was running, but the tic-tic-tickity-tic-tic sound was right behind him. Another thirty seconds of running at full speed and Gary realized, with very certain horror, he was being toyed with. Gary ran until he couldn’t run another step and after that he keep walking. He turned and it was still behind him.

“Run”

Gary looked around. There was no one there but the monster.

“Run”

Gary realized he hadn’t heard the sound of a voice but he felt it, sensed it. He ran. He ran for another thirty seconds but there was nothing at all left. When he stopped the monster picked Gary up by the cuff of his jeans on his left leg and carried him away. Gary screamed and kicked and yelled and hit the creature with his fists but it was like hitting something made out of metal. Gary finally looked around and there were dozens of the creatures and each of them carried a human in its mouth. They formed a circle in the park and each of the monsters dropped their human and waited. One of the people was a woman with an infant. Her monster knocked her down, and picked the baby up in its jaws. The woman screamed and tried to take the baby back but the monster backed away from her, making her chase it, and staying just out of reach. A man tried to grab the monster, reached for the baby, and as if on cue, two of them leapt out at him, and they tore him apart and ate him. No one else tried to help. The monster threw the baby down in front of the humans and impaled it as the woman desperately tried to free her screaming child. She finally sank down and begged the creature to release the baby. The monster ate them both. No one moved. The monsters all sat behind the people, as if guarding them, and no one moved and no one spoke. One man finally got up and approached one of the monsters, “Look, I need my meds, see, if I don’t got my meds…” The nearest monster picked him up and threw him high into the air and the man screamed. The monster let the man hit the ground then ate him. No one else stood up or spoke.
“Stand up” one of the monsters said and Gary was one of the first to stand. The monster head butted Gary and knocked him down. He peed in his pants and knew the last sensation he would have was a warm fluid invading his pants. The creature put its head very close to Gary’s face and Gary could almost see a mirror image of himself reflected in the scales. The creature’s eyes were the size of saucers. Gary could see inside of the eye, as if it were filled with a clear fluid, and there seemed to be three pupils floating in it, each rotating in the same direction. His face was clearly visible in the reflection of that eye, and Gary waited. The mouth opened and he saw pieces of flesh caught between the teeth, bits of cloth and hair. The mouth closed and when it opened again there was nothing but rows and rows of silver teeth, each the size of an ice pick.

“Speak”

One of the creatures had spoken to a man he had pinned down in the same fashion that Gary was pinned. The man tried to speak but he stuttered and fumbled words out of his mouth as if he were about to throw up. The monster picked the man up by the waist and the man screamed. Slowly but steadily, the monster shook the man back and forth, like a dog shaking a rat in slow motion. The man screamed in agony but the monster shook him. The man pleaded for help but the monster shook him. The man tried to grab the creature’s head, tried to kick it, and actually landed a few good kicks, but the monster shook him. Gary noticed the shaking was getting faster and faster and the man’s screams were louder. The people in the circle looked away but nearly all of them had to look back. All of them had the same question; is this how I am going to die? Finally the creature shook the man so violently the man was torn in half. It ate the remains slowly and a woman threw up.
“Speak”
Gary heard the word in his mind and knew that he better say something. He stood up, stepped forward and noticed that one of the monsters was drooling.
“I know you’re all wondering why I asked to you to attend this meeting on such short notice,” Gary began, and the monsters all kicked up their legs and rolled around on the ground in delight.

“But let’s all remember we have a common customer service goal in mind” and for the first time in his life, a canned speech that he had memorized years ago, actually worked in his favor. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

The First Annual Halloween Story: Benny (Part Two)




Part Two: Yet there was nowhere to run. They were everywhere. Gary made it back to his apartment and when he looked down out of the window he saw dozens more of the creatures, each of them chasing down terrified people and tearing them apart. They ran with an awkward gait but were incredibly fast. Gary remembered the noise, a clicking noise like the sound of a sticking hitting the pavement. When three or four of them were running together it sounded like Legos being dumped on a hard floor. Gary turned the television on. There were reports coming in from every state, every country, and none of the news was any different. There were creatures popping out of the air in every city. Bullets didn’t seem to hurt them at all. Gary watched as one of the creatures was rammed by a semi-truck and it rolled over and over but got back up and pulled the driver from the cab and happily ate him.

The next day there were reports the creatures were being killed, beaten back, and the humans were winning. Gary looked out of his window and doubted it. Worse, whenever one of them was killed, and it took a lot to kill one, it exploded into that awful thick black smoke that poisoned everyone it touched. After two weeks the fire in Florida finally went out but now there were hundreds more. The military announced that it had produced a special projectile that would easily penetrate the creatures’ tough skin but they remained mute about the smoke. All the news channels showed the monsters being shot and killed but Gary knew better. There were dead humans everywhere in the streets and not one dead monster.

After three days, Gary decided to risk going out. He hadn’t see a monster in over twenty-four hours on the street though the internet and the television showed heroic battles being fought and won, everywhere. Every time he looked out of his window he checked the other windows in other buildings and saw other people looking out too. Gary slipped out of his apartment and used the stairs. There was a coffee place on the same block and maybe he could get a bag of beans or two. He hadn’t seen any looting. The street smelled terrible. There were pieces of people everywhere. Gary walked quickly to the coffee place and slipped through the front door. There was blood everywhere. Clearly someone, or several people, had died here. Gary picked through the rubble carefully and found several undamaged bags of coffee.
“You live around here, sir?” It was a man’s voice and Gary jumped at the sound. A man in a brown camouflage military uniform hid in one corner of the room, under two tables he had slid together on their sides.
“Yeah, one building over, fifth floor.” Gary was excited. “Are we winning?”
“My name is Colonel Franks, I’m with the 24th Infantry, or I was,” the man began shaking, “they came in, hundreds of them, thousands of them maybe, they were coming in out of the air, they ambushed our convoy and didn’t leave anyone alive. There’s, there’s a section of the Interstate where there is nothing but fire and smoke and death. It’s like that everywhere. They went after us first. They even managed to pop into aircraft that were in flight. We have no idea of they got the subs, too, I hope not, but we’re finished. There isn’t an army or a navy or the Marines anymore. In two days they were everywhere, all over us, and we couldn’t fight back hard enough anywhere. They came into the barracks at night and killed us. They hit us everywhere we stopped, everywhere we tried to fight back, and they just kept coming. It’s like this everywhere, China, Russia, Europe, even Iceland and those places you’d never guess. If you really want to draw their attention pick up a rifle or ride in a vehicle with some sort of markings on it.” The man began to sob softly. “America doesn’t exist anymore. We’re dead.”
“What…what…what, “ Gary couldn’t think of what to say next, “what do they want?”
“Who knows?” Franks tried to stop crying, rubbed his eyes, then started laughing, “They can pretty much take what they want when they want it. I watched General Sheets try to surrender to them, to try to communicate with them somehow, and they killed him, and they carried his body around like a trophy. He was Joints Chief of Staff. I think the President is dead. They got into that secure cavern in Wyoming from what I heard. Once the doors were locked the monsters just popped in anyway. I think they know who is who. I think they’re hunting people based on rank.” Franks stopped laughing. “You might want to get away from me, really.”
“What…” Gary couldn’t think of anything to say. “What about the nukes?”
“Nukes?” Franks laughed loudly. “They took out everybody carrying a code, took them out clear and clean, those were the first to be targeted. Ours, theirs, every nuke on earth, maybe. Now it’s just us and them.”
“Want to, I mean, “ Gary looked around. “you could come with me.”
“I worked my ass off for twenty years to get where I am.” The man said. “I’m not going to huddle up and hide. I’ve got two bullets left and unless you want one please be advised that you are in a combat zone.” Franks stood up and straightened up his uniform. “I’m going hunting, sir, please stand aside.” He jacked a round into his pistol and walked out.


Gary took the coffee and slipped out of the door.