Fiction: Afterlife (Chapter 2)

by Mike Monroe on October 30, 2013

in FICTION

If you’ve never read Afterlife before, click here to get started with the first chapter.

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Afterlife is a sci fi/western action serial published every other week. Join us in a post-apocalyptic journey through a future where life has become little more than a struggle for survival. However, where there’s life, there’s always hope.


Read the previous chapter here:

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 1

Where:

Warrick Baines kills Jemail Brate and his family.
Bobby finds a girl lying in the desert.
Bobby flies his sand bike into a sewer with the girl he found.

Find the Table of Contents page here.

 

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 2

Bobby walked through the dark sewer, shining his flashlight ahead where it illuminated stone walls covered with what appeared to be green mold.  A river of dirty water ran through the center of the sewer, with aisles on either side for walking.  Though any urine or feces was long gone, the sewer still smelled awful, most likely due to the mold, Bobby figured.  The water must have come from an underground spring somewhere.  Bobby noticed some passages branching off up ahead.  He was starting to feel chilly, so he used a small panel on his wrist to turn off the personal air conditioning system that was built into his jacket.

As he walked deeper into the sewer, he noticed some spiders scurrying ahead in the darkness.  He shined his flashlight in their direction to see that they were pale white and about the size of his hand.  He could also hear what sounded like rodents squeaking, but these sounds were interrupted by a low, rumbling growl.  Bobby shined his light in the water to see something disappear beneath the murk.  He swallowed and turned, his senses alert to anything coming up behind him as he swiftly made his way back to his bike to check on the crazy girl.  He kept his hand on the laser pistol in his hip holster, trying not to let fear get the better of him.

When Bobby reached his sand bike, he saw that the girl was stirring.  She was moaning softly, but the softest sounds seemed loud in the quiet, echoing sewer.  The only other sounds were constant drips echoing from various places.  Bobby took the water bottle out of his backpack once again and poured some over her lips.  “You’re probably still dehydrated.”

She glared at him as he unstrapped her from the bike.  “Why’d you smash me over my head, then?” she asked.  “As if my head didn’t hurt enough already.”  She rubbed the back of her head.  “I’m going to have a welt.  You’re a woman beater.”

Bobby frowned.  “I’ve never hit a woman in my life!  I had to do it or you would have died out there.”  He poured more water over her lips, but she sat up on the bike and yanked the bottle out of his hand.  “Don’t drink it too fast,” he muttered.

She took a swig and frowned at him.  “You didn’t have to hit me so hard.  Anyway, I’m sorry for what I said earlier about black people.”

Bobby raised an eyebrow.  “You are?”

“You could have killed me and taken my bag.  You didn’t.  That means you may not be a thief or a murderer after all.  At least you’ve got that going for you, even if you are a woman beater.”  She swigged more water.

Bobby smirked.  “Thanks, I guess.”  He grabbed the bottle back from her.  “That’s enough for now.  I don’t want you throwing it up and going back where you started.”  He looked down at his watch.  “We do need to eat something, though.”  It was six o’clock.

“Maybe I can trust him after all,” the girl said.  “Not so sure.  Tread softly.”  She glanced at him.  “Where are we?”

“In a sewer,” Bobby replied, “from the old world, probably uncovered by a previous sandstorm, or a sinkhole, or who knows what.”

The girl nodded.  “Where’d you go just now?”

“I just wanted to see what was in here.”

Her eyes pierced into him.  “Well?  What did you see?”

“Lots of side passages.  There are definitely creatures in here other than us.  We need to be careful.”  He took off his helmet and placed it on the back of the bike, then started digging through his packs by the light of his flashlight, looking for his electric stove, his lamp, and the motion detector they’d use while they slept to make sure nothing came too close to their camp.

The girl watched him with tired eyes.  “Well, like I said, I’m sorry about what I said before.  That’s just what my parents always told me.”

Bobby chuckled.  “You probably never even saw a black person before me, right?”

She shrugged.  “My parents had some black servants.”

“But you never really knew any of them.”  He glanced at her.  “Servants?  So you are rich.  I was right.”

She frowned.  “I was rich.  Not anymore.”

Bobby turned the electric lamp on, which illuminated a space with a ten foot radius, showing a damp stone floor and not much else.  He dug some canned corned beef hash out of one of his bags.  He was nearing the end of his rations, and now he’d have to share.  “Do you have any food in your bag?” he asked as the girl sat on the stone floor in front of him.  Bobby placed the electric stove between them and turned it on.

“Not much,” the girl said.  “I’m almost out, too.”  Bobby noticed the girl glancing at his bag.  “So you’re reading On the Road?” she asked.  The book was exposed in the bag’s opening, half-covered by some raggedy old clothes.

“I’ve read it several times,” he replied.  “It’s one of my favorite books.”

She nodded.  “What do you like about it?”

“The characters are amazing, and it oozes with a love for life.”  He frowned.  “That’s something that’s hard to find in the world these days.”

The girl nodded again.  “He’s right.  Yes, of course he is.”

Bobby glared at her.  “What, exactly, were you doing in the desert all alone, anyway?”

“I was on my way to Dune Post,” she answered.  “Just a stop on a longer journey.”

“Why Dune Post?” Bobby asked.  “And why were you alone and without a vehicle?”  He paused, noticing that she was looking at him inquisitively.  “I hope you don’t mind me asking questions.  It’s just weird.  That’s all.”  He took a can opener out of his bag and started opening the can of corned beef hash.

“Should I answer his questions?” the girl asked.  “I’m not sure.  Maybe it wouldn’t hurt.”

“Look,” Bobby said, “can you stop talking to yourself around me?  It’s weirding me out.  And if you can’t stop, then that definitely means you’re crazy.”

She shrugged.  “I’m not crazy.  Anyway, Herman Rennock’s enforcers are after me.  I escaped them on foot.  I’m trying to get as far away from them as I can.”

“Enforcers?  Why?”

“I’m a threat,” she said.

Bobby laughed, eyeing her up and down.  “How are you a threat?  Do you even have a weapon on you?”

“Ideas are more powerful than weapons.”

“Whatever you say,” Bobby muttered.  He dumped the corned beef hash into a pan and began cooking it on the stove.  “So what’s this powerful idea you have?”

The girl looked wistfully into the darkness of the sewer.  “It’s not an idea so much as what I’m going to do with the idea.”

Bobby shook his head.  “You need to stop being intentionally obscure.  What are you going to do with this idea that Herman Rennock thinks is such a threat?”

“I’m going to kill him,” the girl stated.  “I’m also going to kill Warrick Baines.”

Bobby laughed.  “You’re going to kill Warrick Baines?  You?  He’s the best shot in Numurka aside from Nat Bigum.  He’s also the fastest.  They say he’s killed twenty men all at once.  Plus he’s a damned cyborg!  What are you, a little girl with no weapon, going to do against him?”

“I have a laser pistol in my bag,” the girl said.  “Besides, if something’s alive, then it can be killed.  Human, animal, plant, cyborg; it doesn’t matter.”  She looked up at the dark stones above their heads.  “I shouldn’t have said anything.  Yeah, I know.”

Bobby finished cooking the food and dumped it on plates.  The girl began scarfing the corned beef hash down ravenously.  “Not so fast!” Bobby blurted.  “You’ll make yourself sick.”  He shook his head.  “So why are you so hell-bent on killing Warrick Baines anyway?  And I won’t even get into Herman Rennock.  He owns an entire city.  He’s guarded by an army.  You do realize these things, don’t you?”

“Warrick Baines killed my family,” the girl answered.  Bobby handed her a bottle of water and she drank.  “Right in front of me,” the girl added.  “Herman Rennock ordered him to do it, but I could tell Warrick really enjoyed it, though.  He’s a psycho.”

“That’s what they say,” Bobby said as he chewed some corned beef hash.

“It happened two years ago, about.  He shot my brother Jimmy in the face.  Then he decapitated my sister, Susan.  He sliced my brother Matt across his belly and I watched his guts spill out.  He was only ten years old.”  She spoke with the emotionless voice of someone who’d numbed herself to horrors.

Bobby stopped eating, staring at his plate of corned beef hash.  “I’m really sorry for your loss, but you don’t have to give me all the gory details.”

“Then he picked up our family safe and smashed it against my sister Sarah’s head.  She was four years old.  She was still breathing and my parents begged him to let her live, but he smashed it into her head again.  Then, her brains…”

“That’s enough!” Bobby shouted.  He put his plate down.  With so little food left, he couldn’t afford to lose his appetite.

“He wanted to know the combination, and my parents gave it to him after he shot Jimmy, but he still killed the rest of my siblings.  He talked casually about music the whole time, like he was our buddy or something.  He cracked jokes, too.  He cracked jokes while he was killing children.”

“How’d you get away?”

She shrugged.  “I don’t know how I managed to do it, really.  It all happened so fast, but I was able to escape through an open window.  They were all shooting lasers at me.  All of Warrick’s enforcers.  I knew he killed my parents.  I heard their screams.  I ran down between two dunes.  I ran as far as I could, then I buried myself in the sand.  I stayed hidden inside the dune for two hours.”

“You did what?” Bobby asked.  “What about giant sand crabs?  And how’d you breathe?”

“I wasn’t as afraid of sand crabs as I was of Warrick.  As for breathing, I had my bag.  I had an oxygen mask.  After two hours, I emerged and made my way to a family friend’s house.  I found out later my parents were definitely killed, though there wasn’t much left to identify the bodies.  A few days or weeks ago, I’ve lost track of time, Warrick found where I was staying.  I escaped before he got there, but I’m sure he killed the man I was staying with.  He was too old for the journey and he didn’t have a working vehicle for me to take.  Just an old, broken-down hover car.  I’ve been staying with farmers and homesteaders when I’ve been able to.  He’s probably been killing them, too.  I feel so guilty, but I have to reach my destination or they’ve all died for nothing.”

Bobby frowned.  “So now you’re with me.  Is Warrick Baines going to want to kill me now?”

“Probably,” the girl said.

Bobby rolled his eyes and took a deep breath.  “Great.”

“Well, we’re safe in here, at least.  Safe from Warrick Baines and Herman Rennock’s enforcers, anyway.”  She looked at Bobby with concern.  “I’m sorry.  Thanks for helping me, though.  I can use all the help I can get.  It’s been a long, hard journey.”

Bobby nodded.  “I could only imagine.”  Her story was hard to believe, but Bobby didn’t think she had any reason to lie.  “I just realized, you haven’t told me your name yet.”

“Should I tell him?  I suppose it wouldn’t hurt.  It’s Abby.”

“I’m Bobby.”  He reached over the stove and shook her hand.

They eventually finished eating their dinners and Abby watched as Bobby cleaned up.  “So, Bobby, what kind of music do you like?”

He chuckled.  “That’s a random question.”

“Seems like a perfectly normal question to me.”

“Well, I like classical music,” Bobby answered as he turned off the stove and began unpacking his sleeping bag.

“What kind of classical music?” Abby asked.

“You know, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, George Clinton.  Stuff like that.  And I always had a thing for Bob Dylan.  I love how he wrote lyrics.”

Abby nodded.  “When you said classical, I thought you were talking about Mozart and Beethoven and people like that.”

Bobby grinned.  “That ancient stuff?  What about you?  What do you listen to?”

“I’ve always liked the more modern music myself.  Mediaphonic, the Manipulators, Soul Makeover.”

Bobby glanced at her.  “So you like experimental electronic stuff.  I just can’t get into it.”

Abby shrugged.  “You can dance to it.  And the musicians are still alive.  They didn’t all die thousands of years ago.”

Bobby finished rolling out the sleeping bag and looked down at it, frowning.  “So I only have one sleeping bag,” he said nervously.  He considered mentioning that it was cold and that their body heat would help them stay warm if they shared the sleeping bag, but he decided against it.

“It’s all right,” Abby said.  “I’ll sleep on the ground.”

Bobby shook his head.  “It’s hard stone, and it’s damp.”

“I can lay my jacket down.”

“No way,” Bobby blurted.  “You take my sleeping bag for the night.  I’ll sleep on my bike.  I’ve done it before.”

“How in the hell?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Bobby said.  “I’ll manage.  I’m sleeping on it either way, so you go ahead and take the sleeping bag.”

“Fine,” Abby said, “and if you try anything while I’m sleeping, I’ll kick you in the nuts so hard you’ll never be able to have babies.”

Bobby chuckled.  “You know I’m not gonna try anything.”  Abby curled up in the sleeping bag as Bobby turned on his motion detector and turned the lamp off.  He straddled his bike and leaned backwards so his head was resting on his pack.  It wasn’t a pillow, but it had some clothes in it, so it was better than the hard stone.  Sleep didn’t come easy, but it did come.

<>

There was a loud beeping sound.  Bobby slowly opened his eyes and realized that his motion detector was going off.  He quickly turned his flashlight on and shined it around the camp.  Not seeing anything, he turned on the lamp.   That’s when he noticed the huge spider crawling on the sleeping bag Abby was wrapped in.  It was pale white and the size of Bobby’s hand, like the one he’d seen earlier.  It was feeling around with its long, slender legs, moving closer to Abby’s exposed face.  She stretched her arms and looked up at Bobby.  “What’s going on?” she asked as he kicked the spider away from her.

“There was a really big spider on you,” Bobby replied.  “It must have set off the motion detector.”  He also noticed a huge moth the size of his face fluttering around near the lamp and heard some squeaking.  He wasn’t sure if it was rats or bats or both.  Either way, if their size was the same scale as the insects, he didn’t want to find out.

“What time is it?” Abby asked as she sat up.

Bobby looked at his watch.  “Three in the morning.  Maybe we should get moving, though.  I’m not sure how much more sleep we’ll be able to get here with all these creatures nearby, and there’s no way I’m sleeping without the motion detector.”

Abby nodded.  “Well, we probably got enough sleep anyway.”

“Speak for yourself,” Bobby muttered.  He turned on the stove.  “I’m gonna make some coffee.  You want some?”

“Coffee?” Abby asked.  “Shouldn’t we get moving if we’re leaving?”

Bobby shook his head.  “I won’t be able to function right without a cup or two.”

Abby frowned.  “So you’re a drug addict.”

“A drug addict?  Are you kidding?  It’s just coffee.”

“Coffee has caffeine in it,” Abby pointed out.  “Caffeine’s a drug.  If you’re dependent on it to function, you’re a drug addict.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Bobby said as he poured water in a pot and put it on the stove.  Once it started boiling, he poured the water into a cup of instant coffee and stirred it.  He drank his coffee quickly as he helped Abby pack everything up.  Within minutes, they were packed and on the sand bike.  Bobby turned the headlight on, revealing the sewer ahead, which was crawling with white, hairless rats the size of small dogs.  “Great,” Bobby muttered as he started the engine.  “It’s a good thing we’re leaving,” he shouted to Abby, who was sitting behind him with her arms around his waist.  “I won’t go too fast.  Who knows what’s in here?”  He began riding through the sewer above the rats, which he noticed now to his disgust were also eyeless.  They screamed as the sand bike flew over them, eventually leaving them behind.

Bobby rode through the moldy sewer at a fast speed, but not so fast he couldn’t see what was coming up ahead.  He didn’t expect to see stalagmites and stalactites, though.  “Be careful!” Abby shouted, noticing the obstructions ahead.  Bobby slowed the bike down to better avoid them, but his bike scraped the side of a large stalagmite and went spinning out of control.  Bobby flipped over the front of the bike, landing on his back and summersaulting painfully over the stone floor of the sewer.

He slowly sat up and looked around.  He could see the crashed bike’s headlight shining in the darkness several yards away.  Another light flicked on not far away from him.  Abby was shining a flashlight around.  “Over here!” Bobby said.  Abby turned and shined the flashlight at him.  He felt bruised, but nothing seemed to be broken.  “Are you hurt at all?” he asked Abby.

“I don’t think so,” she said.  “Luckily you slowed down when you did.”  She walked towards Bobby.

“Where’d you get that light?” he asked as she approached.

“I’ve always had it on me,” Abby said.    “You never know when…”  Suddenly something splashed out of the water near her.  Her flashlight fell to the ground, but it was shining in her direction and Bobby saw that a pale white alligator had chomped on her leg and was pulling her towards the water in the center of the passage, yanking at her ravenously.  Like many of the other animals in the sewer, which was now more of a cavern, the alligator had no eyes.

Abby shouted in pain.  The gator’s jaws had a strong grip on her bloody leg.  Bobby quickly drew his laser pistol and fired, missing the gator by two feet.  Abby kicked at the alligator with her free leg as it pulled her into the water.  Bobby ran closer, firing as he ran.  He hit the beast several times and it sunk into the water, letting go of Abby’s leg.  She was wincing in pain as Bobby came up to her.  He picked up the flashlight and shined it on her leg to see that it was a bloody mess.  “I’m not going to be able to walk,” Abby said.

“We need to get you medical help,” Bobby muttered.  He feared she would bleed to death before they found their way out of the sewer, but he didn’t say it out loud.

“I might die,” Abby said, apparently thinking the same thing.

“You’ll be fine,” Bobby countered.  “Let me help you up and we’ll get you back to the bike.”

“It’ll get infected,” Abby said, straining through the pain.  “That water’s nasty.”

Bobby lifted her and she put her arm around his shoulder, keeping all of her weight on her good leg.  They slowly made their way towards where the bike had landed.  It was dented up a bit, but Bobby hoped it would still run.  Before they reached the bike, the water splashed once again and a massive gator emerged, standing on its hind legs.  It towered over Bobby by at least ten feet and its mouth was as long as Bobby was tall.  The beast seemed to smile, pale white and eyeless like the smaller one that had attacked Abby, holding its position between Bobby and the bike as its growl filled the cavern with a low rumble.

 


Continue on to the next chapter:

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 3

Where:

Warrick Baines does more nasty stuff.
Bobby and Abby face off with the giant gator.
A preacher stands up to Herman Rennock’s enforcers.

Find the Table of Contents page here.

Check out Michael Monroe’s page on Amazon to find other stuff he’s written.
Like Afterlife on Facebook to find out when the next chapter is posted.
Follow Afterlife on Twitter to get updates on new postings and other news.
Follow Afterlife on Tumblr for access to supplemental material.

Mike Monroe

Michael Monroe was born in Baltimore, MD and has lived there most of his life. He’s a poet and fiction writer whose preferred genres are Science Fiction and Fantasy, and he’s always had a thing for Allen Ginsberg and the Beats. His poetry has been published in Gargoyle Magazine, nthposition, the Lyric, Scribble, the Loch Raven Review, Foliate Oak, Primalzine, and various other publications.

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