Fiction: Afterlife (Chapter 22)

by Mike Monroe on August 11, 2014


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

Art by John Blaszczyk

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 21


Abby and her companions are rescued from the Dead Lands by Skinny Hayes’ deputies.
Sherriff Skinny Hayes abducts Pastor Earl and gives him an ultimatum.
Horseman and Michelle have a night out on the town and are captured.

Find the Table of Contents page here.

View the Map here.


Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 22

Mavery peeked over the dune to see the sand bike coming towards her and Big Ed.  It was a lone speck in a vast expanse of white sand.  The sun was very low in the sky, but it wasn’t quite ready to set.  The driver of the approaching sand bike was wearing a nice leather jacket and the woman seated behind him was wearing a very expensive-looking white dress.  Both were wearing shiny new helmets with sand shields.  Mavery wasn’t sure why they were dressed the way they were, but they didn’t look like trouble.  They might have been newlyweds.  “They’re just travelers,” she said, “like us.  There’s no reason for us to hide.”

Big Ed shushed her.  He lifted his laser pistol and aimed.  “I’m just gonna disable their bike.  I don’t wanna hurt ‘em.”

“What?” Mavery asked.  “Why?”

“Why do you think?” Big Ed asked.  “They rich white folks.  They probably got some nice stuff.”

Mavery frowned.  “We don’t need it.  I told you I have some money.”

He continued trying to aim the laser pistol.  “Shush.  I need to concentrate.  Just a little closer and I can get ‘em.”  Mavery ripped the laser pistol out of his unsuspecting hands using all her strength.  “What the hell?” Big Ed blurted.

“You aren’t robbing anyone as long as you’re with me,” Mavery said.

“They rich white folks,” Big Ed said.  “They can stand to lose a little.”

“I don’t care who they are,” Mavery blurted.  “If you rob anyone, I’m leaving.  I don’t care if I die in the desert.  I refuse to be a part of that.”  She took her glasses off and wiped the sweat off.

Big Ed looked angry.  His large forehead was wrinkled above his furrowed brow.  “We need everything we can get out here.  This ain’t no place to worry about morals.”

Mavery laughed, putting her glasses back on.  “Then why the hell did you save me then?”

“That’s different.  They was goin’ too far.”

Mavery nodded.  “And so is robbing unsuspecting travelers.  Like I said, if you rob anyone, kill anyone, or do anything else that’s deemed by the general public to be immoral, I’m leaving.  I’d rather risk being out on my own.”

“You’ll be dead, then.” Big Ed said.

“I don’t care,” Mavery countered.  “Some things are worse than death.  I refuse to lose myself, no matter how bad things get.”

Big Ed smiled as he stood up from the dune.  The travelers were out of view now.  “You must’ve done somethin’ immoral yourself,” he said, “or you wouldn’t have been kicked out of New Atlantis in the first place.”

“They’re the immoral ones,” she muttered, “but that doesn’t mean we have to be the same way.”

Big Ed shrugged.  “Well, whatever, lady.  You say you got money.  It had better be enough.”

“It’ll be enough,” Mavery said.  “And my name’s Mavery, not ‘Lady.’”

“Well we need to get goin’ then, Mavery, if we want to get to Dune Post before nightfall.  You don’t wanna be out here when it gets dark.”  Mavery nodded and the two of them walked down towards their stolen sand bike, which was parked in a valley between two dunes.


The wooden saloon doors flapped in and out as Nat Bigum walked through them.  Pastor Earl shrugged and followed him.  They’d figured since they had until the next day to figure out what to do regarding giving Skinny the money, they’d try to enjoy the night a little.  Hanging out in a saloon wasn’t Earl’s idea of a good time anymore, but he didn’t want to be alone either, so when Nat suggested the idea, Earl decided to tag along.  Inside, the notes of the piano filled the smoky room as noisy patrons ordered drinks at the bar.  The wary bartender eyed Nat and Pastor Earl as they made their way to two unoccupied stools, past a table of poker players and another one where prostitutes were soliciting a couple of unsavory looking fellows.  Nat sat down first and Earl sat down next to him.  They started with small talk, but it didn’t take long for the conversation to move towards Herman Rennock.  Earl wasn’t sure why they were on that subject.  Maybe Skinny Hayes had him thinking about him.  “He’s basically a politician,” Nat said while he waited for the bartender to get to him.  “In politics, it don’t matter if you tell the truth, so long as you say what people wanna hear.”

Pastor Earl grinned.  “I’ll bet you don’t know what I got my original degree in.”

Nat chuckled.  “What’s that got to do with what we were just talkin’ about?”

“I got it in Political Science,” Pastor Earl said.  “You’re right, though.  It’s all about getting the people to buy into what you’re selling, unless of course the product sells itself.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Well,” Pastor Earl said, “theoretically if you had a good system, you wouldn’t need to lie about it.  You could just tell people the truth and they’d go along with it.”

Nat shook his head.  “Would never happen.  There’s always gonna be someone who don’t like the system.”

“Not in a perfect world,” Pastor Earl said.  “Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world.  That doesn’t mean we can’t try our best to make it perfect.  For one thing, we could stop making the same mistakes over and over.”

“Like what?” Nat asked.  “Give an example.”

“Well, supposedly there was a major financial meltdown before the end of the old world that was brought about by unscrupulous lenders lending money to people who couldn’t afford the loans.”  Nat nodded.  “Then,” Pastor Earl continued, “the loans were sold as securities and the whole economy collapsed when the loans defaulted.  If the proper regulations had been put in place and enforced, that would have never happened.  As a matter of fact, proper regulation would stop any recession or depression, but businesses don’t want to be regulated, and Herman Rennock doesn’t want regulation, so the economy keeps going up and down and the poor always suffer most.   The rich can ride the waves and they could care less.  They often make even more money when the economy collapses.”  He shook his head.  “If we don’t learn from history, we’re doomed to repeat its mistakes.  This world we’re living in is a compendium of history’s repeated mistakes.”

“Well politics was never my thing,” Nat said.  “Politicians always seem to spend more time arguin’ about stuff than they do doin’ anything.”

Pastor Earl chuckled.  “That’s part of what turned me off of politics.  A government dies when its politicians are more intent on attacking one another than they are on serving the people they represent.”

“Always happens, though,” Nat said.  “That’s what politicians do.  They attack one another and try to make one another look bad so they can win elections.  That’s one thing I can say for Herman Rennock.  He and all his cronies have managed to scare any opposition to the point that there’s no arguin’ anymore in the Southwest Territory.  There’s just Rennock doin’ pretty much whatever he wants.  He’s got all the money, so he wins all the arguments and he wins all the wars.  Simple as that.  Now where’s the damned bartender?  I came here to drink, not talk politics.”

The bartender was at the other end of the bar, chatting with a couple of loud, rowdy men with deputy badges over their left breasts.  Like the other deputies, they were wearing patchwork clothes made from metal and leather.  One of them noticed Nat looking at him and he started making his way towards him through the crowded saloon.  His friend followed.  “What’re you starin’ at?” the first deputy asked.  He was a Hispanic man of medium build with a face covered with dark stubble.

“I was lookin’ at you,” Nat replied, “tryin’ to figure out how what you were talkin’ about was so important you kept the bartender from takin’ our orders.”  He nodded towards Pastor Earl, who really wasn’t in the mood for a fight.  He wanted to relax and get his mind off things for a while.  He wasn’t planning on starting anything or getting involved.

The deputy chuckled.  The other deputy, a tall, muscular man standing behind him, also chuckled.  “What’s with the badge?” the first deputy asked.  “Are you pretendin’ to be a sheriff or somethin’?  You sure as hell ain’t one of Skinny’s deputies.”

“I wouldn’t wanna be one of Skinny’s deputies,” Nat said.  “The guy’s a jackass.”

The two deputies stepped towards Nat and Pastor Earl put his hand on his shoulder.  “Nat,” Earl said, “we don’t want to start anything.”  He smiled at the shorter deputy.  “Sorry about that.  My friend’s really tired.  We’ve traveled a long way.”

The deputy’s expression changed.  Pastor Earl sensed fear.  “Nat?” the shorter deputy asked.  “You’re Nat Bigum, ain’t you?”

Nat grinned his ugly grin.  “That’s what they call me.”

“I didn’t know you was Nat Bigum,” the deputy said.  “You’re gonna kill us now, ain’t you?”

Nat glared at him for a few seconds.  The two deputies were visibly nervous.  The taller one was looking down at the .44 magnum on Nat’s hip.  “Nah,” Nat said.  “I’ve mellowed out in my old age.”

“You won’t kill us then?” the taller deputy asked in a deep voice.

Nat shook his head.  “I promise I won’t kill you, as long as you buy me and my friend here drinks.  I want a Scotch on the rocks.  The good stuff.  Single malt.”

“Just get me a root beer,” Pastor Earl said.

“Root beer?” the shorter deputy asked.  Earl nodded and the two deputies walked down towards the bartender.

Nat chuckled.  “Always the goody-goody, huh, Earl?”

Earl smiled.  “I lived it up enough in my younger days to count for several lifetimes.”

“You were a hell-raiser, Earl?” Nat asked.

Earl nodded.  “You could say that.”

Nat shook his head in disbelief.  “I couldn’t see you gettin’ drunk.”

“It was another life,” Pastor Earl said.

The deputies brought Nat and Pastor Earl their drinks, and the two men sat at the bar talking for several hours.  Nat drank more and more and before the night was over, he was practically falling off his barstool.  He kept babbling about a woman named Anna.  “I should’ve looked for ‘er,” he kept saying.  “I didn’t try hard enough.”  Then he’d shake his head.

“All right,” Earl said.  “It’s time to go.  You’ve had enough.”

Nat laughed.  “Look here,” he slobbered, pointing his finger at Pastor Earl.  “I’ll…  I’ll tell you when…  I’ll tell you when I’ve had enough.”

“Let’s go,” Pastor Earl said.  He helped Nat down off his stool and helped him stumble through the crowd of people and through the saloon door, which flapped back and forth behind them as they walked out into the night.  Nat leaned on Pastor Earl as they made their way back to the cheap hotel.  The night air was cool and the stars were out in multitudes, filling the dark blue sky with white specks.

“You’re a good friend,” Nat said as he leaned on Earl.  His breath stank of whiskey.  “You know what a good friend is?”

“No,” Pastor Earl said as he walked.  “Why don’t you tell me?”

Nat nodded.  “A good friend…  A good friend is someone who gets ya drunk and then walks ya home afterwards.”

Pastor Earl smiled as they reached the run-down hotel.  “Well, I guess that’s what I’m doing then.”

Nat nodded.  “A good friend.”


The tick tock of the wall clock was maddening.  Horseman wanted to put his fist through it, but he knew that action wouldn’t be very popular with his captors.  The room Horseman and Michelle were sitting in was an office of some kind.  It wasn’t a sheriff’s office, but it may have been an office the Panthers used.  The Panthers were Herman Rennock’s secret police who were mainly responsible for tracking down members of the resistance.  Horseman was convinced the two men in black suits who’d abducted him and Michelle and were now in the room with them were members of this infamous group.  They used shady tactics and ruthless techniques to hunt down and often kill Rennock’s enemies.  Horseman and Michelle were seated in chairs in the mostly empty room and the two Panthers were standing near the door, their laser pistols drawn.  The only other things in the office were a metal desk which was scattered with papers and a folding chair situated behind it.  The blank gray walls had no paintings or decorations of any kind hanging from them other than the wall clock.  The room’s emptiness and the silence made the ticking seem much louder than it actually was.

Once Horseman, Michelle, and their abductors had reached the office, some enforcers frisked Horseman and Michelle and took all of Horseman’s weapons.  He hadn’t been expecting to see any action, but he always tried to be prepared.  It didn’t matter much now, though.  All of his weapons were gone, and Horseman didn’t think the Panthers were stupid enough to leave themselves open to an unarmed attack.  “So who do you guys work for?” Horseman asked the Panther in front of him.  The man stepped forward, a slight smile on his face.  He punched Horseman hard in the face with a lighting fast fist, and before Horseman could react, his right cheek was throbbing.  The man walked over next to his friend and stood silently, his gun aimed at Horsman’s face.  Michelle wasn’t speaking.  Horseman couldn’t tell whether she was scared or angry or both.  She just sat still, staring off into space.  The Panthers had said if someone were to get up from their chair, they’d shoot the other one so the one who got up could watch them die.  Horseman had tried to comfort Michelle earlier, but the Panther guarding him punched him in the stomach and it didn’t end up helping her much.

Horseman heard music through the cracked window.  “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones.  It was a good song, but it sounded dangerously unsettling to Horseman right now, especially since he knew what it probably meant.  He glanced at Michelle.  Her expression hadn’t changed.  Apparently she wasn’t as familiar with the stories and rumors about Warrick Baines as he was.  At least the music drowned out the ticking clock for a few seconds.  Horseman waited patiently as the two Panthers continued pointing their weapons.  There were footsteps outside the closed door, and a knock.  One of the Panthers opened the door and a large, muscular enforcer with a shaved head walked in, wearing the usual blue uniform.  He was followed by four other enforcers, and finally a cyborg wearing a black trench coat and a black wide-brimmed hat.  The cyborg’s face was patched with cybernetics and bits of burnt skin here and there, but much of it was bone.  Two red lights shined out from the spots where eyes should have been.  Warrick Baines was even more intimidating than Horseman imagined he’d be.  Warrick seemed to be grinning at Horseman as he approached, but Horseman realized that was just his permanent expression.  “So,” Warrick said in a metallic voice as he stood facing Horseman, “two famous actors who are also musicians.  I have an ear for music, but I’ve never had the talent to play an instrument, and believe me, you don’t want to hear my singing voice.”

“What do you want, music lessons?” Horseman asked, masking his fear very well.  Michelle even chuckled a little.

Warrick shook his head.  “That was a funny joke, Mr. Hemingway, but no, I’ve had you brought here for another reason.”

“We’re just performers,” Michelle said.  “What could you possibly want with us?”

“Well,” Warrick said, turning to face her, “you may just be a performer, but as I’m sure you know, your brother here is so much more.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Horseman blurted.

“Mr. Hemingway,” Warrick said, “this will be a lot easier on you if you’re honest.  Several important allies of Herman Rennock’s have been assassinated in recent months by a man of your height and build.”  His red eyes bored into Horseman as the wall clock ticked.  “The disguises were very clever.  I’ve seen much of the security footage.  It’s no coincidence, however that you’ve had performing engagements in towns near these murders when they happened.  And Willard Danby was murdered today and voila!  Here you are.”

Horseman frowned.  “You can’t prove that was me.  I’m not a murderer, I’m an actor.”

“Very convincing argument, Mr. Hemingway,” Warrick said, “but it doesn’t matter.  I’m convinced it was you, and that’s what matters.”

Horseman shifted in his seat.  “This isn’t right.  You can’t just hold us here.  You don’t have any proof.”

“You really think you have rights, don’t you?” Warrick asked.  “Your freedom is a myth, Mr. Hemingway, an illusion.  In this world, dollar bills are what give you rights, and I’ve got some bad news for you.  Herman Rennock has quite a few more dollar bills than you do.”

“People know who we are,” Michelle said.  “You can’t just kidnap us and not expect people to come looking for us.”

“Oh, of course they’ll look for you,” Warrick said.  “Two actors disappearing is a tragedy.  Two rebels being brought to justice is also a tragedy, but of a different sort.  I’m afraid the people won’t side with you on this one, Miss Hemingway.”

“So what’s this all about?” Horseman asked.  “Do you want names?  Do you want contacts?”

“Don’t tell him anything,” Michelle said.

“So you do know something, then?” Warrick asked Horseman.  “No, I don’t want names.  We’ve already captured William Porter, your contact with the tech wing.  He’s currently giving us all sorts of good information.”

“So what do you want, then?” Horseman asked.  The muscular, bald enforcer walked around to the back of his chair while two of the others walked over to Michelle and stood behind her.

“Nothing major,” Warrick said.  “We just want to know everything you know about Abigail Song.  Where she’s going, what her plans are, where she is now, who’s with her.  Stuff like that.  And if you have anything about Nat Bigum for good measure, I’d appreciate that, too.”

“I don’t know anything about Abigail Song,” Horseman said.

“More lies,” Warrick countered as he took a few steps towards Horseman.  “Our EMPC’s captured footage of your red sports hover car leaving the Dead Lands not long after Abigail Song headed south from Fort Samson.  We have some witnesses that described your car and placed you in the same hotel with her.  We thought she was with you, but apparently it was your sister the witness described.  Still, I know Miss Song was with you at some point.  I’ve been tracking her for a while now and I’m getting very good at it.  So where did you leave her and where’s she going?”

“I have no idea,” Horseman said.  “I’ve never met her.”

“We have reason to believe if she’s not here, she may be in South Edge,” Warrick said.  “Is that where she is?  And if so, is Nat Bigum with her?”

Horseman shrugged.  “Like I said, I have no clue.”

Warrick nodded.  “We have ways of getting information when we need it.  Mr. Hemingway, are you familiar with the phrase ‘beaten by the ugly stick?’”

Horseman glared at him.  “What are you implying?”

“Well,” Warrick began, “in the old world, an ugly stick was a musical instrument played in a country called Newfoundland.  Of course, in slang, it means something used to beat someone until they’re no longer recognizable.  There’s a slang phrase often used when someone isn’t very attractive.  One could say ‘They’ve been beaten by the ugly stick.’”

Horseman gritted his teeth in anger.  “What are you getting at, Baines?”

Warrick stepped forward, his red eyes moving from Horseman to Michelle.  “I’m going to be blunt, Mr. Hemingway.  If you don’t tell me where Abigail Song is going, I’m going to beat your sister here with the ugly stick until she’s unrecognizable.”

“You touch her and I’ll kill you!” Horseman shouted.

Horseman felt the muscular enforcer’s hands hold him down as Warrick stepped towards Michelle, who the two enforcers were now holding down in her chair.  She looked at Horseman with fear in her blue eyes.  “Don’t you tell him anything, Horseman.  Don’t you dare!”

“You have to stop giving things away, Miss Hemingway,” Warrick said.  “Now I know that he knows something.”  Horseman watched as Warrick punched Michelle hard in the face with a metal fist.  There was a crack, and Michelle was sobbing.  Her nose was broken and misshapen and blood was running out from her nostrils.  Horseman tried to move forward, but the strong hands held him down.

“Don’t tell him anything!” Michelle shouted.

Warrick punched her again, this time hitting her right eye.  He turned to face Horseman.  “Now, are you going to tell me what I want to know?”

Horseman wondered if somehow Michelle’s torture was karma for all the people he’d killed.  “You’re not a man,” he growled.  “No man would ever hit a woman.”

“You’re right,” Warrick said.  “I’m not a man.  I’m a cyborg.”

“You’re a coward,” Horseman blurted.

Warrick nodded.  “The world’s graveyards are full of brave, stupid people, Mr. Hemingway.  Contrary to popular belief, courage is not a virtue.  It’s a character flaw.  It’s a tool the powerful use to manipulate the stupid.”  He paused and stepped towards Horseman.  “It isn’t intelligent to march into certain death.  It isn’t intelligent to sacrifice your life so someone else can live happily thanks to your loss.  That’s giving up, if you ask me.  That’s being duped.  On the other hand, what you call cowardice, I call intelligence.  It doesn’t make sense to pick a fight unless you know you can win.”

Horseman nodded.  “Well you’ve just picked a fight with me, and you’re not gonna win.”

“Is that so?” Warrick asked.  “From the looks of how things are going, I’d say I’ve already won.  That’s why I’m standing here and you’re sitting there, being restrained.”  Blades slid out from each of Warrick’s trench coat cuffs and he stepped towards Michelle.  Horseman tried to move forward again, but it was no use.  The enforcer who was holding him down was too strong.  “Now why don’t you just tell me what I want to know?” Warrick asked Horseman.

“I’ll tell you,” Horseman muttered.

“No, don’t!” Michelle shouted through her tears.  “If you tell them anything, all this has been for nothing.”

Warrick turned to one of the Panthers.  “Get a pen.”  The black-suited Panther nodded and walked to the desk.  He started rummaging through the papers.  “Wait until we have a pen and paper, Mr. Hemingway,” Warrick said.  “I know you’re going to be telling us a lot.”

“Don’t you say a word,” Michelle muttered to Horseman as the blood ran out of her broken nose.

The Panther continued rummaging through the papers.  “Where’s the damned pen?”  He found one and scribbled on a paper, then frowned and threw it on the floor.  “Why can’t I ever find a pen that works around here?”

“You boys need to clean your office more often,” Warrick said.  He turned to Horseman.  “It seems our Panthers are better at intimidation than they are at office work.  No matter, tell me what you have to say.”

“They’re heading for Playa Sucia,” Horseman muttered.

Warrick chuckled as the wall clock continued ticking.  “I can smell a lie from miles away, Mr. Hemingway, and that’s a great big one.  That’s nowhere near the direction she’s heading.”  He turned to Michelle.

“No!” Horseman shouted.  “Wait!”  He struggled to break the iron grasp of the enforcer holding him down, but he could do nothing.

“You’re a tough one,” Warrick said to Michelle, “but it doesn’t matter.  The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”  One of the enforcers behind Michelle grabbed a handful of her hair and violently pulled her head back.  Warrick sliced a deep cut down Michelle’s right cheek.  Then, with his other blade, he sliced a cut across her left cheek.  “How will you ever get another acting job?” Warrick asked.  He sliced a cut across her forehead and another just above her chin.

“You bastard!” Horseman shouted.

“It’s all right,” Warrick said.  “Enough games.”  He slowly pushed one of the blades into Michelle’s belly and she gasped and screamed as the blade went deeper.  Then, Warrick slowly pulled the blade out and turned to Horseman, who was shaking and struggling as the enforcer continued holding him down.  “Your sister has a few hours more to live,” Warrick said.  “She can live those hours in complete agony, or I can put her out of her misery now.  It’s up to you.  You aren’t going to win this one, Mr. Hemingway.  And Abigail Song is not going to win, either.  She’s going to die no matter what.  I don’t give up, Mr. Hemingway, and as you can see, I’m very ruthless.  Now tell me where to find her and you and your sister can die less painfully.”

“Go to hell!” Horseman screamed.  Michelle was on the floor in the fetal position, holding her belly as it bled out onto the floor.  Her face was a bloody, bruised mess, but Horseman could see fire in her eyes.  He could see anger.  She wasn’t dying any time soon.

There was a knock on the door and it opened.  Warrick walked over to the open door and a man said something to him softly.  Warrick turned to Horseman, who was still shaking with anger.  “It seems your rebel friends started something downtown and I’m needed immediately.  No matter.  You can tell any of my associates the information and they’ll relay it back to me.  Remember, your sister’s time is running out fast.  If you give us the information we’re looking for, I may even find it in my heart to get her a doctor, if anything can even be done for her at this point.”  He waved to Horseman and left the room, shutting the door behind him.  The clock continued ticking, but Horseman didn’t notice it over Michelle’s painful moans.


Bobby was in his hotel room, trying to stay out of trouble.  He’d gone to the bank with Pete and picked up all of Abby’s diamonds in South Edge, which were now in Pete’s hotel room.  Everyone decided Bobby and Pete were the best ones to get the diamonds, since people generally didn’t know who they were.  There were ten heavy boxes in the safe deposit boxes, but the two of them had managed to load them into Pete’s hover van.  They used the codes Abby gave them from her computer.  Bobby was constantly looking out for any of Skinny’s men or anyone else, but nothing seemed particularly suspicious.  Still, they carried the diamonds up to Pete’s room just so they could keep a close eye on them.  There was no way they were leaving them in his van overnight.  Now Bobby was in his room next door to Pete’s, trying to relax the best he could, given the circumstances.

He turned on the three dimensional television and several phosphorescent nanobots buzzed out of the projector above the dresser and formed the words “starring Michelle Hemingway” as orchestral music played, violins fluttering like butterflies.  Bobby immediately perked up.  He ignored the rest of the credits.  He figured this may be the only way he’d get to see Michelle ever again.  He still hoped someday their paths might cross, but he knew it was a long shot.  Soon Bobby forgot the nanobots were there, and he felt as if Michelle was in the room with him.  He smiled as he watched her say “I don’t think your wife would be too happy about that.”  He studied her face: the flawless olive skin, her full lips, and her shining blue eyes.

“We haven’t been happy for years,” the handsome brown-haired man across from her said.  “I’m getting a divorce.”

“Well get the divorce, then,” Michelle said with a grin.  “I’m not gonna be your prostitute on the side.”

It wasn’t the sort of movie Bobby usually enjoyed watching, but it was so crazy seeing Michelle’s face.  She walked away from the man, crying as she walked through a dark alley.  Bobby noticed she didn’t have the sidecut in this movie.  Just long, wavy, sandy blonde hair.  He wondered if that was maybe something she did for a recent part or something.  Michelle looked up at the night sky and started singing a song about loneliness.  Bobby chuckled.  “Tell me about it.”  He realized he’d forgotten how sweet her voice sounded as he listened to the song, and he’d forgotten her flawless, effortless beauty until just then as he fell asleep watching her mouth sing the words.


Abby hoped nobody noticed her sneaking out into the night.  She walked down the street, trying to hide her face and trying her best to avoid unsavory eyes, but there were lots of them.  Despite his protests, she’d turned Einstein off and left him in her hotel room to finish charging.  She knew he wouldn’t be happy with what she was doing.  Still, the pain of her headache and the nausea were too much for her.  It was eating away at her, and she’d run out of pills.  There had to be a pharmacy open somewhere.  “Freddy’s Heroin Bar.”  The neon lights shone in front of her.  She cringed and walked past it, looking from side to side.  Ever since she’d been attacked by the saber-toothed cat, she’d been carrying a laser pistol she’d bought from Pete in a holster at her side and a knife in her right boot.  Pastor Earl had insisted she do so.  She felt a little safer, but she wasn’t sure she’d be able to use either one very effectively.  She’d fired laser pistols at a shooting range with her father in the past, but she’d never fired one at an actual person.

She saw “Leon’s Drug Emporium” in bright lights.  It was the closest thing she’d seen to a pharmacy, though she knew that wasn’t what it was.  Still, legal or not, he probably had some pills inside.  She walked past some people dozing off where they stood and made her way through the door.  Inside the dark, crowded bar, the smell of marijuana hit her immediately.  There were also other strange smells, and smoke was everywhere.  She made her way to the bar, where a tall, skinny, bald man was standing.  His arms were covered with tattoos of snakes and dragons.  He smiled a big smile as she approached.  “Can I help you?”

Abby nodded.  “I need some pain killers.”  She shouted so he could hear her over the noise in the bar.  It was making her headache worse.

“Pain killers?  I got the best right here.  Rainbow Bright.”

“Rainbow Bright?” Abby asked.

The man nodded.  “You got ten bucks?”

Abby nodded as her head throbbed.  She felt like she was about to throw up.  The pain was so bad she could barely comprehend what was happening.  She handed him ten bucks and before she knew it, he was holding her arm across the table.  He tapped the bottom side of her elbow joint, took a needle from under the counter, and before Abby realized what was happening, he stuck her with the needle and she felt a sharp prick.  Everything was swiftly slipping away.  “Rainbow Bright,” she heard someone say.  There was laughing.  All of her pain disappeared.  Her headache was gone.  The nausea was gone.  Even if it wasn’t, she didn’t care.  She wasn’t even there.  Her family murdered, all of the pain, physical, mental, and emotional was all gone.  There was nothing.  Just the feeling.  Just the ecstatic numbness.

Continue on to the next chapter:

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 23


Devin Hellier and his enforcers search for Nat Bigum.
Abby finds herself in an awful predicament.
Horseman waits for Warrick Baines to return.

Find the Table of Contents page here.

View the Map here.

View more art by John Blaszczyk here.
Check out Michael Monroe’s page on Amazon to find other stuff he’s written.
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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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