If you’ve never read Afterlife before, click here to go to the first chapter.
Photo by Michael Monroe
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:
Nat Bigum gets drunk at a local saloon and Pastor Earl helps him walk home.
Warrick Baines tortures Michelle Hemingway in front of Horseman.
Abby goes to a heroin bar and unwittingly shoots up.
Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 23
Devin Hellier put his finger to his lips as he slowly crept up the stairs, followed by the four enforcers who were with him. They’d been secretly asking questions around town for the past couple of days and discovered that a man who was possibly Nat Bigum had gotten drunk in a local saloon earlier that night and had left with an elderly friend. Devin thought maybe the elderly friend was Earl Steadman, the preacher who’d caused commotion in Dune Post. Devin had a bone to pick with Steadman, who killed several of Devin’s fellow enforcers. Like Nat Bigum, Steadman was supposedly travelling with Abigail Song and her companions, so there was a good chance he was with Bigum wherever he was.
Somebody had apparently seen the two men walk into the hotel where Devin and his men were now. It was a dirty place, but pretty much every building in South Edge was in bad repair. The stairs were covered with dust and dirt. They hadn’t been cleaned in years. It appeared the hotel owner had just given up. After asking questions at the front desk, Devin discovered the room where the man he assumed was Nat Bigum was most likely sleeping. If Bigum was passed out drunk, it would be the perfect time to take him out. Then, Devin could track down Steadman and Abigail Song, if she was there rather than in Silver City as Warrick suspected. Devin had tried to call Warrick, but there was no answer, so he figured he and his men could take care of it themselves. He wasn’t sure how Warrick would feel about him taking the Nat Bigum situation into his own hands, but he decided this could be his best chance, so he didn’t have time to wait around for Warrick to get back to him. Ultimately, Warrick would probably be very happy if Devin managed to kill Nat, no matter how it was done.
Devin reached the top of the rickety wooden steps and he signaled for his men to follow him. A cockroach scurried across the dusty floor in front of him. Devin looked up and noticed a closed door just down the hallway with the room number “222” hanging on a plaque. That was it. Devin drew his laser pistol and slowly crept towards the door as his men took positions in the hallway with their guns drawn. Devin kicked the door in to see an old man lying on a bed, moaning in his sleep. Through the moonlight shining through the window, Devin could see that the man was tall and thin, and the sheets were pulled down slightly, revealing his upper torso. His right side from the shoulder down was mostly robotic, including his right arm, and there was a large scar on the right side of his face running from his eye down to his chin. It was definitely Bigum. Devin looked around the room quickly to make sure the coast was clear. Nothing but a dusty dresser with a folding chair and a closed bathroom door. The light in the bathroom was off so it appeared to be unoccupied. Still, Devin motioned to one of his men to watch the door just in case. Devin aimed his laser pistol at Bigum’s head and took a few more steps towards the old bastard as the four other enforcers followed him into the room. Devin stopped and smiled, still pointing his gun at Bigum’s head. “Your time’s up, you son of a bitch,” he muttered.
There was the hiss of a laser and then five more. The first shot hit Devin in the hand, blasting his gun out onto the floor. The next shot was an enforcer firing back. The next four each hit one of Devin’s fellow enforcers in the head. They were all dead on the floor. Devin quickly put his hands up and backed away from Bigum, looking to see the bathroom door cracked now, with the barrels of two laser pistols pointing out. There was a blackened hole in the door where the enforcer’s laser blast had hit. The door opened the rest of the way and the light turned on, revealing a wiry, muscular old man with long, white hair which was tied behind his back. A wooden cross hung down from his neck, resting over his gray t-shirt. It was Steadman, and he was pointing two laser pistols at Devin as he stepped forward. Devin winced in pain. His right hand was burnt and bleeding where the laser blast had hit him. “Well,” Steadman said with a grin, “look who we’ve got here.”
Bigum stirred and moaned. “What the hell’s goin’ on?” he asked in a soft, raspy voice with a southern drawl.
“Five men tried to kill you in your sleep,” Steadman said as he continued pointing his two guns at Devin. “I killed four and left one alive for questioning. This is Devin Hellier, Warrick Baines’ right hand man.”
Bigum sat up on the side of his bed and put his hand on his forehead. Devin could see that he was wearing light blue boxers. “I’m gonna puke,” Bigum muttered. He grabbed a trash can which was next to the bed and threw up into it, heaving loudly.
Earl Steadman was still pointing the two guns at Devin. “How did you know we were here?”
“I don’t know anything,” Devin replied with a grin.
“I don’t doubt that,” Bigum said, smiling an ugly, scarred smile. “Either way, we’re gonna have a hell of a lot of fun with you.”
Devin looked from Bigum to Steadman. He wasn’t sure which one was more dangerous. Nat Bigum definitely had the reputation, but Earl Steadman had disarmed him and killed four of his men in a matter of seconds. And then there was what he did in Dune Post. He was no one to be trifled with. Still, neither of them would be a match for Warrick Baines. “Warrick Baines is gonna come looking for me,” Devin muttered. “You’d better just let me go now, if you know what’s good for you.”
Bigum chuckled. He’d pulled a .44 magnum out from under his pillow and he was now pointing it at Devin’s face. “I hope he does come lookin’ for you,” Bigum said, “so I can kill the son of a bitch.”
Abby was walking through a cave. There was a huge underground lake and a waterfall. Mist from the waterfall was everywhere, and everything was fuzzy. “Where am I?” she asked, her voice echoing through the cavern. Everything wavered for a second, like a camera going in and out of focus.
“I’m disappointed Abby.” It was her father’s gentle, resonant voice. He sounded upset.
Abby squinted and saw him through the mist. “I’m sorry.”
“I know it’s been hard,” he said, walking slowly towards her, “but I never thought you’d resort to drugs.”
“Where is this?” she asked.
“You’re not really here,” he replied. “That should be pretty obvious. You need to snap out of it, Abby. And I don’t just mean out of this dream. So much is depending on you.” She could see him better now. He was wearing the same black suit he’d been wearing in her last dream.
“That’s the problem,” she muttered. “I didn’t ask for any of this. I’m just a twenty year old girl. I can’t even legally drink yet in most of Numurka.”
“You’re brave, though,” he said with a smile on his middle aged face. “And you’re tough. Tougher than I would have thought.”
As he stepped towards her, her face broke into a smile and she ran into his arms. She hugged him like she would never let him go, but he broke away. “Why’d you have to go so soon?” she asked with tears in her eyes. “I’m so alone.”
“But you’re not. Remember what I told you. You have lots of people who want to help you. Some are the friends who are with you now. You need to snap out of it, Abby. Find the strength within you. I know you’re capable of doing anything. I’ve always told you that. I wish you’d believe me for once.”
She shook her head. “I don’t know. I can only do so much.”
“You have to get back on your feet,” he said. “You’ve never been someone to give up. I raised a fighter, not a drug addict.” He smiled. “It’s okay, though, Sweet Pea. I know it’s hard.”
She smiled back at him. “You were always such a good dad.”
He shrugged. “I tried. Well, I need to go now. Wake up and get yourself together. Do it for me, if not for anything else.”
“I…” Abby thought someone grabbed her, but she couldn’t really tell. Everything was spinning. She felt like someone or something was holding her down.
When Abby came out of it, everything was still hazy. She had no memory of anything until just now. She remembered going into a club of some sort and getting a shot in her arm from the man behind the counter, but everything was a fuzzy blur after that. She realized there was a man holding her shoulders down in her bed. Another man was climbing on top of her. She recognized him as Johnny Shines, the deputy who’d brought her and her friends to South Edge. “She’s awake,” Johnny said. He smiled, his gold teeth glinting in the dim light as he moved over her. “Just lay back,” he said softly. “You might even enjoy this.”
“She’s high,” the man holding Abby down said. “Her eyes might be open but she don’t know what’s goin’ on.”
“Okay, bitch,” Johnny said. “Get ready for this.”
Abby was sickened by his wicked grin. She shouted and kicked several times as hard as she could, not really knowing what she was doing. Several kicks hit his crotch and there was a loud crunch and a crack. Abby realized she’d just kicked him in the crotch as hard as she could with her robotic left leg. Johnny screamed and collapsed to the floor, rolling around in the fetal position. Abby felt the other man’s hands wrap around her neck and squeeze. “You’re gonna pay for what you just did,” he muttered. She looked up and saw the bald, tattooed man from the drug bar. Abby gasped for air as he squeezed her neck violently. She couldn’t breathe and she was feeling lightheaded as she gasped and struggled. “You’re gonna die, bitch,” the man said as he strangled her.
She remembered the knife in her right boot Pastor Earl had told her to put there and she brought her knee up towards her face as she continued struggling to breathe. She quickly pulled out the knife and began stabbing behind her as hard as she could with several swift thrusts. The man screamed and whimpered. Abby shook her haziness off and gasped for air, breathing deeply. She turned to see that she’d stabbed the man several times in the crotch and he collapsed to the floor, bleeding profusely from his nether regions. Abby sat up in the bed and stretched. “That’s what you get, perverts!” She slowly stood and hobbled towards the door in a daze, leaving the two men wallowing on the floor in utter agony, moaning and yelling.
Bobby opened his eyes. The credits for the movie he’d been watching were just disappearing. He must have fallen asleep. Bobby frowned. He’d wanted to see how it ended, but he’d probably never know. At least he’d gotten to see Michelle act for a little bit. The credits were replaced by the three dimensional image of Skinny Hayes wearing a purple suit and a cowboy hat with a pink feather jutting out of the top. He leaned on his cane and smiled, looking out at the audience through his black sunglasses. “You ain’t seen nothin’ like it friends. So go on down to your local club and ask for Rainbow Bright. You’ll have the experience of a lifetime.” Bobby noticed the remote on the pillow next to his head, so he picked it up and changed the channel. The last thing he wanted to see was a drug dealer trying to sell him heroin.
Skinny was replaced by a tan-skinned man with plastic-looking hair who was smiling a big, fake smile. “So tune in again tomorrow night. You have to see what happens next. Is Jimmy going to kill Margaret?” Several images of a couple arguing and fighting appeared above the dresser. “Did Frank really steal Joey’s money? This is reality television at its absolute best, folks! Watch as the final four surviving criminals fight it out for a half a million dollars in ‘the Big House!’” Bobby shook his head and changed the channel again.
Several images of packed stadiums appeared. There were explosions and a woman was holding up somebody’s head. “Who’s going to be this year’s ‘Gladiator Champion?’” a voiceover said as more stadiums and explosions appeared above the dresser. “Our next match is next Thursday! Sternum Crusher is taking on Evileye Alphacore in a bout you won’t want to miss! And before that, we’ll have an all-out war with hover tanks, EMPC’s, and dozens of robots fighting a group of gladiators from the Mexican Territory. You won’t want to miss that, either!” Bobby turned off the projector and frowned. Television was getting worse and worse every year, it seemed.
There was shouting coming from the hallway. Bobby thought he heard Abby’s voice. He sat up in his bed and put his slippers on. Then, he rushed over to the door and opened it. Abby was out in the hall with a confused look on her face. She was holding a knife that was dripping with blood and her hotel room’s door was open. She was wearing jeans and her white jacket rather than pajamas or a nightgown. Several moans and painful shouts were coming from inside her room. “What the hell’s going on?” Bobby asked.
Abby opened her mouth to speak and shook her head. “I… It all happened so fast.” She seemed to be in a daze and was wobbling a little.
“Are you high?” Bobby asked.
“I’m sorry,” Abby said, dropping the knife on the floor. “They tried to rape me. I didn’t have any choice.”
Bobby walked over to her and put his arms around her. “It’s okay. It’s all right.”
Pete was in the hall now, too. “What’s happening?” Sherry was also in the hall, barking and running back and forth. Pete had talked the hotel owner into letting the dog stay in his room with him. After Pete gave the owner some cash for his trouble, he’d been more than happy to oblige. Pete picked the dog up and tried to quiet her.
“Somebody attacked Abby,” Bobby replied. “She apparently put them out of commission.” The moans grew louder, as if to put an exclamation point on Bobby’s statement.
“We need to leave,” Pete said, looking from Abby to Bobby. “We need to leave now. Let’s get Earl and Nat.”
Bobby nodded. He helped Abby walk into his hotel room and helped her lie down on his bed. “You can rest a minute while I get everything together. We need to get the diamonds out of here.” Abby nodded, though she didn’t seem to really understand what was happening. Bobby hoped she snapped out of it soon. If they were going to try to sneak out of town, the last thing they needed was her falling all over herself.
Michelle was on the blood-drenched floor, moaning in pain. Horseman was seething. He wanted to jump out of his seat and kill the Panther who was grinning at him. He wanted wipe that stupid smirk off his face. He wanted to do something to comfort Michelle. Most of all, he wanted to destroy Warrick Baines. He wanted to cause that metal maniac the same pain he’d caused Michelle. It was no use, though. One move and the black-suited Panthers would blow him away. The big bald enforcer had left the room not long after Warrick, leaving Horseman and Michelle alone with the two Panthers and four enforcers. They all had laser pistols and Horseman had nothing but his fists, which were deadly weapons, but would be of little use against six armed men who were positioned strategically around the room. Michelle was bleeding badly, but Horseman knew a person could survive a stab wound in the gut for quite a while as long as it didn’t puncture any vital organs. He needed to figure something out, though. He knew he needed to do something in order for Michelle to survive the night.
The door flew open and Horseman was shocked to see a black man wearing a slinky silver dress. It was the drag queen with the big afro wig from the club. A belt was wrapped around her waist with two small pearl-handled pistols in holsters on the sides. “Let’s dance!” she said, and before anyone could react, she’d drawn the guns with lightning speed and after a flurry of laser blasts, the two Panthers and the four enforcers were all on the floor. Most were dead, but one enforcer and one Panther were still alive and grunting in pain. She walked over to the Panther, aimed one of her laser pistols at his head and fired. She executed the enforcer in the same way. Then, she spun her pistols on her fingers and let them slip back into their holsters. She smiled at Horseman and shook her head. “You’re sexy as hell,” she said in an effeminate male voice.
Horseman closed his mouth, which he hadn’t realized was hanging open, and rushed over to Michelle. “We need to get her to a doctor.”
“We sure do,” the drag queen said. Horseman looked up at her and she smiled and winked. “Now come with me, you sexy boy.”
Continue on to the next chapter:
Big Ed and Mavery stay in Dune Post for a night.
Nat and Pastor Earl argue about what to do with Devin Hellier.
Abby and her companions try to leave South Edge.
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