Fiction: Afterlife (Chapter 3)

by Mike Monroe on November 13, 2013

in FICTION

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

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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 2

Where:

Bobby explores the sewer.
Abby tells Bobby about how Warrick Baines killed her family.
Abby’s leg is bitten by an alligator and a giant gator attacks her and Bobby.

Find the Table of Contents page here.

 

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 3

 

The sun slowly rose above the desert, spreading streaks of orange across the hazy sky like stretching arms.  The ruins of a village burned with furious flames behind Warrick Baines, some buildings black and smoldering, others gone completely.  The cyborg stood facing Daniel Rhynes, the sheriff of the now decimated village of Arkville.  Sheriff Ryhnes’ silver star badge flashed with sunlight from his left breast.  Warrick’s red eyes shone out from the darkness beneath his hat’s black brim.

Several enforcers were shouting inside the town.  Periodic laser shots were fired as an attack copter cut through the sky above, its rotor slashing the air with methodic sound.  The copter fired several laser shots into the town along with several rockets which devastated some of the remaining buildings with fiery explosions.  Sheriff Rhynes had his hand near his holster, hovering next to the metallic handle of his laser pistol.  Warrick’s trench coat was pulled to the side, revealing his own holster and laser pistol.  The two men stood approximately twenty yards apart in the desert sands outside of Arkville.  Sheriff Rhynes adjusted his tan cowboy hat, pulling the visor further down to shield his eyes from the sun.  “You didn’t have to kill the women and children!” he shouted.

“See, that’s where you and I differ,” Warrick contested in his synthetic voice.  “You’re using your emotions, not your brain, to come up with that conclusion.  Picture cute little baby Billy.  He’s cute and loveable and harmless, right?  So I kill cute little baby Billy’s father.  And cute little baby Billy grows up to become cute little schoolboy Billy.  This is when cute little schoolboy Billy’s mom tells him about how I killed his dad.”

“Shut up and get on with it,” Rhynes blurted.

“It’s impolite to interrupt.  Please let me finish my story.”  There was another explosion in the town behind Warrick.

“How ‘bout I finish your story with a laser shot through your face?” Rhynes asked, his bearded face twisted into a grimace as his hand moved closer to his pistol.

“Try it,” Warrick said.  “You know the rules.  You can draw at any time.  Anyway, so cute little schoolboy Billy grows up and the hate keeps building inside of him until he becomes not so cute, badass teenager Billy.  You see, it’s about being practical, Daniel.  I can’t have hundreds of hormone-crazed teenagers roaming the desert seeking revenge against me, can I?”

“You’re a monster,” Rhynes countered.  “Try to justify it all you want.  It doesn’t change anything.”

“I’m not trying to change anything,” Warrick said.  “I can see your mind’s already been made up, and there’s not anything I can do to change it.  It’s all right.  I understand.  You had a vested interest in those people.  To me, they were nothing but nameless enemies.”

“They were no enemies of yours, you heartless metal bastard.”

“But they were,” Warrick said.  “I’m employed by Herman Rennock, and anyone who’s rebelling against him is his enemy and therefore my enemy.”  He paused, his red eyes shining at the sheriff.  “Do you want to hear a joke, Daniel?”

The sheriff quickly drew his pistol, but before he was able to aim, Warrick Baines had drawn his laser pistol with lightning speed and blown a hole through Rhynes’ stomach.  The sheriff fell backwards into the sand, staring up at the cloudless sky.  After several excruciatingly painful moments, Rhynes saw Warrick’s skull-like face looking down at him.  The sinister face was a patchwork of skin, cybernetic implants, and bone, with two shining red eyes.  Rhynes saw the business end of a double barrel laser rifle pointed at his forehead.  He gathered all of his remaining strength.  “One day,” he forced out with great effort, “you’ll burn in hell!”

Warrick looked down at the sheriff with his permanent grin.  “You shouldn’t say mean things to people before they kill you, Daniel.  It’s being a sore loser.”  The last thing Rhynes heard was a laser blast.

<>

Bobby thought fast as the giant gator towered over him.  He gave Abby the flashlight as she continued leaning on his shoulder, all of her weight on her good leg.   Bobby quickly whipped out his laser pistol, firing several shots.  Only one hit, but it had little effect, since the creature was so large.  It seemed only to anger the gator, which shot down towards Bobby and Abby with its huge mouth gaping.  Bobby pushed Abby out of the way and dove across the ground as the alligator thudded onto the stone floor of the cavern.  It snapped at Bobby again as he leapt up from the floor and ran away from it, turning and preparing to shoot again.  Abby shouted in pain from where Bobby had pushed her to, shining the flashlight in Bobby’s direction so he could see.

The eyeless gator was on the ground now, growling at Bobby.  He fired several shots at the beast’s head.  Most missed again, but one hit.  The beast seemed even angrier now, but it wasn’t slowed at all by the small wound in its massive head.  Bobby had heard that gators were notoriously hard to kill.  This giant was probably even harder.  If it only had eyes, Bobby could have aimed his laser pistol at those, but no such luck.  And the beast was too quick for him to try to run around it.  Bobby frowned.  Its next attack would probably snap him in two.  At least it had come after him and not Abby, though.  Bobby noticed some large stalactites hanging over the gator and he fired at them.  The gator snapped at him again, but before it reached Bobby, a large stalactite fell on its head, crushing it as Bobby dove away again.  Several more stones fell from the ceiling and Bobby realized he’d started a cave-in.  “One thing after the other,” he muttered to himself as he picked himself up from the ground and ran towards Abby, who was gritting her teeth in pain.

Bobby helped her get up on her good leg and she put her arm around his back as he helped her to his sand bike.  “You should leave me,” Abby moaned as more stones fell from the ceiling.  “I’ll just slow you down.  I don’t think I’m gonna make it.”

Bobby shook his head.  “I’ve gotten you this far.  I’m not giving up on you now.  We’ll get you to a doctor.”  With all of his strength, Bobby pulled the dented bike upright.  Then, he helped Abby onto the bike and got on in front of her.  “Hold on tight.  Hopefully this thing still works.”  The engine started and Bobby sped away from the falling rocks, heading towards a side passage.  If his internal compass was right, the passage would take him in the direction of Dune Post.

He weaved around stalagmites, going fast but not so fast he couldn’t dodge them.  At least he was looking out for them now.  Once he felt he’d gotten far enough away from the cave-in, Bobby stopped the bike and landed it on the stone floor of the cavern.  He dug his lamp out of his bag and turned it on.  “What are you doing?” Abby asked.

“We have to clean your wound the best we can and bandage it up,” Bobby replied.  He helped Abby down from the bike as she winced in pain.

“Do you have any alcohol?” Abby asked.  Bobby nodded.  “What kind?” she asked.

“Some moonshine I found in an abandoned farmhouse,” Bobby said.

“That’s perfect,” Abby said, struggling to speak through the pain.  “It’ll almost be a hundred percent alcohol.”  Bobby dug the moonshine and some bandages out of his bags and Abby pointed to a large spider web on the wall which was barely visible in the lamplight.  “Get that web.  It’ll help stop the bleeding.”

“What?” Bobby asked.

“Just do it.  Trust me.”  Bobby shrugged and walked over to the web, kicking the large spider away and pulling the strands down from the wall.  He struggled as it stuck to his arms and legs, but he was able to bring most of the web over to Abby.  She shouted and gritted her teeth as Bobby poured the moonshine over her wounded leg.  When he was done, he wrapped the spider web around the wound as Abby directed.  Finally, he wrapped her leg with white bandages and taped them so they’d stay on.  When Bobby was finished dressing Abby’s wound, he packed up his things and helped her onto the bike once again.  He got on himself, turned the engine on, and rode deeper into the cavern as Abby held his waist.

Bobby’s bike started beeping, so he looked down at the air meter.  “Oxygen levels are low here,” he said as he slowed the bike down to a stop, “and carbon dioxide levels are up.  We’ll need to use the oxygen masks.”  Bobby took two masks off the back of his bike.  They were connected to oxygen tanks by long, clear tubes.  He helped Abby put one on over her mouth and nose and he put the other on his own face underneath his helmet’s sand shield.  Once they could safely breathe, Bobby got on the bike again and rode further into the passage.

After some time, he noticed light up ahead and he saw the remains of another cave-in.  He slowed the bike down, seeing a large opening in the ceiling and lots of rubble that had fallen into the cavern below.  He rode up over the rubble and his bike shot through the opening and into the desert once again.  The white sands surrounded Bobby’s bike as he slowed down and looked at his gages.  “Great,” he muttered through the oxygen mask, bringing the bike to a stop.  “The bike’s navigation system was damaged in the crash.  I knew something would be broken.”  Abby moaned and nodded as she held his waist with a weakening grip.  Bobby dug a compass out of his pocket and saw that he was heading north.  Dune Post was west, so he turned the bike left and continued riding.  He had no idea how far away the town was.  He hoped he had enough fuel.  If the bike broke down, Abby was a goner.

As the bike sped through the desert, Bobby and Abby both turned the personal air conditioning systems in their jackets on, since the heat would soon be unbearable otherwise.  There was no landmark other than the large hole that was now far behind him.  All Bobby could see were white dunes, blue sky, and the searing white sun which was low in the sky.  He soon found himself wishing it had stayed that way, for he noticed seven sand bikes approaching from the south.  “Who are they?” Abby moaned.

“Maybe enforcers,” Bobby shouted over the sound of the engine.  “Maybe bandits.  Hopefully just travelers like you and me.”  He pushed the engine harder, speeding up the bike, hoping there wasn’t any more damage he didn’t know about from the crash.

As the riders came closer, Bobby could see that they had laser rifles.  They weren’t dressed like enforcers, though.  They were wearing patchwork vests of metal and leather, with metal helmets and goggles, and their sand bikes were in various states of disrepair.  “Bandits,” Bobby muttered.  He noticed what appeared to be a canyon ahead in the distance, so he sped towards it.  Bobby had often been pursued by bandits and enforcers, and this wouldn’t be the first time he’d used a canyon to evade pursuers.  This time was different, though.  He was carrying a wounded passenger.

One of the bandits fired a laser shot.  Bobby began weaving from side to side, hoping to make himself a hard target.  Abby was still moaning in pain behind him, weakly hugging his waist.  More lasers fired.  One shot skimmed across the front of the bike, leaving a smoking black mark.  Bobby increased the speed to max as the seven bandits continued their pursuit.

He took a deep breath as he neared the edge of the canyon, hoping Abby had the strength to hold on.  He skirted along the edge, looking down to see a trickle of water hundreds of feet below.  More laser shots fired.  Bobby rode along the edge of the cliff until he found a part that wasn’t quite as steep as the rest.  It would have to do.  The bike dropped off the edge and shot down into the ravine.  Bobby kept the bike upright the best he could, going down diagonally along the slightly slanted edge of the canyon.  A laser fired and sprayed some rocks off the cliff.  Bobby ducked, noticing a sheer drop-off ahead that went down at least five hundred feet.  His bike wasn’t meant to be an aerial vehicle, but desperate times called for desperate measures.  He flew over the ravine, looking at the ground far below him.  “Please hold on!” he shouted to Abby.  Her grip around his waist strengthened slightly as the front of the bike started dropping.

It was soon flying along the wall of the canyon once again.  Bobby took another deep breath.  More laser shots fired.  “Those guys are as crazy as I am,” he muttered as he rode further down into the canyon until he was skimming along the surface of the creek at the bottom.  He noticed ahead that the canyon grew narrower until the walls were only a few yards apart.  All seven bandits were still pursuing him.  Bobby rode forward until rock was only a few feet away on each side, towering hundreds of feet above.  He rode through sharp twists and turns in the ravine, narrowly missing the walls in some cases as he followed the creek.  He heard an explosion behind him.  One of the bandits must have crashed and his fuel tank exploded.  Bobby saw rock ahead and he turned left.  Moments later, there was another explosion behind him.  He continued following the creek, turning left and right as the rocky cliff walls zoomed past on both sides, only a foot away in some cases.

There were places where the creek branched off in different directions, and Bobby tried to vary the directions he turned, hoping to lose the bandits.  Eventually, the cliff walls spread further apart and the creek emptied into a muddy lake surrounded by scraggly bushes.  Bobby rode past the lake and found himself riding above desert dunes once again.  He looked behind him to see the steep cliffs, but no sign of the bandits.  He got out his compass to see that he was heading north again, so he turned left in order to head west.  Bobby really had no idea where he was.  Hopefully he hadn’t changed his course too much.  He was wondering if he’d have any chance of finding Dune Post at this point as Abby moaned in pain behind him.

<>

Dune Post was one of the largest towns in the Southwest Territory, which wasn’t saying much; its population was only a few thousand.  Several air converters had been built nearby and clusters of solar panels were spread throughout the town for electricity.  Underground springs provided water.  Handfuls of hover cars and sand bikes scattered the streets and dirt roads, but most of the townspeople couldn’t afford either.  There were even a couple of old-style cars with wheels and tires.  Most of the buildings consisted of shacks made from whatever junk people had managed to haul with them when they’d first moved to the area.  Much of the town lacked a working sewage system, so there were lots of latrines and outhouses.  The stench in the poor sections of town was awful.  Some of the more wealthy townsfolk lived in brick or stone houses, and a few taller buildings were clustered in the downtown business district.  The tallest was ten stories.  Devin Hellier sat behind a desk in the sheriff’s office, which was in a smaller three story building nestled between two eight story office buildings.  He looked down at his handset, a frown on his cleanly-shaven face.

Devin never liked delivering bad news.  There was a preacher in Dune Post who was causing trouble.  Most people in the town were being cooperative, but the preacher had stood on the steps of his church shouting at two enforcers as they walked by.  Apparently the enforcers had taken in some members of his congregation because it was reported they were working with rebels.  Some woman had been killed, also.  Devin hadn’t thought anything of it until the preacher started stirring up trouble with the townspeople and shouting at enforcers.  Now the old man was in the jailhouse, which Devin and his enforcers had occupied under the orders of Warrick Baines.  The town sheriff was a good man who was willing to work with Devin and the other enforcers while they were in town.  He even let Devin use his office.

Devin felt the need to call Warrick to inform him of the events regarding the rowdy preacher.  The preacher had a following and Devin didn’t want the situation to get out of hand.  He frowned, still staring at the handset.  He wasn’t sure what he was nervous about.  Warrick was a good boss.  He took good care of his men and they all loved him.  Whenever an enforcer made a mistake, Warrick had always been very understanding.  Warrick Baines gave his enforcers bonuses often, sometimes from his own paychecks.  There was a story that Warrick had once paid an enforcer’s rent when that enforcer was behind because of medical bills for his sick daughter.  That’s why Devin was able to do some of the things Warrick asked him to do which seemed a little questionable to him.  He knew Baines always had his best interests in mind, and the best interests of Herman Rennock.  The people Warrick had ordered Devin to kill or torture over the years were all enemies, but Warrick was always good to those who fought on his side, those he considered friends.  So why was Devin so nervous?  He didn’t like delivering bad news.  That was all.  He dialed Warrick’s number and waited.  The cyborg’s skull-like face appeared on Devin’s handset.  “Devin, it’s good to see you,” said Warrick in his metallic voice.

“It’s good to see you also,” Devin said as sincerely as he could manage.  “I’ve got bad news, though.”

Warrick’s shining red eyes stared out from the handset.  “If I ever go through one day without hearing bad news, I’ll assume I’m dreaming and pinch myself.  What’s going on?”

Devin nodded and went on to tell Warrick all of the details regarding what had happened with the preacher.  “So what should we do?  Should I have my men silence him?”

“A man of God?  No, we won’t ever kill a man of God.”

Devin frowned.  “Something needs to be done, though, sir.  If this goes on, our enforcers here, including myself, will be in jeopardy.”

“Well we can’t have that,” Warrick said.  “You’ll be in even more jeopardy if you kill this man, though.  Suppose his followers see him as a martyr and use his death as an excuse to revolt.  It’s easier to deal with a living man who causes trouble than it is to deal with a dead man who causes trouble.  He’s in jail right now?”

Devin nodded.  “But we’re afraid some of his people might try to break him out.”

“Is the unrest restricted to his congregation?”

“I don’t think so,” Devin said.  “Not anymore.”

Warrick stared at Devin for a few seconds.  “Okay, have our enforcers send warnings to all of the members of this preacher’s congregation.  If the unrest continues, we’ll have to resort to drastic measures.  Only with the congregation members, though.  Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, sir,” Devin replied.

“I don’t want any harm coming to the preacher.  Let me deal with him.  As soon as we’ve finished here in Arkville, I’ll come to Dune Post.  I’ll talk with the preacher face to face.  Or I should say face to skull, I guess.  I’m looking forward to it.  It’s been a while since I’ve had a good theological discussion.”  They said their goodbyes and hung up their handsets.  Devin looked out the window at the empty street below, chuckling.  All the people Warrick had killed over the years and he refused to harm a kooky old preacher.  Life’s always full of surprises.

 


Continue on to the next chapter:

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 4

Where:

Warrick confronts the preacher.
We see a repeating laser rifle (RLR) in action.
Bobby and Abby continue their perilous journey.

Find the Table of Contents page here.

View more art by John Blaszczyk 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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