Fiction: Afterlife (Chapter 34)

by Mike Monroe on January 26, 2015

in FICTION

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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 33

Where:

Abby and her companions reach their defensive position and start fighting.
Horseman, Juanita, and Sera search for Michelle and Bobby.
Rennock’s forces get the upper hand against the resistance fighters and Horseman is killed.

Find the Table of Contents page here.

View the Map here.

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Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 34

Michelle screamed as Bobby held her with his good arm, not sure what to do as lasers flew all around them, slamming into the side of the building.  “Sniper!” Juanita shouted as she fired lasers into the windows of the buildings across the street.  “We need to get out of here!”  Michelle screamed louder and fell over Horseman’s body.  Bobby tried to pull her away, but he couldn’t budge her with just his left arm.  Smoke and laser blasts were everywhere.

“You need to shut her up!” Sera shouted.  “She needs to shut up now!”

“No!” Michelle screamed as tears streamed down her bloody cheeks.  She tried to wipe Horseman’s blood off her face as she tried to drag what was left of him closer to her.  “No!”  Bobby pulled her to the ground as lasers continued firing.  More shots hit Horseman’s body as Juanita and Sera tried to take cover, keeping low as Juanita fired lasers at every window she could see.

Bobby realized they needed to get out of there fast.  The lasers stopped firing.  “What’s happening?” Bobby muttered.

“The snipers stopped firing for some reason,” Sera said.

“We need to get out of here,” Juanita said.  “Now.”

Michelle was sobbing hysterically.  Sera glared at Bobby.  “Will you keep her quiet?  She’s like a loudspeaker announcing our position.”

“Michelle!” Bobby shouted over her sobs and screams.  “I understand Horseman’s your brother and I’m sorry about what happened, but we need to get out of here!  He wouldn’t want you to stay here and get yourself killed.”  Michelle looked up at him, tears streaming down her scarred cheeks.  She looked blank, as if all the life had been drawn out of her.

There was a loud humming sound as a massive hover tank the size of a small house appeared from around the corner to Bobby’s left.  He swallowed as the tank’s cannon slowly turned to aim at him and the others.  He quickly pulled Michelle off Horseman with all of his strength and threw her forward, diving after her.  The cannon’s laser blasted a huge chunk out of the building which Bobby had been taking cover next to, and rubble and stone flew out from the side of it.  One stone clunked Bobby’s head and he felt woozy.  He fell to the ground and everything was dark for a few seconds.  When he came out of it, Bobby saw thick green laser blasts pummeling the buildings around him.  There were explosions and stones and rocks were raining from the sky.  The buildings were mostly gone.  All that was left was rubble.  Resistance soldiers ran past Bobby on the street as lasers cut them down, raining blood as bodies collapsed and somersaulted through the street.  Bobby saw a massive structure moving through the rubble.  It was a metallic vehicle that was at least ten stories high, with laser turrets all around it and huge laser cannons on the sides, like arms.  The colossal vehicle crashed through the side of a building as its huge cannons blasted other buildings to pieces and its laser turrets fired repeating blasts at the resistance fighters, mowing them down with ease.  The towering structured rolled past the street where Bobby was, and he looked around to see that there were no more buildings around him.  The towering, moving fortress had four leg-like metallic appendages which ended in tracks with wheels as high as two men.  There was rubble, fire, and bodies everywhere.  Bobby suddenly realized that Michelle had disappeared, as had Sera and Juanita.

<>

Abby stayed close to Pastor Earl and Della as they made their way through the desert, joined by the other three hundred or so soldiers General Crenshaw was leading on his charge.  Most were on foot, though there were a few scouts up ahead on sand bikes and there were also half a dozen or so stolen hover tanks hanging behind them, preparing to fire into Rennock’s line.  General Crenshaw was leading them towards the thinnest section of the line, which was far to the right.  Abby looked south and noticed several massive rolling fortresses making their way into the city.  They must have been the levelers she’d heard talk of.  Huge laser cannons on each side of them were firing at the buildings of the town, decimating them.  Abby hoped her friends were all right.  She tried to focus on the task at hand and started running as the soldiers quickened their pace.  It was hard moving through the sand, but Abby somehow managed not to fall.  She knew it was life or death.

The tanks behind her were firing their cannons at Rennock’s men and there were several sandy explosions up ahead.  A cloud of sand had sprang up around General Crenshaw’s force as they ran, making it hard for Abby to see anything up ahead, but she figured the enemy was having just as much trouble seeing her and her companions.  Rennock’s black-clad soldiers were firing their lasers at General Crenshaw’s force, and there were also hundreds of silver androids, all aiming laser rifles at them.  They were joined by hovering, legless robots with laser blasters where hands would have been and single red lights in the centers of their heads.  All were firing at General Crenshaw’s charging soldiers, including Abby.  Blasts hit some of the troops in front of her and bodies started dropping up ahead.  Abby could see General Crenshaw still running as lasers flew all around him, and this gave Abby a morale boost.  She pointed her repeating laser pistol at Rennock’s line and started firing as she ran with the others.  She saw a few androids and a few of the soldiers in black uniforms fall, but she wasn’t sure if she was hitting any, or if they were hit by other lasers.

Pastor Earl and Della were also firing as they ran beside her.  Abby figured they were probably aiming better than she was, but if she pointed ahead and fired, she figured there were enough of Rennock’s forces up ahead that she’d take out something.  As the resistance fighters approached the line, Abby had the sudden realization that they were greatly outnumbered.  “Keep moving!” someone shouted.  One soldier drew a knife as he approached Rennock’s line but Abby watched as lasers blasted through his chest before he was able to use the weapon.  He collapsed into a cloud of sand.  Della spun and fired five shots with his laser rifle.  Abby watched three androids and two soldiers fall into the sand.  Lasers were firing everywhere, and soon soldiers were swinging guns at one another like clubs.  Some soldiers were fighting with knives and others were punching one another.  A soldier aimed a laser pistol at Abby’s face at close range, and before she could do anything, his stomach exploded and he fell to the ground, moaning in pain.  Abby looked beside her to see Pastor Earl aiming his laser rifle where the man had been.  He smiled at Abby and turned and fired at another group of soldiers.

“Keep moving!” someone shouted.  Abby ran forward through the sand, which had formed a cloud all around her as laser blasts flew by from all directions.  The canons from the tanks were still firing, but at different sections of the line now.  Abby noticed Della up ahead and she ran towards him with Pastor Earl by her side.  They ran until they seemed to be past most of the fighting.  General Crenshaw was up ahead, leading the troops to the left.  They were running through open desert again.  Abby was starting to get really tired, running through the sand.  She stopped to catch her breath.

“Keep running!” Pastor Earl shouted, looking behind him.  He and Della rushed back to Abby and each grabbed an arm and pulled her along.  Her legs were moving, though she had no idea how.  She was exhausted.

General Crenshaw turned his troops towards the rear of Rennock’s line and he charged with all of his speed.  The troops ran behind him, and Pastor Earl and Della pulled Abby along with them.  They both fired as they ran, and Abby watched as resistance soldiers fell all around her.  Lasers blasted through their arms, legs, and faces and Abby saw bleeding limbs lying in the sand along with wounded soldiers who were shouting in pain.  General Crenshaw led his attack through the line and they were running back towards the town, where levelers were clearing away buildings like they were made of paper.  A quarter of the city was fiery rubble.  The general led the troops, along with Abby, Pastor Earl, and Della, back towards the city as hundreds of Rennock’s soldiers and androids followed in swift pursuit, firing lasers at their backs.  Abby was soon running through the streets of the city, trying her best to keep pace with the soldiers around her.  Pastor Earl turned and fired several shots as he and Della pulled Abby into an alleyway for cover.  General Crenshaw was in the street trying to rally his troops.  “Come on, men!” he shouted.  It definitely wasn’t the hushed voice Abby had heard before.  “We hit them hard!  Let’s go at them again!  What good are we if we don’t fight to defend the people we love?  I’ll go alone if I have to!  It won’t be the first time I’ve fought alone.”

Abby watched as he limped through the street alone, heading out towards the desert where most of Rennock’s army was still advancing.  She noticed that his right leg was wounded as he slowly made his way down the street that led out of the city.  Lasers were hissing past him, hitting the buildings all around him.  Resistance soldiers were ducking in the stoops and alleys.  “He’s nuts,” Della said.

“He’s brave,” Abby retorted.

Della shook his head.  “He’s an idiot.”  Resistance soldiers in tattered tan uniforms slowly sauntered onto the street, following the general as he fired his laser pistol ahead of him.

Abby peeked around the corner of the building and watched as General Crenshaw and about fifty men in tan uniforms marched down the street towards an advancing force of androids and soldiers who were firing their laser rifles.  “Charge!” General Crenshaw shouted.  He quickened his pace, running with a limp as the soldiers behind him followed.  Lasers were tearing through the resistance fighters as they charged.  Rennock’s black-clad soldiers took cover behind walls and around the corners of buildings as they fired at the advancing resistance troops.  Soldiers were dropping all over, covering the sandy ground with blood as Rennock’s troops picked them off.  The resistance fighters were determined to take out as many enemy fighters as they could, though.  General Crenshaw rushed at a wall where five or six soldiers were taking cover.  He fired shot after shot, picking off four of them.  Another soldier across the street shot him in the back and the general spun and fired, hitting the soldier in the face with a laser blast.  Dozens of androids marched down the street and fired shots at General Crenshaw, and the blasts ripped his body to pieces.  One shot splattered blood out of his head and he crashed to the ground.  The soldiers who’d followed him were all dead, their bodies littering the dusty, bloody street.

“Okay,” Pastor Earl said to Abby.  “That’s enough of this.  We need to get you out of here.”

Abby frowned and nodded.  “It’s not looking good.”

“It was never looking good,” Della said.

“At least the diamonds are okay,” Abby said.  She’d picked up the diamonds from the bank in Primrose with Pete’s help and added them to the rest, which she’d hidden under her bed.  There was no need for secrecy at the bank, since Primrose was a resistance stronghold.  Still, Abby hadn’t told anyone about the diamonds if they didn’t need to know.

“Well, we need to go back and get them,” Pastor Earl said.  “We’re running out of time.  Let’s head back to the truck.”

Abby nodded and followed Pastor Earl and Della as they rushed down the alley.  Most of her strength had returned after their short rest.  They reached the end of the alley and Abby noticed a huge leveler coming their way, its wheels crushing houses as lasers fired down from turrets underneath it.  “Take cover!” Della shouted as lasers sprayed the alley.  He pushed Abby into some trashcans and they fell to the ground as a laser blast hit Pastor Earl in the stomach.  He leaned against the wall as the leveler turned away from them.  Pastor Earl was holding his bleeding belly and wincing in pain.

“Pastor Earl!” Abby shouted rushing towards him with Della at her side.

“I’ll be alright,” he said with a strained voice.  “Just get back to the truck.”

“You’re coming with us,” Abby said.

Pastor Earl shook his head.  “I’ll just slow you down.  Get out of here.”

“You’ll be all right,” Della said.  “Come on.  I’ll help you.”  He wrapped his arm around Earl and helped him stand.  The two of them limped down the alley away from the end where the leveler had been with Abby following.  They moved slowly to the other end of the alley and Della helped Pastor Earl limp out into the street.  Abby peeked out from the alley and noticed a hover tank and a dozen androids coming down the street towards them.  Della fired several shots, taking out androids as he rushed towards another alley on the other side of the street, helping Earl along.  The hover tank fired its laser cannon as Della and Earl rushed into the alley.  The hover tank’s cannon took out a chunk of the building there and filled the alley with rubble.  The tank’s cannon slowly turned towards Abby and fired.

Before Abby could react, she was flying towards the side of a building.  She landed on her left foot and tumbled, slamming hard into the side of the building.  Another blast took out part of the building and rocks and rubble fell on top of Abby.  She was in pain all over and her mouth was full of sand and dust.  She started coughing and her ears were ringing.  She wondered if maybe she’d broken some bones as she heard troops rushing past the pile of rubble she was buried under.  She tried her best to silence her coughing and her heavy breathing as she saw legs in black uniform pants a few feet away from her through the rubble.  “Take out the survivors!” someone shouted.  She heard laser blasts.  Abby couldn’t move.  She wondered if she was paralyzed.

<>

Alex Harris was leaning against the sandbag wall as Mark and Jane Gonzalez fired shots out into the desert at the advancing troops.  “Levelers coming our way,” Mark muttered as he ducked behind the sand bag wall next to Alex.

“Could you see what happened to General Crenshaw?” Alex asked.

Mark shook his head as Jane ducked down next to him.  Other resistance fighters behind the sand bags stood and fired.  “I saw them rush through the line,” Mark said, “and then they disappeared.”

“There were way too many troops out there,” Jane said.  “I think it’s safe to assume they were all killed.”

Alex frowned.  “We shouldn’t have let Abby go.”

“She’s her own person,” Mark said.  “She can do what she wants.”

“All the same,” Alex said, “she’s important.  If she’s dead, any information her father gave her is dead with her.”

“She left some stuff back in her room,” Jane said.  “We could head back.  It’s getting ugly out here, anyway.”

Mark shook his head.  “We need to hold this position as long as possible.”

Alex hoped Abby was still alive.  He saw his old friend Henry in her.  She was all that was left of the Song legacy.  Next to the Rennocks, the Songs had probably been the wealthiest, most powerful family in Numurka.  Henry Song couldn’t have been more different from Herman Rennock, though.  Jane stood and fired several shots and ducked back down.  “Can you try to contact John?” she asked her husband.

Mark pushed the talk button on his communicator.  “John, come in.  Are you there?”  He waited a few seconds.  “John…”  There was no answer.  Mark and Jane frowned at one another.

Thick green lasers began blasting chunks out of the nearby buildings.  Alex noticed flames shooting up out of the church.  Several other nearby buildings were also on fire, orange flames licking at the sky.  “I’m not the military man here,” Alex said, “but I’d say it’s time to move.”

Mark nodded.  “I think you’re right.”  He glanced at his wife.  “We’re gonna head back to the truck.  We’ll wait there for the others until things get too hairy.  Then, we’ll head for the signal tower next to the canyon.  They’ll know to meet us there.”  Jane nodded and she followed Mark as he kept low and started running away from the sand bag wall.  Alex stood and followed them, keeping as low as he could as lasers shot past above and beside him.

<>

Mavery was still recording the sandy street as people shouted all around her and laser blasts hissed through the air above her.  She took a deep breath as Big Ed stood and fired over the sandbag barricade.  She quickly knelt so her head was peeking over the sandbags just enough for her glasses to record some footage.  Rennock’s soldiers were running towards the town, firing, as John Bernard mowed them down with his repeating laser rifle.  Bodies were dropping fast, but a few of Rennock’s men managed to reach the town and find cover behind the buildings.  Several lasers flew towards the sandbag barricade and Mavery dropped to the ground as fast as she could.  The blasts hissed against the sandbags on the top of the wall, spraying sand on Mavery and the others.  The other resistance soldiers were firing over the barricade along with Big Ed, John, and Paul Jacobs.  Mavery watched as lasers blasted through a nearby soldier’s chest.  He’d stood to fire just a little too long.

“I noticed the levelers are making their way towards the city,” John said as he ducked down next to Big Ed.  “Some of them are already attacking.”

Big Ed nodded.  “Maybe we should move back towards the truck.”

Paul shook his head.  “We need to stay here as long as possible.”  He stood and fired a few shots with his laser rifle.

Mavery peeked over the barricade again for a few seconds and recorded the levelers in the distance.  They were huge, armored metal fortresses with cannons and laser turrets all around them.  She recorded them rolling over the dunes on their wheeled tracks.  The cannons were firing thick green lasers into the city.  Mavery recorded the lasers blasting several buildings to bits.  She ducked just as some smaller laser blasts came her way, splatting against the sand bags.

“If those canons hit our barricade,” John noted, “they’ll tear right through it and disintegrate us before we knew what hit us.”

Big Ed fired several shots and ducked back down.  “Well what do you think we should do?”

“I’ll take it out,” Paul said with a wild-eyed grin.

“What?” Big Ed asked.  “How you gonna do that?”

“Just give me some covering fire,” Paul said, and before anyone could react, he leapt over the sandbag wall.

Mavery peeked over the top and watched as Paul Jacobs ran towards the closest leveler.  John chuckled and shook his head.  “That’s one crazy Jew.”  He stood and began firing his RLR at the leveler.  Big Ed stood and started firing also.  Mavery continued recording Paul Jacobs as lasers flew in her general direction.  The smallest member of the Bloody Six ran up to the leveler, darting past rubble and fallen bodies.  He looked like an insect next to the leveler as he ran.  She saw him take something metallic out of his bag, keeping low as lasers blasted the sand all around him.  He ran up to the tracks of the leveler, placed the metal object on the side of a wheel, and ran away from the metal fortress as fast as he could as John Bernard and Big Ed continued giving him covering fire.  There was an explosion and sand and metal flew everywhere as the wheels where Paul had placed the object exploded in an orange fireball.  The leveler teetered and toppled into the sand.  There was another explosion and the whole thing was on fire.  Paul continued running back towards Mavery, John, and Big Ed as a hatch opened underneath the toppled leveler and black-clad soldiers started leaping out of it.  Mavery noticed that some of them were on fire.

John aimed his RLR and started firing fifty shots a second, tearing the soldiers to bloody bits as they came out of the crippled leveler, shouting in pain as they were blasted to pieces by the hail of laser fire.  “Don’t shoot!” someone shouted just before his body was ripped apart.  “I surrender!” another man shouted as a laser blasted through his face.  John aimed at the door and killed soldier after soldier as they tried to escape the burning structure.

Mavery frowned.  “Stop!” she said as John continued firing.  Paul leapt over the sandbag barricade and ducked down behind it.  “Stop firing!” Mavery shouted as John continued taking out the soldiers trying to escape.  He stopped when there were no more.  What was left of the leveler went up in a ball of orange fire.

“Stop?” John asked, glaring at Mavery.  “This is war.”

“You pretty much murdered those men,” Mavery said.  “They didn’t even have the chance to defend themselves.”

“Look,” John said, glaring at her through his glasses as Paul Jacobs and Big Ed looked on, “let’s get something straight.  This is war.”

“Those people might have had families,” Mavery said.

“I have a family,” John countered.  “And they were going to try to kill my family.  Rennock’s men have orders to kill every man, woman, and child who lives in this town.  I’m going to kill every one of them I can, and if it’s unfair, then so much the better.  Those punks deserved what they got.”

Mavery’s mouth was hanging open.  She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.  She wanted to convince herself that she was with the good guys, but everything seemed blurred.  Lasers began to pummel the sand bags.  “Well, one thing’s for sure,” Big Ed said.  “We need to get the hell out of here.”

Paul nodded.  “We got our shots in.  Let’s head back to the truck.”  He stood and started running down the street.  John and Big Ed followed.  Mavery was still rattled, but she followed also as other retreating resistance fighters ran in the same direction.

<>

Devin Hellier watched Warrick Baines pace the dune in front of him.  They were outside of the farmstead where they’d been staying during the attack of Primrose, waiting to see if Nat Bigum showed up like Baines had said he would.  Noah Flyman was standing next to Devin and there were eight other enforcers standing on the dune, including Jorge Bautista, the new guy they’d picked up in South Edge with the robotic arms.  Warrick’s black trench coat fluttered in the slight breeze as he paced the dune.  There was no emotion in the cyborg’s skull-like face, which was partially hidden by the shadows cast by his wide-brimmed black hat, but Devin sensed the tension as Warrick scanned the endless desert sands with his red eyes.  Devin’s gaze shifted towards the headless Arab’s body on the next dune over.  It had already attracted some big, black vultures.  One was picking at the head and the other two were feasting on the body.  Devin looked out at the dunes and put his hand on the hilt of his laser pistol.  “Are you sure Bigum’s coming?” he asked.  “Won’t he know it’s a trap?  There are eleven of us here.  He’s just one guy.”

Warrick stopped pacing and glared at Devin.  “Of course he’ll know it’s a trap,” he said in his metallic voice.  “It won’t stop him, though.  If there’s one thing I know about Nat Bigum, it’s that he’s arrogant.  He thinks he’s invincible.  He’ll come.”

Before anyone could react someone leapt up onto the dune behind Warrick.  A metallic arm was wrapped around Warrick’s neck and a gloved hand was holding a .44 magnum pointed at Warrick’s temple.  Devin and the other deputies quickly drew their guns and aimed them at the man who was holding their leader hostage.  He was a tall, thin man in his sixties who was wearing black sunglasses and a black cowboy hat.  There was a nasty scar on the right side of his face.  Devin immediately recognized the man as Nat Bigum, the same man who had interrogated him in South Edge.  He must have had a cybernetic leg to have been able to make a leap like that.  He’d managed to sneak up on them by hiding between the dunes somehow.  “Stop pointin’ your guns at me,” Bigum said in a soft, raspy voice with a southern drawl, “or I’ll open his half-metal head with my can opener here.”  He cocked the huge gun.

“There’s no need for that,” Warrick said calmly as Devin and the other enforcers continued pointing their laser pistols at Nat.  “We can do this like civilized men.”

Bigum laughed.  “You think pretty highly of yourself, Baines.  You might think you’re civilized, but I know a whore in a fancy dress when I see one.”

Warrick nodded, the gun still pointed against his head.  “So what’s happening here?”

“We’re gonna go out to the dunes and draw,” Bigum said.  “And your men are stayin’ here.”

“That’s an awfully ballsy request,” Devin said, pointing his gun at Bigum’s face, “considering there are ten of us and one of you.”

“What can I say?” Bigum asked with an ugly grin on his scarred face.  “I’m a ballsy kind of guy.”

“You heard him,” Warrick said to his men.  “Stay here, and if by some snowball’s chance in hell he manages to kill me, blow him to pieces.”

Devin considered trying to blow Bigum’s brains out right then.  He aimed his laser pistol at the former sheriff’s head.  Lasers were much faster than bullets.  He just had to make sure he didn’t miss.  “I can see what you’re thinkin’,” Bigum said, looking in Devin’s direction.  “Let me assure you I’ll blast his metal head open and blow your brains out before you can get a shot off.”  He looked around at the other enforcers.  “Now, I’ve got six bullets in my revolver.  I won’t be able to kill all of ya, but I’ll be able to kill most of ya.”  He looked at each enforcer in turn, finally fixing his gaze on Devin once again.  “Are you willin’ to take the chance that you won’t be one of the dead ones?”  Devin and the other enforcers continued pointing their guns at Bigum.  They’d all heard the legends.  Bigum had supposedly taken out several men at a time on many occasions.  Warrick had confirmed some of the stories, but there was no other way to tell which were true and which weren’t.  Bigum definitely had his reputation for a reason, though.  “You’d better start walkin’ away, all of ya!” Bigum blurted.  “Start walkin’ away and get outta my sight!  Before I start gettin’ antsy.”

“Remember,” Baines said, “if he lives, kill him.  And leave him for the vultures like his friend over on the other dune.”

Bigum continued glaring at Devin, his gun’s barrel fixed firmly against Warrick’s cyborg head.  “So I hear your men love ya, Baines,” Bigum said with a grin.  “Do they know you don’t have a prick?”  He chuckled.  “Yeah, that’s right.  Your beloved badass leader here is a half-metal eunuch.  He used to love the women, too.”  His gaze shifted to Warrick.  “How’s it feel, you cowardly weasel?  You see a beautiful woman and you can’t even get a boner ‘cause you don’t have a god-damned prick.”

Warrick’s teeth seemed to grind closer together.  Bigum had definitely struck a nerve.  “You shouldn’t insult a man who’s about to kill you,” Baines said.

“Then you’d better keep your mouth shut,” Bigum fired back.  He looked around at the enforcers.  “We’re leavin’ now.  So y’all better get inside that house there.  I’ll give you a minute or two.  And if I see any of your ugly faces before me and Baines are facin’ once another down, I’ll blast open the only head he’s got left.”

He started backing away across the dune, away from the farmhouse.  The enforcers were looking at Devin for guidance.  Devin knew if Warrick died, he was in charge.  In that moment, part of him almost wanted Bigum to be successful.  Either way, Devin and the other enforcers had nothing to gain by not letting the two men duel it out fair and square.  Devin dropped his gun arm to his side and let the weapon slip back into its holster.  He looked at Noah and nodded towards the farmhouse.  The other enforcers also put their guns back in their holsters.  Devin walked towards the sandstone building and the other enforcers followed him.

<>

Warrick Baines and Nat Bigum were standing on a dune outside of Primrose, about thirty feet of sand between them.  Both had their hands hovering over their holstered laser pistols.  Warrick’s trench coat was pulled to the side.  Nat noticed Primrose was burning in the distance as levelers rolled through the city.  Orange and yellow flames burned across the horizon and the sky was filled with smoke.  Nat hoped Abby, Earl, and the others were all right.  They knew how to take care of themselves.  They wouldn’t hang around a burning city too long.  If Nat survived the duel, he’d catch up with them later.  “So how are things?” Warrick asked.  “How’s the woman you tried to kill me over?  Surely you’re married to her now, right?  Oh, no.  I forgot.  You left her for dead.  Just like you left me.”

Nat grinned and shook his head.  “That ain’t what happened and you know it.”

“It isn’t?” Warrick asked.  “It seemed that way to me.  You came back, tried to kill me, and left me for dead.  And you didn’t even look for Anna.  You stole her from me!  And you left her!”

Nat grimaced.  “You shoulda treated her better.  She wouldn’t have left ya for me if you’d treated her better.”

Warrick’s red eyes flashed.  “You were my friend!  My best friend.  You stole my girl, and look what you did to me!  You did this to me!  You made me what I am.  There’s a hot spot in hell for you, Nat Bigum.”

“Too bad there ain’t no such place,” Nat countered.  “When are ya gonna stop blamin’ me for all your problems and draw?  You’ve always been a coward, Baines.  You ain’t gonna draw and you know it.  You ain’t got the balls to draw on me, figuratively or literally.”

“You son of a bitch,” Warrick said.  “You were always trying to put me down.  Talking about my books and my reading like they were a hindrance of some kind.  Calling me a nerd because I read books.  You always thought my books were my weakness.  No, they were my strength.  That’s what you never understood about me.  They’ve always been my strength, Bigum.  You were always just too dumb to see it.”

“I was good to you,” Nat muttered.  “I was always good to you and you know it.  You loved torturin’ people and playin’ mind games a little too much, Baines.  That’s why Anna left you for me.  She could see ya for the evil, heartless bastard you always were.”

“And you weren’t?” Warrick asked.  “You’ve killed a lot more people than I have, Nat.  Maybe you’ve mellowed out a little in your old age.  Maybe you’re senile and you’ve forgotten.  Do those friends of yours know who you really are?  Do they know you’re a murdering, backstabbing, evil son of a bitch?”

Nat glared at him.  “When are you gonna draw, ya yella bastard?”  The two of them faced one another for several seconds.  Warrick’s red eyes flashed beneath his wide brim, which cast shadows over his skull-like face.  Nat glared at him through his black sunglasses, his hand hovering over the hilt of his .44 magnum.  Warrick’s gloved hand hovered over the hilt of his laser pistol as the two former friends stared one another down, Primrose burning in the distance.  Nat saw Warrick’s hand move and he went for his revolver with lighting speed.

Warrick aimed first and fired a laser blast at Nat’s head.  Nat drew a split second later and fired his revolver.  Both men fell to the ground and Nat’s black cowboy hat tumbled down the side of the dune with a burning laser hole that went through the front and back.

 

 


Continue on to the next chapter:

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 35
Where:
We see the results of the duel between Nat Bigum and Warrick Baines.
The Battle of Primrose comes to an end.
The survivors leave Primrose.

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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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