Fiction: Afterlife (Chapter 5)

by Mike Monroe on December 12, 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 4

Where:

Warrick Baines confronts Pastor Earl.
Pastor Earl escapes from prison by blasting his way out.
Bobby and Abby are attacked by four enforcers.

Find the Table of Contents page here.

 

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 5

 

Bobby quickly unstrapped Abby and pulled her off the sand bike and into the sand as a laser shot grazed his right arm and he winced in pain.  He and Abby were now behind the sand bike, which was temporary cover from the attacking enforcers.  Bobby looked at Abby to see that she’d also been grazed by a laser, but on her left arm.  Another blast had squarely hit her left shin, blowing through the bone just below where the gator had bitten her.  She was already unconscious, so at least she hadn’t felt anything.  Her forehead was covered in sweat.  Bobby drew his laser pistol, though he wasn’t sure why.  He wasn’t a great shot, and he only had it to shoot the eyes of giant sand crabs when they attacked.  He knew he’d be no match for one trained enforcer, let alone four.  Bobby Brooklyn wouldn’t go down without a fight, though.  Besides, it was obvious they were going to try to kill him and Abby regardless of what he did.

He heard the fizz of several more laser shots and saw two fly past above his head while he heard several more hit the damaged bike, as if it weren’t beaten up enough already.  Then, there was a loud crack and echo.  It was so loud Bobby’s ears rang for a second.  There was another crack.  He heard more lasers, but it sounded like they were shooting in another direction.  He cautiously looked up over the bike to see two sand bikes in the sand, their riders on the ground.  Both heads were surrounded with blood.  The remaining two enforcers were riding to Bobby’s left now.  A man on a black sand bike with orange and yellow flames painted on the side was riding towards them.  He was wearing jeans and a vest, both black, and a black cowboy hat.  Dark sunglasses covered his eyes in lieu of a sand shield.  Even from here, Bobby could see that the revolver he was holding was huge.  There was another loud crack that startled Bobby and he watched the head of the enforcer closest to him jerk back as blood sprayed out everywhere.  The last enforcer fired his laser pistol at the man in black, narrowly missing.  The man aimed his massive handgun at the last enforcer and fired again, hitting him square in the face.  The enforcer fell off his sand bike, which crashed into the sand, and the man in black turned his sand bike towards Bobby.

Bobby was a little scared.  He wasn’t sure who this man was.  He wasn’t necessarily a friend.  Bobby kept his laser pistol in his hand as the man stopped his sand bike and stepped off, walking slowly towards him.  He was a tall, thin man in his sixties, with gray hair and a stubbly, leathery face.  There was a large scar on the right side of his face which went from his eye down to his chin.  He glared at Bobby through his dark sunglasses.  “Who the hell are you?”  His voice was soft and raspy.

Bobby gripped his laser pistol tightly.  “I…  I’m Bobby Brooklyn.”

“Well, Bobby Brooklyn,” the man said, aiming his gun, “you better put that pea-shooter away before I remove it, along with your hand.”  He spoke with a southern drawl.  Bobby noticed a silver star badge on the man’s left breast.  Was he some sort of sheriff or something?

Bobby slipped his laser pistol nervously into its holster.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“That ain’t no way to be treatin’ somebody who just saved your neck,” the man continued, “pointin’ a pistol at ‘im.”

“Like I said, I’m sorry.”

The man stepped towards Bobby, looking him over.  He also glanced down at Abby.  “She’s seen better days,” he said.  Bobby nodded.  “Who is she?” the man asked.

“I don’t know,” Bobby responded, looking down at her.  “She said her name’s Abby.”

Recognition came over the man’s face.  “Abigail Song.”

“Who?” Bobby asked.

The man eyed him suspiciously and chuckled.  “You don’t know who Abigail Song is?  What are you, some kind of dimwit?”  He put his gun back in his holster, and as he did, the sleeve of his shirt and his glove parted for a second, revealing dull gray metal.  He had a robotic right arm, or at least part of it was robotic.  “We need to get ‘er to a doctor.  Where you headin’?”

“Dune Post,” Bobby replied.

“That’s where I’m goin’.  Looks like we’ll be goin’ together.”

Bobby nodded.  If this man was a friend, he’d be a good person to have around.  “Who’s Abigail Song?”

“Probably the most important person alive,” the man said.

“How’s that?”

“Well, her parents were Henry and June Song.  She’s the heir to their fortune.”

Bobby nodded.  “I’ve heard of Henry Song.”

“And I’m sure you’ve heard of Prometheus?”  The man was staring Bobby down through his dark sunglasses.  “The man who started the resistance movement here in the SouthwestTerritory centuries ago?  His descendants have been continuin’ where he left off, funnelin’ money away from New Atlantis, and now Herman Rennock, and into the outside world to help the rebels.”

“I know,” Bobby said.  “What do you think, I’m an idiot?”

The man grinned.  The scar made his grin look ugly.  “I do, actually.  That’s beside the point, though.  Anyway, I believe Abigail Song is the only livin’ descendant of Prometheus, which means she probably has access to billions of dollars.  Not to mention, when she decides to step up, she’ll be the leader of the rebels.”

Bobby’s jaw dropped.  “Billions of dollars?  She told me she lost all of her money when her parents were killed.”

“That would be a damned shame,” the man muttered.

“So who are you?” Bobby asked.  “And why’d you kill those enforcers for me?”

“I’m Nat Bigum.”  The words sent Bobby’s mind into a flurry of thought.  Nat Bigum was the most legendary lawman in the SouthwestTerritory, possibly in all of Numurka.  He’d killed some of the most notorious outlaws, and he trained Warrick Baines, who was his deputy at one point.  The two of them restored order to some of the most dangerous, chaotic towns in all of Numurka before they had a falling out as legendary as their other exploits.  Everybody knew the stories.  Every boy grew up wanting to be Nat Bigum.  He was the man kids pretended to be when they played guns with their friends.  “Don’t be lookin’ at me like that.  I’m just an old son of a bitch.  Nothin’ more, nothin’ less.  I killed those enforcers because you were sittin’ ducks and I always take the side of the underdog.  So you were headin’ to Dune Post?”  Bobby nodded.  “And you were gonna try to get her a doctor there and you ran out of fuel?”

“That’s right,” Bobby said.  “And those enforcers attacked us.”

“And I saved your asses,” Nat added.  “Everybody has a plan ‘til they get shot in the head.  Well, we better get movin’.  She ain’t gonna last too much longer.”

“Do you have any spare fuel?” Bobby asked.

“Sure do,” Nat replied.  “If I didn’t, you’d be screwed.”  He walked to the back of his sand bike and opened a rear compartment.

“You can lead the way,” Bobby said.  “My navigation system was broken in a crash.”

Nat chuckled.  “Of course I’ll lead the way.  I was plannin’ on it.  Did you really think I’d follow you?”  He took a metal fuel can out of the rear compartment of his bike and carried it over to Bobby’s bike.  He unscrewed the fuel cap and started pouring it in.

Bobby took some water out of his pack and tried to clean off Abby’s new wounds the best he could.  “You’d better take care of yourself first before you take care of her,” Nat said as he poured the fuel.  “She’s practically dead already.”

Bobby glanced at him and frowned.  The gator bite on Abby’s leg stunk so bad he had to hold his nose.  When he was done cleaning her wounds, he cleaned the wound on his arm.  He was getting low on water, so he’d have to buy more when he reached town.  Water was expensive, too, since clean water was so hard to come by.  He hoped he had enough money for it.  He put what was left of the water away and wrapped Abby’s wounds and his with bandages.  When he was done, he lifted Abby onto the back of his bike and strapped her in.  He frowned when he noticed her lower left leg was dangling like rubber.  The laser had blown right through the bone.  He washed her sweaty forehead with some water, hoping to cool her down a little.  She was still breathing, but she was in bad shape, and the sun was beaming down like a searing hot stove flame.  “How much longer until we reach Dune Post?” he asked Nat.

“I don’t know,” Nat replied.  “Maybe an hour or so.”

Bobby looked at the silver star badge Nat was wearing.  “Are you still a sheriff?”

Nat shook his head.  “I’m retired.”

“What are you doing out here, then?” Bobby asked.

Nat frowned.  “Mind your own damn business.”  He finished pouring the fuel in Bobby’s tank and walked back over to his own bike.  Bobby noticed a shotgun and an old-style rifle hanging from the side of Nat’s bike.  The thing that struck Bobby was that both had wooden stocks.  Wood was extremely rare, and Bobby estimated the total value of the two guns at upwards of fifty-thousand dollars.  He wasn’t an expert, but it had to be at least that, judging from how much he’d gotten for selling smaller wooden items he’d scrounged over the years.  Bobby hopped on his bike and started the engine.  He followed Nat as they rode their sand bikes swiftly through the desert, over the monotonous white sands.

They passed over dune after dune, and Bobby was starting to wonder if they’d ever reach Dune Post, when he noticed another sand bike ahead in the distance.  Ready this time, he put his hand on his laser pistol.  He noticed that ahead of him, Nat had already drawn his revolver.  As they approached the sand bike, the driver waved his hand in the air.  He had a laser rifle strapped over his shoulder and two laser pistols in hip holsters.  Bobby also noticed a couple of concussion grenades on the man’s belt.  Still, he didn’t appear to be an enforcer and he definitely wasn’t a bandit.  The man stopped his sand bike on top of a dune and Nat and Bobby rode up to him and stopped their sand bikes nearby, letting them settle into the white sand.

The man was wearing an enforcer’s helmet and he was riding an enforcer’s sand bike, but he wasn’t wearing an enforcer’s uniform.  He was an elderly man wearing a gray t-shirt with a wooden cross hanging over his chest.  Though he was old, he appeared to be in excellent shape.  “Are you two heading to Dune Post?” he asked in a soft, steady voice.

“What’s it to ya?” Nat asked.  He was holding his revolver, but he wasn’t pointing it at the old man.

“Warrick Baines is there,” the old man replied.  “He’s probably got an army of enforcers with him.”  He glanced at Abby.  “Is that Abigail Song?”

“Who wants to know?” Nat asked.

The old man frowned at Nat through his sand shield.  “I only ask because I overheard some enforcers saying they had orders to kill her on sight, along with anyone who was with her.”

“That explains why the enforcers attacked us!” Bobby blurted.

Nat glared at him through his dark sunglasses like a reprimanding parent.  Then, he turned to the old man again.  “And how do I know the enforcers aren’t really somewhere else and you’re tryin’ to lead us to ‘em?  And what were you doin’ overhearin’ enforcers, anyway?”

“I was in jail,” the old man said.

“For what?” Nat asked.

“Something arbitrary,” the old man replied.  “You know how it is, now.  I said the wrong thing to the wrong person.”

Nat grinned.  “How’d ya get out?”

“I’m not proud of it,” the old man said, “but I blasted my way out.  There are a lot of dead enforcers in Dune Post, now.  Problem is, that’ll make them that much more vigilant.”

Nat nodded.  “Well maybe we’ll head for SunbreakCity.  It’s not too far from here.”  He nodded towards Abby.  “We need to get her to a doctor as soon as possible.”

“Can I tag along?” the old man asked.

Nat chuckled.  “Why should we trust you?  How’d you manage to take out all those enforcers and escape from jail?”

“I used to fight for the resistance in New Brazil,” the old man explained.  “I fought there for several decades.  Then, about twenty years ago or so, I moved up here and turned to God.   I became a pastor at a Christian church in Dune Post.  I’ve lived a life of non-violence until Herman Rennock’s men decided to start killing members of my congregation.”  He let out a deep breath.  “There’s no place for peace as long as Herman Rennock’s in power.”

“Well I sure as hell don’t like Herman Rennock,” Nat said, “but those are interestin’ words coming from a man who claims to worship the so-called Prince of Peace.”

The old man smiled.  “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  He paused and stared at Nat through his sand shield.  “As long as there are people suffering, it’s my duty to do all that I can to help them, even if it means resorting to violence.  It’s for the greater good.”

Nat chuckled.  “You live by the gun, you die by the gun.”

The old man nodded.  “When it’s my time, nothing will be able to stop that.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, though, it’s that mindless pacifism can be as dangerous as mindless warmongering when human lives are on the line.”

“Strange philosophy for someone with your background,” Nat said.

The old man grinned.  “The world’s full of paradoxes.”

“Well I guess you can come with us,” Nat said, “but we need to get a move on.  And I’m keepin’ a close eye on you, old man.  If you try anything, I’ll decorate the desert with your pious brains.  I’m Nat Bigum.  This here’s Bobby Brooklyn.” He nodded towards Bobby.  “And you already know who the girl is.”

The man grinned at Nat through his sand shield.  “The famous Nat Bigum.  I’m pleased to make your acquaintance.  I’m Pastor Earl Steadman.”  He nodded towards Bobby.  “What about you, Bobby?  What’s your story?”

Nat turned and looked at Bobby.  “Yeah, what is your story?”

Bobby cleared his throat.  “I’m just a forager trying to make ends meet.  I’ve been by myself out here after my uncle died several years ago.  I happened to stumble upon Abby here and decided to help her.  That’s all.  I’m nobody special.”

“Well, you’re special now,” Nat said, “whether ya like it or not.  Herman Rennock’s enforcers are after you, and if they find ya, they’ll kill ya.”  Bobby frowned.

“All the same,” Pastor Earl said, “it’s nice to meet you, Bobby.”

“Nice to meet you too,” Bobby said, “but we really do need to get out of here.  Abby’s in bad shape.”

Earl nodded.  “Lead the way.”  The three men started the engines of their sand bikes once again and Nat led the other two men northeast towards SunbreakCity, using his navigation system to guide him.

The sun was starting to dip closer to the horizon, signaling the coming of sunset, and Bobby was afraid to look behind him to see how Abby was doing.  He just hoped she was still breathing.  He also hoped they wouldn’t meet resistance in SunbreakCity.  It sounded like enforcer presence in the vicinity had increased significantly.  Abby had said she was heading to Dune Post though, so hopefully Warrick Baines and the rest of Herman Rennock’s men still thought that.  The dunes went by like waves beneath his sand bike as Bobby rode behind Nat with Pastor Earl to his right.  Eventually, the tops of brick buildings emerged just over a faraway dune.

As the three men approached the buildings, Bobby could see that SunbreakCity was anything but a real city.  It consisted mostly of beaten-up shacks made from broken-down metal machinery.  There were a few brick buildings in the center of town, but not many.  Cow and pig farms were scattered around the outskirts of town, with some greenhouses here and there.  There was a large metal air converter further in the distance and there were several clusters of solar panels on the outskirts of town.  As Bobby rode closer to the town, a foul stench that smelled like rotten meat and barbecue filled his nostrils and he coughed and gagged.  He noticed a large pit dug in the sand to the southwest of SunbreakCity, just far enough outside of town that its stench wouldn’t haunt the townspeople.  He could see hundreds of burnt bodies in the pit; there were men, women, and children.  “A body pit,” he muttered to himself, turning away in disgust.  Only the rich were buried in graveyards.  The rest were thrown into pits and burned when they died.  Bobby wondered how many of these had starved to death or died of thirst.  They wouldn’t have gotten any help from Herman Rennock.  He looked next to him to see that Pastor Earl was also looking at the pit.  His lips appeared to be moving behind his sand shield.  He must have been saying a prayer of some sort.  Bobby looked ahead to see Nat riding steadily forward, his head not moving, as if he didn’t think anything of the pit.

The three men rode into town and Bobby started keeping an eye out for a hospital or a doctor’s office.  Nat was leading them towards the center of town, which was smart.  If there was a hospital, it was probably there.  If they had trouble finding it, they’d at least find someone to ask.  Bobby allowed himself a quick glance at Abby.  She didn’t look good and she was sweating, but she did appear to still be breathing.  It was hard for Bobby to tell with a quick glance, but he thought he saw her chest moving a little.

They eventually stopped in front of a doctor’s office.  The sign on the front of the brick building read “Doctor Henri Drake Thomas.”  The three men let their sand bikes hover to the ground and Bobby and Nat stopped their engines.  A couple holding hands walked along the dirt road, looking at Bobby and his companions suspiciously.  “Either of you got much money?” Nat asked loudly enough to be heard over Pastor Earl’s engine.

“I might have a few hundred bucks,” Bobby replied.  “That’s it.”

“I’ve got nothing,” Pastor Earl replied.  “Remember, I just came from jail.”

Nat nodded.  “Well, I ain’t got much either.”

“We’ll have to rely on the good doctor’s charity, then,” Pastor Earl said as he took off his helmet and stepped down from his bike, leaving the helmet on the seat.

“We’ll have to be quick,” Nat said.  “The town sheriff probably saw us come into town and him and his deputies are probably gonna show up any minute.  If they do, I’m the sheriff of Falcon City and you’re my deputies.  We’re trackin’ criminals.  That’s why we’re so far away from home.  If he starts askin’ more questions, I’ll tell ‘im if we give ‘im any more information, it could hurt our mission.”  He glanced at Pastor Earl.  “Let me do the talkin’ with the sheriff.”

Earl nodded.  “I’ve heard of the sheriff here.  His name’s Dusty Plumber and he has a reputation for being tough as nails.  Maybe not like your reputation, but he’s sort of a local hero.”  He frowned.  “He’s sympathetic to Herman Rennock, though.  He won’t be friendly if he finds out who we are.”

“I know,” Nat said.  “I’ve heard of Dusty Plumber, too.  You just leave the talkin’ to me, like I said.”

“Of course,” Earl responded.

“Ain’t you gonna shut off your engine?” Nat asked him as he stepped off his bike.

“The bike’s stolen,” Earl said.  “I won’t be able to turn it back on.”

“It’s okay,” Bobby said, “I can hotwire it.  My uncle showed me how.”  Pastor Earl nodded and turned off the engine.

“You might wanna leave your laser rifle, too,” Nat added.  “We don’t wanna alarm anyone.  Pistols are normal, but walkin’ into a place of business with a laser rifle’s bad manners.”

Pastor Earl frowned.  “You don’t think someone might steal it?”

“Well if you broke out of jail, you probably already stole it,” Nat pointed out.

“What about your rifles?” Bobby asked Nat.

Nat glared at him though his dark sunglasses.  “They’re padlocked.  And don’t go askin’ about my stuff anymore unless you wanna piss me off.”

Pastor Earl shrugged and took the rifle off his shoulder, strapping it to the back of his bike instead.  Bobby took off his helmet and left it on his bike.  Then, he unstrapped Abby and lifted her over his shoulder.  His bike was smeared with blood from her leg.  “Charity’s not easy to come by these days,” Nat said as the three men walked towards the door to the doctor’s office.  “We’d better be prepared to find other means.”

“Well if we don’t have money,” Pastor Earl said, “what other means are there?”

“I’m sure we’ll find somethin’,” Nat said as he opened the door and entered, followed by Pastor Earl and Bobby with Abby slumped over his shoulder.

 


Continue on to the next chapter:

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 6

Where:

Nat Bigum and company ask the doctor to help Abby.
Bobby follows in the footsteps of Sal Paradise.
Nat and Pastor Earl meet the sheriff of Sunbreak City.

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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