Fiction: Afterlife (Chapter 6)

by Mike Monroe on December 26, 2013

in FICTION

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

canyon

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 5

Where:

Nat Bigum saves Bobby and Abby from the enforcers.
Pastor Earl meets up with Nat and Bobby.
Our heroes head to Sunbreak City and look for a doctor.

Find the Table of Contents page here.

 

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 6

As Nat Bigum entered the waiting room of the doctor’s office, he took off his sunglasses and hung them from his belt. Bobby noticed that his squinting green eyes were framed by prominent crow’s feet. The sound of muzac hummed from invisible speakers, adding a calm sense of boredom to the room. It was an emasculated version of “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles. There were two people in the waiting room, seated in comfortable-looking chairs. One was an elderly woman and the other was a young lady who was a tad overweight. Another woman was seated behind the counter. She was a middle-aged woman with black hair and glasses, and it was her who Nat walked towards, followed by Pastor Earl and Bobby with Abby slumped over his shoulder. Bobby set Abby down in one of the chairs. The woman behind the counter gasped when she saw Abby’s leg. “Oh my God,” she said. “What happened to her?”

“She was wounded by bandits,” Nat replied. He leaned forward to read the woman’s name tag. “Now listen, Gertrude, she needs to see the doctor as soon as possible.”

The woman cleared her throat. “Well you’ll need to make an appointment.”

“Can’t you see this is an emergency?” Nat asked. The women in the waiting room were watching as they read their magazines, trying not to seem like they were watching.

“I can see that,” Gertrude said, “but Dr. Thomas doesn’t see new patients without appointments. Does she have insurance?”

“How in the hell should I know?” Nat asked. “We can worry about that later.”

“If she doesn’t have insurance,” Gertrude said, “she won’t be able to get any now or any time in the immediate future. She has a preexisting condition.”

“Preexisting condition?” Nat blurted. “She got bit by a god-damned alligator!”

Gertrude glared at him as the muzac continued playing. “I thought you said she was wounded by bandits. Anyway, Doctor Thomas doesn’t work for free. Do you have any money?”

“Nowhere near enough,” Nat replied. “Why don’t you call the doctor out here?”

“I’m afraid you’ll have to leave,” Gertrude said.

“Is there another doctor in town?” Nat asked.

“No,” the woman replied, “but Dune Post is about an hour and a half southeast of here. You could probably find someone there.”

“Just get the doctor out here,” Nat said. “We ain’t leavin’ ‘til we at least talk to ‘im.”

Gertrude shrugged and pressed a button on her desk. “Yes?” a man’s voice asked over the intercom.

“There are people out here who want to speak with you,” Gertrude said. “It’s urgent.”

“Do they have appointments?”

“No,” Gertrude replied. “They said they won’t leave until you speak with them, though. They’re sort of causing a scene.”

“All right, fine,” the doctor said. “I’ll be right out.”

The butchered Beatles muzac continued its soft onslaught as one of the many doors in the waiting room opened and a man wearing a pristine blue suit stepped out. His shiny black hair was combed perfectly and he had a tiny wristwatch computer on his left wrist. He glared at Nat. “So what’s going on here?”

Nat nodded towards Abby. “She needs a doctor.”

“Does she, now?” The doctor didn’t even look at Abby. His eyes were locked on Nat’s.

Nat scowled at the man and stepped towards him. “Yeah, she’s dyin’. She’s got gangrene.” The muzac picked up ever so slightly, just enough to restate its dull presence.

“Well that’s too bad for her,” the doctor said.

“They don’t have any money or insurance,” Gertrude noted.

Doctor Thomas nodded. “And she has a preexisting condition, so she won’t be able to get insurance.”

Nat glared at him. “Preexisting condition?” He put his hand over the handle of his revolver. “How ‘bout I give you a preexisting condition?”

The doctor chuckled, staring at Nat. “Get the hell out of my office, and take her with you.”

“Where do you propose we go?” Pastor Earl asked.

“I don’t care where you go,” the doctor said. “You’re not going to guilt me into treating somebody when I have absolutely nothing to gain from it. You can go to hell, for all I care.”

“So you’re just gonna let ‘er die?” Nat asked.

“It’s not up to me,” Doctor Thomas said. “I run a business, not a charity. Now get out of here, communists.” He turned and walked back into his office, slamming the door behind him.

“You’re going to have to leave before I call the sheriff,” Gertrude said.

“Call the sheriff?” Nat mumbled. He drew his .44 magnum and pointed it at her face as the muzac continued playing. “You call the sheriff and I’ll blow your god-damned brains out.” The two women in the waiting room gasped and Gertrude swallowed hard. Bobby and Pastor Earl looked on, not sure what to expect.

Nat turned and walked over to the closed door to Doctor Thomas’ office. He kicked the door down and Bobby rushed over to the doorway and watched as Doctor Thomas stood up from behind his large wooden desk. “What in the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Nat switched his gun to his left hand and charged at the doctor, who seemed to suddenly realize the danger he was in. Nat flung the desk out of the way with his robotic right arm and grabbed the doctor by the neck with his robotic hand, slamming him into the wall. He shoved his .44 magnum’s barrel into the frightened man’s mouth and cocked the gun, holding the man against the wall by his neck. “First of all,” Nat said, “I’m not a god-damned communist.” The doctor nodded nervously. “I’m Nat Bigum. Second, you’re gonna treat this girl or I’m not just gonna kill you, I’m gonna kill your family, and when I say family, I don’t just mean your wife and kids. I also mean your mom and dad, your aunts and uncles, and all your god-damned cousins. So are you gonna treat ‘er?” The doctor nodded again. His eyes were flooded with fear. “And you better do a good job, too, you arrogant son of a bitch, ‘cause if she dies, even though you’ve agreed to treat ‘er, I’ll still kill you and your family. Got it?” The doctor grunted and nodded again. Nat pushed the gun deeper into his mouth. “Is that clear?” The doctor nodded and made several more grunting sounds. “Good.” Nat took the gun out of the doctor’s mouth and took his robotic hand off the man’s throat. Doctor Thomas started coughing. Bobby noticed a large wet spot in the crotch of the doctor’s pants.

Nat walked back out into the waiting room. He glanced at the two women who were nervously looking at their magazines. “Get the hell out of here.” He glared at Gertrude. “But before you go, turn this god-awful music off.” She nodded, pushed a button on a remote, and the muzac stopped. “You’ve got the rest of the night off,” Nat said. He looked around at the other women. “And if any of you says anything to the authorities, when I’m done killing them, I’ll come find you.” Gertrude picked up her purse and climbed over the counter. Then, she and the other two women rushed out the front door. Doctor Thomas was standing in the doorway to his office, trembling. “Change your god-damned pants,” Nat ordered. “And get to work.”

Doctor Thomas nodded and stumbled over to Abby. He looked over her wounded leg and held his nose. “This isn’t good at all. I’ll have to hurry.” He glanced at Nat. “So what happened?”

Bobby proceeded to tell the doctor about the sewer, the gator, and the laser blasts, though he said bandits fired the lasers, rather than enforcers. No need to let the doctor know they had enforcers after them. “I tried my best to dress the wound,” Bobby said when he was done with the story. “She told me to use spider webs, which was strange, and I washed it with moonshine. I’m not sure it helped.”

The doctor nodded. “No, that was good. She’d probably be dead if you hadn’t done those things. Spider webs help stop wounds from bleeding.” He shook his head. “That must have been some nasty water the alligators were in. It usually takes much longer for gangrene to set in.” He frowned at Nat. “I’m probably going to have to amputate her leg in order to save her.” He spoke with a shaky voice.

Nat scowled at him. “You’d better find some way of gettin’ around it, doctor.”

Doctor Thomas shook his head. He was still visibly nervous. “I’ll do all I can, but I swear, it might be the only way I can save her life.”

“Whatever,” Nat muttered.

“I’m going to need to remove the infected tissue,” Doctor Thomas said, “so my surgery room is downstairs if you need me.” Nat nodded. “This is going to take a while,” the doctor muttered.

“What’s a while?” Nat asked.

“Several hours,” Doctor Thomas replied. “It’s hard to say at this juncture.”

“Well, do what you can for her,” Nat said. “Don’t rush it.”

Doctor Thomas nodded. “I need to get my nurses first so we can wheel her back there.”

“Nurses?” Nat asked.

“I need them,” Doctor Thomas said. “They’re very good at what they do. I won’t be able to do this without them.”

“Fine,” Nat said. “Get to it, though.” Doctor Thomas nodded and rushed through one of the doors.

Bobby and Pastor Earl stood in the waiting room, looking at Nat, Bobby with a look of awe and shock, and Earl with a look of indignation. “You went too far,” Earl said.

“Did I?” Nat asked, scowling at him. “He’s gonna treat her, isn’t he?”

“That doesn’t mean you need to threaten civilians,” Earl said. “It wasn’t necessary. I don’t like your methods. Even in war, you don’t threaten those who aren’t involved in the war.”

“Everyone’s involved in the war,” Nat muttered.

Pastor Earl shook his head. “Were you bluffing about his family?”

Nat grinned. “An idle threat’s a useless one.”

“Do not be overcome by evil,” Earl said, his blue eyes fixed on Nat’s eyes, “but overcome evil with good.”

“That’s a Bible quote, ain’t it?” Nat asked, taking several steps towards Pastor Earl. “This is real life, pastor. Don’t quote fantasy books around me.”

“The Bible is more real than anything you perceive in this world,” Pastor Earl countered.

Nat chuckled. “If there’s an all-loving, all-powerful god, there wouldn’t be so many starvin’ children in the world, would there? Either God don’t exist, or he’s an evil bastard.” He turned his back on Pastor Earl and started walking away from him towards the opposite side of the waiting room.

“It’s man’s sin which causes his struggles in this world, not God,” Earl argued.

Nat turned around to face Pastor Earl again. “Then why don’t he do nothin’ about it?” He squinted at Earl with his green eyes.

“He did,” Pastor Earl said. “He sent his own son to Earth to die so we could all be saved.”

Nat chuckled. “That’s all well and good, but why don’t he do nothin’ now? Why don’t he just wave his magic hand and make everything fine if he loves us all so much? Why should we have to wait for a magic pie in the sky?”

“Free will,” Pastor Earl said. “True love is letting those you love exert their own free will, even if it sometimes leads to evil. A loving parent would never force his or her children to do anything. Anything we do in life is meaningless if not done by choice.” Bobby listened awkwardly to the conversation, wondering how far the two men would take it.

Nat shook his head. “You’re crazy, old man.”

“That coming from someone who just threatened to kill a man’s family, including his children,” Pastor Earl countered.

Nat frowned and took several steps towards Pastor Earl. “Listen here, pastor, I do what needs to be done, and sometimes it ain’t pretty.”

“Look, guys,” Bobby interjected. “That’s enough of this. You’re both gonna believe what you believe. We’ve got other battles to fight.”

“He’s right, you know,” Pastor Earl said to Nat. “We do have other battles. Besides, people have been arguing about this for millennia.” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “There’s no way to prove or disprove the existence of a being that exists outside of the rational world. If God exists, He exists outside of the laws of science, outside of our understanding of ethics and morality, outside of time. Therefore, His existence cannot be proven or disproven. It’s a choice. Either you believe, or you don’t.”

“Well I don’t,” Nat blurted.

“I can see that,” Earl said, “but if there’s no God, those starving children you spoke of have no hope. If there is a God, at least they have hope. For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.”

Nat pointed to Abby’s slouched body. “She’s their hope.” Earl seemed a little confused. Bobby figured Pastor Earl didn’t realize the connection between Abby and Prometheus which Nat had explained to him earlier.

“Now hope that is seen is not hope,” Pastor Earl said. “For who hopes for what he sees?” He nodded towards Abby. “Let me point out that your hope for humanity is dying as we speak. That’s a fragile hope.”

Nat glanced at Abby and frowned. “She’ll be okay,” he muttered. “She has to be.”

The door to Doctor Thomas’ clinic opened and he emerged, wearing green scrubs and a surgical mask. Two beautiful blondes in pink scrubs followed, pushing a hospital bed on wheels. They were followed by a young man with a confused expression on his face. “We’ll see you next week,” Doctor Thomas said to the young man. “I’m sorry. There’s been an emergency we have to deal with.” The man nodded and left, looking suspiciously at Bobby, Nat, and Pastor Earl. Bobby chuckled as he looked over the two beautiful blondes. The nurses were probably more to the doctor than just employees, or Doctor Thomas wanted them to be, at least. Bobby helped the nurses lay Abby on the bed. Then, the nurses pushed the bed through the doorway as the doctor held the door open for them. He rushed through behind them, letting the door shut.

Nat glanced at Bobby. “We could use some food.”

Pastor Earl nodded. “Why don’t you explore the town a little and see if you can find us all something to eat.”

“Don’t take too long, though,” Nat added.

“All right,” Bobby said. He left the doctor’s office through the front door, happy to leave the tense situation behind him.

<>

Bobby wandered the streets in the moonlight. He stuck to the center of town, since he figured the poor sections were probably more dangerous. He hoped his laser pistol at his side would scare off any would-be muggers or bandits, even if he couldn’t really use it very well. He walked by what appeared to be a club of some sort, and the disjointed beats and hums of experimental music seeped out from the cracked door. Bobby had never been a fan of that sort of music and he didn’t have time to go clubbing. It had been a while since he’d been out dancing, though. As he walked down the deserted dirt road, he noticed scattered sand bikes parked here and there in front of some of the brick buildings, and there was an occasional hover car floating by him, but overall the town seemed dead.

After some time, Bobby found what appeared to be a café. He walked in to find it empty. The lights were on, though, so he walked over to the food dispenser machine, looking for something cheap he could get for himself, Nat, and Pastor Earl. There were cans of pork and beans, corned beef hash, and spaghetti. The pork and beans was the cheapest at five bucks a can. He took a twenty dollar silver piece out of his pocket and dropped it into the machine, selecting three cans of pork and beans. A five dollar silver piece came out and the machine opened the cans and started heating up the pork and beans behind the clear plastic cover on the front. When it was done, robot arms inside the machine poured the food into three carry out containers which came out from the bottom of the machine. Bobby took a paper bag out of a dispenser on the wall and placed the three containers inside, along with three plastic spoons.

The speakers in the café were playing jazz music. Sounded like bebop. Bobby was a bit of a jazz connoisseur, though the music was hard to find in the modern age. He started thinking of On the Road and Sal Paradise, when he noticed a dessert machine. Bobby walked over to it and searched the various pies and cakes inside for apple pie and vanilla ice cream. He knew apple pie would be expensive and hard to come by since trees were so rare, but he felt like splurging a little. There was apple pie inside, but it was a hundred and fifty bucks a slice. Bobby gritted his teeth. He’d have to find a new score soon anyway, and he had enough money to get a cheap room for a few days, even if he paid the hundred and fifty. It had been a long time since Bobby had really treated himself. He pulled a two-fifty gold piece out of his pocket and dropped it into the machine. The machine spit out two fifty gold pieces as it started baking his apple pie. The smell put a smile on his face. Eventually, the apple pie came out and Bobby spent five bucks on some vanilla ice cream to go with it.

He needed water, too, so he walked over to the drink dispenser. Water, like apples, was extremely rare and expensive, but it was also a necessity. Spring water was a hundred and fifty bucks for a sixteen ounce bottle. Since Bobby had already splurged on the apple pie, he decided against the spring water. Distilled water was fifty bucks a bottle, also a little too expensive. Bobby settled on the recycled water for fifteen a bottle. Recycled water was made from recycled piss. They took out all the toxins and everything else so it was just water, pure as could be had for fifteen bucks. He bought four bottles to replenish his supply.

Bobby decided to sit and enjoy his apple pie for a while before bringing the food back to Nat and Earl, so he sat at one of the tables by the window. He was surprised the streets seemed so empty outside as he enjoyed his apple pie while listing to bebop music and thinking of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty.

<>

The sound of sand bikes came from outside the doctor’s office waiting room until their engines stopped. Pastor Earl peeked through the window to see three men walking towards the front door. Two of the men wore jeans and t-shirts, and the man in front wore a leather vest with a silver star badge over his left breast and a white button down shirt which was buttoned up to the top button. He had an eye patch over his left eye and a white derby hat on his head. A dark brown moustache curled up on both sides beneath his nose. All three men had laser pistols in their hip holsters. “Sheriff Plumber’s coming with two of his deputies,” Pastor Earl said.

Nat Bigum nodded. “Like I said, you let me do the talkin’.”

The sheriff and his two deputies entered the waiting room and stood near the doorway. “Good evening,” Dusty Plumber said. “And who might you gentlemen be?” He spoke with a British accent.

“I’m sheriff John Hawkes of Falcon City,” Nat answered. He nodded towards Pastor Earl. “He’s my deputy, Old Man Jim.”

“Pleased to make your acquaintances,” Sheriff Plumber said. He took a few steps forward and his deputies stood on each side of him. “And what, may I ask, are you doing so far from home?”

“We’re tracking Ace McCoy and Annabelle Rose,” Nat said. “I’ve been followin’ leads, and supposedly they came by this way.”

Sheriff Plumber nodded. “They are the two most notorious outlaws in the Southwest Territory. If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know.”

Nat grinned his ugly grin. “Of course.”

“You and your men are welcome here in town, of course,” Sheriff Plumber said with a pleasant smile. “So, was one of your men wounded?”

Nat nodded. “That’s why we’re here. Doctor Thomas is fixin’ ‘er up.”

“A woman deputy?” the sheriff asked. “How modern.”

“She’s the best shot in the territory,” Nat stated.

Sheriff Plumber nodded and stroked his moustache. “Well, let us hope that she’s all right, then.” He paused, eyeing Nat with his good eye. “So what happened to Sheriff Johnson? Nothing sinister, I hope.”

Nat frowned. “He was killed by bandits a few months ago.”

“That’s a bloody shame,” Sheriff Plumber said. “News doesn’t travel fast around here, I’m afraid. I will have to send his family my condolences. So where are you from originally?” He continued eyeing Nat.

“I’d been working back east,” Nat answered, “and I came out here to answer the call after Sheriff Johnson’s death.” Pastor Earl was impressed with the ease with which Nat answered the sheriff’s questions.

“What made you want to move west?” Sheriff Plumber asked.

“The excitement, I guess. I needed a change of scenery.”

Sheriff Plumber nodded and grinned. “I really enjoy Falcon City, by the way. I’ve been there on several occasions. Is that restaurant, what was it called, the Cranky Owl, still there? Even if you’ve only been there a few months, I am sure you’ve heard of it. It’s a very famous establishment.” He gazed at Nat with anticipation.

“Yes, it is,” Nat answered. Pastor Earl tried his best not to appear nervous. He could tell Sheriff Plumber was trying to find holes in Nat’s story.

“I love their pork chops,” Sheriff Plumber said. “They’re some of the best around.”

Nat frowned. “It’s owned by Jews. They don’t sell pork. And I don’t appreciate your tryin’ to trip me up, sheriff.”

Sheriff Plumber chuckled. “I’m sorry, Mister Hawkes, was it? I didn’t mean to offend you.”

“No offense taken,” Nat said. “It’s all right. I know you need to be suspicious of strangers. I’m a sheriff myself, remember.”

“Yes, of course,” Sheriff Plumber said. “And what do you think of the leather stores in Falcon City? They are some of the best, are they not?”

“They are,” Nat said with a cordial grin, or as cordial a grin as he could give with his scar.

“So, how long have you been away from Falcon City tracking these criminals?” the sheriff asked. His deputies stood beside him, their eyes shifting from Nat to Pastor Earl.

“About ten days,” Nat said. “We’ve been stoppin’ from town to town in our search.”

“And how did your deputy get wounded, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Bandits,” Nat said. Pastor Earl was starting to feel uncomfortable. Why didn’t Sheriff Plumber and his deputies just leave? And where was Bobby?

“Very unfortunate,” Sheriff Plumber said. “My condolences to her. So she was wounded by one criminal while trying to track down another. What awful bloody luck.”

“It was,” Nat agreed. “Look, sheriff, if you don’t mind, my deputy and I’ve been ridin’ a long way and we need some rest.”

Sheriff Plumber nodded. “Yes, of course. Well, it was nice meeting you, Mister Bigum.”

“Nice meeting you, too…” Recognition came over Nat’s face when he realized his mistake and Pastor Earl cringed. The oldest trick in the book. Get him to let his guard down and pounce.

Sheriff Plumber and his two deputies drew their laser pistols as Pastor Earl drew his two laser pistols and Nat Bigum drew his .44 magnum. Sheriff Plumber was pointing his gun at Pastor Earl and both of his deputies were pointing their guns at Nat. Pastor Earl was pointing one of his guns at each deputy and Nat was pointing his revolver at Sheriff Plumber. All guns were pointed at their target’s faces. “Well, this is quite a situation we’ve found ourselves in,” Sheriff Plumber said with a grin as everyone pointed their guns at each other.


Continue on to the next chapter:

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 7

Where:

Nat and Pastor Earl face of with Sheriff Plumber and his deputies.
Bobby returns with the food to a shocking scene.
Doctor Thomas gives an update on Abby’s condition.

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.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

(Spamcheck Enabled)

Previous post:

Next post: