Fiction: Afterlife (Chapter 9)

by Mike Monroe on February 10, 2014

in FICTION

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

afterlife lake

Photo by Jay Hood

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 8

Where:

Abby talks to Bobby and meets Nat Bigum and Pastor Earl.
Abby hires Nat, Pastor Earl, and Bobby as her first three soldiers.
Warrick Baines tells Devin Hellier to send some enforcers to Sunbreak City.

Find the Table of Contents page here.

 

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 9

 

Abigail Song walked slowly through the desert towards the foothills of the mountains which rose before her.  The dunes of the desert were beautiful in their own way, but the mountains were a welcome break in the monotony, towering over the landscape with their clear blue backdrop of sky.  Before she knew it, Abby was walking over grassy hills, lush with life that was alien to her.  Colorful flowers were scattered over the rolling land.  A brook gurgled in a valley beside her, and soon she was walking along the edge of a cliff which wrapped around one of the first of the mountains.  At the top of the cliff, she found herself crossing a plain lined with evergreens.  The hollow sound of wind moaned all around her.  A lake sparkled in the center of the plateau, and Abby could make out a figure standing by the lake.  “What’s happening?” she asked.

“There’s a ninety nine point nine followed by fifteen more nines percent chance that this is either a dream or a hallucination,” said a kind male voice emanating from Abby’s wristwatch computer.

She walked through the plain as the figure approached her.  That’s when she looked down to notice that both of her legs were intact, and neither of them was cybernetic.  Dream or no dream, she wanted to enjoy every minute of this.  A smile appeared on her face when she recognized the man walking towards her.  He was a short but muscular Asian man with gray sideburns.  Though he was short for a man, he was still several inches taller than Abby, and he was dressed in an all-black suit.  “Abby,” he said with a smile as she ran up and hugged him.  “It’s been a long time.”  His voice was resonant, but gentle.

Abby nodded.  “Father, what’s going on?”

“I wanted to tell you I’m proud of you.”

Abby laughed, taking a few steps back.  “Proud of me?  Why?  So far I’ve been an epic failure.”

“I’ll admit your journey got off to a rough start,” her father said, looking at her with loving eyes, “but you’re heading in the right direction.  You’ve surrounded yourself with good people, and you’ve proven yourself to be as brave as I’ve always known you could be.”

Abby shrugged.  “Whatever you say.  How’s mom?”

“She’s fine,” her father said.  “So are your brothers and sisters.”

“Why aren’t they here?”

“I’ve come to talk to you alone,” her father said, “and to let you know that everything’s going to be fine.”  His voice had always been soothing to her, regardless of the words.

“You always told me that,” Abby said, her eyes tearing up.  “Then, you died.”

“I know.  I know it’s been hard for you, but I want you to stay strong.  What you’re doing is definitely worth it.  You’re going to be a hero for so many people.  You couldn’t imagine the places you’ll go, or what you’ll become.”  He waved his hand in a motion inviting Abby to look at the lush landscape that surrounded them.  “You’ll make all of this possible again.  You’ll help set so many people free.  You’ll do all of the things I wish I could have done.”

Abby nodded.  “So this is a dream, then.”

“There’s a ninety nine point nine followed by fifteen more nines percent chance,” Einstein’s voice said from her wrist.

Abby frowned, looking into her father’s eyes.  “Einstein’s broken in real life.  You gave him to me to help me.  Now he doesn’t work.  I feel so alone.”

“You’ll get him working again someday,” her father said, “and you’re far from alone.  You have new friends who’ll be helping you.”

“But they aren’t family.”

“They’ll become your new family,” her father said.  “Give it time.  Stick close to them.”

“Not only is Einstein broken,” Abby said.  “I’ve lost my left leg, and I’m not sure where to start.  I feel so lost.”

“You’ll find your way again,” her father said.  “I have faith in you.  Have some faith in me.”

Abby smiled.  “I always did.  Even when we had our rough patches.”

“Head west towards the Rocky Mountains,” her father said, “like you were planning on doing already.  You may not take a direct route, but you’ll get there.”

“What about the rest of the diamonds?” Abby asked.  “The ones you scattered across the Southwest Territory.  I’m not sure which towns they’re all in.  I’ve forgotten most of them, and even if I remembered, I don’t have any of the codes for the safe deposit boxes.  One billion dollars is a good start, but it’s not enough to found a nation.”

“You’ll find a way,” her father said with a smile.  “You’ll always find a way.  And on the rare occasions when you can’t, you’ll have friends who will.”

Abby nodded.  “All right.”

“Well, I need to go.  Just remember what I’ve told you.  Stay strong.  I know you will.”

He hugged her as the dream faded to darkness.

“I love you, Daddy,” she said in his arms.

“I love you, too, Sweet Pea,” he responded.

<>

When Abby woke up, she was lying in bed in one of Dr. Thomas’ recovery rooms.  The sterile whisper of the air conditioning system was the only sound in the dark room.  She faced the wall away from the closed door and pulled the covers up to her chin.  “Just a dream,” she muttered sadly.  It was one of those dreams from which she woke up depressed about her reality, filled with a longing that pulled at her insides, wishing the dream could have lasted forever, or at least much longer than it had.  She wouldn’t allow herself tears, though.  Tears were an indulgence of the past.  Numbness was her new emotional response to pain.

She could feel the pain from where the cyberneticist had connected her robot leg.  She reached over towards the side of the bed and pushed the morphine button on the IV pole, feeling a physical numbness mix with her emotional numbness as the medicine snaked its way through her veins.  She felt the cloudiness come over her and the soft, light-headed euphoria.  The cyberneticist had connected her nervous system, muscles, bones, veins, and skin to the robotic leg.  To Abby, it would eventually feel like it was a part of her, he said.  He said thanks to nanotechnology, improved lasers, and electromagnetic treatment options along with the scores of new drugs those breakthroughs had made available, doctors could now do in days what had previously taken months.  That didn’t mean much to Abby right now.  Her leg was causing a throbbing pain that was sometimes sharp and she wanted to rip it off and throw it across the room.  Even with the morphine, there was still some pain.  The cyberneticist had said it would go away with time.  Abby hoped it wouldn’t take much time.  Pain she could handle as long as it was quick and had a beginning and an end.  This pain seemed to go on and on.  And she felt like she had to learn how to walk all over again.  Her first attempts had been wobbly at best before she collapsed.  The nurse said she’d done a great job and they’d try again before she left in the morning.  Abby would have to leave town not knowing how to walk yet.

She pushed the morphine button again and the device beeped.  “You may take your next dose in three minutes and twenty two seconds,” the computer’s voice said.

“You can short circuit in three minutes and twenty two seconds,” Abby muttered.  “No, don’t do that.  I need you.  When will this pain end?”  Einstein’s voice didn’t answer, just like it hadn’t for the past several days or weeks or however long it had been since he’d stopped working.  “Never,” Abby answered with a chuckle.  She closed her eyes and tried to find sleep, wondering if she’d have to press the morphine button again before she found it.  As it turned out, she wouldn’t.

<>

It was about ten thirty at night when Dwayne Richards and Bull Kot parked their sand bikes in front of Doctor Henri Drake Thomas’ office.  Dwayne didn’t see any other sand bikes parked in front of the building or any other people out on the street, so he turned off his engine and motioned for Bull to follow him.  They both wore the blue uniforms and sand shields of Herman Rennock’s enforcers and had laser pistols in their hip holsters.  “Are you sure we should go in now?” Bull whispered.  “There are more enforcers on their way.  Maybe we should wait.  Devin said these people are dangerous.”

“There are two of them and there are two of us,” Dwayne replied.  “Besides, if we go in now, we’re more likely to have surprise on our side.”  Bull shrugged and the two men walked up to the front door and entered cautiously.

In the waiting room, there were two people seated in the cushioned chairs.  One was a young lady with red hair who seemed exhausted and the other was a black man in his thirties who needed a haircut.  Neither fit the descriptions of Earl Steadman or Abigail Song.  Dwayne noted that the black man didn’t quite have an afro yet, but it was getting close.  He was eating potato chips out of a bag as he casually glanced at the two enforcers.  Dwayne made his way to the nurse seated behind the counter.  “You’re open awfully late, aren’t you?” he asked.

She grinned at him.  She was a beautiful, shapely young woman with long, blonde hair.  Her eyes were slyly seductive.  “We’re open twenty four hours.”

“You’re the only doctor’s office in town?”

“The only good one,” she answered.

Dwayne nodded.  “Where’s Doctor Thomas?”

“He’s not here,” she said.  “He’s on call, though.”  She chuckled.  “You know, he does have to sleep.”

“You’re here all night?”

“Until my relief comes in at six,” she replied.  “For now, it’s just me and one other nurse here.”

“All right,” Dwayne said.  “Where can I find the rooms?”

“The first door to your right,” she said.  “Just go down the steps at the end of the hall.”

Dwayne nodded.  “Is there an Asian girl down there?”

She shook her head.  “I have no idea.  I just got here not too long ago and haven’t been down there yet.  Marsha’s down there right now.  She’ll be able to tell you if she’s not with one of the patients.”

Dwayne smiled and nodded.  “Thanks.”  He motioned to Bull to follow him and the two men headed towards the door to Doctor Thomas’ clinic, hands near their weapons.  Right after Dwayne opened the door, the black man in the waiting room started coughing.  Dwayne looked at him inquisitively.  He was apparently choking on a potato chip.  He stopped coughing after a few seconds and continued eating.  Dwayne looked at Bull and shrugged and the two men walked into the clinic.

When they got to the bottom of the stairs, Dwayne noticed a door to his left with a sign which read “Morgue” and one below that which read “Autopsies.”  He turned to the door across the hall from that one and opened it slowly.  In the darkness, he could see what appeared to be a short girl sleeping on her side on a hospital bed with a white sheet pulled up to her chin.  She had long, black hair and was hooked up to an IV.  Dwayne turned to Bull, who was keeping an eye on the empty hallway.  “Devin said we should kill her immediately,” he whispered, careful not to wake up the sleeping girl.  “This is important enough that we should probably just kill all the patients and ask questions later.”  Bull nodded and the two men drew their laser pistols and fired several shots at the sleeping girl.

Five of the six shots hit, blowing her head open and blasting through her torso.  The two enforcers put their laser pistols back in their holsters and walked towards the bed.  In the dim light which seeped in from the hallway, Dwayne noticed the girl had a bluish tint to her skin.  He touched her and frowned.  “She was already dead.”  The two men drew their laser pistols again, realizing it was a trap of some kind.  Before they could react, a hand appeared from the hallway outside the doorway and tossed something into the room.  Dwayne realized too late that it was a concussion grenade.  There was a loud explosion and he felt his body being torn apart.

<>

Pastor Earl got up off the floor of the hallway, noticing limbs and blood that had been blown out into the hallway from the room closest to the stairs.  The walls were cracked near the doorway, but the damage was minimal.  It was a well-built building.  He heard someone run down the steps and Bobby appeared in the hallway.  “Good,” he said.  “You heard my signals.”

Pastor Earl nodded.  “Any louder and they would have definitely known something was up.”  Bobby had coughed when he saw the sand bikes pull up outside in order to give Earl and Nat time to set up the body in the recovery room and then he coughed again when the enforcers went through the door to the clinic so Earl and Nat would have time to hide.  Pastor Earl smiled, thanking God that they’d been able to find a corpse in the morgue that resembled Abby in the darkness.

The door to the room where they’d moved Abby further down the hall opened and Nat appeared in the hallway, his hand over his revolver.  “Is the coast clear?”  Pastor Earl nodded.  “Good,” Nat said, “but we need to get the hell outta here.”

“The doctor said she needs to stay until the morning,” Bobby said.

Nat chuckled.  “She’ll be fine.  He gave us all the medicine we need, and she’ll be able to walk soon.  We need to leave though, or we’ll all be dead.  Warrick Baines’ll keep sending enforcers ‘til they kill us, and he’ll come here himself if he needs to.  Believe me, you don’t wanna be here when he gets here.”

Pastor Earl nodded.  “The sand bikes are in the back.  Let’s get going.”

<>

Pastor Earl and Nat Bigum rode their sand bikes just ahead of Bobby, who had Abby on his bike behind him, holding his waist.  They rode out of town and into the desert, heading due west in the darkness of night.  Bobby could still see the dunes beneath him in the moonlight.  The stars filled the sky with speckled splendor, painting constellations with names unknown to Bobby as he followed Nat and Earl.  He felt like a thief in the night, on the run like an outlaw.

Eventually, the town was far behind them in the distance, a speck on the horizon.  The tops of two massive metal air converters appeared over a dune in the distance ahead.  Bobby heard laser shots before he noticed the sound of anything that could have fired them.  There was silence other than the hum of his sand bike, and then laser shots flew over his head and hit Pastor Earl’s sand bike.  Bobby turned quickly to see Pastor Earl lying in the sand next to his damaged bike.  “What the?” Bobby muttered when he noticed two rings of yellow light in the sky.  The rings zipped around with unmatched speed, turning in ways that seemed impossible, silent as the air.  Bobby had never seen anything like them before, but he assumed the rings must have been electromagnetic propulsion crafts of some kind.  Herman Rennock was getting serious.

Pastor Earl crawled away from his damaged bike, leapt to his feet, and started running.  He didn’t appear to be injured.  The EMPC’s fired lasers at him as he ran.  Bobby gasped, speeding away on the back of his sand bike with Abby holding his waist.  “We need to help him!” she shouted.

“There’s nothing we can do!” Bobby shouted back.  “We’ll be dead too if we try to help!”

“We’ll probably be dead anyway if we don’t do something!” Abby argued.  Bobby raced away, just behind Nat and his flame-painted sand bike, hoping they wouldn’t be next, but he knew they’d be no match for the advanced aircraft.  He drew his laser pistol out of desperation.

 


Continue on to the next chapter:

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 10

Where:

Pastor Earl finds himself in a life-threatening predicament.
Our heroes come face to face with mind-boggling technology.
Bobby and his companions head southwest.

Find the Table of Contents page 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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