If you’ve never read Afterlife before, click here to go to the first chapter.
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:
Della has a duel with Sheriff Phelps and kills him.
Pastor Earl visits Abby in a dream and tells her love should always come first.
Abby is captured and taken to Oral Kenyon.
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Afterlife, Volume 2, Chapter 8
Juanita was sitting on her bed cleaning her sniper rifle when she heard the noise in the hallway past the closed door to her room. Hushed voices at first, then feet shuffling and some shouting. “Quiet or she gets it!” someone shouted.
“You do anything to her and I’ll feed you your arms,” she heard Mark Gonzalez’ voice say. There was more indecipherable shouting and the clattering sounds of fighting in the hallway. Juanita heard the hiss of a laser blast and more thumps and a crash. She heard other voices and a muffled scream. She glanced at Michelle, who was sitting near the desk, looking at Juanita with concern on her scarred face. Sherry jumped down from Shelly’s lap. There was a knock at the door and the little dog started yapping.
Shelly stood, grabbed her belt and holster, wrapped it around her waist, and drew her laser pistol. She motioned for Juanita to go to the door. Juanita aimed the sniper rifle at the door and shook her head. “I’m the better shot,” she whispered. Shelly nodded and tiptoed towards the door.
“Open up!” someone shouted. Juanita didn’t recognize the voice at the door. Shelly flung it open and as soon as Juanita realized that the men standing in the hallway weren’t friends and they were holding laser pistols, she started firing. There were five of them, all in grey suits. Within a matter of seconds, their suits were splattered with blood and the last of them collapsed on the floor, his head resting on the pile of dead men. Juanita quickly took her belt and laser pistol and followed Shelly through the doorway, strapping the sniper rifle over her back. Shelly fired six shots down the long hallway and Juanita watched as six more men in gray suits dropped to the floor, blood splattered on the walls. Juanita turned the other way and saw the door on the other side of the hallway was closed. She thought she could hear feet going down the steps but it was distant. They’d probably already reached the first floor.
Shelly put her gun back in its holster and frowned at Juanita. “It looks like they’ve got everyone else.” Juanita looked up and down the hall at the open doors. There was some blood on the floor next to the room Mark and Jane had been sharing. Juanita deduced that they and maybe Della were probably the only other ones who had put up a fight. The others who were still in the hotel from her knowledge were Abby, Bobby, Alex, and Mavery, none of whom were true warriors. Sera had left earlier to go somewhere or other. Juanita had run into her on her way back to the room when she’d left to give Shelly and Bobby some privacy. And John was working on the truck. Shelly looked at the open door to Abby’s room and frowned. “They have Abby.” She rushed to the doorway and went into Abby’s room, followed by Sherry, who was still yapping. She emerged holding Abby’s wristwatch computer. It was turned off. “We’ve got this, though. We can’t let Einstein fall into the wrong hands.” She strapped the computer around her wrist.
Juanita nodded. “Well, we need to figure out how to free everyone. First, let’s get the hell out of here before they realize we took out their friends.” She pointed down the opposite end of the hallway from the one where the men had gone down the stairs. “We need to go that way. Keep your eyes peeled. If you see anyone armed who you don’t know, don’t hesitate to take them out.”
Shelly nodded and looked down at Sherry, who was still in Abby’s room. “I’ll come back for you,” she said as she shut the door and followed Juanita as she ran down the long hallway. The sound of Sherry’s yapping faded as they opened the door at the end of the hall and rushed down the stairs.
Jimmy Bond was firing up his camping stove as he sat with his parked sand bike. The other enforcers who’d been with him, all three friends of his, had been killed. He alone had escaped the Messier Mine with the Jupiter Diamond. He was still considering taking the expensive artifact and running away, but he knew if he did that, Rennock’s enforcers would eventually track him down. Eileen Traymont was nothing if not persistent, and a diamond worth billions would hardly go unnoticed if it were to disappear. No, Jimmy’s best bet was to meet her when she came to Carpenter City, give her the diamond, and receive any reward he was owed. He knew she’d give him something. If nothing else, it would be a huge salary increase, maybe a promotion, command of his own squad of enforcers, or something of that nature. He looked at the bag hanging from his sand bike. He’d stolen it from the little curly haired guy while the old guy and the big guy were distracted by his friends. He frowned thinking about Denny, Frank, and Rob. Their faces ran through his mind. Part of him had wanted to kill those three rebels for killing his friends, but he knew his best bet had been to get out of there quickly. Otherwise, he probably would have joined them.
The stove was hot enough, so Jimmy found a small metal skewer in his supply bag, skewered a hot dog, and started cooking it. Hot dog and beans again, just like he’d eaten every night for weeks. He heard something that sounded like sand bike engines and he quickly dropped the hot dog and turned off the stove. He drew his laser pistol and looked around the pale dunes in the dying evening sunlight. Shadows seemed to be moving everywhere. He’d ridden several miles away from the mine until the badlands gave way to dunes once again before he finally stopped, figuring his pursuers would never find him out in the desert. Perhaps someone else had found him, though. He’d been too carefree with his stove. Probably bandits. He continued looking around from his perch atop one of the highest dunes in the area. Whoever it was must have been riding through the valleys. He couldn’t see them anywhere. Maybe they hadn’t seen him either. Small chance of that with the stove and the light its fire had given off. Jimmy continued looking around with his gun drawn. The engine sounds were gone. Jimmy wasn’t sure if that was a good or a bad sign.
He heard the hiss of a laser and felt a sharp pain in his hand as he dropped his gun. His hand was burnt and bleeding, hit by a laser blast. The gun on the ground was smoking and useless. Another blast hit him in the stomach and he fell backwards into the sand, holding his burning belly with his bleeding hand. He shouted in pain as he lay for what seemed like an eternity. He felt like his stomach was on fire. He was unable to think about anything else. Finally, he saw a dark face looking down at him. It was a black man wearing leather armor of some sort. A bandit, most likely. He was joined by another man, a Hispanic man with big muscles. “Is he dead?” someone asked.
The Hispanic man shook his head. “He’s alive.”
“See what you can find on his bike,” the black man said. “Maybe something we can take back to the Bargainer.” He looked down at Jimmy and smiled.
“There’s…” Jimmy said, struggling to speak through the pain as his belly bled out onto the dune. “There’s nothing.”
“If there was somethin’,” the black guy said, “you probably wouldn’t tell us. It’s okay. We’ll find out.” He raised a laser pistol and pointed it at Jimmy’s head.
“Don’t…” Jimmy muttered, flinching. “Don’t shoot.”
“I’m doin’ you a favor,” the bandit said. “If I leave you out here, the vultures’ll eat you alive. They might be hungry, though, right? What do you say? Wanna be vulture food?”
“Bingo!” someone shouted.
“What is it?” the black bandit asked.
“The biggest diamond I’ve ever seen in my life!”
The black man smiled. “That sounds like quite a nothin’ you got, copper.”
“Should we keep it?” the Hispanic bandit asked.
The black bandit, who appeared to be the leader, shook his head. “Nah. We’ll take it to the Bargainer. I’d rather get some cash. What’re we gonna do with a diamond?” He fired his laser pistol at Jimmy’s face.
Juanita looked down the alley to see the hover truck parked with its front and rear panels reattached. No sign of John, though. She ran into the alley and hid against the wall of the building next to the hotel as Michelle ran into the alley behind her and hid with her. “I think they took John, too,” Juanita whispered. “It’s safe to assume we’re the only two who are still free.”
Shelly nodded, holding her laser pistol close. “I hope Bobby’s okay. And the rest of them, too. Hopefully we can figure out where they took them before anything bad happens.” Juanita nodded and peeked around the corner to see only the sandy street and sandstone buildings. She rushed into the street, followed by Shelly. They ran towards an alley across the street which appeared to head in the direction of the house where the sheriff had been sitting when they first came to town. As they ran, guns drawn, a couple turned the corner and stopped in their tracks, looking at Juanita and Shelly with fear in their eyes. They were young. The man wore a white suit and the woman was dressed in a white dress with long sleeves. It was the usual Carpenter City garb. Juanita flexed and half-lunged towards them, glaring at them. They flinched and the man pulled the woman with him as he ran away. Juanita chuckled as Shelly grinned and shook her head. “That was messed up.”
Juanita noticed two men in gray suits round a corner several blocks away. When they saw Juanita and Shelly, they both drew laser pistols. Juanita quickly shot one in the chest and fired at the other one, barely missing his head as he fired his own shot. The blast nicked Shelly’s left arm as she fired back, hitting the man in the face and knocking him to the ground. Shelly smiled at Juanita through her pain. “Who’s the better shot?”
“You got lucky,” Juanita said, grinning back. “Remember who taught you, okay?”
Shelly shook her head. “I had another teacher before you.” She looked down at her arm, wincing with pain. It was burnt and bleeding just below the shoulder.
“Are you okay?” Juanita asked her.
Shelly nodded. “It’s not the first scar I’ve gotten.” She motioned for Juanita to join her as she headed quickly towards the alley they’d been heading to before the interruption. Juanita nodded and followed her into the alley.
The sandy alley was cluttered with trash cans and black plastic bags. Juanita noticed some blood stains several yards away and pointed at them. Shelly nodded when someone appeared at the other end of the alley. Juanita quickly aimed her laser pistol, but lowered it when she realized it was Della, dressed all in black with two laser pistols in his hands. He was frowning as he quickly walked towards them, his eyes checking both sides of the alley as he walked. He spun the laser pistols on his fingers and slipped them back into his hip holsters. “Good to see you two are safe.”
“And you,” Juanita said.
“How’d you get away from them?” Shelly asked.
“I wasn’t in the hotel,” Della said, hands on his hips. “I’d been out gettin’ my drink on. Great timing, huh?” He proceeded to tell Juanita and Shelly about what had happened with Sheriff Phelps.
“Well he got what was coming to him,” Shelly muttered.
Della nodded. “I’m never happy about killing someone, but this time I definitely did the world a favor. I’m afraid I’ve endangered our group, though.”
Shelly shook her head. “They would have come after us regardless, I’m pretty sure.”
Della shrugged. “Well, there are some wooden gallows in the town square. I’m pretty sure that’s where we’ll find the rest of our party soon.”
“We need to go, then,” Juanita said.
“Yeah,” Della agreed. “I don’t think they’re ready yet. The square was mostly empty when I found it. We should get over there fast, though, and figure out a plan of some sort. It’s all up to us, sisters.”
Juanita nodded and smiled. “Lead the way.”
Della led them down the alley and they emerged in a sandy street not far from the house with the big porch where the sheriff had been sitting when they first saw him. They made their way quickly down the street, using buildings and alleys as cover whenever possible. The streets were mostly empty as usual, but the emptiness made Juanita feel even more uneasy as she, Shelly, and Della stealthily made their way towards the town square.
The sun was setting as Paul, Nat, and Big Ed approached Carpenter City on their sand bikes. They stopped on a nearby rocky ridge and looked down at the town as the bike engines rumbled. Nat frowned. “Somethin’ ain’t right.”
Paul nodded. There were men in gray suits holding laser pistols standing just outside of town. From the ridge, they appeared to be as small as ants. It seemed there were groups guarding each major street, and from their positions they’d be able to see anyone riding into Carpenter City. “We’ll either have to sneak our way back in or fight our way back in.”
“If we fight,” Big Ed said, “the guards’ll probably call for reinforcements. Ain’t no way we can take out that many men, just the three of us.”
“I wish we had some way to contact Mark or someone,” Paul said. Their communicators hadn’t been working in or near Carpenter City. They were in the middle of nowhere, and there were no relay centers nearby. He noticed a crowd gathering around wooden gallows in what appeared to be a sandy town square. “Over there,” he said, pointing. “I think that’s where we need to head to.”
Nat nodded. “If we can get into town.”
Paul noticed that some men who had been guarding the easternmost entrance into town were rushing down the street. “There,” he said, pointing again. “There are just four men over there now. That’s the weak point.”
Nat smiled an ugly, scarred smile. “Then that’s where we’re goin’.” He revved the engine of his sand bike and started heading down the ridge. Paul and Big Ed followed
“We have it all set up just right,” the hangman said with a sinister grin as he led Abby up the wooden steps. Her hands were tied behind her back with thick rope. Two guards walked behind her with their laser pistols jammed into her back. Apparently Kenyon wasn’t supposed to kill her, but he was going to make sure she watched the rest of her friends die. “My ropes hang about five feet under the trap doors,” the hangman continued. “Then there’s another ten feet between the end of the rope and the ground. The length’s perfect, because it always breaks their necks and kills ‘em pretty much instantly, but the drop’s not so long their heads pop off.” He chuckled. “We had that happen once with an overweight fella, but I doubt any of your friends is big enough to do that. We don’t want ‘em livin’ after the drop and then dyin’ all slow, either, though. That’s why I’ve got it just right. Not sure about the kid, though. It’s been a while since I hanged a kid.” He was referring to James, Grace’s eight year old, sickly son.
The hangman was an overweight man himself. The platform creaked as he stepped onto it from the top step. Abby followed slowly along with the two guards. The hangman was the only person in Carpenter City who was allowed to wear black, apparently. He wore it from head to toe, and his face was pockmarked and grotesque, with a snarling mouth, tiny eyes, and a huge, warty nose. Abby thought he looked more monster than human. Perhaps jealousy stemming from his appearance was what led him to enjoy killing others so much. It was said you can’t judge a book by its cover, but this guy was rotten through and through. He walked over to the lever that released the trap doors while Abby stood next to Pastor Kenyon, looking out at the large crowd that had gathered as the sunset filled the sky with pink and orange. There were thousands, all in their conservative clothing. There were men, women, and children, gathered like they were ready to hear a sermon.
There were ten ropes altogether, and each was tied around a person’s neck except one, dangling at the far end. The prisoners’ hands were all tied behind their backs, like Abby’s were. Bobby was closest to Abby. He looked scared but he wasn’t talking. Next to him, Mark Gonzalez had been shouting at Kenyon when Abby had first stepped onto the platform. He was quiet now, though. His wife Jane was quiet also, with a sad look on her face. Her left hand was bloody and bandaged. Next to her was John Bernard, who for whatever reason was smiling, then Mavery who had tears dripping down her cheeks, Alex who looked angry, and Sera who had her eyes closed. Grace and her son were next. Grace had been tying her best to comfort James. At one point she tried to move closer to him, perhaps to whisper something, but the guards wouldn’t have it. They pushed her away, saying they’d drop him immediately if she tried it again. Abby was happy to see that six of her companions were missing. Hopefully they showed up soon to spoil Pastor Kenyon’s party. “We’re here to witness God’s justice!” Pastor Kenyon shouted. The people cheered. “As you know, we must dole out this justice from time to time, being his tools he uses here on Earth, and all of these people have committed heinous crimes, sins against our lord.” He paced the wooden planks, looking out at the crowd. “Each of these people is a blasphemer, and they are murderers and thieves.” He smiled. “As we all know, the punishment for blasphemy is death. The Bible makes that clear. These people are about to meet their maker so they can answer for their sins.” The crowd cheered again.
Kenyon went on and on, and Abby tried to tune him out. He talked about how they were past the end times and Jesus was coming soon. Kenyon went so far as to give a date, but Abby didn’t pay attention. He talked about how he was chosen to be God’s instrument on Earth. Abby tried to ignore him, looking out at the awed faces in the crowd. They looked like brainwashed sheep to Abby. That didn’t help her mood, though. She had trouble accepting the fact that she was going to watch more people she cared about die. They couldn’t make her keep her eyes open for it. “So here we are,” Kenyon finally said, nodding towards the hangman. “Do what you’re best at, Albert.”
The ugly executioner pulled the lever slightly and Abby watched as the trapdoor below Bobby dropped and he fell through. She closed her eyes and gritted her teeth in anger.
Continue on to the next chapter:
Afterlife, Volume 2, Chapter 9
The hanging in Carpenter City continues.
Oral Kenyon is offended by some surprise party crashers.
Herman Rennock deals with some captured members of the IAO.
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