Fiction: Afterlife Volume 3 (Chapter 14)

by Mike Monroe on December 11, 2017

in FICTION

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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.

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Read the previous chapter here:

Afterlife, Volume 3, Chapter 13

Where:

Paul explores Denver with Aiyana.
General Rodriguez and Foxtrot help the villagers fight some IAO bandits.
Razor adjusts to life in the slave quarters in Iron Town and meets Jenny.

Find the Volume 3 Table of Contents page here.

View the Map here.

Check out Afterlife on Goodreads and don’t forget to rate it.

 

Afterlife, Volume 3, Chapter 14

It was early evening in Rose City as Della walked down the cobblestone street past quaint stores and restaurants.  Many of the buildings were timber framed with sandstone infill.  At a glance, Della suspected more real wood.  Where was it all coming from?  There were metal chairs in front of many of the restaurants, surrounded by metal tables, many covered with colorful mosaicked stones.  Laughing patrons were seated in many of the chairs, sipping coffee or wine and eating sandwiches and pastries.  Rose City was known for its culture and art, so after Della hit up the most interesting clothing store he could find, he planned on checking out one of the town’s famed art museums.  He had to get rid of his awful bandit clothes first and foremost, though.  A boutique with some lacy pink dresses in the front window caught his eye.  They were lacy pink but they had black leather belts and trim.  Right up his alley.  They had clothes for men, too, so he’d be able to kill two birds with one stone.

When Della entered the store, he was greeted by an android standing behind the counter.  Unlike the android that had been in the bookstore, this one was actually covered with synthetic skin.  It moved very smoothly, also.  It looked almost like a female human with pale skin, long brown hair, and green eyes.  She was wearing a flowery green and gold dress, but there was something off about the eyes and the mouth.  Everything was too perfect.  Her skin had no blemishes and her face was too symmetrical.  She looked like one of the androids dirty old men bought to fulfill their sexual pleasures.  And some people called Della a pervert.  Perhaps the owner of the store reprogrammed the sex android to do this work during the day so he wouldn’t have to pay someone else.  Or the owner could have been a woman.  Loneliness didn’t discriminate by gender.  Nor did patheticness.  “Can I help you?” she asked as Della entered.  Her voice was soft and breathy, almost a whisper.

Della smiled.  “No.  It’s all right.  I’ll find what I’m looking for myself.”

“Very well,” the android said, almost too politely.  “If you need help, let me know.  It really would be my pleasure.”  Such phrases were a dead giveaway.  She was most definitely a sex android.

“Sure thing,” Della said.  The dresses were hanging on one wall of the quaint store and the men’s clothes were on the other.  There were two dressing rooms in the back.  As Della looked over the dresses, he realized many of them were far more revealing than the front display had let on.  Such was the trend these days.  Sex sold, after all, and with the prominence of money in Rennock’s society and many of those which had come before, anything that didn’t sell wasn’t to be found.  There were see-through dresses and dresses with open areas to show breasts, butts, and crotches.  Such dresses would be accompanied by pasties and string bottoms, of course, unless the wearer was looking to get arrested.  In towns where the IAO had taken over, such laws had been scrapped all together, at least from what Della was hearing.  The more traditional dresses and suits were in the back near the dressing rooms, so Della chose to browse there.  He found a pink evening gown and a black suit with pink trim and a pink tie that were just what he was looking for, so he went back to one of the dressing rooms to try them on.

Once he’d paid the sex robot for his choices, Della left the boutique wearing his new black and pink suit and carrying two bags, one with the dress, the other with the bandit clothes.  He threw the bandit clothes into the first trash receptacle he saw and found a robot street vendor which was selling barbeque chicken sandwiches.  The robot was on spoked wheels, with two long robotic arms on the sides and a grill in the front.  The fridge was in the back.  There were also cameras and speakers on top to simulate eyes and a mouth.  The robot was quick and efficient and Della had his sandwich in a matter of seconds after he inserted his payment just above the fridge and below the speaker.  The chicken wasn’t terrible, but the fries were a little overcooked.  When Della was done his dinner, he got a recycled water from a vending machine and headed for the part of town where he’d been told the museum district was.

The Rose City Museum of Art was having a special exhibit of contemporary painters and sculptors.  The building itself looked like a bland sandstone block with a huge window in the front.  The line wasn’t too bad.  Della was inside and looking at paintings in less than a half hour.  The first set of paintings were of people having sex in various positions.  The realism and detail were exceptional but they left very little to the imagination.  Della chuckled as he watched museum patrons look over the paintings with thoughtful, serious expressions.  He walked further to find several close-up paintings of genital insertion.  Just what Della wanted to see, a six-foot-tall vagina.  There was a sculptor who sculpted various animals having sex with women.  There were horses, lions, hippos, even elephants.  There was even a large sculpture of a Tyrannosaurus Rex raping a woman.  Della wasn’t impressed.  Everything was sex and more sex until it was as extreme as humanly possible.  One part of the exhibit showed bloody corpses having sex with one another.  Many were missing appendages, or were in the process of losing them.  One painting called “the Mantis” showed a woman devouring a man’s bloody head as he mounted her from behind.  Della took note that though the paintings showed nearly every sexual scenario imaginable, homosexuality wasn’t represented.  Current trends in art and culture weren’t very appealing to Della, so he left the museum and headed back towards his hotel room.  He’d heard the IAO had resorted to having orgies in the streets, and the men raped women left and right.  The world was turning into an absolute cesspool.  The museum and the boutique proved it had been well on its way long before the IAO had come along, though.  And Della considered himself a progressive.

He walked the cobblestone streets past couples walking arm in arm and revelers looking for the next bar or night club.  The sun was just starting to go down and Della wasn’t ready to call it a night.  He wasn’t feeling the nightlife in Rose City, though.  He thought about Ace in a cell alone, biding his time until a trail.  Della figured Ace would like some company, so he turned away from the alley that cut over to the street where the hotel was and started heading towards the sheriff’s office instead.  He noticed the words “The Resistance Lives” spray painted on a sandstone wall in an alley as he walked.

<>

It was dinner time in the Southwest Iron Mines.  Most of the day, Razor had been able to stick to herself.  Dinner was one of the few times she had to join the other workers.  She grabbed a bowl of slop from one of the servers and sat on a metal bench next to Jenny, who was sitting with a group of other black workers, all in the same gray jumpsuits, just like Razor’s.  There were three men and two women in the group other than Jenny, and when Razor sat down, one of the men took an immediate interest in her.  She gave him the evil eye and he didn’t say anything.  “This is Razor,” Jenny said, nodding towards her.  The girls snickered.  “She’s a gladiator.  That’s her gladiator name.”

Razor swallowed.  The hum of the ventilation system filled the cafeteria, but people were talking loud enough to be heard over it.  “It’s nice to meet all of you.”

“So you’re a gladiator?” one of the girls asked.  “And you’re eatin’ slop?  Don’t you get better food?”

“She ain’t fought anybody yet,” Jenny said.

“So you’re new?” the man who had been staring at her asked.  He was big, bald, and muscular, with a goatee.  “Well it’s nice to meet you.  I’m Jim.”

Razor nodded and put a spoonful of slop in her mouth.  She really didn’t want to be around people, but she had little choice.  “I hope you’re successful,” one of the other men said.  “You know what happens if you ain’t.”

“Gladiators here usually fight to the death,” one of the girls said.

Razor shrugged.  “I’ll have to make sure I win then.”  She grinned and some of her company smiled back uneasily.

“So if you’re new here,” one of the men said, “you probably don’t know much about the types of things Brevington and his goons do to people.”  He was a short, thin man with glasses.  Razor wondered how he’d made it working in the mines.  He looked about as tough as a butterfly.

“Don’t try to scare her,” Jenny said.

“It’ll take a lot to scare me,” Razor said as she put another spoonful of slop in her mouth.  It was nasty stuff, like thick, gritty oatmeal with no sweetener.

The man with the glasses grinned.  “Well let me tell you some things.  You’ve probably seen the gladiator fights on the projector.  But what you haven’t seen is what happens to the people who don’t fight.”

“What happens?” Razor asked.

“Well they shut off the broadcast,” the man with the glasses said.  “And they open the lion gates.  Then two lions come out and eat the gladiators.  Tear them to pieces right in front of the live crowds.”

“Lemmy!” Jenny said.  “Enough with the horror stories.”

“It’s the truth,” Lemmy muttered.  “I’m only telling her what she’s in store for.”

“I’m not scared,” Razor said, glaring at him with her one blue eye.  “Tell me more.  What else does Brevington do?”

Lemmy nodded.  “Well, when they say he takes people into town for some ‘old fashioned justice,’ he means an execution.  They hang people from their flagpoles and they let the crows eat the bodies.”

Jim spat out some of his slop.  “Lemmy.  We had enough.  We all know the stories.”

“She hasn’t heard them,” Lemmy said, nodding towards Razor.

Razor nodded.  “What else?”

“That’s enough,” Jenny said.

“Well, we’re done eating,” one of the women said.  “It was nice to meet you.”  She smiled at Razor and stood, along with the woman sitting next to her, and they walked towards the quarters.  The man who’d been sitting with them left too, leaving Razor, Jenny, Lemmy, and Jim.  Razor wondered if Lemmy had ruined their appetites.  None of them had finished their slop.

“For the people Brevington views as the worst criminals,” Lemmy said, “the basement of his mansion is basically one huge torture chamber.  He’d never admit it to the outside world, but he gets off on torturing workers down there.”

“That ain’t been proven,” Jim said.

“You don’t think it’s true?” Lemmy asked.  “It sounds just like him.  Besides, anyone who ends up down there doesn’t make it out to tell about it.  That’s why it hasn’t been proven.”

“What does he do down there?” Razor asked.

“Well…”  Lemmy cleared his throat.  “The worst is the rat punishment.”

“Shut the hell up, Lemmy!” Jim said.

“No,” Razor said, eyeing Lemmy with her good eye.  “What’s the rat punishment?”

Lemmy nodded.  “Well, there’s a rumor that one of Brevington’s ex-girlfriends got pregnant with a black man.  She was a white woman, so he wasn’t too happy about as I’m sure you could imagine, knowing the type of person he is.  So he took her down there and put a cage on her belly with an opening where her belly was.  And he put several rats in the cage.  And to get out, they had to eat through the pregnant woman’s belly, baby and all.”  Razor put her hand over her belly and frowned.

“All right, Lemmy,” Jenny shouted.  “That’s enough.”

Razor’s teeth were grinding in anger.  Her eye was full of hatred.  If these things were true, she’d make sure Brevington suffered for a long time before he died.  “Why don’t we ever talk about the weather?” Jim asked.  “Or anything upliftin’?”

“There’s nothin’ upliftin’ here,” Jenny said as she finished up her slop.  “Won’t be ‘til we’re free.”

“The guards are always talking about a failed uprising,” Razor said.  “What was that all about?”

“A group of people decided they’d had enough,” Lemmy said.  “Mostly black workers, but there were some Hispanics and maybe one or two whites in the group.  They had some gladiators helping, men and women both.  They tried to overtake the guards, but they were unsuccessful.  I think they thought more of us would join in, but the guards slaughtered them.  And the ones they didn’t kill on the spot, they took into town and hung from flagpoles.”

“None of you joined the fighting?” Razor asked.

“It’s more important to stay alive,” Jenny said.  “Besides, Evileye Alphacore escaped a while back, and I hear he’s…”

Someone started shouting.  Razor turned to see a muscular black woman pushing a much smaller Hispanic woman.  “What was that you said, bitch?” the muscular woman asked.

“You think you can push anyone around,” the Hispanic woman said, looking at her timidly, “because you’re big and you can fight.  Go ahead.  Kick my ass.  I don’t care.”  The muscular woman punched her hard in the face and she fell backwards into a bench.  The people nearby cleared the area.  The muscular woman bared her teeth in anger and slammed the Hispanic woman’s head into the metal bench several times with tremendous force.  The Hispanic woman fell to the ground, her head bleeding out onto the floor.

“Anyone else want some?” the angry woman asked as she stood and looked around the cafeteria.  “Anyone else?”  Razor glared at her with her remaining eye and the muscular woman noticed.  “You want some?” she shouted, walking towards her.

“Don’t mess with her,” Jenny whispered.  “That’s Simone Blaze.  She’s the woman’s gladiator champion.”

“Stop talkin’ to her,” Simone shouted at Jenny as she approached.  “You want some, you white bitch?” she asked Razor again.

“You don’t want to mess with me,” Razor said.  “Just go about your business.”  Three of Brevington’s guards were approaching.

“Go about my business?” Simone asked.  “My business is doin’ whatever the hell I wanna do.  Got it?  And right now I wanna kick your white ass.”

The guards continued walking towards them, as did another muscular black woman with a shaved head.  “She’s new, Simone,” the newcomer said.  “You wanna mess with her, you’ll have to mess with me.”

Simon chuckled and looked at her.  She glared at Razor again.  “Can’t fight your own battles?”

“I didn’t ask for any help,” Razor said.

“Two on one?” Simone asked.  She looked at the bald newcomer and shook her head.  “Well, Star.  I’ll be seein’ you soon enough.  When I see you in the arena, I’m gonna mess you up worse than I messed her up.”  She nodded to the Hispanic girl whose head was now surrounded by a puddle of blood.  Razor couldn’t see her face, but she was fairly certain she was dead.

“I’ll fight back,” Star said.  Simone shook her head and walked away towards the gladiators’ quarters.  The people in the cafeteria who’d been watching went back to eating, and the guards went back to their positions along the walls.  Star smiled at Razor and walked over to her.  “You don’t back down from anyone, do you?”

“I have no reason to,” Razor said.

“She’s killed a lot of people,” Star said.  “A lot of gladiators.”

“So have I,” Razor said.

“Killed a lot of gladiators?” Star asked.

“People,” Razor said.  “I haven’t had the chance to kill a gladiator yet.  She would have been my first.”

Star chuckled.  “Is that so?”

Razor nodded.  “You’re a gladiator, too?”

“I am,” Star said.  “Look, I’ll help you once, but next time you’re on your own, got it?  Make sure you learn your lesson.  Here, it’s best to keep your eyes and your mouth to yourself.”

Razor nodded.  “Thanks for helping,”

“Don’t mention it.”  Star nodded to her and turned and walked back towards where she’d been sitting at one of the other tables.

“That’s not the first time Simone killed someone in here,” Jenny said to Razor.  “I wouldn’t mess with her again if I were you.”

“She’s not known for her kindness and understanding,” Lemmy said.

Razor shrugged.  “I’m not afraid of her.”  She went back to eating her slop.

<>

As the resistance guards led Della to Ace’s cell, he wondered what state the former bank robber was in.  Della was lucky one of the guards in the front room of the sheriff’s office recognized him and agreed to let him visit with Ace as long as the two guards stood nearby.  Della looked into the cell through the barred window, seeing that Ace was wearing a gray jumpsuit and he was lying on a cot with his eyes closed.  The walls were smooth sandstone and there was a bench and a metal toilet.  There was also a metal table with a chair that had a cushion, and strangely, there was a painting of a sun setting over desert dunes on the wall.  It didn’t look awful, considering it was a jail cell.  “Who is it?” Ace asked, his eyes still closed.

“Della.  How are they treating you, honey?”

“I’ve seen far worse jails,” Ace said as he opened his eyes and grinned.  He sat up on the edge of the cot and looked through the barred window at Della.  “This one’s a five star hotel compared to some of Rennock’s jails.  The food isn’t bad, either.  I had chicken earlier that almost tasted like it was real.”

Della nodded and chuckled.  “Any word on your court date?”

“Not yet,” Ace said.  “If Abby ever gets here, I imagine it will be pushed up, though.  Did you get yourself some decent clothes?”

“I did,” Della said with a grin.  “You know me well.”

“I’ve got new clothes, too,” Ace said, looking down at his gray jumpsuit.  “I’m sure yours are more stylish, though.”

“You look good in gray,” Della joked.

Ace smiled.  “It suits me, I guess.  I’ve spent a lot of time wearing clothes like these over the course of my life.”

Della nodded and frowned, remembering his time in the Sandville Penitentiary.  “Me too, honey.”

“So it seems the sheriff here isn’t too keen on you or Abby,” Ace said.

Della looked at the two guards standing nearby.  “Can we have some privacy?  The door’s here and it’s locked.  It’s not like I can go in there or anything.  I just wanted to talk about a personal matter.”

“With that criminal?” one of the guards asked.

“Just for a minute or two,” Della said.

“You got two minutes,” the guard said.  “Try to open the door or try any funny stuff and you’ll end up in a cell, too.”  The two guards walked down the hall and stood out of earshot.  Ace walked to the door where he could speak more softly.

“What do you mean?” Della asked.  “What does the sheriff have against me and Abby?”

“Well,” Ace said, “I overheard him talking to his deputies, and he was saying he wanted both of you in jail, also.  It’s your positions with the resistance that are keeping you from sharing my precarious position.”

“Abby?” he asked.

“He thinks we’re all criminals,” Ace said.  “He sees you and Abby as accomplices.  It seems he’s not the only one, either.  Many people here in Rose City apparently are hearing the rumors.”

Della frowned.  “I’ll have to see that Mavery does something about that.”

“So you saw your friends?” Ace asked.  “Are they going to help me at all?”

Della shook his head.  “I’ll see what I can do.  They weren’t too receptive when I told them they should free you, though.  They said you have to have a trial.”

Ace nodded.  “And we all know how that will go, with my reputation.  There’s not a jury member in Numurka who wouldn’t love to see me behind bars.”

“But you do have your admirers,” Della said.

“Not enough.”  He glanced at Della.  “What about your other friend.  You know, the…”

“Nope,” Della said with a frown.  “He’s moved on, it seems.  Found someone else.”  It hurt him to say it.  The wound still felt fresh even though it had been years since they’d actually been together.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Ace said.

“Yeah,” Della said.  “I’m a big boy.  I’ll manage.  There are plenty of other stars in the sky.”

Ace nodded and frowned.  “Well, I’m sorry all the same.”

“I’m gonna get you out of here, Ace,” Della said.  “Don’t worry.  We’ll find a way.  I’ll get you out if I have to break you out myself.”

Ace shushed him.  “If they hear you say that, they’ll throw you into the next cell over.  Don’t jeopardize your own position.”

Della nodded.  “Don’t worry.  I think a lot of things will change when Abby gets here.”

“If she gets here,” Ace said.  “Let’s hope she does.”

“Yeah,” Della said.  “Let’s hope.”

 

 


Continue on to the next chapter:

Afterlife, Volume 3, Chapter 15
Where:
Abby has a disturbing dream as she rests at Green Horizons.
Winston Cooper and Bernard Parks talk with Abby over dinner.
Revelations and discussions make Abby rethink some things.

Find the Volume 3 Table of Contents page here.

View the Map here.

Check out Afterlife on Goodreads and don’t forget to rate it.

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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