Fiction: Afterlife Volume 3 (Chapter 2)

by Mike Monroe on June 26, 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 1

Where:

Herman Rennock is captured by the Duke of Weston and the IAO.
Ace and Della have a shootout in a sheriff’s office.
Shelly discovers that Warrick Baines is in Drummond.

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 2

Mavery was happy to have Big Ed next to her.  He’d been well enough to get up and walk around a little, so he and Mavery were joining Alpha, the former gladiator who’d once been known as Evileye Alphacore, and a few of his top men for dinner.  The long table was in one of the back rooms of the leveler the Warriors of Freedom called the Ruff Ridah.  It was a room which Rennock’s men had used for planning and strategizing.  All of the pictures had been taken down, since Alpha said they depicted various forms of laissez-faire capitalist propaganda, but now the walls seemed eerily bare, dark gray in color.  The metal table, folding chairs, and single florescent light didn’t add to the hominess of the sterile room, either.  Mavery looked across the table at Alpha, who was wearing a plain black shirt.  “Our cook is amazing,” he said with a smile as they all waited with empty plates and silverware in front of them.  “Her name is Tilda Bell.  She makes greens and mac and cheese like nobody’s business.  Her chicken is good, too, but the sides make the meal, if you ask me.”

“Ain’t that right?” the tall, thin man with cornrows seated to Alpha’s right said with a smile.  He was Salvador, Alpha’s second in command.  There was one other person at the table.  He was a short, stocky, dark-skinned bald man with a thin moustache.  Mavery had never seen him before.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Mavery said.

“So this is Roy,” Alpha said, nodding to the stocky man with the thin moustache.  “You already know Salvador.”

Mavery smiled and nodded.  “And you’ve met Big Ed.”

“That’s right,” Alpha said.  “We had a talk yesterday.”  He glanced at Big Ed.  “How are you holding up?”

“Been better,” Big Ed said with a grin.  “But I’ve definitely been worse.”

Alpha turned his attention back to Mavery.  “So you’re on your way to Rose City, you say.  To start a blog?”

“To continue Barney Chambers’ blog,” Mavery said.  “And maybe his pirate radio station, too.  I believe I can use it to recruit more people for the resistance.  To fight Rennock’s forces, and also the IAO.”

Alpha nodded.  “Well I’ll leave you near Rose City.  Then we need to go to Iron Town.”

Mavery frowned.  “What are you going to be doing in Iron Town?”

“Keeping a promise,” Salvador said with a grin, showing his gold teeth.

“I’ve promised my men that we’ll put an end to Phillip Brevington,” Alpha said.  “And we’ll free all of the slaves in Iron Town.”

“And after you free the slaves?” Mavery asked.  “What then?”

“Well,” Alpha said, “we’re hoping many of them will join us.  We’ll strengthen our ranks, and we’ll finish things in Iron Town.  Then, we’ll come back to Rose City and join with any army you can muster there.  Don’t worry.  I didn’t forget about our deal.”

“Finish things in Iron Town?” Mavery asked.  “What do you mean by that?”

“We’re gonna teach them racists a lesson,” Salvador said.

“We want to make sure they won’t be able to enslave our people in the future,” Alpha said.

“So what are you going to do?” Mavery asked.  “Kill everyone?”

“We’re going to make an impression,” Roy said.  “Maybe not kill everyone.  Just make an impression, you know?”

“It’s the only way,” Alpha said.  “It’s time to start putting an end to the cancer of racism.  The cancer of White Nationalism, as they call it.”

“You’re going to torture and murder people?” Mavery asked.  “I know your army’s full of bandits.  I know the types of things they do.”

“Former bandits,” Alpha said.  “It’s a war, though.  Not a garden party.”

“People like Brevington have been trying to instigate race wars for centuries,” Mavery said with a frown.  “You’re playing right into his hands.  His hope is that Africans try to rise up and fight so his people can make us into enemies, villainize us and show us for the monsters he says we are, and then once public opinion is biased against us, the slaughter begins and no one cares anymore. Don’t give in. Don’t make us enemies.”

“We’re already enemies,” Alpha said.

“Maybe to Brevington,” Mavery argued, “but not to everyone.  This would be a public relations disaster for our entire race.”

“So you don’t want the slaves to be freed then?” Alpha asked.

“I didn’t say that,” Mavery said.  “Free the slaves, do what you need to do to free them, and then leave.  Don’t let your men get more brutal than they need to.”

Alpha chuckled.  “You think he’ll just let the slaves go?”

Mavery shook her head.  “But I’m just saying, don’t give Brevington anything he can use against our people.  The world’s looking for a reason to be afraid of us.  Brevington would love to give them that.”

“The world won’t believe Brevington,” Alpha said.  “The common people know who he is, what he stands for.”

“But starting a war?” Mavery asked.

“We can take Brevington,” Roy said.  “We’ve got the numbers.”

“What about Rennock?” Mavery asked.

“Rennock’s gone,” Alpha said, “from what my sources are telling me.”

“What?” Mavery asked.

“It sounds like the IAO have New Atlantis,” Salvador said.

Mavery nodded and frowned.  “Well I’m not sure that’s any better.”

“The IAO are a bunch of disorganized madmen,” Alpha said.  “They won’t give us too much trouble.”

A short, dark-skinned woman walked through the doorway.  She was wearing a blue dress with a white apron, and she was carrying a large tray full of food.  “Feel free to serve yourselves,” she said.  “Enjoy.”  She placed the tray on the table and left the room.  There were three huge bowls.  One with roasted chicken, one with mac and cheese, and the last with greens.  It smelled wonderful to Mavery.

“Guests first,” Alpha said, and Big Ed started spooning food onto his plate.

“Still,” Mavery said, “we need the people on our side, and when I say people, I mean all people.”

“The time to fight is now,” Alpha said.  “I’ve read your articles on the slavery in the iron mines.  I would have thought you’d be on our side.”

“I am on your side,” Mavery said.  “Our side.  I just don’t want things to get out of hand.  I want to make sure we do things the right way.”

“And the right way is to fight,” Alpha said.  “It’s the only way.”

Salvador nodded.  “We’ve waited long enough.  We’ve let them enslave us and murder our people for long enough.”

“What about everyone else?” Mavery asked.  “If you’re serious about joining the resistance, you need to be ready to fight for the rights of all people.  When the poor factions of the world fight amongst themselves, it distracts them from fighting against the real problems which make them poor. Some of those in power benefit from this, and may even be fanning the flames, intentionally or not.”

“Poor whites are being held down by Brevington and those like him,” Alpha said, “but it isn’t because of the color of their skin.  They haven’t been systematically held down against their will for centuries, millennia, the way we have.  They’re on Brevington’s side because of their racism, and that makes them the enemy.”

“But we can change that,” Mavery said.  “If we can get them to see the real enemy.”

“You think so?” Alpha asked with a grin.  “Brevington has them all caught up in this White Nationalism.  They don’t even think they’re racist.  They claim they’re looking out for ‘white rights.’  They talk about ‘white pride.’  African pride is when people are proud of their African heritage.  Mexican pride is, likewise, when people are proud of their heritage.  White pride is being proud of a skin tone.  But these people are so brainwashed by Brevington, he has them marching like sheep to the slaughter.”

“We need to find a way to counter his message,” Mavery said.  The short woman came into the room again, placing glasses of tea with ice from her tray in front of everyone before leaving again.

“They won’t listen to Africans,” Alpha said.  “They think we’re inferior.  And if a European person comes along with the same message, they’ll call them an elitist.”  Alpha chuckled.  “Elitist, they’ll call them.  Educated elitists.  If you think you’re better than an entire race of people, you are the very definition of elitist.  If you think you’re better than an entire race of people and you call someone else an elitist, you are the very definition of hypocrite.”

Mavery realized she wasn’t going to get anywhere with Alpha.  She looked down at her empty plate.  “Speaking of education, you seem like you’re well educated.”

“Changing the subject, I see,” Alpha said with a grin.  “Yes, I’m educated.  My family was from New Atlantis, like yours.  I was educated in the best schools it’s possible for an African man to be educated in.  When I was old enough, I left to see the outside.  I went to college in Rose City.  I achieved degrees in sociology and political science.  I also obtained a masters in African cultural studies, and a PhD in ancient world history with a specialization in African American history.”

“A PhD?” Mavery asked.  “So you’re Doctor Evileye Alphacore.”  She chuckled, and Alpha smiled at her.  “What’s your real name?” she asked.

“I may answer that question someday,” he said.  “But not now.  So once I graduated with my PhD, I started teaching classes.  I led protests and marches.  I also learned martial arts and taught myself to shoot, so I could defend myself against my many enemies.  I decided to lead a march against Iron Town and the mines there, and the slavery.”  He frowned.  “I was captured and imprisoned and became a slave.  Brevington had them test my fighting skills since he’d been told I’d put up quite a fight, so he made me a gladiator.  I became the most famous gladiator he had, making him more money than he could have possibly foreseen.  I was one of his favorites, but I couldn’t stand being his puppet on a string anymore, so I planned an escape with three other men.”

“How were you able to escape?” Mavery asked.

“I was scheduled to fight Sternum Crusher in the Northwest Territory,” Alpha said.  “There were three other gladiators with me as we traveled by hover truck.  They were the undercards, so to speak.  We’d all had enough.  So I knew if I started fighting the five armed guards in the truck with us, the undercards would join in and we’d have a chance.  Two of them were killed, but I was able to escape with Roy here.  And we headed south and found the Nightstalkers, and you know the rest.”

Mavery realized that she and Alpha hadn’t gotten any food yet, and the others were almost done eating, so she spooned some food onto her plate.  The food was amazing, especially the oven-baked mac and cheese.  There was just enough garlic and onions, and lots of cheese.  It was absolutely delicious.  It had been so long since Mavery had eaten good soul food.  They continued their conversation as they ate, and when they were finished, Mavery and Big Ed said goodbye to their hosts, left the Ruff Ridah, and headed back to their tents beneath the desert stars.  The tents of the Warriors of Freedom covered the dunes all around them as they walked.  “You didn’t say much tonight,” Mavery said to Ed.  “I thought Alpha would be right up your alley.  He talks about the same things you do.”

“Yeah,” Big Ed said, rolling his eyes.

Mavery stopped walking and smiled at Big Ed.  She grabbed his arm and he also stopped walking and spun to face her.  “What’s wrong?” she asked.

“You two seemed to have a lot to talk about,” Big Ed said.  “Maybe I need to go to college so I can hang with you.”

“Are you jealous?” she asked.  “Ed, you’ve got nothing to worry about.  Alpha isn’t my type.”

“That’s what you said about me at first,” Big Ed said.  “Remember?”

“Yeah,” Mavery said.  “Well, he didn’t save my life when I was alone in the desert.  You’ll always be there for me.  I know that.  And I love you for it.  Believe me.  You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

“You say that now,” Big Ed said.

“I’ll always say that,” Mavery said.  “You’re my big teddy bear.  You know why he isn’t my type?  Because you are.  Maybe you weren’t before, but you sure are now.  He’s got nothing on you, baby.”  Big Ed smiled and leaned down and kissed her.  “Why don’t you come visit for a while?” she asked.

Big Ed glanced at a nearby dune and Mavery noticed some black-clad guards standing there, watching them.  “You think they’ll approve of that?” Big Ed asked.

“Sure,” Mavery said.  “Alpha trusts us.  That probably means they all trust us, too.  Come back to my tent for a while.”  She grinned and led him by the hand.

“All right then,” Big Ed said with a smile.

<>

The dunes rose high on both sides of the hover truck that had been driven by the late John Bernard.  Ayman Ali didn’t like camping in the desert.  He’d have preferred rocky badlands or a cavern where there was far more cover, especially from aircraft, but the high dunes would have to do.  He was tired and had no idea how long it would take him to find more rocky terrain.  He’d been driving through desert dunes for over a day now.  Ayman thought he heard something, so he stopped unpacking and looked around at the sand.  The moonlight provided enough light that he would have been able to see a person, but if there were people around, they were hiding.  Something just didn’t seem right, so Ayman drew his laser pistol and got into the back of the truck.  He sat on the bench, peeking out at the dunes to try to prove to himself that it was just his mind playing tricks on him.

“How many of you are down there?” a voice shouted down from a dune.

Ayman froze.  He wasn’t crazy, though he wished he were.  He had no idea if these were friendly travelers, bandits, or worse yet, Holy Warriors looking to kill him for his betrayal.  He said a quick prayer asking Allah for safety.  “Just one,” Ayman shouted.  “I’m just a traveler.  I don’t mean anyone any harm.  I have some food I can share if you want some.”

“Likely story,” the voice shouted.  “How do we know you ain’t one of them terrorists?”

Ayman swallowed.  “I’m just one man.”

“If you got a bomb down there,” the voice said, “and we come down, you’ll blow yourself up and us with you.  One man can do a lot of damage.  Y’all have proven that time and time again.”

“I don’t have a bomb.”  Ayman put his gun down and took off his shirt and shoes, so he was only wearing his baggy white pants.  “I’ll come out with my hands up so you can see.  Please don’t shoot me.  I put myself at your mercy.”

“Come out, then,” the voice said.

Ayman stepped slowly out of the truck and took several steps away from it, saying another prayer to Allah as he did so.  His arms were in the air.  He was a short, stout man with a hairy chest and a bushy black beard.  “You see?  I’m harmless.  Just a fat, half-naked man with nothing to hide.”

“What are you doin’ way out here?” the voice asked.

“I’m on my way north,” Ayman said.  “I’m fleeing the Holy Warriors.  The terrorists.  They’re my enemies as well.  I only want to live a peaceful life.”

“You’re headin’ the wrong way, then,” the voice said.  “The IAO are runnin’ rampant up in Numurka now.”

Ayman nodded.  He’d heard of the International Anarchy Organization.  A new threat, apparently.  “Well, I’ll take my chances with them.  Come down here.  Eat some food with me.  I’m sure you are all tired, too, just like me, if you’ve been traveling.  And hungry.”

Ayman remained standing with his hands raised as several figures scrambled down the side of the dune.  Three of them had laser rifles trained on him the entire time.  The first two figures were quite a pair, one over seven feet tall and the other less than four feet tall.  At first Ayman thought his eyes were playing tricks on him, but as they approached him, he realized they weren’t an elf and a tall, thin giant.  They were definitely humans.  The next arrival was a woman in a pretty dress.  She had feminine features other than the full beard.  Following her was an elderly man with the most wrinkled face Ayman had ever seen and squinting eyes that were barely visible.  He moved very well for someone who seemed so ancient.  The three people with the laser rifles were a tall, muscular man in a gray cowboy hat, an athletic-looking blonde in a tan cowboy hat, and a woman who looked to be of Persian descent to Ayman.  She was beautiful, with big, brown eyes, and she was dressed all in black with a black cowboy hat.  The final man coming down the hill was middle-aged, with long, gray hair and a goatee.  He wore jeans and a brown vest with gold trim, and there was a white ten gallon hat on his head.  “I’m Wild Joe Rodeo,” the middle-aged man said.  He walked past the others and reached out with his right hand.  Ayman shook it.  The man’s grip was obscenely strong.  “These are the other members of my travellin’ Wild West Show.”  He nodded back to the others.

“Ayman Ali.”  Ayman withdrew his hand and smiled timidly.

Joe nodded.  “The tall one’s Big Bob the Giant.  The tallest man alive.  The short one’s Jimmy Thumb, descended from the famous Tom Thumb.  He, conversely, is the shortest man alive.  The bearded lady is Belle the Beauty.”  He nodded towards the ancient-looking man.  “This here’s Chief Restin’ Crow, a real injun chief and the oldest man still livin’ in all the world.  The handsome fella in the cowboy hat is Buckaroo Billy, the best bull rider who ever lived.  The beautiful blonde is Mary Cassidy, who can handle a horse like nobody’s business, and can talk to animals and tell ‘em to do her biddin’.  And last, but not least, we’ve got Princess Floatin’ Feather.”  He nodded towards the Persian-looking woman.  “She’s the chief’s great granddaughter, another injun obviously, and the best shot who ever lived in the entire history of the world.”

Ayman wasn’t sure what to make of all of the superlatives.  He was willing to allow for some hyperbole coming from someone who worked in show business, but he wasn’t sure whether he could trust someone who embellished things as often and obviously as Wild Joe did.  “Well it’s nice to meet all of you,” Ayman said.  “It’s quite obvious I’m in the presence of greatness.  I’m just Ayman Ali, a humble traveler.”

Everyone introduced themselves and Big Bob and Buckaroo Billy helped Ayman unload his tent after Ayman put his shirt and shoes back on.  The rest of the performing troupe went back up the dune to get their belongings.  Four large hover trucks soon arrived in the valley where Ayman had parked his own vehicle.  One had two benches in the back and was half-full of boxes and bags.  The other three much larger hover trucks were full of livestock, including two bulls, five horses, four pigs, two piglets, three calves, some chickens, and even a huge, fifteen foot tall cave bear.  Ayman could see the animals through bars in the sides of the trucks.  All four hover trucks were painted elaborately in red and gold with “Wild Joe Rodeo Show” signs featured prominently.  Ayman watched as the travelling showmen unloaded their things, including a grill, and prepared to barbeque some beef ribs that had been stored in a freezer in one of the trucks.  It appeared they had more than enough food of their own.  Ayman was starting to realize he probably needed their help far more than they needed his.  Perhaps he’d be able to talk them into letting him travel with them, depending on where they were going.

<>

Paul Jacobs shifted in the bed as he tried to remember where he was.  He’d woken several times before only to fall back asleep.  He’d seen images of nurses in white.  He really had no idea where he was or how he’d gotten there.  The last thing he remembered was riding between two huge statues while he was in the back of the leper’s vehicle.  Then he looked out into a valley where there was a city which the leper said was Denver, a city from the old world.  Paul remembered thinking it wasn’t possible.  Then, he either fell asleep or blacked out.

Now he was lying in a bed with white sheets.  There was a neon light overhead, and the room seemed pristine.  Everything was white or shiny silver.  Paul thought about getting out of bed to take a look around when he remembered how bad off his right leg had been.  It was still in pain but it was feeling a little better.  Paul realized there was an IV in his arm with a tube leading up to a bag above the bed.  They’d probably been giving him pain killers and some sort of nourishment.  He had no idea how long he’d been wherever he was.

The door opened and a smiling woman dressed in a white robe walked into the room.  She was beautiful, with big brown eyes and long, shiny black hair.  Her tan face was blemishless aside from the strange growth just beneath her right ear.  It looked like some sort of tumor, just like those of the leper who’d been driving the strange vehicle.  The nurse’s tumor was only about an inch in diameter and didn’t distract from her beauty, at least not in Paul’s eyes.  She had an exotic look to her, but Paul couldn’t put his finger on where she was from.  It could have been New Persia, or maybe the Mexican Territory.  “You’re awake,” she said with a smile.  There was no discernable accent.

“I guess so, ma’am,” Paul said, trying to sit up.

“No,” she said.  “Stay down.  You need some rest.  You had a fever.  You were out for two days.”

Paul nodded.  “Two days.  Where are we?”

“Denver,” she said.

Paul had to make sure he hadn’t been dreaming before.  “New Denver?”

She shook her head.  “Denver.”

Paul figured it was still possible he could have been dreaming.  The woman was looking at the dressing on his injured leg and he noticed there were small tumors on the backs of each of her delicate hands.  “How is that possible?”

“How is what possible?” the nurse asked, looking up at him.

“How can this be Denver?  I mean, how is it still here?”

The woman smiled.  “Oh.  This is all new to you.”

“It’s very new,” Paul said with a chuckle.  “And very strange, if you don’t mind my saying so, ma’am.”

“Well,” the woman said, “Denver’s still here because they somehow missed us.  A miracle, I guess.  Or an error on their part.”

“Who?” Paul asked.  “Whose part?”

“Whoever fired the missiles or set off the bombs that destroyed the rest of the world,” the woman said.  “Nuclear explosions destroyed everything.  But they missed us, for whatever reason.  Oh, history says it was still awful.  Lots of people died.  Most of us died.  Just not everyone, like what happened everywhere else.”

“Nuclear explosions?” Paul asked.  “Is that how it all ended, then?”  She nodded.  “Who?  Who fired the missiles or set off the bombs?”

“We don’t know,” she said.  “The United States weren’t at war with anyone at the time.  It was said we had enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world many times over, as did Russia, and other nations had nuclear weapons, too.  But who knows?  They didn’t tell anyone anything.  It just happened one day.”

“That doesn’t even make any sense,” Paul said.  “When did it happen?”

“Thirty six hundred years ago.  We all learn about it in school, along with everything that’s happened since, and even some things that happened before the apocalypse.”

“Like what?” Paul asked.

She laughed.  “It would take you years to learn everything.  Maybe I’ll bring in some books when you’re feeling better.  For now, you need to get some rest.”

“What’s your name, if you don’t mind my asking?” Paul asked.

“I’m Aiyana MacGowan,” she said.  “Aiyana’s a Native American name.  MacGowan’s Irish.  My ancestors were mostly Native American on my mom’s side.  Irish on my dad’s.”

Paul nodded.  “It’s a beautiful name.  I’m Paul Jacobs.”

She smiled.  “Well it was nice to meet you, Paul Jacobs.  Get your rest, though.  I’ll be back later with some books.”

Paul smiled back.  “I look forward to it, ma’am.”

“And some food, of course.  You must be starving.”

“I am,” Paul said as she gave him one last gorgeous smile and left the room, closing the wooden door behind her.  Paul wasn’t surprised that humans had destroyed themselves through nuclear war.  Something seemed fishy about the whole thing, though.  How could it be possible that no one knew who did it or why?  He was eager to learn more.  But he was also tired, so he closed his eyes and dozed off.

 


Continue on to the next chapter:

Afterlife, Volume 3, Chapter 3
Where:
Ayman Ali has dinner with the members of the Wild Joe Rodeo Show.
General Rodriguez and Foxtrot contemplate their next move.
Ace McCoy as Honest Abe Miller plays poker with Della Luscious at his side.

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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