Read This Rotten World (Book 1) Online

Authors: The Vocabulariast

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This Rotten World (Book 1) (10 page)

BOOK: This Rotten World (Book 1)
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Chapter 25: Ace is
Number 1

 

Ace Fever,
real name Shinji Tsukamoto, sat in a cinder-blocked jail cell wondering what
was going to happen next. He rubbed at the bruise on his chest where the
hillbilly had tried to bite him. His trusty leather jacket had proved to be
stronger than the man's bite. The brawl in the club had been brutal, and at the
end, the cops had pulled them all out of the club and sat them down on the curb.
People were covered in bite wounds, bruises, and blood, and he saw the
hillbilly, blood caking his face, being ushered to his own personal ride in the
back of a squad car, gnashing his teeth and trying to attack the police
officers.

With his
bandmates by his side, Ace sat on his rear end on the sidewalk, smoking a
cigarette and trying to plead with the cop standing over him. The police had
spent a lot of time asking people their side of the story. In the end, the
entire band had all been rounded up, along with some of the more violent
rioters, and thrown into the back of a paddy wagon.

They had
booked him, taken his fingerprints, and then ushered him down to a cell. Ace
was glad that they hadn't bothered going back and searching their music
equipment, or else they would have found the pile of cocaine that they had
bought when they first hit stateside. Ace's high had long since dissipated, and
he wondered where his tour manager was. How long was it going to be before he
was bailed out?

The
clanging of skull against bars shocked him out of his musings. The man across
the way appeared to be trying to shove his way through the metal bars. His
teeth were locked in a grimace, and his arms poked through the bars, reaching
for him. Ace flipped the man off, but it did no good.

"Go to
sleep, you bastard." The man merely snarled at him, reared back and
smashed his head into the bars again. Blood dribbled down his sweaty forehead.
Ace laid down on the hard metal cot that passed for a bed in his cell. He
folded his hands behind his head and stared up at the ceiling, trying to ignore
the man across the way.

He loved
America and hated it at the same time. How could this be the land of the free
if you couldn't even brawl in a bar? He wondered how his bandmates were doing.
Hey Fever, or Tak as he had known him on the mean streets of Tokyo, was nursing
a bloody lip in the back of the paddy wagon. Jungle Fever, whose name seemed to
change every week, was examining a bite on his arm when they had come into the
station. They had laughed and joked in Japanese as the cops took their
fingerprints, but then they had all been ushered to separate cells.

At first,
they had yelled and been in good spirits, but if they were feeling anything
like him at the moment, they were coming down pretty hard from a night full of
booze and coke. They hadn't even had a chance to get to the ladies yet. That
was the best thing about America. You could throw a guitar over your shoulder,
do a bunch of drugs, and at the end of the night you could head home with some
random chick, do your thing, and head off to a different city, and do it all
again. There was always a different city in America, and the women were
different every time. Different features, different skin colors, different hair
colors, even the vaginas were different. Ace closed his eyes, and dreamed of
the future.

It wasn't
long until the door to his cell clanged open, and the cops shoved another man
into the cell. Ace sat up on his bed and looked warily at the man. He was
sweating profusely, and he had a bandage over his neck.

The fat
guard with the red goatee laughed and mockingly said, "Have fun, you
two."

The man
with the wound crawled to the other cot in the cell and groaned as he laid
down. Ace examined him from the corner of his eye. He was long; he filled his
cot to a greater extent than Ace did. He was thick too. This was not the type
of man that Ace would want to tangle with. Ace was lanky and could throw a good
punch, but his bony body was not made to take the kind of physical impact that
this thick-boned man could most likely deliver. He wore dirty black work boots,
a blue flannel sweatshirt and some well-worn jeans. His hair was short and
brown, and he could see sweat on the top of the man's head where he was
balding. He couldn't tell if the man was in his thirties or late forties.

The man
coughed, and rolled over on his side. He spoke with the air of fever,
"Hey, where am I?"

Ace didn't
answer at first, hoping the man would just give up.

"Where
am I?"

Ace tried
to make his words as clear as possible; he hated having to repeat himself
because of his accent. "You are in prison."

The man
groaned and rolled over on his back. He moaned loudly, and said, "Why the
hell am I out here? They attacked me! Goddamn, ignorant sumsabitches. They
attacked me!" He wiped his hand across his brow and then hung his hand off
the side of the cot. Sweat dripped to the ground.

Ace sat up
on his cot, curious. It was one of his many flaws. "Who attacked
you?"

"They
did. A bunch of homeless people come up out of the park and began banging on my
trailer. I tried to scare them off with a knife." The man waved his
worker's mitts at the air, as if he were holding an imaginary knife. Then he
turned to look at Ace. He was silent for a moment, and then he said,
"Where am I?"

Ace ignored
the repeated question, and instead posed a question of his own, "What did
they want?"

The man
swallowed, his prominent Adam's apple jigging in his throat. "They wanted
to kill me. One of them crawled through the window and came after me. His hands
were cold. I stabbed him in the gut with my knife. Right through the middle. He
didn't do nothing, the goddamn, ignorant sumbitch."

The man sat
up on the cot, his intensity growing. Ace could see the outline of his body on
the sheets, formed from sweat. His face dripped with moisture as he continued:
"I twisted it, and he still came after me. Took a bite out of my arm, and
that's when I stabbed him in the throat."

Ace, his
mouth hanging open, had never met a murderer before, at least not that he knew
of. "Then what happened?"

The man's
eyes rolled into the back of his head, and just when Ace thought he was gone
for good, they focused on him. "He kept biting me. The cops showed up.
Kicked down the door. Told me to freeze. But the pain... the biting. It was too
much."

"And?"

The man
focused on him again. "I stabbed him through the eye."

For a second,
Ace almost asked if the man had died, but that was stupid. Of course he had
died. He was lost in his own thoughts, when the man spoke again.

"You're
one of them aren't you?"

Ace was
taken aback. His mind, translating English into Japanese, couldn't quite figure
out what the man was implying. The man on the cot across from him screwed his
face up, and Ace knew what was coming next.

He got his
hands up in front of his throat, just as the man launched himself at him. He
was screaming at the top of his lungs, "You're one of them!" over and
over. He kept trying to choke Ace, and it was all he could do to keep the man
from getting a good grip on his throat.

"Help!"
he screamed every time he managed to break the man's hold on his neck. They
tumbled to the ground, and Ace's world was turned upside down. He was losing
the battle. The man's rough hands seized on his throat, and no matter what he
did, he couldn't break the man's hold. He could hear one of his bandmates, Hey
Fever, screaming for help from a cell down the hall. His vision began to fade,
the last sight he would see would be the face of the snarling madman across the
hall, covered in blood, his arms outstretched towards Ace, as if he wanted to
join in the fun.

Chapter 26: The
Shopping Cart of Salvation

 

Mort's jog
from the exploding police car had been as swift as possible. Blood streamed
down his face, his elbow ached, and his knee had stiffened up to the point
where he was hobbling. His body was covered in sweat, and his face stung where
the sweat was seeping into the cuts on his forehead. He leaned up against a
wooden fence that had seen better days. He had seen people moving about, heard
sporadic shots of gunfire, and through it all he had kept moving, though the
years of smoking and minimal physical activity had his lungs on fire.

He leaned
against the rough grain of the now gray and somewhat wobbly fence, coughing up
phlegm and spitting it on the ground. He had heard sirens, but they had always
been heading away.

It began to
rain, and Mort lifted his face to the sky to let it wash away the blood on his
face. He wasn't bleeding badly, nothing that needed stitches, but the last
thing he needed was for cops to see him with his face covered in blood. His
bald head began to steam in the early morning rain. He closed his eyes.

Memories of
his youth flashed in his mind. Hiding out in the night, away from Pop, his
slurring voice yelling out in the night, "I'm gonna get you, boy! You
bring your ass in here!" The patter of raindrops on the leaves around him,
his heart beating in his ears, threatening to blow out his eardrums. It was a
night like this that he had decided to leave, walking through the woods, and
never looking back. He wondered how long it had taken Pop to sober up enough to
realize that the last of his brood had finally left him alone in that shack in
Louisiana, drinking and fighting the memories of his own youth.

He opened
his eyes and focused them on a light in the distance, always moving, never
stopping, as if Pop were going to find him one day. He put one foot in front of
the other and walked towards the light. As he got closer, he saw that it was a
24-hour supermarket, the lights still on inside. There were a handful of cars
parked outside, and as he walked up to the front doors, a man came out wielding
a cart loaded down with water and tons of canned food.

Mort
thought nothing of it, until the man saw him, skidded to a stop, and raised a
handgun in his direction. Fear made his eyes bulge, and he could see the
hardness in the other man's stare as he shouted, "Don't come any fucking
closer, or I'll blow your goddamn brains out!"

Mort's
hands came up instinctively, palms out to show he meant no harm. "Easy
man."

The man
steered the cart with one hand to the back of a pickup truck. He began tossing
stuff into the back of it, one hand pointing the gun at Mort, and the other
tossing his goods into the back.

Mort stood
in silence, fearing the blackness at the end of the barrel of the gun that the
man was holding. He was surprised to find that the fear was the same despite
the fact that he was forty-years older than the last time someone had pointed a
gun in his direction. At least this man was sane, not rambling about the devil
and drunk out of his mind. Mort waited patiently. When the man tossed the last
jug of water into the back of his truck, he waived his gun at him dismissively,
and yelled, "Go on, get out of here. Find someplace safe." Then,
without even looking at him twice, he hopped into the cab of the truck and
drove away, his bald tires squealing as he accelerated on the rain-slick
pavement.

The rain
pitter-pattered on his head as he watched the lights disappear into the
darkness. He looked inside the grocery store, and decided he could probably use
a couple of things. Mort almost changed his mind when he walked into the front
door of the grocery store. There, sitting in the entranceway was a dead body, a
bullet hole through its forehead. The corpse belonged to a stock boy judging by
the apron he had around his waist. He didn't know why he didn't just turn
around, but something pulled him into the store.

The
florescent lights hurt his eyes, and it took him a while to adjust. The place
was virtually empty, just as it usually was at this time of the morning. Only
this time, there were no employees to be seen. There were, however, signs of
struggle. Boxes knocked over here, a forgotten shoe over there, but nowhere was
there a person in sight. The hair stood up on the back of his neck, and he felt
as if he were being watched.

From the
back of the store he could hear banging. Mort crept silently, which was no easy
task with a bum knee. He was more likely to be heard hissing through his teeth
than taking a heavy footfall, but he did a pretty damn good job of moving
quietly. He crept down the cereal aisle, putting random thoughts of the last
time he had eaten cereal into the back corner of his mind. Why the hell were
there so many cereals? Who could possibly need that much variety?

The banging
got louder as he crept heel to toe, followed by a quick hop, down the aisle. It
sounded as if someone were banging on a shutter. As he reached the end of the
aisle, he slowly leaned out and peeked around the end cap.

The grocery
store had a pharmacy. In the pharmacy, a woman cried as six of those things
pounded on the iron shutters that secured the pharmacy after closing time. For
a moment, his mind raced, wondering how to get the woman out of there. He could
cause a distraction, giving her time to escape, but what then? He sure as hell
wouldn't be running from any of those things, and if they were like the
recently deceased cops that he had encountered earlier in the night, he would
be done for. He was about to disappear down the aisle when the woman in the
pharmacy spotted him peeking around the corner.

He could
see her eyes widen in sudden hope, and even as he was shaking his head and
putting his finger to his lips in a shushing gesture, she began screaming at
him for help. Mort backed away in haste, knocking a box of cereal to the
ground. A red-headed leprechaun looked up at him from the ground, mocking him.
The gang of creatures at the shutters turned around to investigate the noise.
It only took a second for them to give chase, and then Mort was shuffling down
the aisle trying to get away from them.

He had a
head start, but he knew that he was running a race that he had virtually no
shot of winning. As he reached the halfway point of the aisle, he looked over
his shoulder to see the first of them rounding the corner, arms out, knocking
more mocking leprechauns to the ground.

He
redoubled his efforts, but the tightness in his knee would only allow him to go
so fast. He hoped that the woman in the pharmacy was able to get away;
especially if he didn't manage to get away himself. At least then his death
would be for something. The prospect was a damn site better than any demise he
had ever envisioned for himself in his clearer more transcendental moments.

As he
reached the end of the aisle, he could hear their snarls getting closer, their
shambling footsteps outgaining his mad hop. Their sneakers squeaked on the
bright, white linoleum. He silently cursed himself for not snagging cigarettes
as soon as he had walked into the store, but then again, how was he supposed to
know that an army of dead things were wandering around in the back? That
asshole in the truck could have at least given him a heads up.

When  he
passed through the automatic sliding doors, he felt the fingertips of the lead
corpse brush his jacket. He turned around and confronted the snarling face;
bloody furrows ran down the woman's face as if someone with sharp fingernails
had tried to gouge her eyes out. Her long blonde hair clung to the blood, and
Mort shuffled backwards. He felt his knee pop, and suddenly he could barely
move. The woman reached for him and he shoved her away. She backpedaled
clumsily before falling hard on her back. As she awkwardly attempted to rise, the
crowd of creatures behind her parted and moved around her form as she were a
rock sticking up in the middle of a river.

His knee
was now composed of pure fire as he hopped on one leg. He looked everywhere for
some sort of escape. More fingers brushed his back, and out of desperation, he
put on a final burst of speed. He spotted his salvation in the form of a metal
shopping cart. The fingers were brushing his back again, and despite the fact
that it lit every nerve in his knee on fire, he forced himself to use his leg
as if it were normal.

Mort ran
for his life, screaming in agony, and wrapped his wrinkled hands around the red
handle of the shopping cart. The cold metal was the most welcome sensation he
had felt in a while. For the first time in a long time, he felt alive. Now he
had to keep it that way.

Mort used
his momentum to push the cart along. He put both of his feet on the bottom rail
and leaned forward. The cart moved at a faster pace, although he could feel
every pebble that the hard, rubber wheels rolled over in his knee. He chanced a
look behind him, and he almost screamed in excitement to see the creatures
losing ground.

The wheels
on the cart started to slow. So he hopped onto the ground and ran some more,
sending more pain through his knee. He couldn't keep this up either. Four quick
paces, and he was done. He steered the cart towards the exit to the parking
lot, and without looking for traffic, he rode into the street. The creatures
were a good twenty paces away, but they were not looking to give up the chase.

In the
distance, he could see that the road had an ever so gentle downwards slope. He
just had to reach the apex of the road, and then it was all easy street, at
least until he got to the bottom. The rain continued to fall. His head steamed
in the night, and he knew this feeling... this feeling of having to escape or
die. He had known it from the day he was born. It was what he was good at,
escaping. If only these creatures had existed always, then he would be a god
among men. But in a way, they had existed... except they had voices, smiling
promising voices. In the end, they all wanted him dead, the ones with voices
and the ones without.

Mort
reached the precipice of the hill and hopped onto the bottom bar of the cart
again. The acceleration was slow, but he simply couldn't use his knee anymore;
at this point, he doubted if he would ever be able to use it normally again.
The creatures gained on him, snarling, their wet shirts clinging to their
bodies. Just as he thought they were going to outrun his cart and ruin his
glorious escape plans, he began to pick up speed. The closest creature made a last
grasp for him, and clawed at the air before hitting the ground face first in
its exuberance.

Mort
screamed in exultation as he gained even more ground. The wind on his face and
every inch of distance made him forget about the raw fire that was crawling up
his leg. He laughed loudly at the idea that a homeless man like him would save
his own life by riding away on a stolen shopping cart.

He was
almost to the bottom of the hill, when he noticed the truck from before had
plowed into another car at an intersection. He was headed right for it. The
shopping cart was going too fast for him to jump off without hurting himself
even worse than he was. Mort clenched his jaw and rode the cart into the
wreckage.

BOOK: This Rotten World (Book 1)
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