Read This Rotten World (Book 1) Online

Authors: The Vocabulariast

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This Rotten World (Book 1) (2 page)

BOOK: This Rotten World (Book 1)
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Chapter 2: Mort

 

Mort tossed
and turned under the Interstate Bridge. The chill of the evening had snuck up
on him, leeching into his bones. He had gotten so comfortable sleeping without
a blanket in the last two weeks, the first days of summer weather, that he
hadn't needed his blanket. He could hear others in the night, coughing while
the fire in the rusty oil drum guttered weakly, putting out barely any heat.
The cars roared down the highway a hundred feet above them. He had often
imagined what would happen if there were an earthquake while he was sleeping
underneath the bridge. He pictured tons of concrete breaking away and burying
him amidst cars, rebar, and empty whiskey pints. No one would even know to look
for them.

He snorted
in, inhaling the fragrant musk of his own facial hair which was marbled with
gray. He felt ripe. Maybe it was time to take himself down to the fountain and
get himself a bath, but not tonight; it was too cold. Mort flinched as another
person in the camp coughed, a rattling, phlegmy bit of business that didn't
help him sleep any. His teeth began to chatter.

He sat up
and blinked his eyes, the rods and cones taking their time to adjust to the
gloom under the highway. Ivy flowed down a steep hillside and a pillar of solid
concrete, twenty feet in diameter shot up into the sky where it met with the
underside of the freeway. The freeway rattled and roared as a semi-truck
bounced across its rutted structure. Mort hugged himself tightly and rubbed his
arms, trying to warm them up.

The ground
was soft and dirty, but the cardboard he had been sleeping on was fresh, and in
good shape. Still, the chill of the ground had crept up through its limited
insulation. It felt like it was 50 degrees out... a low-number for the
beginning of June. His blanket was stashed away in his shopping cart, where it
lay untouched for the last two weeks. His shopping cart rested against the
concrete pillar. He got to his feet, fighting pins and needles in his left
foot. He limped across the homeless camp, stepping over bearded bodies and
broken glass.

Mort
reached his shopping cart, a rusted old gentleman that had been with him for
two years. He wasn't even sure the store he had stolen it from was still in
existence. It was a skinny cart, in good working order, and piled high with
everything that he owned. Some bits of clothing here and there, a spare set of
shoes, odds and ends, and his trusty street blanket... impervious to moisture,
totally camouflaged, and utterly priceless. He began shifting his belongings,
trying not to make too much noise. The blue tarp on top crinkled loudly as he
peeled it back.

"Shut
up, Mort! I'm trying to sleep over here."

"Sorry,"
he hissed back, trying not to disturb anyone else.

Mort
reached into his pocket and pulled out a cigarette, a hand-rolled smoke made with
the cheapest tobacco one could buy. He twirled it in his brown fingers while he
searched in the pocket of his jeans for a pack of matches. He found it, placed
the cigarette in his mouth, struck a match and inhaled. It stung his throat and
clung to the coarse hairs of his mustache, its rich smoke infusing the evening
with an earthy quality.

He leaned
against the concrete pillar, his head tilted back. The underside of the freeway
was no attractive thing, just piles of metal and concrete all laced together,
but it made him think. He wondered if it was time to move on. As the cars
zoomed down the highway, he felt it in his bones, the call of freedom and the
open road. He wasn't homeless because of a drug problem, a prison record, or
mental illness. He was homeless because of his addiction to freedom. Sure, life
was harder without a home address, but it was also purer, and when he was tired
of one place, all he had to do was stick out his thumb and ride the highways to
the next place. He didn't have to turn off the cable, change his bills over, or
let anyone know. All he had to do was pack up the shit he wanted and hoof it
down to the nearest trainyard. He snuffed out his cigarette amid thoughts of
the future. It was decided; he would head east, maybe to Idaho or Montana while
the weather was still good.

He went
back to trying to pull his blanket from his cart. He tugged on the blanket,
trying to make as little noise as possible, but it wouldn't come free. Without
warning, a pair of clammy hands wrapped around his throat.

Chapter 3: Rudy

 

Rudy pulled
the pin on the grenade. He calmly cooked it for three seconds and then threw it
into the middle of the group. It exploded, sending showers of gore everywhere.
He laughed into his mic as the players he had killed all shouted expletives at
him, many containing racist terms or questioning his sexuality. One guy called
him a "cocktoucher." That was a good one. He'd file that one away in
his memory bank for the next time someone bested him at COD, or Call of Duty as
the noobs liked to call it.

Of course,
that probably wouldn't be for a while. He hadn't been handily defeated in quite
some time. It wasn't that he was good. It was that he was patient. While most
players ran around looking to get their heads blown off, Rudy always managed to
find a place, set up traps to cover his ass, and then slowly pick people off. A
thirty second lull in the action was no big deal to him, but to most players,
it was enough to send them sprinting off into cyberspace to get their digital
bits blown off.

People
hated Rudy, both in real life and the video game world. They didn't hate him
because he was good at video games or a genius in general... it was the fact
that he knew it and didn't let people forget it. He had grown up without any
real role models in foster homes for most of his life. As Rudy figured it, a
kid facing the odds that he had faced had a right to brag a little bit. Yeah,
Rudy may not have parents, but he could come up with an algebraic expression
that would map out the probability of your future, right down to your employer
and how many pounds you'd weigh. Ok... so maybe that was an exaggeration, but
if you asked Rudy if he could do it, he would more than likely say yes. It was
his confidence along with his ability that had landed him a full scholarship to
Portland State University.

"Have
fun sucking dicks, boys." Rudy triggered his weapon of mass destruction,
laughed, and left the lobby. The competition had been too easy for him. He
removed his three-hundred dollar Turtle Beach headphones, put his controller on
his rickety coffee table, and walked into the small kitchenette of his
apartment to grab a 20 oz. bottle of ass-kicking fuel... in this case, Mountain
Dew: Code Red.

He slammed
the door shut in frustration. For as smart as he was, Rudy, in many ways, was
still a child emotionally. He was also prone to forgetting things. In this
case, he had forgotten to stock up on Code Red. Rudy looked at the clock,
adjusted the glasses on his freckled face, and decided to walk up to the store.
It was the weekend, and there were plenty of gaming hours to burn. He looked at
the water tap in his kitchen, contemplating whether he should pour himself a
glass of water and keep going. "Fuck that," he said out loud to
himself.

            Rudy walked into
his bedroom, and peeled a gray, hooded sweatshirt out of a dirty pile of
clothing. He gave it a good sniff, and then slipped it on over his head after
deciding it smelled "good enough," which is single-person code for
"No one is going to get close enough to me for it to matter." Rudy
grabbed his wallet and keys from the top of his dresser and headed out the
door.

He huffed
down the stairs, enjoying the silence of the building. If only he could limit
his time out in the real world to the time between 1:30 and 5 o'clock in the
morning, then he would be happy. All those annoying people tucked snugly in
their beds, no lines to stand in, nothing but cool air, silence, and a complete
lack of human interaction... unless you counted talking to convenience store
clerks as human interaction. He did not.

Rudy pulled
his phone from his pocket, and pulled up his new favorite game. He loved the
game's angles, math, and predictability. He shambled through the lobby,
oblivious to his surroundings. If he had looked up, he would have seen the
trail of blood that led into the security office. Instead, he flung a bird
dressed up like Luke Skywalker across the screen of his phone with the flick of
his finger, while he wondered if Luke Skywalker could use the force to bring
himself a bottle of Code Red from his apartment.

Chapter 4: Teach

 

The napkin
around the base of his beer was soaked with brew. The bartender seemed to have
a difficult time pouring a glass of beer without getting as much on the outside
of the glass as he did on the inside. Teach reached for the glass and upended
it, letting the cold foamy liquid wash over the scar tissue where his tonsils
had been. The night was young, school was over, and he had no papers to grade
the next day. Now if he could only manage to pay for some air conditioning in
his house, then life would be perfect.

He supposed
his wife and ten-year-old son were fast asleep at home. For a brief second, he
felt a pang of guilt. One night a month at the bar wasn’t too much to ask he
supposed. As he finished the last drop of his beer, he smacked his lips and
ordered another.

The bartender,
either lazy, a simpleton, or both attempted to pour another beer. He watched as
the lanky dude set the glass under the tap, opened it fully and allowed foam to
pile up. He tipped the glass and spilled foam out into the drain underneath the
taps. So much beer wasted… it’s as if he had never learned to pour a beer in
his life. After three more cycles of alcohol abuse, the bartender spun around
and set the beer on his napkin, which was probably more beer than paper at that
point.

“Here you
go, Teach.”

Everyone
called him Teach. That’s what people did when you were a teacher, and Teach was
as teachery a teacher as ever there was. His life was educating kids. He had
never even dreamed of getting another job, not even when his classes had
swelled to forty kids per class. At five classes a day, that was 200 hundred
names to memorize. It kept his brain sharp, and while his life was overly full
during the school year, when the summer hit, the blissfully empty days more
than made up for the aggravation of excessively involved parents, poorly
prescribed curriculum, and kids who would simply never amount to anything.

Teach
fished a handful of dollar bills out of his pocket and handed them to the man. Brown
foam floated on top of black liquid. The foam only made up a third of the beer,
so he made sure to hand the man an extra one-dollar bill as a tip. Maybe he
could buy some beer-pouring lessons with the money.

It was the
last of his cash, so he stared lazily at the beer on the counter, making it
last as long as he could. Once his cash ran out, he would head home. That was
his rule, and he followed it religiously. Teach watched the foamy bubbles burst
and disappear, imagining that each bubble made a barely audible pop as it
burst.

He spun
around on the chair, and admired the bar. Its emptiness was vast, and the quiet
was something special. The Sleazy Goat had definitely seen better days,
although he didn’t know when. As long as he had been frequenting the joint,
there were only ever a handful of people sitting around in its faded, orange
vinyl seats, sipping beers at scratched, wooden tables propped level with piles
of matchbooks. Old beer promos covered every inch of available space, with the
exception of the bar and the tables. It was if the owner never said "no,"
and never took anything down. The Corona poster in the corner looked as if it
were from the '70s.

Teach leaned
back on the stool and looked at the ceiling. A stuffed goat head. the namesake
of the bar, hung on the wall. It didn't look sleazy, but it definitely looked
dirty. Dust covered its face and hung from its scraggly beard. It was a sad way
for an animal to end up.

Teach
raised the glass of stout to his lips and sucked in a mouthful of foam. Maybe
he’d be lucky enough to score some of that velvety, caramel-flavored stout the
next time around. "If it ain't stout, get the fuck out," he muttered
to himself.

A haggard
old man walked into the bar, shot Teach a half-assed salute and sat down on one
of the cracked, pleather stools at the bar. Teach had seen the man before. He
might have even talked to him. It was hard to tell. He only ever allowed
himself one night at the bar a month, and hardcore alcoholics all tended to
wind up looking the same after a while, ruddy faces, excessive wrinkles, and
that look in their eyes that seemed to say, “My god, when is the world going to
end?”

Teach knew
that if it weren’t for his beautiful wife and kid at home, he would probably
look much the same. He supposed the people at the bar simply didn’t have
anything that great to live for.

Teach
lifted his glass, and as the cool, black liquid touched his lips, the door
burst open. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the thick refreshment of the stout.
He set the glass on the bar and wiped some residual foam off of his upper lip
with the back of his hand. As he went to let out his customary “ahh” of
approval, a pair of feverish hands wrapped their fingers around his throat.

Teach was
wrestled off the stool. He couldn't see who was attacking him, and somehow,
this made everything worse. Teach panicked and tried to scream, but he couldn’t
force enough air out of his lungs to make a sound. Panic welled up in him as he
tried to scream. A sharp pain shot through his shoulder. At first, there was a
sensation of intense pressure, as if he was being pinched, and then the
pressure was gone, replaced by the white-hot burning of exposed nerve endings.
Hot blood ran from a ragged bite wound along the upper part of his trapezius.

“Help him!”
yelled the old man. Teach heard shattering as the bartender vaulted over the
bar, knocking pint glasses to the ground. The bartender struggled with his
attacker, and for a brief second, the hands that were wrapped around his throat
let go, and he sucked breath through his ragged and barely functioning
windpipe. He rolled out of the way, and got to his feet unsteadily to finally
lay eyes on his attacker.

It was a
skinny man, unremarkable but for the chunk of Teach’s shoulder hanging out of
his mouth. Teach's stomach flipped as he watched the young man slowly chewing
on what had formerly been a part of his body. He was perhaps in his twenties,
clad in faded jeans and a plain white T-shirt that might be a little too short
for him. The bartender had one arm wrapped around the man’s throat. He could
hear the skinny man's breath rasping in his throat as he struggled to breathe..

“Help me!”
the bartender yelled, struggling to subdue the man.

Teach ran
over to help the bartender. Every movement sent fire rushing along his
shoulder, the nerve endings awash in pain and blood. He helped the bartender
push the man face-first onto the ground.

“Jesus
Christ,” the old man muttered. “Is he on PCP?”

“His body
feels like it’s on fire,” the bartender replied.

The
bartender put his knee on the back of the man, whose only response was to gnash
his teeth and struggle harder.

Teach
circled behind the bar, “I’m calling the cops.” As he reached for the phone,
the young man in the jeans knocked the bartender off of him and rushed for the
old man. The old man’s feeble attempt at escape merely ended up with him on the
floor, his legs tangled in the legs of the stool that he had been sitting on.
The young man pounced on him, and took a bite out the man’s throat.

It wasn’t
like in the movies. They rarely accounted for the durability and elasticity of
human skin. The first bite that the old man endured looked painful as hell, and
the shriek he let out was an uncivilized thing. The man in the jeans jerked his
head violently back and forth until he actually managed to pull the flesh free
from the man’s throat. The old man's scream turned into a ragged gurgling as
his arms and legs flailed upon the filthy carpet. Teach noticed for the first
time that it was green... an odd thing to notice considering the circumstances.

The
bartender stood in shock as the old man’s blood squirted across the bar. The
next squirt wasn’t nearly as strong. Without thinking, Teach ripped the phone
out of the wall and charged the young man in the jeans. It wasn't an effective
weapon, but it did the job. When he was done, the phone dripped gore, and the
young man twitched on the ground.

The
bartender squatted next to the old man. The blood was no longer squirting out
of his throat; it merely dribbled. “I think he’s dead, Teach.”

Teach stood
up, walked over to his beer, and drained it in one go. “Yeah, well, it looks
like they both are. You got a cell phone? I seem to have ripped your landline
right out of the wall?”

The blood
on his shirt had cooled, but a warmth still ran through his body. He didn’t
know if it was shock, the beer, or the fact that he had just killed somebody
who was trying to take his life, but he welcomed it.

BOOK: This Rotten World (Book 1)
7.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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