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This Rotten World (Book 1) (7 page)

BOOK: This Rotten World (Book 1)
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Chapter 16: A Total Lack of Trumpets

 

Katie
nearly relaxed when she saw the flashing blue and red lights pull up outside,
but just as she was about to throw open the upstairs window and call out to the
cops, Jason found a hidden reservoir of strength and threw the bedroom door
open, the legs of the oak dresser screeching against the hardwood floor. Kevin,
not being strong enough, simply slid along the floor in his socks, even as he
put all of his pitiful weight into holding the dresser against the door.

Jason's
eyes fixed on Kevin, and Katie knew she had to do something. "Hey! Over
here! You want to fight with someone, fight with me." Jason's attention
was momentarily drawn, and she could see that he was conflicted about who he
should attack, the one making all of the noise or the one that was closest.
Jason finally made up his mind, or what was left of it anyway, and slowly
approached Katie.

She quickly
threw open the window, as the door was blocked off by Jason's lumbering form. 
She continued calling the creature that was no longer her husband, hoping to
distract him from the sight of Kevin inching towards the door. She backed out
onto the roof, wishing for something with more grip than a pair of pink
slippers.

 Everything
was going according to plan, until Kevin, intent on not taking his eyes off of
his father for even a second, bumped into the dresser and sent the lamp
crashing to the floor. It's ceramic base burst into several pieces with a crash,
drawing Jason's attention. Katie blinked and when she opened her eyes Jason's
arms were around Kevin who struggled to get away.]

"Stop!
You're hurting me! Daddy!" he shrieked, sending chills through her body. Kevin's
pleas fell upon deaf ears... and then Jason had his teeth in Kevin's throat.

Katie's
slippered feet slid on the hardwood floors, and she felt like she was in one of
those nightmares where you run and run, but you just can't seem to break free.
By the time she reached her son, he was covered in blood, and the light was
fading from his eyes. She tugged him out of Jason's arms, tears streaming down
her face. "How could you?" she yelled, dragging Kevin's rapidly
fading body down the hall and away from Jason.

Jason's
only response was to shamble down the hallway, his hunger not sated. Kevin's
feet thumped against the steps as she shuffled backwards down the stairwell,
Kevin coughing up blood the entire time. She fumbled at the front door, but
thankfully it was unlocked. Jason's shadowy shape teetered at the top of the
stairs, and then he suddenly lost his balance and rolled to the bottom. His arm
was clearly broken, but she didn't really care at the moment as she backed out
into the yard, tugging her dead son like a load of laundry in a gunny sack. She
knew he was dead, but she wasn't going to leave him behind. She would never
leave him behind.

Kevin rose
from the pile he had collapsed in, a bone poking through the skin of his
forearm. The lack of pain on his face made her skin crawl, and she began
yelling for help.

The cop car
was there, but the cops seemed completely uninterested in helping her. Instead
they seemed to be trying to get at the man in the back seat who was bashing his
head against the window. Blood ran down his black face into his bushy beard,
and when he saw her, a fire of hope lit his eyes.

"Lady!
Help me! Get me out of here!" he yelled.

She
continued dragging Kevin down the street, away from her murderous husband. She
didn't know what was going on, but she wouldn't stop until Kevin was safe. His
socks were soaked by the time she heard the window of the cop car break. As she
looked up, she saw the man, who had the tell-tale look of homelessness about
him, crawl out of the window. Despite her curiosity, the fact that Jason was
still chasing after them kept her moving down the street.

She had
dragged poor Kevin a block when one of her neighbors came running out of his
house. He was an old man in flannel pajama bottoms and a plain, white t-shirt.
At least 70-years-old, she had seen the man dutifully go for walks everyday for
the last ten years. Though they had never shared anything but a wave, she could
sense that he wanted to help her, which was good because she didn't know how
much longer she could drag Kevin.

The old man
helped her lift up her son, and with one of Kevin's arms over each of their
shoulders, they carried him inside and laid him down on the couch. The old man
ran over to the door, closed it, and locked it. It wasn't long before Jason was
at the door, pounding on it.

Katie was
unaware of any of it. She knelt next to the body of her son, holding his hand
and rocking back and forth while calling his name.

She didn't
even notice as the old man called the police and received a busy signal every
time. She had no idea how long he had been trying, as her grief seemed to
impair all sense of time. In the night, there was an explosion, and for a
second, Katie thought the world was ending, and she wouldn't have to bear being
without her son any longer. There were no trumpets, no plagues. Hell, pigs
didn't even fly. But she knew she would never have to be without her son again,
because he had sat up on the couch and was blinking his eyes.

Chapter 17: From Worse to Worser

 

"Get
that man secured!" Joan shouted as she ran down the hallway to where she
had left the sick old lady and her worried husband. Clara didn't know why, but
she followed along. There wasn't much she could do for Courtney now, as the two
security guards had him on the ground and were securing his hands and feet with
zip ties

A group of
doctors and patients had gathered around the curtained off room where the
screams had came from. Some had their hands over their faces. Other simply
stared in awe. Joan had enough of the gawking. Why weren't any of these people
acting? With a strong hand, she yanked back the curtain, and there she was, the
sweet, sick old lady chewing on her husband's corpse... scratch that, he wasn't
a corpse just yet.

His head
lifted slightly and he locked eyes with Joan, as if to say, "Why did you
leave me?" The thing that would stick with her wouldn't be the sights,
though they were horrific; the thing that really stuck in her memory was the
noise of the dying husband's intestines as the old lady's hands pulled them out
of his abdomen through a ragged tear that seemed no bigger than a quarter. The
wet, slopping sounds, amid the silence of the onlookers, were only broken by
the oddly tranquil, pained sighs of the husband, as he stared at Joan, curious
and accepting.

When the
woman took a bite out of the intestines, as if they were some sort of jerky
stick, Clara, and a few others, couldn't help but lose their lunch. The smell
of fecal matter assaulted the group as the man's intestines were torn open amid
the sound of retching and bile splattering across the floor. Joan felt sorry
for the janitors tonight.

The
retching did have another effect. The old lady finally stopped eating her
husband, and focused her eyes on the group. When she shoved her husband's now
dead corpse off of the bed and stood up, the crowd backed up as if they were in
a movie theater watching a horror movie and it had just turned real. They
couldn't tear their eyes away, but only because they didn't believe it was
actually happening.

The old
lady's hospital gown was smothered in red, and as she stumbled toward the
group, Joan became instantly aware that whatever happened next would likely be
laid at her feet.

"Officers!"
she yelled. "We've got another situation over here. The same as that guy I
think."

The two
security guards ran down the hall, the one with the bite on his arm moved
noticeably slower and he was looking a little green around the gills. She
supposed she probably looked the same after witnessing the old lady's lunch.
She felt bad that she didn't even remember her name. "I hope you brought
more zip ties."

The old
lady lunged at them, and the security guards easily tackled her to the ground
while avoiding her biting. The crowd dispersed, some hastening for the exit to
the E.R., others mollified and returning back to their own personal world as if
everything were under control; horrible, but under control.

"What
is wrong with her?" Clara asked.

Joan looked
at her, folded her arms, and said, "I don't know."

Just then,
a group of paramedics burst through the swinging doors of the E.R. A patient
fought for her life on the gurney they were wheeling. "Make way!"

Clara and
Joan saw the tell-tale mark of teeth around the ragged wounds on the woman's
face.

"This
is not good," Joan said to no one in particular.

Chapter 18: Pop-Tarts and Paint Thinner, the
Breakfast of Champions

 

Mort's
elbow seriously hurt, but not as much as his forehead. When his head finally
stopped swimming, he crawled out of the window, eternally thankful that the
cops hadn't seen fit to cuff his hands behind him. Just as with most things in
his life, his landing wasn't graceful. Amid broken shards of safety glass and
wet pavement, he slapped into the ground.

When he got
to his feet, he saw an old man help the lady that had run from the house. One
of those things appeared to be chasing her. He couldn't blame her for not
helping him; he had seldom asked for help and the results had always been the
same.

Mort pulled
a cigarette from his pocket, lit it, and looked at the squad car. The creatures
inside were still focused on him, and he had had enough of it. He ambled into
the recently abandoned house, limping on his bad knee. It looked fine except
for the fact that the front door had been left ajar.

It was a
nice home, simple in its decoration. Nothing stood out, just plain furniture
that you could find at any large department store and a couple of pictures. The
blood stains on the stairs were the only real original touch. There wasn't much
to see, so he headed back to the kitchen to find what he needed.

Mort stepped
over the raw steak on the ground and opened up the cupboard under the sink. Just
as he expected, he found a delightful array of cleaners, but it was the metal
can of paint thinner that drew his attention. He pulled it out and stuck it
under his arm. As he stood up, he noticed a box of Pop Tarts sitting on the
edge of the counter.

"I
don't mind if I do," he said to no one in particular as he fished out a
shiny foil package and opened it. Strawberry... not the best, but hell, it was
at least something in his stomach. With the Pop Tarts in one hand, his
cigarette in the other, and a can of paint thinner under his arm, Mort walked
from the house. He stopped to close the door behind him and left it unlocked,
in case the lady that ran from the house ever decided to come back. She might
not considering he had probably just seen her dragging her dead son down the
street while her dead husband chased her.

The
occupants of the squad car were still trying to get at him, and Dirty Kurt had
inched closer to the window, although how he planned to hoist himself out of it
was anybody's guess. Mort took a drag from his cigarette, and shoved the
Pop-Tarts into one of the large pockets on his green military jacket. He popped
the top of the paint thinner and sprayed it on the interior of the cop car, as
if he were just some regular Joe getting ready to have a barbecue, only this
time the charcoal happened to be wriggling humans with a craving for flesh.
When he had used up half of the can, he tossed it inside the car, followed by
his cigarette.

Flames
built slowly in the car. It wasn't the dramatic whoosh he was expecting, but it
would get the job done. He had expected screams from Dirty Kurt, as he was the
first one to light on fire, but he simply wriggled in the back seat, seemingly
unaware that he was being consumed by flames. The smell was awful and when the
mesh bag that was over Kurt's face melted to his skin, Mort decided that he had
seen enough. He backed away, turned around and limped down the street, away
from the fire. He was a mile down the road, munching on the last scrap of
strawberry Pop-Tarts when he heard the car explode.

Chapter 19: Iceman and Busy Signals

 

Rudy had
made it back to his apartment. It was a straight shot up the street, and when
he turned around, he could see the man with the bloody jaw continuing his
march. Rudy was glad that the door to his building locked. He gave the guy the
finger, sneered at him, and ducked inside.

He began
the laborious climb up the three flights of stairs, his knees creaking at every
step... as the steps did at his weight. He pulled an inhaler from his pocket at
the second landing, and took a deep pull that tasted like shampoo. As he waited
to catch his breath, he heard a rattling downstairs as if someone were trying
to get into the building. The pounding was insistent, and Rudy didn't want to
stick around to find out what was going on. Besides, it wasn't his job. That's
why the building had a security guard. Where the hell was the security guard?

He huffed
up the last flight of stairs, fished out his keys, and unlocked the door to his
apartment. Rudy placed his things down on the table next to the door, and then
slammed the door shut, firing the deadbolt home with a quick twist of his pudgy
wrist. He could faintly hear the banging downstairs, but decided to put it out of
his mind. If the guy got into the building, someone would call the cops. That's
the way the world works. The security guard was probably off getting high
somewhere. When he finished, he would see the guy at the door, call, the cops,
and the world would be set right again.

Rudy
waddled into the kitchen and put his spare bottle of Code Red into the fridge.
He then plopped down into his favorite chair in the living room, which sat
right in front of his TV. It was actually the only chair in the living room.
Rudy didn't often have guests over. As a matter of fact, Rudy never had guests
over.

He opened
his bottle of Code Red and took a liberal swig. The liquid fizzed as it went
down his throat. He switched his TV on and tried to find something on TV. The
search didn't take long. He only had about five channels or so. One day, when
he was done with college, he would be able to splurge and get cable, but until
then, it was local TV... which meant a whole lot of news and disposable sitcoms
that made you want to gouge your own eyes out with a butter knife.

His chair
creaked as he leaned forward in it, springs popping from the strain. Every
channel was a variation of the same thing. Special news reports populated the
five channels, except for the WB. That channel only ever played teen dramas and
infomercials. As tempting as it was to watch the skinny guy chop food and
repeatedly say, "You're gonna love my nuts," he decided to check out
the news reports. After all, he was like anyone else... he loved a good bit of
disaster.

As he
flipped through the channels, he settled on Channel 8 because they seemed to
run the most legit news operation in town. They didn't spend as much time
running human interest shit or scare tactic pieces about what fruit or
vegetable was currently linked to cancer according to a "new study"; just
news... news and a weather girl with a rack that wouldn't quit.

A reporter
was standing in front of a raging fire. Firemen were in the background, hosing
down the flames that were burning out of control. The scrawl underneath read,
"A plague of crime strikes cities across the country."

Goddamn,
terrorists,
he thought to himself. As the reports flooded in, Rudy couldn't
tear his eyes away from the screen. It seemed people were dying left and right
up and down the east coast.

There was a
commotion behind the reporter, who was doing a fairly standard job of reporting
the fact that there was a fire in an apartment complex. You could see her
complete lack of concern shine behind her dead eyes. A flaming shadow emerged
from the building, and paramedics and firefighters rushed to help the victim.
How the figure could still be walking was anyone's guess. The cameraman zoomed
in on the figure, and for a second Rudy thought he had mistaken a horror movie
for the news. The victim's face was burned to a crisp, his eyes were gone, and
yet, he was still walking, his jaw opening and closing in a mechanical manner.
A couple of firefighters rushed the man, tackled him to the ground and began
smothering the flames with a fire blanket.

The
reporter droned on, "There appears to be a survivor. He looks to be very
badly burned." The reporter and the cameraman rushed in to get a better
look. Trust the heartless reporter to take advantage of some poor human's last
moments.

The figure
in the fire blanket was still struggling, which was no surprise. Anyone that
had ever had a burn larger than a Skittle knows just how terrible a deep burn
is. The amount of nerves that were firing on that poor guy must be in the
thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands. It wasn't surprising that he would
struggle so badly.

"Firefighters
here have just rescued a victim from the fire," she said, almost
believably. You could see the excitement build in her lips and her cheeks, not
the excitement that comes with doing a good job, but the excitement that comes
from finally attaining a goal. You could see her dreams of prizes and
promotions dancing behind her soulless eyes.

Rudy had
seen enough. He picked up his chocolate bar, shoved the last chunk in his mouth
and then changed the input over to his X-Box. Just before he switched the
input, he thought he saw the burn victim chomp down on the arm of a paramedic
that was trying to help him.

That
coldhearted bitch would probably actually win a Pulitzer Prize. As his X-Box
booted up, he decided that he would pretend that everyone he shot tonight was a
vulturistic news reporter. He was just about to enter an online lobby when he
heard a door in the hallway slam.

As silently
as he could, he walked on his tiptoes to his door. He could hear clumsy
footsteps in the hallway. He looked out of his peephole, straining to see
anything. He waited patiently; the barely visible pulsing of the neon lights in
the hallway played tricks on his eyes. Just when he thought there was nothing
there, a shape rushed past the peephole.

It was the
neighbor from next door, a relatively nice woman who tended to look at him as
if his entire body might be crafted from shit. He couldn't blame her. Few
people found redheads attractive. Fewer still were attracted to the 300 pound
variety.

Her hair
was in disarray. She had clearly just woken up, and he could hear her audience-less
muttering as she passed the door.  "Fucking drunk assholes banging on the
door..." Her tirade trailed off as she passed his door and headed down the
stairs. He hoped she wouldn't be dumb enough to let in his friend downstairs.

The human
part of him thought about going out there and warning her about the man
downstairs. But then the asshole part of him thought,
If she can't figure
out not to open the door for an unresponsive man who is bleeding profusely from
his face, then she's got bigger problems in her life.
This was Darwinism,
plain and simple.

Rudy
plopped back into his La-Z-Boy, and tried to log into a lobby. The night was
slow, and there wasn't nearly as much traffic as there usually was judging from
the little map of the world that was featured on the main page. Where normally
the entire country of North America was lit up like a goddamn Christmas tree to
indicate who was online, this morning there were pockets of darkness here and
there. It was odd. Maybe the COD servers were being updated. He hadn't heard
about any downtime for the game, but when you sold millions of copies of a
game, you could fuck your customers over without even thinking about it. They
would always come back.

By now, the
franchise had become a tradition more than anything else. Some people only
bought one video game a year, and it was always Call of Duty.

Rudy was
pondering the dimwittedness of the series' fans when he was abruptly dumped
into a domination lobby mid-game. The connection wasn't the strongest and the
lag made his character jump around the screen. Rubber-banding they called it.
Oh, boy. He wondered what area he had been connected to. Usually, he'd find
himself lumped together with local players from the city, in order to cut down
on lag. But occasionally, when you played this late in the evening, or morning
as it were, you tended to get dumped into random groups of people from all over
the country.

"Rudy
adjusted the mic on his head and said, "Where are you guys from?"

A staticky
voice promptly replied, "Alabama over here."

It appeared
the rest of the lobby wasn't using microphones.

"Where
are you from?" the other voice asked.

"None
of your goddamn business, you fucking noob!" he shot back. He laughed at
his own cleverness, while deep down inside, he knew he was not particularly
clever. He liked to pretend he was having a good time anyway.

The other
man didn't take the bait, and he continued to ignore Rudy as they played. There
was a thumping sound over the man's mic. "What the fuck?" he mused
intelligently as the thumping continued.

Rudy took
the chance to be even more of a dick. "Who is that, your dad trying to
break down the door to get a piece of your ass?"

"Fuck
you, noobkiller420x," the man spat back. Then, to himself, he said,
"Who the fuck is banging on my door like that?"

The man
must have left the room, because Rudy stumbled across his character sitting
listlessly in a corner. He aimed his shotgun at the man's face and blasted it
point blank. "Thanks for the points, Iceman."

Iceman
ignored him some more, and instead yelled, "What the fuck do you want? Go
away! It's six in the fucking morning!" There was more pounding. Rudy found
Iceman again, his character sitting in a different corner of the map but the
result was the same.

The
pounding continued. "I've had enough of this shit." The sound of a
chain rattling could be heard over the mic, and then Iceman said, "I don't
know who the fuck you are, but you need to get the fuck out of here
before..." Iceman shrieked into the microphone. "Get off me,
faggot," he yelled.

Rudy
giggled a little bit and said, "Oh my God, I was right. It is your
dad." The laughing didn't continue for long, as the screaming went on for
quite a while. At one point Iceman pleaded for help and said, "Someone
please call the cops. He's trying to kill me."

The whole
thing sounded like an elaborate prank, and Rudy wasn't about to take the bait,
but then Iceman fell silent. Not long after, he heard groaning, and wet sounds,
almost as if someone were chewing steak very loudly with their mouth open. The
sound was grossing him out, so Rudy backed out of the lobby when the game was
over.

Through the
door of his apartment, he heard footsteps pounding down the hallway. By the
time he got to the peephole on his front door, his neighbor had already passed
and slammed her door shut.

He was
about to go back to the comfort of his recliner when he heard an odd groan in
the hallway. Slowly, the form of the man that had been chasing him shuffled
into sight. Rudy became acutely aware that his breathing was far too loud. Each
inhalation sounded as loud as a vacuum cleaner in his ears, while every
exhalation seemed even louder. He thought about moving backwards slowly, away
from the door, but his bulk had a tendency of rendering any of his attempts at
silence completely futile.

The man
with the bloody jaw stopped and looked at his door, as if he could almost sense
Rudy's presence. Rudy's heart beat within his chest as if it wanted to burst
through his ribcage and go for a walk on its own. The man turned and faced his
door completely, and Rudy got as good a look at the man as he had ever wanted.
The veins in his face were dark, as if he had liquid licorice running through
his body. His eyes were oddly speckled, and his lips were cracked and dry. The
blood on his jaw dripped down his shiny green jacket, and the man didn't seem
to care about any of it. His eyes searched the door for something.

After an
eternity locked eye to eye with the man, he finally lost interest and stumbled
his way down the hallway. Rudy took a giant step back from the door, and he
must have hit the sweet spot on the hardwood flooring of his apartment. The
creak wasn't the loudest thing he had ever heard, but at 4 in the morning in a
mostly silent apartment building, it wasn't all that easy to miss.

It seemed
like it was only one intense heartbeat before the man in the hallway was
banging on his door. Rudy fumbled for his cell phone, and he slid it open to
expose the keyboard. His thick digits struggled to dial 911, and when he
finally got through, there was no answer. A busy signal was all he got.
How
could the police have a busy signal?

The door
rattled in the frame as the man in the hallway continued to bang on the door.
His groaning wasn't making the matter any better. Just when he thought the door
might give way, Rudy heard a voice in the hallway.

"Oi. 
What the fuck do you think you're doin'? It's four in the fuckin' mornin' and I
gotta get up in two hours." It was his British neighbor across the hall, a
cranky sort, who always seemed to have something negative to say. He could see
the hate in his eyes whenever they passed each other in the hallway, but he was
glad the bastard lived across the hallway just now.

The lack of
an answer from the bloody man in the hallway wasn't the appropriate response
for his neighbor apparently. He slammed his door closed behind him as he
stepped into the hall and yelled, "Hey, dickhead, I'm talking to you!"
There was another silent pause, and then a groan from the bleeding man.

"Back
the fuck up, or you'll be bleeding from your nose as well as your chin,"
his neighbor yelled.

BOOK: This Rotten World (Book 1)
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