And this is how the world ends – not with a bang or with a whimper, but with some finely crafted pieces of Armageddon-tinged short fiction. The challenge set a fortnight ago was to write a short story (with the theme of “The Apocalypse”) but it had to be two hundred words or less… The call went out; you answered. We have a veritable smorgasbord of tales for you to gorge on; Cursed Bargain by Nick Paschall, Executive Orders by yours truly, The Raid on Crita’s Planet by Mike L Lane, The Bounty Hunter by Aiden Leingod and, to finish it all our weekend apocalypse neatly, a chilling poem by Lance Fling.
And, we continue with the fifth instalment of In Dire Straits by Alisha Jordan.
There’ll be another post soon with your inspiration for next time – until then, #StayStitched!
Cursed Bargain – Nick Paschall
Setting the case with the snarling creature down, I wiped my sweaty brow. Looking skyward, the once blue tinged atmosphere is now black, showing the expanse of stars despite the sun bearing down on me from overhead. Judging from the sun’s position, I’d have to say it was around one in the afternoon.
Davis was late.
Leaning back against the truck I’d used as a bed last night, I cross my arms across my chest. My cargo growls, rattling within the confines of its cage with a violent frenzy. The frothing red mass coming from its mouth marked it as infected, which meant I was breaking the law. The slight frame of the feline was emaciated, more fangs and claws than anything else at this point.
“When did it come to selling infected cats to make ends meet?” I asked myself.
“When the world gave up on itself, old friend,” warbled an older voice, the sound of boots striking gravel marking my buyers approach.
“Davis, you better have my money.”
“No,” Davis said as I slumped forward, blood gushing from the hole going through my back and out my chest, “I just have loose ends to tie up.”
Executive Orders – David Court
The asteroid was going to hit, and there was fuck all that anybody could do. It wasn’t even one of the properly named ones (“Leviathan”, “Cataclysm”) they’d been tracking, but an obscure one that had sprung from nowhere.
Earth would die in fire and smoke from the innocuously titled A7/C.
Plans were set in motion, as had been prepared for years. A cabal of the Worlds true leaders – not the figureheads of Presidents and Prime Ministers but those that ruled them had, as they’d always done, used their not-insubstantial resources.
One thousand of the brightest and best. Scientists, engineers, athletes – all hand-picked and ferried towards an unmapped metal bunker in Nevada. Cryogenically frozen, all told to wait for the day when it was safe to emerge.
Every living soul on the surface died.
And the cabal, as they’d done since the beginning of time, continued.
And on the second day, a clawed finger swipes a laptop screen staring at an inventory of frozen souls. One is chosen, and the target is defrosted.
Doctor Juàn Martínez wakes to a darkness punctuated by gleaming fangs.
“Told you I could murder a Mexican.”
It’s a joke that’ll get dull when they’re running low.
The Raid on Crita’s Planet – Mike L Lane
When the giant flesh-walkers crossed the planet’s horizon, blotting out the sun with their long, dark shadows, Crita prayed for her young and prepared for battle. The decision had been difficult, but instinctive, and she felt justified in leaving them on the sister planet, far from this impending doom. With the threat hovering over her world like vengeful gods, she took solace in their safety.
Under government orders, they met their fate head on in hopes of steering the invaders into another part of the galaxy. Crita’s battalion was at the forefront of the attack and flew into the horizon in full force, weapons at the ready. The giants were taken off-guard and she witnessed their retreat firsthand, stung by the unexpected bombardment. Victory cries rang out, but the celebration was short-lived.
In retaliation, acidic rain pelted her planet. She watched in horror as her kind writhed beneath the giant’s agonizing flood, dropping one by one. It burned and weighed heavy on Crita’s skin, dissolving the gravity of her world. Beneath the burning weight, the planet collapsed into oblivion. Plummeting through the universe, all hope lost, Crita prayed her young and the other wasp planets would someday avenge their deaths.
The Bounty Hunter – Aiden Leingod
The unkempt man nodded, his stocky brown beard audibly bristling. Several large sacks, slung over the studded spaulders affixed firmly to his hefty leather overcoat by likewise reinforced straps and shorn, rusting metal bolts, abruptly juddered yet the contents were silent.
“Omelettes are 5.95 and a packet of smokes,” the dirty aproned attendant said dryly, a lit cigarette stub loosely hanging lopsided out the creased corner of his sore half-moon lip. “We’re out of change,” he added.
A stifled sigh. The prolonged rustling of a jury-rigged brass-knuckled glove awkwardly scooping up several small, round and oblong trinkets nestled within deep Kevlar-lined pockets. Staccato plinking across the dusty counter. All dissipating into the coarse, receding haze.
Resting the sacks on tarnished legs at either side, the unkempt man took the single seat at the sole table.
Both were uneven.
Amorphous inkblot-like patterns seeped through the multiple membranous layers of robust industrial black plastic while a tepid paper plate materialised on the well-worn table with a light clatter. As quickly as the single bite, the tightly-wound double-knots came undone.
Out of the darkness, a pair of eyes, just one of many, stared up.
He recoiled and made an expression.
Untitled – Lance Fling
Our red eyes were never made
Human corpses strewn about
the sky’s gone out
For the last vampire is slain.
In Dire Straits – Part 5 – Alisha Jordan
“Please!” She wept turning to face Boone. “Please, let her go. I will do anything you want, anything! I swear, please let her go!”
The corners of Boone’s lips curled upwards making his sun weathered skin crease into a million wrinkles stretching across his face. “It’s too late for that now, Sweetkins.” His smile faded into a smug grin. “Ivy’s ripenin’ by the second, better get a move on.”
She hastily picked up the wheelbarrow and pushed it to the house. If she obeyed, maybe he would oblige her by setting Mama free. Boone followed and unhooked her from the lead, the wheelbarrow was catching on the door frame as she attempted to push it through.
“Tilt the goddamn thing!” Boone barked from behind her.
She fastened her grip with sweaty palms and tilted the barrow, pushing it through as quickly as she could to her room. The doorway was smaller to her room, there was no way the barrow was going to fit. In a panic, she climbed over the barrow, leaving it parked in the doorway.
She barely caught her breath before she hooked her arms beneath Ivy’s and attempted to drag her across the floor. She could feel Ivy’s skin split beneath her grip, she was only able to drag her a couple feet before she realized she had a portion of Ivy’s scalp stuck to the side of her sweaty face. She threw the sticky mass of hair to the floor and jumped back crying out.
Boone stood in the doorway laughing hysterically, “she done spooked ya good, girl.”
The smell was prominent now, after being exposed to fresh air. She found herself gagging on her hands and knees in front of Ivy’s body.
“Good Lord, Sweetkins. Yer makin’ a bloody mess.” He leaned on the doorframe unimpressed, “no pun intended!” He slapped at his knees, keeled over in another bout of hysteric laughter.
The room began spinning and she vomited what little water she had consumed. Defeated, she collapsed face first into her vomit and sobbed uncontrollably. She barely noticed Boone’s boots in front of her, but jolted backwards when his face was in front of hers.
“I tell ya what,” he whispered, “you get this mess up and outta here real quick like, I will let ya give yer dear ol’ mama a glass of water.”
She continued to whimper, searching for an ounce of sincerity in his eyes.
“Sound fair?” he took a breath in and grimaced from the smell.
She nodded and climbed to her feet, wiping wet, matted hair from her eyes and sides of her face. Boone returned to his post outside the doorway, leaning on the doorframe.
With great effort, she managed to slide Ivy’s body to the wheelbarrow, leaving black sludge stained drag marks across the carpet. Ivy lay face down with arms outstretched, clothes heavily saturated in coagulated, pudding consistency blood.
She was tired, panting and feeling nauseous and dizzy. Her head throbbed with every effort exerted to lift the sopping, stiff body into the barrow. She propped Ivy’s body onto the side of the barrow, then attempted to lift her legs to swivel her body around and in. It worked, but as she pushed Ivy’s legs into the barrow, the lip of the barrow pulled her shirt up and chunks of muscle, blood and tissue spilled out of her back from the opening she had created to retrieve the rib bone.
“All of her! All of her in that barrow!” Boone said sternly backing away from the rotting corpse.
She didn’t notice she was sobbing and whimpering throughout the entire process, as she scooped up Ivy’s innards into cupped hands and slopped them beside the body. She struggled significantly to snap Ivy’s limbs so they fit into the barrow.
Her mouth was dry from the work, and she choked as she pushed the barrow to the door. Tilting the barrow through the back door she spilled Ivy out onto the grass. Boone attached her to the lead and watched as she struggled once more to return the body to its carrier.
“Get the shovel out the shed and dig a hole as close as you can to yer mama over there.” Boone lit another cigarette, “better yet, dig two.”
“Please,” she trembled before walking to the shed, “I need water” she stared at his feet.
“Go on now.” Boone ignored her request.
She walked sluggishly to the shed, swallowing hard and licking her dry tongue along the inside of her mouth searching for saliva. When she returned with a shovel, Boone stood in the spot she had bungeed herself on the clothesline when attempting to run to her mother, holding a glass of water.
After ravenously downing the water, she spent what seemed like hours, digging up the long, weedy, grass and earth. The sun was setting by the time she finished digging two four-foot-deep holes. Her joints throbbed and the blisters on her palms bled.
All the while, Boone stood patiently with a content smirk on his face, watching her intently. Sporadically he would read verses from a pocket bible he kept in his shirt.
Dumping the body and replacing the dirt was relatively easy, ignoring Mama’s unintelligible cries was impossible.
“Come, let’s have some dinner, then we will go and fix yer mama up.” Boone tugged at her leash, leading her to the house.
She and Beth sat on the floor of the kitchen, patiently anticipating the sound of chunky, wet dog food slosh into bowls.
Boone held both dishes in his hands and looked from her to Beth approvingly, “Good girls” he said throwing the dishes to the ground.
She crunched the grit of dirt from her hands as she pushed the foul chow into her mouth ravenously.
Boone filled a glass of water, “I’ll allow, just this once, for you to share some of yer dinner with yer mama.”
She stared at her almost empty dish. She took the glass from Boone and stood with her bowl.
He let her out the back door, holding on to her leash tightly, he led her to her mama.
Mama lay in the grass, managing to prop herself on her knees and back away in fear, sobbing as they approached. It pained her to see Mama so ragged, she was unrecognizable. Her skin was red a blistering and her ears were charred from the sunburns. Tears and sweat had washed away most of the crusted blood from her mouth, but remnants of the stains still cracked along her chest and covered her shirt.
Mama scooted back on her bum, shaking uncontrollably as she approached with the water and food.
“It’s okay Mama,” her voice cracked as she released tears, “It’s me, you need this.”
She squatted to Mama’s level and handed her the glass and tin bowl. Mama eyed her suspiciously and stared at the offering with disgust. Mama grabbed the glass with both hands and drank as ravenously as she had earlier. She could see the stump of Mama’s tongue waving back and forth through the glass, the water turning a milky red as it entered her mouth.
When Mama finished with the water, she offered the tin bowl. Mama sat upright with a disdained look, she peered into the bowl with a grimace, then to slapped the dish out of her hands.
“She’s feisty, that one, ain’t she?” Boone chortled from behind her.
“Mama, please” she picked up the bowl and scooped the dog chow back in, offering it again.
Mama released a harsh scream and slapped the dish out of her hands, then lunged for her. It happened so quickly, and now Mama had both hands around her neck squeezing tightly.
“Ma-ma” she choked trying to push her off, but Mama squeezed tighter.
Stars began appearing in her vision, and she wondered why Boone hadn’t pulled Mama off by now.
“Ain’t this poetic?” She heard Boones voice above her.
Her eyes were bulging from their sockets and she no longer had the energy to try to push Mama off. Mama stared into her eyes with a maddening rage, pushing all her weight into her grip. She stopped pushing into Mama’s chest, letting her arms fall to the side, she gave up. She didn’t understand why she was being attacked, but she knew she deserved it.
She felt something hard being placed in her right hand, her vision was blurry and blackening. She instinctively swung the object at Mama’s face. Mama’s grip loosened but she remained hovered over her. She gasped for air, feeling warm liquid pouring over her face and chest. Her vision returned rapidly and she noticed a large gash in Mama’s throat. Mama stared at her menacingly still but gurgled as blood spewed from her wound all over her. She looked to the object in her hand, a gardening spade.
She looked up behind her and saw Boone with a satisfying smile on his face, “I told ya you’d need two graves.”