Apocalypse Smiling

Our tiny corner of the world ended not with a bang, but with a whisper of words. Ugly words that spread like a plague. It ended with men coming in the night for the innocent, with protests and anger, martial law and border walls. 

It ended with fear.

The strange thing, we saw it coming and let it happen, as if we couldn’t believe the chaos. Sure there were protests, and people speaking out, but most sat back and waited. Until it was too late. Until they were herded and segregated and culled.

I was fourteen.

It was my mother and me back then. We tried to run, like so many. 

And like so many we failed to escape.

They caught us fleeing the city, dozens of groups with the same idea. I remember people running and screaming and the sounds of shots. Of my mother being yanked away by the force of the panicking crowd and her hand slipping from mine. I remember the look of horror on her face as we separated.  

They rounded up the survivors and took them back. I can still see the bodies of the dead lying in the streets as the guards dragged us away. One woman had her head bashed in with rivers of blood flowing from her skull.

I never saw my mother again.

It doesn’t matter anymore. It’s too late.

Our hope died that day.

Some still tried for a while after that, appealed to other places for aid, salvation, anything.

But the rest of the world had enough of us.

No one came to help.

We stand alone now, in a cesspool of hate, other countries turning their backs on us with sanctions and restrictions and closed borders. The government runs everything, food and clothing distribution, medical aid, housing, and it’s all rationed. Except the authorized religion, there’s plenty of that. And no music, books, or art that isn’t approved by them.

Nobody protests anymore, they’re too busy trying to survive. Every citizen belongs to an affiliation, little more than gangs, holed up in apartment blocks or old city sections surviving day to day on their government allotments and defending their territories. Their strength lies in numbers as they manage a meager existence. Sometimes there are wars between factions, but they don’t last long. There is order in their lives, brutal, visceral, but order.

Outside the affiliations, life is different. 

Anarchy reigns out here. It’s home to criminals, crazies, and other nut jobs. We’re always on the move, living in abandoned homes and other buildings, looting for what scraps remain and willing to knife anyone in the back for a morsel of bread or the wrong word. The patrol guards keep the status quo, keep us out of the affiliation zones and from making a mess in their order.

But people still leave their safe, ordered pens. Trying to run from their own existence, escape to a better life, or live dangerously, there are many motivations. I had one. I made a home out here.

Most don’t. Most are only fools. They think they’ll be free, yet there’s nothing here but killers and streets lined with closed shops and empty houses. 

And death.

That’s why I came.

That’s why I love all the fools.

If they’re lucky, the guards will arrest them. If they’re not lucky… 

They’ll meet me.

I’m the shark in the cesspool, the butcher in the chaos.

You see, my old world ended but I’ve grown to like the new one. No one cares if I kill, or if I paint the streets a scarlet red. No one hears the futile screams that echo from the helpless and the foolish.

No one cares what I do anymore.

And I can stand in the rivers of blood with a smile.

~ A. F. Stewart

© Copyright 2019 A. F. Stewart. All Rights Reserved.

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Urges

“I’ve heard it said that the first time is always the best, but that’s bullshit.  It gets better with every experience.  Pain, loathing, hatred and excitement, all rolled up into one moment of indulgence and release.  These urges are altogether unique and exquisite.

“I was about ten years old when I first tasted this fruit.  Mom babysat a noisy pack of snot-nosed shit factories that invaded my space daily.  I couldn’t help but make a few cry at least once a day.  At first I told myself it was for the attention, but I knew better.  The real answer was far more sinister – I enjoyed their pain.

“It was never quite enough, though.  I could feel the thrill build each time, but it didn’t increase, it always remained the same, until things changed. One day mom was asked to tend an infant. Go ahead, look at me with those horrified eyes, it only adds to the pleasure.

“At first I didn’t mean for anything to happen.  Babies are innocent, right?  I went into the house and saw mom holding a little girl.  I guess you would say she was cute.  I didn’t feel an urge to hurt her at first, and it filled me with hope that maybe I had some good inside me.

“I walked up to her sweet as can be and held out my hand.  She looked at me and her cherubic smile was instantly sucked up by her fat little cheeks, and the ugliest scream I’ve ever heard tumbled from her quivering lips.  Did you know that hope getting dashed to pieces has a sound?  It’s abrasive, piercing, and throttles everything.

“I didn’t have any good in me.  Rage seethed from my core and swelled like it never had before.  Nothing was exempt from my hate.

“‘Oh, cute little Erica,’ I cooed as sweetly as I could while I positioned myself behind my mother where she couldn’t see what I was doing.   I patted the babe softly on the back where my mom could see while my other hand pinched and squeezed as hard as I dared without leaving a mark.  I looked into her wide eyes, locked in terror with mine own, and brought every ounce of hate to the surface.  I pushed that torrent of violent emotions through my eyes and willed her to feel it.

“It was intoxicating, although you would never understand.  But that’s enough about my past. Unfortunately for you, I’ve found over the years that an adult’s torment and screams are infinitely more satisfying than those of a child.”

The man stood up and stretched before speaking again.

“If you don’t mind, I’m going to go use the bathroom.  Don’t go anywhere.”

Eric listened as Mark’s feet padded across the cement floor.  The stairs creaked as he left the basement.  When he was sure Mark was gone, he relaxed the stranglehold he had on his emotions and sobbed.

Eric had been in the basement for a few days now, secured to a metal chair with leather straps.  He had screamed, begged, yelled and cried on his first day here, but quickly learned that any show of emotion sent his captor into a crazed fit of violence.

His heart raced wildly as the casual whistling upstairs approached the basement door again.  Anxiety fogged Eric’s mind with its chaos and kept him from thinking straight.  He hated himself for not being able to control his fear.  He did his best to quiet himself as the door opened.  By the time Eric could see Mark’s bare feet step around the corner, he had almost calmed himself completely.

Mark placed two boxes on a table and stood in front of Eric.  “Have you been crying?”

“No…”

Mark hit Eric in the face and looked down at him with a grin.  “You say you weren’t crying, but I call bullshit.  If you can make it through the next twenty minutes without crying hysterically, I’ll let you go.”

Eric knew better than to let hope sprout its worthless seeds in his heart, but desperation took over.  “Yes,” he pleaded.

Mark pulled forceps out of his back pocket and gripped the sides of Eric’s face.  “Open up buttercup,” he said.  Eric’s eyes widened with horror when he noticed the forceps ended in sharp hooks.

Mark shoved the forceps into Eric’s mouth.  Sharp pain shot through his tongue as the forceps bit into the soft tissue.  Mark yanked on his tongue and pulled it halfway out of his mouth.

“I don’t want to do anything that will stop your screaming,” Mark said as he pulled something else out of his back pocket, “but I hate all of the pleading and whining.  Besides, I have a surprise for you.”

Mark grabbed a large, sharpened tube and flashed it in front of Eric’s face.

“This needle is a 0000 gauge, which means the hole in your tongue is going to be nearly half an inch wide.  It’s going to hurt like a bitch.”

Eric bucked against the chair and cried out as Mark pressed the tip of the needle against his tender flesh and pushed.  He could feel the needle as it sliced through the meat, cleaving a hole the size of the tube into his tongue.  Mark shoved a thick metal rod into the end of the needle, and retracted the tube leaving the rod in its place. Before he released the forceps, Mark screwed a nostril sized ball onto the end of the metal shaft.  The rod was long enough that he couldn’t pull his tongue back into his mouth.

“There,” Mark said.  “Now let’s get down to the fun stuff.”

Mark walked over to the boxes on the table.  He picked up the first box and brought it closer to Eric. He shook the box fiercely and caused whatever was inside to react violently.  Mark laughed as he put the box on the floor and brought the second box over and showed it to Eric.

“This box has only one opening.  The inside is lined with mirrors, and there is an LED light in there.  I’m going to put this box on your head because I want you to be able to see what’s going on.”

He placed the box in Eric’s lap and turned on the light.  Mark walked back to the other box and carried it, with its living contents, back to him.  He shook the box one more time and chuckled wickedly.

“It’s been a few days since these guys have eaten,” Mark stated as he opened the top of the second box.  “If you ask nicely, I won’t introduce you to them.”

Mark flipped the second box over so its contents fell into the mirrored box.  Eric tried to beg, but the metal rod through his tongue kept him from speaking.

“No?  Okay, here we go!”

Mark flipped the mirrored box over and placed it over Eric’s head before the things inside could jump out.  The light inside the box made everything horribly clear.  Eric was looking into the beady black eyes of several rats.

The large rodents sat in corners and looked at him with a mix of curiosity and hunger.  Eric tried to calm himself, but wasn’t able to as he watched them inch forward bit by bit, their noses sniffing madly at the air.   They smelled his blood.

One of them darted forward and bit Eric’s bloody tongue.  He screamed and tried to move, but he was secured too tightly to the chair.  When he didn’t defend himself, the other rats dove into the fray.  Raging pain tore through Eric as the rats began to take bites out of his tongue.

They quickly ate his tongue down to the rod that had forced Eric to keep his mouth open.  He pulled what was left of his ravaged organ back inside of his mouth.  One of the rats tried to follow it and stuck its head inside of Eric’s mouth to get the rest of its meal.  Eric bit down on the rat’s head until he felt a crunch and spit the dead rat out as the remaining rodents started tearing at the soft flesh of his cheeks.

Eric knew Mark wanted to hear his screams and cries.  The only thing he could think of was to rob his captor of that joy.  He steeled himself against what was going to be an awful death and opened his mouth.  One of the rats scurried around the other two and darted into his mouth.  He fought against his instincts and let the rat climb inside.  The rodent quickly cut off his breathing as it started to eat.  Eric’s body demanded air, but his mind and heart demanded a quick death.

Eric’s vision started to grow dark around the edges, a welcome thing as he continued to struggle between wanting air and wanting to end the torment.  He bit down on the tail and trapped the rat inside his mouth.  The rodent squirmed for a few seconds before finally finding the only exit; downward.  Eric’s throat bulged as the rat stuck halfway down his esophagus and started clawing to find a way out.

He couldn’t scream, even if he wanted to.  He would die quietly, and that thought filled him with comfort.  Death came slowly, but the last noise that came from Eric was muffled and haunting.  It wasn’t a death rattle, or a cry, but the laughter of the dead.

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2016 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved.

Deluge

The crack of the loudest thunder clap roars; my body vibrates with the echo, an untamed longing for more.

The joy washed away; a vile deluge now pouring, the razor’s slash of the cruelest tongue.

Pain inflicted with intent to harm; ripping at my sanity in an unjust tumult of words, the harshest weapons of all.

My mind torn to pieces; this voice carries devastation, wielded with nary a care for the moments yet to come.

A shattering silence; how loud the quiet has become, how lonely this false sense of solitude.

The patter of a different storm; a shedding that cleanses, gently this time in a subtle downpour.

If only you’d count the raindrops with me; do you see – they are beginning to fall…

~ Nina D’Arcangela

© Copyright 2013 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.