Skitter

A fun little story I was asked to write for the Release Blog Tour stop at Better Read Than Dead. They wanted to know how I’d survive an apocalypse ..this is what came out.

An asteroid was heading for the earth; that’s how it all started. It was the beginning of the end and that giant rock had bastards setting off nukes in every direction. But the people didn’t die. Oh no. The radiation that shoulda wiped us all out just made things worse; mostly it turned everyone into mindless flesh eaters. Ironic thing was it was all for nothing; the asteroid missed.

You wanna know about the end of the world? Alright, I’ll tell ya. But you better pull up those panties first, boy. It ain’t pretty.

First, there was no power. That’s right. No fancy phones that talk to you, no video games, and no HDTV. Forget hot water. In fact, forget comfort all together. Running water: Gone. A clean bed to sleep in: Gone. A fan to keep you cool: Gone. You got a broken baseball bat or a knife, and—if you were really lucky—a pistol with a couple shots left.

Canned food was your friend—if you could find it—but most of the time you were sucking the guts from beetles and eatin’ rotten fruit. If you found a beer, you’d cut the guy next to you to make sure it was yours. And you didn’t sleep. You nodded off with one eye open and you kept your shoe laces tied tight. If anyone crossed paths with you and wanted a scuffle, it’d be the first thing they’d take.

So how’d I survive? I don’t even know. Let’s call it a helluva lotta luck.

I’d been traveling for months, maybe years. I lost track of time a few days after the bombs hit. It got hotter every day, and the sand was always blowing in your face. I spent all my waking hours moving from town to town, trying to find a place where I could set up shop. Fresh water and something that kept the flesh eaters out was all I needed. I nearly found it once too, but when I finally got settled in, something else showed up.

Flesh eaters aren’t the only thing you have to watch out for on the outside, because when the nukes struck, the world changed. All the continents moved around, ramming into one another while some of them just sank into the ocean. Yeah this world sure got messed up quick. Out there, it ain’t like it is in here, no sir.

I’d been walking for a while since my last meal, and dusty desert had turned into rotting forest, which had changed to crumbled mountains and then back to desert. I’d found a big ass knife, rusted to shit but it cut good enough, and I made a wicked whip out of a piece of driftwood and barbed wire. I didn’t need a gun; I’d gotten so good I could shear the head off a flesh eater from fifteen feet away.

After I’d walked long enough that my beard was to my chest, I came to a little town nestled back in a mountain district. Most of it seemed untouched compared to the rest of the world: the mountains were still standing, with snow decoratin’ the tops like a Christmas tree waitin’ to be cut down. Most of the houses were intact, cars were still parked on the street, and there was a pump at the back that brought fresh water up from a stream. My legs were skinny, scabbed, and shaking. I was weaker than ever, I was starving, but I had stumbled into paradise.

The place was abandoned so I took my pick of the properties. Found myself a real nice stretch of land on a quarter acre or so. There was just a small house on the back of the lot, but that’s all I needed, and it still had grass! It needed a good cut but it was lush and green, just like I’d remembered grass to be.

It took a few days to get set up, but when I was done, I had rigged up alarms and booby traps all over the town. I had plenty of supplies from the local hardware store that sat untouched, and I cooked a good few meals over an open fire. Aside from a bit of dust, their grocery store was practically brand new. Finally, I felt like I was going to get a good night’s sleep—the first I’d have had in who knows how many years. But then they came: the other monsters.

Flesh eaters aren’t very smart. They’re brain dead and they always feast on the closest carcass they can find. Since I was the only one in town, I knew they’d smell me out quicker than the jiggle of a jackrabbit’s ass.

I had trip wires set up all over the town, ready to alert me of any intruders, but the alarms didn’t fire off. I hadn’t seen anything but flesh eaters for ages and I wasn’t ready for them. Not preparin’ for ‘em was just me being careless, but what cleared my traps was somethin’ I’d never seen before. I couldn’t have prepared for them.

My eyelids were falling fast and for the first time since before the end, I could feel a good sleep pulling me in. And with my luck, just as ol’ Mr. Sandman was about to tea bag me, a BANG sounded at the door. No more sleep for me.

The barbed wire dragged along the floor behind me and the driftwood handle was stuck in the back of my pants. My hand was sweating in the humid night’s air and I gripped the rusty blade like it was my only salvation—because it was.

The front door was open, creaking in the wind and hangin’ by only one hinge. I heard a strange beat humming along the wooden floor boards and it made my knuckle hairs stand on end. Sweat ran between my fingers, dripping down the handle of the blade. The floor boards creaked with each step until I finally stopped in the living room, stretching my senses to find my attacker.

THUD!

It sounded behind me and I nearly jumped outta my damn skin. I turned faster than a bat out of hell, but there was nothing there.

THUD!

I turned back around, ready to swing my blade, but it was too late. Two feet planted into my chest and sent me ass backwards across the room. My body crumbled into the wall and the drywall behind me cracked, covering me in a wash of white dust.

I sneered in pain and jumped to my feet, ready to face the son of a bitch that thought he could take me on, but the room was empty. It was just me and a flood of powder floating in the moonlight.

THUD!

This time when I turned, I was already swinging my blade. The feet smashed into me again, but I got him too. He cried in pain but it was rough like a horse with a high pitched squeal at the end. I rolled across the floor and came up on my feet.

The creature was lying across the ground, squirting blood and huffing something fierce. His body twitched like the carcass of a flesh eater after you threw it against an electric fence. But this wasn’t no flesh eater. I didn’t know what the hell it was.

I was careful not to get too close but as I walked across the room, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Damn thing had a dog-like face, big ass legs on the backside, a thick ratty tail and tiny little arms. Half of its left foot was lying on the floor beside it, and as I watched it squirm into the moonlight, I didn’t believe it: I’d just cut the foot off a god damn kangaroo.

I inched closed as it writhed along the ground. When its solid white eyes caught sight of me, it hissed. Four-inch fangs hung down from its snout and blood dripped from its mouth. I’d heard about these things from passersby once upon a time, but I never believed in ‘em. Vampire kangaroos? I’d seen a lot of shit in my life, but this was at the top of my WTF-o-meter.

My heart leaped in my throat as the creature lunged out, trying to wrap its grubby little paws around my ankle. I reacted with haste and brought my blade down on its head. Blood splattered over my face and all across my newly claimed floors. Lemme tell ya: I cursed something fierce after that.

THUD!

I swung my blade back behind me but I only cut through the air. The room was empty. I could hear the beast hopping along the porch outside. I pulled the whip from my pants and rushed out the door, hoping to have more room to work out in the yard.

When I leaped off the porch and turned around, three more of them were glaring at me, their eyes as white as moonlight and practically glowing. They hopped the railing and bounced towards me in a blur. I snapped the barbed wire across the air and watched as one of the heads split from its body. He fell limp to the ground and his head sloshed across the grass. The other two snarled and moved to either side of me, lashing out and thinkin’ they could best me.

I pivoted, keepin’ them each in my peripheral vision. As they inched closer, I side-stepped away to keep my distance, until they lunged at me in unison. Long fangs dripped black saliva and I somersaulted backwards at the last moment. They sunk their fangs into one another and screams barked from their snouts. I was already on my feet, ready to take advantage of the situation. The rusty blade cut through the air, slicing through one neck, and then the other.

When they hit the earth, dirt shot up from the ground all around them, leaving me strugglin’ to catch my breath. I was too old for this.

I waited a few minutes outside, making sure the coast was clear, but when I finally decided it was safe enough to go inside, something skittered across the underside of the roof.

Chills ran down my spine and I didn’t dare set another foot inside that house. I knew that sound. I’d faced it before and I sure as hell wasn’t ready to face it again. That sound meant a nest. A nest meant this place couldn’t be home. Not with those creatures here.

I didn’t wait for it to see me. I ran as fast as my scrawny legs would take me down to the hardware store where I’d already rigged up something real nice. With two propane tanks strapped to my back, I marched myself back up to the house, waiting for those suckers to make themselves known. A stainless steel handle was in my grip and a small flame flickered at the end of a long gray pipe. I was ready.

Skitter, skitter, skitter.

My finger hovered over the handle, but when the monstrosities started to appear, I knew this wouldn’t be enough. Dozens of spiders moved out from behind the house. Some broke through the shingles on the roof while others ran across the porch. Their mouths oozed something white and their fangs chittered together. These weren’t ordinary spiders; these were infected. They were the size of a big dog and mean as hell.

Beady eyes reflected the moonlight and when they kicked their legs, long hairs fluttered in the air. I was careful not to let ‘em touch me. Just being too close to the hair would give you a rash for a week.

Skitter, skitter, skitter.

I lit the night up in a stream of blue, orange, and red, casting the flame across the yard, but I didn’t dare get closer. I walked backwards as fast as I could and I saved every bit of propane I had. I didn’t have enough to kill ‘em all, but if any one of them got too close, I lit his ass up like a firework.

Green guts exploded over the yard and stained the siding of what I had hoped would be my new home. But they didn’t stop. Dozens more kept on coming and I knew they were nesting somewhere close. I also knew from my last encounter with ‘em I wasn’t going anywhere near it. These things were babies compared to the queen. I needed to get out of here.

When I’d set some distance between me and them, I moved back to the hardware store. I had loads of weapons and traps set up, but it wouldn’t be enough. Not enough to kill all of ‘em and the queen.

When I’d explored the town earlier, I found myself an old truck that still started. I loaded it up with everything I could manage from food to weapons, and I hopped in and drove away.

I passed town after town, and even ran over a few flesh eaters along the way, but I didn’t dare stop. I pushed that truck as far as it would go, until finally the gas was gone and the engine quit.

Never again did I settle in another town. Not for long. I didn’t get my hopes up and I didn’t sleep. I just tried to survive. That was until I met your lot and your daddy welcomed me to safety. And here I am, hiding behind these high stone walls and enjoying an ice-cold beer. Who’da thunk there’d be a part of the world that sat untouched from it all? You lucky sons of bitches have it made. I guess now I do too… If it wasn’t for you and your dad rescuing me from that pack of hairless, sparkling flying-monkeys, I’d be a goner. Those things looked like something out of that Twilight you were showing me.

So that’s it. It ain’t a pretty story but it’s a story nonetheless. That’s how I survived the apocalypse. Or at least that’s part of it. I don’t think your daddy would like me talking to you about the time I shot a stripper in the face after she and her zebra-man tried to eat my right arm. Hell, she wasn’t just a stripper, she was a giraffe shifter.

You know what, screw it. Do you wanna hear something really crazy? Let me tell ya…

©Copyright 2012 M.R. Merrick