Look someone else kills the hell outta me!
A few months ago we played a game over at the Library of the Living Dead forum where I slaughtered my friends one by one while they all pointed at each other. Killing games are fun games. So, anyways, after I gutted everyone I, being the cool mofo I am, offered them all the chance to kill me back od buddy/co-author Tim Long took me up on it and turned it into one of the coolest birthday presents I've ever gotten. My editor and good friend Stephanie Kincaid brought Heinous to life to teach me a lesson in curse words, hooks and tentacles. And now Shawn Cook, the talented recluse known as bagabones on a number of forums,has given me a beautiful demise. Without any further chatter....my pretty death...
The cities and villages belonged to the ghosts now. Bodies lay in decaying repose as the world slowly faded to silence around them. Here and there they eroded to their base elements; in cars, houses and beds. Streets were desolate as fear had forced most indoors, perhaps one or two littered the pavement unable to go any farther towards their destination.
Birds, once immune to the pandemic, now lay alongside the carcasses of cat, dog, pig, cattle and human. The virus was eating the life from the world with a professional’s ease and a mountain’s patience. Only the ghosts, multitude in their silent witness, gained any number.
Jonathan pushed onward while the fever ravaged his brain and his skin burned; his guts were ice cold and shivering. He’d held out longer than the millions who’d gone before, had held out as long as he could. Now, he was nearing the end.
The car slalomed as consciousness tried to escape into feversleep and he forced his eyes open a little wider. The roar of rumble strips as his car eased to the shoulder whipped him back to wakefulness.
Tears slipped down his cheeks, mingled with sweat and dropped onto his stained shirt. His right hand skittered across the passenger seat like a palsied spider, searching out that hidden half-pack of cigarettes under the detritus of travel.
It was there, buried under the crinkled paper with the screaming headline: “SUPERVIRUS DEVISTATES EASTERN SEABOARD!”
A pop of flame, inhale deeply, fight the urge to cough, exhale. Fuck cancer, man; that shit takes too long. Smoke fills the car and he cracks the window. As he eases past an overturned tractor-trailer the stereo begins to hum a tuneless white noise.
The whisper was barely audible.
“Jonathan.” The voice was low and flat, oozing from the speakers. The radio has been broken for weeks. “Where are you going, Jonathan?”
“The beach.” His voice rasps into the stale air. “Wanna see the ocean before I go.”
A burst of static. “Ah, of course. I shall wait for you there.”
The odd conversation had barely registered. In a mind scarred by nightmarish hallucinations this was little more than a hiccup. Within minutes the memory of the voice had been scorched from his mind.
He sat behind the wheel and watched the ocean roll itself upon the shore. He didn’t remember most of his trip, only flashes of clarity he wished to forget. Hastily dug mass graves and funeral pyres long extinguished, suicides hanging from trees and burnt houses. Lucidity had returned, his body exhausted from fighting, the heat under his skin lowered to a dull throb.
A figure appeared from behind a dune, far enough away for the features to be indistinct but Jonathan could tell it was a man.
A survivor, untouched and healthy? Doubtful. Perhaps another like-minded individual, plague ridden and dying, such as himself. He sneezed once, twice explosively into the air and tried to ignore the blood that now coated the steering wheel, dash and windshield.
The sun felt good upon his shoulders. The sand pulled at his shoes. The sea driven breeze was almost cleansing. His fever began to return, snarling through his body; deadlier this time. He didn’t have long. Not long at all.
As he approached the figure, Jonathan began to tremble. Not entirely from the sickness. Although he looked human, this man was neither survivor nor victim, he was something else entirely. The pale skin and worn clothing had marked him as a shut-in lucky enough to have outlasted the plague. The eyes, black as the deepest ocean trench said otherwise.
“Hello, Jonathan.” The stranger’s mouth never moved.
Vertigo flooded into the spaces from which equilibrium fled and Jonathan slipped to the sand, sick and dizzy.
His mouth worked the word twice before his voice managed to speak.
“An escort, if you will. You are one of the last.”
The stranger placed a knee in the sand next to where Jonathan rested and laid a boney hand upon the nape of his fevered neck. Jonathan’s eyes never left the restless, eternal ocean. The voice of the strange man spoke softly into Jonathan’s ear, one syllable; drawn out to coalesce with the crashing tide.
He inhaled as the world grew black at the edges and could feel his body being laid on its back in the sand.
“Let it go, Jonathan. Let it all go.”
Jonathan exhaled his last breath as those long past welcomed him with open arms.