The music here is so loud. I think I remember the song. It was my favorite at one point, wasn’t it? Hit ‘em up or something like that, by that hot girl with the tight booty jeans. Man, do I ever miss booty jeans. How long has it been since the world went to shit? Six months? A year? I don’t know, all I know is I’ve been working here for three months, picking up jobs as I need them. Not too different from what I did back when the world was sane, just with a different threat. Yeah, those were the days, I’d get a call, jump a plane, go to some 3rd world shit hole and steal the aid supplies and hand them off to the guys who “really” needed them, or at least paid to have them. Some people called them rebels, revolutionaries, whatever… I didn’t give a shit. We called them clients, and fuck did they pay well. I wasn’t the best at my job, but I knew how to stay alive. Good thing too, because that made me an asset to have on jobs.
But I can’t think about that right now. I got work to do. And my favorite whore is making a beeline for me.
“Hey there hot-thing,” her name is Sally, “how about you and me go back to my rooms and you can give me that hot thing of yours?” This is how it always starts. Sally turns around, places her back against his chest. Caressing the small of his neck she says, “Come on baby, I haven’t seen you in days.” Fuck, I think to myself, there she goes pouting again.
“Listen baby girl,” I say through gritted teeth, “I really want to”, fuck did I ever, “but I ain’t got no food right now.” She began pouting some more rubbing her rump against me. “Not just that, I got a job to do woman! Now get out my way.”
“FINE! Fucker! I’ll just find someone with more food and a better dick!” This is about when the room comes to life; every guy in the dimly lit room hears her and looks her way, not like I care. She’s just a fucking whore, just like any other. Maybe when I get back I’ll find a new favorite. If I come back this time.
* * *
… I think I might miss her. She had a nice body, not much to talk to, but there wasn’t much time for pillow talk anymore. In my line of work, you can’t ever allow yourself to get too attached to any one person or thing. Everything is fluid, nothing is forever. Well, nothing but death.
As I looked around at the carnival troupe I’m stuck with today, I don’t notice anything out of the ordinary; the “leader” (any idiot who thinks he can yell louder than someone else), the “muscle” (not much for brains, but can bust open a door or crate pretty well) and the “brains” (the idea guy, usually stays near the car or keeps lookout). Then there was me. I don’t really know how to label myself other than the “survivor”, and honestly this time won’t be much different than any other time. We’re going to go in, the dumb one is going to make too much noise, attract the “walkers”, the leader is going to try and save him. They both die. I get back to the getaway car with the loot and the smart one is going to ask where the other guys are. I could try to talk my way out of it. Why? I’ll tell him the truth. He’ll pull his gun on me and ask why I didn’t save his friends. I’ll give him two choices; Live or die. He’s going to choose death. Then I’ll get the keys off his corpse. I’ll drive back to base. Get the reward meant for four people. And be comfortable again for a few months in my underground bunker.
Oh well, maybe it won’t happen that way this time. Gotta be positive right?
“Alrighty men, we’re about at the location,” says Brains, “you all know the drill. Right? New guy, you listening?”
“Alright, in and out, no man left behind. Quick job, high reward! When we get back beers on me!” says Fearless Leader. That caught my attention. Free beer? Not in this day and age. Now I’m really starting to hope they don’t all die!
At first it seems like a simple enough job. We’re dropped off on a back road just a 5-minute walk from this warehouse that should be full of food. We’re to check it out and make sure that there is indeed food there and bring some back. Then they’ll send in more guys to secure the place and start caravans back to base. Quick and easy.
As we walk through the woods behind the warehouse, I hear something. Or rather, I don’t hear anything. No moaning, no shuffling. Nothing. Maybe someone’s already gotten here. I signal the Fearless Leader to stop the group. I cock my head hoping to hear something. Anything…
And there was nothing to hear. Barely even a rustle of wind. Even in this world of quiet and solitude, this was unsettling. I signal the troupe to move ahead, but slowly. Even Muscles is being pretty quiet for a big guy. I sped on ahead hardly leaving a mark in the dry leaves. This is what I was trained for, no one can trace me, I am a ghost. I WAS a ghost… Now I’m just some shmuck who recons for a bunch of whores and their new-age mafia pimp lords.
Then I heard it. Behind us. Must be about 10 of them. I signal everyone to get into the trees. Muscles is having a hard time, all I can think is, He’s going to be the first one dead, unlucky bastard. But, he pulls up his legs just in time for 10 of those things to come barreling through the woods. Dammit they’re fast, and they’re dragging something… Something unconscious. Is it an animal? No… It’s Brain. I don’t say a thing. No need to freak out the troupe just yet. I just hope someone has a spare set of keys. Either that, or I hope our car doesn’t have an anti-theft system.
Anyway, I get out of my tree and try to follow them for a little while, and then I hear it… They’re feeding. Well, time to get going. I motion to the troupe it’s time to move, and quick. I give the “runners” a wide berth. Not that I think they’ll hear us. But, I don’t need the troupe running off to die heroes.
As the sounds of the feast die behind us I see the backside of a building up ahead. I signal the troupe to hide in some trees again. I hope they don’t notice Brains going by if he tries to come after me. They don’t need to see him like that, and then be dead seconds later. They won’t have time to cope. Anyway, I go on ahead, scouting out the area.
There is only one building. It’s a yellow brick building probably 15-17 feet tall. Flat roof. Probably with some gravel and A/C on top. I miss A/C. No side or back doors, only one lonely road leading to the front entrance of the warehouse. It’s a small road too. I wonder what kind of food they have here? As I am about to make the last turn, I stop. Not because I hear or smell anything, but because I need to. I sense… something. I don’t even know what that means, but something is around here somewhere and I can’t fucking see or hear it. All I can see around me is the wall, some trees to my left and behind and the road ahead of me. There is nothing across the road.
Wait… That’s wrong, there is something there. Something just moved, was it the grass shifting? Or is there something hiding in that wild yard? Then I see it. It doesn’t even look human. It has grass and branches sticking out of it. No, squinting, I can see that they are GROWING out of it. How is that possible? First they were running, now they are growing natural camouflage?
I slowly head back to the troupe. They are still up in the trees. I signal them down and explain in a low voice what I had seen.
“Well, we still need to do this job.” Says Fearless Leader, “we can’t leave Steve waiting much longer.” Steve must be Brain.
“Yeah, but…” I say.
“No butts,” chuckles Muscles, “We’ll go take out this camel-”
“Camo.” Says Fearless Leader.
“Yeah, that! Camo. That Camo sonofabitch”
“If you guys think it’s worth it.” Mumble I.
We ready our weapons, nothing like you see in those old horror movies, no guns. No clubs with spikes. Just some good ol’ fashioned baseball bats, and my hatchet.
“I’ll never get why you like that small thing.” Giggles Muscles. “Maybe you’re trying to advertise how small your dick is”
“You think that’s what it is?” I respond. “Are you sure it’s not so I can stab dumb loud mouths in the back?”
With that Muscles shut his stupid mouth for a little bit. Then we snuck all the way up to where I had seen that weird “thing”. I don’t even know what to call them anymore, they’re definitely not zombies like in the movies. Well, it was gone. We still had a job to do, with or without Brain. I finally looked around that final bend; there was nothing. Well, other than the 2 docking bay doors.
Fearless Leader chuckles. “So, scaredy cat. Go find out what’s behind door number one.”
I walk ahead, kind of embarrassed because I got them all riled up, and had nothing to show for it. They were just letting off steam because they didn’t think that what I was talking about was real. Boy was I in for a treat today.
Behind door number one was the biggest and most deadly thing I had ever seen. I’m going to call it a “juggernaut” because that’s what it looked like. I was mostly a man. Or had the shape of one. Expect for the freakishly large shoulders and comically small legs. It still had a man’s face, and it even seemed to have some kind of intelligence behind it’s small beady eyes. It’s flesh seemed to be peeling away exposing some kind of… flesh like substance underneath. It was a dull gray, not dissimilar to the thing’s skin colour, but textured differently. I didn’t have much more time to think about the thing. I noticed all this in a few seconds.
It screamed. I think it may have been more of a roar. But it seemed almost frightened when the door opened in it’s face. Then the scream turned into a true roar, an angry roar, it did not enjoy being disturbed doing whatever it had been doing. The moment it let loose, I bolted. I was gone. I ran past the now Fearful Leader and Muscles. I didn’t make a left, I knew there were more of “them” there. I ran straight into the woods. I thought that if I ran far enough out then hung a left I could find the road with the car on it.
That’s when I heard it. The wet smack of something hitting and crushing a body. I’ve only ever heard something like that once before. It was when I saw a young man in Africa slam a small child against a wall until he was crushed. I knew that the “juggernaut” had done the same thing to at least one of my companions. The other would try to avenge him. They were all dying like I thought they would, but not the way the others had. These guys probably weren’t completely stupid, even Muscles had known when to be quiet. But, this was something we had never seen before. This, this was something nothing could have prepared us for. These things should NOT be changing the human body, should they?
Then I saw him. I say him because it looked like it was once a man. He stepped out from behind a tree. Or did he step out of the tree? Leaning against it. Leaning? Or part of it? I still don’t know. All I know is that thing was staring at me. With intelligent eyes. The most frightening thing I had ever seen. It stared at me, and it almost seemed to laugh. Then… Then it pointed to where I knew the car should be. I didn’t waste a split second of the chance I was given. I ran. I ran like I had never run before. I had never been this frightened. I fell a few times, but I never heard anything following me, I’m not sure if the thing stopped the others from chasing me or they were all busy chowing down on the troupe.
In what seemed like no time at all, I found the car. Looked in the ignition, the keys were there. But there was something else. On the seat. Brain’s hand. I flung it out of the car and started the ignition. But it never started.
“And that, sir, is what happened. That’s the whole truth.” I said.
“I’m sure it is son, I’m sure it is.” Said the man in the white robe. “You really don’t understand do you?”
“Understand what?” I asked
“You’ve always been here, in this cell. You were never part of any team. You were brought here as a child. You have a severe case of dementia. You believe this all to be true, but you honestly have never left this cell. You are a mad man.” He laughed as he pushed a red buzzer and waited for it to open.
“If that’s true, sir. Then why don’t you show me your real face?”
“My real face? You want to see it son? Are you sure you can handle that?” Said the beast as he reached behind his head and pulled an unseen flap forward. Peeling off his face mask and revealing his hideous face. A face covered in gray textured flesh, with what looked like branches, twigs and grass growing all over.
“It was I that lead you here, we must study you before we attempt to make you one of us. We need to learn what makes the difference between the regular beasts, and we, the Highborn.”
I screamed. I screamed in terror of what was to come. I screamed for what had happened. But mostly I screamed for Sally, for had I not left her warm side. I could still be alive in this terrible, wild world.