There was an office building in the deep ruins. Once upon a time it had been a towering spike of steel and glass that housed the dictatorships whose wheims decided the course of the old world. Now, fires had burned many of the floors and most of the windows were long blown out. The top were crushed by a military helicopter that still sat impaled in it like a hatchet.  At the 27th flood three humans sat around a small sterno can where they ate. Ody was an old man, hairy and gangly, while Nail was a muscular bald man with tombstone eyes. Melody was a tiny, dark skinned young woman, a mongrel child of the apocalypse.  Ody huffed on a spray can with a long gurgling snort. He leaned back his head and groaned as bloody snot leaked out his nostril. His thick gray mustache was crusted with the goo. He had barely even touched his rat. It was stuck into the spongy carpet by its cooking stick, getting cold. Ody’s priorities had become more and more screwed over the last months. Now, getting blasted came before eating.

   Melody looked at Ody. The red glow of the sterno lit his matted, hairy face. His buggy eyes were staring at her from the dreadlocked mass that was his head. He was staring at her chest in a stoned stupor. She leaned forward and lowered her face so she was staring back at him, her amber eyes flashing menacingly. His bug eyes looked into hers for barely a second before he looked away. The rat he wasn't eating had more courage than he ever would.

   Some humans survive the same way vermin did- by being sneaky, clever and cowardly. Ody was one of them. Melody had never seen a craftier human in her life. He could make smart little traps to snare rats and pigeons, and he could fix a busted gun, rig up a solid perimeter alarm, and patch up a broken arm. However, the skill he had that truly mattered was making ammunition. His mobile munition kit had kept them armed and their guns in working order for the last three years and had saved their asses way too many times. His bullet making was getting low on his priorities, though.  Instead of looking for the stuff he needed to make ammo he was out looking for shit to get high. His bullet count had been dropping noticeably lately, as well as the quality. Twice in the last month his rounds had misfired.

   Melody stared at the ugly old creep as he sucked on the can again. Soon his benefits to the group would be overshadowed by the detriment. Then something very bad would happen to him. Melody looked at the vague shape of Nail where he lend against the wall. He was looking at Ody too, his hooded eyes emotionless as he chewed on his rat.

   Some humans survived because they were too fucking mean to die. That was Nail. He was a murderous psycho who thrived in the post-apocalyptic world. He was good at killing undead, at killing mutant monsters, or killing other humans and he did it with a scary kind of ease. He was the only human she had ever seen who loved life. He took to the Wrecked Earth like a fly to shit. It just worked out well for him. No one could tell what was rolling around in Nail’s bald head. He might be bored and snap your neck for shits and giggles. Or maybe he’d give you an extra can of food because he thinks you're looking thin. One thing was for sure, if Ody became too much of a pain in the ass, Nail would be the one to fix it, one way or another.

   And then there was Melody. Some humans survived because they were lucky. That was Melody. Her sixteen years of life had not been kind. She was a Red Sky Child, meaning she was born after the Vile Genesis and had only known the Wrecked Earth. There had only ever been sickness and death, empty bellies and dirty water. Skulking the ruins, scrounging for enough- enough to not starve, or die of thirst, or freeze, or burn, or die from some random sickness. And always, always hunted by the undead who craved your flesh with all their will. Yet she had made it. She seemed to have a sixth sense that saved her ass on a regular basis. It was a random thing; sometimes she was at the right place at the right time, or had a funny feeling that helped her avoid bad situations. She could kick over an old box and find a can of food, or make a half ass snare and get a fat rat. Her mama had said she was charmed, years ago before her momma got run down by some human hunter zoms.

   Melody sucked the last shreds of meat from her rat and tossed the bones on the rotted carpet. It had been a good day. Four rats and two pigeons snared, a scrounged can of peaches and a gallon and a half of clean water siphoned from a water main. Nail had found a box of bandages and a bottle of peroxide. Melody had found some gear Ody could use for ammo. And Ody found a can of something he could huff. They had settled down on the 27th floor of the old office building for the night. This was the first solid meal they had in 5 days. The office building was rotten and cold but more or less dry. They had pitched camp in a meeting room near the center of the floor with a good view of the stair well, the main way in or out. They set several traps and alarms in the surrounding halls and cubicles. If any nasties were poking around they would know long before they got the drop on them. The three humans were as secure as they could be. All in all a very good day for a ruin leach in Rot Town.

   Melody looked around the old meeting room, looking at the inspirational posters and memos that hung limply from the moldy walls. She looked at the coffee mugs that sat on the tables where they were last set down, decades before. Lying on the floor was a single high heeled shoe. On the wall next to the shoe were bloody handprints, dull brown and faded. She wondered what happened here all those years ago, tried to imagine humans that were clean, healthy and unafraid. She tried to imagine blue skies and full bellies. However, she had no reference to that old world and could never really understand it.

   She unrolled her ratty old sleeping bag. She put her rife by her side and pulled out the shank from her boot as she kicked them off. She looked at the screw driver as she laid down. Tied to the end of it was a label, “Evidence, Case #666”. She remembered finding it, years ago when she was a kid. She and her mama were scrounging around a ruined police station. They had found nothing but a few nick knacks, one of which was the screwdriver lying on the floor of the evidence locker. The evidence locker was a safe enough place so they stayed the night there. That night her mama dug up the case folder for the screwdriver. Apparently it was a murder weapon, used by some crazy goth kid. She had murdered the entire cheer team at her high school, stabbing each to death as a sacrifice to Satan. Melody’s mama had read the case file to her that night under the flickering light of a candle as they huddled in the darkness, the howling of the undead echoing outside. These were her bedtime stories. She smiled at the memory as she drifted off to sleep.




   Melody woke up coughing. The moldy ceiling was thick with black smoke. She was up with her rifle at her shoulder as she looked around franticly. Outside the broken windows the sky was turning a brighter crimson. Dawn was coming. Nail was thrashing awake in his sleeping bag, hacking and coughing. Ody sat in a rickety computer chair dazedly looking around, too stoned to even gag on the fumes. The stairwell was billowing thick black smoke, quickly filling the entire floor.

   Subconscious instinct took command. Milady ripped open her pack and yanked out her gas mask. She put it on, then tugged on her boots. Nail had a bandana over his face as he trained his AK 47 around the room. Ody bumbled around his pack for his mask with one hand, a revolver in the other. No alarms or traps had gone off. There was nothing in there with them. That was little comfort as the black smoke continued to billow in from the stair well. The building was on fire somewhere below them. Time to bounce.

   Nail and Melody quickly gathered their stuff as Ody finally got his gas mask on and covered them with his revolver. They jogged down a hall, setting off the loud clanking of one of their sound alarms as they went by. The stairwell was a no go- too much smoke. They would need to take another way down. The three humans crashed into the rusted doors of the elevator at the end of the hall. Ody and Milady covered Nail as he yanked a crow bar out of his pack and drove it into the seam of the elevator door. With a loud grunt he pulled on the crowbar and the elevator squealed open. The dark shaft was a bit hazy with smoke but not billowing with it like the stair well. Nail looked down. The top of the elevator was blocking the shaft right below the next floor so they could only go down one story. They could get down from there and hopefully find another way out. Nail took a step back, then ran and leapt into the shaft. He slammed into the swaying cables, grabbing onto them. He began to shimmy down.

   With wild eyes Ody shoved his revolver in the front of his pants and leaped in after Nail. He grappled with the cables and slid down. Melody slung her rifle on her shoulder, took a deep breath and took a step back, ready to jump. Then the bad feeling hit her, hit her like a cinder block to the chest. She stood rigid, looking at the elevator shaft with the trust one would give a rabid dog. She knew this feeling.  This feeling had saved her life before. She looked about her desperately. She could barely see ten feet into the smoke filled room. She could taste the poisonous gas through her mask. Any minute fire could burst through the floor and if not, even with her mask, the smoke would get her sooner than later. She looked at the elevator shaft and the bad feeling flared up once more. Yet she knew she had no choice. Luck was a tricky thing.  It would ultimately betray you. Melody thought about that as she ran and leapt into the shaft and grabbed the cables.

   She shimmied down to the next floor and hopped down on the top of the rickety elevator next to Nail and Ody. The elevator swayed and squealed under their weight. The door was open just a few inches on this level. They could see the slight flicker of fire through the gap. Nail looked at them and nodded. Melody covered above them while Ody covered the door as Nail jammed in his crowbar and started prying it open. Ody squirmed and jerked, his eyes wide. He was primed to lose his shit at any second. The elevator under them began to screech loudly and suddenly dropped several feet. With a loud grunt Nail heaved and forced the door open. Pale smoke oozed in from the top and drifted upward. As soon as the door was open Ody frantically pushed past Nail and squeezed his narrow ass through. Nail glared after him before looking at Melody. He nodded at the opening. Melody squeezed through and scoped the area with her rifle as Nail started pulling through his bigger frame. Ody was nowhere to be seen.

   She remembered this floor of the building when they were scrounging earlier the other day. It was one of those places that had nothing to offer. It had been gutted long ago. Other than some piles of half melted debris, the room was empty but for the huge systematically placed structural pillars that were lined in rows. Along the circumference of the large open space where the frames of blown out windows, bringing in the dark crimson morning light. Everything was pitch black against the crimson. Milady looked to where the stair well was and saw the fire. She narrowed her eyes suspiciously. The fire was coming from three large metal barrels. Stenciled on them it said, “Arma Corp Industrial Waste, Warning- Flammable”. She knew there were hundreds of such barrels dumped a few stories below them, but none on this level. They had to of been brought up here- and very recently. The fire inside the barrels was weak, yet produced massive amounts of the toxic smoke which was billowing up the stairwell.

   She looked to her left and saw a tall stack of the same barrels next to the elevator door.  They were haphazardly placed on top of each other and seemed ready to fall. She then saw the chain wrapped around the bottom most barrel. The chain stretched away along the scorched floor and disappeared behind one of the closest pillars. She saw the end move slightly. Her eyes opened wide. She looked back at Nail and saw he was barely halfway through the elevator door, his huskier build holding him up.

   “Nail,” she screamed, “It’s a bushwack!”

   The chain wiped tight and pulled out the bottom barrel, sending the whole stack crashing down. Nail howled as he pulled free and rolled. The barrels of toxic crap smashed down in front of the elevator door and burst open, splattering everything around with black goo. Nail dodged them by a cunt hair. He stood up, wiping of gob of the stinging liquid from his forehead. He pulled off his bandana, looked around him, his eyes murderous. Ruin Leeches don't go face first into a trap as hard as they just did.

   They scanned the room with their guns at their shoulders. They could see nothing but the black pillars and piles of melted junk, all slightly misted by the smoke. “Where the fuck is Ody?” hissed Melody as she pulled off her gas mask.

   Nail shrugged his shoulder.

   “Ody… where the hell ya at?” Melody hissed.

   “….over here…” came Ody’s voice from deeper in the room. “I, I found a way out… It’s a… like a service elevator or something…” His voice was strained, but then again his voice was always weird when he’d been huffing.

   Nail and Melody headed toward his voice, their guns scanning around them. They found Ody near the center of the room. He stood a few feet in front of a pillar looking forward wide eyed and rigid. His gun was lowered toured the ground, his gas mask lying at his feet.

   “Where the hell is this way out?” Melody asked.

   Ody opened his mouth as if he were about to yell something. He managed to say, “HEE” before three taloned fingers burst out his opened mouth. His eyes rolled up and he gagged, then everything above his mandible was ripped off. Standing behind his spasming body they could see something, it's vague shape covered in shiny black liquid. Its yellow eyes looked at them as its lipless mouth slurped the gore inside Ody’s opened head.  

  For a half second Milady and Nail stood in shock before they both opened fire on the zombie behind their dead mate. Ody’s body jerked and thrashed as the rounds tore into him. The undead glared back angrily.

   “Stop springing leaks in my mula, assholes!” It hissed.

   It tossed the body aside and leapt away toured the nearest pillar. The undead creature was an emaciated thing, covered head to toe in shiny black goo. It moving in the graceless jerking agility of the undead. It resembled a broken machine as it moved, with no smoothness to it- just jerking ugly movements.

   “Your boy totally bitched out on ya.” hissed an undead voice somewhere behind them. This one was a different zom then the one that had killed Ody. “We told ‘em to call you two over here and we wouldn't bite him. I thought you clean meats were supposed to be loyal?”

   Another zombie's voice, this one belonging to the one who killed Ody, spoke up from behind the pillar. “Not as loyal as me.  I kept my word, I didn't bite shit.”

   Melody and Nail went back to back. They both knew they were in deep, deep shit- the deepest either of them had ever been in. If they had stayed by the elevator door or even the stair well they could have maybe made a run for it and found a better place to make a stand.

Instead they were in the middle of a dark, smoky, opened room, with intercepting cover. The ghouls had some significant advantages here, just as they planned.

   The skinny zombie leapt away from cover and rolled behind a burnt pile of debris. Nail followed it with his rifle but did not fire. He knew what the zom was doing- trying to get him to fire at it and use up his ammo. He wouldn't fall for that noob trick. The other undead appeared. This one was a paunchy mess with skinny legs and a missing arm, covered with black trash bags. It moved in an even more clumsy way. However, it was still fast. It leapt from cover and ducked behind a pillar in the blink of an eye. Though crude, the two ghouls’ makeshift camouflage was effective. They disappeared into the charred room like shadows.

   A chain suddenly whipped out and cracked Nail across the ribs. He grunted in pain and shot off a few rounds in the dark. They could hear the undead whispering to one another in the darkness, as their voices echoing in the opened room making them hard to pinpoint. A half melted computer monitor came hurtling through the air. Melody barely ducked out of the way, sliding to an off-balance squat. The monitor smashed loudly against the ground and slid away.

   Melody stood back up, frantically looking around her. The trash bag covered zom was leaping right at her, less than 10 feet away. She brought her rifle up and fired at it point blank. The zom throw its head to the side just before it would have taken a round between the eyes. The bullet blew out a fist sized chunk of its cheek and jaw and its ear went tumbling away. It wasn't a kill shot. That luck Melody had lived on so long had failed her.

   The zom crashed into her like the bag of rotten meat that it was. They crashed in a cloud of ash and slid across the ground. Melody managed to get her rifle in front of the zoms snapping jaws. It chomped down on the barrel and its teeth sank into the metal as if it were made of wax.  They thrashed on the floor, dead meat vs living girl.

   Nail spun around and tried to get a bead on the ghoul tangling with Melody. He looked over his shoulder and saw the skinny, oil covered zombie jump from cover and charge in. He smiled coldly. In truth he wasn't trying to help Melody; he was trying to get the other zom out of cover by showing it his back. Nail spun around, quick as a mongoose facing a striking cobra. The zom came to a sliding stop and ended with the gun barrel pressed right between its eyes. The zoms mouth dropped open and its yellow eyes opened wide as it saw its unlife flash before its eyes. Nail’s mouth turned to an evil smirk and his cold eyes narrowed. He pulled the trigger.

That’s when Ody’s lack of quality control came to bit him in the ass. There was a loud click from the gun and a smoke ring puffed out of the gun's barrel into the zoms face. A misfire. Now, Nail’s mouth dropped open and his eyes went wide. A huge grin opened up the zom’s face.

   Nail tried to crack it across its head with the butt of his gun but the zoms taloned hand wiped out and caught it, stopping it cold with a loud slap. It slashed its other clawed hand across Nail’s face. There was a sound like wet fabric ripping. Nail screamed in agony and staggered back. His gun clattered to the ground as his hands clutched his face. Three deep gashes had opened it up good. His ear dangled from his gashed head. His eye was gone. The zom looked at its hand and there, impaled on its index finger, was Nails eye ball.

   “Hurm”, the zombie said then popped the eye into its mouth.

   Nail glared back from his ruined face and yanked out his hatchet from his belt. He lunged in, howling in pained furry. The zom sidestepped the first blow, then ducked under the follow up. Nail lifted the hatchet over his head and brought it down with all his might. The zom watched the hatchet come and at the last second shifted to the side just enough that the hatchet sank deep into its shoulder. It thrashed its torso violently and ripped the hatchet out of Nail’s hand, the hatchet still buried in its shoulder. The ghoul smiled at the disarmed human and lifted its leg, driving its foot into the human's chest. Nail came crashing down to the ground on his back. He rolled onto his hands and knees, trying to crawl away. The zom leapt onto him and grappled him into a tight full nelson. Nail rolled onto his back with the zombie under him, trying to smash it loose, but the ghoul clung on like a tick. It grinned savagely the entire time. Brutal combat against man and ghoul was something a real ghoul loved. Even Shock Rocken paled in comparison. This was the true meaning of undead existence. Fighting for your meat. To feast on human flesh- to spread the Germ.

   Melody slammed the zom she was fighting in the face with a right hook. The zom let go of her rifle as it reeled, dazed from the blow. The barrel of her rifle was warped out of shape by its teeth. She whacked the zom in the mouth with the twisted gun and a thick zombie tooth busted loose, bouncing off her face. The zom angrily sank its teeth into the gun again and jerked its head back. The gun was ripped from her hands and sent tumbling away. The zom engulfed her face in its one remaining hand and slammed her head into the burnt floor. She was stunned by the blow, then gasped as it drove its knee into her chest, pinning her to the floor and driving the wind from her body. It grabbed her cheeks and squeezed. Melody could feel her face squishing into a pout, its talons slowly sinking into her skin. She groped blindly with her hand trying to grab the screwdriver she had stashed in her boot. She looked desperately to Nail. She could see him trying to shake off the zombie that had him grappled. The side of his face was a ripped opened  mess. He looked at her with his one good eye. His eye was wide with pain, wide with terror.

   The zom that was grappling him smashed him face first into the ground, then again, then a third time. Nail no longer struggled. The zom wrapped its hand around Nails face, pulling it back so he stared in front of him. Then, with a brutal jerk, the zombie wrenched Nails head to the side so it stared at Melody's once again. There was a loud snap.  

The zom pinning Melody lowered its face so it was inches from hers. She could smell its stink, rotten meat and burnt plastic, that toxic smell all undead shared.

   “Watch”, it hissed into her face and forced her head to the side to stare at Nail. His body lay limp, his neck broken. Yet he was still alive. His one eye blinked. He stared right back at her. There was a moment, then the skinny zom yanked Nail’s head to the other side. There was another snap, this one wetter and louder. The zom then began to yank his head back and forth faster and faster, each time with a horrible cracking sound. When it finally stopped, Nail’s head dangled loosely from his neck. The zom was in a killing frenzy, its eyes bugging from its head, its mouth opened grotesquely wide, its tongue thrashing around like a snake having a seizure.  It bent down and hugged Nail’s limp head. It put its feet on his shoulders, took a hissing breath and pulled up with its arms and down with its legs.  There were popping sounds, then ripping sounds. Nail’s head slowly tore free from his body in a long stringy mess. Blood pooled around them.

   The zom stood up and lifted Nails severed head high into the air. “Look upon that which is holy!” it screamed shrilly. It then chomped into Nail’s bald head and began to eat his brains.

   Melody's face was forced back to look at the zom pinning her. “He can have his buff boy. I always liked me some soft little lady meat. I think I’ll suck out them eyeballs first. Them's my favorite part. Then I’ll lick out your brains though the holes.”

   It smiled and its tongue oozed out its mouth like a giant worm. It slid slowly across her cheek, making its sticky way to her wide eyes.


Mayor of Rot TownComment