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Author Topic: The Degenerate  (Read 4757 times)
mako
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Posts: 62


Mako Mako Island! Loincloths and sole-skins nür!


« Reply #45 on: March 10, 2017, 04:06:07 PM »

If there were a part one to this book, this would be the final chapter...

C9 Deliverance

“Do you think they’ll be mad at us because of the blanket?”

The question roused Mabus from his reverie, his face grim with the dull pain of fatigue.  His eyes widened a bit and it took him a moment to form a thought.

“Doubt it.  I left him all the tobacco and half the sugar and coffee I had.  A bit of an Indian trade I admit, but it should keep their feathers down.”

Irena looked up to see his moustache twitch.  They were walking an old Interstate highway headed west, finding their way past abandoned vehicles.  He sniffed as if to center himself.

“They won’t follow us,” he continued.  Not far enough to find us anyways.”

Irena trotted along, weak at the knees in the enduring rhythm of unconscious pattern.  

“I’m tired,” she said.

Mabus swung his own legs along a number of more steps before stopping.  “Me too.”

Irena stopped too.  They both stood scarecrow still, as if wondering whether they could move far enough to rest.

“Irena, do you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

It was early morning; the sun began rising over the mountains to their right.

“It’s like, thumping.”

“Oh that.  Yes.”

Mabus looked towards the metropolis towers spread out before them.   They had reached hotels at the outlines of the city.  He gazed back at Irena.

“For how long?”

“I dunno.  A while I guess.”

Mabus blinked.  He turned his head again and cupped his hands, making deer ears.  “That could be them,” he said, his back straightening a little.

She turned her head as if listening for the first time.  “I suppose so.”

For the first time in several hours, Mabus seemed to see here, saw the color of her skin in the morning sunlight.  She was wrapped tightly in the olive drab wool blanket, which trailed behind her, painted nougat brown with mud at the bottom.  She shook weakly, she skin sucked of color.

“Want some sugar?” Mabus asked.

She nodded.  They sat on the hood of a car and Mabus pulled off his pack.  His relief was evident and Irena shook once as if to ward the night’s cold.
He pulled sugar and coffee beans for them to suck.

“That tastes good” Irena said.

“Used to make a bet with my scouts on overnight outings.  That I could cook them the best meal they’d ever tasted in their lives over a campfire in the woods.

Few of them ever believed me.  Then I’d take them out hiking hard all day, as far as most of them had ever walked in their lives at once before, maybe five miles on hard trail.  

“By then, it didn’t matter what I put in that cook pot; a few noodles with a bit of salt, a piece of wild fish with butter on it.  Then I’d make each of them confess it was the best thing they’d ever eaten before I’d let them have more.  Worked every time.  They’d call me Chef from then on.”  Mabus grinned at himself.

“This is the best meal I’ve ever had, Chef Mabus.”

“Haha!  Good girl!  Have some more!”  He watched her take it with delight.

“The beating changed,” Irena said after a moment.

“I can barely hear it.  What does it sound like?”

“Like…a different beat.  B-boom, b-boom, b-boom. ”  

They were quiet a several moments, listening.   Each barely moved a sore muscle.

“That’s promising.  Still a ways to go, but we made good time last night.  Think you can keep going?”

“I will try.”  But when Irena rose to walk, her legs buckled.  She fell and began to cough again.

Mabus was to her quickly.  He breathed deeply and relaxed, then puffed.  “I’ll carry you again.  We should keep on.  I need to keep on schedule to go back for James.”

Irena let him pick her up, wrapping her arms tiredly around his neck.  They continued on.

*****

James had descended from the theatre’s higher floors by means of a copper drain-pipe fitted to the wall.  On the last half floor the pipe had shifted enough to cause him lose his footing.  With one foot he propelled off the wall face, to turn himself around so that he could land facing forward.

This time his roll was graceful.  No sooner than he had begun to recover, did he suddenly hear something bearing upon him.  He turned in time to see something berserking down upon him.  It lunged at him like an airborne wrestler.

It happened too fast for even his nervous system to react.  He turned on one knee as if accepting an attacker from sieza.  The stick, which he had long-since learned to keep with him while rolling, was still in his hands.  In the practiced kata of shōmen'uchi, it was up in his hands, one palm up against its metal surface, and as soon steady as it descended again.  James yelled a fierce kiai, which seemed to come from his whole torso.  The stroke stopped an inch from the scrambling creature’s head.  James breathed in quick triumph.

The advantage was as soon lost as obtained however, for the creature, unabashed by the psychological attack immediately leapt for James again in a froth.  Now James, whose guard had been slipped, felt a reversal as the incensed male fell upon him.  In a cloud of ash he wrestled with the thing which would have been twice his size where it not half emaciated.  James felt his ribs as he gripped a chunk of its flesh to keep its head away from his own.  It stank.  It scraped the side of James’s face with its fingernails.

The thing was strong, wild and spasmodic.  It breathed through tightly clenched teeth, like an ape in a rage.  James’s practiced movements kept him in advantage of leverage, as he maneuvered from side to side.  Manipulating the creature’s spine through its arm, he pressed against its tricep with his own, stretching his arm away.  When it tried to bite his hand and arch its back against him, James was inspired to grab it by the hair.  When he had gained the advantage, he flipped the other wrestler over and scrambled for his rod.

His hands were too tense to wield it properly.  As the creature rounded upon him again, he bunted it and turned to smash the small end against its ribs, ending the scramble.  The creature curled into the pain as James ran.

It was not the only one out, however.  Others were forming in doorways as if curious of the raucous.  They had hardened, deadened eyes and decrepit postures.  James was suddenly aware of how many lived in the abandoned city.  Some watched on.  One ran at him as if in challenge.

James found his muscles too tense from the wrestling; his upper torso was seized into a hard knot of utter tension.  He slowed and took a breath, trying to force his life-locked fingers apart, and spread his stance.  Ready for flight, he managed to open his fist far enough to permit the bar to slide through his hand.  He waited in line with the creature’s attack and dropped to a knee for stability and to change his position and held it there.  It was timed so that it ran its face into the cold steel of a 90˚ angle iron.  The thing dropped bleeding from a wounded eye socket, wriggling in anger.  He took a breath and moved in a circle from his knee, checking his surroundings.

Aikido taught me to pull my punch, he thought to himself.  He was breathing hard, in long deep breaths for control.

He took off running again, this time with lighter steps.  More post human monsters poured from the buildings around him.  James wondered at them.  It looked as if a hive of insects had been kicked and the ants were pouring out for war.

They trained me to pull my punch, his mind said again, thinking of the wrestler.  Aikido almost got me killed.  He almost touched his bleeding cheek and then thought better of it.

I could worry about the blood, but that’s useless now.  He was running down the street.  When one of them leapt for his legs he merely jumped it and kept running.  Another he dodged and stopped only to strike once hard in the shin with his improvised bludgeon.

How dangerous, to teach someone not to hit.  Its negligent homicide!  It almost killed me with only its instincts.  My training couldn’t match mere instincts.  After all my training!  “Damn!” he yelled aloud.  He was angry and gritting his teeth, his eyes burning hard in his face.  

The crowd of creatures surrounding him were pooling up behind him, yelling and screaming, likely to be the last angry riot recorded on Coeur D’Alene’s streets.  He turned a corner to lose them around a building, and turned again into the building and out a window on the other side, rolling violently against the pavement before he turned down another alley.

He began to run, tears streaking down his face, yelling “damn!” into the wind as he went.  A cool morning breeze disturbed old tar papers wedged against a car in the pavement.  James barreled through a couple female citizens seeking a place in the mayhem, letting his angle iron meet their hard skulls as he passed.

He ran, hid, maneuvered and dodged until the sound of chaos was behind him, down new streets, over fences and across open spaces.  Everything blocking him was met with anger, and he moved as a mountain without thought or conscience.

In a long half hour, he found himself bent over in exhaustion, gasping for breath and relief.  His face was covered in dusted tears.  When he found the strength to breath, he began to sob.  The long withheld pain of many months in darkness.  The thoughts of his mother and father lost states away in a pandemic.  His withholding of himself around Mabus and Irena.  The world, the hope of the world and all the people lost and tormented within it.  

It hit him with the empty, impersonal force of an empty universe staring at back at the human imagination.  It struck him with the force of a religious experience.  It pinned him to the earth with sobs, smashing his tiny ego into the dust of mortality.  His lips felt clods of dirt as his mouthed gapped against the ground in violent tremors.  He gripped the earth and cried aloud, towards and against the earth, with all his might.  

An hour passed slowly under his lament.  Thoughts flashed and passed and went, as if reordering themselves to the new reality.  Raw, unaltered feeling coursed through his vessels, as if having cleansed them.  He felt empty, open and renewed.  He found his head rested against a small red car, exposed in summer heat.  He stared into the sky, watching the clouds pass in impassive majesty.

He sat there, dumbfounded, as if trying to remember something.  A thought, like a butterfly, was flittering somewhere in his subconscious, flirting for consideration.  A thought, he remembered that seemed somehow important.  Something which seemed to apply to him, to the here and now.  To something he should do, as if soon.  Perhaps, right away.

He gazed into emptiness as if to catch the butterfly.  He said aloud, in a mumble from his listless lips: “what should I be remembering?”

Then, there was a sound.  The sound of a roaring which seemed out of place with the rest of the peaceful world around him of tree leaves flittering in the breeze and the sun casting light on the segments of a searching fly.  A beetle was pulling itself along the ground in short stops.

Then he heard a voice.  His consciousness seemed to slam back into him from somewhere else and the sound of an engine filled it as it approached him.  He suddenly rose to his feet, not as fast as he might have expected to, given his fatigue.

A large hum-v was approaching down the stretch of highway towards him.  The flare!, he remembered.  It moved towards him as oddly, he thought, like the black metal box from the movie: 2010 Space Odyssey.

Now that’s an odd thing to think of at a time like this, he thought.

*****
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mako
**
Posts: 62


Mako Mako Island! Loincloths and sole-skins nür!


« Reply #46 on: March 10, 2017, 04:06:57 PM »

Mabus has carefully chosen his route, along the I-90 overpass which he thought could give them a vantage of the city without exposing them to the many buildings full of holes for banshees to be in.  It was certain to both of them by now that the beating was music being played from the city’s center.  Rock and roll no less.  One song, he had proposed, could have been an Elton John from the bass patterns.  But the music had stopped a half hour ago and the streets had remained quiet since.

Spokane’s city towers loomed around with a powerful presence.  The time walking into the forsaken city had set the two companions into a quiet reverie, a not unhappy melancholy of sorts.  The lack of movement in the city was the most unsettling aspect, but was not enough to cloud their hopes of meeting people in an organized community.  Mabus suppressed these hopes as best he could, but his fatigue kept them entirely within.

Irena’s gentle weight was now as if part of his own; his steps carried him forward in an entrained pattern.  She nearly slept as she held him now.  The feeling of her warm body was his comfort and sole concern.  It soothed him like petting a cat.

“Mabus” she said sleepily, and suddenly.

“Yes.”

“There’s something down there.  Some people.”

“Where?”

She pointed.  “Down there.  They’re sneaking but they’re different.”

“Good eyes.  You’re a good spotter.”

“Thank you.”  Her voice was hoarse.

“I see them.  It looks like a search team, or a military group.  They’re dressed well.”

Mabus knelt to observe the small team from over the cement guard rail.

The men below them wore a variety of clothes, configured like winter apparel.  Their wrists, necks, heads and ankles were all cleanly covered by various sorts of gear—duct tape in a few cases as if to seal the joints in the clothing. They were also padded in various ways as if to prevent—

“They’re armored against bites.  These guys look like they know what they’re doing.”

The men were moving in a rehearsed pattern.  A man from the back ran quietly up to the group, crouching behind a car.  Another moved forward a little slower, watching carefully between parked cars as he went.  The team formed a small circle where they met, three or four them together.

“I wonder if it’s them.”

“Could very well be.”  Mabus thought about their situation at the pace of his bouncing moustache.  “I’m not sure what to do.  I don’t want to lose an opportunity if it is them, but it’s hard to tell.”  He looked to Irena.

She shrugged.  “I suppose there’s only one way to know.”

Mabus laughed from his nose, his face intent.  “True enough.  I guess if they attack—run?”

Irena nodded as if to disagree.  She looked at them thoughtfully, but unafraid.  “I don’t think so,” was all she said.

Mabus remembered James jumping quickly for the log hiding the hatch to the underground lair that had housed them safely for months as the world deteriorated about them.  He remembered, as if from a feeling in his gut, about the strange events that had brought these two children to him at a most impossible time.  He thought of Teddy, and the radio, the plane that had been grounded at just such a time—he his head.

“Alright.  Let’s signal these guys.”  He let Irena down.  Her legs were recovered enough that she stood on her own.  He took her hand and stood up, one palm outstretched as if to signal passivity.

One man in the entourage saw them immediately and signaled the others to stop.  Each of them moved to cover as efficiently as mice caught under midnight kitchen lights turned on suddenly.  Mabus raised them both up slowly, letting themselves be seen.

It was all quiet for a moment.  Mabus whistled.

He heard and saw movement.  He could see, through the glass of a car beneath them, a pair of goggle covered eyes looking back at him.  He cleared his throat and summoned a greeting.

“Hello?”

“Hello,” was the swift response.

“Friendly?”

“Friendly.  Yourselves?”

“Alone and lost,” Mabus replied.

There was more shuffling below, and Mabus caught movements of a couple men signaling to each other.  Part of the group was out of his vantage, and he waited broadside in the sunlight with Irena holding his hand.

“We’re coming up.  Lower your arms and wait there please.”

“Alright,” Mabus replied, with a smiling welling up.  He looked at Irena expectantly.  She smiled back as if to show she had been right.

It was a short moment before Mabus and Irena saw the padded men approach with different weapons in their hands—a couple of good baseball bats and one with a couple of police cudgels.  They all had knives or a machete strapped tightly to their bodies in ways that looked not to make a lot of noise.

They stopped a short distance from Mabus and Irena with their weapons relaxed and looked at them for a couple of moments.

“I have to ask you,” the oldest man of about 35 years began to ask. “If you have been bitten or if there was a possibility you have been bitten.”

“No possibility,” Mabus replied.

The men seemed to relax further.

“Where are you coming from?” the man asked.

“Coeur D’Alene,” Mabus replied, “up in the mountains.”

The man nodded and looked at the other two men looking calm and curious around him.

“Can we offer you shelter and lodging with our people?  We have a community living safely in the center of downtown Spokane.  Safety, food, water, medical supplies—we have it all.  We own the Spokane Convention Center and Riverfront Park.”

A smile broader than Mabus had ever remembered spread across Mabus’s face.  Irena’s was bright and tired.

“We’d love that.”

“You look like you’ve earned it!  Man, we’ll take you there right away.”  The man thought to a minute and turned to the others behind him.  “We’ll take them back and double back for a second trip today,” he said to them.  The other two nodded, smiling.

He signaled beyond Mabus and Irena.  They turned to watch a fourth and fatter figure waddle from behind a car, settling a pistol back into his waist belt holster as he came forward like the donut sheriff.  Mabus was surprised.

“I’m Carson, by the way.  This is Ben and that’s Brett.  Guy behind you’s Randy.  You two look like you’ve had some rough adventures.”

“We’re lucky to be alive.  Mabus,” he nodded downwards, “this is Irena.  We’re glad to have found you.”

“Likewise.  I think you’ll be happy in the city.”

“Thank you.  Oh, but there’s one more of us but he isn’t with us.  We were split up at Coeur D’Alene yesterday and planned to meet up but we had some things change.  I’ll need to go back for him promptly.”

“Let’s get you back someplace safe and we’ll see what we can do for you.  The city center isn’t far.  Boy, you guys look like you could use a solid meal or three.”

Mabus nodded, “do you have meat?”

The man laughed.  “We have everything.  C’mon, follow us.”

Mabus and Irena followed the four men carefully down the streets, bearing northwest, learning quickly their patterns of movement and always staying at the center.  The men stopped several blocks into their weaving street pattern to retrieve several bags stashed inside the back of a truck that looked as if it’s a tire had blown some time ago.

Two of them loaded the packs onto their backs and they continued on their way.  It was only thirty minutes now, and Irena carried herself without much issue.  The men seemed alarmed at first by her occasional coughs and Carson signaled her to muffle them in her sleeve.  They moved on without further occasion.
It was a little under an hour before they neared the downtown convention center.  They moved into an alley covered up with boards, so that only a small passageway opened through it when one had been moved.  They carefully moved in single file through the corridor created there by a dumpster, following it to the end where a metal plate had to be moved out of position.  

There was a sewer pipe here which Ben removed, ushering them down the ladder below.  Each moved silently in turn, using hand signals.  They followed the long passage some ways, taking a few turns and entering a locked door which connected to a cleaner stretch of passageway which looked as if it provided a corridor for campus ventilation and utilities.

The men were less cautious here, and began to talk to each other.  Carson explained that they had the entire underground network mapped out form the campus and had secured each point of entrance.  The teams, he called them, moved out each morning from the central location and went out in various ways to procure things for the people inside, scout and seek refugees like themselves.  There were almost a thousand people living there now, the survivors.
“When we get there they’re going to want to isolate you two for a while and watch you.  It’s protocol that anyone even remotely concerned with infection goes into decontam.  It’s not a big deal.  We’ll see if we can’t send some men to go find your third member.”

They ascended another ladder and found themselves in a wide, barricaded cement passageway with a set of large metal doors entering a parking lot below what looked like a museum.  Another man, atop the wall there signaled them to stop, holding a rifle in his hands.  

 “It’s Carson.  We found these two at I-90 this morning.  They came from Coeur D’Alene last night.  We came to drop them off.  We’ll head back for another run.”

“Are they clean?”

“See for yourself.  Good grief Dan.  Let the poor folks through.  They look like they haven’t eaten in a week.”

Dan nodded lazily.  Then he hopped down to open the large garage door for them.  The metal whined as it opened enough for them to get inside.

Irena and Mabus were moved along until they were inside the building at the entrance to a theater.  They were locked inside a small receptionist office while the men unloaded their bags and discussed their plans for the afternoon with Dan.

“Get ahold of the cooks and make sure they get fed right away.  They think a third member is still out there and they want to go back for him.  Ask Dale or Sherron if we can’t send out a team or look for him or what.”

Dan nodded mutely and stood by as the team arranged themselves and headed out again.  He followed them out and returned at a leisurely pace.  He put his head to the ticket window: “I’m going to go find someone.  I’ll be back.”

They waited a number of minutes, relaxing in the padded seats of the ticket booth.  Mabus let his head slump a little and had begun to snore lightly when Dan arrived with an older woman at his side.  He pointed to them and returned to his post.

A skinny, aged woman with her reddish hair combed to the sides greeted them through the office window.  “I’m very sorry about this.  We have to lock up everyone that comes here for a while to make sure it’s safe for everyone.  We had an incident at first with someone we thought was clean.  I’m sure you understand.”

“I do,” Mabus said.

She smiled.  We’ll get you out of here soon.  Someone will be bringing you a nice hot plate of food here soon and something to drink.  Is there anything you’d like in particular?

“Bacon.  And cheese,” Irena said, looking at Mabus hopefully.

“I think a nice hot cup of coffee would do me well.  I could eat anything right now.”

“I think we can do that.  We’re glad you made it here safely.  Now did you say there was another member of your party you were waiting for?”

Mabus explained about James and the circumstances which had split them apart, and where he was likely to be now.  The woman nodded as he spoke.

“If you’ll give me a little bit, I’d like to see what we can do about that for you.  We don’t usually send teams out that far but there’s a chance we could arrange it.  I don’t imagine you’re in much shape to headed back out so soon.”

Mabus slumped in his chair as if in relief.

“Give me a little bit.  I’ll be back soon to let you know what I find out.  And I’ll send your requests to the chefs.  I’m sure coffee will be no problem, probably cheese too.  We’ll see about bacon.”  

The woman smiled with a playful wink, and Mabus sat back further in his seat with his fingers crossed as if he had just been kissed.  Irena tugged on his arm as she left in excitement, grinning happily.

Both she and Mabus were asleep by the time food arrived.  They sat up long enough to enjoy every bite, sip and lick of the foods they had not had in months—corned beef, fresh eggs, canned green beans, a small salad, milk and a thermos full of coffee.  There was one half peice of bacon and a large piece of cheese on each of their plates.  They relished and laughed in fatigue as they ate.

It was another hour or so, and another hard-earned nap, before the strawberry haired woman returned with a satisfied look on her face.  She woke them by knocking on the glass.

“Alright.  I have some news for you.  I wasn’t aware, but a small team from our community headed west last night headed in the direction you came from.  They were scouting farther south and arrived in Coeur D’Alene early this morning.”

She passed for a moment with a smile.  “I had them radioed and—they found your friend.  James I believe?”

Mabus wiped a sleepy eye from his face, rising in astonishment.  “Yes, that’s him!”

“The only bad news for you is that they were not planning on coming back for a while.  They plan to be out several weeks in fact, heading east over the mountain pass to look for survivors before the winter snows start.  They may go as far as Missoula.  He decided to go with them.”

“That’s wonderful news!” Mabus exclaimed.  Irena was bright.

“I was so excited I came to tell you right away.  You can both rest now.  I brought you sleeping bags to use, but they’ve asked me to keep you contained overnight just to make sure, for the sake of everyone.  This is a very safe place and you’ll be welcome here.  We’ll make sure you get food and drink and anything you need until then.”

“Thank you so much,” Mabus replied.

“It’s our pleasure.  We’re always happy to have new people.  Now is there anything else I can do for you right now?”

“No.  Don’t think so.  I think we might just fall asleep until you let us out.”

“I suspect so.  I was on my own for a while at first too.  I was the same way.”

“Thank you so much.  We’ll be ok here.”

The woman unlocked the door to drop the sleeping bag, a chamber pot, some snacks and water and a few other provisions on the floor, and then locked the door again.

“Wait until you get a hot shower” she said, with a teasing look in her eye.   Mabus smiled charmingly at her.  They held eye contact for a moment with warm smiles in their eyes and she turned to leave.

“Welcome to the city.”

“Welcome indeed” Mabus said to himself, setting his fingers together once more and leaning back in that warm, padded seat to rest.
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Dodys
****
Posts: 356


« Reply #47 on: March 10, 2017, 10:40:35 PM »

  Awesome! A very good read,Indeed!
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