Coming home from very lonely places, all of us go a little mad; whether from great personal success, or just an all-night drive, we are the sole survivors of a world no one else has ever seen.
- John le Carre
- John le Carre
Read part 1 of Degeneration. Let's start from the beginning.
A blank window is open. Blinking cursor awaiting a command.
So, what next? I ask you before shoveling another mouthful of noodles down the hatch.
Going for a drive. Your words appear right beneath my query.
Sounds solid. I'll do the same. Talk to you later.
Now I'm not sure what's out there so I better be armed or something. I've seen enough movies to at least pack the necessities. Food. Water. Weapons.
By weapons I mean a samurai sword I bought at the mall, an old baseball bat and a folding knife. I really need to score some firearms.
Goals for the day:
1. Neighborhood head count.
2. Get groceries and firearms.
3. Get info.
4. Bury the dead.
I hop into my truck and head down the hill first. There's only about two houses down there so it shouldn't take me long. I've already buried some of my neighbors from up the hill and I'm prepared to do it again if I find more dead bodies along the way. You would think people would explore out on their own if other living creatures turned up dead but after reassessing it, maybe not. Fear keeps people holed up in their little corner, doing the same thing repeatedly with no varied results. The same can be said with comfort. People get comfortable with a job, a relationship, a state of mind, a neighborhood - even if they're not completely satisfied with it and will continue to subject themselves to the same old shit for fear and comfort. I'm not judging. I speak from experience. When I started to challenge things is when things got interesting for me. It didn't always have desirable results but at least I've taken control. I wish I would've discovered that sooner.
I'm making up rules in my head to keep me centered as I creep around someone else's property.
Go with what you know is the first one that pops in my head. And what I know is that this guy has two large dogs and that he lives alone. He drives a white pick-up outfitted for his plumbing business. He leaves and comes home the same time everyday except for the weekends where he spends his time cutting grass and grilling.
Proceed with caution and keep your guard up are the next two rules that I come up with. Trespassing can get you killed around here on a regular day. But this ain't your regular day and technically I'm not trespassing, I'm looking for fellow leftovers.
I knock on the door. "Hello, anybody home?" I repeat this for about 5 minutes which is plenty enough time for someone to respond. It's like going into a public restroom stall where the door lock is inconveniently broken and you cough and do a little clearing of the throat noise to indicate to someone that it's occupied.
With a tight grip on the bat I enter the house. From where I stand I can see a recliner facing away (in reclined position) and the top of someone's head. I walk around the chair, prepared to swing if provoked.
What's worse than finding a dead body? Finding a dead naked body whose last act was tending to his own plumbing. His right hand still on his lifeless naughty bits as the laptop in front of him played an electronic remix mashup meant to dance to. Songs for the dead. A quick glance at the screen. An adult playground site plays host to a VIP room 2.0. Private lapdances by a wide array of entertainers available to anyone willing to swipe their cards. Brilliant idea, eh? I came up with it. No, seriously. I did. Another quick glance at the screen. Two performers, one face down and the other halfway dangling off the stage. Stage lights still pulsating to the sound. Wonder if they all clocked out at the same time.
This guy is of no use to me but I continue to look around his home. First room to the right produces a stocked gunrack and miscellaneous supplies. I know nothing about guns so I choose the ones that look the coolest. I load up a duffel bag with surplus items. No barking from his dogs so I'm guessing they've expired too. I can spend all day in other people's houses if I don't control myself. If you wanna know about a person, a peek into their personal effects is quite revealing. What they keep: their furniture, the pictures on the wall or lack of, the kind of beer they drink, what's hidden in the third drawer behind their tubesocks, the clothes and shoes in their closet. It's all very fascinating, like an archaeological dig revealing a household item buried in the sand, preserved in time, with a story to tell. Possessions keep your secrets until someone comes along to decode it. I'll have to return later to collect the bodies (the dogs and the nude guy) for burial and rummage some more. On the way out I pull out a can of spray paint and draw a skull and a box underneath it to indicate death and supplies. Symbols that will aid me with my tasks.
The second house down the hill was fruitless. Nobody home and nothing of value to claim. I mark the exterior with a filled in circle which I've assigned as the symbol for an empty home.
I drive down about half a mile up the hill and to the left past the tire shop to get some supplies at the general store. This place has been owned by the same family for three generations. It's one of the few places in this town that survived the influx of the vending machine type shops that took over about 5 years ago. Almost everything that can be put in a box and can be distributed in that manner took over actual human operated businesses. It was this generation's version of the industrial age. The human factor in commerce was almost completely eliminated. Some businesses have downsized to 1-2 employees. Just enough to get the machine running. The rest of the cogs were dismissed. Money was saved, jobs were lost, and a rumor of an uprising buzzed around within certain communities. But it remained just that, a rumor. As far as I can tell.
I grab myself a couple of bags worth of food. I strategically choose things that will go bad if not consumed within a specific time period. Why? Because I'm uncertain about the availability of food anywhere else. Any canned and dry goods can be put aside for later use. I already have plans on installing shelving in my storage room out back. It'll be a repository for various supplies. But that's for tomorrow. Right now, I'm going home and organizing my acquisitions for the day. I'll do burials first thing tomorrow. As far as getting information. That will have to wait as well.
Two out of four crossed off the list isn't bad. I've got nothin' but time now.
I'm back. Got some guns and supplies. Taking the rest of the day off. You? I pop open the tab to a can of vegetable juice and guzzle half its content. I didn't expect an immediate answer. I tend to not expect a lot of things to go the way it should anymore. A new handwritten entry is added to my journal right before assembling my armory.
Outside, the sun blazed a blinding white stare against a red sky. Like a bloodshot eye glaring down at me. It keeps a close eye to those below who continue to scramble around trying to figure out what to do next. I can picture it laughing its ass of, a gut-busting kind of laugh with jaws wide open. Into its edges we trip and fall sliding down into nothingness.
1 - A lowering of effective power, vitality, or essential quality to an enfeebled and worsened kind or state
2 - intellectual, moral, or artistic decline
We live in the future.
Right now. You and I.
There's no flying cars anywhere. Just the same pieces of shit rides that have been around since I was just a stain on my daddy's pants. No cybernetic creatures or teleportation devices. Just fancy phones that do everything but answer the one question I have: What the fuck happened?
But I don't have to tell you that. You were there living it. Just like everyone else. Only everyone else clocked out, bolted outta here, later-gater, bounced, call it what you will but they've all gone. Expired.
And I'm typing to you on this apparatus which amazingly has more life than my dead girlfriend in the other room. Somehow I find humor in that. I read somewhere that there's five stages to grieving a loved one's death. Or was it three? No matter, I'm over it. It took me less than an hour to figure out that I've become an exclusive card holding member of the last humans on earth. The illustrious group of leftovers. You get over emotions lightning fast when reality forces you to have to bury your girl, your pets, your neighbors, your mailman, the man in the corner store and some other people I don't know just so I can keep from having to smell the rot.
This is the kind of shit that nobody ever prepares you for. Not your parents, not your teachers, not your local politicians, not even your favorite bartender. We are so ill-equipped to deal with the worst-case scenario but ask me to build you a social media friendly website for your aunt's cosmetic home business and get it ranked high enough to get first page listing in a matter of a week and I'd be able to do it - in exchange for a fee, of course. There is no instructional guide, handbook, in-case of emergency break this glass - I'm afraid we're on our own. So I'm making it up as I go.
Don't push the river, it flows by itself. Some wise, dead person once said.
You wanna know the first thing I did when I woke up next to a stiff, cold, slightly smelly empty shell of a body? This is how it went down. I called all the emergency numbers and got no response. No, I didn't do CPR. She was a flatline, you dig? So after that, there was not much I can do. We are creatures of habit after all. So I took a piss, brushed my teeth, took a shower, got some clean clothes out of the dryer, put 'em on, got the leash out to walk the dog, realized the dog checked out as well, poured milk into a saucer for my cat, and made me an egg sandwich. Then I checked the usual stomps online. No fresh content since midnight. That's when I went to the main hub and typed the message that you responded to.
This thing still on? Anybody out there?
Which reminds me, it's time to dig a hole.
This serialized fiction is FREE to read but is my creative property. Please do not distribute without my permission. If you enjoyed it and would like to mention it in your blog, podcast, etc. - you can link to this page. If you do so, please let me know so I know who you kind folks are. Another way to show your patronage is to go to my Smashword page and purchase something. Thanks again!