As many religions over the ages from every corner of the planet had predicted from eon to eon, the world had ended.
Actually it ended last Month.
Not with the vast glamor of a planet-rending explosion from the hand (or hands if you were Hindu) of God, or even the feverish and confusing mish-mash of drama known as Revelations. No the world had gone quite simply to shit in the course of a couple of horror filled weeks.
If you are wondering if it was mad science run amok that did it, or an all encompassing pestilence that spread wiping out hundreds then thousands then millions come billions, you might be right. The strange thing is that death came for the planet Earth and no one really knew how or why or where it started. Death just came and got them...
...actually, ate would be a better choice of word.
The dead had come back in a dizzying flood that modern mankind couldn’t cope with. Was it a virus? No, the big brains from all around the world had ruled that out. Nothing in the basal ganglia or in the medulla oblongata had changed after death. The person got bit, the person got feverish, the person expired, then the person got up and attacked anything within eyeshot of it (If the person in question had no eyes, then earshot). Take that scenario and build upon it by about 6 billion... give or take a few thousand.
I can bore you with the details of how mankind valiantly fought back against the onslaught of destruction, that the best of mankind and the worst of mankind became apparent in the crisis. How the everyday people rose up against the military industrial complex to find a way to survive despite the army’s incompetence and bureaucracy . I can also bore you with the story of how the world’s leaders put aside their territorial disputes and theological differences and came together globally in their last desperate hours to fight a world-wide menace only to lose at the 11th hour, but I won’t. This is not that kind of story. No, this is the story after all of that fun.
North Hollywood California was a nice place that had it’s share of families, entertainment companies and porn actors. Now trash filled the streets adjacent to abandoned cars while buildings were burnt out from long dead fires. Unchecked fires had ultimately leveled most of adjacent Van Nuys. The only movement on the street was the quiet shuffling of the remaining animated dead. There were billions of them now. The pace of life had seriously lessened in the last month. The only conflict now was when one of the dead bumped into another, confusedly moaned and looked around with the thousand mile stare of an ossified drunk, and stumbled the other way. Needless to say things had simmered down in the last several months.
On what was once Magnolia street sat a place known as Coffee Plant and it used to be... you guessed it, a coffee house. In the outdoor patio there sits a table with a faded green umbrella. There’s a man sitting there. He’s drinking tea and has the manicured image of the CEO of a large company. His hair is black and carefully combed above his tall face. He wears a slim burgundy business suit who’s make and style is not really too apparent.. Sitting, he looks around with eyes that always seem to be thinking. Ancient eyes that seem like they could play six games of chess consecutively at the same time and win with ease. There is no look of emotion on this man’s face. His eyes shift from one of the walking dead to another without a trace of thought or compassion. The dead don’t seem to notice him, for if they did they would swarm him and pull out all of his wet pieces.
We’ll call him Mr. Red.
A newspaper blows by him and he reaches out without looking and snags the fluttering paper in mid-air. His movement is fast, reminiscent of a snake striking some small squeaking prey. The headline on the paper reads “THE DEAD WALK!”. A small greasy smile stretches over the man’s face ever so slightly.
“No doubt.” he thinks.
As the man sets to reading the paper he notices many misspellings and simple grammatical errors that make the man chuckle at the fact that at the time of publication the papers owners had probably run out of their A-list writers and had to settle for their B-listers.
“It is in this writers humbol opinion that these are indeed the end of times. Making me wonder what we have wrot as a planet of humans to gain the wrath of god.”
Make that C-list.
“You and me both writer man.” thought the man in red as he lowered the paper.
A figure was sitting directly in front of the man in red silent as the grave. This would have scared the ever loving shit out of anyone with less then an iron resolve. The man in red barely blinked.
The man opposite the man in red could only be described as a man in black. He had non-distinct features, making him in an odd way seem just like about...well... anyone. It was like when you see someone out of the corner of your eye. You can’t make out the details of the face but the individual is still there. Looking at him was pretty much the same effect, except that you’d be looking directly at him.
For the purposes of this story we’ll call him Mr. Black.
Mr. Black and Mr. Red sat and looked at each other for a second. The silence is ended by the ruffle of old paper as Mr. Red puts the paper down. If you were a purveyor of film you might think that this situation would lend itself perfectly to to either an art-house film about existential angst or an arthouse horror film about existential angst.
Both however would be considered wrong.
“Hello. How are things down in the Firm?” asks Mr.Black. “Did you get a run on the market when this madness went down?”
“I could ask the same of you my friend.” replied Mr. Red as he leaned forward and held his hands together as in prayer. If you knew this man this you’d find volumes of irony in his pose. “The answer is no. We were completely taken unaware.”
Mr. Black both quietly laughed and snickered slightly “I know you don’t like when that happens.” he said.
Mr. Red looked up quickly in realization. “Oh Hell, where are my manners? Did you want anything to drink? I can have something whipped up really quickly if you’d like? I make a mean...”
“That’s alright...” said Mr. Black cutting off Mr. Red. “I always bring my own.” Mr Black said as he presented a large black Thermos that strangely enough has THANATOS on the front instead of THERMOS.
“You never change.” The man in red says with the patronizing way an older brother would talk to a younger brother about his strange habits. “Always have to do it your way.”
And so they sat in uncomfortable silence nodding and waiting for the other to talk, starting a spirited conversation or argument. This went on for what seemed like forever (it may be argued that this stalemate did indeed go on forever). Until finally Mr. Red asks “Soooo... how are your brothers?”
“As you know we only get together for really special occasions. From what I hear Mr. W. is out of work and living in Miami with his girlfriend Artemis doing quite a bit of boar hunting. Mr. F. has got a new job, but I heard it’s really mundane. It seems the system he’s working with now is really automated and lacks any personal “panache”. Out of everyone I hear that Mr. P. is doing the best. He’s come out of this situation smelling like a rose, which is really strange for P. if you know what I mean...”
“Ha...quite.” responded Mr. Red drolly.
“So... ah... you don’t know what’s going on, do you?” asked Mr. Black, cutting to the quick of their meeting.
“Finally!” an exasperated Mr. Red breathed out. “We get to it! No, I have no clue as to how or why this happened. Everyone down at the Firm is in the dark as much as I am. We thought with the nature of this catastrophe that it would be something perhaps pertaining to you.”
Mr. Black was taken aback. “Pertaining to me? I’m very simple in my complexity. This situation is a little more complex then my office allows. The last time I’ve heard this mentioned, outside of the films and such of course, was in the bible, and that’s way out of my jurisdiction.”
Mr. Red gave the man in black a sly, sideways glance. “That’s also what we thought. What would you get out of this? No, the other option was Him. That’s why I asked you to ask him to come today to this meeting...Since he doesn't talk to me anymore after my ‘falling out’...”
“Yes I did... or more directly I tried. You probably don’t know this but getting a hold of him has been incredibly difficult through the ages. The line is always busy since everyone... and I do mean everyone, tries to get a hold of him. Sometimes I think he acts all ‘High and Mighty’ just to get away from the throngs of sycophants asking for stuff.”
This train of thought derailed as a Asian woman, dirty and wearing rags ran past the table, screaming maniacally being chased by shambling dead people. Both men looked on with a vague tint of surprise. “You don’t see THAT much anymore do you?” asked Mr. Red. “No you don’t...” said the man in black. His eyes narrowing in anticipation.
The woman continued her dash to freedom looking over her shoulder only to run into the not so friendly arms of a large rotting man dressed as a vagrant cop. They spilled in the street in a somewhat funny pratfall as the woman kicked with all of the desperation her destroyed psyche could muster. The dominoes of the dead fell upon them both as the woman’s scream turned higher in pitch until it finally cut off entirely. Her body burst apart like a wet bag filled with red wet rags.
“Excuse me...” said Mr Black as he wiped his mouth and starting to stand up. “By all means...” said the man in red gesturing to the gory feast that was happening about fifty yards away. Strangely enough, Mr. Red had just barely finished when he was interrupted...
“Sorry about that...” said Mr. Black sitting down after scant milliseconds of standing. “These days I have so much free time it’s nice to have a personal touch in certain affairs.”
Mr. Red continued. “So getting back to him, do you think he’ll show?”
At that point as if on cue, there was a loud cough down the street from someone dressed in old white clothes. They look like they were covered in fresh sick, since the man had just in fact been sick all over himself. He wore a tight white beard and swayed like a drunk sailor who had been on the mother of all binges (considering who this man was, it would be a binge of MONUMENTAL proportions). He yelled at a couple of pigeons and kicked one out of the way. The pigeon exploded. He slurped and laughed in a deep gravely voice that was in no way jolly. The meandering reanimated corpses stumbled past him as if he wasn’t there. He made his was to the table in a zig-zag path that took about twice as long as it would have taken him in a straight line. He pulled out a remaining chair, burped a thick foamy burp and practically fell into the chair. You guessed it... this is Mr. White.
“So...I... guess you did get my message?” Mr. Black said eyebrows up.
Mr. White leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands on his belly awash with sick. “Yer’ fuckin’ A right I did! You dipshits act like I run everything or some kinda boool shit...”
“Well, actually...” started Mr.Red in a quiet manner, not taking his eyes off of the fresh tea in front of himself.
“You shut thefugup! You whiny little faggot! Alwaysh with the WHINING, and the PLOTTING, and the COHORTSH.” said Mr. White emphasizing each observation point with a roll of a hand and thousand mile stare behind Mr. Red. “You... make me sick! You think you know me?” Mr. white continued. “You don’t know me... you don’t KNOW me...”
“...godammnit...” said Mr. Red so under his breath that it was barely audible. it sounded more like “guddummit”
“HEY! You watch that ‘Godammnit’ shit boy! Yer’ not old enough that I can’t whup the shit out of yer’ loushy hide again!” Mr. White leaned over with a plump fist squeezed, ready to crush the man across from him in the face.
“Excuse me...I don’t mean to interrupt but do you know what’s going on?” Mr. Black asked holding his head in frustration. His tone was similar to that of a parent who’s child was having a tantrum.
“Goddamn right I do!” Mr. White with a good deal of flying spittle. “I got sick of that whole... whaddya call it?” he was gesturing again with hands, this time more frantically.
“Uh...swearing?” Mr. Red asked like a kid ready to duck a blow from an abusive parent.
“Polyester? I always hated synthetics...” Mr. Black volunteered.
Mr. White snapped his fingers and smiled. “Free will... tha’s it!” He pointed a swaying finger at Mr. Red. “That goddamin free will... had to go...”
Mr. Red looked on incredulous. “You mean you cause all of this? This whole thing is little more then a joke to you? All of the time and effort... all of the tears and pain... and you just get sick of the way everything was going? After multiple millennia of building and building... you just... pissed it all away in a fit of blind anger!?!” the man in red’s face lost all composure and turned the color of a tomato. Mr. White didn’t answer... he was fast asleep with his head rolled back, snoring loudly.
“Wake up!” said Mr. Red kicking the table sharply.
Mr. White woke up with a start mid snore. “Jeesuz!” he called out in shock.
Mr. Black leaned over and touched Mr. White’s shoulder much like a therapist would to a patient. “Please... can you tell me what happened? I need to know or everything’s not... uh... going to work properly.”
Mr. White looked blearily at Mr. Black. “Ok, Lemme sober up...” Mr. White blinked and opened his eyes which seemed to have just learned to focus when they opened. “OK... sorry about that. What were we discussing?”
Mr. Red was rubbing his temples, his eyes shut in concentration. “We were asking you about all of this... the whole end of world by reanimated corpse thing.”
Mr. White smiled. “Yes, I indeed did this.”
“But there are protocols to this sort of thing!” Mr. Red pleaded. “We had it worked out on how it was all going to go down! The anti-you, Mr. Black here and his brothers, The leviathingy... it was all pre-ordained! We’ve all been waiting so long! I’ve been waiting so long!”
“I understand your concerns, but ultimately I decided it would be best.” Mr. White said unsympathetically.
“What gives you the right to...” Mr. Red stammered.
Mr. White looked at him with a look that if you were to have ever asked the dumbest question ever uttered in the billions and billions of years of the earth,you would have gotten this look as well.
Mr. Black shot the now quiet Mr. Red a look that silently read as “Shut up you...” and started. “I don’t mean to presume my role or anything, but this is the thing I was designed and built to deal with. What... what was your thinking behind this?”
“Simple.” said Mr. White directly. “Listen, remember how it was when we started all of this? How it was so new? I always hoped that this whole thing would have a good long shelf time. But from the off set I had the sneaking suspicion that it was all going to go bad. From the time with the snake and all of that.” He motioned to Mr. Red. “And it’s been down hill ever since. Look at the way they were before I changed it. They would bicker and hate and kill one another. They would kill one another in MY name, mind you! That’s the kind of thing that really...” Mr. White closed his eyes in thought... “-really...”
“-Rankles?” Mr. Red volunteered quietly,
Mr. White snapped his fingers and pointed at the man in red smiling. “That’s it! Rankles! That really rankles me! And always asking for the stupidest things! If you could hear what they always ask for you’d start drinking too! That’s why I was drinking so much. It was the only way to stop the little voices in my head. It just got to be a little too much for me. From people who want me to save their loved ones from illness to people who asked for inconsequential stuff. It always comes from a selfish place. Especially when they talk to me about helping other people in my name. It’s just to make themselves feel better. Selfish, selfish people...” Mr. White went silent as a dark mood fell on him.
“So what did you do?” Mr. Black asked.
“I figured out how to get rid of that whole tiresome ‘free will’ thing that’s always been the huge bug-a boo from the start. All I did was fix a couple of chromosomes in a test subject. Funny thing actually, the subject was a cleric for the Taliban. I placed one simple change in his chromosomes when he was in vitro, kind of like a metaphysical ticking time bomb. He grew up, and became a zealot and ultimately died and came back. He then spread this chromosome to others around him. The fact that it all started from a holy man was too great to pass up, and you noticed that they never mentioned where it came from. And thus the change started...”
“But what about Revelations? All of the world’s armies in one final titanic battle to the death? We had it all planned...” Mr. Red quietly moaned with a snivel.
“Sod all of that garbage.” Mr.White shot back stone cold emphasizing each word like a punch to the head. “Like that would work. Let’s give them a playbook for the ending of the world? That’s smart. Why don’t we just give them a big red button that says APOCALYPSE on it and see what they do with it. Make it really simple for them. No... they brought it down on themselves and I’m glad to be rid of them. They’ll go on of course, only a little...slower.”
Mr. Black looked on. “So that’s all it’s about really. No free will...” he smiled and nodded. “Very simple... very elegant... OK, I get it. Makes my job easier. I might just take a holiday or something.” he volunteered to everyone at the table with a smile.
“But... but... what will I do?” Mr. Red asked quietly.
“What you always do. Continue to have your cut-throat office politics. Have your petty squabbles and power plays. You have enough people in your Firm that you could do it til’...”
“-Doomsday?” said Mr. Red with the sideways grin of someone coming around to an idea, but really slowly.
Mr. White laughed heartily. “There you go! You get the idea. Now we can all go on and concentrate on the things we really like. It’s better for them really when you actually put some hard thinking into it. It’s more like ‘automatic pilot’. And just think about it, Our little family squabble is over. You can come over for dinner more often. I’m sure the kid would like to see you. He misses your talks in the desert.”
“ Yeah, me too... so, are you going to go back to drinking?” Asked Mr. Red. Who now was warming up more and more to the idea of a world without free will.
“No, it just turns out that that woman over there was the last one.”
“Really? That’s was a really odd coincidence that that would happen at the same exact spot where we had our little conversation?” Mr. Black said.
“Yeah, what are the odds of that?” Mr. Red replied mockingly with a roll of the eyes.
No other words were said between the three men. They quietly got up from the table and stood up. Smiles and nods were exchanged and they disappeared. There were no flashy displays of power or “Hollywoodesque” special effects... they just disappeared. The dead inhabitants who walked around the street took no notice at the three mens departure, and if they did they made no account of it. The new inheritors of the world just shuffled on... after long last there was perhaps now hope for the human race.
Copyright © D.W. Frydendall, All Rights reserved. 2009. Any and all copying or usage of material will result in your being beaten, whipped, and then beaten some more. Then it's plier time!