Friday, March 19, 2010

A Declaration of Sorts

So it seems like every other hip gun blogger has their own special names for the little D and R letter before their public official's names. To put it bluntly, the person responsible for this blog, cannot allow the existence of a "sarcasm gap" in the savage, snark-eat-snark environment of the blog world. I've decided on one. "Heffalumps and woozles."

If you're having trouble wrapping your brain around it, here's my special version of the lyrics.

A heffalump or woozle is very confuzzle;
a heffalump or woozle's very sly (sly sly sly)
They come in ones and twozzles, but if they so choozles
before your eyes you see them multiply (ply ply ply)

They're extra ordinary, so better bewarey
because they come in every shape and size (size size size)
If money's what you covet, you'll find that they love it
because they guzzle up the things you prize.

Their black, their brown,
their up, their down
Their in, their out
their all about.
Their far, their near
their gone, their here
their quick and slick and insincere.
So yeah. There's more. VIDEO But it all fits-more freakily than I care to admit, except for all that pointing out I just did. So there you have it ladies and gentleman; let it never be said that Chris By-The-Throat wants for snark, in his strange and terrible corner of the internet. I declare it so, and screw anyone else that might have thought of it first. You all stole it from me. Y'know, from the future.

Last Call, Last Stand - Part 10

Chapter 4 - 187 All Over Again

It is a strange sensation to be in shock over how in shock you are. Sitting in the flickering candlelight-Phebe had advised me to turn off all the lights to avoid attracting attention-and watching her sleep in my bed, the bed where earlier I had fucked Crystal senseless and even earlier had been enjoying savage break up sex with the ex, I almost had a panic attack at the weirdness of it all. To keep from chewing my hands off like a coyote in a trap, I smoked a joint and focused on listening to her breathe. Jon Mackey, consumate sexual predator, watching a woman sleep in his bed. My dad would probably roll his eyes and come up with about a dozen perjorative homosexual themed remarks here. It was a strange thing to worry about, but it help keep my mind off the real problem-the howling mobs that were, according to all reports, only growing larger as the food shortage got worse.

Nobody really thinks how much effort it takes to keep 784,117 stupid motherfuckers (and one Jon Mackey) fed in a large city. I had never thought about it, even while watching Chicago blaze merrily on cable news. But Phebe, who worked at the local Costco, had described the typical supermarket's "Just in time" delivery status, and as we added up the math by candlelight with our hands touching occasionally over her clipboard, I couldn't suppress a grinding, cold feeling in my adderol riled stomach. It takes a whole fleet of trucks 24/7 just to keep the Costo stocked with fresh goodies and sundry bullshit. Multiply that by the number of stores in the city, subtract the space taken up by eldritch video game peripherals, sickeningly cute kitten posters, and whiz-bang dildo organizers. Divide by total population times 3 meals a day. Carry the Oh Shit, and the solution comes out so deep in the red if you fart you part the devil's hair. And that was assuming trucks were coming in-according to all the news outlets, every interstate, every state highway, every bumblefuck county road and bridge for a hundred miles were shut down.

I read about some guy in college that said that any society is three meals away from anarchy. I had believed it, in the world weary cynic college sort of way. Now that I had lived it, I saw it for the divine truth it was. I was trapped in a city of 784,117 very hungery motherfuckers, sitting on top of a pile of food listening to a girl I barely knew snore with her tear streaked face in my ex's favorite pillow. Fuck.

The talking heads on TV were worse than worthless; at about 5 am I had abandoned even the pretense of watching it. One channel says there is a shelter on Beechwood avenue. Adjacent channel says no, that shelter has been overrun, the military is holding checkpoints for evacuation on the outer loop. Next channel up is claiming that the city is quarantined and all roads have been shut down. Earlier in the night, while we were shuffling supplies from her place to mine, we had seen a military helicopter flying overhead, but it was flying into the city, and it was armed. All in all I found it better to sit in the dark smoking a joint; I wasn't getting any useful information, and Phebe's breathing was better for my nerves.

Phebe...was going to be a trial, I could tell. Some new, weird part of my brain was constructing this whole thing as a romantic honeymoon punctuated with extreme violence, some white-hat-white-horse-white-knight bullshit. It has to be something about the male brain; I was conciously aware that it was she who saved my ass, not the other way around, but I still constructed myself as the Conan the Barbarian hero with a scantily clad, very sexy Red Sonja behind him clinging to his leg; somehow it just lingered, despite the nagging persistance of actual fact nibbling away at it. I couldn't reconcile this new, purist perspective with the savage, raging hard on I had while watching her stir dreamily in the dark with her ass in the air. It was like both sides of my nature, the clean cut hero and the bitch-smacking scum, were grappling in my roiling bowels. My bent brain provided the dialogue, and the drugs provided the energy. The latest self absorbed monologue had gone something like this.

Good Jon Mackey: This is the first time in your fucking worthless life you have a chance to help someone who deserves it. Don't fuck it up.
Evil Jon Mackey: Don't listen to that bitch ass Jonny-come-lately; it's just a momentary illusion. Your own dick is telling you what a bullshit lie he's peddling; you know that despite all that John Wayne bullshit that you have to devour her.
Good Jon Mackey: Your hardon is irrelevant; you owe this girl your life and its likely that you won't make it through without her.
Evil Jon Mackey: Whatever faggot.

Sometimes I am given real cause to worry about the state of my mind.

I puffed down my roach, set it aside in the ashtray. The stale smoke lingered heavy and thick in the dark room. I lit up a cigarette as well-my last, and believe me when I say that I was more concerned with that than the food by any man's reckoning. I smoked it down to the filter and still didn't feel any better. So I just sat there in the dark until dawn, with my cigarette butt and my gun and my hardon and my internal conflict, watching my only chance at salvation drool on my bedsheets.

I didn't mind-god knows what fluids were already on there anyway.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bonus Post: Chris By-The-Throat's Succinct Review of The Hobbit

Guy at work: Yeah, I never actually read The Hobbit. Is it any good?

CBTT: It's not bad. A classic of the genre certainly. Could have used more lesbians.

In Lieu of Actual Content ...

...I thought I'd explain the bits of e.e. cummings italicized text I always have laying about-in my signature, on my books and notebooks, and in my head. All of them are bits of song and poetry, particularly lyric bits that stick in my head for their relevance or their technical execution. I just thought that it might help explain the way my diseased mind works; I collect bits of interesting phrase like a lazy pothead magpie.

We'll start with the new one, since it is responsible for this blog entry and thus for whatever harm it is going to do in your brain. Sick fuck. I can see in there.

he's the one who likes all our pretty songs / and he likes to sing along / and he likes to shoot his gun
This one is Nirvana of course, and my favorite Nirvana song-In Bloom. I just like the way it rolls together in Kurt Cobain's rusty ass low whine.

and simply what dis means is / he didn't know that every dawg had his day / until he seen his
Ah, the song from "Office Space"-The Ghetto Boyz in "Still" a classic by any man's measure. I like the flow here too-one thing you will find about me is that I am obsessed with flow-but really I think this is a good summation of the human condition.

Speaking of the Human condition, or more accurately not speaking of it at all, this one's a triple from Clutch, who is my lyrical genius of choice. I like a lot of other bands, but Clutch consistently has the most sophisticated, complex offerings in both the lyrical and musical department. Point is: Buy Clutch records. Here we go.

The ribs of Adam, the eyes of Eve / the sons of Caine recieve / no reprieve ("Ghost")

rhibonucleic acid freak out - the power of prayer / long halls of science and all the lunatics committed there ("10001110101")

coulda been a swan on a glassy lake / coulda been a gull in a clipper's wake / coulda been a ladybug on a wind chime / but she was born a dragonfly ("Dragonfly")
All of these songs resonate with me for various reasons but mostly for their technical beauty and complexity. The last one, however, often makes me think of my daughter. And "Ghost is kind of a portal to my poorest years financially, being about the subject of dying in debt, one that I will probably be familiar with.

my big top tricks will always make you happy / but we all know the hat is wearing me / chicanery will always make you happy / but we all know the hat is wearing me
("Dope Hat")

This one's Marilyn Manson. You don't want to know anything else about this one. Really.

weave a circle round him thrice / and close your eyes with holy dread / for he on honey dew hath fed / and drunk the milk of paradise
"Kublai Kahn"

By one Samuel Taylor Coelridge, my man. A lot of his work, especially this poem and most especially these lines, speak to me as a bohemian psychadelic fuckup, most specifically my messianic delusions. You probably don't want to hear about those either; it will only make you uncomfortable that I have guns. P.S. I once wrote a sequel to this poem. Yes a sequel.
And how could I let anything here go without Monster Magnet. These are a few of my favorites. The first one I'm getting on my tombstone. Seriously. Assuming anyone I know can afford a tombstone for me.

shut me off cuz i go crazy / with this planet in my hands
("Dopes to Infinity")

i have seen beyond my gaze / and i have gazed beyond today / and their lust shall build a world / is what the prophets have to say
("All Friends and Kingdom Come")

tuesday's gone and you been huffin' on paint / and your punk rock band still sucks anyway / i was talkin' to jesus through a hole in the floor / he said our time is up, we can't stay any more no more
("See You In Hell")

and i was thinkin' how the world should've cried / on the day jack kirby died
Lastly here's one from a band that I hated for a long time but have finally come to accept as okay, mostly for this song. It is almost cliche, but this is another one of those human condition lyrics, something that encapsulates the essential joy and tragedy of human existence.

some will win, and some will lose / some are born to sing the blues / the movie never ends / it goes on and on and on....
("Don't Stop Believin'")

Well I hope I have provided some insight into my brain this way. As always, it is infested with a thousand pop culture cancers, like every other fucked up kid in our sad little generation. But hey-at least we had some laughs. Or something.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Last Call, Last Stand - Part 9

With my back pressed against the wall, I was cursing the stereotypes that I usually make fun of. In this case, the thought grinding like a cheese grater across my stoned brain was that for a professional criminal, I was dreadfully inexperienced in violence. I'd never fired a gun in anger, though once I had to cut someone a bit before they consented to pay for their xannies. He had gone for his knife, one of those uber slick tactical folders, and I had gone for mine, a nine inch bowie. It was a remarkably unfair fight, which to be honest, I kind of preferred. Once I'd drawn blood from cuts on the poor bastard's arms, hands and face, he was quick to give in and let me drive him to the hospital. I'd told him that next time, there would be no hospital, and he hadn't missed a payment until he ODed a couple of months later.

But for the most part, I wasn't directly familiar with violence-excluding veterans from those two dandy little wars, most of my generation is not. I'd taken a little martial arts in college-mostly Kali, as I had a crush on the instructor. I'd watched a shitload of violence on TV. But as for directly causing harm? Shit,, I remember feeling queasy while I drove that poor prick to the hospital, because I could smell the blood in the close environment of my car's cabin. It was a hot coppery smell, and cloying like incense or a clove cigarette-it blocked out all other smells. But other than that one, panicked night, I had never shed another person's blood-not even when smacking up the girlfriend.

As I heard feet pounding on the door I felt an absurd, alien surge of guilt over that. Deathbed remorse, my blitzed brain told me, and I couldn't really deny it-now that I was facing real violence, I could practically smell the brimstone being stoked for me in the afterlife. Metaphorically of course-in reality, all I could smell was rain, now soaking through Phebe's curtains. The deadbolt held, even when the strikes grew more frequent and more gunshots sounded outside, along with that unbelievable tempo of screams. I stood there, fumbling with the heavy brick of GI colored steel in my hand, my mouth suddenly dry, with nicotine shakes already spoiling my aim.

For what it's worth, wherever you are, you dumb, tempermental bitch, I'm sorry. This might be John Mackey's last transmission to the sky gods off in the ether, and I guess they need to hear this.

"Quiet!" hissed Phebe, before I even knew I had spoken aloud. She stood beside me, her hand on my arm. She had her glock out, held in both hands, muzzle down, while she stared at the door that was shuddering with each new impact. The chain rattled against the wall. She raised her voice, and startled me with her only-slightly-hysterical shout of "Get back, all of you!"

If anything that intensified the pounding, but the deadbolts seemed to hold. I wouldn't be living in this complex if the doors weren't top quality, as I kept a sizable amount of cash and drugs in my apartment. But it wasn't long before some enterprising prick had thrown a rock through the window, the musical tinkle of shattering glass completing it's destruction and sending the curtains whipping out madly like the lacy arms of a soggy poltergeist. Then there was someone scrambling through into the light, no, two someones...they were running across her living room floor while she screamed impotently at them. One of them tumbled into the pile of rubbermaid tubs, sending them and their contents spraying all over the floor, cans rolling in every direction while both of us raised our pistols and pointed it at the two sopping men in the living room. One was black, the other white; other than that, they were practically mirrored images of one another in my vision, as all I could see was a baseball bat in the white guy's hands and some sort of menacing rifle in the other guy's.

"DOWNONTHEGROUNDGETDOWNONTHEGROUNDCOCKSUCKER" Phebe was screaming; I wasn't too far gone not to notice the tearstreaks on her face, but she held her gun steadily and covered the one on the left. Much less steadily, I covered the one on the right, my forearm already straining from clutching the gun so hard. I didn't speak; my throat was a barren desert, and I felt like I was about to puke anyway.

Both of them turned towards us, their eyes wide and terrified. The one with the rifle moved first, starting to lift it towards us. We both fired; the gun bucked in my hand and I put two holes in the drywall to the side of him. The acrid smell of gunpowder flooded my nostrils and I flinched against the flash; by the time I opened my eyes again he was sagging to the ground clutching his throat. It looked like Phebe had plugged him solid-there was a bright flower of blood spreading on his wet t shirt and a veritable fountain of the shit gushing from his voicebox. She was openly sobbing now, but even with tears and snot on her face she covered the other one closely. I pointed my gun at him as well, for all the good it would do.

Slowly, very slowly, he looked down to his buddy on the ground, gasping for air atop a pile of ramen packages, and then backed away, hands up. Phebe didn't seem to be able to speak, so I said simply "Get out, cocksucker. Nice and slow." I was amazed at how clear my voice sounded, though the 'nice and slow' bit was kind of rushed so I could clamp down on my vomit again.

He complied with my request, gingerly stepping over his buddy's corpse and clambering around the glass to get out the window again. The lace whipped frantically around his face, and he dropped his bat to get through it.

I thought things were going to quiet down again, and turned to put a hand on Phebe's shoulder, when suddenly I heard a frantic scream from outside, one that signaled my doom as much as anything I'd heard on the news. "HEY," it came, "THEY HAVE FOOD IN THERE!"

The pounding at the door stopped for a moment, and I heard a collective murmur go up in the mob through the rain; a moment after that came more gunshots, these specifically directed at us. I could hear the rounds vrrrrp through the window, putting more holes in the drywall, and oddly a few pings that I found later were rounds going through the thin section of wall and hitting her pots where they hung over the sink in the kitchen. I crouched instinctively, behind the couch, and was rewarded for my alacrity by a bolt of burning agony as another shot blasted through it in a puff of upholstery and caught me in the right thigh. The pain was unbelievable, and I could feel warm blood starting to fill my shoes as I continued to huddle behind the furniture, while Phebe emptied her glock out the window. That slowed down the shooting a lot, but not entirely-occasional rounds still zipped overhead while I laid on the floor pressing both hands to my now slippery leg. Someone was screaming like a terrified child; later I would be told that it was me.

She was beside me in an instant. "Can you walk?" she hissed, jamming a fresh clip into the butt of the gun that snicked softly. I shook my head no, though I wasn't sure. She wiped her nose on the sleeve of her hoodie, took a deep breath, and then grabbed my collar. "Shoot anyone that comes through the door," she said, her voice distant and cold, her eyes shining at me. I really, really, really, REALLY wanted a valium now.

She dragged me across the floor (and across the spreading pool of blood from the dead looter) through the narrow hallway and back into her kitchen. I saw hands at the window again, and fired another shot, but my gun hand was slick with blood-my own blood-and I have no idea if I hit anyone. I left a crimson smear across the tile when she deposited me in front of a cabinet. "Let me look," she said, and quite easily pried my trembling hand off my bloody leg. Taking a kitchen knife from the block on the counter, she cut off my jeans just below my crotch, and took a good hard look at where I was bleeding.

I turned my head to the side and puked once, orange-grey vomit splattering onto her linoleum. God knows another bad smell is what we both needed; I turned to her, all dead sexy with vomit on my chin, and gulped "Sorry."

She had her tongue between her teeth while she focused; she took a look at the wound and pressed the square of my cut off jeans against it. "Should have gotten a fucking battle dressing," she said, not remarking on my puke. "Looks like it just missed the artery. Hold this here." She guided my hand; even in the bizarre sort of stoned delerium I was in, I was glad I wouldn't die without touching her. I pressed down hard over the pink furrow in my pale flesh, gulped down more vomit, and nodded.

"I'm going to get my first aid kit; it's upstairs." She stood up, shaking blood off her fingers. She grimaced. "Should have worn gloves. You don't have AIDS do you?" I shook my head; to the best of my knowledge, true. "Stay here and don't make a sound."

"Don't go out there," I blurted, and stopped to puke again, my ears ringing with the force of it. By the time I could lift my head again she was gone. I heard another gunshot, one that turned my stomach to ice. I waited, and there was only silence and pouring rain, even most of the gunfire having quieted down. She came back down quickly, a large shoulderbag in desert camo strapped across her shoulders. She had rubber gloves on and started applying a field dressing to my injury almost before I could wipe my face again.

"Thanks," I said, and stood up experimentally. It hurt, but I could do it-in truth I probably could have done it before, had I not been panicking so bad. I fumbled the clip out of my pistol and jacked another one in there, letting the clip lay where it fell in a pool of blood and vomit. ", are we going back out there?"

"Unless you want us to starve in the next week," she said, not too far gone to smirk. I think I loved her in that moment; it wasn't even spoiled when she stumbled to the sink for her turn to vomit. She sobbed as well, a few times, before she straightened, wiped her mouth, and turned to me. "Come on."

We both stepped out into the hallway; there was only one person in the room, and he was handing one of her tubs out the window to some waiting hands outside. This time she didn't bother with the warning; she ventilated his dome in one shot, brains splattering across her sodden white curtains. He slumped against the outside wall, legs jerking as he hung halfway out the window.

I screamed "GET BACK, FUCKERS!" in near hysteria, and fired a few more rounds out the window. Rounds answered back in number, and I started to duck behind the couch again before Phebe grabbed my arm and pulled me behind the heavy oak coffee table. I helped her upend it and we both crouched there. Most of the rounds were going way over our heads, as we were below the level of the window. A shotgun barrel pried the curtains aside, and we both fired at it immediately and were gratified to see it fall to the floor just inside. I emptied one clip, then another and another, the gun growing hot in my hands. After a little while all the shooting stopped, though the shouts outside continued.

In all my life I had never been glad to see cherries and berries, but when I saw them this time I almost pissed myself in relief. I dared a peek outside through the window, saw the stream of looters scurrying across the lawn to the thin line of scrub trees where the cop cars couldn't go, and saw a Hendricks co sheriff's deputy dragging two women into the back of the cruiser. They didn't stick around; with the mob dispersed they were gone in a second.

Phebe had regained her composure, some, and stood there reloading rounds into her clips, big shiny brass rounds of .45 that she was pressing down with her gloved thumb. "Are the cops still there?" she said, her voice strangely numb.

"Um, no, they picked up two chicks and left," I said, and peeked outside again. There was no sign of the mob returning, and perhaps worst of all there was a body in the rosebushes outside her window, his jaw missing while he stared up to the stormy sky. I bit back more vomit and turned to her. "Hey, is that .45?"

"Yeah. You need some?" She jammed another fresh mag into her pistol and replaced it in her shoulder holster.

"Yeah, is it cool if I refill my clips?" I was already looking to the pile where I had left them, and I knelt down beside her to start doing so, though it was tough with my slippery hands.

"Let me," she said, and started doing so with impressive professionalism. "And it's magazines, by the way." She giggled. It was the first time I had heard her laugh. On anyone else it would have been a sort of undignified snort, but I found it endearing anyway. She pressed her thumb down over the slim cli...uh, magazine, of my .45 while she chattered nervously. "Christ, all that training my dad made me do, and yet I'm still not ready...I'm not ready. I should have had bars on the windows, and fuck the fucking lease..."

I chimed in, feeling useless as I sat there watching her handle my reloads. I said "I've got bars on mine."

"Really?" she said, and cocked her head to the side. She jammed the last round into my magazine and handed it to me.

"Yeah, I had 'em installed awhile ago. I, uh, am kind of home security minded." I didn't mention the drug stash. My stomach was churning, but between the addies and the adrenaline at least I was good and awake.

"Well...fuck, I hate to ask you this Jon, but...could we use your place instead? There's no way we can hold this place with this stupid fucking picture window." And then she did something which surprised me; she touched me, placing her rubber gloved hand on my shoulder. It was warm, and the touch grounded me, put a stopper in my brewing internal monologue.

"Sure," I said; I didn't even have to think about it. "Should we, uh, go now?"

"Yeah, let's take these tubs. I still have a few weeks worth of food left, though..." She looked at the bullet riddled tubs behind us, stacked nearly the ceiling, and sighed. "I don't know how much of it will be good. But let's go now. You cover me, I'll move the tubs."

"Um, you're a way better shot than me; why don't you cover me while I move the tubs?"

"You're wounded, Jon; I'll do the heavy lifting."

"Seriously, it's nothing-and it's all I'm good for."

Progress, besides that one brief argument that I won shortly, was quick. Neither of us wanted to take the bloody ramen, so we left that behind, but in the next half hour we quickly moved down three doors into my apartment and got everything set up there. She looked approvingly to the bars on my windows and said "Jon, I'm glad you broke your key off in my door."

I managed to grin at her, though I was still queasy and really wanted a smoke. "Me too."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

From My Myspace Blog - The Perils of Polyamory

People occasionally ask me why I choose the bizarre sexual lifestyle I do. Like many other things, it really roots back to childhood daydreams, which I still refuse to believe to be invalid or impossible.

I have a lot of dreams like this, and with slight modifications I generally make them my goals. For instance, post apocalyptic warlordism is still on my list of goals, and every day I do a little more to make that dream possible. My plan is no longer what it was when I was seven or so (gather an army of kids, arm them with bolt action rifles I'd stolen from Wal-Mart, and take on the world) but it is still essentially a plan to ensure my dominion of the shattered post-zombie wasteland. I can't help that; I cling to dreams like that.

The two girlfriends dream is not that much different, and dates from around the same age. Like the zombie warlord dream, it probably stems from too much goddamn brain rotting material-in this case a small and rather obscure video game called Wizards and Warriors.

Frankly it's a crap game, though I still love it for it's bizarre nostalgia. For a long time it and Mario were the only games we had in the house. The basic premise is that you go around fighting various oddly colored bad guys and rescue princesses in bondage from terrible nasty bosses.

The game's premise was simple and as I played it in my youth, I came to a sort of conclusion-a man (a warrior) is entitled to as many princesses as he can rescue. Every level had one; every time you defeated a boss she was lowered to you on a rope and gave a little thank you speech. And in my head, this was right and good and made perfect sense-I never even questioned that Our Hero was now married to all 8 of these foxy princesses in peril, and naturally got to nail them every night.

It wasn't until later that it even occured to me that one girl was the norm for most people; I had always assumed that I got to keep any princesses I rescued for almost three years. No catch and release for me, hell no-I save your ass and it officially belongs to me.

And like most of my childhood dreams, it has evolved somewhat-I won't say matured, because the term doesn't work-but fundamentally, I'm still expecting to hack through some giant spider's neck and add another pretty girl to my collection. Not that the one that I have isn't awesome-she is frankly the perfect girlfriend for many reasons, not the least of which is she puts up with this crazy bullshit I'm always spouting-but to me, a man is entitled to what he can wrest from the forces of darkness. It's not very progressive, it's not socially liberated and it damn sure would drive any feminist nuts-but like all my childhood dreams, I'm going to cling to that fucker with both hands.

And my shining, perfectly capable of slaying whatever boss is necessary.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Last Call, Last Stand - Part 8

At first I had trouble figuring out what was wrong with Phebe. When you don't sleep much, you sometimes don't recognise exhaustion in other people very easily. So when she ushered me through her door, I had the damndest time understanding her as she mumbled something and then shut the door behind me, fumbling to lock the deadbolt. Her eyes were half lidded; in some ways a blessing, as I didn't get distracted by them.

"Are you okay?" I said stupidly, just as I realized how long she had been awake.

She took a deep breath, rubbing at her eyes with her free hand while still fumbling with the lock. "Yeah, just tired. It has been a" She sighed, and I moved around her and handled the lock myself. For a few seconds I just stood there awkwardly behind her, trying to figure out what to say. I already regretted not grabbing a couple more addies.

"They changed your locks too, huh?" I said, also stupidly. I was kicking myself; the white was making my mouth run about ten miles ahead of my fogged brain.

"Yeah, right after they did yours. They got the power back on too." It had never been out in my apartment, though I hadn't thought of it at the time. I reached over her to twist the deadbolt into place, and she pulled herself away from me conciously; my mind conjured an image of an Indian woman recoiling from a poisonous snake under a pile of firewood, an image that stuck in my brain from my Jim Morrison esque experience on an Indian reservation trying to score some peyote a few years back. The fundamental look of disgust and controlled fear was the same. The thought bummed me out a little.

"Sorry," she said, flashing me her teeth. "Just a little inside my boundaries right now."

"Yeah, yeah, sure," I replied, smiling as well, though I didn't feel it. I took a deliberate step back from her. "Sorry." The lemon-yellow foreshocks of my comedown were looming; I started to think that maybe coming over was a bad idea.

The lights were on, but not the tv. There were still boxes and shit everywhere; grey rubbermaid tubs stacked up, each with a sheet of paper taped to it neatly. It made me alarmingly conscious of my own nearly empty fridge and cupboard. With a jolt, I realized that if the stores stopped functioning, the possibility of starvation became shockingly real. Starvation. Here, in Midwest USA-not some third world hellhole, but in a place with toilet paper and pay per view porn. That thought in itself was it's own jolt, a frigid icepick of fear shanking me like a Mara Sulvachtra in prison. I might seriously starve to death.

The human mind builds bulwarks against the obvious, sort of like poles propping up the big patchwork circus tent of lies we use to shelter ourselves from unpleasant realities. I had spent most of the past day and a half wrapped up in my own weird personal drama. Up until that moment the little social problem problem-the disaster!-was a distant and occasionally interesting thing that was happening on TV. But the poles holding me away from the truth-a drug pole and a self absorbed prick pole primarily-just snapped at that moment, when I looked at her big tubs of food, and and I realized that I faced the real possibility of starving. My buzz was gone then, and my stomach was rumbling. I fumbled for a cigarette while my big tent started falling around me, just another stupid gawker looking for the emergency exit in the dark.

"...a little safer now," Phebe was saying, sunken deep into the overstuffed pillows of her loveseat. I chose the chair I had slept in previously, trying to pretend like I knew what the conversation was about.

"So, uh," I said-Jon Mackey stumbling over his words, a rarity in any season-"how long do you think this will last?"

She cocked her head quizzically to the side, ponytail swishing across the back of the couch. "Just for like 8 hours or so, maybe ten. I just need to get some sleep, but I don't want to sleep without someone keeping an eye out...I mean, its okay if you can't do it."

"Oh, no, babe," I said, perhaps too quickly as she widened her eyes in surprise. That threw me for a moment; goddamned if a valium didn't sound good about then, and not just because of her shocked stare. "I don't mind helping you out. I meant, this, this whole situation..." I just sort of waved my arms as if to indicate the broader disaster, though I didn't really know if she was grokking me or not.

She looked puzzled for a moment; it made her eyes shine like sapphires. Delicious 25mg sapphires, ground up neatly between two spoons. Fuck it was going to be a long night. "Oh," she said after a moment. "Sorry, I'm just...losing it, Jon; I'm so tired." She paused, gave my question some thought while I studied the carpet. "I really don't know; the forecast for this week is rain, and I guess that's why people are freaking out-the riots, y'know, food and stuff."

I puffed my cigarette for a moment on that one, biting my lower lip. "Fuck," I breathed softly. "So it could get worse."

She sighed, resolutely, and touched the glock still under her stained left armpit. "It always does. So is it cool if I go to bed? Do you need anything?"

I chewed my lower lip, weighed my options. "Let me go back to my place and get a few things," I replied, dragging myself to my feet. My cellphone went off again; fucking Cesare. Didn't he know there was a fucking apocalypse on? Then again, I realized with a start, I hadn't known until a few minutes ago.

"Sure, just hurry," Phebe said. Her voice was a rich contralto. I avoided looking at her, though I told her to chill when she got up to help me with the door. I adjusted my gun in the back of my pants while I was walking out; I wasn't sure if she knew that I had it or not.

The rain did me good; walking through it sharpened my senses a bit. It was then I could hear the sirens, close by and loud. Every smart professional criminal knows the difference between the local sirens, from fire to ambulance to city police cruiser to sheriff's deputy. These were city cops, the worst of a bad lot from a scumbag's perspective-numerous, well funded and not very corrupt. I slowed down my walk deliberately, a reflex habit-I took up my unconcerned stroll by rote, even putting my hands in my pocket while I moseyed down the sidewalk in the pouring rain. Thunder shook the firmament behind me, an unhappy Zeus with a raging hardon breathing down my fucking neck the whole way there. Between thunderbolts I also heard at least one gunshot. That made me pick up my feet again and hurry.

I had left the lights on in my apartment before; I turned them off now. I grabbed a couple of spare clips for my pistol as well, and dumped them in my pockets. Then I dug into my stash, in that small wooden hope chest in my closet-four or five addies to keep me sharp, a xanny and a joint or two for the crash, a couple grams of yay for quick energy. I may have had no food in my fridge, but my stash was ready for a long siege at least. Sometimes I think my priorities might be off.

Goodies aquired, I made my way back to Phebe's place. She was already asleep on the couch when I came in quietly, snoring softly. I looked at her for a long time like that, standing awkwardly in her doorway while the storm thundered hot on my heels, dripping water on her welcome mat. In my strange, tent collapsing haze, she looked like a weird alien being to me, contentedly sleeping with her mouth slightly open and a fat black glock under her arm, in a small circle of yellow lamplight. She was beautiful, and strange, and so utterly different from every other woman I had tasted that her whitebread wholesomeness had an almost erotic quality to it.

I shook off the rain and shut the door behind me, taking care to bolt it and set the chain as well. I took my seat by the window again, popping an addie into my mouth and dry swallowing it while I stared out into the storm. My reflection in the dark glass stared back at me in profile. Somewhere in the distance, past the thin ring of scrub elm trees that surrounded our apartment complex, were those cherries n' berries every lowlife dreads; police cruisers, and moving fast. I gulped, my throat suddenly bone dry, and put off my next cigarette while I got up and walked past her into her neatly organized kitchen to get some water.

Ice clinked in my glass as I walked by the loveseat again, listening to Phebe snore, deceptively peaceful. I debated moving her to her bedroom, but decided I had no idea how to really go about being chivalrous and elected to wait, flopping back into her chair and continuing to stare out towards the now actively menacing storm. The rain came down in great snarling gobbets while thunder mixed with more frequent gunshots in the distance. Fear rose up like the taste of sour vomit at the back of my neck while the throbbing body buzz from the adderol began to exorcise the exhaustion demons from my body. My hands were shaking while I lit my next cigarette.

There was a family across the street rapidly moving boxes of stuff into their cars, even at midnight in the pouring rain. The mom, a slender black girl, was moving two sleepy kids into their carseats while the dad, an overweight white guy with a thick brown beard, shoveled things in the trunk. From where I was, it looked like a random assortment of junk-blankets, boxes of pasta, grocery bags, what looked like a heavy dufflebag. After a few minutes they stopped to argue with each other, their voices appearing intermittently like ghosts in the storm. Then suddenly I noticed two other people coming out of the apartment next door, a young professional couple that bought a dime bag of herb off me on occasion, beginning to load up their car as well.

Not knowing was intolerable; I flicked on the tv after some fumbling and turned the volume all the way to zero. The news was worse; I watched two pants-suited pundits silently go back and forth deciding who to blame while they replayed the Broadripple street riot footage, while watching the ticker carefully. A curfew was in effect for the whole county. Apparently, looters would be shot on sight. With my newfound awareness of the shitstorm I had suddenly found myself in, I found the hot sour fear taste was growing worse, my stomach actually gurgling while I worshipped at the flickering altar of our dying culture.

I decided to watch Phebe instead; she may have been an alien to me, but at least she didn't make my bowels quiver. Heavily aware of the .45 in the back of my pants, I leaned back in the chair and smoked a joint, hoping to grind the edge off my unease. I spent about two hours in an uncomfortable reverie. I was almost out of cigarettes again.

A shot rang out in the parking lot, alarmingly close. "Fuck!" I snapped before realizing it. I turned around in the chair and poked my head up to the window again. The rain made it hard to see, but I could definitely make out car headlights, a veritable train of them, all jammed up at the single exit to our parking lot. There was suddenly a lot of honking, all of it frantic, and a car alarm started wailing as well. Another shot rang out; I saw the muzzle flash in the treeline. It was then I noticed the mob.

Later I would discover the mob was essentially a mixed race pack of yahoos, only twenty or so. But as more shots started up and the shouts got closer, I swear I could see a hundred of them, a thousand; they multiplied like rabbits in my drug addled brain, and in the rain and the lightning they were all bleached a pale grey. "Phebe," I said once, to no response. "Phebe!" I hissed, louder and more forcefully.

She came awake at once, quietly. "What is it?" she said, but then she heard-the honking, the car alarms the gunshots. "Oh, Jesus," she breathed softly, and took a place beside me at the window, leaning over to stare into the darkness. Even in the chaos, I was uncomfortably aware of her body heat radiating into me again, warm sunshine on the ragged edges of my bleak grey conciousness.

"Yeah," I said. "Now would be a great time for him to show up." My gun was in my hand; I don't remember pulling it out. Hers was out as well, though she handled it much more professionally than I did.

Outside I heard the first scream. They were dragging a man from his car while he kicked his chubby legs in terror. Even through all the other noise, the distinctive crunch of his skull when someone put a shotgun butt between his eyes rang in my ears. My stomach lurched again, and I felt like I had three months worth of diarrhea backed up in my colon. I tried to keep the quaver out of my voice when I spoke, "We should get away from the window."

Phebe swallowed hard, with an impressive poker face. "Watch the door. I'll call 911."

I was glad to oblige, though at this point I was clenching my guts so hard my knees shook. I shuffled over in front of the door and racked my gun, the loud snick-snack drawing her eyes for a moment while she fumbled with her cell phone. I could hear the busy signal from where I was standing. "Oh no, no damnit," she hissed, and dialed again.

My life took on a strange stacatto rythym as I stood there watching the door, stoned out of my gourd and waging a never ending skirmish with my suddenly watery bowels. The harmony was the never ending wail of the car alarm. The melody was Phebe dialing, getting a loud busy signal, and cursing. And the solo was the screaming, puncutated with more gunshots, as the mob filtered through the pile of deadlocked cars.

At 3:04 AM the first shot shattered the window, and both storms entered our fortress at the same time.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Why "Last Call, Last Stand" is what it is

I started "Last Call, Last Stand" as a reactionary piece-specifically, my reaction to most of the fiction that exists in the survivalist blogosphere. It has other purposes too-mostly my way to express my diseased ruminations on modern drug culture and the larger American culture. But mostly it exists to combat the number of gruesome tropes that most people put in their zombie writing.

Point of fact: John Mackey is not a nice guy. The typical zombie story hero is always shown as a morally upstanding, righteous dude without the long train of personal baggage that accompanies most real people. So I said, hey, fuck it, I'll go with the abusive, drug addicted, manipulative sociopath as an archetype-hell, I know how to write from that perspective better than Captain America's whitebread perspective anyway. I don't condone the things he does, but damnit, that doesn't mean that his story can never be told.

Second Point of Fact: John Mackey is not a badass. When inserting themselves (badly) into their fiction, a lot of amateur zombie writers have a main character that is highly trained, well prepared, resourceful and intelligent. Mackey, on the other hand, doesn't even know what model of pistol he has, and will probably prove woefully inadequate in a firefight, when the time comes. He is a drug dealer, not an ex sniper survivalist with a basement full of high end rifles with thousand dollar scopes.

Third Point of Fact: Our dear Phebe is not just fan service. In some ways she is the ideal prepper's girl, a thought that I did not ignore when I was working out her outline. She has prepared due to parental influence, is competent with her own weapons systems, and is a level headed and practical person with a good heart. But I am taking care to make her human as well (though so far your only clue is that she gets pit stains, one thing that never happens to chicks in the movies no matter how many abandoned streets they run down) and she and John are going to have some hellacious conflicts in the story to come.

I tried NaNoWriMo last october, and failed miserably. But somehow this story kept lingering in my head, and it got to where I could practically taste Mackey's fear when the news was getting worse and the coke was coursing through his system, could hear the distant shouts of an approaching mob through the rainstorm. And now I think I have to finish it, for his sake if not my own.

So stay tuned, if you'd like. You will find, despite the cheap shock effect of the stripper abusing John Mackey, that this is at heart a story of redemption. When viewed through the proper filter, you might even find it is the story of my redemption, buried in metaphor. I hope you'll enjoy the ride. But either way, I'm going to ride it to the end.

A side note: You will find chapter links in the sidebar now, so navigation should be easier. Look forward to a new section soon.

Thanks for reading.