Chadpocalypse 1:4

If you need to catch up, here are links to previous chapters:

Parts 1-2

Part 3

4.

The sight of Hell suddenly appearing through the wall of Chad’s apartment was enough to silence him temporarily. The horseman’s firm grip held him by his collar, as Chad dangled above a lake of lava. Far below, a man impaled on a pitchfork screamed repentance and then gurgled his last as a muscular demon dipped him into the liquid fire. Red rocks, molten pools, and flame extended beyond the edges of Chad’s vision. Overwhelming was the wrong word to use; it didn’t even begin to describe the level of confusion in Chad’s booze-soaked brain. He tried to voice this confusion to the horseman, but the hot sulfur caught in his throat, preventing him from doing anything that wasn’t gasping.

“Do you believe me now?” asked a smug, booming voice from above.

Chad still could not speak, and instead, nodded vigorously.

“Alright then.” In one, smooth motion, Chad was yanked back through the portal, and into the bedroom. The horseman ran his finger back across the wall, drawing the portal closed like a zipper. A few wisps of flame escaped, but not enough to do any serious damage. They were once again left in the dim bedroom, lit by nothing except for the faint red glow in the horseman’s eyes.

The evening heat almost seemed cool in the wake of hellfire. Chad stumbled his way back to the bed, and then put his head between his hands. “Horseman of the apocalypse you said?” he stuttered. “Which one are you then?” Chad couldn’t have named the four even if he was given multiple choice, but the question seemed polite.

“Can’t you tell?” asked the horseman gesturing to his flowing robes.

Chad looked him up and down, but did not understand. “Sorry…” he said, awkwardly.

The horseman sighed heavily. “I’m famine bro!” Briefly he parted the black robe he was wearing to reveal a torso covered with more lean muscle than Chad knew a body was capable of possessing.

“Oh,” he stammered, “I see now…” Truth be told Chad felt nothing other than tinge of sexual harassment, but thought there was not much to be done about it. Don’t suppose demons are afraid of mace? It didn’t make a difference as Chad had nothing on him but a few spare dollars and a couple of quarters in his pocket.

The horseman shook his head. “I cut weight, work out, and they still put me in the same robes as everyone else. I mean, really. Suppose it doesn’t matter to you, but how are people supposed to know I’m famine if there’s no form-fitting uniform?”

The horseman made an exasperated sigh and his horse gave a sympathetic whinny.

“Yes, I know you’re hungry, but you’re cutting weight too,” the horseman replied. “We have an image to maintain.”

“It sounds difficult,” remarked Chad, trying not to focus on the mounting hangover that was creeping across his forehead. I should be drinking this off by now.

“Ugh, you have no idea,” complained the horseman, sounding more like a whiny teenager than a demonic entity. “Anyway, workplace politics aside, I’ve come to give you some very important information.”

“Alright, I’m listening.” Chad tried to hold himself in a sitting position, but found it difficult. It felt as though the world was still spinning on its axis, but he had been left behind.

“A good attitude,” sneered the horseman with a wide grin. “I like that. You’re going to need it.”

Chad gave a bland smile, and resumed trying to both listen and hold on to the earth at the same time.

“Well, Chad, I’ve come with a warning.”

“Let me guess, about the apocalypse.” Chad still believed that there was a good chance he was dreaming, and didn’t put much stock in the warnings of famished equestrians.

“Yes, about the apocalypse.” The horseman sounded annoyed, as if Chad had stolen his thunder.

“Is it coming soon?” asked Chad. “Because, I’ve got tickets to a show next week, and I paid most of my rent money for them…”

“When is your show?” the horseman asked, casually.

“Bout a month away,” said Chad, counting his fingers as he did so.

“You’ll make it to the show.”

“Happy day!” exclaimed Chad, immediately regretting shouting. A lance of pain shot through the middle of his head, reminding him that tequila was no friend of his.

“The apocalypse will come in one year’s time.”

“Very specific, I like it.” Chad yawned, suddenly remembering that it was still the middle of the night, and he wanted to go back to bed. Even if it wasn’t his apartment, the bed had still been comfortable. “So why warn me about it? Surely it’d be better as a surprise.”

“Well, Hell has rules about fair play.” The horseman laughed half-heartedly. “They were enacted a while back, and don’t really go much with our new image, but it keeps things interesting for the big boss.”

“That would be The Devil,” added Chad. “Right?”

“Yes, The Devil.” The horseman paused. “You’re taking all of this quite well. Do you understand what I’m saying? The world will end in a year.”

“Oh sure, I understand, but there’s not a lot to be done about it, is there?”

“Sure, anyway, the apocalypse is coming, and fair play dictates that we have to tell one mortal. That would be you.” The horseman motioned to him with a sarcastic twirl of his fingers. “The idea is to give humanity a fighting chance.”

“Ah, so I’m expected to stop the apocalypse.” Chad didn’t like the sound of it. Stopping the apocalypse sounded like more responsibility than he wanted in his lifetime.

“Not exactly…”

The horse gave a whinny that sounded oddly judgmental to Chad.

“Oh, shut up horse,” said Chad. “I’m not taking that tone from something that wears permanent shoes.”

The insult seemed to confuse the horseman, and Chad for that matter, but it shut the horse up.

Chad smiled proudly, and blundered on. “So why me?”

“Well…”

“Can we hurry this up? If I’ve got an apocalypse to stop, I need to get some sleep so I don’t miss brunch.”

The horseman’s red eyes grew brighter, and his mouth became a wide smile. “Because no one will believe you.”

Chadpocalypse 1:3

 This is the third chapter of my newest short story, Chadpocalypse. Parts 1-2 can be found here.

1:3

“Oh great, thanks Marvin, you’ve let the Jehovahs in again,” Chad yelled. It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence for various religious figures to come knocking at the doors of the apartment building, but the trick was to play dead, and not let them waltz in like they owned the place. It was much harder to be converted if a conversation was never had. “The fire’s new though. How do you get enough donations to buy the horse eh?” Chad would’ve chased him off with a baseball bat, but he felt if he stood, he would surely vomit.

“I am not a Jehovah’s witness, and this isn’t your apartment. I thought we had already covered that,” said the demon through clenched teeth, trying to keep anger from his voice.

“Fine, seventh day, scientologist, whatever. Either way, you’ve got a blank check for recruiting,” he said with a loose gesture to the horse, the horns, and the polo shirt. Oddly enough, Chad didn’t think the pool of flame at the figure’s feet to be all that impressive. Anyone can get a few bright lights and a smoke machine for a few bucks.

“I am one of the four horsemen, insolent cur!” The figure swept his hands through the air and produced white hot flames.

“Ooh, and a close-up magician,” said Chad, genuinely excited. He always preferred magic when he was towards the bottom of a bottle. “Do you have a deck of cards?”

The demon wrung his hands together, producing a series of unsettling cracks in his knuckles. A red glow had begun to run through his curved horns. “Yes, I do, but I’m going to need a volunteer from the audience.” He was using the voice of a used car salesman, but just below the surface was the gnashing hunger of a predator.

“Oh, alright then,” said Chad stumbling to his feet. The world spun maddeningly around him, and the mix of liquor and chili fries in his stomach threatened to come back up, but he held it down. Puking on a magician would just be rude. He might have been in someone else’s apartment, sleeping off a hangover he had stolen, but Chad still thought himself a man of standards.

The demon extended a gnarled hand to Chad, and gave him a winning grin. “Take my hand, and think of a lucky number.”

“Mind reading?” Chad stuck out his hand and grasped that of the demon. It was hot to the touch, but not enough to burn him. “Not as good as a card—“

Chad was cut off as the demon pulled him close, ran a long finger down the tasteless, flowered wallpaper, opening a portal to Hell.

“What the shit man?” asked Chad, exasperated. “I’m going to have to pay for that!”

“For the last time, this isn’t your apartment,” said the demon, and unceremoniously shoved chad’s head through the portal.

The Ghost Writer

 This is another one-off I wrote at about the same time as Diary of a Dead Man. It’s a little darker, hope you enjoy.

Sitting with his back to the faded, old window, it almost felt like he was alive. Outside the evening air was stale, held stagnant by a bitter chill. Red drapes hung on either side, not doing much to stop light from coming in, but mostly serving to give the room the feeling of heavy despair. For the fiftieth time, he reached for the pen, and tried to pick it up between his fingers, and for the fiftieth time, it fell through them, causing nothing but frustration.

On the brown, wooden desk before him was an empty yellow legal pad. To Lee, it looked like a window, held open for him to gaze through, but guarded by heavy iron bars. A pale yellow light shimmering from beneath a piece of curved green glass shone on the paper illuminating its lines like tiny railroad tracks.

Lee could put nothing on the page, and it was not for lack of wanting or ideas. His head buzzed with a million of them, trapped, and making desperate breaks to get out. He could even speak them aloud, but the simple act of grabbing the pen was an impossibility. Even when he did manage to lift it, even for a second, it would slip through his fingers and clatter to the table.

Hot rage burned in Lee’s mind, and he even wished he could manifest it physically. A headache, something that could tell him that the pain he was feeling was real. The room around him remained bland and impassive to his existence. He thought back on the last words he had been able to write, and regretted the neglect with which he had penned them. It was too much to bear, but these days, he didn’t have much of a choice. For better or worse, he was condemned to existence.

An image of his wife standing in a bathrobe and dropping her coffee cup shot through him like a bullet, blocking out the room before him. He looked down in his hand and saw the words that he had thought to be crafted painstakingly. Instead he found a hollow tune that provided no more answers than it did questions. Lee’s problems were no closer to being resolved, and in his attempts he had created a set of new ones.

The paper was back in front of him, shouting at him, taunting him to put something down on the page. “He lived just as he had died,” Lee said, letting the words take flight through the room, and letting an angry tremor creep into his voice. A bookshelf caught them and swallowed their prose greedily, adding it to its collection. Every author on the shelf was dead, held captive by last words that they were probably also unsatisfied with.

“The only true shame is that I was unable to see it before I too encountered the very same folly,” Lee once again thought aloud. “For it was my fate to join the ranks of those I thought to be gone from this world too soon.” By the end of the sentence, he was shouting. Memories bandied across the room like they were sprung from a projector.

It was the same dingy hotel room in the French Quarter that he had come to for years. Legends of it being haunted stoked his creative flames, and gave his wife something to speculate about while he remained a dullard. All that was interesting about Lee was tossed into endless pages that were eaten up by the American public for pennies on the neuron. What had initially been content in this lifestyle, had turned sour faster than the leaves turn to autumn.

That night, he had come to the hotel with one thought: end it all, go out on the highest of notes. Hours had passed as he crafted the suicide note. His wife did not bother to look over his shoulder, figuring that she could read it once the paperback came out. After three revisions, he had thought it ready and sent his wife out for a massage. From a secretive drawer in the desk he had pulled a rope, hung it from the ceiling fan, and stood with it around his neck.

Many thoughts had crossed his mind at the moment, but above all else was You’re making a big mistake. He had been about to step down when a voice from behind him shouted “No!”, and in a startled jitter, he fell forward, his neck snapping instantly. The last view he was afforded was of the words he had written on a yellow legal pad sitting on the table.

Diary of a Dead Man

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Prologue

 

It started simply with two individuals sitting in a coffee shop. One was Brian, a young, not-all-too-handsome man, with a slender frame. The other was a woman, dark, also slender, but with a shrewd look about her. Brian gazed down at the freshly wiped glass of the table as his coffee cup leaked new stains onto its surface.

“Come on; tell me what you’ve got. It’s been months and you haven’t shown me a single page.”

“I’m nervous,” said Brian, taking a diplomatic sip from his coffee. “This could be it; this could be the one that finally takes me out of this shithole. No offense.” The woman moved her arms in a placating gesture.

“None taken. It’s rough out here, I know. I used to be here, and I’m doing my best to help take you out, but you’ve got to give me something to go on.”

“Alright, here goes.” Brian cleared his throat. “I look into the mirror with tired eyes, soft, bleary, and full of regret. The years have been kind to me and yet I have not. I have no right to feel this way. The world was handed to me on a silver platter, but still I stand, watching myself decay, slowly, but surely passing into the abyss. How many days more will I stand here? 5,000? Or 5? It haunts me to know that the years of my youth are now passed and I stand on the threshold of making a new life. One step out of the door lies disgrace, or greatness. If only I had the wanderer’s feet to move.

They sat in silence, sipping their coffees. She stroked her long brown hair, staring out the window for a moment at the stream of cars racing by. Brian could not tell if she was impressed, bewildered, or perhaps both. For the most part, he had worried that his writing would come off as a bit too depressing. “Come on Shannon, give it to me straight. Is it any good?”

“It’s morbid, for sure, but I think you’re on to something. I want the first ten pages in my inbox this afternoon. None of that waiting three days shit. I think I’ve got a whole load of middle-aged mothers just unsatisfied enough to read it.” She reached for her wallet.

“No, please, let me,” he said in an attempt to be polite. In reality, the coffees would have just about broken his nearly empty wallet.

“Hey, you might be a big shot soon. Then you can buy the coffees.” She left ten dollars on the table and started to leave. “Listen. If any of that’s real, you might want to see someone. I can’t be losing my clients to ‘emotional outbursts’, if you catch my drift.” It was all too well known in her industry that writers have a tendency to overindulge in spirits and cozy up to the deceptive friendship offered by the barrel of a shotgun.

“No problem! I’ll e-mail it to you right now.” He looked genuinely excited. Someone liked his work; it was the beginning of a new life for him. People were going to notice him and hear his words. He hopped up from the table and bounded into the street, where he was promptly obliterated by a semi-truck.

A Scientific Martyr

Years later, Brian stood at the back of a crowded auditorium, watching in silence as Dr. Coulton’s prominent scientific career ground to a halt.

The white haired man standing behind the pulpit had no idea how close he was to committing academic suicide. “I have dedicated my life’s work to the field of quantum mechanics, but tonight I want to talk to you about something of a more fantastic nature. For eons, the human race has wondered what happens after death. Our final journey is both a mysterious and terrifying one.”

“What if death is not the end? What if there is a world beyond this one where we can live on if we so choose? Where ghosts are no longer a thing of mythology and fear, but rather a reality, and one that we must learn to accept, study, and live in peace with. Poltergeists and possessions should not be topics of fear, but of debate and scientific inquiry.”

The shocked looks of the academics in the audience brought a grimace to Brian’s face. The dark corner cast a sinister shadow over him, but he could not risk sitting out in the open. His attire was not suitable for a symposium. Holes and dirt adorned his long-faded jeans, and while his jacket may have at one point been fashionable, it was now torn and frayed beyond recognition. He shouldn’t have been in the theatre at all, but he had waited for this speech for a long time.

Brian fumed. Why couldn’t the community see how close to the truth Dr. Coulton’s theory was? Like many great minds before him, Coulton’s ideas were not met with applause, but with pitchforks. Brian scanned the audience. A few of them were still paying attention, but most looked as though they were sharpening their criticisms in the dark. Dr. Coulton was sweating profusely and fumbling with his notecards. His glorious opening was meant to be met with awe and wonderment, and instead there was only muted sniggering from the back rows.

“As we are all no doubt aware, the effects of quantum observers have long been debated. Can the mere act of observing an object or action change the outcome or meaning of said action? More simply: Does standing next to a falling tree affect the sound it makes? Through my research, I have come to believe that the world of the recently deceased operates on a similar principle.” Several of the chief university funders walked out of the lecture hall shaking their heads; Dr. Coulton was determined to continue.

“The existence of ghosts or specters is only possible through our own enabling. The mythos and energy we have created around death allows us to continue on afterward.” That was the turning point where Nobel Prize laureate Alex Coulton took a risk and found himself cast out. Ideas that may have seemed profound at the time of their conception, instead turned into tick marks on a pink slip.

He made it on stage for a full twenty minutes before the crowd began to boo. Brian was the only one who kept his eyes on Dr. Coulton the whole time, but unfortunately, the opinions of the deceased don’t count for much. In the end, the crowd erupted into a tempest of criticism, and Brian could no longer bear to watch. Maybe the next one will get it right. Everyone was so busy shouting and throwing bits of paper that none of them noticed the temporal disturbance at the back of the theatre as Brian faded from view, the theatre disappearing as he stepped back into the world between worlds.

Diary of a Dead man is available in full, on Amazon, in Abberant Literature Short Fiction Collection Volume 3!

The Tracks

Here’s a short story I wrote about a year back about Nick Ventner in his early years, before Whiteout. Enjoy, and let me know what you think!the_tracks

“I didn’t always want to be a monster hunter you know?” Nick had several empty pint glasses in front of his seat at the bar, but found that he was still able to draw an audience. Oh, you’re going to hear it now. “I was going to be respectable, not that I’m not now, but,” he paused, unable to think of a follow-up, and settled on: “more respectable.” Did you know that I had a masters in something real before I came here?” A bearded man with more liquor than brains took a seat and stared at him, entranced.

“I was going to be a lawyer,” the man said, spluttering and sloughing every syllable as if they were being thrown off a water slide.

“Course you were. We all were, right up until the minute someone took us and threw us onto the middle of the railroad tracks. Am I right?”

“Fuck yes you are!” The man slammed his glass down on the bar, and to Nick’s amazement, didn’t shatter it. He did manage to splash froth all over himself, completing the image.

Nick looked deep into his watery eyes. You didn’t ask for this, but you’re going to get it.

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                When I was a young man, I used to like playing on the railroad tracks. No matter how many times friends or family would tell me to stay away from the damned things, I couldn’t do it. When one wants to do something, they’re going to do it regardless of common sense, and the only thing that’s going to snap them out of it is the eventual negative outcome. Such was my experience with the crossing between Pine and Midway Avenue. This was long before the city sprang to its current heights mind you. Back in those days, you could see along the tracks for miles.

As a man pursuing a higher degree in one of the social sciences (I can’t really remember, as it didn’t matter much), I found myself prone to bouts of deep thought and philosophy. As such, the first thing to listen to me was always the object of my desire. In those days, the only thing that could do so was the reverberation of the train tracks as I spoke my secrets to them. I could sit there for hours, pouring my soul onto the warm metal, waiting for the moment it would start to talk back. I would always try to listen to as much as I could, and then right as the train’s horn blared in my ear, I would rip my head back, and revel at how close I had come.

The time I spent on the tracks was a very short period, no more than a week or two. After talking with others it became clear that this was probably not the best form of self-expression or catharsis. Apparently they believed that actual human beings were something to be prized, and might afford me similar comfort. For all it was worth, I would drown their advice in booze, not too dissimilar from what I do now, and would find myself back on the tracks, waiting for the tell-tale hum of my companion.

————————————————————————————————————–

                “I thought you said you were a monster hunter,” said a woman who had come to sit behind the drunken man. She wore a black leather jacket, with black hair to match. Her eyes glittered in the dull bar light, but Nick didn’t see much in them other than his own reflection. “You sound more like a whiny pre-teen than anything of substance.”

“Harsh words,” said Nick, calling for something a bit stiffer than beer. “But true. I cannot argue with you. I was quite the sad sack.” The bartender plopped a frosted white cup down before him, oozing steam onto the bar. Nick curled his hand around it, feeling its icy stabs moving through his fingers. In a quick motion, he put it to his lips and upended it. The feeling that spread through his body was one of both elation and slow death. “Thanks very much, I needed that.” He threw down the biggest bill he had on the counter and returned his gaze back to the woman now hovering just over the drunk’s shoulder.

“May I continue? You don’t have to listen; this is a free bar.”

She didn’t say anything, but gave a nod.

“Good.”

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                As I said, no one realizes how big their mistakes are until the consequences are barreling down on them with the speed of, well, in my case it was a freight train. There came a day when I looked down the tracks and told my last secret. A wall that I had kept built high was nothing more than a crumbling ruin. It was a relief to sit with my ear pressed down on the metal and feel as if there was absolutely nothing to be said.

All the same, a response still came. On that day I remember feeling a violent rumbling, rather than the soft hum I was accustomed to. Any idiot could have seen what was coming, but as I have told you before, I was addicted. In what can only be described as clear and determined understanding, I turned my head to look down the tracks, and saw the inevitable. Careening down the tracks was Midway’s new freight train, which boasted shipping speeds that took half the time.

There wasn’t time to move, there wasn’t time to breath. Before I knew it, WHAM, nothing but a splitting headache and the knowledge that it was all over. Now there’s an experience I’m not inclined to repeat at any time in the near future. At first there was nothing but white light, enveloping me at every turn, but in due time, shapes emerged.

My first thought was surprise at the fact that what greeted me was not the red hot flames of Hell. Instead it was a man, dressed in a nice suit, picking me off the tracks, and walking me around utter chaos. I could see what was left of myself lying there, as well as the glazed eyes of the conductor on more pills than he had fingers. From a distance it was the outcome that I had always expected, and brought with it no element of surprise.

The man gave me a choice.

“You have a choice here. I can put you back in that body, and you can continue on with whatever it is you were doing,” he motioned to what would soon be a bloody corpse. “Or, you can pull your dumb ass of those tracks, and come find me.” He handed me a black card with a golden seal on it. No details, just a gold symbol on black background. Now, mind you, this would have been confusing had I not just been struck by a train, but in the moment it was nothing short of an enigma.

“Well, I’m not keen on dying,” I said, in an air that was probably more melancholy than I expected, because all he did was laugh.

“Could have fooled me. You’re going to have about five seconds,” he clicked a button on his stopwatch.

“To do what?” My head was back on the tracks, and the man was gone. My guts turned over, and I flung myself back down the embankment and into the reeds. Just in time to, because the train followed with the exact swiftness it had boasted. Confused, I reached into my pocket and found that the gold card was still there.

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                “You were hit by a train?” The older man was slurring worse as he had attempted to follow Nick’s drink order.

“Sure was,” Nick said, standing up from the barstool and leaving his wallet on the counter. Hopefully there’s enough in there to pay for some of this. It was about time for him to replace his license anyway.

“You idiot,” snapped the woman to the drunk. “The train was obviously a woman.” She crossed her arms, proud that he had figured it out. Nick turned back to her for a moment. “Wasn’t it?”

With more cool than he thought he possessed, Nick reached into his pocket and pulled out a black card with a gold symbol on it. He thumbed it between two fingers and let it sail back to the bar. Enjoying the woman’s shocked face, he walked out. Rain fell on his face, helping refresh him from the stupor he had drunk himself to. Course it was a woman, he thought, looking up at the dry cleaners next door. Their sign was nothing but a gold symbol on a black background, but it certainly made for a good story.