The End Times may arrive in a fashion stranger than expected.
|We're damned—there's no way around it. My wife and I were getting crocked off cheap beers, laughing at the absurd dress our neighbor wore at the latest party.
"She looked like Mini Mouse! I half expected her to sport a pair of those massive white mouse hands." my wife howled, somehow capable of speech through her laughter.
The smart TV rolled the news and we ignored it as usual until the cameraman zoomed in on a blob of censored blurs. I checked to see if it was April 1st.
The internet filled in the blanks, revealing a mass of naked corpses tangled up together. There were twenty-two of them in total; their grey eyes glazed over, staring into oblivion. All resembled each other, like relatives, because of their common features. Their skin was as pale as printing paper, their hair as dark as coal. Their forms only varied by age and gender.
They weren't the bodies of law-abiding citizens. None were ID'd by the coroners as missing people, and no serial killer could accomplish such a twisted feat. They were a bunch of dead nobodies.
Gleeful news outlets erupted with conspiracies. I couldn't even glance at some decent porn before being bombarded by the nerds' theories on the matter. Well-manicured late show hosts interviewed weirdos from all walks of life which yammered on about their "I know the truth!" anecdotes, utilizing their fifteen minutes of fame to plug their new books.
I had to make it a rule to never have sex with the television on. While I got my wife where she needed to be, the television betrayed us, stating another mass of bodies was found, states away from the first group, they were located behind a gas station. They looked the same. Legs and arms wrapped around one another as if embracing their brethren. From afar, they resembled a bizarre plant, their limbs being the pale leaves, their heads were the bulbs.
A clone conspiracy started to form; some old coot regurgitated a theory that foreign powers were dropping clones off in our country. It was meant to be a message to our leaders. Yeah, like China or Russia were saying: "Give up! Or we'll cook up another batch of people and dump them on your lawn!" Funny how fear puts a spotlight on stupidity.
And like a few raindrops prophesizing a great storm, it came. In all countries, cities, and towns, the corpse nests started popping up like daisies. Yeah, that's what we named them. They came at such an unprecedented rate that specialized Corpse Nest Units were assembled, attempting to handle the upkeep. Garbage trucks drove by with bodies packed in the back. It became so common that some murderers actually hid their victims inside corpse nests. Pretty clever.
The stench was unbearable. I heard to never visit Venice during the summer, on account of the shit and trash heating up in the sweltering weather, but the corpse nests REEKED. It was like the powers that be sped up their decay before sending them off to us. Even the cleanest of cities had rodent and insect infestations. My loving wife just HAD to remind me of how the bubonic plague started.
"Fleas on rats... I've heard it's gotten so bad that newborns are being eaten alive by rats in India," she said, making me grow uneasy.
Cars crashed at an alarming rate due to how often and random the nests appeared. Large, metallic-looking spheres sprouted out of nothingness. They screeched with metallic sounds and disappeared at the blink of an eye, leaving behind another nest.
I drove head-first into a pile, once. Their coagulated blood smeared my windshield grill like pudding--fucking up my truck and back in the process. People started walking and biking more, the streets were like those seen in pictures of ghost towns.
The world was scared and angry. A couple of politicians were lynched by mobs looking for their scapegoats. I witnessed a governor I had voted for hanging from a lamp post. It solved nothing, all it did was divide the average Joe and the Harvard CEO. The wealthy would run away and leave us anyway, hopping into their shiny new shelters. The President told us in an hour-long speech to pray and don't give up on hope. Bet the prick's in his own shelter now, getting sucked off by his favorite escort. I chose the wrong profession.
I kept clippings from articles about the corpse nests and spheres, but with paranoia at an all-time high, my wife pleaded with me to burn them—it was all around us anyway.
"Hon, you have to get rid of it all, my sister's neighbors chased down a guy for observing one of the nests."
She was the smart one, not wanting me to end up with my head sticking from a pike. But how the hell was I going to be pinned the mastermind behind the corpse nests? I've not the wit to push on a door that reads PUSH.
Then the cult showed up. They weren't... savory, I'd argue. Black robes draped their bodies and hoods kept their faces in the shadows. They didn't act violent towards us, but it felt like it was only a matter of time before they did.
"Today is the day of RECKONING!" a leader preached. "Do not fight the signs of God, but make them peer into you!"
The average cloaked goon would stuff crap in people's mailboxes, attempting to exchange words with anyone they saw. They often times spoke in riddles and would never get to the point of what they represented other than salvation. I doubt they were apart of any traditional religion but insane folks that pieced some kind of ideology out of panic and fear and it snowballed from there.
And my lovely neighbor with the funny dress decided to join them, holding her kids' hands before crawling in the back seat of a dark SUV. Maternally, she secured each of her children's seat belts before her own. The police found them a week later gassed to death in an abandoned building. I wonder if their deaths were suicide or if they didn't follow the cult's rules. Never again would I hear the giggles of children—I never thought I'd miss it. At least my neighbor didn't succeed in talking us into coming along.
The great storm of the corpse nests finally subsided. It was then, that fine Spring that I tended to my wife's rose bush.
I trimmed the branches to a cacophony of ambulance sirens in the distance. My wife couldn't help; she was sick in bed. The corpse nests contained pathogens that spread a disease. We named it Nests Disease. Despite our best efforts to contain the nests, they were in vain. We couldn't even celebrate the end of the bodies... we had our own to tend to.
I've always been as healthy as a horse. It was God's apology for my stupidity, but my wife had her weaknesses and the disease made fine work of it. The doctors were too busy tending to the other sickly to help. I came home from being laid off to find her passed out in the shower. I picked her up and got her back in bed. I laid a damp cloth on her steaming forehead, telling her it would be alright. She was the light of my life; a strong woman who saw me as an equal. But at that moment, she felt like the tiniest, fragile thing. I ignored the pulsing lesions that insulted her beautiful body. She warned me not to get close, but I didn't care.
"Baby, just stay back, I can care for myself," she pleaded. I retaliated by kissing her forehead and asking her to rest for me.
Before midnight struck, I called for an ambulance. I didn't want to send her to the quarantined zone, but if they could make a cure, her chances of receiving it were higher there. We waited in the front yard for hours. When she wasn't sleeping, I would show her her pretty red roses. Once the ambulance arrived, I gave her to them, letting go of that tiny, clammy hand. I promised her that once she was better, she'd return home to find a bouquet of her roses. ...I lied. I knew she wouldn't return.
Then the smell came... it lingered in the air like a silent threat.
The deceased were being burned, staining the sky dark with smoke. It burned at my throat and kept me up at night with pounding headaches. A third of humanity bit the dust and that was the spark that ignited our savagery. Anyone who showed the slightest sign of infection was scorched. Martial Law arrived with angry fists hammering on our doors.
Second-rate nurses demanded we be stripped naked--we were observed like raw meat. It all happened while flamethrowers were aimed at us. Impatient soldiers waited for the slightest hint that the medical professionals felt we were unfit to live. They all wanted us to burn alive so they could carry on to the next family.
Why did God have the cruelty in him to spare me? I watched the family before me beg and plead naked, that their daughter had the measles before the nurse gave the go-ahead and they were burned alive. Their forms danced in the flames, waving and staggering about until they fell to the ground, no longer being living things. A street of seven happy families was reduced a young couple and me.
The husband helped me put out the fires of the other homes once the soldiers left. They weren't going to help contain the fires, they had better things to do, like cause more of them. We had little—I had nothing—and there was no sense in waiting for the flames to claim our homes too. We put out the fires, knowing that the lumps of charred remains were human. My neighbors' screams will haunt me forever.
The couple was cute, kind, even. I advised them to board up their windows before I bid them farewell. I never wanted to see them again, not out of spite, but fear. I didn't want to get attached to anyone anymore. It would only get worse from here on out. After all, Nests Disease was still spreading across the dying lands.
I stayed awake that evening, smelling the smoke of people being reduced to ash. I wondered if I smelled my wife's burning. She was dead, I knew it, even if I didn't have confirmation. I left my handgun on her nightstand. Maybe I'd need it for protection or maybe I'd get smart one day and blow my brains out.
Once the military realized their dictatorship bore no fruit, they cut us loose and anarchy became the new world order. Soldiers stole from us at gunpoint, shooting a few civilians to make it a point not to mess around. Once they left, we stole from each other. When the smoke stopped, it wasn't uncommon to find bodies lying in the tall, unmowed lawns.
Of course, I, too, had become a product of the times. Looting homes were routine for me; I had a knack for that survivor bullshit. There were only a handful of times I broke into a house to find it inhabited. What did I do, you ask? It's none of your damned business. They'll bring their wrath upon me soon enough, I'm sure. It wasn't happy with the arrangement either.
One evening, while I tried to lull myself to sleep by the sound of gunfire outside, there was a frantic banging on my front door.
I examined the outside from a mirror I hid by the balcony. The wife of the young couple awaited at my door. She didn't look pretty anymore with lesions cutting through her soft cheeks. I was amazed she pounded at my door with such vigor. My wife wasn't even at that stage and she was bedridden. I glanced over to their house, seeing her husband peep through the blinds of their window. I guess he wasn't so keen about the "in sickness" part of their marriage vows.
I let her in, her sharp nails pinching into me. Her sobs were loud while her red lesions pulsed. The putrid stench of her infections was all-too-familiar. I handed her a cup of water and she clenched it while laying down on my couch. She became weak, using up the last of her energy. Furious shouts about her husband eroded into saliva-dripping slurs and then into unintelligible mumbles. Once she laid her head to rest, I put her out of her misery.
She reminded me too much of my wife; I couldn't bear witness to another woman's suffering to that godforsaken illness.
The sky glowed a brilliant, angry red that morning and faded only a little in the evening. I didn't need a flashlight when I ventured out at night any longer. I moved the girl to my backyard, hoping I'd catch Nest Disease from her—she owed me that much. Long, crimson vines grew from her abdomen. Other bodies had their own, too. Was the sky's new light causing something to awaken inside their infected bodies?
Eventually, the vines branched away from their hosts, wrapping their endless tendrils around vehicles and homes, digging deep underground, cracking once pristinely laid sidewalks. They strangled my sad, broken neighborhood.
I thought about leaving, but there was no point: The vines were everywhere. Their tendrils sprouted white pods along their lengths, which were the only things that weren't red in this world. Even the hooligans that snuck around to ransack the neighborhood were scared away. Good thing, too. I ran out of ammunition awhile back and my only living neighbor wasn't capable of defending himself. We didn't check on each other; I didn't want to be friends with a man capable of throwing his sickly wife out and he certainly didn't want to see the remains of his once beloved.
The pods expanded at an unprecedented rate and started to pulsate. They writhed for something, to be born, I had guessed. Then, one fine morning, they did. They erupted violently, blood pouring out of the pods like wine. The noise was reminiscent of rain.
The pods birthed corpses that resembled the ones in the corpse nests. But they differed from their predecessors; they hung from their heads from vines, swaying in the wind. They also weren't dead; they winced and blinked on occasion. I got the nerve to touch one... it was warm. They welcomed the end.
My wife's rose bush finally shriveled up and died. I was too sentimental to let go. I decided to cut the girl's body loose from the vines and bury her under the bush's remains. The vines retaliated, spraying a thick blood-like fluid on me. Hell, it probably was blood. I dragged her to the rose bush's remains. It was the best place I thought of.
I laid the girl down, mumbling some half-assed prayer while maggots feasted on her eye sockets. The birds had already pecked the eyes out a few days prior. Suddenly, she arose, howling an ear-splitting scream. Her shrieks were of pure rage as if I stole something dear from her. She went silent a moment later, falling limp. I buried her, not wanting her to reanimate again to continue her haunting.
I sat at my desk, attempting to play chess with myself, remembering how my wife taught me. It was interrupted when a sea of spheres appeared outside my window. There must have been thousands of them, a sea of death. They soon vanished, leaving behind an army of dark creatures. Each stood on all-fours, bodies plated with dark, spiked shells. Their heads adorned thorn-like crowns. Mouths filled with long, vicious teeth that gnashed at anything nearby. Their teeth would grind often with aggravation, searching for something to ravage. They even bit into each other, spraying their own thick, oily blood.
A chorus of screams echoed throughout the lands—the newly-born corpse nests had awakened. I realized their true purpose, to be consumed. The beasts romped their way toward the dinner bells, eagerly ripping flesh and limb off of the bodies. Ivory bone showed, drenched in blood and sinew. It didn't pain them; they indulged in it, screaming proudly.
My neighbor recklessly knocked something over in a panic. It gained a beast's attention, slamming its body against the door, shattering it within an instance. A few of its siblings followed, ignoring their own delicacies. The half-eaten corpses erupted in fits screams, begging for their predators to return. They acted like scorned lovers with their entrails dangling in the wind. For some reason, I felt some pity for them.
My neighbor begged to be left alone, but they ignored the plea, pulling him out by the arms, crushing them with powerful jaws.
They dropped him carelessly before fighting over his broken body. They growled, slamming into one another similar to sparring rhinos. He had a chance to run, but shock and broken bones kept him in place. He glanced at me, needing help, but there wasn't a thing I could do. The largest beast fought off the rest, ripping into its prize. The others bit into the limbs that hung from its mouth. Each pulled, playing a violent game of tug of war, tightening their grips until a dry cracking sound was heard, resulting in his dismemberment. The limbs were chewed up before being swallowed whole with haste. They didn't leave so much as a bone fragment behind, only a red smear they refused to lick up. They must prefer us to the corpse nests--we're not mass produced.
I watched in awe and terror as the sun dipped below the horizon. The sky so red it still lit the scenery of vines of hanging humans, hanging from everywhere and dark creatures treading fast towards them to feast upon. Cold winds blew an iron stench of blood. The screams never lessened, they kept me up at night and there I pondered if I was the last of a dead race of morons.
Whatever these things are, Earth has accepted them to take our place and why not? They're as vile as we are but they're frank about it. They don't have false allegiances or laws to hide behind.
We're damned, I told you. We had it coming... I'm glad my wife left this world so she wouldn't witness it.