Fight or…

Anyone who visits Las Vegas knows that, sooner or later, your luck runs out. To read Evie and Owen’s postapocalyptic, zombie plagued story, start here.

        Evie’s first bullet drilled through the tweaker’s forehead and he dropped like a stone. She was glad she always loaded the gun before bed as the next one shambled out, his one yellowed eye peering around the room. She didn’t know if he could actually see out of the clouded, oozing lens but the bullet she put into it made the question moot. With a splatter of vitreous fluid and brain matter, he dropped, too. More shadows were shuffling through the yawning black hallway, dim gray shapes in the darkness.
        She could hear Owen grunting as he hacked at the tweakers’ faces and arms as they thrust themselves at the gap in the front door. The bar held—for now. A bullet whizzed by Evie’s ear and took down another tweaker, blasting the top of it’s skull off in a spray of red and fragments of bone–it looked like a female. Jessamy took down three more before Vanessa finally started shooting as well. She missed more than she hit, but the tweakers coming through the hallway were hesitating, confused. Several tripped over the bodies of dead stumblers and bullets ended their clumsy writhing. Evie’s clip was empty, so she thrust the gun into her belt and drew her knives.
        She chanced a look at the front door. Owen’s machete and arms were streaked in blood and sweat poured down his face. There was barely enough room for the two of them at the door but he moved aside as soon as he heard her coming. She could hear the crack and wet thunk of bullets behind her finding their marks and hoped Jessamy and Vanessa had enough ammo—it would have to be enough. She sliced a tweaker’s hand off at the wrist and it howled, staggering back away from the door. The sheer weight of the bodies piling against the door was bending the bar further inwards, widening the gap. Evie stabbed through a tweaker’s jaundiced eye into its brain and felt it twitch before it, too, slumped down.
        “We can’t do this for much longer, the door wont hold,” Owen panted, avoiding a set of snapping, rotten teeth.
        A quick slash relieved the tweaker of her bottom jaw and a terrible sound came from its ruined mouth. They could still feel pain–which was lucky for the uninfected. It didn’t slow them down as badly, but they felt it. Evie grimly dispatched another tweaker, jabbing her knife into the skin at its temple.
        “Got a better idea?” she asked, swiping at the sweat rolling into her eyes.
        “Gregg’s plane. It’ll be here soon,” Owen rhythmically sliced through several more forearms, ignoring the gore that splashed across his arms and chest. “If we can hold them back or drive them off long enough to get outside and get on top of a building…”
        Evie glanced over her shoulder.Jessamy and Vanessa stood almost shoulder to shoulder, angled so no tweakers could run by them. They were picking them off one by one. The stench was beginning to rise–unwashed bodies, blood, and the odor of excrement. It looked like fewer were coming through the doors, but she couldn’t be sure. The wind was blowing drifts of sand and snow over the bodies and through the gap in the door, Evie’s hands were starting to grow numb.
        “Can you tell how many more are out there?” she asked.
        “Not without getting a kiss from one of them,” Owen leaned away from gaunt, clawing fingers and cut through the tweaker’s face, shoving the body back through the door with his machete handle. “And that’s not something I fancy, Evie, love.”
        Evie didn’t have time to answer. The bar rattling in the handles creaked suddenly and they both stepped back. Outside, it seemed that the moans and snarls increased.The squeal of metal against metal shattered the air as the weight against the door increased; Evie grabbed Owen’s arm and pulled him back just as the rusting iron bar broke in half and the doors burst open. She bit back a scream and felt Owen’s forearm flex under her fingers as they backed away. Jessamy and Vanessa had turned at the sound, not noticing one of the tweakers that lurched out of the doorway.
        Owen’s wordless yell was all the warning they had as it grabbed Vanessa’s pack with its grasping fingers. She screamed, trying to get the straps off her shoulders as it clawed towards her. Evie stepped forward, but Owen grabbed her elbow and yanked her back, jarring her shoulder. Two more tweakers burst out of the shadows at Vanessa’s scream. Evie never saw them move that fast before. Jessamy stood frozen and Owen yelled his name three times before he turned a white face to them. Vanessa wasn’t screaming anymore. Her throat was torn out, but they could see her legs and arms twitching. Jessamy spun back around and fired. Her legs went still.
        The front door had collapsed under the weight of the bodies—no more tweakers were visible on the street. Owen drug Evie out, staggering behind him. She heard Jessamy’s feet pounding through the drifting gray sand and snow slush. Her breathing was ragged in her own ears and she concentrated on evening it out, on not falling down, on the pressure of Owen’s hand around her wrist. Anything but the sight of Vanessa’s boots twitching and the sounds of the tweakers gorging.

Vegas is the Meanest Town…


Another post inspired by an archive Flash Fiction Challenge from Chuck Wendig*. See it here. This is a continuation of the story began in Stings.

For a loser, Vegas is the meanest town on earth.

-Hunter S. Thompson

          “G-g-got to be kidding me,” E said, through the shivers that ran from the top of her head to the tips of her boots. She hoped her toes were still all there.
          The bare-breasted, buxom blonde still lounged unconcernedly on the billboard–once lit with lurid neon lights. Icicles hung from its corners and the poster curled at the edges. The snow that eddied around her boots was mixed with sand. It should be hot and sunny; the lights of the Bellagio should be shining above its fountains. Not snowing. Damned nuclear winter.
          “Don’t tell me you’re bothered by a joint like this, love,” Owen laughed, holding open one of the metal doors. “It’s as safe as anywhere—no windows, thick doors—and the snow will keep the tweakers in they holes for a while longer.”
          “Just like you, gettin’ me to shelter in a—in a—” she glared up at the naked woman. “A brothel.”
          Owen grabbed her arm and yanked her inside, his laughter echoing hollowly. He pulled the doors closed behind them, but not before dirty gray snow drifted in. He looked around until he saw a metal pole lying in the corner. Ignoring the suspicious gore coating one end, he thrust it through the handles and tested the doors. They opened just wide enough for more snow to blow in and E shivered again. She thrust her hands deeper into the over-sized Carhart jacket that hung on her frame and bounced on her numbed toes as she looked around. The stage in the corner held the remnants of a fire—she could smell the cold ash. All of the non-metal furniture appeared to have been broken for firewood. The rest was piled near the doors in an abandoned attempt at a barricade. She shuddered violently, crossing her arms.
          “You that cold, love?” Owen crept up behind her while she surveyed the strip joint.
          His warm breath on her ear made her jump and one of his dreadlocks tickled her cheek. Before she could step away, his arms wrapped around her, pinning her against his chest. She squirmed against him, before stomping down hard on his instep. The curse he muttered into her hair was half-hearted at best.
          “Stompin’ on my feet to make it harder to run from they tweakers?” he asked, eyes following her as she stalked around the cold, dark room.
          “If I’d had my way, you’dve been tweaker meat two months past,” she hissed, the hairs on the back of her neck lifting as she peered behind the deserted bar.
          “Why you keep pretending like you care more about they walking bodies?” Owen sounded wounded as he peered into the darkness at the back of the stage. E rolled her eyes; she fell for the dramatic when she was young and stupid.
          “I don’t believe it,” she said, leaning further into the dark recesses of the bar.
          “Don’t believe what? That I still love you, you crazy–” the bar muffled Owen’s voice.
          “What?” E reappeared with cobwebs clinging to her hair and face, holding two dusty bottles of Captain Morgan.
          “What?” Owen repeated.
          E ignored what she thought he said and slammed the bottles down on the counter. “This place is looking better already,” she said. “I’ll go make sure there ain’t any tweakers in the back. You–”
          “Nope,” Owen said, holding up a hand. “I’ll go look for the stumblers. You. Stay. Put.”
          He took off into the darkness.
          “Jackass. Brain-dead, muscle-bound…” she muttered, keeping up a litany of insults that ended only when Owen bounded back through the door with an armful of fabric.
          “What’s that?” E eyed it suspiciously.
          Owen dumped it on the floor and several phone books, porn magazines, and other paper debris tumbled out.
          “Warmth,” he said. “There’s no sign of any tweakers, no sign of anyone. Whoever was here before must’ve just sheltered here for a few nights. There’s only one other way in or out and it’s locked tight. I wedged some stuff against it, just in case.”
          “You can’t just burn paper,” E said, leaning on the bar to look at his spoils.
          “Well, bartender, pour me a round and get out from behind that bar so I can have a go at those shelves,” he brandished the machete playfully.
          E smiled and hurled one of the bottles of rum at him with all her strength. He snagged it out of the air, left-handed, and grinned as she stalked away from the bar. The bar itself was metal, but the shelves and liquor racks behind it were made of wood. Maybe the scavengers before them didn’t notice, maybe they didn’t have time to hack up the wood. Soon, Owen had a decent pile of splintered wood that he carried to the stage and set on top of the old ashes. E added several twists of torn paper to the pile and was searching her pack for some matches when she heard the distinctive click and flare of a lighter. Owen coaxed the tiny fire into a blaze, the red and gold light dancing across his dirty face.
          E stared at the lighter he so casually tossed to the side. She could still see the curling initials: the E and the C clinging to each other.
          “Why do you have that?”
          “Have what?”
          “My lighter,” E stared at the little silver box, gleaming innocuously in the dust.
          “Had it in my pocket,” Owen shrugged, poking at the fire with his machete. “Found it after a close scrape with some tweakers. They should’ve got me. There was twenty of ’em at least but something distracted ’em, called ’em off, and I got away. It’s been my good luck charm, closest I could get to the real thing.”
          Evie’s eyes slid shut for a moment. He called her his good luck charm the first time they met, in that seedy pool hall just outside Baton Rouge. This is ridiculous, she thought, opening her eyes and meeting Owen’s gaze.
          He didn’t say anything and she looked away again, fumbling with the top of the bottle of rum and blindly taking a swig of it. It burned and made her eyes water and she choked a bit. Owen followed her example, taking a long pull. She could see the muscles in his throat move as he swallowed, the firelight caressing his bronze skin.
          E scooted closer to the fire, feeling the rubber soles of her boots grow hot. She stared at the golden center as her eyelids drooped and took another slug from the bottle. The weight of Owen’s jacket, followed by the blanket dropping down over her shoulders roused her and when Owen sat down beside her and pulled one corner around himself she put down the rum and looked at him. She could feel the warmth of his body even through the layers of fabric between her and his bare arm. She reached for her rum again and took a long drink, ignoring Owen as though he was simply a breathing space-heater. She heard the swish of rum as Owen brought his own bottle to his lips. They drank in silence that was almost companionable. E began to drowse, leaning her head on her knees; the crackling fire and the warmth of the rum made her fingers and toes tingle pleasantly.
          “Evie,” his voice was low.
          She turned her face towards him. He reached out and pushed some of her hair out of her face, his thumb tracing the curve of her cheek. She raised her head and looked at him, realizing her mistake as she was trapped by the blaze in his grey eyes. Encouraged by her silence, Owen scooted towards her, drawing her into his arms. He buried his hands in her tangled hair and looked at her, waiting for her to pull away. The feel of his fingers against her scalp sent a buzz through her veins that had nothing to do with the half-empty bottle of rum. She could smell the rum on his lips, his sweat, and a faint whiff of pine. Something in her eyes made him draw back, his dark brows tugging a furrow into his forehead. He released her and fumbled for his rum.
          Suddenly, she lunged into his arms and he slopped half the rum down the tangled blanket as he reached out to catch her. He felt her heart hammering and the shallow, unsteady gasps of her breath on his face
          “Evie,” he breathed into her hair. “I—” he broke off as he felt a tug at the holster under his arm.
          The smell of gunpowder seared his nostrils as the gunshot rang in his ears.
          Evie’s elbow dug into the top of his shoulder—she had used it to steady her aim. When the ringing died away, the only sounds were the gurgle of foul smelling blood welling from the stumbler’s mouth and the drip of brains that splattered the bar.

* Subgenre: post-apocalyptic horror
Setting: a Nevada brothel
Must Feature: a blizzard