Occasional flashes of fluorescent, silent lightning would sporadically illuminate the dark and decrepit stairs. The small crew crept down cautiously, slowly. The stairs were littered with trash and corpses, discarded paraphernalia and anonymous piles of stinking who-knows-what. The fetid putrescence of human decay, mold, and stale crack-smoke created a nauseating potpourri that was noticeable even with the gas masks on tight.
Every few stairs, Chas would stop and rummage through the clothing of another corpse, often finding the drugs he was hoping would be stashed in the pockets of the deceased. He couldn’t have been happier, and he made lecherous sounds each time, like some drunken, cavorting ghoul.
Ward waited until they were four levels down, on level eleven, before deciding to enter onto that floor. He already knew that there was nothing on the other floors, that all cabinets had been raided already. He had not gone any lower than level twelve since this whole nightmare began.
They entered the eleventh floor, a dimly lit, foul smelling tunnel lined with apartment doors on either side, looking exactly like every other level. All was silent but for some kind of hip-hop that came from the far end of the hall, and echoed all throughout the entirety of the gloom and grime. They knew they were not alone.
“Y’all lookin’ fo’ some action?” The voice startled the small group. It came from a large, dark skinned and skanky prostitute. “I’m Samoa,” she proudly let them know.
“No, thanks,” Ward replied. “But we’d be more than happy to trade some of our goods for clean water or food, if you have it?”
“Well, what kinda goods, sugar?”
She cut him off cold. “Baby, that shit be worthless, ain’t nobody transmittin’ no’ mo’.”
They all knew she was right.
“Well...” Ward began to say.
“Well nothin’. Honey, all I got is this pussy, which I will gladly trade for some cookies. I work fo’ chips, too,” she said, rubbing her exposed, purple stretch-marked gut. “I am starvin’.” She began to rub her immense frame against Ward, the rippling waves of her gut brushing softly against his arm.
“Hon, I hate to tell you this after your, uh, convincing little sales pitch and all, but I’m gay.”
Chas and Raymondo both started giggling like school children. But it was Chas, base level as could be, who started to finger the pockets full of drugs he had collected on the way down to the eleventh level, eyeing up Samoa and considering the situation.
Temporarily distracted, the group did not notice the small gang of camouflaged, angry youth come up behind them, semi-auto’s pointed for the kill.
A voice, loud and commanding, boomed out of the darkness. “MASKS OFF!” It was startling in its unexpected, harsh delivery. “What you got, boy?”
“Laptops, communications supplies, batteries...we just need...”
“I didn’t ask what you need! Gimme!” the stranger barked, grabbing the bag out of Ward’s hands.
“Look, sir, we’re starving. We just were wondering if we could do a little bartering, that’s all.”
“Sir, huh? Damn, you is like a good nigga,” he mocked.
“Fuck them!” Chas blurted out. Making like he was going to come at them he continued, “Give us back the bag...”
“Bitch, you got fifteen muthafuckin’ assault rifles pointed at your weak junkie ass, most of which you can’t even see. I be stayin’ put if I was you.” Their eyes were caught in a hateful deadlock. “Yeah, junkie ass...I know what you all's ‘bout.”
“You don’t know shit!”
“‘Scuse me? Muthafucka, I can tells by yo’ skinny ass, and by yo’ greezy hair. What you think I do fo’ a livin’, huh? Shit, wit’ pupils like that...they two diff'ent sizes, bitch!”
Chas huffed back his rage, but kept his aggressive posture. It seemed like he was absolutely loving this confrontation.
“You in charge, faggot?” the stranger barked with seething hatred at Ward.
Looking back at the others and seeing the fear frozen on their faces, Ward answered. “Yeah, I guess so. Name’s Ward.”
“Akim. You and the Mexican boy, and that sexy bitch blonde, you come with me. My guys gonna stay here an make sure yo’ guys stay in line.”
Akim and a couple of his men led them down to the end of the hall. They entered the room where the loud hip-hop played. The room was large and decorated in gaudy gold trim, with sickly red walls. Several other people lay about the room, most of them sucking little white rocks through cloudy glass dicks. The females were partially or completely undressed and zone-eyed, strung out from drug abuse stress, sick with malnutrition and addiction. And the end of the world. And being rape puppets.
“Where y’all from in this building?” Akim asked.
“Top,” Ward replied.
“Top, huh? I didn’t think anyone was above us. You quiet.”
“Try to be.”
“Good, good. Keep it that way.” Akim began to pace slowly around the room. “I ain’t a bad guy, Ward. I’m a business man, you see. Supply and demand. They demand, and I supply. Bitches, rocks, murders...it don’t matter. I’m in the business of chaos.”
“Chaos, nigga, chaos. Its the muthafuckin’ game. The sorry state of this muthafuckin’ planet has lef’ me a KING. People know that I got, that I’m one of the haves. I spent a long time being a have not, brotha’, you dig? A have not. You see, I ain’t one of the looters, baby. No, I’m a hoarder. And that’s what makes me king.” He hit a blunt that was being passed around by his henchmen, then continued on with his delusion of grandeur. “This is my place, my castle. These bitches, this weed and all the other shit...all mine.” He smiled a crazy King Pimp-type smile.
Ward, Dexi, and Raymondo all looked at each other with the same collective understanding: this guy is bat shit crazy. And it didn’t help that he was coming off like a poor man's Wesley Snipes from New Jack City.
The madman continued his tirade of lunacy. “I ain’t a bad guy. But I’m tired. Tired of all this panic, tired of all these bitches,” kicking a skinny little white girl with a pipe in her mouth while he said this. The pipe flew from her shaky hands and she began to scramble, whimpering like an animal, looking for her popped rocks. “Pretty soon these goddamned vines is gonna cover this whole muthafuckin’ place, prob’ly cave it in or some shit. Plants! Ain’t that a mothafucka’. And where we gonna go? Outside, with that plague, or the rats, or the acid rain? Fuck no! We is stuck. Everyone in this place is stuck, until we die. Ain’t no one comin’. At least we high up in this jaun.
“My men are bringin’ y’all some goods right now, crackers. I’m gonna make yo’ trade, you know why? Cause we ALL gonna die.” Akim laughed while saying this.
His words had the disturbing ring of prophetic truth, tightening the knot of dread already twisted up in everyone’s stomachs.
Akim looked at Dexi. “And what is yo’ name?”
“Dexi,” she said, flat and pissed.
“Dexi?” He rubbed his rough hand against her soft pale cheek. “Is Dexi flexi?”
She batted his hand away. “Fuck off.”
“Hot blooded, I like that. You ever need a job, baby, I’m sure yo’ sweet cream’ll rise right to the top o’ the smut stack.”
She cut him to shreds with her eyes.
He stopped smiling, his mock congenial tone gone. “I always get what I want, Flexi Dexi. Always.”
His words made her flesh crawl.
The armed men brought out several boxes filled with rations and supplies.
“Here’s the deal, fools. If you lookin’ fo’ action, to fuck o’ get high, all's cool. Otherwise you just forget that you know me. DO NOT come back down here, dig? This is MY house. ‘Cept for sweet-meat there, she can come down to go down anytime she wants.”
She knew if she made another peep it could only make things go sour, so she bit down on her tongue hard.
“Thank you, Akim. If you need anything, don’t hesitate...”
“Oh, don’t you worry about that. I won’t be hesitatin’.” He turned to Dexi. “You might wanna think about that job offer, sweet cakes.”
She sneered. “Never.”
“That’s my favorite word baby. You know why? Cause it means nothin’. You never know when you’ll be in a pinch and need to sell that...”
“Don’t,” she cut him off with deliberate intensity.
“Just sayin’, baby...“
In the hall waited Chelsea and Angel, making nice with the gunmen about the end of the world.
“Where’s Chas?” Ward asked. “We need help with these boxes.”
Angel, looking upset (her usual), was all too quick to answer. “Oh, he went off with Samoa, said he would meet us later. We told him not to, but he called us no-good dykes and went anyway.”
Ward huffed, but the general unspoken consensus was relief. Chas had the uncanny ability to make everyone uncomfortable.
With supplies in tow, they made their way back up to level fifteen. They stepped over vines that had burrowed their way through building walls and into the stairways.
Where there are vines, there are rats. And where there are rats, there is the N.E.C.R.O.
No one said it, but they all knew it. They stayed silent while stepping over the sticky, pin-haired plant limbs that draped carelessly in the eleventh and twelfth level stairways.
The fine scent of synthetic vaginal musk held gently in the air.
Return tomorrow for the CONVULSION