Let me knife you a question

About half the Wyomins left of their own accord went up into the mountains to try make it on their own.  A couple asked for a lift to Crow, a couple managed to integrate themselves into one of the bands on our side, and the rest resigned themselves to a life of mudding in Bosstown.   

Nemecrie was one of the contingent that she wanted to go to Crow, I was halfway considering asking her to join us since she seemed to know what was up but my enthusiasm for that project was dampened when she tried to stab me.  Martialla and I (and Paul) were sitting by J-Lo enjoying the bounty of our victory – cooking up some mashed dick-potato soup and enjoying the lights in the sky – when Nemecrie approached us with a ceramic jug of a wine-like liquid that was horrid but pretty good by the standards of the day.  She joined us for a bit and we chatted and drank and then when she was passing me the jug she lunged at me with a blade.   

I flopped back and she took a strip out of my jacket instead of my flesh.  Martialla tackled her and she had a brief moment to rant about how the Invincible were unbeatable (or invincible if you will) and that Duke Eagle was going to make me his personal slave and so on and so forth before Paul hobbled over and twisted her head like a soda bottle cap.  I guess she was a little more of a partisan for the Invincible than she let on before.

I nudged her dead body with my foot “You know if there’s one good thing about the world of tomorrow . . .” 

Martialla interrupted “Which there isn’t.” 

I nodded “Which there isn’t, but if there was it would be that there doesn’t seem to be a glass ceiling anymore.  Possibly because it’s kind of hard to tell a lot of time what gender people even are.” 

Martialla picked up the jug carefully to avoid spilling any more precious horrible wine “Here’s to you Emmeline Pankhurst, we did it!  Sort of.  And all it took was the total collapse and destruction of all society everywhere. 

“Good work bodyguarding guys” I said as I examined the hole in my jacket. 

Paul’s head snapped around and he stared me with strange wet eyes.  I couldn’t tell if he was going to jump on me and bite my jugular vein or if he was pleased or what was going on behind those crazy eyes.  After holding my gaze for a moment he kind of bobbed his head like an ostrich and then set about dragging the corpse away so it wouldn’t disturb our great feast.  Martialla sat back down and continuing stirring her punch bowl of potato moosh bisque.   

She glanced at his figure retreating into the shadows “I don’t think Paul’s gotten much positive reinforcement in his life so far.” 

I shook my head “I’d be locking my door with that guy around if I had a door.” 

Martialla shook her head absently “He’s harmless, well not harmless he’s killed tons of people, but you know what I mean.” 

“I have no idea what you mean.  So, why do you think this place is here?  Everywhere we’ve been there’s usually there’s some resource like mud or grass or stinking dead fish or some reason why people would want to live there.  I don’t see crops or anything, and it definitely isn’t a trade town so what’s the appea; of this place, why was anyone here?” 

She thought for a moment “That’s actually a good point.” 

“What do you mean actually?” 

Martialla made a vague conciliatory gesture “I just mean that . . . you know . . . usually you don’t . . . you know . . . uh, anyway maybe we should take a closer look around in the morning.  I’m sure they looted this place good but they may not have noticed some things that might be interesting to us.” 

“Speaking of, when the looting stage of the battle began I’m surprised that our side didn’t start fighting amongst themselves.” 

Martialla snorted “What makes you think that they didn’t?  Not all our casualties came during the fighting.  Not even most of them maybe.” 

“Wonderful.  Well, at least we got this campaign off on the right foot with a victory, that’s what matters right?  Good for morale and so forth.” 

“And what’s the next stage in the campaign fearless leader?”  

“We saw a couple Invincible towns or strongholds or whatever when we were scouting right?” 

Martialla raised an eyebrow “Stay on the attack?  Could be a good idea.  I think the general military opinion is that of offense over defense.” 

“Is that why the Lakers never play any defense?”

“Derek Fisher is a solid defender, and Shaq lead the leagues in blocks!”

I snorted “Blocking shots is not defense, you play defense with your feet not your hands.”

Martialla snorted right back “You don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

I nodded my head “True.  My original thinking was that if we provoked the Invincible they’d mobilize more strongly against us and then we could use that to rally people to our cause, but I think now that if we’re going to keep this rabble together we need to stay on the move.  Like a shark we have to keep swimming or we’ll die.” 

“Except the nurse shark.  And the sand tiger.” 

“Shut up Martialla.” 

Ela Halloween Special #5

Tina shoves Ela away from her and Ela comes flying back at Tina with fists clenched ready to slug it out.  Only Martialla and Elvis jumping in between to restrain them and keep them from having it out right then and there.  Ela breaks away from their grasping hands waving her arms (and axe) about angrily.

“What the fuck is wrong with you people?!  Why does everything have to be a fight with you morons!  Why do you have to question everything I say?  I’m trying to save your lives, what don’t you get about that?!”

Ela goes off on them about everything under the sun and all five of them back away in fright.  Not because they’re scared of her, but instead because through the glass they can see a dark shape is getting larger and larger in the display behind her.  They all stare at the rapidly growing shape behind the glass as Ela stomps up and down and curses them out for ever being born.  As she’s reaching the crashing crescendo of her diatribe, Martialla and Elvis turn and run for it as Tina, Lucien, and Duke drop to the floor and take cover.

Ela frowns as they cower and run off respectively “What? What’s wrong with you now?  Are you that afraid of me? Look, I know I’m one scary bitch but show some fucking backbone, you cowards! Yes, I’m the queen badass of the world, but just because . . .”

Before she can finish, the zombie shark slams into the glass at full speed, shattering it and sending thousands of gallons of water crashing out over Ela like a smelly tidal wave.  Just like in Jaws 3D only not super dumb looking.  By all appearances, this adult male tiger shark should be floating upside down at the top of the tank, little bits of flesh hanging off him and his eyes rolled back in their sockets, but he most certainly is not.  He rides the wave of water out of the enclosure like a body surfer, his dead jaws snapping and his double dead eyes rolling wildly like a Magic 8 Ball.

The rush of water knocks everyone for a loop and bowls them over, carrying them every which way (but loose). The massive zombie beast whips its head from side to side biting blindly as Lucien and Duke scramble away as best they can in their injured condition – Martialla and Elvis look on in horror from a catwalk above. Tina, in a mad attempt to avoid the jaws, leaps onto the back of the writhing beast and grabs onto its fin like a cowboy riding a rodeo stallion.

The zombie shark goes absolutely berserk with her on its back, redoubling its thrashing and trying to throw Tina off.  Lucien reaches up with his crutch and Martialla manages to drag both him and Duke up to the safety of the catwalk with Elvis and herself.  With another mighty lunge-flop from the deadite Galeocerdo cuvier, Tina is thrown off its back violently, her hands and forearms ripped to shreds by the sandpaper zombie skin.  Hurled through the air like a discarded yogurt cup, she slams into another tank hard enough to crack the glass.  She lays stunned for a moment as the shark zombie flops towards her like some horrible carnivorous inch worm.  From up above, Martialla and Elvis are screaming for her to get up and run but Tina can only sit there in a daze.

As the awful undead creature is moving closer, the cracks in the tank Tina slammed into slowly spread outward and finally it gives way, Elvis shouting as a second torrent of water sends Tina slip’n’sliding right towards the toothy maw of the undead tiger shark.  But the water also seems to shock her back to her senses, snapping her out of her daze.  She manages to twist away from the gaping maw at the last moment – shooting along the side of the shark like she’s going down Mount Splashmore.  She’s dragged along the shark’s knotty hide but she’s able to scramble to the stairs that lead up to the catwalk as the deadly fish flops around trying to get facing the right direction. The five of them watch in astonishment from above as the shark zombie slowly inches its way towards the stairs and with a mighty lunge throws itself across the bottom steps.

With another lunge, it starts to come up the stairs like a drunken frat boy doing the worm, causing the metal structure to groan as it buckles and strains under its weight.  The beast lunges again and the entire catwalk starts to come free, bolts flying out of the ceiling as the supports break away.  The lurching action sends Elvis tumbling over the side, but Martialla catches him – her arm almost jerking out of the socket under the strain.  Martialla would have fallen over the side too but Tina, Duke, and Lucien grab her and haul them both back onto the dubious safety of the catwalk. The shark lurches up further like a reverse slinky and the catwalk tilts at a forty-five degrees angle towards the shark’s waiting jaws.

As the five of them cling to the catwalk desperately, Elvis’s legs flailing just a foot away from the shark’s deadly rows of teeth, a waterlogged Ela comes back into the picture, grabbing the shark’s tail and yanking it back down to the floor like an old man starting a gas powered lawn mower.  With shocking quickness the zombie shark snaps its tail, flinging her off and smashing her into the wall at high speed.  It flails wildly trying to turn around and take advantage of her stunned condition, finally flicking its tail against the wall and whipsawing it around like a Tokyo Drift.  

Ela is scurrying away like a crab as the zombie shark lunges at her.  She leaps out of the way, sliding across the wet floor and slamming into a wall, feeling a searing pain.  She bounces off the wall and squeaks to a stop on the wet floor, looking down and only seeing her right foot at the end of her shapely toned legs.  The left leg is footless, host only to a bloody stump.  Ela hears screaming, looks up assuming it’s Tina, and after a moment she realizes that it’s her own voice she’s hearing.

Ela nearly blacks out, her vision swimming like a Baywatch lifeguard, but at the edge of her awareness, she sees the zombie shark flopping across the floor headed her way.  Say one thing about zombies, they never stop trying to kill you.  She fights to stay conscious, forcing herself to focus and block out the pain.  Looking on from above, clinging to the catwalk, her companions are shocked to see Ela lurch to her foot and limp not away from, but rather towards the shark!  She mashes her bloody footless stump down onto the end of Martialla’s shovel and pops it up into her hands.  Ela starts hammering on the shark with the shovel and screaming like a mad woman.

“Give me back my foot! Give it to me! It’s mine! It’s my foot! Give it back!”

Her vicious blows mean nothing to the zombie shark as it tries vainly to get around and bite at her. Finally Ela drives the shovel into the shark’s head like she’s digging a hole for a fencepost and the head of the shovel breaks off – leaving Ela holding a jagged wooden stick.  She looks dumbly at the splintered end for a second and then rams it through the shark’s gill slits like she’s making the world’s worst caramel apple.   Which is saying something because they’re all pretty bad.  The zombie shark’s frantic motions slow down, drooping like a toy with a run-down battery. 

After a few seconds its jaws are merely opening and closing slowly on reflex as the smell of flesh fills its nostrils.  Ela limps away and grabs her fire axe – Tina turning her head in horror as Ela starts to hack into the dying (for the second time) creature.  Martialla is the only one who can watch the whole scene unfold as Ela dismembers the thing and then triumphantly pulls her severed foot out of its gullet.  Once she has her hands on the foot she falls to the floor, clutching it to her chest and once again covered with blood and disgusting black scum.

Ela tucks the foot down her clown shirt “Well, I suppose now we’re going to have to head to the hospital after all.” She shakes her head as she uses the axe to lever herself to her foot. “Looks like I picked the wrong day to stop smoking crystal meth.”

As they take to the streets once more, they’ve got big problems. Ela has a belt around her ankle as a tourniquet, trying to reduce the blood flow, she leans heavily on Martialla as she grits her teeth and gamely tries to keep up a good pace.  Between that and Lucien on a makeshift crutch and Duke feeling weak from loss of blood, they’re only a hair’s breadth faster than the zombies slowly chasing them.  Elvis leads the way and Tina is at the rear, walking backwards with the axe in her hand and striking down any zombie that proves to be faster than the rest and gets too close.

Elvis is rubbing his hands together obsessively “This is not happening, this is not happening, this is not happening . . . “

Ela’s voice is not too pained to sound grim “Yes it is.”

Tina swings the axe and knocks down a zombie at the head of the pack “Shit on me, shit on me, shit on me . . . “

Ela tries to hike herself to stand up straight, choking Martialla in the process “Snap out of it, you morons! None of us are going to make it if two of the three people we have left in good shape wig out, so get a fucking grip! You don’t see anyone else losing it, do you?”

Elvis spins around so fast that he almost falls over “That’s because you’re already crazy!!!  You got your foot bitten off for CHRISTSAKE ! And . . .”

Lucien manages to shove Elvis forward as he hobbles “Keep moving [untranslatable Canadian gibberish]”

Tina hands are shaking violently as she knocks back another faster-than-average zombie “I don’t know how much more of this I can take . . . I don’t know . .  . I can’t . . . I can’t . . .” She backs into Duke and almost knocks him down “. . . THIS IS CRAZY!”

Ela sighs “Look people, all we have to do is get to the hospital, sew my foot back on, pump me and Duke and Lucien full of painkillers and adrenaline and we’ll be good to go. Piece of cake.”

Martialla looks at her “You do know how crazy that sounds right?”

Ela chuckles humorlessly “Crazy? Look around, we’re in a town infested with the walking dead, who are intent on killing us and devouring our flesh.  Given these facts I don’t think crazy has any meaning anymore.”

Martialla nods “Good point.”

Ela talks over whatever Tina and Elvis are trying to say “Okay we’re going to have to pick up the pace here folks, we need to get some distance between ourselves and our friends back there. On the double people, move it, move it, move it!”

They break into the saddest most ragged-ass run you have ever seen outside of a high school gym class, Elvis picking Ela up and Lucien making that crutch fly for all she’s worth. They widen the gap between the pack of zombies behind them and eventually lose them altogether.  But for how long?  Dodging down alleys and cutting through buildings to avoid other zombies, they get to the street that will take them to the Stirling Memorial Hospital.  After only a few blocks through, Martialla calls a halt.

Martialla holds her hand up “Wait a minute, wait a minute, I think I have an idea.” She looks around as if making sure she does have an idea “Yeah, here’s what I want you to do. Tina, you and Duke go over to that bar over there and bring me back as many empty bottles as you can, leave the axe here with Ela.” She waves at the other side of the street “Elvis, you come with me.”

Elvis frowns “What for?”

Martialla half drags him as she heads out “There’s no time to explain, just come on.”

Elvis looks at Tina, who shrugs and then hands the axe to Ela, sitting in the middle of the road with Lucien.  Tina and Duke head for the bar as Elvis hurries up after Martialla.  Lucien and Ela look at each other for a minute and then scoot around back to back, laying the axe to the side where they both keep a hand on it.

Lucien shrugs his shoulders trying to get comfortable, nearly knocking Ela over “What do you think she has in mind?”

Ela takes a deep breath “I don’t know, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this was just a ruse to leave us behind without making a big scene. That’s what I’d do and I taught her everything she knows.”

“Don’t you barely know her?”

Ela sighs “If I could reach, I’d slap you in the face right now.”

“Yeah, I’ve noticed you seem to do that a lot.  So we’re going to die huh?”

Ela sighs deeper “Looks like.”

“Huh . . . too bad right?

Ela lets out a long breath “Yep.”

October 15, 1973 – Enter Martialla the super-mermaid!

It was the perfect plan.  I need food and I need money.  The answer?  Sharks!  Of course, the answer is usually sharks.  Did you know the largest order of sharks is called ground sharks?  I didn’t.  How does that make sense?  They don’t live on the ground at all!  Quite the opposite in fact.  There’s also an order of sharks called carpet sharks which sounds like a type of VD.  “Sorry sweetie I know it’s your birthday but my carpet sharks are flaring up.  Maybe next week.” 

The plan was simple.  Step one, I wade out into the ocean.  Sharks, being the voracious killing machines that they are would immediately come to attack me.  Ah-ha but the stupid fish wouldn’t be counting on me having the strength of twenty men – twenty men that were also very strong, not twenty normal sissy men.  Step two, the shark charges at me, eyes rolling wildly full of murderous rage, and I flip it onto the shore as easily as some square flipping pancakes at a church breakfast.  The shark is helpless on the shore and Blue bashes its head in with a mighty lizard-fist.  And Robert’s your father’s brother. 

Step three, we drag the carcass of the deadly monster triumphantly through the streets while people cheer our mighty triumph over nature’s perfect assassin to my favorite grilled fish place where they buy half from me for a boatload of crazy purple and pink money and they cook up the other half for me to devour on the spot.  What delicious irony!  The shark thought it was going to eat me and instead I eat it!  What a country!

The plan was flawless.  But the issue with the execution of that flawless plan was that no sharks came to eat me.  The nature shows try to say that sharks are shy and no threat to people as long as we leave them alone but that’s bullshit.  I read Jaws, I know the deal.  All the sharks must have been busy eating people somewhere else.  Probably what happened is a bus full of school children fell off a bridge and the sharks were all over eating them.  And the children they didn’t eat they held for ransom in their sea-caves.  Which is a real dick move because sharks don’t even understand the concept of money!  They were just doing it to torment the parents.  Sharks are like that.

I was just about to give up on this flawless plan when not a shark or even a shark woman but just a normal (sort of) woman popped out of the water wearing a wetsuit but no SCUBA gear.  I guess surfers wear those suits sometimes but she had no surfboard either.  Oh, also her eyes were all white and her fingers were webbed.  She looked kind of like Jenny Kemp, except for the monster eyes and freak hands.  Her French was funky like Blue’s, so she must be Quebecois or some other kind of fake French person.  Someday I want to meet someone here who speaks proper French.  Not French like they speak in France, but proper French like we speak in Arkansas. 

She looked at me curiously (I think, hard to know for sure with those eyes you know) “What are you doing out here?”

I gestured “Fishing for sharks, isn’t that obvious?  What are you doing?”

She looked around with her crazy pale eyes “Is this Madripoor?  I’m looking for my niece.”

I nodded “It sure is.  Are you saying that you just swam here?  Like from a boat?”

“No, from Vladivostok.” When she saw the look of shock on my face she shrugged “I’m a pretty good swimmer.”

“Are you looking for your niece like she’s lost or you mean looking for her like you’re going to stay with her for the weekend and you don’t know where her apartment is?”

“She was kidnapped.  I’m here to take her home to my sister.  And to kill the men that took her.”

“Right on, right on.” I clapped her on the shoulder “Well good luck with that, I got sharks to catch and you have men to kill so I’ll let you get to it.”

“Where is the ship called Empire?’

I turned back to her “Well now, that is an interesting development, a clear cut situation with a promise of advancing the plot you might say!  It just so happens that I was kidnapped and brought here on a ship called the Empire.  We have much to discuss.  But first, can you use your powers to talk to fish?  Tell them to come up here so I can eat them.  Well, kill them and have someone cook them first and then eat them, but you know.”

She cocked her head “Talk to fish?  I can’t do that.  Why would you think I could?”

“What about whales?’ She shook her head “You can’t even communicate with marine life?  All you can do is swim?  So you’re even worse than Aquaman?”

“I don’t know what that is.”

I smiled “What’s your name?”

“Martialla Chernyshevsky”

I put an arm around her and headed for the shore where Blue was watching with interest. “Martialla Chernyshevsky, I have a feeling we’re going to be good friends.  There’s just something I like about you. And I don’t like many people. Let me introduce you to my other friend, the giant blue lizard monster.” I laughed in joy “Now things are really starting to snowball.  We’ll be a league of justice in no time!”