Gears walked down the road - or what was left of the road - at sunset. His shadow stretched out long and skinny behind him like the skeleton of a straw man. He kicked clumps of weeds breaking through cracked asphalt.
A whole lot has changed," he said with his eyes turned up to the setting
sun. He said this often. It was nothing new. It was a purposeless and obvious
statement, but it made him feel better to let it out, even if there was no one
around to hear him.
sun cast light on an eccentric and lopsided hill whose sides were far too steep
to be natural. The sun glimmered off remains of glass and steel hidden behind
vines and shrubs. Gears thought that the structure might have been an old John
Deere outlet a few years (or a few decades) ago. It was hard to tell. Nothing
looked the same. Time had a way of giving everything a facelift. Sometimes,
those changes were for the better. Sometimes, they weren’t.
out a wad of used up tobacco. He worked his tongue around his mouth to get the
soft stems and fibers loose from his remaining teeth. He hated chewing, but
cigarettes weren’t easy to come by. He could dry leaves out and make cigars,
but it seemed like too much work. Instead, he just collected leaves from the
remains of the tobacco farm down the road from where he stayed and kept a few
wound up plugs stored away in his satchel. It wasn’t a smoke, but it was just
enough of a stimulant to keep him a little less fuzzy around the edges. It
helped him see through things, past what was and towards what could be, or what
he hoped the world might become.
world just might have coffee and cigarettes again, he hoped.
That would be nice.
walked towards the unnatural hill. With both hands, he picked up a large black
clump of asphalt that had broken free from the road thanks to a particularly
stubborn clump of weeds. He grunted and ignored the strain of the muscles in
his shoulders and the venous bulges of his tightly-wound neck. He swung the
clump of asphalt towards the building, worked up momentum by swinging his arms,
and let the asphalt fly. The large rocky clump crashed through a window. It
pulled a few threads of poison ivy and kudzu along with it as the rocky mass
ducked in through the broken window and turned on his flashlight. He wound it a
few times to make sure it had enough juice to get him in and out. He flashed
the light around the room and saw the interior was a store, but not for John
Deere tractors. The room was filled, wall to wall, with shelves upon shelves of
picked up a book. The cover was shiny, metallic. In large cursive letters he
saw the name "Danielle Steele."
nothing but kindling." Gears tossed the book aside and flashed the light
back around the room.
large and dark skittered off between rows of shelves.
his breath a moment and stood still. He listened for a moment but did not hear
Gears reached up behind his back and drew his machete. "Anybody
the light from side to side. "I didn’t know this place was occupied. I
wouldn’t of come barging in like that if I knew there was someone here. You
know how it is. Your place looked deserted. Thought there might be something
wasting away, unused, but still useful in here. That’s what we’ve come to, isn’t
it? A bunch of thieves. Scavengers. But hell, what else can we do?" Gears
shrugged. "Anyway, I ain’t going to take anything. Promise. I’ve got all
the reading I need back at my place with the Good Book. In fact, I’ll back out
now if you want. Is that what you want?"
listened. Something moved behind him. He turned on his heels and shined his
light. A row of books flew off the shelves and landed on the floor as a shadow
passed. Gears tightened his grip on the machete’s handle.
right, I’m leaving. Don’t try anything with me. I don’t like killing at all. It
never much suited me, but I’ve done it more than once over the years. But I
guess you’d figure that. You can’t rightly live without killing these
days." Gears laughed. "I guess it beats the old court system. Rather
take a knife to the brain than have to sit through another damn lawsuit. I was
a lawyer back in the time before. Name’s Greg Ayler, but everyone calls me
Gears these days. I say everyone calls me that, but that’s not too many people
these days, I guess." Gears tried to remember the last time he saw another
person. It had been cold, so it had been at least a season ago, maybe two.
"What do they call you?"
There was a
hiss. Something ran at him and hit him in the side.
Gears pulled the machete around as a reflex. It met something hard and stopped.
screamed. Long wires slapped at Gears’ face.
cockroaches!" Gears dropped his flashlight and worked his machete with
both hands. The cockroach screeched and thrashed. Gears pushed with both hands
and then placed a foot near the top of the flat side of the blade to work the
machete down the rest of the way through the creature’s thick body. The head
ran off on three legs leaving the abdomen – and most of the torso – behind.
wrapped around Gear’s neck and pulled him backwards. Teeth bit at his shoulder.
Gears reached up, pulled down a bookcase, and shrugged the biting thing off of
his back. Gears stood away from the falling bookcase. There was a scream, and
plastic snapped as the flashlight exploded.
closed his eyes and counted to thirty. This was a trick his dad had taught him
a long time ago. Scared of the dark? Count to thirty and the dark’s less
dark. It took everything he had not to open his eyes. He just trusted his
instinct – and counted on that scream, and the following ongoing strange
whimpers – and hoped he would not be attacked again until he was able to get
his eyes. Thin pinpoints of greasy light from the setting sun outside the
building streamed in between vines, creepers, and filthy glass. It wasn’t much
light, but he could see outlines and shapes.
over to the fallen bookcase. He heard raspy breathing. He looked down and saw a
woman’s face looking back at him. At least she appeared to be a woman. Her
beady black eyes seemed to say otherwise as they scanned about the room in a
repetitive frenetic circuit. She clicked and clacked her tongue against the
roof of her mouth.
leaned down and attempted to look her in the eyes. He turned her face towards
his. She clacked her teeth together as if biting. She turned her head away and
clicked her tongue again. From the shadows, the severed cockroach walked
over. Thick white gunk glowed in the
half light and trailed the creature as it shuffled towards the clicking woman.
stepped back and lifted his machete.
cockroach reached the woman and began caressing her head with its antennae. She
smiled and closed her eyes. She began to coo. The cockroach lifted a leg and
tenderly touched the woman’s face. She reached out her tongue and licked the
began to cry. She clicked softly. The cockroach clicked softly back. The woman
nodded her head. The cockroach rose up on its remaining legs. The woman smiled.
The cockroach pounced onto the woman’s face.
Mandibles ripped through her cheek and eye.
sucked in a breath of air. He raised the machete but hesitated to bring it
down. "Is this what she wanted?" he asked the cockroach. The
cockroach ignored him and quickly tugged soft flesh away from the skull. The
woman did not yell once. She did not scream. In fact, in that moment before the
roach began devouring, she actually smiled.
what’s this world come to?" Gears asked. He turned and began to work his
way towards the broken window.
something shining on the floor in front of him. It was the Danielle Steele book
he had tossed away earlier.
the book away.