Episode 15: Warning: Graphic Content
Well, what about the Rooster, the fellow we’ve heard so much about? A small-time but good natured pill dealer specializing in drug store pharmaceuticals that fetch some good bucks on the street.
His real name doesn’t matter, especially in this new world. He’s a short, stout, funny-looking guy with a ginger beard, long, red wavy hair that goes right down his back, and he always wears a jean jacket and baseball cap. A red maple leaf, obviously, is among the many patches on his jacket.
Turning loafing into an art form, he was more an acquaintance than a friend to Leo even though they’d sometimes have a few brews at the Sunstone.
Let’s take a trip back in time.....
The Rooster had found himself out in farm country at an estate owned by a notorious biker gang leader called "Dread" - nice, huh? A number of other low-life street gang associates and drug dealers were also staying at the tattooed neanderthal’s place. The towering Dread was as mean a goon, and goof, as you can find but had a soft spot the Rooster.
That admiration created some tension in the house as the other thugs were also pining for the leader’s respect. The Rooster was fortunate, though, to have the Dread's number one muscle, Gareth, also take a shine to him and take him under his wing.
Gareth is a mountain of a man and a stone cold killer who commanded respect - but fear would also do.
When the mangy bunch wasn’t partying and snorting snow, they were off having petty shootouts with a rival gang also holding up at country estate a few miles away.
That other gang was led by a strapping, wavy haired tough guy of Hawaiian decent named Donald Ho, a despicable villain for sure. By the way, anyone, and we mean ANYONE, trying to crack jokes about the name found themselves bloodied on the floor.
What was really funny was how a continued witless turf war continued even though the clientele of both sides were mostly dead.
Shortly after the last TV station went off the air, a station where the despondent newswoman began ranting biblical scriptures, a suddenly pensive Gareth opened up to the Rooster, asking for the meaning of their continued existence. The Rooster certainly had to fake his way through that tricky conversation.
The following day the enforcer went off and never returned. Losing that all-important protection by Gareth, and with Dread high most of the time, gave Rooster good reason to fear the increasingly irrational scumbags at the house. The potential of getting shot by the other gang wasn't appealing either, so he decided to take off one night, grabbing a few supplies, a small pistol as well as a big-ass red motorcycle.
Now on the road, it looks like smooth sailing as the entire area seems deserted, but, unfortunately, he's forced to stop on the two-lane country stretch when about a hundred frightful plague monsters appear on the road ahead, clothing dirty and tattered and teeth chomping. Crap!
He turns the sweet bike around and rumbles the other way, but he soon encounters another horde seemingly waiting for him. Both ways blocked - double crap!
His only option is to pull into the empty parking lot of a little white church, Saint Gummarus Parish. As soon as he parks the hog and goes for the front door he gets yet another rude welcome when an undead bursts from the church.
The hysterical Rooster pulls the pistol from his pants and begins shooting at the rotting creature.
Each shot in the chest seems to only push it back momentary but the sixth and final bullet, which is a complete fluke shot, goes straight into the forehead. The Rooster is momentarily relieved but sees the massive numbers closing in from both sides, so he makes a run for it, almost tripping over a rusty red camp lantern before cutting through a field and making his getaway.
He’ll have to walk god knows how far for shelter and he has no bullets left. The rest of that nerve-racking night is spent in an old farmhouse, a dozen rotting hands clawing at the window. Just stay real quiet stubby man...that's the trick staying in one piece nowadays.
The next morning the coast appears clear, so he begins his long walk on the highway in this harsh landscape. Not a single car drives by but at least he isn't being harassed by the dead.
It's hot, muggy and hasn’t rained in who knows how long, and that unnatural colour of the sky really does make it look like it's the end of the world.
Then, strangely and from out of nowhere, the Rooster hears a police siren activated behind him. What…..cops? It's a no man's land out here with roaming flesh eaters everywhere....but there's a cop?
You kidding? Are the cops still around? This doesn’t make sense! The sweating and exhausted Rooster stands there, puzzled, to see a Royal Canadian Mounted Police cruiser pull up behind him and a big, old cop with thick square sunglasses and a crumby moustache step out.
“Hello sir, how are you doing today? Everything all right? Any reason you should be in the middle of the road?” asks the cop with the hulking, authoritative voice.
“Ummm, no sir…I..uhhh…I’m just trying to make it into town. I don’t have a car. Those dead things are everywhere, sir,” answers Rooster. No, this doesn’t make any sense at all!
“You just don’t worry about them…all right? Do you have any identification on you?” the tough-looking lawman answers back.
As the Rooster shakes his head the constable notices the pistol sticking out of his pants.
He immediately takes a more hostile stance, putting one hand on his holster and pointing at the Rooster to put his hands in the air and get down on ground…NOW!
The Rooster complies but it’s been a while since he’s been harassed by an idiot popo. He thought those days were over - you know, because of this whole end of the world thing. The cop seems to be enjoying throwing his weight around as he sticks a big knee on the confused guy’s back and cuffs him, then slamming him over the hood of the police car.
As he's bent over the hood the poor Rooster can't help but notice a plague monster's rotting head on the side of the road, still grunting and gurgling. "Don't mind that!" the bully cop pontificates.
The cop takes the empty gun and also finds a bottle of quaaludes in one pocket. Crap.
He also goes through his gym bag, removing a couple of cans of food, an almost empty bottle of water, a roll of toilet paper and another stash of uppers.
Holding the pills up to the Rooster’s face, the cop sarcastically asks, “Mind telling me what this is? Should you be carrying these? And what about the prohibited weapon?”
Rooster tries to explain but is told to be quite, thrown into the back the cruiser and driven away. What’s going on?
All the cops are dead. There’s no law. What’s this guy up to? Why isn’t this power tripper with the bad attitude trying to save people from the plague monsters?
This is screwed up!
But then, Rooster starts to believe that maybe, just maybe, things are getting back to normal and the proper authorities are taking back control. Crises over. If so, he doesn’t care about a stupid possession charge.
A short time later, and passing a few plague monsters, some dragging their feet while others just stand and sway, the two arrive at a police detachment. All right, he’s the real deal.
The building is surrounded by a chain-link fence that the officer has to unlock before parking beside several other recently washed police cars. After unlocking the front door he takes Rooster to a desk where paper work is begun. He gets his name, address, all the usual stuff.
There's plenty of desks neatly lined up and it's certainly tidy in here. Only thing, nobody else is around. It's also kind of dark in here and only a couple of the overhead neon lights are working, buzzing and flickering. It also smells moldy in here, like a wet carpet...and it's also quiet, too fricken quiet!
“Umm, sir, where are the other officers? I was wondering if I can call my lawyer now,” Rooster asks nervously. This is intense.
“Hey, pipe down right now!” the cop in the clean and well pressed uniform shouts angrily, pointing his meaty finger in Rooster's face.
“I’m asking the questions around here and you will do all the answering. I don’t want to hear any backtalk either. You’re going to make things difficult for yourself if you don’t cooperate….we don’t want any of that, do we?”
The intimidated ginger shakes his head and looks down as the cop begins hitting his keyboard.
“Well, well, looks like the system is still down, but no matter.”
After a few minutes the cop seems to magically change his tune, uncuffing the Rooster and pulling up a chair to sit in front of him.
“All right, just so you know, the other officers are patrolling. They’ll be back soon. The good news is that I think we can get you off with a warning in this case. I wouldn’t worry. The better news is that we can take you to safety. Lots of food, security, doctors. Everything will be all right now.” The cop smiles and the Rooster is feeling relieved.
During the session, the yellowish tinge manages to creep through the partially closed blinds and saturate the office.
After popping a breath mint pulled from his crisp shirt pocket, the grumbly sergeant looks at a family photo on his desk and has a pensive moment, observing, “Awful shame what happened, all those people dying, all those kids.”
Feeling pretty ripe and desperate for a shower, Rooster, seeing an opportunity to get on the guy’s good side, leans forward. “Well, umm, you know it was kinda bound to happen, the world the way it was. You had all that pollution, biological agents, ambient racism, overpopulation, globalization. Then, there’s all those people stuck on their phones, little kids glued to their tablets, and no men or women anymore, more politically correct to be just wankers. Ya, society imploding slowly. Guess it wouldn’t have been much of one in a couple of years, nothing we’d recognize anyway.”
The cop gasps, “Ambient racism, my ass! You don’t know what the hell you’re talkin’ about!”
The husky officer suddenly converts to jovial, and with a ghastly smile throws his detainee off. He opens his desk drawer and proudly takes out a hockey puck.
“My friend, look at this, isn’t it great?” he grins. “It’s signed by Fred Hall. He’ll be in the Hall of Fame. Gave it to me and my grandson after the team had one of those open practices. Boy, I’d love to see a game again soon.”
Rooster crosses his arms and just nods and smiles, not sure what to make of this guy’s divergent moods.
The captor decides to go a back room momentarily and returns with a salami sandwich and soda for the guest, assuring him the detachment has plenty of food in its freezer. The Rooster doesn’t want to be rude but devours the meal. The popo laughs.
“So, ummm, sir, where am I going? When we leaving?” asks Rooster, crumbs tumbling from his mouth.
“Not until tomorrow, you don’t have to worry about anything!” the cop explains.
The officer takes his time doing more paperwork, making Rooster wait in the lobby for about an hour. When he's done, he stands in front of the guest - a towering presence indeed.
“Okay now boy, you’ll be staying here tonight. As per policy and regulations, you’ll have to sleep in a cell. But don’t you worry now, there’s no charges against you. Tomorrow I’ll have a nice cup of coffee and a good breakfast for you before your trip….everything sounds all right?
The Rooster isn’t exactly thrilled about having to be in a jail cell downstairs but really doesn't have much of a choice. It was a little weird, though, that it's still so quiet in here and that no other cops have shown up. But it must be all right…right?
The pushy cop then takes him by the arm and leads him downstairs to the cells. Only one buzzing overhead light is barley working and the place smells like a garbage can full of rotting dairy products.
“Hello…..sir……sir,” a weak voice of another man calls from a cell down the hall.
The Rooster can’t see who’s in there and is wondering, once again, what’s going on here - wouldn't you?
“You be quiet, don’t cross me tonight. I’m not in the mood for your whining!” shouts the cop toward the cell, while still holding onto Rooster’s arm.
He then pushes the new arrival into a cage and slams the door behind him. Nope, something is not right!
“Good, good, now it’s good. The cop’s voice changes to a more high-pitch shrill, most unpleasant.
He removes his glasses to reveal a crazed, nasty look. His teeth clenched, the cop seems so proud about this.
"Yes, now I’ve got you! Scum! It’s my job to clean the world of scum like you! Yes…..yes…I’m the one cleaning up the world….criminals!”
What the hell is going on? What’s he on about?
“Hey, what are you doing? What do you mean? I thought I was leaving, leaving in the morning?” Rooster replies in panic.
“No, no way….no way you’re going anywhere. I’m protecting the world, cleaning it up, from scum like you. I’m imposing an indefinite term on you. You’re staying here until such time a judge orders your release. No, you’re staying here!" shouts the deranged lawman, rubbing his hands together and looking up toward the ceiling as if he was receiving instructions from some higher authority.
“This is bull. You can’t do this…….I want to talk to a lawyer or your supervisor right now!” demands Rooster, knowing he’s been had big-time.
“Oh….what are you talking about? There’s nobody else. It’s just me here. I’m the law now. I’m in charge of this place. The others, they’re all gone. All dead! It’s just me. You have to show me respect. I knew one day I would be a police officer and you have to show me respect!”
What…..this nutjob isn’t even a cop?
“Who in the hell are you?”
“It doesn't matter does it? A nobody before can be somebody now in this world!" the psycho replies.
"Some scum like you killed my son and grandchildren, robbed and killed them! I am the law. I will take care of it all. You will stay here and show some respect or be punished. You'll all be punished....why did you have to do that, hurt my little ones? They were so sweet, so pure, now they're gone!"
An enraged Rooster shouts at the jailer, who's obviously divorced from reality, demanding to be let out. The fake cop tells the hapless Rooster how there’s harsh treatment for the slightest infraction: talking in the cells, bad attitude, etcetera.
If he wants food, he’ll have to play by the rules. The poor sap down the hall talked when he wasn’t supposed to and, as a result, hasn’t eaten in two days.
The wannabe cop then orders the defeated Rooster to sit on the bed, sit and shut the hell up!
This is incredible. The new inmate then sits slumped and defeated, remembering how he's always hated cops. The crazy man in the cop uniform then exits, continuing to rant, and shuts off the light on his way out. No food for the Rooster tomorrow if he doesn't behave. Anyways, that’s what happened to the Rooster.
The following day the maniac fake copper, now in his fancy red RCMP ceremonial uniform, is on another one of his patrols searching for scum, driving out further than usual and coming across a gated compound.
He enters to investigate, naturally, and starts a walk-through.
How horrible......body bags everywhere! He then notices a giant pile of ash and bone. A death yard, and on an industrial scale too. This world is gone, beyond hope.
“Oh….my…..dear god…god!” the cop screams, drawing the attention of what looks like a large group plague monsters that immediately file out of an open bay door of one of the buildings. They move toward the panic-stricken fake cop who isn’t acting so tough anymore.
He fires a couple shots wildly toward them, completely missing, before running to a mobile trailer. Lucky for him it’s unlocked, so he gets inside and locks the damn door.
Pulling the blinds down, the copper feels an overwhelming terror as the discoloured monster things claw at the trailer and make those deathly groans.
He later peeks through the blinds to see too many of them between the trailer and his RCMP cruiser
He paces, trying to figure out what he can do. If he wished really hard, put a belief out there that things will turn around, will that work?
The next day, those evil, infected things are still scratching at the door. The room is dark and spinning while vanquish has completely taken over the man's soul.
He sits on the floor in a corner, morose, knowing the only alternative is to join his family.
How appropriate, the sky is rumbling but there's no rain. Once the decision is made there’s no waiting around or hesitation. He sticks the revolver in his mouth. As the gun flash envelopes his world, the brute sees a gruesome battle that will unfold between a group of survivors and something insidious, a blue-eyed monstrosity leading an army of undead. The survivors could have really used the phony cop's brawn. No matter, his grandkids greet him at his new destination.
Story by Sandor Gyarmati
Comic art by Jess Soares (HouseofBlackArt.com)
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