The Sunstone Pub

Episode 12: Warning: Graphic Content

 

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Well, it's another creepy, quiet night in the Lower Mainland, too quiet. There's nothing but blackness, as well as decomposing bodies, abandoned cars and roaming plague monsters shuffling aimlessly in their netherworld.

 

The light beige motorhome carrying that group of survivors slowly makes its way past a fenced ball park. When it's gone, the horror within the park is revealed as a tall, muscular man-like freak emerges from a travel trailer. A mother and teen daughter had been holed up in the dank unit, stuck there following the failure of the man of the house to return from a supply mission.

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Doesn't matter because the mom and daughter have just been ravaged by the stranger, who's white as a sheet and has deep blue balls for eyes.

The freak was thirsty but now that craving has been quenched. Taking a hanky from his coat pocket to wipe blood from his mouth, the menace looks down and giggles at the sight of the mother's head which rolled out of the trailer, its eyes wide open and sand covering its lips.

                 

Also there are a dozen decaying plague monsters standing quietly and obediently for their master, waiting for their turn to feed. They're grey and emaciated, several possessing hollowed-out eye sockets or missing body parts. The freak with satanical delight decides to soccer kick the head as if he's taking a penalty shot, and beans the forehead of one of his loyal subjects.

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Without having to say a word, the malignant general lets the corpse crew know they can proceed to eat, so they shuffle to the trailer for a late supper. While they tear and chomp, the killer seats himself on a stack of tires and takes out a file to work on his nails. He also begins humming O' Canada. Soon, he'll join others of his kind to create a paradise.

 

Now let's get back to poor old Leo.

Who knows how long he’s been out. He revives with a lousy headache and is sore all over, like the time the gorilla bouncer tossed him out of that greasy peeler joint head-first just for smoking a little ganja with the girls.

Wait a minute…..huh, the dude is alive! Lucky bugger!

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He tries to get his bearings and looks up to see he made quite a fall. Those vile plague monsters don’t seem to be able to get to the window. He looks down and is aghast. What’s this? Ash? This giant mound of puke grey powder has pieces of something….bone bits, mandibles, a skeleton hand……..oh crap!

 

He gets up and falls, tumbling his way off the death pile. Ashen, he tries to pad himself off with human leftovers flying everywhere. It gets up his nose and into the back of his throat, prompting him to upchuck.

 

That nauseating smell!

“Oh crap…..holy cow….oh fu…what the h-hell!”

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He staggers away from the pile to see the scene he landed himself into: body bags, hundreds all lined up. The fenced and darkened compound also has a few bulldozers and variety of trucks and cars including a police car. The RCMP cruiser’s windshield appears oddly clean. The gate is closed and that's a good thing, obviously. There's a sharp sense of finality here.

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He explores further, entering the open bay door of another adjoining warehouse building. No plague monster around to bug him. He sees a workbench with tools including a little pickaxe and a nice machete, so he doesn’t hesitate to grab what he can, putting them into a gym bag that’s just lying there.

 

His head still throbbing, and sure he had one of his bizarre dreams a chain-smoking Jesus was trying to tell him something, the dude proceeds to check out a couple of the trailer offices.

 

One is locked with its blinds down but the other is open…nothing inside but papers scattered about. He does, however, find an unopened jar of peanut butter in a cupboard. That’s just great….he’s sick of peanut butter. A couple of flats of bottled water makes this visit even better. See dude, things are already looking up!

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He has to get this crap off him since he stinks like a billion dirty armpits. The police car doesn’t have any weapons but the keys are still in the ignition and the thing still starts. Then, of course, he has to be harassed. He hears a familiar growl and then sees several rotting former humans shuffling toward him.

This is ticking him off royally!

 

At least they aren’t coming from the building from which he escaped since its only door to this yard is locked. An angry, unflinching Leo doesn’t care anymore and grabs the machete to begin slashing and slicing heads. He looks like a video game character!

  

Lucky there’s not too many of these things, maybe twenty or so, and they’re spread out, making it easy to put them out of their misery. He runs from one to the next in full fury and reckless abandon, slicing the tops of some heads off and completely decapitating others.

 

Archie would get a kick out of this, while at the same time saying aloud he wished he had a full head of hair and was dating the kooky singer Bjork.

Hey, getting good at this, eh dude? But are you ready to accept the invitation for what it will take to continue breathing, or is it better to let a little bite allow you to go away from all this, and especially what's to come? 

 

A few grab at him but are pushed aside. As long as they don’t bite he’s all right. Hesitation will get you killed now. Leo slashes away, smiling as bone marrow sprays onto his face. He remembers Archie's crazy sayings.

That includes the big guy's answer on a health class test to the question can a man with one testicle reproduce, his answer being "no because women don't find that attractive."       
    

After clearing the yard he enters the second building to finish off a few more. This can’t be Leo, can it?

Finally, there’s one last one in a locker room, completely discoloured and putrid. It doesn’t go for Leo, only looking at him briefly before gazing off into space. Time to put it out of its misery as well.

                           6

"But if you do go, do it, be strong for the battle; yet God will bring you down before the enemy, for God has power to help and to bring down."

 

His muscles burning, Leo loads his new booty in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police cruiser before making his way back into the locker room. It’s got showers that still have a bit of water pressure and it’s all he needs to clean himself up.

He finds a clean t-shirt, a pair of heavy-duty overalls and steel-toed work boots that fit nicely. He looks at himself holding the machete in a mirror. Welcome to your new look!

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He’s gotten a lot done and decides to call it a day later in the unlocked trailer. A half bottle of scotch found in the desk makes this visit to the incineration yard even better. Must rest up on the couch and make new plans for tomorrow.

 

A few hours later Leo is resting comfortably in the trailer now saturated with the scent of peanut butter. He turns on a dusty ghetto blaster on the desk and a CD begins Clair de Lune, a lovely piano piece.

 

How appropriate. It starts to hit him just what happened…..really hit him. Anna and his friends are all dead. Why is he still alive? Is he meant to stay around? Maybe the universe has plans for him, perhaps profoundly inconsequential, and it doesn't seem at all fair.

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He has no business still being here but will gain no spiritual insight tonight. The only thing that comes to mind, strangely, is the realization most of his customers who bought his delectable eatables at the nude beach are probably dead as well, or a plague monster.

 

Many had elements of the ridiculous about them but they were a good bunch people - suddenly gone. Ya, sucks. What the hell is he supposed to do now? Should he keep on going?

Why bother?

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Anna should be here. If there’s any way he could have saved her, done something different, he wonders, concerned he may have been a coward.

 

His kids then come to mind, two beautiful boys he lost years ago because he didn’t think he could compete with the Olympian ideal Lance, the chiseled magnificent one.

 

The thinkfest isn't over yet as the dude starts dwelling on his dad and how he wasn’t there for the old man when he died. How insufferably rude. Guilt, shame…what is he supposed to feel? He thinks he’s about to cry, his heart is sunk, but he can’t. Instead, as he listens to the sappy tune he finds himself guessing what the guy in this trailer must have been thinking when the outbreak happened.

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Crap, the a-holes took his weed! He needs the stuff. It's either that or go back to those stupid pills he was required to take when he was an unconventional kid to keep his thoughts from going in weird, unwelcome places. How is going to get by now, especially now?

Then again, perhaps his mind was, in fact, going in the right place all along, approaching clarity, but little Leo was thwarted by the ignorant.

 

One instance saw him telling a burned-out psychologist, whom Leo assumed he could trust, how everything, everywhere was directly connected, and how Leo was in tune with the universe, and thus god, which had been trying to reveal itself to him. It’s all quantum mechanics, entanglement, energy particles that are linked regardless of their distance from each other, a young, buoyant Leo explained.

“You’re a nut!” was the unenlightened response he received.

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The next morning the dude feels strange. It’s dark, miserable and cloudy today, kinda morbid, but that’s no big surprise. He’s not himself. The painful fact that he’s once again alone is sinking into his withered soul.

After a hearty breakfast of peanut butter, he gathers up a few more supplies. Then, he takes off in the police car. Then, he takes off in the police car. This thing has a pretty powerful engine it - sweet indeed!

          

Anway, maybe hunting down that witch Lillian isn’t such a smart idea since he has no guns and is outmanned. Also, how’s he going to make it up to the island now?

Should he have even left that industrial death yard? Leo just needs to leave the city and worry about the rest tomorrow.

 

He doesn’t see any nasty plague monsters as he speeds past Forest Pines Cemetery in an attempt for the highway out of this lifeless town. He wishes he had a gun but they were in short supply in this country before the catastrophe. Of course, when he tries the police radio there’s nothing but dead air…“hello, hello? Anyone out there?”

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A short while later and…wait….he sees something definitely weird – no, exciting and weird! He slows down as approaches another familiar spot.

 

Wow, the Sunstone Pub!

 

There’s a few cars in the parking lot and the lights are on! How can that be? Another trap? He sees the bartender’s slick red import and decides to roll in and park. Now this is crazy. This simple, outdated brick building at one time was his all-time favourite watering hole.

When he tries the front door it’s locked, but a knock gets a quick response. Definitely weird! Huh? What?

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A familiar and friendly face opens the door: Gary, all-around good and one of the regulars at this joint. Leo and Gary had many fun nights putting on beer goggles here.

He invites a perplexed Leo in and locks the door behind them. There’s over a dozen people sitting at tables and at the bar.

 

Including Gary, whom is nicknamed Gare-Bear, but also Gary Pom Pom, Leo knows most of the regulars. His sly smile returning, Leo is still feeling the effects of the scotch but is more than willing to take a seat at the bar, welcomed by another sight for sore eyes: Bruce the bartender/manager. Always good times when Bruce is here.

 

“How’s it going Leo my man, how ya doin’ today?” Bruce asks cheerfully as he reaches over the taps and plunks down a coaster and nice coldie for the new arrival.

Just down the bar two tipsy patrons stubbornly argue which celebrities are likely still living.

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Only a few of the lights are on and the joint stinks like a soaked bar rag, but at least there's life in here.

 

This is surreal. Maybe a dream but it feels and smells perfectly normal. Gare-Bear, having seated himself next to the new arrival, is already slurring. Yup, just like old times. Gary begins biting his nails, a nervous habit Leo always found rather gross.

 

Man, that beer really hits the spot! Bruce, a plucky middle-aged guy always with a toothpick in his mouth, apologetically tells Leo that the kitchen is closed and that the keno isn’t working. It’s perfectly fine with the dude who is still somewhat thrown off by all this.

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“So how have you been keeping friend? I’m glad you’re still around. We lost a few regulars but oh well,” says Bruce, once again picking his teeth. “Hey, nice outfit haha.”

Leo looks at his overalls and feels awkward to even ask how the pub is still open. Haven't they witnessed any of that over-the-top gore outside?

“Ya, ummm you know, a lot of stuff went down. Ya, kind of sucks doesn’t it? Anyway, how have you been keeping?”

 

“Not too bad. My sister you know…..lives in Chicago….the army down there made everyone get out of the city. They were trying to make their way down to Florida, but I don’t know,” Bruce replies. “Anyways, we’ll see how things go, I guess. Wonder why it hasn’t rained in so long. We can use it.”

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Leo asks, “So where are you staying dude? You still driving all the way across town from Coquitlam?” Bruce explains he has been taking up residence in the office upstairs.

Bruce is a fanatic about the sport of curling. If he isn't playing it, he's watching it on TV like there's no tomorrow. Well, there's likely no more tomorrows but he's still talking about it.

Gary, meanwhile, has been staying with his brother and sister-in-law at a townhouse nearby.

 

After four more beers, and yet another rant about hipsters, Leo realizes he doesn’t have any cash, but fortunately his credit there is excellent. Money still has value? This is doomsday and the bar is open for business?

Leo ends up having a nice chat with Bruce and Gary about all kinds of topics and people, other than curling, avoiding the bigger issue outside those doors. Yes, surreal.

Gary with his intense beer breath puts his arm around the dude and tells him, "I'm much better live than I am in person!"

What the fu--?

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What's all too sadly real, meanwhile, is the terrible uncertainty a large, close-knit family has to go through in the Seattle suburb of DuPont.

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There, an older African American man with a big bushy beard holds an antique short-barreled shotgun while peeking out the window of his home. Wearing a baseball cap backwards, the man is guardian of thirteen family members also huddled in the house, hoping somehow things will get back to normal. The dead are outside, and everywhere, and it doesn't look like help is on the way.

 

"Keron, are those things outside? When do you think we can go? What are we still doing here? Where's the army?" the guardian's distressed wife asks.

The other family members stand with arms crossed in the living room, hoping he'll give them encouraging news, any news at all. The dedicated family man looks back, taking a prolonged deep breath, "We'll be OK. You'll see. Everything will be all right, we just have to stick together, always stick together no matter what. Keep the family together!" 

                      5

Just a week or so before, they waited for some kind of help as helicopters raced above their burning metropolis, but nothing came, and nothing ever will.

The guardian's seven year old grandson holds onto his arm tight. The man, who overcame so much in his lousy life, conditioned himself to actually believe what he's telling them. It will get better! Even though god is dead, he'll protect the family no matter what!

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One of the dead begins scratching at the front door, prompting the man to tell the little boy, reassuringly, "It'll all be all right. You'll see. Just be real, real quiet, just like I showed you."

More on him later folks.     

 

 

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Story by Sandor Gyarmati

Comic art by Jess Soares (HouseofBlackArt.com)

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