This is War!

Episode 37: Warning: Graphic Content

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And there it is....the sucky courthouse, Lillian's sanctuary. Time to kill everyone inside and stop that witch, the usually diminutive Seth tells Leo while examining their target through a pair of big-ass binoculars on a rooftop of a Canadian Tire. Leo is feeling twenty feet tall, perhaps even a little more. And he's more than ready to punch out anyone who admits they liked ranch dressing with wings or, especially, pineapple on pizza.

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Also accompanied by Dale and Gareth, they go over the game plan which seem straight forward enough. Problem is, Seth and Leo have no idea about the blue-eyed albino freak, who's just like the cardinal, in there, an individual Dale and Gareth have been ordered to retrieve and bring back to the mission.

Leo and Seth also haven't got a bloody clue that the cardinal has ordered Seth's execution, an act that will be made to look like the cowboy priest was killed during the upcoming battle.

 

Fair enough, since Gareth and Dale haven't got a clue about Leo's intentions to take the mission and kill the cardinal, as well as anyone else who gets in his way.

Man, all these sinister secrets. Can't we all just get along? 

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It's getting dark and a pungent smell of rot and burning hair dominates the air, like someone opened a fridge full of meat that had been unplugged for months. 

There's not a plague monster in sight, which is a bit disconcerting for the group but they have no time to wonder about the creatures' whereabouts. His energy combustible, while most of the gang has the vigour and chipperness of someone in a Viagra commercial, Leo heads downstairs with the pretend cowboy.


 
Gareth and Dale stay behind. Possessing an eerily identical voice and deadpan delivery as comedian Bob Newhart, Dale has always been observer of life but, until now, never having lived one himself. He's excited about what the future holds, becoming a super powerful being like the cardinal. His eminence, who will share his blood, must have good reason for getting rid of Seth and there's no point questioning that cultivated decision.

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"You ever wonder whether what the cardinal is saying is just bull, just lies like everyone else used to tell us before the world ended?" a pensive Gareth asks idly, staring blankly ahead. "We want to be saved, but how is this saving us? I don't know, Dale, I want to be different, I want to be faithful and have that, ummm, you now. I’ve done questionable things and thought I could be saved. You saw what the cardinal did to that woman, to that Doyle guy and the others. How is that righteous?"

 

Gareth has good reason to start questioning the cardinal's machinations, wondering how in the hell did he have such a hold on everyone there.

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Perplexed, Dale stands in front of the goon to remind him that questioning the cardinal's wisdom was directly questioning the lord himself. The cardinal and his kind are conduits for god, the giver of his loving word.

 

"You opened your heart and he showed you. We're all going to ascend to be higher forms, be closer to god.....we have to do this, get rid the weak, get rid of Seth...we, we'll be like the cardinal...." Dale explains, fumbling through his words.

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Finding his attitude unyielding, Gareth smirks and gives Dale a quick wink. "My head doesn't feel right. This is all crazy. I don't want to be like the cardinal, drinking other people's blood....insane."

As they converse, the big guy finds himself becoming fixated on Dale's ugly brown mole.

 

"We'll talk about this when we get back home. I don't have time to hear your blasphemous rants now," Dale fires back, frustrated.

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As the slim priest steps aside and begins walking to the door the behemoth former drug enforcer, a pleasant tingle shooting from the top of his head to the smelly tips of his mishapen toes, doesn’t say a word.

 

However, having shaken his attention off that mole, he suddenly grabs the unsuspecting Dale by his belt and back of the collar, spins him around and begins running toward the ledge.

Before Dale can even let out an appreciate gasp, he's thrown off the roof, arms flapping like a hyperactive penguin. Look at him go, Gareth observes, it's taking forever for him to hit the ground. Man, he looks so foolish! What a spectacular ending, Gareth observes, wishing he could also have Dale's last-second perfect clarity.

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A scream would have been nice but he doesn't have time to do that either. His body smashes like a water balloon on debris-covered pavement, but he’s not dead yet.

That quickly changes when three groaning, filthy plague monsters emerge from around a corner of the building and pounce on the free meal, quickly ripping the broken body and shoving warm sloppy organs into their disfigured mouths. Ahh, finally he screams momentarily before one of the undead bites into his neck.

 

Gareth with sad, searching eyes just stands on the ledge and looks down on what he's done, knowing he probably can’t ever disavow his nature no matter how hard he tries. All he wanted was redemption, to feel god's love and forgiveness, but now he's moved even further away from that happening. For a few seconds he contemplates also taking the plunge…..meh!

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The others including Michael rush to the carnage and take out the plague monsters, for all the good that would do now.

They stand like idiots looking at the mangled body until Gareth returns from the roof to tell them Dale had been careless and slipped over the edge. Not convinced of his mater-of-fact-tone, there’s nothing the others can do about it anyway.

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Silent Dave puts his hands in his pockets, shakes his head and walks away, soon joined by Seth and the others, a circle of dusty clothes and dirty faces breaking apart.

Leo is the last to walk away from the big guy. “Since when did you turn into a psycho?” the dude quips, leaving Gareth alone with the fresh corpse.

 

“I guess you’re not the only one who’s kind of tense,” Seth observes for Leo a few minutes later. “This world is making everyone kind of crazy. Oh ya, I really do want to cut your hair.”

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A few hours later the real fun begins. In the dimly lit courthouse, Bogdan, wearing his usual clean dress shirt and slacks, chats with another well dressed Lillian henchmen. Seems she’s not pleased that her dinner has come up to her room cold lately, while the wine isn’t properly chilled.

 

One other thing, her weird husband Thomas has been extra thirsty lately, requiring the men to go out hunting for even more people to feed him. None of this strikes them as shocking or bizarre anymore. At least they all look so fine doing all this.

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POP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It sounds like someone just dropped a wine glass. Bogdan’s rakish smile disappears and his jaw drops, thanks to rather large hole suddenly appearing in the forehead of his compatriot.

 

POP!!!! POP!!!! POP!!!!

A planter beside the curly haired henchman shatters as well as a glass door. Lillian’s hefty lieutenant ducks and runs as more bullets fly around him.

“Attack….we’re under attack!”

A couple of the men exit their rooms, drunk and in a daze, but most of the others are still sleeping off their drink.

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POP!!!! POP!!!! POP!!!! POP!!!!

It’s mayhem! Bogdan pushes his way past one the men and heads upstairs to Lillian’s room as the bullets keep coming. Suddenly, there’s an ultra-loud shattering of glass when a rusty old pickup truck smashes through the plate glass windows and ends up in the lobby.

A half dozen of the mission’s finest then pour into the premises and shoot everything in sight. The deafening sound of machine gun fire reverberates throughout the complex.

 

As Gareth heads up one flight of stairs, Leo, a commanding figure whose faculties are now intensely rolled into a single divine purpose, leads the way up another, shooting several malcontents as they stumble from their quarters.

 

Bogdan reaches over a railing and fires a small pistol into Leo’s squad, landing a shot into Mel’s temple and dropping him on the spot. A fiercely determined Leo, his voice powerfully horse, returns fire, forcing Bogdan to fall back as several bullets hit the railing and miss their intended target. "Just wait there son of a bitch, I'm comin'!"

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Machine gun fire, and now return fire, dominates the interior as Bogdan resumes his dash toward Lillian’s sanctum. Where in the hell is she? Who are these guys? Bogdan thinks he recognizes the crazed gunman on the stairs but it just can’t be him, they had finished him off in that warehouse with his friends.

 

Now, screams and desperate cries for help accompany the chaos of the gunfire.

 

“Thomas, my Thomas, save him now you fool!” Lillian screams at Bogdan as the two meet up on the upper floor. “You idiot, save my Thomas!”

 

“No time, we gotta go, go….move!” Bogdan shouts back, sweating and out of breath.

He grabs the woman by the arm and begins running toward a back entrance. She yells and tries to stop him, pulling back, but he’ll have none of it. Bodies are piling up everywhere. Odd, for some reason The Fifth Dimension's Let The Sunshine In starts playing over and over in his head.

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Meanwhile, Leo, feeling more alive than ever, continues firing at a couple of men who have him pinned down in a corridor. He’s oh, so close to getting that Bogdan and Lillian….mustn’t let them get away! “No! God, please, please just let me kill her….please!”

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The real righteous dude, Silent Dave, is crouched next to Leo and blasts away as well. Seems Dave is a pretty good shot as he pumps a few bullets into the chest of one of the men. The other then yells and bolts through a side door to make his getaway.

 

Close, oh, so close Leo, don’t let that woman get away. Her death is all that matters. Avenging Anna, Julia, Big Gregg and the others is the only thing real, the only thing that makes any possible sense.

“Come on, we gotta keep moving Dave, let’s go!”

 

Then, something unreal, something incomprehensible. Blood and brain matter splash Leo’s face when a thunderous flash appears behind them. From the corner of his eye he sees Silent Dave whacked. No! What? Who? Leo turns around to see a quivering Sandlak pointing a hand gun at him. Huh?

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CLICK CLICK CLICK

Jammed! Leo, you, again, lucky bugger! What in the hell is going on? Gareth suddenly emerges and tackles the scientist hard to the ground, then lands a couple of punches. This is all happening too fast!

 

“What did you do? What are you doing? What….you doing!” shouts the enraged big man at the pinned Sandlak before resuming beating him to a pulp. Gareth won't let up, like a hungry dog on a bone.

Standing in a puddle of red goop, Leo is amazingly calm, his eyes locked in a steely gaze, even though his friend has just been assassinated. It's clear Leo was the intended target but why?

Dark impulses bubbling to his surface, the fierce dude puts his hand on Gareth’s shoulder and, in a deep, gravelly voice, instructs him to stop punching for a minute.

 

“Why? Why did you try to kill me? Why?”

By the way, hungry undead, attracted by the noise and orange glow of the growing fire, are on their way to join the fun.

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His nose smashed and jaw shattered, Sandlak slowly turns his head from side-to-side, moaning for his attacker to stop. Blood bubbles from his mouth as he begs.

“I, I’m scared. Sorry…..Just let me go…..I’ll tell you everything…..news you, you, you need to know…save your life… ya….please stop hitting me…..I,I….”

“Shut the hell up and start from the beginning, or I’ll let Gareth hurt you for real!” responds Leo.

 

A noise from their left turns out to be one of Lillian’s panicked men running down the stairs. By the time the man reaches the bottom and turns to see Leo and Gareth, Leo is already pointing his weapon and fires, blowing the top of his head off. Now back to Sandlak…..

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Leo leans to talk to Silent Dave’s killer face-to-face.

“Now start from the beginning….don’t leave anything out!”

“I…I….Kate….the medical centre……..it’s bad there…we did bad things….she did it too!”

 

An angry Leo grabs Sandlak’s collar and pulls him up closer.

“Kate? What the hell you on about? What do you mean? What about Kate?”

 

“Kate, me, some others….we….we…..we hurt people. Kidnapped them. Human lab rats …experiments…ex-experiments on them….try….try to figure out the disease….torture them,” the desperate scientist answers. “We take people against their will and do tests…your Kate too.”

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“What the hell? Is this real?” Gareth asks in amazement.

“You’re lying, not my Kate…I know her!” shouts Leo.

 

“You, you go down there and they’ll kill you too. We have to, all to save the world,” answers Sandlak, stopping his sniveling now that he has a realization he’s about to die.

“You go down there, you’re dead….Kate will have to kill you….the freak, mutant, at the mission will probably kill us all too….you have nowhere to go!” Sandlak laughs.

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Needing a stiff drink at the Sunstone, now more than ever, Leo bows his head momentarily before putting his hand on Gareth’s broad shoulder once more, telling him to kill Sandlak. He then clutches his weapon and walks quickly toward the remaining gunfire, eager to obliterate Lillian and her fat sidekick.

 

Sandlak smiles at Gareth and tells him to make it quick. The big guy, though, is not obliging as he wraps his baseball glove sized hands around his neck and begins to squeeze. He enjoys this, really. He doesn't want to but he does, which is all so confusing.

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Meantime, Bogdan and a delirious Lillian have made their way outside to the rear of the building. She continues to scream at her rescuer and gives him a good smack. No matter, she’s tossed into the front seat of a car and he drives away, busting through a chain-link fence and into the blackness of the dead suburb.

 

Leo in a purposeful strut remains inside, checking each room, having to step over several blood covered bodies. Lillian and her bodyguard are nowhere in sight! No! This can’t be! What about Kate? Is she really some mass murderer? Does he have to stop her too? He believes Sandlak but why would she do this?

This is too much to process right now…too much!

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Holding machine guns, an exasperated Michael and another priest appear from the opposite end of the hallway and scurry toward Leo. Now he’s royally pissed. “Where’s that woman, the woman Lillian? You find her?”

                 

As they shake their heads, the other priest, who’s closest to an open door of a darkened room, is suddenly grabbed and pulled inside. It happened so fast. Then, a gruesome scream that goes through Leo’s bones. WTF? Now what?

Leo looks inside and all he can make out is a pair of frightful blue eyes staring back. He blasts his machine gun into the room until the clip empties, all the while Michael stands dumfounded.

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The fighting throughout the rest of the courthouse by now has stopped but the large is growing fast on an upper floor. Once again, no matter. Leo isn’t going to start wetting his pants now. Several other victorious priests quickly join Leo, who casually walks into the room and drags something unbelievable out by the ankles, creating a bloody trail.

 

What in the hell is that? It’s a man in a pair of blue silk pajamas, five bullet holes in his chest. He’s bald and white as a sheet, a freak like the cardinal. His mouth is covered with the priest’s blood. It's all so Grotesque and beautiful and the same time.

The men are aghast and look at Leo for guidance. These guys, misfits yearning for a cause, are too stupid to live, yet too lucky to die!

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“There he is. He just killed one of your own. Is this what you want? The cardinal will do this to you too! He’s using you! It’s time to go back there and finish him off and take that place for ourselves!”

As sickly smoke begins to fill the corridor, another priest asks, “Gareth, where’s Gareth?”

A large burning wooden beam them collapses just metres from them, forcing them to scramble.

 

The choking smoke thickens as the men make their way into the parking lot, only to encounter a large mob of plague monsters arriving from all sides. Ya, ya, put your skates on and go!

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“Shoot, shoot them son of a bitches!” Seth urges. Of course they shoot, but the gunfire only attracts more of the walking, dripping corpse things. Indeed, time to get the hell out of Dodge!

 

His face covered in soot, Seth grabs Leo’s arm and tries to force him into the motorhome, but Leo seems intent and standing and gazing at the burning building, lamenting how he missed his chance to kill Lillian. The fact that Silent Dave was murdered should be top of mind but, no, it’s all about Lillian. The cowboy priest finally manages to get the dude into the RV and they speed away.

 

Travelling down a dead street, meanwhile, having to drive around a plethora of obstacles, Bogdan tells Lillian to keep calm and just be quiet. All the evil woman can do, though, is weep over the loss of her husband, the love of her life who Bogdan selfishly left behind.

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Now where do they go? Bogdan had set up a safe house with a few supplies a few month ago, just in case something went wrong at the courthouse, and they’ll need to go there until they figure out things. Lillian’s family supposedly has a fortified compound near Seattle….perhaps they should give that a try.

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Leo has a plan too. His group heads to the Evergreen Mall parking where they can catch their breath and assess their situation. Only a couple of plague monsters need tending to here but they can’t stick around for long.

The men are still somewhat in shock at what just happened, what they’ve just seen. Is this what the cardinal has in store for them?

 

Standing in a circle, Leo steps into the middle as the one who has to save these dumbasses from themselves. Maybe their situation isn’t so dire with the dude running the show.

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“You all know me. You know I wouldn’t screw with you! The cardinal, he’s a monster, been lying to you all along. Whatever he has planned, it can’t be any good!”

 

The men look at each other and nod. Everything they had believed in, everything they wanted to follow and embrace in this ugly new world has just fallen to pieces. Chunks of Silent Dave's brain in his hair and face covered with blood, the only thing they can really make out is the atomic whites of Leo's big, intense eyes. Yes, it's looking like he's the real leader these outcasts have been craving.

 

Invigorated, Leo has found his purpose, perhaps a divine calling. Those unusual ideas and off-the-chart inspirations which were subdued through pills as a child, and delightful cannabis in later years, was truth yearning to be revealed. He never needed any of that stuff which forced upon him a misplaced sense of normality.

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“All right then, just follow me, follow my lead guys. I’m going to make sure we’re safe! We’re going to go back there and take that place. And if any of the freak’s followers try to stop us, we’ll kill them too!”

All the men seem satisfied now that they have Leo.  

                        

“Leo, I’ll do anything you say, but, what are we going to do right now? We’ve got to get the heck out of here, out from the open,” Michael warns.

“I know a place not that far from here. It’s a cemetery. Don’t worry, it’s gated. Been there, it’s safe. We’ll stay there for a bit and check our ammo and supplies. We’ll make plans and leave in a couple of days back to the mission. My only goal now is to make sure our group is safe. We’re family, a community…have to protect each other!” Leo says.

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As the men start returning to their vehicles, a concerned Seth asks, “You not going down to Seattle to get your girlfriend. Thought you’re coming to get her and take her back here. Changed your mind. What about...?”

 

“No. Can’t. Not now anyway,” the dude interrupts. “She’s all right where she is. You guys, the rest of the people back at the mission, they’re my priority now. Our people need to be safe. Besides, who knows how many others like the cardinal are out there. We have to get ready for that.”

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Seth heard about Silent Dave being shot dead but is unaware Sandlak is to blame or what he had to say about Kate. With Gareth also seemingly dead, nobody knows and there’s no need for anyone to know about that business for now. Eventually they will, however. Leo owes it to them. He also knows he's going to have to kill Kate if he ever gets the chance. Besides, it's starting to crystallize that he indeed is the righteous hand of god who will create a new society, and all his acts will be justified.

 

Groans and grunts from down the street begin. Sounds like a huge group of undead headed this way, so time to skedaddle.

“Sorry about your friend, I liked him,” Seth tells Leo as they depart.

“Ya” is the dude’s only reply.

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As the mangy bunch depart, watching through binoculars not far away is the young Asian motor biker, Head Snapper, sitting on his wicked ride, while the rest of his dangerous beauties also watch from their bikes. They’ve been keeping an eye on Leo.

The leader flips his visor down and turns back to inform the samurai gang what’s next.

 

“Those guys, dunno about them. They lit up those dirt buckets at the courthouse, so they can’t be all that bad. Done us a fave, no? I say we keep watchin’,”

 

“Look like bad news, not bandits but kinda bad. Ya, think we should check em’ out more?” one of the women agrees. “Let’s see what the story is with that monastery dump…..”

 

“Guess so, but not yet” Head Snapper interrupts. “That one guy with the beard, he’s kinda weird. Dunno what he’s up to yet. We’ll just watch em’ for now. Make our move later.”

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What about Gareth? Seems after he strangled Sandlak he took too long just sitting over the scientist and wondering if any hope for salvation was also dead. Thick smoke finally forced him out of the ruined court building and by the time he made it to the parking lot everyone was gone.

What’s worse, the dead were everywhere. Time to run, fool, just run!

                  

Still holding a machine gun, and with a couple of full clips in his pockets, the big man elects not to shoot his way out of there but use some fancy footwork. Despite a few grabbing at him, Gareth manages to elude being taken down or bitten and finds himself alone on a residential street.

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At least he’s not being harassed but he’s got nowhere to go. No home, no hope, no god, nothing. The Rooster then briefly crosses his mind. Gareth misses the funny little guy. He was someone he could confide in and really talk with about life. Smart thing would be to find a place to hide but any one of these houses could be a death trap.

 

It’s so dark with only the glow of the massive fire off in the distance providing variety. It’s also so quiet out here. Yes, this is the real hell god has inflicted upon all of us.

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A short while later, an exhausted Gareth finds himself back on a commercial strip. A few abandoned cars with doors and hoods open are scattered on the street. Gareth blindly keeps walking in multiple directions.

 

Wait a minute, this is weird…..yup definitely weird! He sees a building with an inviting neon light turned on outside…a pub. Yes folks, it’s the Sunstone Pub! This can’t be real. Maybe Gareth is dead and this is some messed up purgatory? It’s like a higher power guided him here, so maybe salvation is still possible, no?

 

After smashing one ghoul in the parking lot with his weapon, Gareth tries the front door but it’s, naturally, locked. He sheepishly knocks and a friendly face quickly opens it…….Bruce the bartender.

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How are you my friend, come on in…gotta lock the door behind you. Come in and have a seat at the bar.”

This is kind of messed up. A bar open in the apocalypse? No way can this be real. He must be dead.

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Gareth is hesitant but takes a seat. The empty place is a mess and stinks like the inside of a sweat soaked shoe, but oh well. It’s dark in here too with the exception of the light over the bar.

Fatigued, he introduces himself, placing his machine gun on the counter and pushing it toward the affable Bruce.

 

“This good enough to buy me a bunch of drinks?” he asks.

Bruce smiles and snatches the weapon, placing it behind the bar.

“You bet buddy! Anything you want. Kind of quiet here for a while. All my regulars, don’t know where they’re at. Stay and let’s hang out.”

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Is this guy a nutjob? Doesn’t matter because the beer tastes so good. Gareth is starting to feel at ease but notices Bruce is wide eyed and in a bit of a haze. Like Gareth, he seems lost too, holding on to this place as if it’s the only thing that matters. It would be nice if other people were here but at least this gives Gareth a semblance of normality.

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A toothpick hanging from his mouth, Bruce stands in front of the big guy and seems eager to engage in small talk. The forlorn bartender starts off with curling but soon wants to get into more philosophical stuff.

“Well, ya, I’ve been trying to figure out life. What it all means, that kind of thing. Kinda confusing,” answers Gareth after his third brew.

Bruce leans forward and is happy to help Gareth figure this all out.

“Ya let’s talk about it. I’m into this stuff.”     

 

Story by Sandor Gyarmati

Cover art by Terry Wong (agoodson.com/wonger.ca)

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