Episode 3: Warning: Graphic Content
"We’re going to need that, hurry up," Vance the neighbour orders his sassy and inappropriately dressed teen daughter while she’s carrying stuffed boxes.
The wife is also ordering at the smartass kid. And……here comes the dude. The trio quickly stop in disbelief as Leo sheepishly approaches.
"What the fu...hey man, what are you doing here?.....You're alive man!" Vance remarks.
"Wait, is he sick? Did he get bit?" the wife cautions.
Vance grabs a 12-gauge and points at Leo. "Well, you sick? You bit?"
A startled Leo shakes his head. "No, no...hey hold on...no... I ain't sick or bit. Easy. You know me!"
Vance is a real character, a temperamental narcissist with self-destructive tendencies, he buys weed from Leo but always tries to negotiate a better price. He’s passing himself off as a former Canadian special forces soldier when, in fact, he was just a cook in the army. Runs a military surplus and hunting store now.
Vance, usually drinking and talking too much for his own good, loves wearing extra tight and small black t-shirts to advertise his muscles. Right now, he's a godsend for Leo.
"Ya dude, I-I just got back into town. Like what's going on dude? Have any idea where Brandi went?"
Vance gives him a disappointing look. "You're joking right? Where the hell were you, the moon? You have to be kidding me, man! All hell broke loose man, people died, lots of people. Lots of my friends are gone, they're dead. My mom and dad got sick and turned into one of them!"
"Huh?" Leo is dumbfounded and starting to feel embarrassed not knowing what everyone else seems to know.
"Oh my god, Vance look!" the wife shouts in panic, pointing at something shuffling down the street toward them. It's that same sicko Leo had dealt with after the accident. The slacker dude doesn't know what to do, but not Vance. The muscle man moves assuredly with the shotgun toward the sickly thing.
What is wrong with that guy? Is it contagious?
"Hey, hey what are you doing dude? Wait a minute," Leo calls to Vance in desperation. A booming blast, which hurts the dude’s eardrums, and the sicko’s head explodes like a watermelon with black chunky filling.
The body crumples down while girl lets out a blood curdling scream (yes, the description is a cliché but there's no other way to describe it). It happened so fast. This is f-ed up! Leo reacts in a rare bit of bravery, grabbing the gun and trying to wrestle it away, but the much bigger, stronger Vance pushes him to the grass with little effort.
Both the wife and daughter within seconds stand over Leo and scream at him as if he's the bad guy in this unholy fiasco.
"Wow, hey, hey stop dude. Wait....uh, what are you doing? You shot the guy, you killed him. He's dead. Stop!" Leo pleads.
"He doesn't know dad, he really doesn't," the daughter observes in astonishment. Vance helps Leo up and offers the explanation needed, an explanation that will top off the lousy day.
"Listen man and listen up real good. I don't know where you've been but the world has come to a crappy end, man. It's all over, done. I'm talking about the big diarrhea. Apocalyptic, biblical end of days stuff. This is worst of the worst case stuff you only read in science fiction, man. You know that nasty flu that was going around....."
"Ya, ya, I heard about it," Leo interrupts. "I always wash my hands, use sanitizer, kill the germs."
Vance laughs and shakes his head. "Well it turned out to be some plague, man, a world-wide death plague. One hundred percent fatality. Contagious and deadly. Flushed the lousy world right down the fricken toilet!"
"Plague, around the world....oh no, damn. That's just.....what?" Leo stutters, noticing the "Proud Canadian" bumper stickers with customary maple leafs all over the back of the luxury motorhome - kind of tacky.
"Ya man," Vance follows, putting his arm around Leo, initiating the newcomer to hell.
"It happened so fast. Every single country. By the time it was all over the internet it was too late. Last thing the news had was the shmuks, those losers at World Health Organization, the CDC, coordinating some kind of action plan. Plan? Ha, like, ya, right! The U.S prez, our own prime minister, already dead. The whole government was dead. They tried closing the borders, martial law and all that sheeeot. Now the government and army have fallen apart. I'm serious," Vance explains.
"Well, OK, shouldn't we just wait it out, you know, let them get a handle on this and take control. Just wait it out?" Leo asks, knowing the answer in advance.
Always guileless, Vance pauses.
"No, no, you're kidding," the muscle man then responds in frustration. "It's the worst case scenario, man. Happened so fast. Servers crashed, infrastructure falling apart, no one left to make decisions. Armed gangs already taking over. More than half the planet is dead, man. Everyone is taking off, going up north or down south. Ya, we waited. We're going to try to make it to my buddy's place down south, you know, Washington State, the Stehekin Valley. He's a real survivalist, been predicting this garbage all along. We're outta here!"
Leo moves toward the stinking, headless corpse, his attention on the mass of diseased tissue and thick black liquid. The stench is beyond belief.
"So that's why you shot the dude?" Leo asks in a defeated tone.
"He was sick, so you shot him. Couldn't we have helped the guy, take him to the hospital, call an ambulance? What will the cops say when they find out?"
Vance sighs and tries once again to get through, talking faster.
"No, you still don't get it, don't you? The hospitals were the first thing overrun. There's no cops no more. They looted most of all. Pandemic mayhem. The dead things would have torn us apart. This is the real world now, man. The new world, man, the true human condition. Auto correct. The dead rule the earth now, this is their place. We don't belong here. I'm talking total annihilation. Total, uuuuhn t-total correction....ya. The world produced ten tonnes of plastic per second, and maybe 14 trillion tonnes went into the ocean every year. You think we could all keep getting away with stuff like that? Time to bug out and go into hiding, man!"
"What do you mean? The guy was sick. Something wrong with his brain or something contagious?" asks Leo. "He's sick so you kill him? They'll put you in prison for that!"
Her Juicy Couture perfume overwhelmed by the stench of rot, the daughter approaches Leo, morose. She lets him know the rest (you know this part).
"That man was dead. I mean, he died from that plague and that was his corpse. Corpses are walking around killing people. It's going to kill you if you don't defend yourself, you know. Those are dead things. Things are like...like bad."
Leo provides an appropriate gasp. "Get out, that's bull. What are you saying, they're walking corpses? That's just sci-fi crap. That's not real!"
"No man, this is real, man. That wasn't a guy, it was his corpse, re-animated or whatever. We just call them plague monsters. They're killing people. Those cannibal things will eat your guts out. It's the stone cold truth, man," responds Vance. “If they bite you, you get sick and die and turn into one of those things!”
He adds, "I'm talking about real end of days. Should have seen it coming, been prepared, man. With all these retro-viruses, genetic warfare, gene manipulation, new bacteria, industrial pollution, corporate greed, Wi-Fi signals, video games, reality TV, so-called organic food, all that junk killing the human kind!"
What chilling eloquence, but Leo can't handle it. He walks off in a daze as Vance continues to preach.
"Man, they don't know, no clue what caused it. Quarantines ineffective. Total system-wide breakdown......."
Leo tunes him out as he gets back into Brandi's house and back to the couch to get stoned. Why is the world turning on its head?
A few hours later and it's getting dark. Other than a bathroom break, Leo didn't leave that piece of furniture. Vance then knocks and lets himself in, holding a shot gun and box of ammunition, as well as a plastic bag with a few cans of food and bottles of water. He sits beside Leo and talks reassuringly.
"Look, umm, man, sorry to lay that all on you. Real heavy. I still can't believe you didn't know what happened. Umm, sorry you can't come with us, my friend won't allow any outsiders."
Leo responds, "All cool man, no worries." Nodding, he hands his joint to Vance who eagerly takes a long puff.
"Look, ummm, don't know where your sister is but as long as they left the city. The dead are everywhere. It's too fricken dangerous. Hey, ummmm you know, I have a couple of extra guns, so we want you to have this. Take care of yourself, all right, man?"
Vance gives Leo a quick tutorial on the firearm before asking if he has any extra dope, and Leo obliges. The number one rule, according to Vance, is that you have to shoot those things in the head or somehow kill the brain. Nothing else will kill them - typical undead crap.
Time to call it quits for Leo, who spends his first night in the new world passed out on the couch, occasionally waking up in a fright to peek out the window. He sees nothing but the outline of houses and other buildings in the blackness, like a power outage. No, this isn't happening!
He wonders if the Rooster is still alive but then his thoughts briefly shift to his two boys.
By the time Leo drags himself off the coach in the morning, the sun, partially obscured by that cataclysmic haze, is coming up and the ballsy motorhome next door is gone. He doesn't want to hold that stupid shotgun.
This is Canada, man, people don’t run around with guns, right? The only thing that seems a certainty is that the Kardashians are still alive somewhere, complaining about their lives. Welcome to day two Leo, enjoy!
He has a hankering this morning for a breakfast sandwich, but has legit doubts any fast food joints will be open - darn it. Leo occasionally peers through the curtains but all is quiet, creepy quiet, except for those disgusting crows. How long does he stay in this house? Will something tear him into bloody little chunks the second he steps out the door?
The headless, rotting body outside reminds him the bad dream continues. Electricity still gone but at least the plumbing is working for a cold shower.
The dude is too stoned to even consider the level of despair out there. Just a few minutes away, for example, in a house boarded and locked tight, a Fijian man with a thin mustache stands over his beloved baby son holding the boy's favourite robot action figure. The child looks like he's sleeping but he's gone, just another victim, a mind-numbing statistic, of the mystery death bug.
His eyes welled with tears and soul going through a plethora of emotions, the man is trying to keep it together as he places the toy in his child's arms and covers him with a baby blue blanket. The last of his loving family…dead. The man then slowly makes his way to his own bedroom and grabs a baseball bat. Something is growling behind the bathroom door that's been wedged shut with a chair.
The thing inside, which used to be his wife, begins scratching at the door when it hears him.
He removes the chair and gets ready with a home run stance. His boy will have to be next. It'll all be over very soon.
Story by Sandor Gyarmati
Comic art by House of Black Art (Jess Soares HouseofBlackArt.com)
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