Sunday was half-conscious, her face pressed up against a concrete pillow, as a giant boot rested its weight against her. It was applying more pressure, a pound at a time, but stopped at this rude intervention.
The giant foot came off of Sunday’s pretty face and she lolled lifelessly into the dry gutter. Jeffrey turned theatrically to focus on the voice coming to him over the sounds of small fires burbling against a slight breeze.
TJ stood in the entrance to the multi-plex, shoulders knotted around his ears, his hands behind his back.
“I got your doll or whatever!”
“Lamby? Gimme!” The hulking sub-human lurched towards TJ, his knuckles dragging along the smooth tarmac. He loomed over TJ, his warm breath swirling all around the youth.
“Err, fetch?” TJ squirmed and then tossed the small plushie into the middle of the street.
“LAMBY!” Jeffrey leaped in the direction of the doll, like a giant horny dog.
TJ ran to Sunday’s side, like the good white knight he dreamed of being. He tripped over his feet and stumbled down beside her lifeless body.
“Sunday?” he said as he craned over her, her portly Romeo, maybe a little too late.
“LAAMMMBBBBYYY!” Jeffrey sifted through the debris. He tossed cars and bikes aside, like tissues from a dispenser, tearing up concrete chunks the size of dirty Brooklyn pigeons, until his frantic eyes focused on something fluffy and white. “Lamby! I finally found you. The monsters, they took you away from me.” Jeffrey folded into a curtsy, as gracefully as possible, and pincered the plushie with a giant finger and thumb, not unlike the claw grabber.
He picked it up. Childlike glee was projected onto the grotesque, pockmarked mountain range that was his face. He turned the plushie gracefully in his monstrous hands. Seeing it in its entirety sent a wave of clumsy emotions across the mottled canvas of his face: confusion and sadness, taking the express train to rage and desperation. The cogs in his mind began to turn with great purpose as he realised that what he was holding between his fingers and thumb was actually a plush snowman, the orange carrot nose and bead smile, a mocking indictment of a vicious ruse.
“This not lamby! Where lamby? WHERE LAMBY?”
“Ooh the fack are you?” the pilot said with no hint of incredulity that he was indeed being fucked. His face scrunched up, looking like a map of the London underground.
“I’m your new co-pilot,” Carpenter said. He grinned and prodded the pilot with the barrel of the assault rifle. “And mind your language; there are children present.”
“What the fack are you talking about, mate? I don’t see any kids. This is all in your ’ead mate. You want to mind yourself. You’re out of your depth ‘ere, son. My guvna’ will ’ave your balls as a wedding present for ’is missus.”
“Start the engine”
“You’re asking for it, son,” the pilot said as he started to spin the blades with the belligerence of a teen late to her own sweet sixteen.
“Phweeeep!” An obnoxious whistling cut through the background hum of the engine and the quickening blades overhead.
“See, you’re in for it now,” the pilot said as he turned the engine back off with an anti-climactic sigh from both him and the engine.
Carpenter peeked out the domed front window. A man in the same tactical gear as him stood statuesque in front of the helicopter, Laura by his side. She raised a brow and gave an uncomfortable smile as the figure lifted a shiny pistol to the little girl’s head.
“Drop the gun and step out of the helicopter,” the statue said, grinning.
Carpenter tossed the rifle out of the helicopter door. It landed softly in a bush. He de-choppered one angsty step at a time.
The statue moved around the side of the chopper to meet him. He was just under six foot, average height. He wasn’t wearing a gas mask, just a smirk of indifferent malice. “My name’s Malcolm. I’m a fan,” the man said as he dropped the little girl to offer Carpenter his hand. The shiny pistol was a lot larger close up: a chrome Desert Eagle, very ostentatious. “Go play over there now, there’s a good girl,” he said as he shooed Laura with the gun.
Carpenter looked at Malcolm’s hand then back at Malcolm. “It was smart to use the kid,” said Malcolm. Not very chivalrous, but effective. Might be a little played out now.” He lowered his hand and raised the gun to hip height. “We’re just going to wait here until the end and then a team can pick you up for nap time - easy.” He smiled like a dentist and tongued his front teeth. “The girl can come too. She’ll be fine, what with her big mean protector, won’t she?”
Carpenter grimaced at this guarded insult. The tactical gear also came with a lovely USMC knife, which Carpenter had yet to use. But there it was, still hanging vertically on the front of his tactical gear. He reached for it slowly, eyes locked on Malcolm. “Ah, now that’s not very smart, is it?” Malcolm’s face hardened and he rattled the gun around as if it was getting too heavy for him. “Leave that alone.”
Carpenter didn’t move. His hand possessed, unsheathed the blued knife from its moulded Kydex sheathe. “Be a good lad an’ put that down, eh?” Malcolm said. “We have a large investment in you. Don’t make me shoot.”
Carpenter’s arm dropped to his side. He was still holding the swarthy knife. His feet felt weightless he stumbled dreamily, forward, carried by an ill wind. “I SAID STOP! NOW!” Malcolm squeezed the gun hard and it shook visibly in his grip. “I WILL SHOOT YOU!”
Carpenter couldn’t hear him over the sound of his marching heart, beating like the wind against an ancient castle wall. The blade cast no light and no shadow. It whispered promises to him of perfect cuts and no drag, slices of neat flesh falling into place, enchanting dancing rivulets of blood. Torrents of blood beat inside his ears; he could almost hear the music. It was how he imagined Wagner would sound: ‘Ride of the Valkyries’, with a steady staccato drum beating faster and faster until you knew it had to stop.
Malcolm caught Carpenter’s wrist with rattlesnake speed. All the blood drained from Carpenter’s arm as he squeezed and gave him a quick love tap to the temple with the barrel of the eagle. A searing white light and a ringing noise filled Carpenter’s head as he went down onto the grass, soft and limp.
Malcolm turned to face Laura. She stood with the little gun in her hand, clicking furiously, trying to find the unspent cylinder.
CLICK CLICK CLICK!
The gun jumped out of her hand with the last clicking, giving off a soft squeaky pop and a brief flash and sizzle.
Malcolm crouched and picked the little gun up off the ground.
“I must have missed this.” He tried to open the cylinder but it was fused shut. He threw it in the dirt and stood up. His knees made an unhealthy clicking sound. “Looks like a misfire. You’re lucky it didn’t take those pretty hands clean off. Looks like both of our lucky days, eh?”
“Is the bad man dead?”
“No, he’s just sleeping. You don’t have to be afraid anymore. I’ll take you somewhere safe. The game is almost ov-.”
Malcolm’s breath was caught by a pair of dirty hands wrapped around his throat. Dirty nails dug into his protuberant Adam’s apple.
A wiry grip. Thin hands tightened around his throat and gave no ground to a hungry lung or a thirsty vein. Malcolm fell to his knees, blue-lipped, his face turning a shade of mauve. Spittle on his lips. The last cubic millilitres of oxygen were expelled from his lungs.
His vision went white and spotty. He couldn’t feel his lower extremities, but he remembered he had a gun, a big heavy one. He sent a signal to his arms. His hand hovered next to him, dragging the heavy gun to his side. He locked onto the handle like an action figure with kung fu grip.
His arm floated up as if carried by a rising tide of water in an airtight phone booth. Carpenter couldn’t hear or see a thing. There was blood in his eyes. The Israeli kiss on the side of his head, from the Desert Eagle, had opened a theatrical wound.
Malcolm lifted the gun up to head height, his arm, like that of a marionette puppeted by a drunk. It swayed back and forth.
Carpenter’s hands seemed to get tighter and thinner, a wire man come to life to choke the life out of the world. A bottomless well of loathing drove his muscles like the hands of a clock, unfeeling cogs clicking into place: murder o’clock.
Malcolm’s index finger tickled the heavy trigger. His numb digit squeezed it pound for pound until...
Sunday’s eyes fluttered as TJ held her head the way he’d seen people do in old movies. He’d caught glimpses of them while changing the stations from cartoons to badly dubbed anime. But it wasn’t how he had imagined it would feel or look. It was as if she were on a slab and some pervert was drooling over her, like a piece of cold meat on a sushi treadmill.
Her skin was cool to the touch, but not altogether cold: pallid and soft. Her eyes rolled back in her head like a doll’s. The whites shifted back and forth, a flash of dark green dipping in and out and settling somewhere close to the centre. Her chest rose in a painful fit of coughing as she sprung back to life.
TJ turned to see the hulking figure standing in the middle of the street, not more than a few feet away, watching them.
“Where is he?” Jeffrey sniffled.
“I tried. He was stuck in the machine!” TJ said as he gently let go of Sunday’s head, allowing her to fall back into her fairy-tale slumber on her bed of concrete. “I’m sure you could get him out. I’ll help you.”
Jeffrey sniffed and scrunched up his face, stifling tears. His enormous shoulders shrunk away from his misshapen head.
“You h-help Jeffrey?” Jeff said, his voice cracking, eyes welling up. He was suddenly getting soft and child-like. His grotesque face looked like a pumpkin carved by a dolphin with cerebral palsy.
“I’ll take you right to it, I promise!” TJ said, in his best Saturday morning cartoon presenter voice: peppy, with just enough spunk. He lifted his hand, ready to receive Jeff’s gargantuan mitt.
“…O-K,” Jeffrey said as he sheepishly reached for TJ’s hand.
He jerked to a stop, spasmed briefly then stopped dead. TJ, puzzled, scanned the monstrosity for any social cues he was missing. Had he offended him in some clichéd, bumbling way?
TJ shielded his eyes from the sun, which was still partly blocked out by the large man. Moreover, he did not want to offend Jeffrey further by looking directly at him. TJ remembered something about bears not liking to have you make direct eye contact, or was that dogs?
TJ cautiously took his hand away from his face. Jeffrey was standing remarkably still, like a cardboard cut-out from a cheesy B-movie. His body was covered in irregularities, but nothing stood out until TJ’s eyes were drawn to his misshapen pumpkin of a head. Two neat-looking black shafts protruded from his now vacant eye sockets.
A rumbling, creaking sound started up, as Jeffrey came crashing down towards them.
TJ stood frozen, stunned, the cogs in his head spinning with no teeth, catching nothing before a sharp elbow hit him in his side, knocking him to the ground. A black, whizzing UFO flew past his ear.
“Oh, fack it! I almost got fatty too! Facking caant!” Pete turned, spitting angry and excited, his blood boiling as he cocked his head and shouted in Dave’s general direction. “Did you facking see that?” Dave was crouching in the corner, hunched over a pike he was supposed to be sharpening. It was stealing all his attention from the wondrous apocalyptic playground all around him. “Oi! Dave! Did you ’ear me?” Pete stood up, annoyed by the teenage defiance coming from his ambivalent subordinate.
He angrily crossed the gun store roof, his heavy boots sounding like clogs. “I said oi, Ha-Ji!” he said, putting a hand, heavy with gaudy gold rings, on Dave’s shoulder.
“Itch-y- itch-y,” Dave whispered as he turned slowly, the knife in his hand. The pikes, covered in what looked like bile and blood, were discarded. As he turned, revealing the side of his face, his eyes looked sallow. His face was slick with sweat. His skin looked almost grey.
Dave stopped to vomit a black ichor onto the roof. He smiled, revealing a set of pearly whites, dyed black by the matter coming out of him. “I think I’m coming down with something… Mr. P.”
Nigel the helicopter pilot, as he was commonly dubbed, became very aware of a deathly silence after a gunshot seemed to suck all the air out of the immediate vicinity. He waited, holding his breath, for the smoke to clear and some sign as to what was happening next.
He heard a slow and deliberate step, heavy and full of foreboding, and then another, and then another. Nigel fidgeted in his seat, wrestling with the cumbersome harness, which he’d rigged up as he had been instructed to, by his boss and wardrobe person, Pete Peshwari: the man he was waiting to fly out of this incoming PR disaster.
Like a child on Christmas day, he tried to turn to see who it was. He couldn’t wait, like a good little boy, for whomever it was to press a hot Desert Eagle barrel against his pasty white ear.
“Oww, caant!” Nigel reeled away from an intense burning sensation. “What you go and do that for?”
There was no mistaking it: before him stood a wraith of some sort, more fingernail grit than man. Carpenter leant over Nigel with the desert eagle pressed under his face like a microphone. His head was caked in blood and possibly brain matter. He was a mess, his eyes bulging out of their sockets, bloodshot. All the veins around his face were raised and bruised.
He smiled through the pain, a toothy troll grin that sent Nigel into a fit of disjointed breaths and tickly coughs. What appeared before him was not quite human and not quite an extra from a Japanese horror movie.
The smile sent a wave of satisfying pain through Carpenter’s head, like a mirror cracking. His face was a bisected piece of glass.
Nigel gasped in a Hammer Horror cliché but said nothing substantive. Carpenter let out a breathy laugh after a bout of delicious silence and pointed the gun at Nigel’s head.
Finally, he said, “Does this look infected to you?”
Nigel stammered, “Ergh!”
Carpenter dropped his smile, like a knife on a wooden counter top, and pressed the big gun against Nigel’s little head.
“HEY, LITTLE GIRL! IT’S SAFE TO COME ABOARD NOW!”
Carpenters voice and the gun so close to Nigel’s head shifted a great deal of three-day-old gorilla meat in Nigel’s lower intestine. He imagined it was almost a shitty remake of ‘Planet of the Apes’ going on inside his putrid guts, quite literally.
But sure, enough a little girl, with almost theatrical effort, tiptoed up the helicopter steps, her feet making little tapping noises. She held a small plush lizard in her arms, shy, as if she was going to the dentist for the first time.
But her eyes opened wide as she observed the lavish interior of the otherwise, from the outside, fairly unimpressive-looking military helicopter. Surely that must have been the point: an unmarked, low key chopper giving no indication of all the camel leather on the inside. The inside was a small faux drawing/smoking room, complete with mahogany table tops and a small bar, and wingback chairs bolted to the floor. A chaise longue stood against the far wall, a zebra skin lying across it.
The walls were decked out with various hunting trophies: nothing too large. There was a small but elegant chandelier, and a tiger skin rug stapled to the shag carpet.
“Is that a hot tub?” Laura said, her mouth gaping at the obscene and tacky opulence. She pointed at a leopard skin-bedecked hot tub.
“How do they fill it up?” Carpenter asked with a wry, quizzical smile.
“Well ’e usually- ow!” Nigel started to say. Carpenter poked him hard in the side of his head with the barrel of the large, heavy handgun.
“It was rhetorical.” He lifted Nigel’s nose up, like a little piggy, with the barrel of the gun and smiled that oni grin.
“Yay!” Laura said as she flopped onto the soft chaise.
“Put your seatbelt on,” Carpenter called back.
“There aren’t any,” Laura said, lifting the zebra skin just to be sure.
“Just hold onto something.” He turned his dagger eyes on Nigel “Start the engine”
“Awight, just don’t ’urt me,” Nigel said as he regained his composure and tried to remember how to fly a helicopter and not shit Mighty Joe Young into his pants. “Where are we going?”
Carpenter scratched his chin with the barrel of the gun, which made an audible scraping noise. The question seeming completely alien to him in that moment.
Pete’s fingers fidgeted, fumbling for the large knife in the decorative sheath on his hip as Dave lumbered towards him, scratching and mumbling unintelligibly.
“This isn’t right.” Pete drew the twelve-inch blade, it seemed to take longer than he remembered “That caant said it wasn’t contagious; we’re s’posed to be immune!”
Dave stumbled forward, as if pulled at the hip by a lasso. His joints locked and released seemingly beyond his control.
“You’re alright, lad. We’ll get you looked at. Just sit down,” Pete said calmly as he slowly raised the kukri to chest height.
Dave stumbled again, then his whole body curled as if his spine were made of a Slinky. Without warning he lunged at Pete.
Pete swung, missing one beat and sinking the large knife into Dave’s shoulder. It went about six inches into meat and bone and got stuck. “FACK!” Pete screeched as he tried to push and pull the big knife out of Dave’s shoulder. Dave was unaffected; the wound didn’t even bleed, just oozed a strange, black ichor. Dave scrabbled all over Pete like an insect on its back. His fingers were all over his face and in Pete’s mouth as he pushed him to the lip of the gun store roof.
Pete reeled backwards, forcing Dave’s hand out of his face. Dave fell over him like a wave: no self-awareness, no thought, just a tidal wave of primal hunger, washing over Pete as he was swept closer to the edge of the roof.
Pete let go of the knife. He took a split second to look at the drop from the roof to the street below. It wasn’t that high. The building was just one storey; he could survive a drop. He scanned left and right, looking for something to use as a weapon. Time slowed and it took him forever just to turn his head. He looked to his left: nothing but a pile of MRE wrappers and a bed roll. To his right, his air bow. He snatched it up and locked it into his shoulder, pulling the trigger to an exasperated hissing sound.
The bolt rebounded in a dull ricochet off Dave’s jaw, leaving a ragged rip across his face. His lower jaw lost tension and fell open like a snake’s. “FACK!” Pete scrabbled for his quiver of bolts, knocking it over. Shiny black bolts spilt out all over the roof. “FAAAACCK!”
He snatched one up and attempted to thread it onto the thick air nozzle, but Dave set upon him with a sudden burst of energy. A miscalculation in time and distance put Dave on top of Pete, knocking the air bow out of his hands. It landed with a delicate click-clacking sound on the street below.
Pete kept Dave at arm’s length, attempting to keep the torrent of teeth and hungry fingers out of his face and away from his flesh. This concentrated effort took much needed concentration from his footing. It was a mistake he noticed too late as he tripped on a rolling carpet of shiny black bolts and fell backwards with the now-zombified Dave collapsing on him, like an eager prom date trying to deflower him. Dave’s open, sagging jaw snapped lazily. A congealed solution of blood and black ichor poured into Pete’s face as he fell. His face said ’ieeee,’ but his neck said ’hai’. Dave took a wonky bite out of his hairy, brown-tanned throat.
As an excited jet of blood spurted from the bite then stopped abruptly, Pete clutched the wound with his other hand as his second wind pushed back against Dave. Dave pushed against Pete, trying to roll him like a fat chick looking for a wet spot.
Pete was trapped against the wall. Dave bumped up against him. A balisong knife was stuck in the dry cement. The knife looked as if it was breathing, moving deeper into the mortar, as the prom couple bounced off the wall. Chips of brick and cement dust tumbled and crumbled into the street below.
The blood loss was getting to Pete now; he felt weak and happy. An odd drunkenness drove him into an inappropriate giggling fit as Dave bumped up against him, trying to reach the choicest pieces of meat.
Dave took another bite out of Pete’s shoulder. Carpenter’s balisong wormed around in the growing wound in the weakened wall.
Pete cried out, his heart racing, pumping his life blood out of his open wounds. He fumbled, with bloody fingers, trying fruitlessly to pull the large kukri out of Dave’s sinew and bone, hoping upon hope he’d give him enough room to swing it.
Pete grit his teeth and grabbed the blade with both hands. Dave took some generous bites out of Pete’s neck: quick, excited, shallow bites, which gave way to ecstatic jets of blood. Pete cried out, his face red, all the veins raised, like a runway for incoming teeth. The blade gave an inch and, with a quick, sloppy sound, it was borne, bloody and screaming, from the congealed wound.
With renewed fury, Pete buried the dull point of the kukri in Dave’s eye. The blade was quite wide, so it was difficult to get much purchase.
Pete breathed a half sigh of relief as Dave’s movements became slow and shambolic. He opened and closed his mouth like one of those swami fortune teller machines gradually losing power.
Dave’s limbs shook and began to fold inwards, as if they were deflating, losing motor function. His weight rolled forward, having nowhere to go but into a homoerotic dogpile with his former employer.
Pete caught his breath and tried to wriggle free without losing too much blood. He was hoping for a miracle cure and a helicopter ride back to civilization. He found himself gently shaking the now-lifeless corpse of his subordinate off him. A distinct sinking feeling gripped his guts, as the wall behind him seemed to sigh and began to lose tension. Carpenter’s knife wriggled free with the help of its good pal, gravity. It hit the street below with an anti-climactic metal chime.
It was too late. The wall buckled and time slowed in that moment of sheer gut-wrenching misfortune.
Dave and Pete fell off the gun store roof.
Pete saved himself a sprained ankle by rolling onto his associate.
Pete dusted himself off, feeling the anti-climax, and remembering the multiple painful bites. He touched them and hissed, looking around furtively. The fall had left him dull and stupid. A sudden gripping sense of unease jolted him as he rolled over to see a small metal box, no more than a couple of inches across.
Embossed across it, the words, ‘FRONT TOWARDS ENEMY’.