Green Sunday

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'Every day is like Sunday'

On the edge of town, a sign read ‘Sage Valley - Population 979’. Halogen lights burned cold with a tinny buzzing sound that was both soothing and nauseating. Early morning was shaking its head and wondering what had happened. It was dark, the air was thick and electrifying. A gas station sign flickered on and off; it was empty, a dead time. The cold concrete forecourt stood bare and desolate and dirty and drab. Cricket sounds etcetera etcetera.

The stale, sterile light inside the gas station lit everything with an off-colour, sickly blue tint. It was just a small town gas station, like the kind you’d see in any crappy slasher movie: a one storey affair with a minimart inside, stocked with essential corn and meat-based snacks and energy drinks, the kind that turned your piss green and soupy.

“Daryl! You better not be sleeping again. Anyone else steals any gas I’m gonna take it out of your ass!” A booming, cigar-scarred voice came from somewhere in the back, through the thin corkboard walls of the gas station. A young man, with his feet up on the counter, slid the magazine covering his pock-marked face off one eye and opened it. He fixed his chair to the upright position, surreptitiously letting the magazine fall into his half-cupped hands. He gave an ever so effortless yawn.

“Shut up, you old fuck! I’m still living! Nobody out here!” he said, in a semi-raised voice, which he then lowered to address himself. “Gotta be four in the morning. No one needs gas in this goddamn town no more. Everyone driving those piece of shit roller-skate cars they got.”

Daryl rearranged himself in his seat and got as comfortable as he could get with his eyes open, reclining only slightly before pausing to look around and take a whiff of the cool night air cut with the smell of disinfectant. On top of the latent smells of puke and piss, there was a definitive lingering scent of cheap booze: burn your gut worse than drinking straight from the gas pump, but it was cheaper to drink from the bottle.

He resigned himself to the fact that nothing was going on. The roads were dead and dark and he rationalised a resting of the eyes, letting his heavy lids close and his vision become hazy as he blinked at the transparent glass doors of the minimart. Just as he hit the point of no return with his dozing, the doors parted soundlessly and then closed again, giving him pause as to whether he saw anything at all.

His eyes opened and rolled to attention as if he were waking from a coma. He could have sworn he saw someone come in. He strained to hear: padding, damp noises. A stray wandering off the street drawn by the smell of stale complex carbohydrates?

He straightened in his seat and stepped back into his body. He looked around. “Err, can I help you?”

A rustling sound, cans rattling; instant foreboding crossed the brow beneath his trucker cap. A cold damp grease formed where he had rested the magazine while he was sleeping. Sweat rolled off his forehead now as he felt the urgency of being alone. “Hello?”

Sounds of gumming and biting, ripping, crinkling: a dog for sure. He curled around the counter, picking up a tire-thumping bat from under his seat. He walked briskly to the front of the counter. Reaching the door, all his nervous energy left him with a cough. And he became lifeless and limp, trying to hold the bat firmly in a clammy palm. It dangled by his side like a twig.

“Who’s there?” Daryl called out, like all those clichés in the movies. And he cursed himself for falling into that trap. But a new, sudden fear of the unknown twisted in his guts now and he felt compelled to ask.

The scuttling sound of bare feet on linoleum sent a cold shiver up his spine and a dry gob of spittle down his throat. The noise moved deeper towards the back of the store. He felt his feet dragging him listlessly in the direction of the sound, the bat swinging at his shins.

“Hello?” he called out again, groping at the wet walls of his sanity, trying to come up with any number of reasonable conclusions to this event. A dog? A cat? A racoon? A crazy homeless guy? A drunk chick? Some hungry pothead or all of the above?

He turned down the snack isle, which was oddly paired with feminine hygiene products. He rested his shaking hand on the side of the metal shelves. He forced himself to look around them to where the noise emanated. His body felt numb. Pulses of adrenaline coursed through his brain and sent shocks all the way down to his fingertips.

Hunched over a small mound of assorted snacks and raw or semi-raw meat products, was what appeared to be a child. He saw its naked back. The skin looked cold and drawn and wet, like a fish or a lizard. It was so pale it looked blue. The child hunched over the food, making soft sopping gnashing sounds.

“Hey! What’s going on here? You’re gonna pay for all that!” Darryl said, beginning to trail off as some of his strength came back briefly. Breathing in, pumping up his chest and breathing it all out again.

The child lurched towards Daryl. With a sudden surge of nervous strength, Daryl kicked it to the ground again, dropping his bat with a feral rush of energy. The child staggered back and twitched on the ground. Its mouth frothed with a pink and red substance that came from all the openings on its face. Deep red veins rose up on its cheeks and forehead. Its exposed teeth looked as if they’d been cut on bone or razor wire. Its eyes rolled back and forth in its head. There were Cheetos crumbs stuck, with blood, to its fingers. They scratched at the linoleum floor, trying for some traction, like a beetle knocked on its back.

Darryl stepped back dreamily, detached completely from what he was seeing. The bat rolled by his feet, making a ringing metallic sound, like a bell. The child still struggled to get up. His only instinct told him to run and he continued to back away until he was stopped by a wall.

The wall breathed and snorted and sounded not unlike a bear. Darryl turned around sharply as if to swipe at it with some long dead flight or fight instinct. An empty hand wafting through the air, planting an awkward backhand slap on the cheek of what appeared to be a shaved yeti.

The man that stood before the shop clerk was easily seven feet tall, made of nothing but bone and muscle and sinew. He was coated in a hide of black biker leathers but without the distinct smell of gasoline and motor oil. He smelled like rotting meat and sweat and shit all tossed in a bag and shaken not stirred. Darryl looked about him, as if he were a kid with IBS standing in front of a particularly creepy mall Santa. Not sure where to look or why he was there and pretty sure he might shit his pants. He saw a crudely stitched name tag in the leather; it read ‘Jeff’.

“Err…err… how can I… err… help?” Darryl spluttered, his system beginning to reboot like Windows 95.

Jeff’s face looked like the worn side of a cliff, ragged and hard and as rough and pock-marked as a pumice stone. He wore Terminator One-style visor sunglasses and had a scraggly mishmash of a beard. Missing patches revealed hideously scarred, pale flesh beneath that looked like it might have been burned with acid or boiling water.

“No points, - you, no points,” Jeff said, as if talking to himself, not wanting to be heard but his was a powerful, deep voice from which you’d expect the line ‘fee fi fo fum.’

“What??” The shop clerk, dazed, tried to cut across Jeff’s path. “Mer-!” Jeff reacted as a yeti might. The quick movement and the sharp sound forced Jeff to take hold of the man, with one giant hand, almost bigger than Darryl’s whole head. Jeff took him by the neck and lifted him off the ground like a redneck Ken doll.

“No points,” Jeff said again, his eyes dull and glazed as he lifted the clerk off his feet. Jeff’s large custom leather boots peeled off the sticky linoleum floor, in a way that was so purposeful and slow it was as if a statue were coming to life to wreak havoc on a college campus, populated solely by pre-marital sex-obsessed cheerleaders smoking weed topless.

Darryl floated across the floor. His eyes widened; his breath caught in his throat. Unable to think or feel anything but numb, cold, early morning fear, he heard those gnashing noises again; he sensed they were closer. He closed his eyes, trying to picture this as a bad dream, but when he opened them again he didn’t have the heart to scream.

He looked at his feet. His shoe was on the ground. A small series of blood drops fell on it from above. His sock was soaked in blood, but he didn’t feel any pain, just a numbing cold, a writhing emptiness of any feeling. He saw it but couldn’t connect himself to what was happening.

“Is that my foot?” He said, as he looked down and saw a foot that could only be his a third of the way into the child zombie’s mouth. It gnawed on it like it was one of those giant comedy lollipops you get at the fair: biting all around it, taking off little chips here and there gnashing your way to the centre. “Holy fuck that’s my foot!”

He repeated that a few times, trying to make it sink in. He wanted to feel pain. But he didn’t feel anything but cold inevitability creeping out of the corners of the room. He wanted to feel it.

“Now, points,” Jeff said, a small grin moving the paper thin scar tissue on his face, making him look like a terrifying piñata, all teeth and papier-mâché. With a quick afterthought he crushed the child zombie’s head with an elephantine stomp, turning its head into fine red pancake batter, splashing up onto a row of maxi pad boxes.

Darryl’s eyes lolled back and forth in his head, like those of a Kewpie doll. Falling in and out of consciousness, bleeding and most definitely in a form of shock. “Points, mean, prizes,” Jeff said as if reciting some line from a game show he had seen as a kid.

Still holding Darryl off the ground with his inhuman strength, he placed his other hand on top of Darryl’s head, covering it.

“I’m going to pull your head off,” he said without a shred of irony.

“Please no, don’t pull my head off,” Darryl sighed, barely conscious.

“I’m going to pull your head off,” Jeff said again, “Because I don’t like your head!”

Pressure began to build at the base of Daryl’s skull. He felt a light-headedness that came on sharply, a wet ripping, snapping unnatural noise, like a baby calf torn from the womb by a rope attached to a heavy goods vehicle. As his tendons and his veins and arteries ripped and popped and snapped from the immense force, Darryl’s head came uncleanly off: a quick popping crack sound; a terse jet of blood like a the hasty uncorking of a champagne bottle. And Jeff dropped it on the floor by the dead child with a soft, wet, thudding sound.

The head lay rolling next to the body of the child, forming a cynical and macabre tableau: a child with a man’s head, lying dead on a gas station floor with a tampon backdrop. Truly the most artful thing in there.

“Twenty points,” Jeff said to himself with a dull sense of satisfaction.

He almost felt good for a second. The warm sticky blood on his hands made him feel something close to being in tune with nature. Like a good walk in the park or listening to a pan flute band. But that was interrupted as a ringing pain hit his back. He turned to see a balding, middle-aged fat man, with the name ‘Merle’ on his shirt, holding up a bent aluminium baseball bat. Both he and the bat looked over-exerted and limp, their shadows shrinking and being gobbled up by Jeff’s as he towered over them. Jeff loomed giving off an aura as if he’d just caught someone eating the last of the porridge while fucking his sister.

The fat man dropped the bat to the ground, seeing how it only seemed to piss off the hulking freak of nature that stood in front of him. The sight made sweat run to the crack of his arse and made dark thoughts savage his mind. What creature could have birthed such a monstrosity? His throat dried as he tried to speak, face to face with something out of a bargain bin monster movie given a bloody face lift by Eli Roth.

“….I, how-can I-help you-sir?” he burbled, pissing his pants, stumbling over every word, trying to cower, to make himself small and inoffensive.

“You- You I do for free,” Jeff said, a childish frown capturing most of his huge face. Angry, hurt tears built at the corners of his eyes.

With a sudden hulking tantrum of speed, Jeff launched a punch the size of the Titanic at Merle’s head. His fist moved like a barge, cutting through the air with such force it knocked Merle’s head off its pedestal. It didn’t come off like his brother’s. It hung back off his neck with barely a scrap of greasy, stubble-bedecked neck skin.

Jeff sniffed and pushed his tears back, trying to stretch his monstrous arms back to rub the spot where he was hit. Failing to do so, he walked out of the store, followed by the callous ‘bing bong’ sound made by the door.

~

Beep-beep-beep, click.

TJ’s alarm clock buzzed in a nonchalant fashion at a time he hadn’t set it for. His mother just liked to turn off his fucking alarm clock to save power. Usually she did this when he was out in the yard pretending not to be a twenty-six-year-old virgin living with his mother. So every time he turned it back on it reset and he had to get up at whatever time it said.

He lay in bed for a good half hour staring at his ceiling, debating his stomach and wrestling with morning wood that could gag a giraffe. It was so cold in his little mountain town that getting up at this time in the morning felt unnatural, but his stomach won out, in the end, and he stretched his patchy legs out of bed. All the times he had made little YouTube ‘hair shaving sharp’ videos for his knife channel had left him looking like a cancer patient. And he’d already picked his arms clean.

His feet touched the floor and he felt an instant surge of chilling regret. His inner ear levelled to the sitting position.

It was quiet and cold. He looked out the window and saw a light grey mist on the treetops and not a lot else. No birds chirped, no crickets, no dogs; just calm morning cold. Like the whole town was in cryo-sleep on a space voyage to somewhere interesting.

The hairs on the back of his neck rose as he heard an out-of-place moaning sound rattling through the Zen garden he’d just built in his mind while staring blankly out of his window. His encroaching calm gave way to a sense of hyper-alertness, as if he’d convinced himself he was the last man alive on Earth and had suddenly discovered he was wrong.

Before he knew it, his dreamlike state had dragged him into the hallway. He stood, dazed, as if he’d just forgotten why he had come into the hall or how he’d gotten there in the first place. The light of the early morning glowed an eerie blue. TJ felt slow and lethargic, as if the whole town was under water.

He heard the moaning sound again and found himself outside his mother’s bedroom door. His bare feet on a cold wooden floor. He felt strange and disconnected. He watched himself from across the hall placing his hand on the doorknob to his mother’s bedroom, the atmosphere laden with foreboding. A pregnant pause loomed as he put pressure on the door handle a pound at a time.

He fought a yawn. A drop of sweat rolled off his knuckle and he couldn’t help but feel he was being a little overdramatic.

The door opened with a hermetically sealed popping sound. He saw his mother on the floor, motionless, in an uncomfortable position. Her head down by her ankles.

“Any movement on breakfast?” TJ said, clearing sleep from his eyes.

“Can’t you see I’m doing yoga?” his mother said, lifting her head and sliding into what could have been cobra pose. TJ paused to sigh heavily. “There are breakfast bars on the counter.” She paused as she went up into downward dog, her face turned away. “They’re low in fat”.

TJ closed the door at about thirty percent slamming speed in reaction to the subtle suggestion that he should consume something low in fat.

After a dramatic Edgar Wright style cut, he slammed a box of Froot Loops onto the counter and tossed them into a bowl. He approached and opened the fridge, paused and had a daydream, imagining the fridge was a robot that watched him while he looked for milk.

“MOOOOM! WE’RE OUT OF MILK!” TJ yelled through the floor to his mother, whom he envisioned was now in crane pose and couldn’t shout back.

A brief scuffling thud sound. And she responded in a tone of annoyed embarrassment and anger. “WELL GO GET SOME THEN”.

An embarrassing pause as they both recalled he didn’t have a job and spent most of his YouTube pittance on sharp things to talk about on YouTube, thus perpetuating a vicious cycle of poverty. “MY PURSE IS ON THE COUNTER”

After shamelessly rooting around in his mother’s purse for a ten and a fistful of sticky quarters, he set out into the dry cold of the early morning wearing nothing but his tasteful set of Naruto pyjamas, which consisted of a shirt, adorned with the anime characters in question, and a pair of comfy bottoms with little Rasengans dotted all over them. To top it off, he slipped on a pair of Dora the Explorer slippers he had found by the creek at the back of his house and that fit oddly well. It had seemed a waste to throw them away. They were hidden by his pyjama bottoms and, believing no one would be around at that hour, besides gas station clerks and minimart attendants, he thought he could risk the possible embarrassment.

He stepped out into the cold and instantly felt like he was in a meat locker with a dry ice mist being pumped from the set of a horror porno. He felt a little warmer by the time he reached the minimart-slash-gas station, a block from his home. Refraining from turning his head while he walked, he thus reduced the risk of embarrassing encounters with early morning joggers.

He got to the gas station-slash-minimart and stepped through the door. He was reawoken by the sound of the door buzzer and the warm gust of air from the store’s door heater. Feeling a little out of it, he wasn’t quite awake yet and the hurried journey and the cold had sent him into a waking, dream-like state. He’d in fact blocked out almost the entire trip and it was as if he had just woken up in the store with no time having passed at all, despite the store being a good five minutes away on foot. Just waking up, being hungry and then the blowing heat of the store’s heater in his sweaty face, waking him. Falling from one dream into another.

He pottered around in the entrance, trying to regain his composure and not feel like this was one of those dreams where you were naked in public or something. He saw there was nobody around. The store clerk must have stepped out to take a leak, he guessed.

He made his way to the freezer aisle of the little minimart. They must have been restacking because the shelves were a bit of a mess and things were all over the floor. A brown and red stain on the linoleum looked like burrito sauce, bad burrito.

After taking laboured, sticky steps across the linoleum floor, he reached the large glass fridges where the milk was kept The Dora the Explorer slippers exacerbated the stickiness with their cheap plastic treads. He took out one of the cartons of semi-skimmed, a cool blast of air slapping him in the face. He closed the door and looked at his face in the reflection of the glass door and squinted a little, completely ignoring a faint bloody handprint on the glass just below his eye line.

He reached the vacant counter and rang a little service bell and waited with baited breath before looking around. The day was catching up with him and he really didn’t want anyone seeing him. He looked down at the milk, gently perspiring. He felt exposed. Ringing the service bell a few more times he tried to call out, but his voice cracked; a jarring, muffled yelp came out and he had to clear his throat.

A distinct metal clinking sound sent shivers up his spine as he sensed he wasn’t alone. His sphincter blinked like a camera shutter. Someone had rested a metal baseball bat against the counter, caked in some unusual substance. Greens and browns and reds were mixed together in a grotesque sticky paste clinging to the bat, which looked like a prop from a Mad Max movie: bent nails and coins and cutlery welded onto it at funny angles.

Frozen, TJ swallowed and couldn’t turn his head, but out of the corner of his eye he could see a shock of green and a slip of a person beside him at the counter. He gulped, in a clichéd, Fred Flintstone way, and turned his head like an animatronic bear at a cheesy kid’s pizzeria.

He saw her again. She mounted the counter, with a measured but brisk elegance, and kicked out her feet, like a kid at the end of a pier. Carelessly, she looked out at the store and sighed. She wore the same clothes as she had the day before, but they’d lost some of their vigour and there were light spatterings of red and green... paint? Splotches and light misting and daubs. Maybe she was a visiting artist from out of town, some edgy modern art person who painted with a baseball bat and didn’t use tampons or shave her armpits. Nevertheless, TJ noticed, with deliberate slack-jawed staring followed by fawning and blushing, that she did indeed shave her armpits. He’d had a fleeting reflection of her and dreaded the thought of all that obnoxious green hair stretching out into every nook and cranny of her body.

The bat rested against the counter between her legs as she pretended not to notice him. He stood in stunned silence, trying not to be seen. He tried to draw attention away from his Dora the Explorer slippers.

“You got a napkin, or something?” she said without looking up. He shook his head awkwardly, as if she was asking for a pint of blood, and tried to back away. Every cell in his body shrunk away from this nightmarish situation.

He looked down at the milk condensation running. Sweat dripped from his brow; his throat was dry. Thinking about those Froot Loops, those comforting, non-judgemental Froot Loops, those refreshing fruity loops. He licked his lips and tried to look straight ahead, tapping the bell a few more times, almost giving himself an aneurysm trying to look casual.

“What are you doing?” she said, yawning midway through her sentence. “Just take it”.

He looked at her neck, his vision shaking and blurring. He was only able to focus on her ice-cream necklace. His hands were shaking, his ears ringing, his sweat running, his bowels tightening. His ass felt so tight he thought he could crap diamonds.

He licked his lips and swallowed hard again. The Froot Loops were calling him, those beautiful, safe fruity loops.

He snatched up the milk and turned on a dime, his Dora the Explorer slippers squeaking. He turned and waddle-ran towards the door and freedom, the milk and his man tits shaking with this uncommon exertion.

Before he knew it, a shrieking, squeaking noise roared out like the tearing of a page in a big laminated phone book. Slipping and falling on his ass with only the crashing sound of his dignity shattering into a thousand pieces to keep him warm. The milk flying over his head, as some vain attempt at staying on two feet failed miserably. He looked up at the ceiling fan and the rotten, stained asbestos ceiling panels, feeling lightheaded. A cold feeling rushed over him from the base of his neck.

He lifted his head and it felt ten times heavier than before. He reached back to feel his neck; it was cold and wet and he couldn’t see straight. He touched the sticky liquid on the back of his neck and put his hand in front of his face again, to see his hand was covered in a white liquid he’d frequently seen fruity loops floating in. He breathed a sigh of relief. But he still had to deal with the wave of hot embarrassment coming in on the express train.

He looked over at her, but she hadn’t moved an inch. She wasn’t laughing or pointing. She looked like she hadn’t even noticed; she was still staring down at her feet as if she was in a trance.

TJ felt a strange tugging at his feet and thought it was time to get up. He looked to his feet for some compliance and noticed half a zombie was using his feet as leverage to lift its head up off the floor.

“Whattt??” His voice shook. His adrenaline froze him solid, his fantasy colliding with his cruel reality. He couldn’t move. His voice had frozen in a humiliating, childish babble. He couldn’t breathe. The lumbering corpse lifted itself into position over TJ’s luscious left leg, looking for the meatiest place to sink its noxious barbed teeth in. “Heelllp..p!” he muttered to himself, frantically reeling back, trying to gain traction on the milk-slick linoleum floor. He was gaining nothing but feeble squeaking, sloshing noises.

The girl on the counter lifted her head, like an angsty teen told to take her headphones out, and sighed audibly. She hopped off the counter and yawned again, dragging the bat along the floor with her as if it was too heavy for her.

TJ hadn’t noticed. He looked into the face of the corpse crawling up his body. It had seen juicier spots higher up and was taking its time to select the choicest chops to chew first. Frozen in time TJ looked at the harbinger of his doom. It didn’t look quite how he had expected; it looked quite juicy, almost formless, with a gaunt, protruding face that made it look like Angelica Housten in that Roald Dahl movie.

In that moment TJ realised how unprepared he truly was, how small and how vulnerable he’d always been, wrapped up in his inner fantasy world. He’d prepared for this. He’d always thought about what he would do and how he would do it, how he alone would survive and how, when everything was made equal, he’d show the world who he truly was. And now in this instance, this awkward moment of unpreparedness, he was caught off guard and he was about to die, like any other extra in some cheap handycam zombie flick.

But that would be too convenient, right? In the perfect epitome of the classic movie cliché, the zombie opened its mouth with a creaky gate noise, revealing a row of milled, bloody teeth that definitely looked infected. A smell of rotten, greasy meat filled TJ’s lungs and he breathed in hard. Then the creature’s head stopped with a quick jerk as a ragged nail was driven into its temple. A sudden blankness appeared in its eyes and its jaw lolled open, slack and lifeless.

She yanked on the bat stuck in the zombie’s head and sighed with vexed irritation. She put her shoe down on the thing’s back for leverage. TJ scuttled backwards towards the door, suddenly appreciating the movie cliché of being saved at the last minute.

She pulled hard, trying to exert the minimum of annoyed effort, but with a harder tug, she pulled the thing’s head clean off with a soggy pop. She sighed again before lifting the bat and attempting to shake the severed head off of it. TJ was speechless, his pyjama bottoms soaked in what he hoped was mostly milk.

With a furious grunting sound, and still not wanting to touch the head stuck to the end of the bat, the girl swung it furiously. The head flew off, hitting the ceiling fan and flailing off towards the frozen food section.

She sighed again, narrowing her gaze, and blew a tuft of green hair out of her face, forcing back a single bead of pissed off sweat.

She looked forward trying to regain her blank expression. She put the bat down and turned towards TJ who was attempting to recover his feet. He checked everything was still intact.

Her gaze froze him on one knee. She looked right at him as if seeing him for the first time.

“You ok?” she said, a striking sense of indifference hitting TJ like it was an insult. He nodded feverishly, like his life depended on it; this was all new to him.

“You can go.” Her voice was empty. She tilted her head towards the door. TJ remembered he had feet and scrambled to them before scurrying out, gracefully hitting the side of the automatic door as it opened. He ignored the pain in his shoulder in favour of shock and embarrassment.

Moving as if the devil on a dust bunny was on his heels, TJ’s eyes blurred with tears, totally not caused by seeing a zombie or banging his shoulder into the door on the way out. The early morning air and mist stung his eyes as he attempted a frantic sprint. Closing his eyes briefly, he came to an abrupt stop by what felt like a light pole wrapped in an old army coat.

TJ looked up, winded. Feeling like an angry eight-year-old with a grazed knee, he saw the bottom of a long tattered coat and a pair of feet wrapped in bread bags. Dizzy and feeling petulant, TJ spoke before his brain came back online.

“Hey, watch where you’re going, asshole!”

Before TJ realised his mistake, he heard an alien, ratcheting sound. He was making Eskimo noses with an exceptionally shiny and sharp-looking butterfly knife.

“Hey, you ran into me, kid” Carpenter said with a dry, almost happy, sigh. He smiled like a spider watching a fly tiptoe onto his web.

TJ became cross-eyed and motionless, following the movement of the knife with his eyes.

“Now, how do we fix this: a nostril maybe? Are you left-handed or right? You get much use out of that pecker of yours?” Carpenter crouched down beside him. TJ was flat out on his ass again, stinking of milk and sweat. Carpenter smiled like a tax man, like there was no one else in the world, but he still needed to collect.

“Hey, hobo guy!” a voice called out from behind TJ, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the knife for a second.

Carpenter looked over. He moved his long hair out of his face with the hand that held the knife, his grin growing impishly large now.

“Oh, it’s you,” he said. A trite glee fought its way to the front of his gravelly voice, so as you couldn’t be sure whether he was happy or angry; but he was definitely something.

The green-haired girl stood in the doorway of the minimart, her medieval bat slung over her shoulder carelessly, a look of complete and utter morbid indifference stapled on her face. Her turned up nose turned up to eleven.

“He’s not worth anything, not yet,” she said, tossing a lock of green hair out of her face with an arrogant flourish.

“I guess you’re right,” he said as he flicked the knife closed without taking it out of TJ’s face. TJ could feel a cutting little waft of air coming from the blade, carrying the smell of axle grease and dried blood. Carpenter’s knees clicked as he sprung back up. Looming over TJ, he smiled, baring a row of yellowed teeth, like a shark. “No hard feelings, fat boy. See you around”.

He turned away from TJ, putting the knife back into one of his coat pockets. Smiling silently, with his hands at his sides, his eyes locked on the girl with the green hair. She stared back at him and they were two predators standing on either side of the street. TJ looked back and forth at the two. A monolithic aura of death and divine ambivalence surrounded them both. They towered over him, like Norse gods squaring off in the streets.

TJ scrambled to his feet again, waddling off down the street, until he could a put together a full run. They were gone as he broke line of sight. It was as if they had never been there: no sound, no clash of swords, no screams. Just the sound of his own laboured breathing as he took a little break.

TJ scratched a chafed moob and looked back tentatively. A flash of white knighthood sparked in his ample breast, dying just as fast as he realised he was completely defenceless and wearing pyjamas and a pair of little girl’s slippers. He took up a bounding jog back to his sleepy home. The streets were deathly calm now. And the cold was getting to him. He had broken a sweat when the corpse had tried to take a bite out of his ass. He was still soaked in milk and starting to smell like baby vomit.

He got to his room, unquestioned by his mother; he could hear the shower going and knew he wouldn’t be disturbed. A sudden manic excitement welled up inside him as he closed the door of his room and looked over at his ‘toy box’. This is what he had been waiting for. He’d survived so far; that had to mean something. This was destiny; he was sure. He knelt before his toy box, humbled himself before the altar of his post-apocalyptic fantasies.

He trembled as he placed his chubby hands on either side of the lid. He showed the respect of a priest about to open the arc of the covenant, savouring every moment of his fevered misanthropic dreams coming true.

He applied pressure to the lid of the box. It popped open with a jerk and he stopped before opening it any further than he had to. He opened it cautiously, as if it contained venomous snakes. As if this wasn’t one of a thousand times he’d opened it before.

This, he was sure, would be the last time and so, of course, it felt like the first. His heart pounded and his blood raced through his veins like a thousand fire ants; this was his time. With a sudden surge of murderous energy, he flung the lid of the box back and inhaled deep.

His heart dropped, falling ten storeys onto a concrete forecourt. The box was empty; of course it was.

“Fuck.”

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