Past the Apocalypse

Chapter I

Two Shambling forms walk down an alleyway as a third crouched behind a bin seems to go unnoticed, quickly the crouching shape leaps forward and cuts down the two that stood tall. The shape walks forward, opening a back door only to be greeted with more of the same. Tall haggard looking creatures stand their staring for only a moment before quickly going into attack, only to soon be dispatched in much the same way.

The shape takes to looking through the bodies it just created before searching the rest of the building. It reaches carefully for a door before opening, only to be greeted by a ghastly site. A short form with dark sunken eyes, unkempt hair, a medium greying beard, and a wild look that makes the shape want to back off, only to quickly realize that this is a bathroom, and that which he is looking at is a mirror.


“Bit of a cliché, but I’ll take it” he says with some humor in his tone.

As he leaves the building, this time from the front door, he looks up at the sign with some glint of nostalgia in his eyes. The building is… Was… a convenience store, looking at the signs and the well-trodden front door, it seemed to have been the pillar of this small town. Now it seems to be nothing, He grabs a body and starts to drag it over to a pile that he had been making.

Gathering all the bodies, he lights a match and sets the pile ablaze.

“No burial,” he says, “but I hope this gives you some sort of peace.”

After a moment of silence, he jogs back to the edge of town, looking at the sign. “The sun never sets on Bradford.” He produced a spray can and wrote “EMPTY” on the sign, then quickly putting down a few cans of food, some water, and a note explaining that they should meet him at a certain border crossing on Christmas of 2028.

Looking at his watch he realizes that if he doesn’t get the lead out, he himself will be late. He hopped quickly in his van that looked suspiciously like a van used in an old TV show about “soldiers of fortune,” and was quickly on his way. As he drove, he thought of his friend, and how good it’ll be to have company once again.

 

Him and his friend Mike had gone separate ways 6 years ago. The plan was to meet back there after canvasing the united states for survivors and then meeting up to go into Canada. Since he left, he hasn’t seen a soul. The loneliness had gotten to him more than once, but he knew he would reunite with one person at least.

The highway was as barren as it had ever been. When the evacuations were first happening back in 2015 the government had some foresight to make people drive along the sides of the road in case emergency vehicles needed to quickly get through. No longer were their any such infrastructure, but it sure made his journey easier.

Finally seeing the sign for Wyoming made him feel comfortable, in a shot time he’ll be at the border, and he’ll be able to put this time behind him. He knew there would be more of the same once he got over there, but at least the work wouldn’t be alone. There would be some sign of progress, some comradery amongst others who were sharing in the same situation, something would be different he knew.

Ten minutes out, he got a queasy feeling in his stomach. One he hadn’t felt since getting out of bed to go to school so many years ago. He thought back to the arguments with his parents, to the fake sick days, to the homework left undone, and felt nothing but sadness and regret. Had he known where he was going, he’d have cherished it more.

One minute away and his heart is practically beating out of his chest, he slows his car down as to be cautious, half out of habit, and half out of being dead to hope. As he rounds the corner, he sees a group standing there, and for a moment a wide smile is plastered upon his face. But as he drives closer, he sees his worst nightmare. He stops the van and counts… 7, 8, 9, 10, 11… Twelve of those creatures standing there, he grabs an axe to clear them away when his heart sinks… A thirteenth one is there… One with an orange hat that is oh so recognizable.

Seven years ago, it was His and Mikes 21stbirthday, they, along with their friends decided to celebrate everyone’s birthday together. Gone were the days to spare a day per person a year, they decided since the two of them shared a birthday, that would be the birthday for the group. Altogether with him were Mike, Jess, Luke, and Agnes.

“Alright, we’ve drunk enough, we still have to be somewhat responsible.” Agnes said, once again being the voice of reason.

Luke shouted in rebuttal “You only turn 21 once!”

“You haven’t turned 21 yet, only Mike and Cecil are, not that it stopped you from drinking before,” Jess said with a snicker.

“Agnes is right,” said Mike, “Its our lives on the line if we goof too much, so let’s just open presents.”

It was a kind of secret Santa that they did, Agnes got Luke a good grip for his gun. Luke got Jess some lovely soaps, much to the jealousy of the rest of the group. Jess got Agnes a full stack of notebooks, as well as enough lead to last a year, the look on her face still makes Cecil smile. And finally, Cecil and Mike got each other, Mike had managed to sneak away from the group at some point and got Cecil a genuine bat used by Babe Ruth, one he keeps on him to this very day. Cecil had gotten Mike a hunter’s hat as an inside joke between the two.

Snaping out of it, Cecil came back to reality, out of his nostalgic thoughts and quickly got to work. Throwing a few well-placed rocks leading some away can-do wonders when the enemy is as dumb as dirt. Dispatching of the few that left, and finally slowly pacing up to the ones that remained, he took them out just as he’d done thousands of times before. The only one left was the one in the orange hat, and as he took a swing, it turned around. Mike turned around.

Soon after burning the bodies, and burying Mike, he sat down in the back of his van. In his hand was mike’s hat, as he looked at it a note fell from the lining of it.

“If you’re reading this, then I am most certainly dead… Either that or you just stole my hat, in which case screw you. On the chance that I am actually dead, I want this message to be left to my best friend. Cecil, there are others out there I found them, and I’m sure you did too, be patient, be kind, and we will meet in another life. Yours truly, Mike Haggerty.”

As tears strewn down his cheeks he was lost for words, or even thoughts of what to do next. The emotions he felt were ones he thought had long slipped away from his reach. A Coldness crept through him as he thought about Mike’s words. Who knows if there are others out there, for now all he wants is a nap.

He lays his head down on his backpack, and covers himself in a blanket, made long ago by friends who have passed. He sits with his eyes closed and feels more alone than he ever has before. Nearly nodding into the darkness, his eyes are singed by a bright light. One so bright it hurts his retinas through his eyelids. He opens his eyes and sees its shining through the window.

He runs to grab the door to see what’s outside but hesitates for a moment. He fears what comes next, He’s terrified that he doesn’t have the strength to continue on. The feeling not being too foreign to him, he grits his teeth, grabs his bat, and pushes forward.


Chapter II

The blue shone brightly through the curtained castle windows as wind blew them inward from the balcony. As Agnes awoke from the breeze tired and annoyed at the sudden interruption of her beauty sleep, when suddenly with a start she remembered the date. Today was the day of summons, the day in which she would start her transition from Princess to Queen.

She arose from out her bed and quickly leapt to get ready for the day, with a quick ring of a bell an attendant came forth and helped her into the ceremonial garb. She always felt a nudge in her stomach to have to have help with something as simple as putting on clothes, but with these larger ensembles it was simply impossible to do alone. Quick as a whip, her head maid Letula had her raring to go. Heading to the door, she grabbed the handle and with one last moment to herself she took in a deep breath before throwing herself into the hustle and bustle of daily life.

First, she headed down to the kitchen where her father, mother, and brother were sat finishing up their breakfast. Her mother who sat with her back to the entrance of the room reading simply said,

“You should have been down quicker” quite poignant and to the point.

“I was simply making sure that my dress was secured correctly!” Agnes said in rebuke.

Her mother, not turning to face her, said nothing and without moving a muscle in acknowledgement to what she said simply went back to reading.

Soon it will be different, no longer will she be able to dismiss her in that seemingly uninterested way she had done since she was born. She was never the favorite child, even before her little brother was born, she always felt some resentment from her mother. Agnes once overheard a couple maids talking about it, according to them its because she would one day have to give up the throne, and so she decided to always fight hard to be the best, to take over quickly from her mother.

Sitting down for a quick bite of what the chefs had prepared, a quick nod was exchanged between her and her father. Never being burdened with the day to day of royalty, her father was often a softer man. While he did actively participate in the army, and even continues to do so to this day, he always seemed to enjoy himself more in a book than on the battlefield. In another life maybe he would have preferred to be a teacher of sorts, or maybe it’s just a hobby.

Finally, her brother sat close to her as they ate. Their relationship was the antithesis of her and her mothers. From a young age it was clear that he was different, always quiet and held up in his own little world. It was a shock to learn that he was mute, though with magic such handicaps seem to mean less and less. “A strong aptitude for magic” as his teachers had put it, communication became easier as he grasped the core tenants of the system.


She quickly finished up saying goodbye to her family as she went for a quick walk through the garden which was on the way to the summoning chamber. She always felt the name of the building left much to be desired, she knew that that was explicitly what it was, but it always felt so mundane. They were literally grabbing people from one reality and sending them to their own. Of course, it was more intricate than that, it had been explained many times by the royal instructor as to what it meant to summon someone, but it all meant the same thing. She always wanted to change the name, but the words for what it should be never really came.

Finally, she entered into the chamber and greeted the delegates that would welcome those summoned into this world. From past experiences it was understood that members of each kingdom, and subsequently members of each race should be present at summoning. As there are many non-sentient monsters in the world, it’s better to differentiate right away what is and isn’t an enemy. The Aligas for example are completely peaceful and understanding beings, on the other hand the Crocidin are incredibly wrathful creatures. Dwarves and Elves also have their similar creatures of darkness, so its also important to introduce them. Humans seem to be the only ones who don’t, although we try not to think of the implications of that.

“As long-standing tradition dictates,” Bucksee, king of the Aligas begins to say, “Today we will bear witness to yet another summons of the Ironberry kingdom. I for one do truly hope that it will be as great as the last.” He finishes with a muttered agreement amongst the crowd.

“I too am excited to see what exactly Princess Agnes will conjure forth! Will it be human? Or perhaps elvish? I certainly hope its elvish.” Says Chaleese, Empress of the Elves.

A sudden groan comes over the crowd followed by a soft smatter of chuckles. Dwarf king Darmous stands there stoically, unmoving in his thoughts. This goes on for only a moment before his husband elbows him in the side causing him to rouse from his slumber. In that moment it took a lot for princess Agnes not to laugh, but she buried it deep within herself and stepped forward to begin the ceremony.

She stood silently in front of the summoning circle before beginning to chant in a long dead tongue, who’s name or even origin had been lost to time.

“Heute wird der Tag sein, an dem sie es dir zurückwerfen werden!“ Agnes yelled with a fury as light engulfed the room, everyone stood silent as three figures appeared before them. A tall woman with red hair, a short man with dyed green hair, and finally an ambiguous looking person with bright blond hair looked around in some confusion.

“You three are the first chosen by my power to help this kingdom flourish! Alexandra the Red, your strength is needed in many ways, and we welcome you as the strongest of your world. Marco the Green, we welcome you as the bravest of your world. And finally, Archer the yellow, we welcome you as the smartest of your world.” She says before quickly bowing before the newcomers.

“I have no idea what’s going on but if you need someone strong, I’m your gal!” Alexandra says boisterously.

“Have nothing better to do, besides, I was just applying for a job before I came here, so I am fine to stay.” Marco says, also being chuffed at being called the bravest.

“I… Why am I not freaking out right now? I was clearly transported to another world along with these people so why am I not surprised,” Archer says quizzically.

“It is simple, as you were transported, the magic that brought you here calmed you, if it didn’t, I’m sure everyone summoned would be full of fright,” Princess Agnes explains.

“Well,” Archer begins, “if I’m not freaking out, this is far too interesting an opportunity to pass up, so I will gladly join, though I don’t see myself as the smartest quiet yet.”

“Now that we have you here, you will bare witness to the second and final summoning, it will bring forth three more just as yourselves, as to cast a wider net onto your team,” the princess explains.

Everyone giving a nod of agreement and a bit of interest into what is about to happen happily stands off to the side before quickly stepping to the side. As the Princess starts to chant, both Archer and Alexandra seem to be surprised at words of the chant, seeming to be familiar with it. Before they could say anything another blinding light shines, and now with everyone just as surprised, there’re before them sits a van.

For a split moment all is silent when suddenly a noise comes from the van, an audible mutter of shock, followed by squeaking as though someone was moving within. Finally, it all stops for the briefest of moments, before what looks like a homeless man with a wild look on his face burst through the door with a baseball bat. For only a moment shock was plastered across his face before he quickly returned to one of readiness assessing the situation.

The silence if finally broken by none other than the princess herself.

“You…” She begins, “how is it that you have come here alone?”