Pallor Mortis

If someone were to see this man, this boy, they would not have thought any thing other then that he was enjoying the sun. He was leaning against the wall of a gas station, smoking a cigarette. His bleach-white hair was slicked back in a 50's style pompadour, several sleek strands of which were hanging out haphazardly over his forehead. He wore a leather jacket and tight denim jeans. He was a bit on the gaunt side, and his rusty aviator sunglasses hid his tired, blue eyes.

Now, if someone were to look closer, they would notice the broken windows on the gas station, the dust that coated the inside. They would have seen the entire wall, which was missing on the south side. The pumps had been destroyed long ago.

The gas station was decaying, and around it laid a ghost town of skeletons and other dilapidated structures. It had been a small town, when it had been alive. The people there used to call it Untolk, population: 300.

They were all dead now. For years the citizens of Untolk had been decomposing in their homes, or their skeletons had been bleached to pure white outside, under the desert sun.

The boy, well his name was Charlie. His mother had told him once that she grew up in a town called Untolk. She was ten when the first person died of the sickness. Charlie didn't remember this, he wasn't alive then. His mother was thirty when Charlie was born, twenty years to the day since his grandmother had succumbed to the illness. His mother took it as a sign, and named Charlie after her.

He could see now that coming here was pointless. The town was barely even a shell, the house that his mother grew up in was probably gone. He sighed as he glanced down the cracked pavement of Main Street. Everything was gone.

This is what he was used to though. Charlie did not know what the world was like when it was crowded with people, when every town was full and alive. The most people he had seen in a group at one time was his mother's clan…and they only numbered to forty-two. When his mother died, he took leave. There were no rules, and nothing to hold him back.

That was a year ago. He was sixteen now.

In his travels, he had only seen four people. One was slightly deranged, and the other three wanted nothing to do with him. Charlie supposed that they survived the sickness because this was a world tailor-made for them. These people inhabited their own little town each, and alone. When he had come upon each one, they gave him a meal, and then kindly sent him on his way.

This was fine in the New World. There was so much space, so many empty cities, that each person could have their own, however most chose to travel in clans…it tended to be safer, and you had the comfort of other humans.

Charlie didn't know how many people were alive in the New World, but he supposed that since he had only seen four in a year, that it couldn't be very much.

He sighed, and dropped his cigarette on the ground. That was his last one, and it barely even counted as a cigarette. His clan had made them for him as a going away gift. He flicked his hair out of his eyes, and looked out at the horizon, the burning desert.

It didn't register when he saw shapes. They were so far away, that Charlie supposed that it was just a mirage. He didn't move as the shapes started to take more realistic form, he just continued leaning against the wall with ease.

He soon saw they were men riding motorcycles, and one car following behind them. All of the men appeared rather gruff, and every single one of them had at least one firearm slung over their shoulder.

Charlie decided it was high time to slip inside the gas station, and hide in the shadows. He had been warned by his clan about these types. They were called marauders. They weren't very bright, but they had no qualms over hurting people to get what they want. Or just for fun.

He knelt down below a broken window, and kept his ears pealed, gripping his fists tightly as he heard the motors of the vehicles roar towards him. These men must have done something horrible to get so much petroleum to run those motors.

Charlie held his breath as he heard the kick stands being clicked out, and the car doors slammed shut.

The teenager heard some scuffling, a muffled yell, and then: "Put him in the station, we're gonna find some eats."

The voice was mean and dangerous. It made Charlie's hair stand on end. He covered his mouth with his hand, the leather of his jacket creaking, as he saw a person shoved into the station. Who ever it was, his arms were tied, as well his legs.

His hair was dark, and short. He was wearing a plain white tee shirt and jeans. If it had been a different situation, Charlie would have smiled at the fact that the boy also wore a ragged pair of red Converse All-Stars high tops. They were his mother's favorite brand of shoe. This was not the time to smile however. Charlie quickly scanned the area, decided that it was all clear, and scooted towards the boy.

The boy flinched as Charlie laid a hand on his shoulder. He had been shoved on his side, so Charlie rolled him onto his back, and gasped.

The boy had a beautiful face, which was marred by a black eye. Charlie imagined it must have been hard to get a punch in, because although the boy was young, he was taller than Charlie and quite muscular. This was especially strange considering how hard it is to get nutritional food in the New World.

His good eye was staring up at Charlie with surprise. It was a golden-brown, and blended nicely with the boy's light mocha colored skin. Charlie's hand looked deathly pale against the healthy glowing tone of the boy's shoulder.

The boy's mouth was covered with a strip of duct tape. Charlie grabbed a corner, and quickly ripped it off, causing the boy to wince.

"What's your name?" Charlie whispered, as if they had all the time in the world. The boy had a frustrated frown on his face, "Cut me loose!" he snapped in an urgent hiss. This biting tone pushed Charlie into reality, and he slipped his old Swiss army knife out of his back pocket.

He barely had time to slice the cord around the boy's arms when he felt a rough hand grab the collar of his jacket, and drag him away from the boy. In his surprise, he dropped the knife, and was wildly swinging his arms around, trying to break the man's grip on him.

Outside was his worse nightmare. Three men were waiting for their fourth man. They were leaning against their car, a beat up old station wagon, the color of which had faded long ago. It was now the color of rust… or dried blood.

"What do we have here?" said the man in the middle. Charlie immediately knew he was the leader. He wore all leather, and was completely bald. He looked to be about twenty-five. Like the boy tied up in the gas station, he looked well fed and muscular. Charlie tried to avoid thoughts of despair on how weak he was, surviving on canned food alone.

The leader's cronies were similar in appearance, and all four would have blended together except for the manic glow in the leader's eyes, which distinguished him from the other three.

He chuckled, watching Charlie tremble with fear. The boy had never been in a threatening situation such as this one, and he felt the need to piss his pants. He gulped as the leader walked forward.

The man stuck out his hand, and smiled, "The name is Wilcox son, what about you?"

"Charlie," the teenager whispered, not able to reach out his hand. Wilcox seemed able to dismiss this breach of etiquette.

"Charlie…" the man echoed as he placed his hand on a pistol, which was strapped on in a holster attached to his belt. He seemed to be pondering Charlie, wondering what to do with this young stranger.

"He was trying to cut the rat loose," the foul-breathed man who was still holding Charlie's collar rasped.

This news did not seem to affect Wilcox; he simply kept sizing Charlie up, roving over the teenager's body with his eyes. This made the teenager shift uncomfortably, he was not quite sure why.

"I bet's they're teamed together," Foul-Breath continued, "Had it all planned out to ambush us."

Wilcox sneered at this, "Don't be stupid Frog, this boy's never seen the rat in his life," he said. He shoved Frog's hand away from Charlie, and wrapped his beefy arm around the boy's shoulder, as if they were best buds.

"Say Charlie," Wilcox said, his words slurring slightly…he was drunk, "Say Charlie….Say Charlie…." He started to giggle, "Hey boys, me and Charlie are gonna grab a drink at the bar, you just stay put."

Charlie felt the pit of his stomach turn to ice as he saw the other three men exchange knowing leers. "Let us have a bite when you're done." Frog said, his eyes twinkling with malice. The teenager felt his mind go to autopilot as he felt Wilcox drag him towards the dilapidated bar.

"I doubt there's anything in there…" Charlie said, digging his feet into the dirt. This only made Wilcox guffaw and grip his wrist tighter, "We ain't goin for the booze Charlie, don't you get that?"

He smashed into the bar, knocking the degrading door off it's hinges. As he pulled Charlie inside, he chose a table, and walked over to it. Wilcox then slipped his hands under Charlie's armpits, and lifted him onto the table, as if the teenager were a small child.

Charlie was frozen as his legs dangled limply over the edge. Wilcox placed a hand on each side of the teenager and grinned.

"You ain't that pretty, but you'll do," he said. He fingered the gun at his side. "You ever been with a man, Charlie?"

The teenager shook his head no, "And I don't plan to," he said suddenly, making Wilcox raise his eyebrows with surprise.

"I'm afraid you don't have much say in the matter, friend." Wilcox said, smiling. Charlie felt a gnawing hatred in the back of his brain. He was able to survive a year on his own, he could handle this.

"Fuck off." Charlie said, glaring at the man. His blond hair had fallen in his eyes again.

This seemed to be the last straw for the drunk Wilcox. His face slowly melted into a disgusted glare. Charlie's eyes widened as he suddenly felt his air supply restricted. Wilcox had encircled the boy's neck with his hand.

"I think I've humored you long enough," he growled, "Time to pay the piper." He leaned forward and mashed his lips against Charlie's, and the teenager tasted the liquor, which the man had been drinking. He wanted to puke.

It seemed as if his knee was acting on it's own when he slammed it into Wilcox's groin. The man choked suddenly on his pain, and backed up, his veins popping against his temple. Charlie took his chance, and leapt off the table. He slammed his fist into the man's jaw, causing Wilcox to wheel around and fall to the ground.

Charlie breathed in and out, his vision blurring. He had never attacked a human being before, and now he felt exhilarated. He turned and placed his hands on the table, using the old wooden surface as support as his knees trembled. He glanced at his fingers, and saw that they were shaking. Everything exploded then. He heard a loud noise, and felt something blow by his face. He swung around and gasped.

Wilcox was standing just behind him. Only, there was a hole where Wilcox' face used to be. The man's lifeless body fell to the floor, and standing behind him in the doorway was the boy who was tied up in the gas station, standing in all of his blood-covered, gun-toting glory.

"Reg Kearny," he said blankly.

Charlie blinked. "What?" he said, trying to regain his wits.

"My name, you asked what my name was," the boy said coldly. He slipped his gun into its holster, and walked away.

Charlie's heart was still racing. It was the first time he really knew he was alive.





((Author Note))

So this was kind of a preview first chapter. I'm going to see if I want to rework it later.

Anyway, you might have guessed that I was inspired by Stephan King's The Stand. I've had this idea swimming around my head, and I just wanted to get it fleshed out. Critique would seriously be appreciated, I feel like it could be better.

Anyway, thanks for reading!