Why was it so hot? Why did it have to be so damn hot? For once, all he wanted was for the rain to show up, for the weather to cool down during the day instead of at night. But no. Now here he was, wheezing and gasping as he dragged his body across the ground. He hadn't gotten far from the campsite since the incident happened. He was shocked that he was still alive at this point. Still breathing deeply into his mask, Petrol grunted as he dug his nails into the asphalt and used whatever strength his body could muster to pull his corpulent frame a few inches forward. The chubby drifted turned around and looked at the trail of blood he left behind on the road. He couldn't hear any bugs nearby, but he had a strong feeling that someone would show up soon. He thought he saw a shadow of a bird's wings not far from where he was, but the drifter didn't care. He dug his dry, cracked nails into the ground again and dragged himself forward another few inches, not caring that he was ripping his filthy shirt or that the tips of his fingers were bloody and raw.
He wasn't sure how long he managed to move forward. But eventually, the chunky man stopped and rested his head on the ground. He took several deep breaths, thinking about how last night could've gone down differently. He should've killed those other two drifters first—wasn't smart of him to trust them. Especially that spiky-haired fellow. Wasn't smart of him to keep that girl's underwear. Eh. The horrified look Maggie had made when he showed the panties to her was worthwhile though. He probably could've killed that "family" altogether like he did with Oslyn's crew; it would've been better in the long run. But Petrol needed people, whether he liked it or not. Being around Oslyn and her cohorts, and Maggie and her "family" was what kept Petrol's sanity intact. He had come across people who had gone crazy from being alone for way too long, and that was the last thing he wanted. He didn't want to devolve into some craggy crone conducting a band inside of an empty school like he was just a couple days ago. But then again, given his current predicament, maybe it would've been better if he just murdered everyone in his path from now on.
Someone would come along. Eventually. The chubby man wheezed as he slowly rolled over onto his back, his throat dry, his wounds festering. They'd get infected soon, for sure. Petrol moaned as he reached forward and rubbed both of the bullet wounds, wincing and huffing, seeing that some of his fat had leaked out as well. Grunting, Petrol laid his head down on the ground and waited. After what seemed like half an hour, Petrol felt vibrations in the ground, and soon enough, he heard a motorcycle's engine. Another drifter was slowing down their motorcycle, curious to see what had happened to the chunky man. Perhaps this drifter would help him. Perhaps he would heal him. Then he'd be strong enough to steal his bike and kill the man. The drifter got off his bike, clad in a pair of black jeans and wearing a faded red leather jacket that had a symbol of flames on the back of it. As Petrol looked at the man, he could've sworn he saw a red reptilian tail wagging in the breeze. Something about the biker made his heart stop. He suddenly didn't want this man—or mutant, clearly—to be close to him.
The mutant biker took off his helmet and looked down at Petrol. It didn't look like he had skin. Rather, his face seemed to be covered in red scales and he was bald, almost like a lizard with no snout. The biker stared at Petrol, looking at his plump body and licking his sharp teeth with a tongue that had been transformed into something black and thin. Petrol held up a hand, shaking and wheezing, while the biker crouched down and took off Petrol's gasmask. He grimaced upon seeing Petrol's mutilated face, and was shocked to see his eyes watering. The mutant snickered and emitted a hissing noise, patting Petrol on the left side of his face where his cheeks used to be.
"Need help?" he asked in an icy voice.
Petrol moaned and shook his head as he started to sob. He knew exactly what was about to happen. And despite facing the inevitable, he desperately couldn't accept it. It wasn't time. Not here. Not now. Not like this. So many other ways this could happen…not like this.
"You sure? You look like you need help buddy!"
Petrol opened his mouth and let out a vocal shout, sounding like a dying animal moaning. More tears kept coming down his face. He suddenly found himself praising the heat. The scaly mutant lifted his booted foot and chuckled.
"It's okay. Help is coming."
The mutant listened to Petrol moan again, up until he placed his boot down on his throat. Petrol's voice went silent and turned into coughs and gasps. The mutant pressed down harder, watching as Petrol's eyes kept bulging outwards. Petrol's body twitched. He flailed his arms and tried to shove the mutant's foot away. Urine rapidly soaked his orange trousers. His body did anything and everything it could to try and flee from the predator. It wasn't long before Petrol's body became weak, and he couldn't feel the ground anymore. He couldn't feel the mutant's boot on his throat either. All he felt was how chilly everything had become, to the point of freezing the bones in his body.
And it was only then when Petrol realized that being out in the blazing hot sun wasn't such a bad thing.
The mutant raised his foot after Petrol stopped moving. He looked at the dead hunk of flesh, fat, bones, and organs in front of him and felt his stomach gurgling. After glancing at his bike and seeing that he had no food left, he looked down at Petrol and blinked. Shrugging, the mutant got on his knees, took out his knife, and started to peel the flesh off Petrol's right arm.
At least he found some food.
It was calling to him. He could drive away. He could avoid the building altogether. But something about that lovely blue cross symbol drove Stix's impulses wild. And considering how easily the situation with Buzz and Petrol could've backfired, it was only fair for him to collect medical supplies, just in case. Parking the van in the abandoned hospital's parking lot, Stix stopped the engine and got outside, stretching and cracking his back as he felt the sun's warm rays beating down on him. Grinning and showing off his nasty teeth, Stix headed for the hospital with two handguns in his trousers. The sliding doors had broken long ago, so Stix was able to waltz right in without any difficulty. Once inside, Stix backed away as a part of the roof came down, crumbling next to a pile of rubble. He could see the check-in counter and immediately peered over it, thinking someone was hiding behind the structure. But the area was empty. Moving away, Stix exhaled and started to walk down one of the corridors that weren't blocked by any rubble. He came across several rooms—some that used to be patients' rooms, others that were used for storing medical supplies.
One room was a closet that had a hanging skeleton inside wearing a doctor's uniform. Stix checked through the dirty clothes' pockets before he backed away and entered another room that used to be a lounge. He found nothing except for a few spiders and a wall that had been torn down. All around the bottom floor, Stix encountered the same dead bodies, bits of rubble and trash, and items that were no longer useful. As Stix moved towards the stairs, he saw that they had collapsed. Rolling his eyes, Stix moved away and looked at a pair of elevator doors that weren't operating. Using his knife and strength, Stix pried open the doors and immediately recoiled, blasted by the stench of death. He shined his flashlight towards the bottom of the elevator shaft and saw what seemed to be over a dozen corpses all piled at the basement level.
"Well. That's a waste of meat," Stix murmured.
The spiky-haired drifter exhaled as he looked up into the elevator shaft, taking note that one set of doors further up the building had been blown off. The drifter looked at the series of bars, protrusions sticking out of the wall, and inoperable cables still dangling from the ceiling and bent down a few times. He grunted as he leaped forward, latching onto one of the metal columns and quickly climbing it as though he were scaling a regular cliff. He hopped off the column and dug his fingers into a few dents in the wall before shouting as he leaped onto one of the cables and shimmied his way up. After feeling the cable loosen, Stix hopped back onto the metal bars and resumed skittering up the metal structure, up until he reached the fourth floor. He jumped backwards and grabbed the ledge, panting and grunting as he pulled his body up and arrived inside of a room filled with supplies. The drifter stood straight up and grinned widely. It must've been someone's stockpile, perhaps even a merchant's den. Medical supplies were secured in one area, canned food was sealed inside of a cabinet, jars of preservatives were splayed across a table, ammunition and guns were all stowed away in two lockers—it was all here.
"Goddamn! I hit—wait, no. Hold up a second," Stix said, suddenly frowning.
Stix took out his handgun, disregarding all of the supplies for now. He stood to the side of the door leading into the room and gently opened it up. Pointing his gun outside, Stix checked the nearby corridors for any giant bugs, looters, or the owner of the supplies. But the coast was clear. At least, he thought it was, until he heard someone stomp into the room from behind. The second Stix turned around, someone cocked a shotgun and pointed it at him.
"Drop it," growled the merchant.
Stix stared at the merchant's pale body, taking note of how short and skinny the human being was. When he looked up at the ceiling, he saw that one of the grates for the vents was gone. Looking back down at the merchant holding the shotgun, Stix chuckled and shook his head.
"It wasn't cramped in there?" he asked.
"Very. Now, you got two options: we can trade, or we can duel. You choose."
Stix stared at the merchant and grinned. "Man of principle. I like that. Mm. Now, who's to say you didn't steal all these fine trinkets in here? Who's to say you didn't murder people to acquire all these goods?"
"For starters, I'm not hiding anything. That door wasn't locked. The fact that you took the elevator shaft to get to the back door instead of climbing up some rubble to reach my room through the front door means you are the malicious one here."
"Maybe I'm cautious. Maybe I'm paranoid. Guy with all these guns may have an itchy trigger finger, you see."
"Second, you're still pointing your gun at me. If you wanted to trade, you would've lowered it, explained yourself. You've yet to do that."
Stix looked at all the supplies in the room and chuckled. "Where I come from, if you can take something and get away with it, you've earned it."
"You haven't gotten away though."
"I will once you're dead."
"What happens if you miss?"
"What happens if you miss?"
"Got a shotgun. Wide spread. You got a pistol. Single shot."
"You're standing over a meter away from me. You sure the blast will kill me?"
The merchant exhaled as he stared at Stix. He gestured with his shotgun and said, "Drop the weapon. We'll settle this with dignity."
"How about a game? That's a good way to solve all this."
Stix cautiously raised his handgun with his left hand instead of his right, softly ejecting the magazine from the pistol.
"Now then. Since I'm—"
Stix looked at the pistol and huffed as he released the single bullet in the chamber of the handgun. Afterwards, he set the gun on a nearby counter and took a huge breath.
"Second gun. Do the same thing."
"Who said I—"
Biting his tongue, Stix dug into the back of his trousers and removed the second gun. He repeated the same gestures, ejecting the magazine and the single bullet before he tossed the gun at the merchant's feet. He even took out his knife and tossed in on the floor as well. After the merchant kicked both weapons away, Stix held up his hands.
The merchant nodded, shortly before he lowered his shotgun and set it inside of one of the empty cabinets, all while keeping an eye on Stix. Stix smirked as he formed a fist with one hand and revealed the palm of the other one. The merchant looked confused.
"What's this?" he asked.
"A game! You know how Rock, Paper, Scissors works, yes?"
"It's Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoot. I'm well aware of how this game works."
Stix's eye twitched for a bit, but he remained calm, sliding his hands into his pockets. He cleared his throat and asked, "What game would you like to play then?"
Without saying anything, the merchant took a switchblade knife out of his pocket and pressed the button on it that ejected the blade. Afterwards, he threw the blade into the tiled floor, where it stuck up with the blade planted into one of the tiles. Stix looked at the blade and folded his arms.
"Oh. This game."
The merchant nodded and blinked. "You know the rules?"
"I know the rules."
Neither of them said anything. They stared at each other, not blinking for even a second. There was only one weapon. But there were two people in the room. Only one would come out. Stix didn't so much as yawn, grunt, or even smirk at the merchant. They waited patiently, trying to see when the other would break. Stix studied the man carefully, reading all of his body language as meticulously as possible. There was a brief moment where the merchant lifted his right brow, almost to a point where Stix didn't notice at first. The spiky-haired man waited patiently for the merchant to perform the subtle gesture again. When he did, he dove for the knife, snatching it off the floor and rolling past the merchant. Once Stix stood back up, he raised his arm and roared as he charged for the merchant, not taking the chance of throwing the blade and missing. It was at that point where Stix noticed the merchant had taken his shirt off. The merchant made his move and tossed two knives he had taped to his back.
Both of which hit Stix in his midriff.
Stix's eyes widened and he stopped. He looked down at the knives sticking out of his chest, seconds before he grunted, and saw a third one protruding just below his heart. Blinking and gasping, Stix looked at the merchant, seeing him smiling smugly at him. Stix dropped the knife in his hand and slowly backed away as blood ran down his bare skin. He let out a wheezing laugh as he fell to his knees, already feeling the life slipping away from him. The merchant meandered his way to the switchblade knife Stix dropped on the floor, not even worried about the wounded man fighting back at this point.
"You son of a bitch…you cheated…" Stix said, laughing and coughing up blood.
The merchant picked up the knife and said, "No. I just won."
Stix looked up at the merchant as he stood in front of him. Nodding slowly, Stix raised his right hand wearily and made a bloody grin.
"Well played, merchant…well played."
Stix waited for the merchant to take his hand. He shook it firmly, and both men smiled at each other. When the merchant released Stix's hand, he raised his switchblade knife and slashed Stix's throat open. Stix let out a soft gurgle as he felt the crimson-colored fluids running down his chest. He didn't fight it. He saw no need to. As far as he was concerned, the merchant earned his right to keep everything he had. Besides, he knew he wouldn't get far with three knives in his chest. As his life slowly slipped away, the merchant grabbed Stix's body before dumping him back into the elevator shaft to join the rest of the corpses at the bottom. Even as Stix plummeted to his doom and bled out, he couldn't help but smile as a single, final thought crossed his mind.
It was fun while it lasted.
The bug sat down on the steps as he fiddled around with the pieces of metal. He didn't know what he was making, but it didn't matter now. He just wanted something to do to ease his boredom. So he crumpled the bendable metal around, cutting at it with his black claws and growling as he tried to form some kind of shape. He thought he made a flower at one point, but it just looked like a ball with a few lines sticking out of it. Frustrated, the giant dark yellow bug crumpled the piece of metal up into a ball and tossed it aside. Moving his mandibles, the bug stood up and started to wander through the neighborhood. There was no one around—as always. The only other visitors he had were other bugs, most of whom were too busy fighting each other for pieces of meat. They never bothered him though, thanks to his appearance and scent. Chittering and grunting, the man-sized bug moved his way past someone's house with one of the walls busted down, revealing the decrepit insides of the building and a skeleton splayed within the kitchen area. The giant bug turned past a wooden fence that was on the verge of tipping over and saw an aging man with a buzz cut.
He had seen them before. He had run away from them, killed them, mowed them down with his van. But now, he felt conflicted. As Buzz ran into the giant bug, he froze, and so did the giant monster. Neither of them tried to attack or went into a defensive stance. Buzz noticed the beast's giant head that resembled something of a praying mantis and had two green antennas coming out of it. But the eyes looked surprisingly human, consisting of normal retinas with pupils in the center of them, albeit the area around the pupil, like the iris and sclera, were completely greenish-yellow. Buzz observed the giant bug as it blinked at him and moved its dual mandibles apart, clacking them together softly. He still couldn't think of anything to say; the tall beast turned his head sideways, almost as if to question what Buzz planned on doing next. The human being stared at the monster's exoskeleton, seeing how coarse and cracked his outer skin was and how flat the midriff appeared. It wasn't until Buzz looked at the monster's hands that he felt uneasy. Despite how large they were and how long the fingers were, there were precisely five fingers instead of two, complete with serrated black claws.
Buzz looked at the monster's feet too and saw he had five toes with similar looking black claws. The beast wiggled them for a moment before clacking his mandibles again. Looking back up, Buzz kept analyzing the monster and struggled to keep himself from losing his mind. He raised his right hand, as if he wanted to shake the monster's crackly hand. The monster curiously looked at the hand and grunted questionably. He scratched his head in confusion and blinked twice, but eventually lifted a hand and shook Buzz's. The drifter took a few breaths and laughed, shortly before he took his hand away, his eyes becoming misty.
"Th-this…how? How aren't you like the others?"
The bug shrugged.
"Fuck—you understood me?!"
The bug stayed silent and blinked. Panting and shaking, Buzz looked around the neighborhood, seeing that it was devoid of all forms of life, before looking back up at the giant bug and taking a deep breath.
"Can you talk?"
The bug let out a crackled, garbled noise, like he had said in a muffled, guttural voice, "no." Still, the fact that the monster responded meant it was more sentient than the other bugs. Buzz kept observing his surroundings, seeing how desolate the world was. And yet this giant man-eating beast was in front of him engaging in a regular "conversation." Smiling, Buzz reached for the creature's giant hand again. The bug blinked and awkwardly took the human's hand, before Buzz pointed at the rooftop of a nearby apartment complex. Both of them advanced towards the building, ignoring the burned, destroyed cars, the torn-down houses, the shards of glass scattered around the road, and the few rusted barrels that humans in the past used to create fires. The duo entered the apartment complex with little difficulty—the wall leading into the building had been ripped open by a horde of bugs months ago. Once inside, both visitors headed for the stairwell, climbing up any fallen steps and ascending the building as carefully as possible without falling back down. At one point, Buzz slid against a cracked step and shouted as he almost tumbled over the side, only for the bug to grab onto his arm and yank him back up. The drifter thanked the giant insect, who emitted a garbled reply and shrugged.
Once on the top floor, Buzz kicked open the door leading to the rooftop, which was amazingly still intact, despite the few areas that had molded from rain damage. The bug instinctively shut the door behind him, while Buzz exhaled and stretched. He took his sunglasses out of his blue jacket and grinned as he took said coat and shirt off.
"Lay down," Buzz said.
The bug cocked his head to the side mysteriously again. As Buzz took off his boots, he chuckled and stared at the giant insectoid monster.
"Relax. Just lay down! It'll be great."
The bug grunted as he sat down on the rooftop. And then he slowly rested his head on the concrete, looking up into the blue sky. Buzz laid down right next to him, sighing and resting his hands behind his head. They stared up into the sky for almost two minutes straight, listening to the wind occasionally blowing as their bodies were drenched in the sun's rays.
"I'm gonna call you John," Buzz said haphazardly. "You like that name?"
The monster let out two garbled noises and shook his head.
"Huh. Bob then?"
The monster didn't reply.
"Mm. Bob it is then."
Buzz scratched his bare chest a few times whilst Bob let out a crackling noise that sounded similar to a belch. Buzz flicked his eyes at the giant bug and exhaled.
"Do you think about what life used to be like? Before all this?"
Bob said nothing.
"Do you hate the world, Bob?"
Bob said nothing.
"Do you hate yourself?"
Bob said nothing. Buzz exhaled and shook his head.
"Okay. What's your favorite color?"
Bob said nothing.
"Huh. Mine's yellow. What's your favorite food?"
Bob said nothing.
"Oh, really? I'm quite fond of pork ribs myself."
Buzz didn't say anything for almost five minutes. He exhaled slowly as he reached over and grabbed Bob's face, sticking his fingers around his mandible.
"Bob, do you exist?"
Bob let out a couple of garbled noises and gently moved Buzz's hand away.
"Oh…good. …That's good."
Bob turned to look at Buzz, raising a brow once he noticed that Buzz was no longer smiling.
"Bob…are you lonely?"
Bob self-consciously turned away, unable to even let out a garbled reply.
"Bob…do you hate me?"
Bob shook his head.
"Bob, do you want to kill me?"
"Bob, do you want to kill yourself?"
No response. Buzz took off his sunglasses and turned to face the monster. He prodded his back a few times and sniffled.
"Hey," he said softly. "Hey, Bob."
Bob grunted but refused to look at Buzz.
"Bob…are you happy?"
Sluggishly, Bob rolled back over and stared at Buzz as they both lay on their side. Neither of them said anything. They kept gazing into each other's eyes, somehow believing that one would find the answer. Bob looked away for a moment, as if he was trying to find the right words—words that he knew Buzz wouldn't understand. Ultimately, Bob said nothing. Buzz didn't either. For some reason, Buzz chuckled and smiled. He didn't look depressed or full of despair, simply accepting.
"Same here, Bob," Buzz said, laying back down as he put on his sunglasses.
The human being and monster lay still and continued to sunbathe, listening to the soft wind blowing across their bodies.