Hell Beneath Clear Skies

A fallen world. Corrupt men staying in power. Never-ending wars. Circulating wealth and power amongst the uneven masses. Society has never been so blind. For some, paradise has been found. For most, Hell has been unleashed.
For two of the world's finest, Paradise is meeting again after annihilating Hell to rubble.

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7. Two Open Windows

     The wooden door creaked open, and Betty tumbled into the apartment room. Her face met the floor, her vision hazed out and disorienting. "Oww...," she groaned. Her arms rested by her side, and she pushed herself up from the filthy carpet. "How much did I drink?" Sitting up, she raised her fingers. "One, two, three, four, five. Yup, six drinks!" Giggling, she toppled over into her couch.

     She grabbed hold of the cushions, and up she went. A breath of relief escaped her lips as she stared into the wall. Two chalk outlines connected from the wall to the floor, as if two missing people sat on the wall. "Hey, guys." She waved at the invisible humans. "Guess what? Some dude got arrested for throwing some Molotovs at a cop car. The idiot was so hammered, he just pissed on their wheels. Ironically, he had a lot of brains!" She sneered into the left outline. "Unfortunately, they're on the sidewalk."

     Silence filled the room as she laid down on her stitched-up sofa, the outlines giving her the silent treatment. "Oh guess what," her head slowly faced them. Digging into her pocket, she raised a ring in-between her fit fingers. "I found your ring. One of you dropped this at the bar. Weird, huh?" She tossed it to the outline on the right, hitting the wall and rolling around the floor.

     Silence.

     "Yay, you've stopped fighting." Betty smiled as she dozed off. "Thirteen years..."

~~~

     Warm rays of sunlight spread through the empty room like butter. A newly-customized XM500 lay on the table, shining like a divine weapon of justice. The table was marked with tallies, every one of them signifying five. From the chinked tabletop to its sturdy legs, the five-tally mark covered it like chickenpox. In fact, the entire room was full of them.

     From the ceiling to the floor, from the bed's legs to the drawers' interior, tallies were carved into the surfaces of the bedroom. There was an open window leading out to a balcony, a ladder spread on the outside. Upon the roof, an ominous presence stared at the sun, a wood-scented knife in his hand.

     The Reaper has claimed much death, on and off the battlefield. His first kill, while tearing down the southern borders of former Texas, was etched somewhere on the south wall. As the kills racked up, he began to keep track on them all. Blood spilled, limbs off, life ended. All was recorded on his wall. His "Mural to Victory", he called it. After a while, however, he began to kill too much. The new entries would demoralize the moral, so he shifted to the west wall. As his beginning patriotism began to die out, so did his artistic ambition. The etches were done fiercely into the wood, unlike the smooth lines he carved in the south wall.

     Before too long, he ran out of walls.

     He ran out of memory.

     Some of the etches belonged to men, women, children, few animals. Didn't matter who it was; they got in the way. Some other etches, though, didn't belong to anyone. There was no death behind that etch; it was simply a carving. Could he have been bored with this hobby, that he decided to decorate the room with tally marks?

     Possibly.

~~~

     Water provided Betty with sustenance, as she stood in her kitchen with a bottle in her hand. "Two pills to sip, for no horrible head trip," she sang as she laid down her bottle of olanzapine. She pulled back the cover to her drawer, grabbed some firecrackers and matches, and headed towards the window.

    The glass pane lifted with such ease. The street was below her, bustling cars honking and smoking. A lit firecracker was thrown from the window, and popped in the air. She backed from the window, kneeling over from giggling too hard. Shouts of confusion erupted from the crowds below, believing a gun had shot.

     Her smile became a frown as she turned to the left outline. "Yes Mother, this is my enjoyment." She crawled in between the outlines, and sat. "It's too boring out there. Boooring. Even the soldiers exploding don't make me happy. Not as much."

~~~

     "The outside world provides no entertainment for me, not one bit".

     The Reaper spoke into the air, but the mounted phone understood. Through wiring and emission of mysterious waves, another voice spoke from the machine.

     "Head down to a strip club, or something." His client, Welkins, always spoke with a tone of assurance. Assuring his position as the top weapons dealer in CHIGACO, assuring his position as one of the main recruiters for private military companies.

     And assuring his all-star merc has a smile on his face.

     "I cannot be appealed by a woman who stoops down to such a level," the Reaper's empty voice echoes. "They don't provide enough of a rush for me."

    "Ahhh come ooon," Welkins's cockney accent riveted. "I'll get the biggest broad I can hire. At least relax for a bit. You're not on the battlefield, my friend." The Reaper pulled out his swordgun, and began sharpening the blade. "I wish I was. Even then, there is no challenge. Nobody has my skills, my experience. Their death is assured even before my sword is raised."

    A sigh emerged from the phone. "Alright, alright. I get it. You're bored outta relief. I'll... I'll...-!" An anxious silence compelled the Reaper to turn to the phone. "Welkins?" He stepped forward, his whetstone in hand. "Hello?"

~~~

     "Hellooo?" Betty answered her cell phone. Her client Vlad-Dice, a major player in the cocaine-smuggling and human trafficking networks across the globe, was on the line.

    "Betty, babyyy. You doing anything?"

     The woman looked around, examining every crack in the wall. "Nnnooooooo."

     "Perfect! You see...." the voice whispered. Excitement was welling up in Vlad-Dice's throat.

     "We've got a little something for you, a job. But not any job. A job... of a lifetime."

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