This Is How The World Ends

The first chapter and a half of a short story.


1. Chapter One

"Vacuum of eye covered stilts. Winged on ancient altar tops. Sacrifice of all living things for the continuation of the cosmos. From mountains where thin paint arms drip obscene colours on the faces of screaming infants. From the valleys where fatal consumption reigns supreme. 
    I see it all. I see it all. I see it all. The child is over.
    The future sticks out its tongue in the eyes of the gentle past. It fears its own demise, but knows it cannot last. 
    Come, my children. This is how the world ends."

1. The Desert
"What do you suppose the dead think about?" ponders Jacob. He re-adjusts his footing and continues pissing off the roof of the school bus. The yellow stream hits one of the countless zombies that surround them square in the face. The zombie doesn't react and keeps on biting one of its undead brethren on the neck. Jacob's brother Esau stands with a machete next to his urinating brother.
    "It's hard to tell." he says. "The way they yell, cuss and tear each other apart, I'd assume there's nothing in their brains left but pure hate. True misanthropists." Zipping up his pants, Jacob rolls his eyes and says,
    "Woah, Mr. Philosophical, using such big words."
    "Shut the fuck up." Esau retorts. "You finished peeing?"
    "Yeah, lets check on Naomi.” Jacob opens the top escape hatch and climbs back into the bus. Esau follows. 
    Were it not for the mountains jutting up on the horizon, the Nevada desert would appear endless. White and golden sand generously littered with un-numbered clusters of walking cadavers. Squirming masses of dead people baking under the cosmic heat lamp of the sun cover the highway; this makes it nearly impossible to use without a very large vehicle. Close to the mountains, the ruins of Reno linger on. Light reflects off the tall buildings that still stand.
    Sister Naomi sits towards the back of the bus reading her Bible. Instead of a Catholic version, it’s a New King James. 
    The inside of the bus is mostly illuminated by various LED flashlights. The only natural light is from the front windshield, due to all the windows being tightly boarded up. The sweet smell of syrupy canned fruit synchronizes with the pungent odor of canned meats, filling the bus with a unique aroma. At the very back of the bus, three sleeping bags are rolled up and piled on top of various throw pillows of different sizes.
    An oblong cylinder of sunlight bursts into existence in the center of the bus as the escape hatch opens on the ceiling. Jacob lowers himself through the hole and drops to the floor in a small puff of collected dust. After Esau plunges through, he strides to the drivers seat and plants himself behind the steering wheel. The smell of burning diesel fuel fills the bus as it roars to life in a series of mechanical stutters. As the bus begins its foward movement, the sound of crunching bones and popping joints is audible along with screeches of pain.
    Naomi licks a dry finger and flips a page.
    "So?" she asks, "Are we close to Reno yet?"
    "Very." Esau replies. "I'm guessing maybe, what, four hours?" He looks at Jacob who scrunches his face in thought.
    "Yeah, that sounds about right."
    Naomi closes her Bible. Placing it on her seat, she and stands up to stretch her legs. She dusts off her habit as she casually strolls up and down the aisle of the school bus. She goes to peek through a crack in the window boards. All she sees are millions of bodies crawling over and under each other; biting and clawing at anything that moves. From her viewpoint, the landscape seems to move like the sea.
    "It's strange, isn't it?" she says. "These people used to be...well, people."
    "It's not that strange, actually." says Jacob replacing the batteries in one of the many flashlights scattered around the bus. "They've really just become more human."
    "What do mean?" Naomi asks.
    "Oh come on, don't tell me you believe in human integrity." Naomi crosses her arms at Jacob.
    "You don't?" she asks.
    "Of course not!" he replies. "The human race was evil long before your crazy buddies at the Vatican endorsed the virus."
    "That's a low blow." Naomi says. "You know I don't agree with what happened. That's why I'm still alive." Jacob's countenance drops slightly in remorse. Esau picks up where Jacob left off.
    "Look at the evidence." he says. "People have always hated each other. Since the beginning of time humans have been finding excuses to kill each other in socially acceptable ways. War after war after war. There's always something to fight about." Esau begins picking his nose and continues.
    "Homicides, genocides, tyrannical dictators and governments. Even abortions. We wanted to end human lives so badly, we went to doctors and paid them to kill our unborn babies."
    He digs a large wad of dried, dirt filled snot from his nostril. He rolls it into a crusty booger ball in between his fingers.
    "It's all been a sacrifice, really." Esau says. "A great binding of souls."
    "What do you mean 'sacrifice'?" Naomi asks. "Who are the souls bound for?"
    "Beats me." Esau shrugs.
    Jacob, who had been listening intently speaks up.
    "So, bascially...that was just bullshit?" he asks.
    "I don't know." Esau replies. "Was it?" Frustrated, sister Naomi scowls and says,
    "Just...keep driving, Esau."
    A howling bastardization of organic noise breaks the drone of zombie sounds. This grabs the attention of literally everyone. The brothers. Sister Naomi. The zombies. Everyone intently listens to the vacuous, unnatural din.
    Naomi and Jacob join Esau at the front of school bus. They scan the landscape intently, searching for the source of the sound. The zombies cease their carnage and appear to have a sit down of sorts, as if in a trance. They begin vocalizing in harmony with the noise. 
    Over the horizon, they spot the source of the noise. From the direction of Reno, a limp, floppy piece of animal flies through the air at an astonishing speed. As it gets closer, they see that it is the front half of a bull. Its guts hang ragged, from the gaping cavity where its hind quarters used to be; spilling digested grass and feces on the heads of the cadavers. The horrible sound is coming from its throat. As if it were trying to form human words with a cow's vocal folds.
    Dumbfounded, Jacob and sister Naomi walk slowly backwards. Esau remains in his seat. The bull twitches and moans. By now, it's only feet away from the bus. As Esau stares at it, the bull's eyes meet his own. A symbol suddenly burns itself into Esau's forehead.     With a scream, Esau covers his eyes and stops the bus. A black fluid starts oozing from his tear ducts. The fluid floats up his face to the symbol on his forehead. It splits into two symbols which situate themselves on his temples. From the symbols, two small horns poke through his skin. Esau ceases his screaming. To his surprise, in spite of the strange deformations on his face, he actually feels better than he did before. 
    He looks back at Jacob and sister Naomi. Naomi screams and Jacob starts walking towards his brother.
    "Esau," he says. "Esau, are you okay?" Esau waits for a second before answering, making sure he jinx himself.
    "Yeah, I think so." he says.
    "You got fucking horns protruding from your forehead, man." Jacob says. "Doesn't that hurt?"
    "Not really," says Esau. "I feel kind of...good. Physically, I mean."
    "Jacob, I don't know if you should go near him." Naomi says. She grabs her Bible and holds it close to her side. "He might be, you know, possessed or something." Jacob shakes his head.
    "Sorry, no offense sister, but that's retarded." he says. He turns back to his brother. "Esau, are you possessed?"
    Half comically, Esau replies,
    "Nope! Not that I know of." Lowers her Bible and moves closer to Esau, feeling slightly comforted by his sense of humor. 
    A loud rumbling makes them stop and look at the floating bisected bull. The bull has swollen to an enormous bloat. It explodes in shower of rotten meat. The zombies resume their normal routine of killing each other.
    Blinding sun reflects piercing spears white light off the hood of the school bus, barely obscuring the panoramic view of the desert. The vast expasnes of sand and rock coated with thick blankets of flesh resuming its squirms. Where there was once the smell of sagebrush, the smell of hot, putrid flesh now resides. From the sea of endless, churning bodies, a pair of spindly arms latch themselves onto the grill of the bus.
    Jacob sits with Naomi, listening to her read the Bible. She reads from Ecclesiastes.
    "That what has been is what will be," she reads, "that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun."
    "So.." Jacob inquires. "I guess history will probably repeat itself?" Naomi looks up at him.
    "What do you mean?" she asks.
    "Suppose God meant for this to happen. Suppose that all of this is according to plan, and nothing that's happening is truly-" Esau interrupts him.
    "Hey, I think we have a problem!"
    A zombie has climbed onto the sun bleached hood bus. His hands and scrawny arms have been relieved of most of their skin by the elements. Based on his appearance, he used to be a neo-nazi skinhead. A swastika is tattooed on his forehead. He rubs his shaved head with a gnarled hand.
    The brothers and sister Naomi prepare to dispatch the zombie. But, all he does is smile at them, showing off a sharklike grin. His teeth have all been filed into sharp points(most likely in prison). He begins to speak. He talks with the laid back drawl of a ladies' man. His voice drills into the brothers' minds like a bullet.
    "Welcome to Nevada my children." he says. "The cosmic purge is beginning. I'm glad you came to be with me, here, at the end of all things."
    "It's him." Esau says shakily. "He's here."
    Jacob reaches for a machete strapped to the back of a bus seat. The zombie looks intently at Naomi.
    "Why have you brought the woman?" he asks.
    His voice then changes and his words become unintelligible. Jacob begins walking towards the front of the bus and Esau slides from behind the steering wheel to the floor. The both begin to bleed from their noses and ears. Esau tries to stand but his legs give way. Sister Naomi helps Esau into one of the front passenger seats as his horns begin to grow.
    "Can't you hear him?" Esau asks Naomi. She shakes her head.
    The zombie scratches his forehead tattoo as if the ink is irritating his dead skin. His mouth moves as if it utters mental pictures and messages. Becoming frantic, sister Naomi asks,
    "Jacob, what's he saying?" Jacob wipes red from his upper lip and replies,
    "I can't understand him."
    "It doesn't even sound like a voice." Esau adds, reaching underneath the driver's seat for a loaded revolver. "It's like fingernails on a chalkboard."
    He stops, because they all hear a faint buzzing. Like a fly stuck against a window or a screen door.The buzzing intensifies enormously. Growing ridiculously in volume. Then, the sound of legs. The sound of thousands of fingersized exoskeletons rubbing together. Then, the zombie stops scratching the fascist symbol on his forhead.
    Crack! The swastika splits open like a flower with the zombie's skull. From the hole in his head, a massive swarm of large, yellow locusts pours out. Armored bodies bred for the destruction of life. Ever hungry and of one mind. Legs and wings in an orgy of famine bringing insects. Crunching and squirming. Biting and pulsating. The swarm moves as one entity and effortlessly smashes through the windshield, sending a shower of glass onto the brothers and Naomi. Esau's horns grow some more.
    As the skinhead corpse falls back into the undead lake, the locusts envelop everything. They emit low frequency hums and buzzes. Twitching thoraxes and millions of paper-thin wings paint the interior of the bus.
    The locusts bypass the brothers, crawling over their bodies, and head straight for sister Naomi. Congregating on her body. Tearing holes in her habit. Tearing holes in her skin. They push their way into her mouth and nostrils. Drilling their tough insect bodies into her soft human flesh; leaving behind little raised trails on her skin. Jacob and Esau watch helplessly as the nun floats to the ceiling of the bus.
    The locusts continue to fill Naomi. Organs can be heard squishing into bones which crack from the sheer volume of insects. Her bloating body is pinned to the ceiling, until finally the entire swarm is inside her. Feasting on her entrails and marrow, the locusts form mounds that bulge outward from Naomi's body.
    The nun drops to the floor. The indecisive mass of insects shifts through her broken form, making her dance in a series of jerking spasms. Then, sister Naomi groans. Her eyes try to look at the brothers, but the locusts force them in opposite directions. Jacob breathes through his hands as if he breathing into a paper bag.
    "She's still alive!" he chokes. "Oh God! She's still alive!"
    Esau cocks the revolver and aims at her head to end her misery, then stops. Naomi begins screaming. Her screaming is soon broken, however, along with her larynx. The locusts have begun stretching her neck. Then it begins to twist back and forth until a sickening SNAP is heard. The skin beneath her jaw rips. With a loud pop that sounds like a gunshot, sister Naomi's face and jaw are forced off her head by the swarm of bugs. They empty themselves from the new hole in her skull. Pouring out of the corpse, they form the shape of a man. As the locust takes shape, he form a mouth and begins speak.
    "Find me in Reno." he says with the same lady killer voice. "In the church with my mark on its door."
    The locust man walks past the brothers to the front of the bus and crawls out the broken windshield. As he erects himself on the hood, the locusts begin dying one by one until all that remains is a pile of dead bugs.
    There were four survivors. Now there are three.

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