disconnected from the dystopia / exhibit forty-four / the dark army

disconnected from the dystopia exhibit forty-four original writing & original artwork by j. e. lattimer

© 2013 j. e. lattimer all rights reserved

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All that is Necessary …

Jack Altomare was sitting alone in the back corner of the coffee shop.  He was taking another sip of his Americano when he noticed someone approaching his table in the corner of his peripheral vision.

“Jack?”  A man’s voice said.

He swiveled slightly in his chair to see who it was.

“Oh, Frank!  What’s up?”  Jack said.  It was Frank Montgomery, an old friend of his from school.

“Not much, man.  Crazy just running into you after all these years.”  Frank said.  He extended his hand and Jack shook it.

“Yeah, it has been awhile…”

“Care if I join you?”

“No, not at all.  Just killing some time before I have to go to work.”  He motioned with his hand at the empty chair on the other side of the small rectangular table.

“Thanks.”  Frank said.  Jack watched as he pulled the chair out, sat down his mug of coffee and then took a seat.  He looked pretty much the same as he did in high school, other than the fact that he had put on at least one hundred extra pounds and gained another chin.

“So, what have you been up lately?”  Frank said.

“Oh, long story.  I was up in the Rocky Mountains for about six years, my wife and I–”

“You’re married?”  Frank said, interrupting.

“Yes.  You?”

“Ah…  Divorced, couple of kids.  Didn’t work out.  You remember Sue from junior high?”

“Sure, I remember her.”

“Yeah, it was Sue…”  Frank said.  His eyes narrowed and he frowned

“Oh.  I see.”   Jack said.

“Anyhow, what were you doing up in the mountains?”

“Running a health store.”  Jack said.

Frank snorted with a short burst of laughter.  “Won’t catch me in one of those.”  He said.

Jack shrugged and took another sip of his Americano.  A few beats of silence followed as they sat on opposing sides of the table.

“On a completely different subject, did you hear about that robbery last night?”  Frank said.

“No, I didn’t.”

“Gas station right by my house on 34th St.  Two guys walked in with shotguns and robbed the place.  Used to be such a good neighborhood–  But with the economy and all, well, the crime has just been exploding.  I heard that they made the employee put his mouth around the barrel until they were done.”

“I stopped one once.”  Jack said.

“What’s that?”  Frank said.

“I stopped a robbery at a gas station once.”  Jack said.

“Really?”

He nodded and took another sip of coffee.

“What happened?”

Jack sighed.  “Well, this would have been about seven years ago now, right before we left for Colorado.  My wife and I were giving my Dad a ride to get a few groceries because his truck was in the shop.  We stopped at Earl’s gas station to fuel up–  You know the one over on the corner of 14th and South?”

all that is necessary-

“Sure, I know which one you’re talking about.”  Frank said.

“My wife and my Dad were sitting in the car while I was outside pumping gas.  It was pretty late and the place was deserted.  My car was the only one at the pumps and a minivan was parked nearby.  Anyway, I’m pumping gas when this Hispanic guy comes running out with a forty of malt liquor in his hand.  He’s pointing back at the building with his other hand and saying ‘Lady getting hurt, lady getting hurt.’ over and over.  Don’t think his English was that good.”

“Go on…”  Frank said.  He had leaned forward over the table, suddenly captivated by the story.

“I didn’t know what to think.  I was trying to talk to the guy but he just hightailed it over to the minivan and went speeding away out of the parking lot.  I remember opening one of the car doors to tell my wife and my Dad what he had said and then I sprinted to the building and went inside.”

Frank picked up his mug and took a sip for the first time.

“When I first entered the store it looked like the place was empty, then I heard a struggle going on behind the counter.”  Jack said.  “I peered over and saw that there was a guy back there.  He had the woman who was the cashier that night pinned on the ground and he was laying on top of her.  Her face was bruised and bloody and the guy had his hands around her neck.  He was trying to strangle her and her face was turning bright red.”

“You’re kidding me!”  Frank said.

“Nope.  True story.”  Jack said.  He paused to drink the last swallow of his coffee.  “Before I really thought about what I was doing I jumped over the counter and pulled him off of her.  I shoved him to the ground next to where she was laying and kicked him once in the face as hard as I could.  By this time my Dad had entered the store and was rounding the side of the counter where the guy was sprawled from the kick.  He walked past the robber and the two of us were helping the woman up to a sitting position when I noticed that the guy was starting to stand up and his hand was reaching into his jacket pocket.”

“Did he have a gun?”  Frank said.

“We didn’t know at that time.  The poor woman was barely coherent and my dad and I were both standing there watching as he reached into his pocket.  There was a mad, crazed look in his eyes and blood all over his hands, his knuckles.  Skinny little guy.  Fear gripped my heart as I watched his hand disappear and his lips move to form a sneer–  Not for my own safety so much.  I was worried that he was going to pull out a weapon and hurt my Dad.  Luckily my wife had stayed in the car.”  Jack said.

“Holy crap!”  Frank said.

Jack glanced down at his watch.  “Oh, I’m late for work!”  He said.

“No, wait!  You have to finish the story!”

“That’s pretty much it–  Two cops came charging in at that precise moment with their guns out.  Turned out the woman had hit the silent alarm when things started getting out of control.  They handcuffed the guy and had an ambulance sent out for the woman.  Turned out that he didn’t have a gun, but he was reaching for a knife in his jacket pocket when the  cops showed up.  They also found crack on him, which explained the crazed look in his eyes.  The cops interviewed my Dad and I briefly, but they didn’t really need much from us because of all of the security cameras in there.”

“Unbelievable!  No offense, but that was really stupid just running into that situation.”  Frank said.

Jack shrugged.  “Maybe so.  Didn’t even cross my mind while it was all happening, though.  Sorry to cut this short, Frank, but I really do have to get going.”  He stood up from the table.

“Hey, we have to go grab a few beers sometime and continue this conversation, man.”  Frank said.

Jack nodded.  “Okay.”  He said.  He pulled a business card out from his wallet and placed it on the table.  “My cell number is on there.”

“Cool.”  Frank said.  He picked up the card and looked at it.

“Things are probably going to get pretty crazy for the next couple of years, Frank.  The crime is probably going to explode even more as the economy continues to stutter.  But I would like to leave you with a thought, it’s an old quote from a guy named Edmund Burke– ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.'”

Frank nodded and smiled.  “Yes.  I know what you mean”

*               *              *               *              *

[Original writing & photography by J. E. Lattimer]

© 2012, 2013 J. E. Lattimer all rights reserved

The Voice of the Damned

voice of the damned 1

“What do you think?”  Lucas said.  He nodded toward the house.

“Hell, I don’t know.”  Warren said.  He climbed off of his motorcycle and put the kickstand down.  “The front door has been ripped off the hinges.  The place looks deserted.  But who knows? Some of those things could still be in there.”

“Yeah.  Stay here with the bikes.”  Lucas said.  “I’ll be right back.”  He pulled the binoculars out of his saddlebag and walked down into the ditch facing the house.  He raised the binoculars up to his eyes while crouching there and scanning over the windows.

Warren remained standing next to his motorcycle.  He was wearing his helmet but had the visor flipped up so he was able to look down the road for any sign of approaching vehicles.  They had been cruising around the back roads on the outskirts of the city for an hour, looking for any supplies they could get their hands on.  Lucas had spotted the white farmhouse and signaled a stop.  They had not encountered any other humans since leaving the camp.

After a couple of minutes had passed Lucas lowered the binoculars and walked back.

“See anything?”

Lucas shook his head and sighed.  “No.  Doesn’t mean that there aren’t any in there, though.”

“I suppose we’re going to have a look.”  Warren said.

“I suppose so.”

“Just don’t want a repeat of last week.”  Warren said.

“Look, Jack was being stupid, okay?  Not saying he deserved to go out like that, ’cause no one does.  But he was asking for trouble, letting his guard down like an idiot.  Keep your gun out and be ready for anything.”

“I know, I know.”  Warren said.  “Hey, you think Natalie’s safe back at the camp?”

“Yeah, most likely.  They don’t roam around very often in the daytime.  Besides, she has plenty of weapons and knows how to use them.”

“True enough.”

Lucas sighed again.  “Alright, let’s get this over with.”  He said.

They crossed the ditch side by side while pulling out their pistols.  Neither spoke as they passed over the unkempt  front lawn and stepped softly onto the porch.  Warren’s stomach churned and he thought he was going to lose his breakfast.

Are you seeing this?”  He said, voice barely above a whisper.

Lucas narrowed his eyes and raised his index finger to his lips.  Quiet.

His earlier assessment had been correct:  The front door had been torn from the frame and was nowhere to be found.  Blood was pooled and dried nearly everywhere across the front porch, and from what he was able to see, it was also splattered all over inside of the home. He grabbed Lucas’ arm and used his other hand to motion in the direction of the bikes. Let’s go back!

Lucas shook his head and walked into the house.  Warren looked back at the motorcycles sitting in the middle of the road one last time, took a deep breath, and then crossed the threshold.

More horror awaited them inside.  Every room they passed through was in total disrepair: Most of the furniture was shredded and broken, the television set was smashed, the windows were knocked out.  Warren noticed many bullet holes in the walls and the ceiling, and, of course, there was no missing the blood spattered and smeared everywhere.  No sign of life to be found and no bodies.  Nothing to be heard, either–  The house was silent.

When they reached the kitchen at the far corner of the first floor Lucas leaned forward and whispered next to his ear.

“See if you can find any food.”  He said.  “I’m going to check upstairs.”

Warren nodded in response and began to look through the cupboards.  It didn’t take long. Nothing.  Every cupboard was empty.  There was a severed arm that had once belonged to a large man stuffed into the refrigerator, but nothing else.  He opened a slender door across from the refrigerator and found himself staring down a narrow flight of stairs leading into the darkened cellar.

Lucas returned to the kitchen and walked over to have a look at the staircase.

“More of the same upstairs.”  He said under his breath.  “Any food?”

Warren shook his head.  He reached into the front pocket of his leather jacket and took out a  flashlight, turned it on.

“Ready?”

Lucas now had his own flashlight clenched in one hand, his pistol in the other.  “Let’s go.”

They started walking slowly, quietly down the steps.

“Oh, dear God.”  Warren said.  The cellar was one large, dark room with skulls, bones and various body parts covering every inch of the floor that the bobbing light passed over…

voice of the damned 2

Sudden movement from the corner of the room-  Warren turned on his heel and raised the beam of light.

The creature lurking there opened its mouth and hissed at them as the flashlight illuminated its face.  Its eyes were huge and pitch black with a tiny mouth full of fangs and no nose to be seen.  It had a tall, slender body with long, spindly arms and legs. The bloody, half eaten corpse of a young man was propped up against the wall next to where the thing stood.

voice of the damned 3

Demon!”  Lucas said.  “It is time that you were sent back to hell!”  He charged at the thing while firing his gun.  The shadows behind the creature were swirling about with some sort of living, dark energy.  The first shot went wide and hit the wall, but the second one hit it in the shoulder.   The creature’s mouth opened wide and it shrieked with the voice of the damned.

Warren was frozen in place with fear, his hands were shaking as he tried to hold the flashlight steady and aim the gun at the same time.

Lucas squeezed off one more round, hitting the creature in the abdomen.  The thing shrieked again, but this time it jumped forward, toward Lucas.  It slashed out with the claws on one hand and severed the man’s head in one sudden movement.  His decapitated body slumped to the ground and blood gushed from the stump that remained above his shoulders.

“No!”  Warren screamed.

The creature turned to face him and its mouth twisted up into a strange smile.

Join us.”  The thing rasped.  “We are many.”

Warren started shooting and didn’t stop until he was out of bullets.  The thing shrieked one final time and then fell down next to where Lucas’ body was laying.  The shadows stopped swirling and immediately retreated.

Warren turned and sprinted back up the flight of stairs and found his way outside.  He frantically crossed the front lawn, panting, out of breath.  His mind was unable to process all that had just happened.   He jumped onto his motorcycle and raced back to camp.

voice of the damned 4

Natalie was sitting on a log next to the fire pit when she noticed a motorcycle approaching. The fact that there was only one of them meant that something had gone wrong.  As the figure advanced she was able to identify it as Warren, so that was a relief.

But where was Lucas?  She thought.

*               *               *              *               *

By the time he reached the camp and dismounted from the bike tears were streaming down Warren’s face.  He took the helmet off and threw it in sheer anger.

Natalie raced over and embraced him.  He allowed her to lead him over to the fire.  He sat down next to her and told her everything that had happened.

“You just left his body there?”  Natalie said.

“We’re going back for him and the other bike in the morning.”  Warren said.  “I just had to get out of there…  I just couldn’t…  I…”

“It’s okay, it’s okay.  I understand.”  She leaned forward and hugged him again, kissed him.  “Lucas was a good man and he’ll be missed.”

Warren nodded.  “Yes.”

“Did you find any food?”

He frowned and shook his head.

“No big deal.  We still have enough for a few days.”

He was just sitting there staring into the fire, a strange transfixed look upon his face.  She reached out, grabbed his wrist and gave it a slight tug.  He turned to face her.

“Hey, you’re covered in blood.  Why don’t we walk over to the lake and get you cleaned up?”  She said.

“Okay.”

*               *               *               *               *

Later that evening Warren and Natalie enjoyed a simple dinner by the campfire.  They shared the last bottle of whiskey while telling stories about how good life had been before evil had returned to the earth and destroyed society.  They shared memories of their beloved family members, of Lucas, and of all the others who had fallen thus far along their journey.

They made love under the stars and tried to remember a time that was full of peace and happiness.

*

[Original writing / photography / art by J. E. Lattimer]

© 2012, 2013 J. E. Lattimer all rights reserved