Short-term Forecast for the Feculent Zone and Associated Domains. Transmitted by Wiilimenia St. Odwalla, Sub-Minister 2nd Class for Trans-Dimensional Incursion Event Auguration and Portents
Outlook: Prevailing environmental trends continue over the next week, with most regions experiencing general aridity, steady parchedness, and occasional nights. Current projections indicate the Sun staying put for now—keep in mind that past performance is not a guarantee of future behavior. Some scattered earthquakes could pop up near the Vile Isthmus, so keep an eye out for new gateways to the Undernetherworld and/or lava geysers. Travelers near the Scraplands should be wary of spontaneous plague shambler migrations, but if you’re in the Scraplands, you’re probably a plague shambler anyway, ha ha. But seriously, watch out and don’t touch any pus.
Atmospheric conditions remain red, which is weird, and we advise staying under any of the plentiful rocks available in your immediate, desolate surroundings. Should you be forced by necessity to go into open air—or are just that stupid—try not to breathe too much. Special note to the stupid: don’t try to not breathe all the way.
Kaiju season is in full swing; please check your horizon frequently. Fallout could arrive without warning, so make sure your toe tags are updated.
The Week’s Auguries:
Shunday—frequent clouds, 30% chance of gamma ray burst.
Scavengeday—mostly toxic, slightly sludgy.
Mammonday—the Dark God Xloti-Ra descends, may His Fists of Blood strike true! Ah-lee!
Ambushday—100% chance of ambush.
Tacoday—still taco-less, snakes probable.
Half-taco-half-ambushday—Object X-141 comes into view from behind Titan, 50% chance of interstellar war. 50% chance of tacos. Give you one guess how this one shakes out.
Carnageday through Cowerday—various minor apocalypses. Apocalypti. Apocalypsa? Several run-of-the-mill cataclysms, mainly accidental.
Dûmzday and End-day—pretty much what they sound like.
Portents: Dire and most foul.
Thus ends the week’s auguries and portents. Please enjoy the break from the locusts, and all hail our malignant Overloards, under whose wise oppression we tremble helplessly, not to mention the endless ends-of-the-world.
It was Scavengeday, second day of the week, so Super Patriot Boy, Flapman, and Gibson emerged from the Grotto to see what goodies they could find or haggle for or steal out in the world. The entrance to the Grotto was hidden under a parking garage near the city’s waterfront. Or at least what used to be the waterfront of what used to be the city. There really was no city anymore, just something called the Ruined, a name that satisfied both the literal-minded and those with a taste for the dramatic. And the old waterfront now faced a completely evaporated ocean basin that everyone called the Dirt, a term so boring that satisfaction wasn’t a general criterion for acceptance.
One at a time, the three scavengers crawled out from under a pile of concrete chunks, rebar, and brittle plywood that was tucked away inconspicuously among countless other piles of concrete chunks, rebar, and brittle plywood. These were the fundamental units of landscape in the Ruined, though they were embellished by a variety of radioactive sludge pools, stinking charnel pits, and dilapidated alien spacecraft representing a cross-section of the nine least-successful invading civilizations. Truth be told, there was no part of the world that in Super Patriot Boy’s general experience wasn’t broken or tattered or shattered in some way.
Super got to his feet and brushed off his flag kilt, whose stars and stripes hung limp in the windless day. His arms rose above his naked chest like long, hairless pipe cleaners—so like wires, I guess—and straightened out his tricorn as he glanced around for predators. He didn’t expect any today, and he was the last of the three to come out of the Grotto, so any ambushes should already have taken one or both of the other two. But Flappy and Gibby had used Super as bait before, and there was no point in getting eaten if one didn’t have to, which was something he knew from experience.
Super’s visual scan of this small part of the surface world revealed only his Grotto-mates and a bunch of rubble. Good. Maybe today would be ok—Super had a lead on some edible organic matter a few kilometers to the what-used-to-be south. Or maybe it was south again? Super always forgot to check the planet’s polarity in the morning, but Gibson probably knew it down to the degree anyway. Gibson was a nerd, but he knew how stuff worked, and that almost made up for a lot of things about Gibson.
Anyway, Super preferred the more stable directional indicators of the Feculent Zone: Dirtward, Ruinward, Gulchway, and Riftway. And since Super’s rumored cache of slurry was Riftway (well, slightly Ruinward, too—so RuinRiftWardWay), he started walking in that direction, the other two following silently on a well-worn path that twisted between piles.
These days, the parking garage that loomed over the Grotto’s entrance was less a coherent building than a treacherous lean-to of girders and concrete, and the trio quickly emerged from its shadow into the day. Once out in the open, Super moved easily over familiar ground. He looked Dirtward, and saw only flat horizon where the continental shelf dropped off into the sterile plains of the Dirt. In the distance, green and purple clouds boiled into massive columns, arcs of lightning searing the air between them. Super hadn’t spent much time in the Dirt, but his short and terrifying jaunts into its shallow wastes had been enough to satisfy his curiosity.
The horizon in all other directions was precisely the same: a jagged, rolling terrain whose dust and smoke and chunks told the story of apocalypse.
Apocalypses, Super corrected himself as he trudged on. The three had taken up a well-spaced patrol formation, which made entrapment of the group difficult and kept them from having to talk to one another too much.
Super looked back over his shoulder at the other two; it was important for the patrol leader to ensure the cohesion of the unit and to make sure that other members of the unit were not hogging any food that the leader had failed to identify along the route. Super saw Flapman’s headbag bobbing up and down in the spaces between the peaks of piles, its drawn-on face grinning its horrible, buck-toothed smile. Gibson brought up the rear. His lean form minced and picked a delicate track through the debris, the lenses of his ocular implants whirling in smears of bright purples and reds.
They were making good time, thought Super, trying to spot new crumbs or grease in Gibson’s beard, which would save them all some time, but there was nothing interesting to scavenge there today. They’d have to stick with the original plan; Super figured that they should be able to make it back before the end of Scavengeday, and he turned RuinRiftWardWay.
The Ruined and the Dirt. Together, they formed the largest parts of the Feculent Zone—stretching from the entire eastern third of the continent and continuing across the dry ocean basin, until it reached its limits against the Atlantic Mountains. It was the only portion of the Earth that was not utterly uninhabitable. In a manner of speaking, there were cities in the FZ, both in the Ruined and in the Dirt. But they were no longer sprawling urban landscapes, densely populated with hopeful and productive citizens who powered the economic engines of the glorious past. Cities these days were compact, fortified, surrounded by towering walls, and filled with slothful riffraff waiting for the next end of the world.
Super didn’t worry too much about another apocalypse. Apocalypses were like sunlight: unpredictable, inevitable, and they both burned.
They were in the northern part of the ravaged planet, and though they had heard rumors that some life continued its miserable existence below the wobbly equator, they thought it was probably nonsense. Outside of the FZ was something that was no longer Earth—it was other, which really told one nothing about the characteristics of the broad swath of planet beyond the Continental Rubble Heap, which on the other hand, was self-explanatory.
Some said that the outer world was a massive and unbroken sea of lava, which was totally plausible—even likely—but didn’t sufficiently differentiate the unknown portion of the planet from such prominent features of the FZ as the Infernal Rift, or the Upper Lava Lakes, or the Central Magma Desert, or the Uncanny Slag Cataracts. In the end, it just came down to how much lava we were talking about in a given area, which was pretty dull.
So Super chose to believe that the world outside of the FZ was composed entirely of poisonous skeletons and acid, which was much cooler and provided him with a sense that the grass was greener on one or the other side of the Rubble Heap, even if he hadn’t the slightest idea of what grass was.
In truth, the FZ was an arid waste, a jumble of ruins, a scorched and smoking landscape, a hostile territory populated by even hostiler beings, a hellish region where death openly strutted and evil plotted its inevitable victory. Gibson had once called it, “Canada as the gods intended.” Super didn’t know from Canada, but the Feculent Zone was home, and that was terrible enough for him.
Today wasn’t one of the worst days, though, and the pale disc of the sun could just be discerned through the swirling masses of volatile, caustic atmosphere, and breathing didn’t hurt too much. Gibson had said that the Kaiju counts were reasonably low today, which was nice because none of them had a desire to die in a flash of radioactive breath or to be annihilated under a massive foot or to become a protein source for some unspeakable embryo today. The plague beacons were currently dark, and even the batons of the Securitoria, the robotic flatfoots that kept the rabble in line, seemed a little softer. In other words, a perfect day for shopping.
The surface was bustling with activity on this lovely, low ambient-toxicity day, and though they saw a number of organisms that they would normally murder, they respected the Scavengeday universal truce as they traversed the crumbling asphalt of the shattered city center. Baseline humans, Wizard Army reconnaissance units, bloboplasms, unidentifiable monstrosities, and even the odd Reptiloid likewise upheld the temporary peace. Nothing was eating anybody else, and even the most hapless of the FZ’s scummy populace were safe today.
Of course, Super knew that once the klaxons signaled the end of Scavengeday, he and everyone else would be fair game. This was about as close to harmony as the Feculent Zone ever got, and everyone seemed to enjoy not being slaughtered. There would be time enough to kill or be killed on Carnageday or Shunday or Ambushday or Tacoday or Half-taco-half-ambushday—really, any of the eleven days between now and next Scavengeday.
The trio walked together easily, but despite the brief moratorium on lethal violence, each remained vigilant—there were plenty of things out here that thought the rules just didn’t apply to them. Only a year ago, Super had suffered a personal tragedy: the loss of his dearest friend to an entity known as the Nine Mothers. It was another of the myriad abominations that had slipped into their world from other dimensions. Super had trouble describing what the Nine Mothers was since it could only be perceived as an unceasing wave of guilt and inadequacy in the mind of the beholder. Super had never known his own mother, but if she was anything like that, Super was just fine with being decanted from a bottle.
On that terrible day last year, the Mothers had nearly cornered the unfortunate scavengers with a barrage of trans-dimensional passive aggression. They’d managed to escape becoming emotionally beholden to the beast, but Super had had to sacrifice his pet monkey, Archduke Chuckles, in order to facilitate their getaway. Fortunately, the Mothers had fallen for the oldest trick in the book: screeching decoy monkey. But that was the last he’d seen of one of the best primates he’d ever known.
A kilometer on, Super and two of the other primates he knew crossed a wide plaza of cracked and uneven flagstones toward a central fountain. It was hot, and the searchers paused at the edge of the square under a skeletal tree, which like all skeletons, provided a little convenient shade.
Super lifted his tricorn and wiped the sweat from his hairless noggin. The fountain loomed above them—he didn’t know how old it was, but it had the general, dirty look of an ancient monument. The fountain’s stone basin contained a bubbling pool, from the center of which jutted a grim, towering sculpture. It had somehow survived this or that nuclear detonation or tsunami or undead tsunami, which was nice because public art was pretty rare around here. But it had not gone completely unscathed over the years. Near its top, the material suddenly changed from sallow stone to a black, pitted metal, which had been cast into the brooding form of an imperious and subtly misshapen hooded figure.
Super could tell that the original statue atop the pedestal had been removed to make room for this newer effigy—what appeared to be a sculpted stone arm remained at the joint of rock and metal. There was something about this that troubled Super. The violence done to the sculpture gave him the dispiriting sense that it was the protruding arm of a man crushed under the grotesque and malevolent figure. Also, the fountain gushed blood instead of water, which was unsettling.
But hey, Super reasoned, water was very, very scarce in the FZ, while blood was plentiful and cheap.
Magnificent Bastards of the Apocalypse is coming soon to Amazon and Apple Books!
Magnificent Bastards of the Apocalypse, Copyright © 2020, J.M. Torgo