Friday, December 29, 2017

The Alarm Clock at the End of the World

Part 95

The End

Armitage turns and looks at its stump of an arm, severed below the elbow, leaking black tar. The Scrubber takes a step forward, reaching out with its good hand. I drop the sword and draw my Desert Talon.

Only the force of the shots themself have any affect on Armitage. Even the large portions of its body flying off concern him little. Scrubbers are built, not born. Damaged tissues do little to shut down the overall mission of the Scrubber. To defeat it, you must destroy it completelh.

I fire madly to keep this monster from advancing. It walks right into my shots, ruining the rest of its severed arm, blowing off part of its hip. Even when I blast off almost the entire right side of Armitage’s head, it still clubs me with its remaining good hand. I’m knocked down and nearly drop my gun. The Scrubber menaces. I'm not sure how many bullets I have left, but it can't be many.


With a furious cry, I hurl my Desert Talon at Armitage and hold out Nepotism’s sword before me. The Scrubber’s lips have been reduced to a ragged mess by the gunshot. Black oil seeps in the wounds forming pale flesh. The roar of the audience drowns out all noise. Cameras televise our combat on giant screens. I back up to Kara motionless in the center, Armitage only as far away as I can keep him with the sword tip that he is pressing further and further into its stomach.

Nepotism jumps on Armitage’s back, wrapping his arms around the Scrubber’s neck and face, covering the last good eye. Armitage slaps its remaining hand at Nepotism, clawing with nicotine yellow fingers and twisting its body to shake the parasite free. The band continues to play, and Solomon continues to sing.

Nepotism punches what remains of Armitage’s head. Kara's eyes are half-lidded and show no recognition of what is happening. I remove Armitage’s hand that still clings limply to her throat. I pitch it aside, helping Kara to a sitting position. The hand melts to black goo.

Armitage gains hold of Nepotism’s leg, peeling Nep off its back, swinging him around like a sack. The Scrubber hurls Nepotism into a PA stack. He falls motionless. No time to dwell, Armitage has already turned his attention to Kara and me. The lips grin, and its remaining fingers crackle with energy. Nepotism is racing past me, broadsword raised high, chopping overhand, splitting the rest of Armitage's head in twain to the bottom of his sternum. The Scrubber jerks violently as Nepotism kicks him in the stomach to knock the carcass off the sword. Armitage stumbles back a few feet.

But it's not enough.

Armitage finds its footing and stops. The split upper halves of its body flops about,  squeezing out black ooze. The one remaining eye sways back and forth, never losing focus. Armitage steps forward.

Like a toppling angel, Solomon drops from above, landing between us. Even Armitage seems surprised, backing up a step as Solomon stands to full height. He has stopped singing.

Taking a few deep breaths, Solomon bellows, “Dra-bib-huta!” The force of his word knocks the Scrubber back, melting it like heat to a black splash that sieves through the grate of the stage.

The singer turns on me, grinning. His eyes are split and bloody, and one is nearly swollen closed. He’s lost his top dentures, giving him an  underbite with the lower set. They are shattered and bloody. Solomon’s body is a webwork of wounds, and most are self-inflicted. Slivers of glass stud him like jewelry, or a lizard’s spiny scales. Smears of shit are wiped across his legs and torso, and blood drips in rapid intervals from the tip of his middle finger.

Still locked eyes with me, he bends his knees to retrieve his sword. Solomon raises the blade over his head. 

Without considering the consequences, I ram Nepotism’s sword through Solomon’s belly. 

Solomon gags as he’s pierced. The blade has gone through both sides, but the wound is mostly sealed around the steel. He does not look down, he will not justify the wound that defeated him.

The audience cheers madly.

First I needed to defeat him. Solomon already reached, fingers near claws, burying himself deeper on the blade as he grabs for my eyes. I heave upward, lifting his tiny body off the floor, splitting the wound to his rib cage and tossing him back. The sword is loose in him, and blood flows from the wound into the grate.

I need to finish this. Joshua Solomon will not make himself into a god. Nepotism is leading Eva away. Solomon’s fire has not gone out. Choking and twisting, Solomon frees himself from the sword blade. A normal man would be dead, and I fear what necromancy has been completed before we ever arrived on the scene. I take the sword pommel in both hands and tear it from his body, pulling the frayed ends of his intestines with it. He lays flat on his back, but does not rest. Solomon is sitting, then he stands. I back off two steps. Nepotism and Kara are gone.

Solomon takes one step toward me and I swing. I brace with my shoulders and catch more force than I realized. The sword is far lighter than a normal blade of its size, and balanced precisely. It didn’t matter that I don’t believe in symbols. Solomon believed in symbols, and he was out to make others believe as well. I knew before I could stop, this had all been scripted. I couldn’t stop the proceedings if I tried. The blade hit Solomon’s neck and does not slow, purely by luck in my blind swing that had been intended to do no more than knock him aside. I barely lose motion as it passes through muscle and bone to the other side, taking Solomon’s head with one clean shot.

No one saw it happen. 

As soon as the blood sprayed down, the Scrubber sprayed up, tendrils of black slime catching and absorbing every spray, the severed head, and the body that no longer held it. Armitage reformed around Solomon’s body, solidified to the original form, then the face recast as Solomon, then took a blank, featureless mask, and the whole body melted into the grate. 

For all anyone knew, I hit Solomon with the sword and he deteriorated before them like Obi Wan. I don’t believe in symbols, but I’m scared to find out what that meant to everyone in the audience.


Dr. Filth in:
The Alarm Clock at the End of the World

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Alarm Clock at the End of the World

Part 94

Epilogue Part 7

Nepotism is already in the van. The drivers don’t look at us. They don’t talk to us. In Nepotism’s hand is that which we searched, a stone caduceus formed around a staff with Hermes at the top. A symbol dating to ancient Egypt and supposedly the answer to our quest. I’d started to think it was a MacGuffin. An Unnatural episode about Solomon may be in bad taste at this point. “Is that the Alarm Clock at the End of the World?” I ask.

He tosses the relic at my feet. I cringe for a break, but even the rubber carpet prevents shattering on the floor of the van. It rolls and bounces at me with the motion of the van. “That’s up to you,” he says. “Make it whatever you want.”

I pick up the Caduceus, inspecting all around. “Where did you get this?” I ask. It’s much too light.

“It’s foam,” he says. “It doesn’t mean a damn thing.” Nepotism reaches inside his hoodie and draws forth a book bound in black cloth. “I found Solomon’s spellbook.”

“Laying around?” Kara says.

Nepotism shakes his head. “In Solomon’s dressing room.” He breaks the spine and flips the heavy pages to the back. “Not where we found him, but the real dressing room. He had a spare lair.” Nepotism reads as he speaks, furrowing his brow in frustration. “When Security chased you off, I circled backstage. I got lucky with the book.”

“Have you read anything?” I ask. “What does it say?”

He holds out a page for me as if I could ascertain any of the scribbles and figures in the dim light. “Solomon wanted to make a Scrubber.”

I push the book back. “Solomon's dead.”

“He found a way,” Nepotism says, thumbing between entries, tapping the paper when he came across what he was looking for. “Says he found a man that could do it.”

“He is called Lazarus,” says Kara, jaw set, eyes grave. “He gave power to St. Eva.”

I don’t need to take this shit from some kid. “You going to start in on her now?”

Kara is unphased. “I met Lazarus too,” she says. “He made me who I am today.”

“And who the hell are you?” I ask.

Nepotism shakes his head. He won’t look at me. “Eva was behind this,” he says. “She’s been working for Lapis all along.”

“My name was Becki Murphy,” Kara says, but the name barely registers, a shadow of a background noise. “Lazarus cured me of my fame,” she says.

Nepotism throws his head back, crying out in recognition. “Oh shit! You were hella-famous!” He puts his head down, chuckling. “‘Justify My Touch.”

Kara’s face burns. “I was sixteen and I knew that was a stupid fucking song.” She trails off momentarily in thought. “That song bought me a Corvette though. I never learned to drive it.”

“What does this have to do with Eva?” I ask. “What does this have to do with Scrubbers?”

Nepotism says, “It’s proof she’s behind this. Becki was a sacrifice, we were the escort.”

“It’s Kara,” Kara says.

“Lazarus knows how to make Scrubbers,” Nepotism says. “Solomon wanted in.”

Kara shakes her head. “No. Solomon doesn’t know how to make Scrubbers," she says. "Lazarus is a Scrubber.” She stresses her final words and let them linger. “He is human as well, and he can pass his ability. He used his power to make my fame fade away.”

Nepotism is nodding. “You fell off the face of the Earth out of nowhere. Most people thought you went crazy. I thought you died.”

“Bending your will, Nep,” I say. “Black magick just as Crowley defined it.” Did Solomon learn to manifest?

“He calls it ScornFish,” says Kara. “A drink he was given that made him never die. Over time, Lazarus learned to pass it on. Then he learned to build automatons.”

“Dude,” Nepotism says. “Eva set this up from the start.”

“So she was working with Tyr?” I ask. Kara cuts off Nepotism’s response.

“Mephisto Tyr is not a man,” Kara says. “He was constructed by Lazarus.”

“He’s dead,” Nepotism says. “Scrubbers killed him.”

“He’s been rebuilt before,” Kara says.

“We need to get to work,” says Nepotism. “Becki’s testimony will get us reinstated to the Superhero Gang...”

“It’s Kara,” says Kara, “and I’m not talking to anyone. Eva knew where to find me, and how to sweet talk me into the mission. She’s too dangerous.”

“This is our career!” says Nep.

“This is my life!” counters Kara. “Eva could get me on any side, and I’ll be back in the spotlight again. I’ll be tranqued in a field and back on a tour bus faster than you can blink an eye. You brought down Solomon. Isn’t that enough?”

He can’t convince her, and he knows it. He turns away, momentarily a-bubble with rage, but is recomposed when he turns to her once more. “You’re probably right,” Nepotism says. “Stupes will give us audience at least. I can at least talk him into health insurance.”

The villain was defeated, the maiden had been saved, and all was well in Metro City. We’d saved a lot of lives, exposed a nefarious conspiracy, fired a lot of guns in the process, and I was drunk most of the time, so it sounds like a good few days for Dr. Filth. This victory is sure to have us reinstated as superheros. I did sleep with an assassin who tried to kill me again. I don’t expect Nepotism will let me live that down any time soon. I can’t see the time, but I’m pretty sure it’s close to beer o’clock.

The End.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Alarm Clock at the End of the World

Part 93

The Climax, Part 3

I throw Kara over my shoulder and dash for the exit. Nepotism and Solomon are still fighting on the catwalk above me. Solomon has not missed a word in the song. Armitage has reformed, arms raised and held out before it’s chest, talons crackling with pure blue energy. Kara is still unconscious. I slide her off my shoulder and drop her. No time for niceties.

The Desert Talon is in my hand like it never left. My first three slugs make black flowers on Armitage’s shirt, blowing holes the size of quarters in front and melons in the back. Solomon breaks free of Nepotism and lurches on a rail.

The entire secret is already loose. Solomon stopped in mid-"Puuuuuuuuuurp..." None of them expected gunshots. No matter how hard they try to conceal it, everyone knew shit was real from here on out.

Armitage, the other hand, blasted me in the chest with the energy discharged from his  fingers. I’m laid out on the disc like a stripper at a Motley Crue show. The momentary distraction allows Nepotism to knock the sword from Solomon’s hand. It clatters on the grate a short leap away from me.

Nepotism jumps off the platform by the drums, leaving Solomon looking down on us from the Tree of Life. Armitage looms over Kara with bent arms above his head. His eyes are wild with the kill, hands already starting to glow.

I shout and wave the gun, trying to divert his attention for a second, long enough for me to aim and fire, but the Scrubber pays no attention. Kara is waking up now, propped on one elbow, heel of her hand heavy on her forehead, unaware of what is about to strike. The music is too loud, or her head is still to foggy, but she doesn't even open her eyes a slit when Armitage wraps his long, knobby fingers around her neck, lifting her easily off the stage. The audience screams for blood.

I pull myself to my feet and lunge. Armitage spins and slams me to the ground with his other fist. I can't get a decent shot around Kara.

The Scrubber hisses, frail, spindly body rigid like Nosferatu. Armitage’s eyes widen as it arches its back, the tip of a sword blade sticking from the Scrubber’s stomach. Still holding Kara, it turns, yanking the sword out of Nepotism’s hand. Armitage narrows its eyes as it leans in, holding Kara off to the side, forgotten. Nepotism loses no hint of bravado before the Scrubber. Somebody needs to have a little courage, or we're all fucked.

I take the grip of Nepotism's sword, and with all the strength I can muster, rip it from Armitage’s spine, spinning to wind up. Before Armitage can turn to see what I'm about to do, I chop off the arm that's holding Kara. She falls in a heap at the Scrubber’s feet, long, knobby fingers still tightly clutching her throat.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Alarm Clock at the End of the World

Part 92

Epilogue Part 6

“What were you doing at SpectraCom?” Seph asks slowly.

“Stealing a relic. Something dug up in Iraq.”

“The Alarm Clock at the End of the World,” Kara says. “Simon said these kids were on their shit. I call and they be on the block in a heartbeat.” She goes back in the garage.

“Did anyone see you kill Solomon?” she asks.

“Couple hundred SpectraCom employees,” I say. “They loved every minute of it.”

She shakes her head and grins. “I’ll just pretend you didn’t tell me any of that. Just stopped by for a drink and nostalgia.”

“We could have beat them in Metro City, Seph. Party Mayor could have been gone! Your kids broke tables, started fights, got the cops called to every show. You divided us without a second thought.” I shake my head slowly.

Kara returns. “Can I see your phone again?” Kara asks. Persephone holds it out without looking at Kara. “They should be here by now.” Nervously, she punches in the numbers.

“That’s how I’m doing,” I say. “Did I hear you’re on the faculty now? State College?”

“MCU,” she admits.

“Not bad.” I purse my lips and nod. “Voted Democrat, eh?”

“Those were the terms of my contract.” 

I get caught on memory. “I don’t get it,” I say. “Mephis said there was an artifact. I didn’t see anything.” I shouldn’t tell Persephone, who knows where it will be repeated and to whom. I need to work this out though, the mystery lying under. I hope the sound of my voice will work the thoughts loose. There was nothing though, nothing but Kara, and she came with us.”

Persephone lowers an eyebrow. “What did you call that girl?”

“Kara,” I say. “The ALA kids over at Castle Greyskull sent her and some friends to help us. They were killed by Scrubbers. There was Kara... Nigel, and... Goat. The ring leader was Simon something. Same face tattoo guy as when you lived there is guarding the front door...”

“Her name isn’t Kara,” Persephone says.

Outside, a van beeps its horn and Kara shouts for me to go.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Alarm Clock at the End of the World

Part 91

Shortly prior.

Attention has been diverted from us. The Hollywood Starlet dashes about, making herself and her immaculate white dress a moving target. Blue paint erupts all over her body in Rorschach. I’ve heard no human make the sound that comes out of her throat, more high pitched and horrified with a distinct gurgling sound in the bottom of her. Our helpers are masters of stealth, leaving no clues but shadows dashing back and forth from tree to tree, leaving only flying paint balls and fireworks as evidence of that passing.

By now, the lone guard is on his feet and has his own handgun drawn. I’m worried this may be the moment where we need to escalate the violence one step. Before I can get my gun out of its holster, Mephis has his left hand on my right arm.

“Look,” Mephis says in a voice only I can hear over the screams and the pops of paint. “There is no way he’s taking the first shot.”

I watch, and sure enough, his demeanor has me convinced as well that this fat, compliant guard is even more useless than we had initially surmised. He dances and peacocks around the room, grip of his pistol clenched tightly in both hands, struggling abysmally hard to maintain the hard-assed-movie-cop-under-pressure look in his eyes. I can see him internally backing this up with lots of zooms and sweeping pans and guitar-heavy rock behind the action. By the time he has to recall this event, all of his memories will be from the outside looking in, and he will never remember what he actually saw. It will be a cold day in hell when he doesn’t see himself as the star. In truth, he’s retreating slightly slower than the rest.

Nepotism steps between running people. My eyes stay on that guard, and I think our best bet is to shoot him, not only because the fewer formal offenses of public decency, and alleviating the possibilities of problems either through action or procreation.

Nepotism can see what I’m thinking, and he shakes his head disapprovingly. “Let’s get into the lab before we shoot anyone,” he whispers. As people filter out to the parlor on the other side of the wall, the guard takes notice of this. There is no way he can rightly leave them on their own. They need him for comfort. He must stay with the people he protects. He dashes through the west door.

“Go west, young man,” Mephis says, eyes wide, shaking his head slightly.

“Come on,” Nepotism orders, stepping into the lead toward the stairs.

Five people left. Four. Two. And with that, the dining room is empty save for the three of us an a lot of powdery white smoke. Behind us, distant, more screams. What is our only option? Dash into the basement. These are the odds that really make me question my decision to wrap myself up with these people.

Nep reaches the stairs into the laboratory first, and it’s a good five or six steps down before our escort arrives at the windows, casting aside cumbersome cloaks and duffel bags to reveal black fatigues and Uzi 9mm’s. The ALA kids fan into a trident as soon as they burst through the window framing, silently securing the room, making sure we are the only people present.

“Let’s get out of here,” I say. We continues down the stairs into the darkened corridor out of sight.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Alarm Clock at the End of the World

Part 90

The Climax, Part 2

Solomon tries to break from his fight with Nepotism. "I who am all pleasure and puuuuurple!" He lurches to the side, but Nepotism intercepts him lightning fast, stepping to the front and nearly spearing the singer between the shoulders.

When in doubt, jump. I leap for Kara and catch the Ankh, swinging out past, and wrapping my legs around the catwalk. I waste no time. My furious fingers that rip at the heavy ropes binding her, arms. Her eyes are closed. I hope I’m not imagining the slight flare of her nostrils to indicate life. I pull away the red circles, leaving her bare before the audience. With a lurch, the ankh breaks free and we crash down onto the Sephiroth, twisting the frame so much the band loses its footing. The bassist falls off, but only he stops performing.

"Paled!,” Solomon sings, unaffected. “Puuuuuuuuurpaaaaaaal!" He desperately tries to extricate himself from Nepotism, but Nep is made of sterner stuff. He blocks each thrust with his own blade and counters it into a devastating attack, driving the vocalist back.

I’m upside down beneath the Sephiroth, hanging from the Ankh with my legs wrapped around Kara’s waist. I yank at the thick knots, breaking them open, doing my best to get at those around her neck. We're almost free, Kara, we're almost free.

Solomon has driven Nepotism back to the opposite end of the stage. Nepotism is holding his ground, but the railing is shaking with every connection of their broadswords. "PALED!" Solomon shouts, chopping down at Nepotism. "Puuuuuuurple." Solomon draws his blade left and right in a wicked series of attacks that Nepotism is hardly able to deflect.

A spinning disc from the Tree of Life bends and spins upward, releasing the giant Ankh to fall free, just as Kara comes loose in my arms.  "Hold on, Kara," I whisper in her ear, and then we’re in the air.

The Ankh catches on the metal frame of the platform and flips us topside before crashing down to the metal grate beneath. I slide off the Ankh, pulling Kara with me. Road crew are removing the bassist from the stage. His music remains in the mix.

Nepotism will stop at nothing to keep Solomon occupied. Nep leaps again, and both lose their footing, both catching the railing, dangling below the rail, still slashing and cutting, legs scrambling madly at the air. The microphone is gone, but I can still hear Solomon shouting the word "PALED! Puuuurple!"

I'm slapping lightly at Kara's face, trying to revive her. I can't carry her out of here, I'm going to have an entire SpectraCom Security Unit on me in a minute, and I'm going to need to shoot my way out.

Kara starts to grunt and pull away, but still isn't ready to be up and walking around.

"Come on, Kara," I order. "Wake the fuck up."

Solomon and Nepotism have pulled themselves onto the catwalk, still fighting. The crowd is screaming so loud the music can barely be heard. They are still clashing his sword with Nepotism, who is inching his way down the bar after his quarry.

"Come on, Kara, come on," I growl, slapping a little harder.

"Nnnn," Kara moans.

"Kara, wake the fuck up, will you?"

The audience is going absolutely batshit as Solomon continues to sing. "Yea shall gather goods and store of women and spices." Independent spotlights at each tip trace Stars of David in the smoke over the crowd which ignites another fury of screaming and surging against the barricades barely under control of the bouncers in STAFF T-shirts manning the lines.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Two Winters Past



We are outside, looking out through a garage door into a yard. The dead grass is a thick. Snow still lingers at the treeline. Garage is dark against the bright sky.

HOLT enters. He is holding a finely crafted Damascan spear.

HOLT: You awake?

CLOSEUP: LOGAN. He is squinting, but opens his eyes.

ZOOM OUT: LOGAN is laying in a pile of burlap against the back wall on a concrete floor. There is enough sunlight to see everything in a dim grey hue.

LOGAN: I live.

LOGAN wears only a T-shirt, black pants, and boots. Dry blood covers much of his skin.

INSERT: LOGAN’s flank. There is a hole in his shirt, and a dark wound can be seen beneath.

HOLT: I got you water from a stream.

HOLT gives LOGAN a green plastic bottle filled with liquid.

LOGAN drinks the water, then pours a little on his wound, grimacing in pain. LOGAN takes a few deep breaths and recovers.

LOGAN: It’s not deep, I don’t believe it pierced the muscle. I need to rest more, I can’t walk now.

HOLT watches, but says nothing.

LOGAN: I expected you would have pissed in that bottle. I still would have drank it, I believe.

HOLT turns away, stands at the entrance to the garage.

LOGAN: How long you think places like this will last?

HOLT: Shut the fuck up.

LOGAN: I’m being serious. Look at this place. It’s a ripe hunk of shit. How long before it caves in. Nature takes over man, I’ve seen it.

HOLT: I don’t give a shit.

LOGAN: You see any of the houses when we was walking? They was abandoned when the highway came through, and never torn down. Bears get in there. Real dangerous for kids.

HOLT: How long are you going to sit there?

LOGAN: There is no one looking for us.

HOLT: There will be scouts and raiders. They will want to find you.

LOGAN: They won’t be sure I’m alive for a couple days. They will expect my body to be there in the yard. No one has come to Windsor in a year, and there is are hundreds of square miles of directions we could have gone.

HOLT: Someone will talk. Your soldiers saw us.

LOGAN: Those soldiers are dead now, and they believed I was Chosen.



Mike Mancini

Lexi Sulich-Ward


Continued 2018