Wade Coltrane and his group have survived the apocalypse, the worst of humanity, and overcame Mother Nature's ice age by relocating the colony. Now she's annoyed and the Grim Reaper is riding to Florida.
Horst Nagel sat on a rickety wooden dock on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee thinking about everything and nothing.
He considered what he knew of the remnants of humanity.
He was convinced; most were worthless.
And Father Time was the king of worthlessness. He had a massive woody for the Aryan race.
Kiss my ass, you decrepit old bastard.
The knowledge that he, himself, was a cynical tool didn’t bother him. But the fact his blond hair had turned snow white, and that his blue eyes faded to the color of old denim, did. He looked closer to seventy than fifty.
Although he was aware he had health issues, the only medical person he could consult was a veterinarian. And, because he didn’t have access to diagnostic equipment, his knowledge of what was wrong was vague.
You and your Aryan superiority suck, Adolph.
I’m on a collision course with the boneyard.
The sound of muted thunder diverted his attention, and he turned his head toward the Gulf of Mexico.
Mountains of cottony Cumulonimbus clouds clustered on the western horizon fighting for position on Mother Nature’s canvas. Like living things, ribbons of crimson pursued streaks of green, yellow, pink, and orange within the ominous blackness of the cloud base.
Thunder boomed and rumbled into nothingness.
Whoa. That’s a big-ass blow for February.
As he contemplated the massive cloudbank, the sun sliced briefly through the edge of the storm, then vanished below the horizon.
Bare feet dangling in the water, Horst shrugged, leaned back, rested on his elbows, and thought about life since the United States went belly up.
Abruptly, sad, grim memories of the global nuclear war, the plague, and the senseless deaths of his wife and son wandered through the corridors of his mind.
The recollection of the moron who would be King, Roger Jackson, made an appearance.
Having a front-row seat when Wade Coltrane rearranged Jacksons grey matter wasn’t worthy of a rerun. But the recall of his own banishment from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, courtesy of Coltrane, was and his jaws locked.
The sound of his teeth gnashing annoyed him, and he stopped, shook his head side-to-side, and swallowed hard.
Without warning, an image of Nina, the cannibal queen of The Light detonated in his head, and he gasped like he was gut punched.
He sat up and snarled.
The last person he wanted to think about was Nina Lutrova. He couldn’t—wouldn’t. But the memory-train was in high gear, and it raced down the rails unchecked.
His body sagged as he revisited the day Nina captured him and forced him to eat human meat. The bitter taste of bile filled his mouth as the recall triggered a gag reflex. His abs tightened. Beads of sweat oozed from his forehead, and he convulsed several times before he was able to conquer the urge to vomit.
A dramatic mental snapshot popped up of Nina’s sword flashing in the sunlight as it beheaded a victim. The next image of her blood-spattered body convulsing in orgasmic ecstasy, caused him to grimace.
Frantic, he mashed the delete button in his head over and over in hope of erasing all traces of her from his memory banks.
He closed his eyes and shuddered violently.
Without warning, like an old celluloid movie, his brain was invaded with flickering images of limitless sex with Nina and her girlfriend, Heather.
His frown morphed into a feeble grin.
A moment later, it dawned on him that he was holding his breath, and he released it in a loud whoosh. When his lungs were filled with a fresh supply of o2, he hit the brakes and brought the train to the station.
He stared at nothing for thirty seconds, then raised his hand and reluctantly touched the jagged red initials, TL that Bill Scarlet carved on his forehead.
The grin became a sneer. The Light, my ass!
Horst hated Wade Coltrane with an intensity bordering on obsession. But he acknowledged that he feared him, too. And that he was nearly as terrified of Scarlet as he was of Nina.
He harbored continuous fantasies of capturing Wade The Bastard Coltrane, as Nina had called him, and torturing him.
An image of both Coltrane and Scarlet on their knees, crying like little girls, begging for their lives, slithered into his mind, and he smiled.
The fantasy made him feel good.
Coltrane, you wasted asshole. Eat this—Pow!
This is for you Scarlett, you twisted prick— Kaboom!
As always, the vision ended with broken and bloodied SEALs lying at his feet, and the grin widened. He took pleasure in the mental portrait for a few seconds, then reluctantly put on his socks and boots and stood.
In the distance, the tuba-like bellow of a bull gator, seeking a mate, echoed across the water. Without the influence of humans, the reptiles had multiplied rapidly. Some exceeded fifteen feet in length—and as his people learned—when near water if you weren’t careful, you ran the risk of becoming lunch for a big hungry gator.
Even though he had asked himself the same question a hundred times and knew what the answer was, he asked again.
Which is worse, gators or pythons? He thought for several seconds and then confirmed that the pythons were light years scarier than the gators.
He turned to go, took two steps, and then stopped. Turning back, he peered across the twilight-encrusted expanse of the lake. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and released it slowly.
He knew he should leave.
He wanted to leave.
He needed to leave.
But his mind kept wandering and arrived in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.
He closed his eyes as the trip down memory lane progressed to cutting the throat of the commander of the survival settlement, Nirvana.
Horst’s eyes opened, and his face scrunched up as he tried to recall the man’s first name.
Jeff? John? Horace?
Whatever. Something Simmons.
On the other hand, he had no problem picturing the image of the obese child molesters’ bloated carcass sitting at his desk, holding his throat to stop his life-blood from going AWOL.
As a consequence, the 500 citizen-soldiers he hijacked from Simmons turned out to be a smart move. Relocating them to Savannah and then to Pahokee was genius.
A self-congratulatory nod followed. Horst was the undisputed master of Florida. Plus, he no longer had to worry about Coltrane or Scarlet.
His memory beamed back to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee—which Coltrane had pretentiously renamed Fort Hope. The facility did have nuclear power, but Horst was willing to bet Scarlett and Coltrane were freezing their asses off, right now.
And Nina? She was dead. Coltrane killed her.
He was safe.
He plucked a bottle of aspirin from his vest pocket and shook two of the bitter white tabs into his palm, knowing they would do little to thwart the arthritic misery that was his constant companion.
They were better than nothing.
He made a Schwarzenegger with his left bicep, wrapped his right hand around it, and nodded to himself. He was still physically fit, but these days he kept his people in line by being a six feet four inch, 185-pound bully, instead of a 240-pound mountain of intimidating muscle.
He took a last look at the western sky. It would be dark soon, and it wouldn’t be safe outside. The giant pythons would be hunting, and he was irrationally afraid of them.
He shuddered, turned, and headed to the safety of the Pahokee High School, two hundred yards away.
BOOKS IN THE WORKS
Two days before the start of the July 4th Holiday, six consecutive events shredded the fabric of the United States and changed the world forever.
The record-setting hot weather that invaded the East Coast of the United States oozed into Philadelphia and brought most outdoor activity to a screeching halt.
In front of Independence Hall, the unrelenting rays of the sun scorched the makeshift stage where Jonathan Cole, a tenured professor at Temple University, was about to announce his candidacy for President of the United States.
Sweating profusely, Cole waited for his campaign manager, Bryce Davis to introduce him to the over-heated crowd on Chestnut Street.
Jesus, it’s hot. Maybe we should have rescheduled?
Without warning, Cole's stomach rumbled like distant thunder, and the sour taste of Beluga caviar and gin and tonic flooded his mouth. He belched loudly partially drowning out the voice of Davis—" ado I give you the next President of the United States of America... Professor—Jonathan—Cole."
On cue, the herd, as Cole called them, broke into spontaneous applause.
With his fifty thousand dollar smile working overtime, Cole bounded up the three steps and strode purposefully toward center stage. Also on cue, the ovation from the faithful rose in intensity as the crowd began chanting his name. "Cole...Cole...Cole...Cole."
Playing to the network news cams, he paused momentarily at center stage, basking in the adoration of his sweat-drenched admirers. After the requisite time, he went to work and began manipulating the herd like the seasoned political activist he was.
As he milked and touched outstretched hands, bile again filled his mouth, and a cold sweat broke his brow. He gasped as a chill slithered down his spine. Turning from the multitude, he revisited his lunch and swallowed, took three deep breaths, shuddered lightly, and wiped the cold sweat from nausea off his brow with the back of his hand.
A moment later, with a herculean effort for quiet, he turned and faced the herd and raised his hands waist high, palms out.
The herd responded with wild applause.
Cole’s face morphed into his practiced portrayal of a God and he spread his arms wide in an all-encompassing gesture.
Please don’t let me throw up in front of the cameras.
Shaking his head slowly, he took a deep breath, tapped the microphone three times, then opened his mouth to speak.
A thousand yards distant, a hand-loaded bullet left the barrel of a custom-built .50 BMG sniper rifle and began its journey into the history books.
Two-point four seconds later, at 1:21 pm Eastern Daylight Time, the professors head exploded in a pale pink mist.
At New York’s Millennium Hilton Hotel, Reggie McFadden, who anchored the TV-6, News at Six, had just finished his traditional lunch of three very dry and dirty martinis’ with a side of young nookie and waited impatiently for the valet to retrieve his candy apple red Porsche 920.
Hurry up, you moron. It’s fucking hot out here.
When his pride and joy appeared, he handed the young valet a single dollar bill and took the proffered keys. At 1:33 pm, Eastern Daylight Time, one step from his chariot, his head disintegrated.
In Washington, DC, Martha, Wildgoose, a Democratic Senator from California, finished her routine early lunch at the Monocle on D Street, NE, and against the advice of her security team leader, she determined to walk alone to the Hart Senate Office Building, one block away.
“I think I can walk from here to there without being assassinated or raped, Tom.”
Well, you’re half right, Senator. You don’t have to worry about being raped.
As she crossed the public parking lot, at 1:44 pm Eastern Daylight Time, a Chevy Suburban, dressed in black with black tinted windows, eased from a parking space and casually turned left onto First Street NE.
In its departure, the Senator lay dead.
The specially licensed LGBT parade in San Francisco started on time at the Embarcadero. Charles Vanessa, aka Charlie V, a chart-topping male singer, who was not gay, but was an activist for anything anti-establishment, led the parade slowly down Market Street.
As the multihued procession approached the intersection of Market and Beale, at 3:26 pm Eastern Daylight Time, there was a loud thump, and Charlie’s face vanished.
Under tight security in the Windy City, MacArthur, “Mac” Wiggins, the mayor of Chicago, arrived in his armored Lexus limo at the North Shore Center for the premiere of the acclaimed musical, Mystical Chicago.
After his security team set a perimeter, he exited the vehicle wearing his practiced political smile.
Two seconds later, at 7:01 pm, Eastern Daylight Time, Mac’s smile disappeared forever as his Kevlar body armor ruptured and a hand-loaded projectile from a .50 BMG blew out his heart.
At the Greek Theater in Los Angles’ Griffith Park, Jocelyn Russell, a Hollywood A-lister was leading a rally to ban firearms.
Standing at the front edge of the stage, she raised both arms above her head and screeched, “City of Angels—LA...Welco....”
At 8:03 pm, Eastern Daylight Time, the thunderous applause went mute when a hollow-point bullet from a .338 Lapua Magnum entered her mouth and blew out the back of her head.
White-hot lightning ruptures the pre-dawn Florida sky followed by powerful thunderclaps that devour the air and rattle the earth.
The electricity flickers and dims then stabilizes.
On a bathroom vanity, a fat black cat gazes at a living thing standing in front of the mirror.
By the unforgiving light of the overhead, the entity stares at a face colonized by black and grey stubble resembling dead pines sprouting from deep crevasses. Lusterless, faded blue eyes squint, blink, then move south, scanning a body that long ago renounced the muscle mass and tone of youth.
You’re a fossil.
The evidence is annoying.
Nodding slightly, I concede that I could upgrade the chassis but that I’m not inspired.
Gawking at the glob of blue shaving gel in my hand, I shrug, then watch it disappear down the drain.
It can wait until tomorrow.
Gripping the edge of the vanity, I lean toward the alien in the mirror. “Who the hell are you? What are you? Why are you still hanging around?”
Half expecting a response I watch the head in the mirror shake slowly side-to-side, then reluctantly endorse the answer: I don’t have a clue.
From his perch near the sink, the cat continues to observe, his face a portrait of feline indifference. Abruptly, his ears twitch, and his head turns toward the living room as thumping strains of Eye of the Tiger cycles onto the MP3.
“Getting old isn’t for creampuffs, Loki. I gotta start working out.”
An image of a bowl of Cat Chow doubtless surfs through his brain, and he meows, jumps down, and waddles nonchalantly toward the kitchen.
This is the story of me.
A tale I never thought about, and never expected to tell.
Until my one friend convinced me that my journey through time was not typical.
“You should write your autobiography, Nathan.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because you’ve led a unique and interesting life.”
“Are you drunk?”
Regardless, her off-hand remark did make me think, which is highly unusual, and my brain eventually gave me the green light. However, it didn’t take long to realize that penning an autobiography is different than writing a novel. Obviously, you don’t have to do research, but I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be factual. And before you can start to write, there are other aspects to consider. Do you want to piss people off and have them gunning for you? Do you tell it like it was or sugar coat it to make a jerk seem more palatable as a person?
And then there’s the title. I spent a ridiculous amount of time attempting to come up with a title before I wrote one word. The autobiography of Nathan Combs just didn’t have any pizzazz, and My trek through time was just as sad. I eventually settled on two options: Ramblings of an old prick—or—Fuck you, I have enough friends.
Yeah. Those were catchy. Someone might pull one of those off a bookstore shelf or download it from Amazon just to see what it was about.
But since I’m basically a chicken-shit, I decided both would be over the top, so I went to Google and searched: How to choose a title for your autobiography.
According to the self-appointed Internet experts, you should select a title for an autobiography and then write the story around the title.
Really? I was basically thinking the same thing, so I doubled down on my efforts to come up with a bright and appropriate title I could write around.
And I came up with a good one, too.
I shot for the moon but hit Uranus.
Half a chapter into the book, I knew that wouldn’t fly because I couldn’t figure out a way to write around Uranus without making the memoir X-rated. It depressed me big time, and for at least two seconds, I considered counseling.
Balls. I couldn’t even come up with a title, and it dawned on me then and there, that writing the story of my life wasn’t going to be fun.
Maybe you haven’t thought about it, but let me tell you if you ever write your autobiography you’ll be forced to relive the memory of every dumb-ass thing you did from day one.
That’s probably why famous people hire ghostwriters to pen their autobiographies.
Also FYI, my opinion is not humble.
Everyone’s entitled to it.
And it’s my opinion that no one should write their life story until they’ve lived the majority of it and had the time to really screw it up. I mean, seriously, who wants to read about the life of a saint?
So, the next problem was, while it’s easy to recall the places and events, or the people involved, the timelines were a challenge for me, and no matter how long or how hard I thought about it, I couldn’t get the event and the times to mesh. So in the interest of continuity, I’ve taken the liberty of tweaking the calendar here and there.
And finally, was I going to name names? Initially, that was my intent, but I’ve capitulated to a higher power—namely, my conscience—that goodie two shoes in my head that sentences me to self-loathing. Unfortunately, it’s always on duty, and because I have to shave occasionally, I gave in and opted to change a few of the names to protect the innocent. And reluctantly the guilty too, even though most have (probably) gone to wherever we go at the end.