Chaos Overcome Us

by Erik Norris

“Ain’t it funny how they continue to fight over the bones we throw ‘em? The world has gone to total shit and these pooches continue to act like nothing’s changed, like this ain’t the end of days. It’s just another god damn day for ‘em,” said the man wearing tattered clothing and huddled as close as he possibly could be to the camp fire to siphon every morsel of warmth from it.

“There ain’t nothing funny about it, Hilary,” uttered another man sitting across the camp site, his face illuminated by the flames, but the blanket of darkness obstructing the rest of his features. “What’s funny is that they haven’t yet realized that they could stop fighting over scraps and get a full meal out of each other. As the saying goes, it’s a dog-eat-dog world. And that saying couldn’t be more fitting than right now…”

“Now why the hell would you say such a damned thing, Winston?! You know the shit I’ve been through. I know I’ve told you. It’s that kind of talk that gets me easily fuckin’ riled up.”

Winston gave out a slight chuckle, a compulsive grin curling up his lip. He knew such a statement would make Hilary’s skin crawl, but he couldn’t resist. After the catastrophe that decimated nearly the entire planet, finding joy in things was hard to come by. But Winston had found an outlet to laugh again, and he took advantage of it whenever he could, even if it was at Hilary’s expense.

“Ah, Hil, you know I’m just fuckin’ with you,” teased Winston. “I know what you’ve been through. Shit, you’ve told me at least a dozen times. Some psycho came after you, nearly got ya, blah blah blah.”

“It wasn’t just any psychopath, you ass,” shouted Hilary. “It was the god damn bogeyman, as far as I’m concerned. People know of him. They talk about him like he’s some kind of wasteland legend. They say he kills and eats his victims. I could have been a meal, Winston. Don’t you get it? I could be a pile of that psycho’s shit right now, rotting under the sun with a million fuckin’ flies buzzin’ around me. Yet, somehow you find that funny.”

Winston threw his hands up in the air as if he knew any chance to reason with Hilary just flew out the window. “OK, first off, who’s talking about him? Do you see many fuckin’ people out here? I sure as shit don’t. Everywhere I’ve been looks like a god damn graveyard full of corpses and twisted metal,” fired back Winston. “Secondly, keep your voice down, you don’t want him to know we’re here, do you?,” said Winston in a joking tone, clearly trying to egg Hilary on again.

“You can go fuck yourself, Winston. There are people out here. They’re just hard to find, that’s all. Before I met you, I’d seen plenty of them through my travels. Yet, somehow they don’t come by when you’re here. Maybe it’s ‘cause your a grade-A asshole, ever think of that?”

Hilary felt proud about his comeback, a massive grin overwhelming the lower half of his face revealing teeth that looked like they haven’t been brushed in ages. But Hilary wasn’t going to stop there. He had Winston against the ropes, something that rarely ever happened. So Hilary kept talking, launching right back into the story he’s told Winston a hundred times over. Maybe he could kill him with boredom, he thought.

“I’ll never forget that night, man. The mother fucker chased me for what seems like miles. It was like one of those classic horror flicks, ya know? The ones where no matter how fast the victim runs, he never escapes. The monster in the shadows is always right fuckin’ behind him.”

“Oh, like Halloween, I fuckin’ loved those movies. God, I fuckin miss television,” blurted out Winston, clearly trying anything to interrupt Hilary’s story and once again get the upper hand.

“Jesus H. Christ, this isn’t a fuckin’ joke. And more specifically, that’s not the god damn point, asshole,” yelled Hilary. “The point is–”

It’s at this moment that both Hilary and Winston heard the snap of a twig coming from the darkness just beyond the camp site. For an instance, the dogs fighting over the tattered bone stopped and perked up their heads with curiosity. Hilary and Winston locked eyes and without saying a word, a shiver shot up both their spines as a sinking feeling of dread overwhelmed them.

“Oh, hi folks, sorry I startled you,” said a calm voice from the shadows. “I saw your camp fire from a few miles out and figured I’d stop by to see if I could join you. I’ve been walking this wasteland for what seems like days now, and you’re the first people I’ve actually stumbled across. I sure could use a good fire to warm me up, it’s quite frigid out tonight.”

“Hold it right there, man,” demanded Hilary nervously.

Hilary tried to act tough, as if he owned this ground and the fire burning it, but if you stared into his eyes you could see just how terrified he was about a mysterious individual arriving at his camp in the middle of the night. “You better tell us who the fuck you are. Then, maybe we’ll let you stay here with us.”

“Oh, sure, it’s John, my name’s John,” said the stranger without skipping a beat.

“John, huh? Do you have a last name, John?,” inquired Hilary.

“Of course, it’s John Smith,” said the mystery man who was now shifting past the dogs lying on the outskirts of the camp site once again back to fighting over the bone they were thrown. John extended his hands out as he approached the fire to soak in the flame’s heat. As he got closer to the fire, Hilary and Winston were able to finally get a good look at the man. He was an incredibly lanky individual with long, tangled hair covered by what seemed to be a bowler cap. Much like with Hilary, John’s clothing was tattered and dirty. It was clear that he’d been traveling for quite some time towards some undisclosed location.

“OK, ‘John Smith’, have a seat,” responded Hilary. “But sit where we can see you clearly. And if you make any sudden movements, and I mean any sudden movements, we will not hesitate to toss you into this fire.”

“Fuckin’ hell, man. Calm your ass down, Hil. The man means no harm. Hell, he sounds like Ned fuckin’ Flanders for Christ sake,” replied Winston. “Sorry, friend. Hilary here is just a little on edge because he had a recent brush with Death himself, or at least that’s the way he has it up in that giant noggin’ of his. What was it the scary bogeyman told you right before he, as you put it, slithered back into the darkness and disappeared, never to be seen from again?”

“Man, I feel like I haven’t said this enough in the last twenty minutes, but go fuck yourself, Winston. But since I’m a generous man I’ll give you the satisfaction of what you want to hear. The man, ahem… the psychopath trying to stab me told me he would see me again real soon, that he would find me and that there was no outrunning our devolution into chaos, whatever the fuck he meant by that shit.”

Hilary paused for a second to collect himself before launching into the big climax of his camp fire horror story.

“And the worst part is I didn’t get a good look at the fucker’s face. It was way too dark that night. I just remember him coming out of the shadows, calling out to me to grab my attention and then trying to shove a huge knife into my stomach, which I luckily avoided thanks to being a clumsy son-of-a-bitch that tripped over my own feet. I remember running as fast as I fuckin’ could until my legs couldn’t carry me anymore. But he was right there behind me, and then he just… stopped, whispered those words and then disappeared.”

“Wowzers, that’s some heavy stuff. If you don’t mind me inquiring, how long ago did that happen?,” asked John.

“It was a few weeks ago, I think. Hell, time is starting to bleed together since we don’t really have any working clocks anymore,” answered Hilary. “Christ, I remember trying to judge time and days passing by keeping track of the sun rising and setting, but that didn’t last long. There just wasn’t a point to it anymore. It’s not like one morning we’re going to wake up and this will all be over. We’re never going back to the way things were, that’s for god damn sure.”

“Hey now, let’s have a little faith, sir. We don’t rightfully know what caused our current predicament, but the Lord moves in mysterious ways,” explained John. “It’s probably a test. He’s probably trying to test our resolve. He wants to know our limits. He’s looking to find out how far we’ll go to survive. That’s how I’m nationalizing the last few months.”

It was at this point that Hilary and Winston realized something was a little off about their new friend. Neither Hilary nor Winston were religious men, but they never shared that fact with each other. But all it took was Winston to give a glance over to Hilary during John’s holy speech to put them on the same page. The two couldn’t help but laugh in unison. They had finally found someone else to rag on outside each other.

“Yea man, whatever, a test. You’re probably right. God, in his holy wisdom, fucks the earth to teach us something. Then, I’m assuming once we learn said lesson he’ll just put it back together again like Humpty Dumpty? No harm no foul, I assume?,” asked Winston.

“You just have to have faith, that’s all, gentlemen. If you lose faith, you’re doomed, now more than ever,” replied John. “But let’s get our minds out of this mess, for now it doesn’t matter. So tell me, how did you two meet one another?”

“Fair enough, I’ll gladly take small talk over God talk,” snarkly replied Hilary. “Winston and I actually just met a little while ago. Again, days and weeks are a bit fuzzy, but it couldn’t have been more than a week or two ago. We were both wandering around aimlessly and just kind of bumped into one another out here. Neither of us had really seen any other people in a while, so we kind of decided to share supplies. And before you ask, we met during the day, so it wasn’t as fuckin’ creepy as you wandering over to us in the dead of night and not saying a god damn word until you were right next to the camp site here.”

“Once again, I’m sorry, I guess I was just over excited that I had finally found someone out here, you understand. I hadn’t yet lost hope, but I’ll admit I was starting to get a little nervous.” John smiled and began to laugh. “My god, it feels good to laugh again.” It was at this point that John let out a massive yawn that spread across the camp like some infectious cold. The fire was starting to die down and it was clear that everybody was quite tired from another day of simply surviving in this harsh new world.

Winston was the first to fall asleep, but Hilary tried to fight the signs his body was giving him. For obvious reasons, he was scared to go to sleep next to John. Something about the man didn’t sit right with him. Maybe it was all the God talk, or the man’s over-friendly demeanor, but Hilary had a sinking feeling that there was something hidden underneath all the smiles and religious babble. Something monstrous. Picking at the back of his brain, Hilary started to worry that his ghost killer had finally sought him out and was waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. And what would be more perfect than when Hilary was fast asleep?

Hilary managed to stay awake for another few hours, eyes constantly fixated on John as he watched him get comfortable next to the camp fire and eventually doze off. Hilary fully expected the moment he closed his own eyes that John would rise from the ground like some sort of possessed ghoul, pull out his signature blade and brutally finish what he started all those weeks ago.

But the warmth of the remaining fire and the silence of the night quickly made Hilary’s eyes too heavy to keep open. Whether he wanted to or not, Hilary was falling asleep.

To his surprise, Hilary awoke the next morning to the warmth of the sun beating down on his rugged face. He had survived the night. Winston, too. John was close by, enjoying a small meal which Winston had prepared for him with a newly constructed fire. Hilary sat up with a puzzled look on his face, almost as if he was disappointed that his ghastly prediction hadn’t come to fruition.

“Sleep well?,” asked John. “I don’t know if you care, but I slept like a baby. It’s been a long time since that has happened. I want to thank you for letting me stay here last night. It means a lot. But I have to get moving. I’m trying to make my way back to North Carolina to see if some of my family is still alive out there, and I’m behind schedule. I didn’t finish my entire plate, so please feel free to finish it if you’re hungry. Good food should not go to waste like that,” said John.

John then picked himself up and took off back into the hazardous wasteland, leaving Hilary and Winston once again sitting at the camp site alone.

Hilary was confused by the whole situation. He was sure this man, this “John,” was the individual who tried to kill him. He had worked it all out in his head the night before. John was a religious nut who lost his mind after the world went to shit. The apocalypse proved, without a shadow of a doubt, that there is no God, which led to him falling off the deep end and going on a murdering rampage to lash out at a world which thought him to turn the other cheek because the Good Lord was always watching.

But then again, maybe Hilary had watched too many horror movies growing up.

“God, Winston, I thought that was him,” said Hilary as he breathed a sigh of relief while brushing the sweat from his brow.

“Who?” asked Winston.

“The killer,” replied Hilary. “Something just seemed off about him. I thought he was going to kill us in our sleep. I didn’t expect to see the sun today.”

Hilary stood up and moved to right outside the confines of the camp site. The sun was incredibly bright, forcing Hilary to shield his eyes with his hand to watch John as he chested the hill in the distance and disappeared.

It was at this moment that Hilary felt a sharp pain in his abdomen and a feeling of white hot anxiety overtaking his body. Hilary turned his head to see Winston standing right behind him holding a fairly large knife that was currently lodged deep into his flesh.

“Why–,” nervously questioned Hilary as he felt his body grow colder.

“I told you I would see you again real soon, didn’t I? I’m a man of my word. And would you look at that, the fire’s ready to go. Let me ask you something, do you remember when I told you there’s no outrunning mankind’s devolution into chaos?” asked Winston while staring straight into Hilary’s eyes with a look on his face of pure madness.

Hilary managed to push himself away from Winston, falling to the ground and gasping for air. He attempted to crawl away, leaving behind a trail of blood in his wake. Hilary knew he was a goner.

“Maybe a piece of what John said is true, Hil,” whispered Winston as he walked over to Hilary’s body which was convulsing like a fish out of water. “Maybe this is a test. Maybe God does want to find out our limits, to push us to see how far we’ll fall. And from where I’m standing, we’ve fallen pretty far. So far, in fact, that God isn’t answering our calls anymore.”

“This world of ours is chaos now, don’t you see? There is no going back. It is everyone for themselves. Like I said, friend, we now live in a dog-eat-dog type of world. Scraps won’t cut it anymore. I’m just ahead of the curve in figuring that out. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m doing what I must to survive. You can understand that, can’t you? So, come, join me for a feast.”

“Fuck yourself!,” screamed Hilary, exhausting nearly everything he had left in his body.

“Tsk, Tsk, that’s no way to act when you’re the guest of honor, Hil. You should be proud that you’re the center of attention again.”

Winston then removed the blade from Hilary’s stomach and proceeded to casually stroll around the body, making sure to step over the giant pool of blood now forming underneath the carcass that was clinging on to life. Winston bent down to force eye contact with Hilary one last time and whispered, “Now you can die, quickly or slowly, it matters not, and be transformed into what you’ve always been seen as in the eyes of God — a piece of shit.”

The knife plunged down one last time and Hilary went silent. All that could be heard was the crackling of the camp fire and the sound of dogs fighting over a bone.