by Ryan Olsen
The sun was shining through the makeshift window I made from duct-taping broken bits of bottles and shards of larger windows. The green, blue and clear tints cast dim rays of light on the dirt floor next to the dusty bucket I now call a sink, shower and dishwasher. If you squint, it is as close to stained glass as you can now get. My friend James calls it a “work of art” with his sarcasm he picked up from me that masks his pain.
James used to be a happy-go-lucky fella that could find joy in most things. The son-of-a-bitch would whistle a silly tune as he walked the three miles to get his daily allotment of water. As I grumbled when the shambles of a government we have left decided to horde and ration water, James was enthusiastic we commoners could even get some. Until his kid became a victim of The Sculptors, you couldn’t meet a more genuinely happy person.
The Sculptors are something we have to deal with. And that is the cold, hard truth. Unlike the mythological boogeymen in classic tales like Werewolves or Vampires, The Sculptors are normal people driven mad by the horrors they saw after a few nations thought it would be a great idea to use their Ion Cannons on each other like using a magnifying glass to fry some ants. The resulting damage from the Earth destroying weapons and manmade chaos that erupted even faster than the cannons could reload created the conditions that put some people over the mental edge, the rest of us found our own coping mechanism.
Agencies and do-gooders did their best to help these people, but all it did was serve to pool the crazies under one tent so they could form a vile colony in the millions. The last thing they all remember is smelling the pungent stench of burning flesh and seeing their loved ones melt into piles of fat and bone. The only Modus Operandi The Sculptors have is to dismember and kill anyone not like them, then sew a memento from their victim somewhere on their body. The only mystery about them is how they keep from viciously murdering one another like they do the common folk. It doesn’t matter to me because all I’m trying to do is survive at this point.
I’ve only seen The Sculptors one time in my life. Regrettably, it was also the last time I saw James’ kid.
I was in the local militia in my settlement of about 75 at the time. I spent most of my waking hours up at night. I received my orders for that night to stand watch at the southwest tower. I packed the single flare I was given, slung my hatchet on my hip and stored my remaining three shotgun shells in my pocket in case things got really dicey and shuffled to my post. There wasn’t anything special about the night and my usual company of mosquitos and a piece of toast for “breakfast” were the only things that were worth talking to.
After swatting my 231st mosquito – I always counted to keep occupied – I saw a person in the distance. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know they were badly hurt. I stood in my place yelling as much as my lungs would allow calling to find if they were friendly. The poor sap didn’t have the energy to even wave for help since they were too busy trying to keep their vital organs arranged inside their body. She collapsed before I could even see her face. The wind kicked up in attempt to bury her since the fool that would attempt to give the body some dignity would just be more worm food.
I lit the flare. Hell if I was going to chance fighting even one of The Sculptors alone. The response was clumsy at best. The town had never been attacked before and wasn’t prepared. It was more a curse than a blessing, to be honest. I was pissed that half the militia was rubbing crust out of their sleepy eyes while I was vigilantly scanning the horizon for any sign of The Sculptors. One guy still had his pants around his ankles after coming out of a tent that was occupied by him and a gorgeous, voluptuous box of tissue. Slobs. Every last one of them.
The most stalwart “heroes” were only able to stay up for thirty minutes before they didn’t care anymore. I too was starting to think I dreamt the whole thing. I wish I had.
The one thing commoners underestimate is that The Sculptors are still human. Deranged, but human. They were teachers, soldiers, police and criminals and still had the capacity to strategize with wit and cunning. The helpless victim was a decoy. Twenty Sculptors were already in the settlement efficiently murdering the unprepared masses while the militia had gathered to my position. As the stragglers in the militia left my post one by one, they became grizzly ornaments for The Sculptors modifications. The pandemonium, chaos and the dying cries of my neighbors is something I will never forget. It was so shocking, I slumped over looking at the scene below not able to move a muscle.
That was the least horrific thing I saw. My friend James was off duty that night because it was his kid’s birthday. The kid was turning just about the age where all the exciting things in life happen. Or happened, rather. The kid would have been thinking about college and jobs and girls but not anymore thanks to the worldwide situation. The kid’s immediate worry that night was how long was he going to survive as The Sculptors drug him out of his own birthday party into the gnashing mob of sickos.
That is when I saw the leader of this Sculptor pack emerge. He was lugging a rusted out chainsaw. Not only did it seem impossible that he killed enough people to ge the gas to power a chainsaw, his stature was so imposing, it cast a giant shadow in the moonlight. With the Kid held down on top a pile of already dead bodies, the leader fired up the chainsaw after a few false starts. In plain view of his father, the rusty chain started to lower over the kid’s midsection. As the steel teeth made quick work of the flesh, the kid’s ribs were giving the leader some trouble. The bones chipped away the rust as the blood lubricated the chain to spin faster. Hopefully, it made it so the torture wasn’t as bad. Due to the shock and gallons of adrenalin, the kid shouted his lucid goodbyes. It was his way of cleansing his soul before his grizzly departure from this world and put his loved ones at ease, somewhat. Each extremity was then divided up among The Sculptors that held him down so they could make whatever macabre trophy they wanted.
Then, The Sculptors left after a few more indiscriminate killings. Once the flash of extreme violence was over, I couldn’t move from my spot until the next morning. Those of us still alive had the choice of cleaning the place up or moving on. All 10 of us decided to let this place be the final resting spot and left without looking back. As James and I left, I noticed the small birthday gift I sent along that night in off to the side of the path leading out. I told James I had to leak and went over to pick it up. I put the present wrapped in an old t-shirt in my bag and joined back up with him as we started to wander the continent.
The guilt of all those dead souls rests on my shoulders, my inaction no matter what anyone else says. I’ll do anything for James at this point. Taking care of James might not be the cleansing I need, but it is the only chance I have left to do right in this world. It’s been nearly 5 years since The Sculptors ruined our already dismal life and things haven’t gotten any better. We are constantly on the run and never seem to be able to stay in a single, safe place for more than a week. It is the two of us versus the environment, versus the rabid animals who were once rational humans.
The only thing that keeps my will to live going is the fact James wants to keep going. Why he wants to keep going in this torment wrapped inside a nightmare called the world is beyond me but I don’t ask too many questions his way. He’s been through enough.
I cleaned out the dusty bucket with my grimy hand and we packed up. The fantastic part about living as nomads’ means that the clothes on our backs and the bucket were the only things we needed to move along. As I pushed away the plywood used for a door, I used all my senses to locate any danger. I gave the all clear and James followed. It’ll be interesting to see where we end up next.