Gritt Calhoon slammed a massive bootheel down on a scuttling cockroach and snorted what was left of the eight-ball from the side of his bowie knife. As the powder hit his brain he tried to remember the last time he had seen one of the damn things. How is it, he thought, that those terrible little creatures had the genetic constitution to withstand the blasts while everything else had perished in flames? And yet still the bastards hid underground. What the hell were they doing down there anyway? he wondered. God only knew. He suppressed the bile in his throat, imagining their creeping nightmare city deep below.
Gritt stood there for a moment letting the summer breeze soar through his salt and pepper forelock. His veins were full of beer and crystalline tropane alkaloid and his headband was soaked in sweat. The good stuff was juicing through him now and he knew that he had fifteen solid minutes of painless insanity to do whatever he pleased with himself. Briefly he considered masturbating—hell, why not?—but instead he plucked a cold one from the refrigerated side-pocket on his camo fatigues and drank the whole thing in one gulp. Burping, he crumpled the can with his dominant gorilla-fist and chucked it into a pool of bubbling toxic waste not far from where his Tyrian-purple all-terrain vehicle was parked. He shook his head wildly and screamed at the distant stars. Gritt was feeling good but knew there was work to be done.
“Shark!” he yelled. He was pointing his booming voice at a small brick building next to the old high school. There was no response.
“Shark, ya god damn hillbilly,” he muttered. “Git’cher ass out here already.”
Clipped to Gritt’s thigh was a stick of space-grade dynamite—the kind they used for mining on the moon colonies. He fetched it with a greasy hand and pressed firmly on the little orange button near the top before tossing it into a patch of dead grass near the entrance of the place. In seconds it exploded into glassy particles and Gritt was pleased by the sound.
As expected, the door of the brick house swung open and out came a ten-ton stone slab of a man, his muscles tensed, his veins bulging like earthworms—the whole package glazed in the kind of sweat you’d find on the worst sinner in the darkest hallway of hell.
“The fuck?” said the man. It was Shark Guffy, Gritt’s old war buddy. In the years since he’d last seen him, Shark had put on fifty pounds of muscle and had six new tattoos, all of them depicting busty women eating various jungle fruits.
“As I live and fuckin’ breathe,” Shark said now. He put his hands on his hips and leaned on one leg in a sexy way. “Shoulda figured it’d be Gritt Calhoon throwin’ fuckin’ dynamite all over the damn place.”
“Your doorbell was broken.” Gritt adjusted his testicles with the back of his Desert Eagle. “Knew I’d have to git yer attention somehow.”
“What brings ya back? Been a while. You look even uglier than you did when I last saw you on Mars, all them fuckin’ years ago.”
“To be fair,” said Gritt, “the last time you saw me was also the day I single-handedly defended the Olympus Mons encampment from an entire platoon of Chinese doom-bots. Not to mention Shirley had just left me for the last time.”
Shark laughed. “Hell, I don’t doubt Shirley’s what did ya in that day—not them fuckin’ rice cookers. They was a cinch. Cheap plastic shit.”
“Only ‘cause Shirley took the truck.”
“Yer kiddin’?” Shark shook his head and spat at the ground.
“Nah. And I miss that fuckin’ truck. Miss it more than Shirley, that’s for damn sure.”
The two men stood in silence and let old memories play out in their weary minds. They were still half a football field away from each other, still feeling weird about the past.
Shark broke the silence by cracking open a brew he’d fetched from the refrigerated side-pocket on his camo fatigues. “You want one? Got two left.”
“I don’t drink that gas station shit,” said Gritt. “Come on, Shark, you know that. Ain’t been that long. Unless yer brain’s gone to shit.” Muttering to himself, Gritt added, “Which wouldn’t surprise me.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. King of Fuckin’ England, with your preference fer fancy fuckin’ beers. ‘Cept I’m positive yer still drinkin’ that bullshit that even the gas station don’t wanna stock.” He chuckled.
Without a moment of hesitation, Gritt emotionlessly pointed his Desert Eagle at the beer can Shark was holding and, with pinpoint accuracy, blew it into a thousand pieces. Foam erupted everywhere and splashed Shark’s chest hair, which was curling out of the neck-hole of his snow-camo tanktop. (Continued )