Skip to main content

Vultures

The flashlight’s beam rested on the white painted wall. Juan gripped wooden hammer of the sledgehammer. The visor on his gas mask impaired his peripheral vision, so he turned to make sure he was clear to swing. The hammer smashed through the wall, and a plume of dust dispersed through the air. Juan struck several more blows until the hole had turned into a man-sized gash. The flashlight illuminated the rift revealing a hub of piping and wires.
“Hey Juan we need your help down here man!” the radio crackled
Places die in much the same way as the people who compose them. Growth stalls and begins to give way to decline then all that’s left is to wait for the physical remains to erode into dust under the pressure of times ceaseless and steady current.
The place was a town called villa park a place that at its peak supported between thirty-five and forty thousand inhabitants, but Villa Park’s death hadn’t been a gradual process outlined recognizable milestones it had occurred suddenly and unexpectedly. It left a corpse far too large and inconveniently placed just to let it decompose. The body had to be scraped off the road as quickly as possible. The defunct municipality had nowhere near the amount in the treasury to pay for containment and clean up, fortunately for them there was a company that could work something out.
The corporate vultures endeavored to pick the carcass clean. Crews in white hazmat suits and gasmasks systematically scavenged neighborhood. Every business, home, and even the schools were to be stripped of every valuable material in its composition. The faceless crews worked day and night as personified agents of disintegration as they physically gutted the standing structures and hauled away the entrails of copper wiring.
Juan was a day laborer, migrating around the country with millions of others following the mirage of prosperity over any horizon it might take shape. This latest gig promised to be the really long term, but after being issued hazmat gear and loaded in the back of a truck, Juan had second thoughts.
Juan went down to the basement and saw two of his crew members standing by a large sectional sofa that sat in front of a home entertainment system.
“What’s up?” Asked Juan
“We uh got a couple of bodies,” one of the wheezed through his mask.
Juan walked over to the couch. There were three of them sitting there as if they were still watching tv. Juan shined the light on their faces.  They were each cocooned in a blanket. Thier heads slumped down as if they had just peacefully nodded out. There was a woman’s body leaning against a man roughly the same age and next to them was a little girl probably no older than eight or nine. Thier colorless skin and receding lips were the early signs of human decomposition
“At least it looks like it was quick,” muttered Juan.
“We can’t get the ring off her finger,” stammered the shaken crewman as he pointed a flashlight down at the hand of the woman. Her ring finger stiffened by rigor mortis was upturned and fractured.
“We tried getting it off but then we heard a crunch, and we think it broke,” stammered the other crewman.
Juan guessed it was her wedding ring and from one look at it he could tell it was valuable.
“It’s gotta be cut off,” said Juan.
He turned and glanced at the crewmen who were steadily backing away. Juan inhaled deeply and pulled out a steel cutting tool.
“Well come help me,” he ordered. Reluctantly the two crewmen approached each one trying to let the other walk ahead.
“Hold her arm,” ordered Juan.
Reluctantly one man took hold of her arm. “Hold her wrist,” Juan said to the other letting him know he wasn’t off the hook.
Gloved hands closed around her wrist, and Juan put her finger between the blades. His stomach clenched when he squeezed the handle. The sharpened steel went through the flesh quickly, but then it gnashed against her finger bone. Juan could feel the acidic vomit working its way up his throat, but he held it back and squeezed hard. There was a snap, and the severed finger hit the floor with a dull thud.
Juan wheeled his crew’s haul to one of the dump trucks idling on the street between the rows of abandoned cars. It was a clear morning; light saucer shaped clouds drifted through a sky of ocean blue. It was idyllic late spring weather, but there was a morbid stillness in the air. No birds sang, no insects flew in the air or hopped from the grass. There were only the mechanical rumblings of diesel engines and the whirling blades of helicopters passing overhead on their way to the disaster zone, an enigmatic compound where a cluster of buildings surrounded a smoldering tower that occasionally belched clouds of acrid black smoke.
“I’m going to drop the ring off at the special collection's point,” Juan said.
The special collection points were folding tables with metal bucks on top. The buckets were filled with earrings, necklaces, and rings. Juan couldn’t help but notice all the rings. Many of them stained with faded red drops. He dropped the ring in the bucket and quickly walked away, again trying to force back the surging sickness.
The ground lightly trembled and there was the yawning sound of collapsing steel. Black smoked poured from the disaster site. The choking smog quickly swept across the neighborhood like a tsunami. There was an airburst that pierced Juan’s ears. He recoiled from the pain of the rupturing air. A forked tongue of fire lashed up at the sky. The saturated air turned a dusty crimson. Juan could feel his flesh start to boil. He looked down and could see the black air eating away his protective gear. The thin layer of protection quickly dissolved and the ebony vapors engulfed him. The very air had become as corrosive as acid. His flesh unglued itself from his bones and feel off in bleeding strips. His eyes dissolved and fell back to his skull. There was absolute darkness only the pain, and the screams reminded him he was still alive. It was a quick plunge into hell before his brain stem liquified and relieved him of the pain.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

There are no closets in foxholes

Private Stuart Breyers had joined the marine corps during peacetime. The plan was to use his two-year hitch as a transition period into becoming an independent young man. Not six weeks after his 19th birthday the boy’s limited term of existence had been significantly curtailed. He had no more years to look forward to only mere moments.
He walked in a single file line with his comrades under the darting eyes of their Japanese captors. His fingers were laced behind his head, and he didn’t dare move his hands to shield his eyes from the blinding tropical sun or the salty sting of his sweat. Breyers had spent his life in the vast cornfields of Middle America where the grey skies of winter lingered for months on end. The Pacific sun turned his flesh a pulsing red. The Japanese fleet loomed ominously in the still crystal blue waters. The massive steel barrels of their guns had returned to their resting position. Occasionally a grenade blast in the thick jungle rattled the birds out of the tr…

The Borderline Angel of Death

I would like to thank Burning House Press for featuring this piece!

At the age of thirty, Daniel Lufto lived alone in a single bedroom apartment. In his first thirty years on Earth he had made very few lasting connections, and at this point, his existence had virtually no perceptible impact on anyone else. He was just another recurring face on the bus ride to work, a vaguely remembered customer in the local liquor store.
As a human being, Daniel existed on a strictly interim basis. His home was even on a month to month arrangement. On any day he and his meager belongings could be swept out and with that almost any trace of Daniel's corporeal existence.
Daniel wasn’t so solitary by choice. He and the world around him could never find the proper way to engage each other. Daniel grew up, but he never developed into a fully fleshed out human being. He had no particular interests or hobbies absolutely nothing could captivate him. It was as if he had been deprived an imagination and was…

The Bronze Bull

After the Mormon army armies reached the east coast, they set to work salvaging and restarting the long-abandoned foundries scattered across the landscape. The blast furnaces once again were swollen with molten steel, and the towering brick stacks erupted with volcanic ferocity. The forked flames lashed at the clouds and the billowing smoke blackened the sky heralding the ascendancy of the continent's new masters.
Roaming bands of scavengers had been picking at the bones of New York City for decades. THe nibbling quickly turned into a full feeding frenzy. Legions of landless farmers and rootless laborers descended on the ruins. They worked as ceaselessly as termites to hollow out the steel carcass.
John Nelson had traveled a long way to get a look inside the old city. He was a Captain Edler in the Bringham Young regiment an outfit that had spent the better part of a decade fighting across the continent. The spry young Captain was an avid student of history, and even though dead o…