INTRODUCTION (OR: “OH GOD, WHAT HAVE I DONE?!”)
Before we begin? That “Does this look like brains to you?” joke? Real. It happened once. Don’t ask.
So I’ve broken my own rules once or twice now. I’ve been sorta editing as I go when I find stuff that could be worded better and/or needs tightening up. Nothing pedantic, but just bits and pieces here and there. A lot of it is in it’s rough unedited stage as I’ve been typing it, warts and all. Kinda keeps me in the mood to keep writing about these two.
I’ve noticed I’ve made Russ pretty unlikeable and/or an immediate comic relief to Les. I guess making an obnoxious fat stoner is like shooting fish in a barrel. We’ll see how this pans out. I hope I can redeem him within the story.
CHAPTER ONE: BREAKFAST AT UPCHUCK’S
Upchuck’s Burger Pit was our guilty pleasure. Especially the breakfast menu. There’s something to be said about a store that claims that their meals have “more bacon than you can stuff your face with”. Of course, the shouty commercial on the TV that claimed as such hasn’t met Russ. He could put away bacon faster than the pimply servers could give it to him.
I was still bothered about the dream. The shooting, Armadyne, the girl. Last time I had a dream that fucked with my head this much it was about a robot uprising. At least that I was planned for -at least for the short term.
“What’ll you have?” Asked the Upchuck’s manager.
“Two Breakfast Bacon Burgers, uh… Onion rings, a large soda and gimme one of those potato things.” Russ’s usual was a sight to behold. More on that later.
“Do you want an Upchuck’s Upsize?”
“Fine. And your friend?”
I looked up at the menu, then back at the manager and shrugged.
“Just an Upchuck’s Upsized OJ, thanks.” I said with a sigh.
“That’s all?” The manager said, rolling his eyes.
“Uh… I guess some onion rings?”
“Right, whatever.” The manager said dismissively.
The manager relayed our orders to the servers. We grabbed a table and sat down. Table service was till eleven-thirty as well. Small upside of having to eat at somewhere described as a “Burger Pit.”
“That dream still got you down?” Russ asked.
“Not down, Russ. Just puzzled.” I replied, looking over at the TV. An ad for some reality show was on. I never understood the lasting power of reality shows. But hey, whatever gets asses in seats, right?
“Don’t worry about it. Don’t mean a thing. We’re still alive. I never worked for Armadyne and that chick was probably… I dunno. some repressed wet dream from your days at Catholic school.”.
Well I guess she did kinda look like one of my old teachers, if you squinted and turned your head sideways.
A cute waitress came over with the food. We thanked her even though I somehow ended up with a Upchuck’s UpCluckin’ Burger meal. Their loss. I just saved myself five bucks.
“So what the hell’s Armadyne, anyway?” I asked Russ as he started crafting together some sort of burger tower.
“Armadyne? R&D, weapons tech, that sorta thing. Or so I hear.”
“Huh…” A disheveled man, hardly out of his twenties and looking like Robert Smith if he fell out of a tree held up a sign saying “THE END IS NIGH”. “Interesting.”
“Why would I be dreaming about a weapons manufacturer?”
“Because you’re a freak.”
‘End is Nigh’ Guy entered UpChuck’s, gave Russ and I the evil eye then proceeded to the counter. What’s his problem? I thought, mindlessly sipping my OJ. It had a watery taste to it, with the slightest hint of orange concentrate. I forgot about that.
“Where will you be once the sky falls?!” Proclaimed End is Nigh. “Will you be saved?”
“Man, who let Saint Shithead in here?” Asked Russ, mouth full of the leaning tower of burger.
“What’s his problem?” I asked.
“Him? He wanders around town saying the sky’s falling like Chicken fuckin’ Little.” Russ replied. “Then he goes on about robots or some shit.”
“Yeah. Apparently Arnie hasn’t finished looking for Sarah Connor.” One of these days I’ll get an answer out of Russ that doesn’t relate to a movie.
“June! 30th! It has been forseen!” End is Nigh yelled to nobody in particular.
June 30th? My ears pricked up like some sort of nutjob radar. I wonder… I stood up and waved over to End is Nigh
“Hey Whacko!” I yelled from across the eatery. “What year?”
End is Nigh turned around and looked at me as if I just violated his mother. He made his way over, almost knocking over a little girl with a UpChicklet Treasure Meal.
“Tell me son, are you a believer?” He asked me. His breath smelt like used motor oil.
“Depends on what you’re asking me to believe in.” I replied
“Seriously? We’re enouraging the crazy guy with the sign now?” Russ protested.
“The end of the world. When the sky falls and the Earth shudders from the weight of the apocalypse!” End is Nigh said. I tried to get some distance between me and him. Seems he’s a close talker.
“I’ll believe it when I see it.” I said, making an obnoxious slurping sound with what was left of my orange juice
“Then they have already won.” End is Nigh said, coldly
“Who’s ‘they’?” Russ asked.
End is Nigh pointed out the window.
Russ and I both looked. He was pointing at the huge building in the middle of the city. “Armadyne Corporation” emblazoned on the side. Either that or the hot dog vendor across the road. It was hard to tell. Russ and I both looked back at eachother.
“I’ve heard enough.” Russ said, standing up, confronting End is Nigh. “Look asshole, people just want to grab some greasy shit to stuff their faces with on the way to work, or nurse a hangover or whatever. Nobody wants to hear your tinfoil hat bullshit.”
Everyone fell silent. You could’ve hear a cockroach give a handjob if it weren’t for the in-store music playing “Party Rock Anthem” for what I imagine would be the 40th time this hour. Who needs to shuffle that much? I thought to myself.
“You’re not one of us?” End is Nigh asked.
“Hell no. Now take your sign and fuck off into oncoming traffic or something.”
“Then you’re part of the problem,”
End is Nigh pulled out a sawn-off shotgun. Everyone hit the floor in unison. In what seemed to be the quickest I’ve seen him react, Russ crash-tackled End is Nigh to the ground, but not before he managed to squeeze off a shot into a nearby girl’s leg.
“Someone get this crazy fuck outta here!” I heard the manager yell.
I ran over to the injured girl, grabbing two handfuls of napkins from a nearby dispenser. I applied pressure to the wound. Our eyes met.
It was the girl from my dream.