The Perfect Apocalypse
Unseen Prophet/Invisible Enemy
by Rob Richardson
It was hard not to be curious as to their motives.
I had tracked them since their emergence from the Grand Central Gateway. I had been warned to stay away from the gaping chasms and tunnels that led to The Below since I was a child but I had no need to fear them now.
They were nothing but abandoned passages to ignorance and fear. To a world that had been left behind centuries ago.
The couple had some sort of dispute and it was apparent that they did not fully trust one another. That was a mistake. Those that surfaced from The Below rarely survived in The Above. You needed all the allies you could get – you needed someone to watch you back. If you couldn’t trust your companion to do that then you were fucked.
That word always made me laugh. The Old Speech was rough and harsh sounding but it was often the most descriptive and reliable. Plus, it rolled off the tongue so easily.
I had watched them for four days now, they had barely traveled ten miles. In fact on the second day, they had circled the perimeter of the previous nights camp. Even the most expert of survivalists could become lost in this unforgiving jungle. They were yet to encounter any of the horrors that dwelt within it.
But they would. And soon.
They were headed toward a Hulk encampment. When those beasts decided to hunt it was time for the jungle to shut down. Everything, and I do mean everything, went to ground. The Hulks though – a by-product of the scientists at CERN opening infinite doorways to other universes – could tear acres of this terrain open and would readily feast on deadly Rag-Deer or Ghost Wolf for several days before ending their onslaught.
How do I know about the truth about CERN? I’m the only one who does.
I was once a girl of the Y’Xanshi tribe. We were nomadic but stuck to the boundaries of the exotic terrain that had once been North America. My father was the Chief’s Third Spearman. It wasn’t an honour as such but it did mean we ate before most of the others in the clan.
We traveled game trails, losing much of our number to the Rag-Deer. Our main sport was Justsi Lizards which were integral to our well-being. We used their skin for clothing and shelter, their bones as weapons and their meat for sustenance.
One day, our paths crossed that with the marauding Hulks. The immense red-furred behemoths ripped through the treeline, hurling and crushing those I had loved, grown up and broke bread with. The ate my father quickly before glaring in my direction and pushing through the undergrowth as I fled.
I came across an ancient, scientific compound. The facility had once been owned by the United States military but ran under the guise of a pharmaceutical company called Life Cine. And life it did indeed hold.
I dodged incoming boulders and logs that were thrown at me from the creatures that were pursuing me. For them it had become more of a game. They wanted me dead now for sport. It was not about feeding anymore.
I fell through a crumbling wall in the facility and into a pool of silver liquid. I frantically tried to escape the fluid-filled pit but I was unable to reach the edge. The Hulks were baring down on me now. It was drown or be torn limb from limb. I began to panic and the world turned black.
As I came round, sub-dermal processors whirred into life. My eyes shone with a renewed brightness and I could sense new things. Around me lay the corpses of the animals that had led the chase. They were torn apart, savaged even.
There was a stabbing pain in my head. Something wanted access to my thoughts. So I let it.
The SUIT (Sub-dermal Utilitarian Infiltrator Technology) had bonded with me at a genetic level. It knew everything about the world after CERN. It could tell me about the world before CERN. It gave me strength, agility, heightened senses and the power to camouflage with my environment. I was the most powerful being on the planet. The top of the food chain.
SUIT told me that I was The One.
I had to protect the world from those who sort to change it. SUIT and I were survivors and this world befit us.
Looking at the pair who bickered and argued below my hidden position, my decision was made for me.
To spare them the horror of this world I had to kill them.
The Perfect Apocalypse
Stain of Scarlet in the Long Ago
by Maria Selke
A faint buzz of grow lamps fills the air. A solitary scientist, clad in the white coat that is the mark of laboratories everywhere, slips into the room. Humming softly to herself, she tugs on her long brown braid as she approaches a single robust plant. The clusters of alabaster blossoms and succulent leaves are a stark contrast to the dozens of yellowed, wilting plants that surround it.
“Greetings, my darling” she whispers to the plant. “Let’s get you ready for the real set of tests, shall we?”
Grasping the base of the plant gently, she upends the pot and taps the bottom gently. Suddenly, her hand jerks back and the plant drops onto the countertop, shattering the pot.
“Dammit!” she exclaims. “When did you grow thorns, my lovely?” Her hand leaps to her mouth as she sucks on her fingers while looking down at the plant. Several drops of her blood glisten brightly against the deep green of the thorns on the stem. As she watches, the drops appear to be sucked into the stem of the plant itself.
“Well now, that’s strange.” She murmurs to herself. Quickly and efficiently, and with no more lost blood, she divides the plant into three sections.
One pot, filled with sand, she places into a chamber with blazing heat lamps. A second pot, filled with thick clay soil, she places into dark chamber with swirling gases. The third plant, without a pot at all, she slips into an aquarium. It floats for a moment before sinking into the silt at the bottom of the tank.
Slowly she shuffles through the room, gazing sadly at many shelves filled with dying plant life.
“This better work,” she whispers, “because we are running out of time.”
As she closes the door to the lab behind her, a small bubble escapes from the tank. If she had returned to the plants at that moment, she would have seen the alabaster blossoms changing. From the base of each blossom a blush of color crept toward the tips. Moments later, not a single white flower remained. In their place were lush, scarlet blossoms.
Welcome to 2012 – the year of new beginnings and possibly the most final of endings!
As you can all see, The Perfect Apocalypse is following along nicely as Maria Selke gives us her interpretation of the landscape above ground, Michelle Lloyd and Arch take our heroine deeper into the bewildering environment and Jason Schiely puts up some more beautiful cover and concept art.
Hope you are all OK and, more importantly, reading, writing and drawing hard as this year is the year the Runaways make their stand. 2012 is going to be the year that Runaway Writings brings the conclusion to many of last years storylines but gives birth to many more sagas – limited only by your imagination!
More than ever do we want YOU to join our project! Whether you’re an artist, a writer or even a musician, Runaway has a place for you. It couldn’t be simpler to join our project. Read through our work, pick up a story strand you like and lets us know that you’d like to get involved in the next chapter. Comment below one of our posts or DM us on either Facebook or Twitter. Check out our Mission Statement for more!
What are you waiting for?
The clock is ticking…
Aeryn Soma Above
by Jason Schiely
Aeryn Soma Above from the latest collaborative project The Perfect Apocalypse by Jason Schiely
The Perfect Apocalypse
Scratching The Surface
Arthur crept in the shadows attempting to keep watch on Aeryn. She had already begun her climb up the Grand Staircase toward the faint light in the expanse above. The Soothsayer’s Warchief watched her ascend slowly, almost as if she was more nervous than she had led on. A warrior she may be, but hardly the heart of a lion. The stairs were a rusted metal, flaking in some parts with hints of its original form in others. They rose eight steps, plateaued and turned to the left, rose another eight steps, plateaued and turned to the left, and repeated the process for six flights in all. Aeryn had made it almost five flights before feeling the unease of being followed or watched. Her hand raced to the hilt of her blade in anticipation of a blindsided attack.
Arthur gazed in amusement as she seemed to jerk right and left, look up and down, anticipating an unsuspecting spy.
“Show yourself, fool!” Soma cursed at the echo from her shout that reverberated off the cavern-esque walls. After a few moments she took a deep breath and reassured herself she could continue her ascension. No sooner had Aeryn regained her composure only to be spooked once again.
“The surface is not what you think.” Arthur immediately evaded the incoming blade, fully aware of Soma’s abilities. “You might not be so successful hitting me, since, well; you know…I mentored you.” The blade caught a piece of the wall, snagging a mess-like fabric and tearing through a cylindrical banister.
“The Soothsayer sent his watchdog to check up on me? How remarkably expected.”
“He believes that I do his bidding, but we all do what we have to in order to survive. Put the sword away, you can stop playing the ‘hero’ now.” Slowly Aeryn’s massive blade made it back into its sheath. “Ah, waiting for an explanation? I forget how outspoken you are sometimes.” Arthur looked her over awaiting her to regain her calm. “Before you tried to carve me up I mentioned how different the surface actually is from what you’ve been told.”
“You’ve been to the surface?” A befuddled expression came over Aeryn’s stoic face.
A wry smile came over the Warchief while he continued with his story. “You heard the great and powerful Soothsayer mention that nobody goes up willingly. Well…who do you think he sends up unwillingly? He’s not going to send diplomats or couriers or even traders to the top. No, no, no. His best blade should be able to handle whatever is above.”
“I beg to differ.” Aeryn interjected insulted by his claims as “best blade”.
“Ah, yes, you are the best blade now. Terribly sorry for the confusion. To the point, no one has seen the top more than I. Thus, who better to chaperone you than CERN’s most loyal and trustworthy soldier?”
“No one has seen it more than you? Others have been up there?” Again, confusion flushed over Soma’s fierce features.
“It’s really quite amazing how well we have kept the ‘People of the Shade’ in the dark. Do you really believe the blabbering of a filthy, old man? And yes, he really does reek. Primarily of sewage and wet leather, trust me. The man is simply telling the people what he wants them to hear. And blindly, the people depict it as fact. The old seer is undoubtedly a ‘soothsayer’ but not the ‘all-knowing’. You see, the prophecy is exactly the reason we are underground in the first place. Our beloved master saw the outside world decay around us and deemed himself fit to lead a civilization. Very inspiring words convinced all of those you see below to heed everything that senile clairvoyant spews.”
“Why do you speak this way? You degrade our father and speak of treachery.”
“No, silly girl. Not treachery. His intentions were noble. He wanted to shield humankind from the devastation that was happening above. Our beloved Soothsayer wanted to start over, begin anew down here until the surface was ready for us to once again roam. I want you to be ready girl. When you come to the top of this staircase I want you to understand just what exactly we will encounter.”
Arthur began past her and up the stairs. Still she stood there, unsure if she was enraged or intrigued. Perhaps it was both. What could the Soothsayer possibly gain from folktales and fiction? She began after Arthur, hurrying to catch up.
“If our leader speaks lies, what is truly wandering up above?”
Watchman continued climbing, within steps of the dim light coming from the surface. He finally came to a halt at the top of the Grand Staircase and waited for Aeryn to join him.
“You wonder what is out there, girl. The rest of the world.”
The Perfect Apocalypse
Scarlet Blossoms in the Long Ago
by Maria Selke
A slow trickle of murky water drips from a rusty pipe into a small lake with slimy algae coating the surface. In the distance, a squat gray building mars the landscape. At the water’s edge nearest the pipe a small bush grows, rooted in a mound of ash. Scarlet blossoms release a hauntingly sweet aroma. Several vines have grown into the water, and the submerged blooms are swarmed by small fish nibbling. At the opposite shore, the slime is thick, and it has congealed around a floating bass.
Small gusts of wind lift puffs of the ash, scattering them into the distance.
In a silent glade, scarlet blossoms are being nibbled by a trembling fawn. The bush grows entwined with a fresh doe’s carcass. A drift of ash at the base mingles with a puddle of Mt. Dew spilled from a litter of cans.
Nearby, a glimpse into the shadows reveals a pair of wolves creeping near the fawn. One crouches lower, lower, then pounces.
A snarl, a flash of sharp white teeth, a splash of blood drips into the dirt.
A lone wolf darts away from the carnage, while the fawn rips into her kill.
I’m a girl with a thirst for words – I always have been. I’m passionate about precision; seeking just the “right word” to make my points.
I wrote up a storm in elementary and middle school. I wrote in high school. (Please, though, don’t ask me to show you anything I wrote. The little I remember of my writing from those times is hysterically embarrassing.) I wrote on and off through college, and on and off in my adult life. I even wrote a few things I’m really quite proud of. Maybe someday I’ll share.
Currently, though, I’m a lapsed writer. I’m all “grownup” now, and that means adult responsibilities. Kids, job, dealing with the house… all of these things have been gobbling up my time. I teach gifted students in elementary school, which is a little bit like herding cats. I love it, though, and can’t imagine doing anything else right now. I come home to two kids of my own – little boys who also need a lot of my time! I’m married to my high school sweetheart – happily married for almost 19 years. Yes, such things do happen outside of the movies. The things that tend to drop off my “to do” list are housework and writing. Ah, priorities.
I’ve recently started writing some reviews of books and comics. The really creative stuff, though, hasn’t been happening. That’s one of the reasons I’m so excited to have found Runaway Writers. Promising to write for someone else – giving myself a deadline – hopefully those things will get me to put my “butt in chair” (Thanks go to Jane Yolen for that amazing advice, which I hardly ever follow). Thanks for the welcome, and poke me if I get lax, please?