The U.S. of After Chapter 13

Howard

I sat in the bed of the red Dodge truck with the remaining barrel of diesel, two empty barrels, a couple of dirty rags, a shovel and a skinny member of the enemy named Moloch.  I remembered him from before.  We knew each other in a way that old family know each other, except that our family had been at war with each other for eons.

“I got no quarrel with you, goody,” came his raspy voice slithering across his blackened tongue and through his filed down teeth.  “We’ll just sit here in the back of this truck and ride the ride and nothing funny will happen.  Get it?”

I watched him fold and unfold the claws he used for hands as the wind blew his mass of black hair around his pale yellow face.  This one was full of poison as most of them were but he had been feeding off of misery and was somehow secretly stronger than others I had lately had the displeasure of encountering.

“There will not be any trouble, Moloch,” I said, trying to use the most calming tone I could muster considering the circumstances.  “But mark my words, if you try anything to harm Clayton and Amy I will have stomp you into the earth.”

Moloch laughed a wheezy laugh, a sound that if heard by the three in the cab of the truck it would cause them to  swerve all over the pock marked road.  It was a laugh that growled and gurgled as if from the mouth of a man stabbed in the throat.

“There is a great battle coming, Howard,” he said, his black within black eyes narrowing.  “It will be the end of your kind.  Our armies are massing.  The city of man is being constructed as we speak.”

“Really,” I chuckled.  “You and I both know the ending of this story.  It ends with one word.  If I knew the word, I would use it now.  These skirmishes are nearing an end, but the war ended long ago.”

He stood up in the bed of the truck, stretched his skinny arms out and then writhed to the top of the cab, his movements odd and unnatural.  He sat cross legged and let the wind blow his raven hair around his jaundiced face while he leaned back on his two, rail thin arms.

“What would you do if I caused Ralphie here to get an itchy trigger finger.  I already tempted him into hurting two fools in town three days ago.  What’s to stop me now?”

I stood to my full height.  I was a little taller than this little lackey rodent and let him know it.  I could feel the vibration of the road moving through my feet and into my body.  It was coupled with an energy that flowed through me greater than nuclear powered electricity.  Moloch looked at me with a warped, sardonic smirk.  His crooked hand raised slightly, taunting me.

“It would be the end of you, Moloch,” I threatened.  “At least for a while.”

We remained there for a few seconds, frozen in locked gazes, my eyes narrowing and my fists clenching.  The truck came to the top of a hill and I unlocked my glare for a bit to see a giant plume of black smoke rising just beyond the trees, the city of McAlester a burning ember of what it once was.  This is when Moloch inexplicably reached through the cab of the pickup and yanked on the steering wheel before jumping away and speeding off in a smear of black ink.

The truck’s tires squealed in protest, and as it began flipping on its side I went to work.

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