Short Story Inspired by Art
Art from MendyZ
Short Story Inspired by Art
Art from MendyZ
The sands spanned on constantly, it reminded me of a Ukrainian flag that had been kicked through a mix of dirt and dog shit.
My partner and I trudged across this landscape, hoping our boots wouldn’t hit a soft spot in the sand. anything could throw us forward for a faceful of the yellow dust and whatever could be underneath it.
‘Why do I have to carry the hose?’ my partner said from behind me. His boots scuffed against the sand.
‘Because the person in front gets the gun,’ the gun was light in my palms. ‘Why does no one do this?’ I pulled back the bolt, removed the empty magazine and dropped it to the sand. My partner bumped into me. I shoved my foot forward to keep myself steady.
I turned to see him staring at a scar across his glove. ‘Goddamn it, Ted! Watch where you’re going!’ I looked back and then placed a loaded magazine in the gun. It clicked and I pulled back the bolt. I continued walking. The gun was now weighted to my hands, I gripped it tighter.
‘Hey, it’s not my-’ I looked over my shoulder and saw him swoop his hand down to get the magazine. The barrel’s water sloshed around on his back. ‘I wish you didn’t just drop these, you get sand all in them.’ He shoved the magazine into his pocket. ‘It’s not fair to the other people who have to clean the metal.’
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‘You just pat the bottom of it and you get the sand out. Plus, why do you care? We don’t have to clean them. The next ones have to.’ My boot hit something soft, I heard a wooden crack, and the sand began to give way under my feet. I scrambled back, jamming my foot on the harder ground as the sand fell down. I looked down the hole and saw white feathers torn and ruined, sprinkles of blood against the walls and some strings of meat. I steadied myself and continued to hike.
Ted chuckled. ‘At least you know we’re close to the sign.’ He walked up beside me, tapping the hose against the hardened walls of the hole, the ring that connected it shook against his wrist. ‘The holes appear when we’re close.’ The smile made his beard crooked, It made him look like his face muscles had been winched back with fish hooks. He began to walk away across the sand dunes.
I followed him. ‘What are the holes anyway?’ The entirety of his back was covered by the steel barrel.
‘I have no idea.’ His voice sounded muffled, possibly by the barrel. ‘I think bandits. Some people think literal tourist traps.’ He cackled like a witch and his long red hair flicked past the barrel as he moved his head. The landscape dipped ahead, making a small gorge. ‘But hey, if you don’t fall down one, I’ll get Air Raid to get you a Blitz special!’
‘That sounds nice, Ted… Real nice.’ A small tumbleweed rolled by our feet, it’s innards were littered with bloodied grey and white fur and was racked with the smell of burnt copper.
We climbed down metal steps into a ditch. We looked up as the sun hid behind a hill in front of us. The stairs in front of us looked as if they were made from a junkyard, random numbers and letters littered the metal stairs. Ted cleared his throat and pushed his glasses back, then straightened the drum on his back and began to climb the stairs. I placed the rifle on my back and followed.
I heard my partner say “thank god for the stair-makers” under his breath.
‘Hey, Ted. You want a beer later?’ I tapped the end of the rifle against the barrel, shaking the sand from my gun. I held the hand guard and shook the unwanted sand off my arm. ‘Air Raid probably has a couple.’
‘He probably does, but look.’ Ted turned to me, his grin and twisted beard barely visible past the drum. His thick framed glasses reflected blocks of the white sun, hiding his eyes. ‘We won’t have to go any further for the sign, Bob.’ He pointed over to a boulder, seemingly humongous in the fact that it was the only rock for miles.
A smell hit me, one that a toilet would have; I removed my bandana from my mouth and looked down at my shirt. My shirt was wet with sweat and, like a wound, it got worse as I looked at it. I pulled at it and it peeled away from my skin like velcro.
We walked over to the boulder, it looked like a gambler among Christians; out of place. We walked around it and turned to look at what was bolted to the rock: a green slab with words loosely constructed from metal squares of different letters peeled from everyday objects. The sign boasts, ‘Crius- the town to barter in’ and underneath it, in thick red lettering, is ‘Cock-Town!’
Ted muttered and cracked the spray-paint away with a high blast of water. It splashed all over, the water leaving puddles in the sand. the words disappeared, leaving bits of red scattered across the green metal. He flicked it off and turned to me, a dumb grin plastered under lengths of wiry hair. The brown water dripped from the sign.
‘Come on, move out of the way of the sign.’ I shook the gun, making it spill bits of dirt and sand down to the floor, as Ted stomped away from it. I marched like a British soldier away from the metal, planting myself ten meters or two away from it.
‘Do you have to?’ he said, looking over at the words nailed into the sign.
‘A tradition is a tradition.’ Ted threw his hands over his ears. I aimed and clicked the trigger. The gun cracked like thunder. The metal shook and a single piece splattered down to the ground.
‘Goddamnit.’ Ted walked over with the piece of metal and skewered it over a rusty nail. The metal scratched like a knife against a chalkboard.
I walked over and felt the metal. I brought my finger back quickly. ‘Damn,’ I wiped my finger on my shirt. ‘Almost straight through.’
‘Look, I don’t know who started the whole thing with shooting the ‘i’ but-’
‘It was your grandad.’
‘But…’ He rubbed his fingers between his eyes. ‘…do you have to do it every single time we come out here and clean this sign?’ Putting at the many dents and holes littering the green metal.
‘I don’t have to do it, but as I said-’
He rolled his eyes. ‘’Tradition is tradition,’’ Ted muttered. ‘But it’s a stupid one.’
‘So is sending us out to clean this thing with no vehicle, no food or no water. I mean, damn it! We had to bring our own fresh water! God knows what’s in that barrel!’ I began to walk away from the red rock.
‘Probably a lot of sewage.’
As we rounded the rock, we looked on towards our home. A titanic humanoid skeleton jutted against a red mountain. One arm draped down the path as the other hung by its side, the head leaned forwards. Its chin almost tapping the top of the ribcage, casting a shadow down upon the outer parts of its ribs. The skeleton’s eye sockets were blackened out by the tinted glass. The bones seemed to be as clear and clean as white mirrors, except the ribs, which were cluttered with humongous wooden balconies stretching away from the bones with sporadic buildings and signs littering the platforms.
Up the spine was what looked like a train track. A small train of carriages rolled up the spine, a thick metal wire ran down the track and ran up the track. At the top and bottom of the track were monstrous wheels and built next to them were mammoth generators, spinning the wheels one way or the other. The one at the top span towards the spine, and the one at the bottom span away lurching the train upwards.
‘Well,’ Ted said, jumping slightly as my eyes snapped towards him. ‘What’s a two-day hike to wipe the word “cock” off a sign comparing to almost twenty-four-hour use of that damn train?’ He walked along briskly, holding the drum by the straps, as I shut my mouth.
I thought for a few moments about what he said as I waddled back towards him. My foot struck another hole, I heard the wood collapse underneath sounding like moldy bones, and I quickly jerked it back. wood scraped against the rocky walls of the hole. I heard his barrel shake as he ran over.
‘Bobby, you really have to look out for the holes.’ He gave a goofy smirk.
Ted tapped his foot against the sand, spraying small clouds of dust. He adjusted his glasses again and scraped at his teeth through his fingerless gloves, going from one finger to the other and back again in a frantic motion.
The line jolted forward, I stretch my head to see the front of the line; six men, a steel wagon that shone dully, a horse built for dragging freight trains, and two women left to go. An old man wearing a hat made of poker cards lurched his legs into the town. A wall of litter, steel and dirtied white metal before we got into town, a sign twice the size of the guard used as the gate. Tank treads lined the sides of the sign as it peeked around the wall of motel signs and sheet metal.
I craned my head to look at the sniper towers, built of, what looked like, old bicycles and batteries and stuck together with spit and phlegm. The windows were covered in old blankets, yet they always had holes cut in them. Across the towers were paintings, but their red and black paintings of demonic faces and imagery were flaking into the winds, they still seemed to scare travelers.
Crude, child-like, and stenciled, the pictures were but it was always funny to see women run away, gibbering about the devil and the sickle he carried.
I smiled to myself, The Devil makes me feel at home.
‘Why don’t we just push to the front?’ I turned to see Ted’s beard almost touching my eye. I took a small quick step.
‘Because the mayor says we have to wait in line.’
The line jolted. A small man walked his freight train horse into Crius; the horse looked as if he could have broken the metal wall into with a simple kick.
‘Why does the mayor say that?’ The water in his barrel sloshed.
I felt the flicker of eyes turning to burrow into the insides of that barrel, I could have heard it if I tried.
I grabbed Ted by his shoulder. ‘Keep that goddamn-’
A black box was shoved in between our shoulders, it began to screech when it came near Ted’s barrel; it sounded like the sound of a waterfall ran through a broken vinyl record. I turned to the box and saw a green screen.
‘Thirty-eight… point nine millirems,’ The voice was muffled and it replaced Rs with an “ah”. ‘That ain’t good for you… Especially if you be wanting kids.’
I and Ted spun on our heels and looked down at the woman. Her head would have only touched one of their chests. The little woman was busy, shoving the black box into her grass stained shoulder bag. She looked up at us, her eyes switching from one face to another behind a black mask, the cheeks of the mask were littered with old paints and manufactured holes. She looked like she was wearing clothes made of a hessian sack as well.
A small pistol glinted into our eyes from the bag. Ted picked at his teeth and we both turned around; waiting for the line to move.
The line jolted forward again, we stepped forward. Then there was a faint click. It sounded like a mechanical version of someone clicking their tongue from the other end of a field.
I cocked my hand around to see the front of the line and saw the guard with his hands raised. His black balaclava and blonde mohawk quivered in fear. I leaned slightly further and saw a woman, dressed from head to toe in baggy denim except for her eyes which were covered in welding goggles. It looked like a tight sleeping bag with eyes cut out of it.
She aimed a revolver to the guard’s temple, it was fat and grey. A thick tube running under the other barrel. She flicked a switch on the hammer and aimed carefully.
I craned my head to look at the towers. A light flashed and a crack blew through the air. Everyone in the line ducked except me and Ted. I looked over at the guard, who was frozen as his armor dropped with the juices of life; the sleeping bag lay on the floor, a gaping and bloodied hole through the front of her head.
‘Now, we can push to the front.’ I sidestepped out of the line and strutted forward. Ted followed. We passed a man with an assortment of batteries as shoulder guards cowering and covering his ears and moved by a small girl staring over at the sleeping bag woman. She didn’t seem to care.
I walked up to the guard and he snapped back into reality. He opened his mouth to scream at me to get to the back of the line but his eyes glimpsed at the barrel and hose. He gulped and nodded.
Before entering, I reached down and held the revolver by its wooden handle. I held it daintily in front of the guard’s eyes. I glanced at the butt of the pistol, “vetus terram” in a slab of fool’s gold was screwed to it.
‘Can I have this?’
His eyes flickered to the demons on the towers and back to me, his mohawk shook in approval.
‘Can I drop this?’ Ted heaved the straps of his drum.
His eyes flickered again, and he shook yes again. Ted quickly unfastened the drum and dropped it to the ground. It struck the ground with a thick thud.
‘Thank you.’ Then we strolled through the metal walls and into town. The gate welcoming us in with a neon glinted “welcome!”. I wiped the blood off of the double barrels on my sleeve then stuck the gun on my belt.
The town gleamed into our eyes like odd shaped and rotten teeth buried in yellow gums. They suited the word “rotten” well with almost whole parts of walls flaking off into dust. The houses joined randomly to one another. all of them made of rusty metal and iron armored doors. Although they seemed to be cold and unwelcoming, they shone brightly in the sun.
I looked over and saw people running around by the skeleton’s hand, the tallest of them, from what I could make it, had a scruffy beard and was about twice the size of any person near him. He only stood slightly taller than the tip of the bony finger.
Ted blew air through his nose at the tall man, a small smirk breaking parts of his beard. I looked around and saw Air Raid’s shop.
To the naked eye, it would look like it was where the other houses grew from, like a needle being around a single of blotches and measles. Air Raid’s shop stuck from the ground, looking like a dead earthworm coloured white. The body had broken down, leaving dirtied three tubes that connected through pieces of metal and shredded wires. The wings had been taken from the body, carted away, and broken; leaving the tube to look like the worm it was.
We walked over to the shop. The ramp of the cargo hold acting as the door remained open at all times of the night and day, that only left people to scrawl profanities and other things across the flap. Today, someone had carved the words “fuck” with what looked like a rake. We stepped onto the word and crossed it to get into the rest of the plane.
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The innards of the plane were littered with rubbish and junk. Across the walls were burnt baseball bats, moulding, and deformed tennis rackets, and even a hockey stick tied together with tape. All of them pierced with nails and stuck to the walls through the orange netting.
The rest of the plane was littered with either broken or makeshift furniture. Restaurant booths were made of burnt and torn sofas, all of which leaked a mystery pus, and tables, made of cardboard, metal, wood, old mortar shellings and brooms sticks.
All of it complimented each other, but not in the supposed friendly way, it complimented each other with the smell it gave off. The smell of decay that had been aging in a barrel for centuries.
Then we saw Air Raid, who, at that moment, was a passed out drunk on his register.
His long hair stuck to his face like fur on a horse’s backside. The thick blankets of it covered his eyes, acting as a blindfold. Flies swarmed around him as an almost visible stink of alcohol and sweat poured from his face and greasy hair.
He wore a denim jacket which was thick and slimy with body odour. Badges and pins littered the jacket as well, they all seemed to have been rotting like if they were made of meat. His shirt was supposed to be bright yellow but over the years had become groggy and looked like sand. It proudly screamed the words “Rovina cigarettes!” with an angel with a cigarette hanging loosely from its mouth.
Ted walked towards him until his face was level with Air Raid’s. He carefully parted the greased hair with the tips of his fingers and revealed a pair of reflective sunglasses. Ted grunted and slapped him right in the middle of the glasses.
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Air Raid jerked like jumper cables had been attached to his stomach and gave a look that would match that of an angry dog when his owner puts his finger too close to the dog’s teeth.
“What do you want, Ted?” He spans on the counter and dropped himself down behind the register, an old one that had springs, wires, and those flaps that pop up behind the glass. Across the back of the cash register was a sticker of a bottle cap with “ERBA” printed across it.
“I want…” He looked up at the menus. The menus consisted of blackboard hung by old cargo hooks and bungee cord. “Two blitz specials.”
‘Two blitz specials?’ Air Raid placed a hand on the counter, pulling out two plain brown boxes. He placed them neatly on the counter. ‘That’ll be two bullets, a shotgun shell, or grenade.’ He gave a bent smile. ‘I do have change.’
I pulled the revolver from my belt and flicked out the cylinder to the side. Six bullets encircled around a fat shotgun shell. I squeezed my nails around the shell and pulled it out.
‘Here, one shell.’ I threw it and it hit his shirt, right in the angel’s face.
He caught it before it hit the ground and he brought it up, rattling it next to his here.
‘Alright…’ He pushed the boxes towards the edge. He popped open the counter and slotted the shell into it.
We grabbed our meals and left. Not wanting to be dripped on by the furnishings.
To enjoy the artwork that inspired this short story visit this painting at MendyZ.com and to purchase prints, on canvas, paper and all sorts of fun functional objects, including on a battery backup pack for your phone!
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