Fun IN THE Apocalypse
2. November 22nd 3:00 PM (3 weeks after Nuclear Holocaust)
(((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((3 weeks until Judgment Day)
Stanley snaps awake. He has not moved, but he knows time has. He cannot move, he feels as though he is in an infinite state of pain. His hands are too tender to disturb, and are already performing the jobs of crutch and cradle. Stanley works up the nerve to open his eyes. It is still gray. 'Where was he going?' he wondered. It had been three weeks since Times Square. He knows that he was on some sort of a mission. With companions he both knew and trusted. He could see their faces in his thoughts. But he could not remember their names or how he knew them. Stanley tried digging through his memory, but was quickly confronted with the spiking pain coming from his chest cavity. When he looked down, his shirt was torn, and his left hand was slid over his chest and clotting the wound on his ribcage. It was not cold, but the wind didn't feel right. It felt mutated, polluted. His skin crawling with slimy pain, and his ribs prickling. The more he thought about the pain, the more he was consumed by it. Once again Stanley was launched out of consciousness, and awoke in the past. . .
((((((((((......2 weeks and 6 days earlier, (November 2nd)......
When Stanley woke up, he was back in the subway tunnels of New York City. What if Niki was one of the people he had just pictured in his head? The first thing he had to do was make a suit to protect him from the fallout radiation awaiting him on the surface. Out from his bag he wrapped his head with a towel and taped it together with duct tape. He cut a long slit across the face so he could see. He put on a pair of gloves that he found and taped the edges of his sleeves and pant-legs to his gloves and boots. He had also found a zipper-down maroon sweatshirt that he found on a kid lying across the platform of the subway station below Central Park. He zipped the sweatshirt up and slid the hood over the towel-mask he had crafted. Stanley slung the backpack back around his shoulders and braced himself for what he was about to do. Even with all of this extra precaution, the fallout could be so bad that he dies instantaneously upon resurfacing. He took a deep breath and hoped that he was to survive for a reason. Stanley slowly crawled up the staircases, expecting to feel sick or to start having trouble breathing. But he was fine. He made it out to the street and found that it was surprisingly calm. No falling buildings or earthy quakes, just debris and ruin. He looked around, and while stepping on a street corner covered in tiny fibers of broken glass, he found that he was on the corner of fifth avenue.
He could see trees. Green trees with slightly dampened scalps. The bushy leaves would serve as good protection as anything against radiation, that is...besides good ol' fashion concrete. Perhaps this "Niki" is still alive. Stanley hurried into the park to see what was inside. All of the minor aspects of the park, like benches and fences, were completely intact. Some of the small tunnel-like buildings were collapsed and injured, but besides that... Central Park was virtually untouched by the destruction.
He passed a Nuts 4 Nuts cart and foraged for some supplies. He opened the metal crate and inside was filled with roasted peanuts, cashews, and almonds. He tried one and it tasted fine. So after stuffing a handful into his mouth, Stanley filled the side pockets of his pack with as many nuts as he could. A roar sounded off from behind him, and he froze letting the remaining nuts roll off his fingertips and back into the crate. Stanley slowly turned around. A bear was leering at him. Apparently, this was his treasure that he was ransacking. Stanley held his hands up with his palms out like he was under arrest. Just beside him was a thick stick at least six feet long. It might be his only defense. The grizzly bear kept growling as he staggered an approach on poor Stanley. He knew that he would only have one shot at this before the grizzly got him. The moment he pauses to change over from walking to attacking will be Stanley's window of opportunity. The bear shifted his weight to his back feet, and Stanley jumped into action. In one fluent motion, he picked up the stick and whipped the other end of it across the bully bear's face. Stanley swung his new staff around and slammed it in front of him on the floor. The bear cowered over his face. Stanley jumped up and down, thrusting the staff with both of his hands above him, and screaming like a mad man. The bear back-pedaled back into the woods and retreated its attack on brave Stanley.
He walked into the inner circles of the urban oasis with a new found sense of dominance. For a second, a light appeared in the sky right above the stone path he was walking down. He rushed to get a closer glimpse of it. But when he got over the small ridge, it was gone. What was there instead was much more bizarre. Ahead of Stanley was a split in the path, a fork in the road. And in the fork-causing field was a massive boulder. And standing atop that boulder was a male lion, staring down on Stanley. The mighty lion looked as though he was waiting for Stanley. He approached the royal beast with much caution. He did not rule out the smell of the nuts emitting from his pack as bait, but something about the lion seemed unusual. He twisted the staff between his two hands tight and kept a slight pace towards the boulder. When Stanley walked up, around the steep edge of the cliff, and arrived at the back the lion was gone. He was no longer waiting for Stanley. Stanley stepped out on top of the boulder himself and took a look at the view. When he turned back around there was the lion again, blocking his only way off the cliff. Stanley jousted into a defensive position with his staff. The lion was not prowling, he was sitting on his hind legs and positioned in a formal stance.
Stanley went along with the vibe he was receiving from the lion and lowered his staff. The lion lifted off his hind legs and walked over close to Stanley. He circled him and sniffed the air around him, Stanley felt like he was being tested. When the lion finished he bowed before Stanley. Not knowing what to do next, he dared to pet the respectful beast on the head. When he did, the lion did not stir or startle. Stanley had tamed a wild animal; a predator of the jungle. He walked past the lion and off of the cliff. He continued on his path through the heart of Central Park.
When Stanley got to the Central Park Zoo, he was not surprised to see that all of the cages were either unlocked or destroyed. After crossing paths with two of the world's scariest animals, he was prepared for anything, in a jungle full of mysteries. There was one cage that was still locked and fully intact. Stanley got close enough to it to have a look inside. What he found inside was the farthest outcome to come to mind when predicting how he would end up finding Niki, that old man's daughter. There she was, bound and gagged, inside the lock zoo cage. How could she have gotten in there? Stanley immediately came to the conclusion that she was not alone. And whoever it may be was not someone of pleasant company. What psycho would kidnap an innocent girl moments after the world apocalypse? He picked up the biggest rock he could find and began smashing the lock of the cage. After five or six tries, a voice came from behind him, saying,
"What'd ya think yer doin'?'"
Stanley turned around holding the rock in one hand and his staff in the other.
"I found'er. She's mine." the psycho said. Stanley measured up the first walking person he's seen since the disaster. His clothes were torn, his shirt almost to the point where it was completely off. There was blood all over him and his head was swelled passed capacity. He looked almost deformed, not to mention he was drooling, and altogether barely resembling any form of humanity, other than the ability to speak. He had gone feral, rabid. Stanley tore off his towel-mask, raised his chest along with his staff, and beckoned to the stranger,
"The girl is coming with me."
The lunatic laughed at his words and began his swagger more towards Stanley. When Stanley raised his staff above his head to ready himself for a swing, the strange man pulled a gun from behind his waist. It was a .44 Magnum. He laughed again before the gurgling noise from his throat was cut off by five words,
"You'll do no such thing."
Stanley spotted the pistol in his hand and sprung into action. He took three paces forward before the lunatic fired his magnum. It was just enough to get one swing off. But just before his staff collided with the kidnapper's head, the fired bullet shattered the stick. The harsh vibration from the shot forced Stanley to drop the broken staff. He was now standing in the park, defenseless, against this armed freak. He knocked Stanley with the butt of the magnum, and Stanley fell to the floor.
"What's your name, cowboy?"
Stanley looked up the barrel of the .44 Magnum with pure contempt. "It's..." but as Stanley went to finish his answer, it fell into the wind as something far more fierce overshadowed him. Stanley's lion had pounced from the outlining forest and tackled the lunatic kidnapper. The gun was thrown down to the floor. Stanley scrambled to his feet and acted, running over to and picking up the magnum. But before he could use it on the kidnapper, Stanley could see that the lion had mauled him to death. The kingly animal dripped blood from its fangs as he faced Stanley and ran back into the park. The body of his former foe was savagely torn to shreds. His carcass was hallowed out; his throat, carved to pieces. The lion had done a number on the downed enemy, but he did not venture a meal out of it.
Lion's have ideal senses and Stanley realized something was askew with his condition. Something important enough for the lion to have identified; as if it was foul meat. Radiation poisoning is like any other disease with all kinds of forms and affects. It looked like the radical growth of his brain cells were the majority target of all the mutation from the radiation he took on. His mind was flooded with blood and over-activity. Lord knows what he was planning to do with that poor girl...He got on his knees and picked up the splinters stick that was formerly his staff. He put the broken pieces in his bag for sentimental sake.
On the way back to the cage, Stanley checked the revolver he was carrying. He had five bullets left. He aimed the gun at the lock, turned his face to cover it with his arm, and fired the magnum with the other arm. The bullet torched through the lock and the door swung open. Stanley was instantly horrified over what the sound of the shot could have attracted. He put the mission on high gear and ran over to the unconscious girl. The gunfire seemed to have stirred the girl somewhat awake, for when Stanley untied her bounds and removed the gag, she had come to.
'Incredible,' he thought, "We have to get out of here," he helped her up and, while being a crutch to lean on, escorted her out of her jail cell. They got passed the zoo and back into the forest.
"Who are you?" asked Niki, trying to get a handle on what was happening.
"Stanley. I'm Stanley."
"Thank you... Stanley."
"Don't thank me, thank your father." Niki stopped walking with him and stood on her own.
"My father sent you?" she said in all seriousness.
"Right before he died." Stanley spared her in his bluntness. She took a step back as if she was pushed off balance. Her eyes already welled up with tears. She faced Stanley too afraid to go to him and too upset to stand alone. But her conflict was mercilessly cut short. Sharp, loud, cracks popped through her chest at Stanley.
The bullets narrowly missed him. He ran over and caught her collapsing body, aiming the magnum towards the gunshots. A reflection of light gave away the shooter's position and Stanley let off a round. What a rush. Four bullets left. He moved her up behind a tree, and gently laid her head down on the floor. He charged in his flowing rage and pointed the gun out with both hands. He was in it now, the fight for his life. Attempting to get a hold of what lies beyond the limit. He saw yet another savage, this one a hunter, readjusting his prone position for another shot. What kind of man would go on a killing spree after a global meltdown? Mania was becoming alarmingly common between survivors. Stanley ran up on him, taking him by surprise, and fired three more shots down his back. Mortal wounds too severe to come back from. The lunatic was dead. Only one bullet left. But on the other hand, he had just inherited a scoped rifle. Two clicks and he popped out the clip; it looked full. He reloaded the rifle and cocked it. Now ready for one shot action, he harnessed the rifle around his shoulder, hanging down his back.
Stanley returned to Niki and checked her vitals. There was no life left in her body. All that for nothing. He had failed. Was Stanley insensitive? For he did not care. There were other people out there; that, he confirmed. He took the rifle off of his back and headed back into the park. He was more concerned about what was next. He should go home; see if his family was still alive. He lived in a small town in eastern Pennsylvania. Nowhere close to relevance; more than two hours away from any important city. More than enough reason to believe they had not seen any of the holocaust up there. All he had to do was find and follow the highways. Stanley exited the park out of its north western side and headed for the Henry Hudson Parkway. The lion followed him out of the park unseen and stayed hidden behind the ruined city wreckage being used as camouflage. The City Lion would stalk Stanley to safety. And if his past couple of confrontations were any sign of the hostility and difficulty that travel had become, he was in for a load of trouble.