She winced under the needle.
“Ow! Easy with that!
Bob sipped from his straw and watched his friend apply the finishing touches of ink into the skin. He didn’t understand why anyone would spend that kind of money on a tattoo. It didn’t seem practical.
“Hang in there, almost done,” Spencer assured.
It’s not that Bob didn’t appreciate the art or the skill, he just didn’t appreciate people. They were confusing and volatile. He liked Spencer though.
“How long you been at it?” Bob asked.
Spencer focused on the details, “How long would you say, Zed? Two hours?”
“Feels like it,” she said.
Bob tilted his head, taking in the piece, “Road Warrior, huh?”
She threw up the devil horns with her available hand, “Favorite movie.”
“Not bad,” he nodded. “I always wondered what I’d do if civilization collapsed.”
Spencer chuckled, “My brother wants me to go to his bunker, but I have to bring my own ammunition, so I guess I’m fucked.”
His brother was a paranoid conspiracy junkie – lizard pedophiles and the lot – weird shit.
Bob tossed his cup in the trash, “You really should get a gun, man. You never know.”
“There’s enough guns in this country as it is,” Zed added.
“Truth,” said Spencer.
Bob’s eyes darted between the two, “Exactly, and they have them. If shit went all Mad Max, do you really want to be at their mercy?”
Spencer looked up from his work, “Who are ‘they’?”
“The fuckers with the guns, Spence,” he insisted. “Do you think they’re all gonna mind their own business?”
“Dude, you have a nine that hasn’t been fired since the 60s.”
Bob scoffed, “Your point?”
“What are you gonna do with it?” he laughed.
Zed joined in, “Yeah, what’s your big apocalypse plan?”
Bob sat back in his chair and glanced at the clock clinging from the wall above them. He only had 10 minutes left on his lunch break. More than enough time to devise a fool-proof gameplan.
He thought about it…
It was a Sunday morning, the sun radiated off the asphalt creating a blanket of heat that suffocated the neighborhood. Something seemed fitting about the idea of a complete societal collapse taking place on a Sunday. Perhaps it was the whole God thing, or maybe it seemed typical that it would ruin his one day to relax. Regardless, he sat smoking a joint on his couch watching reruns of Cheers, wondering who would honestly pick Rebecca over Diane. Suddenly his phone came to life with an emergency tone, startling him from his relaxed daze and sending his heart into his throat.
“Jesus, what the hell is this all about?” he asked himself as he grabbed the phone. He read the message, rubbed his eyes, then read it once more. Was he really that stoned? No – well, he was – but it was legit. He couldn’t believe it. On the cracked screen, the words were capitalized and clear:
EMERGENCY ALERT: WORLD ENDING. COLLAPSE OF DOLLAR, POSSIBLE NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST OR MAYBE POWER GRID WENT DOWN. DON’T KNOW. FUCK YOU. PLEASE REMAIN CALM.
Bob stared at his phone, “Well, that’s a bummer.”
He finished his joint and discarded it in the ashtray, the residual smoke slithered toward the ceiling as he put on his comfy slips and grabbed his gun. Like many people, Bob had slippers; but he also had a plan in case of a catastrophe, and the first phase of his plan was essential:
Collect as much liquor as humanly possible.
He knew just where to go. He walked the three flights of stairs down to the sidewalk where the ground-level neighbor kept a Radio Flyer wagon as a decorative piece for her plants. Bob dumped the plants and grabbed the wagon. The world was ending and there was no time to waste.
With his wagon in tow, he walked to the corner liquor store just down the street and stopped outside the door. It was eerily quiet. He pulled out his gun and chambered a cartridge, then carefully made his way inside along with his wagon. Inside, he scanned the store, gun at the ready and prepared for the worst. As he turned the corner he could hear the sounds of The Grateful Dead playing on the radio, and standing behind the counter was Lee, a small man with glasses and thinning grey hair tied in a ponytail.
He smiled at Bob, “Hey, Bob.”
Bob was baffled. He looked around again before walking up to the counter, “Hey Lee. I figured this place would have been raided by now.”
Lee chuckled, “Me too. Crazy times, huh?”
“What are you still doing here?” Bob asked, “I figured you’d have jumped ship.”
“Eh, I got nothin better to do,” he said.
Bob nodded. This was all a bit surreal. “Alright. Well, I’m gonna go ahead and grab some stuff and be on my way then.”
Lee smiled, “Cool, man.”
“I’m not gonna pay for it,” he asserted.
It must have been some form of shock, Bob told himself. The dude was fucking zen. It was almost admirable, really. Time was running out, though, so he did his best Supermarket Sweep around the store and stopped back at the counter.
“Grab me a couple cartons of smokes, would ya?” Bob asked. No point in not smoking now.
Lee frowned, “Come on, man, you’ve done so good. Don’t go throwing it away.”
“Lee, the world is coming to an end,” he argued, “self-improvement is a luxury now. Just get me the smokes.”
The little man sighed and climbed onto the step ladder next to the cigarettes. Even with the assistance of elevation, he still needed to get on his tip-toes to grab the cartons. He came back down and set them on the counter along with some matches. “I think you should reconsider, man, but that’s just me.”
Bob retrieved a pack from one of the cartons and threw the rest into the wagon. “Well I appreciate you looking out for me. Have a good one, buddy.”
Lee waved as he walked out with the loot, “You too, man. Take it easy.”
Bob lit a cigarette as he stepped out of the store and made his way back to the apartment. In a way, he was grateful to have an excuse to smoke again, and it was divine. Once he had hauled his load of alcohol and smokes into his apartment, he positioned some of his furniture as a barricade outside of his front door and took to the back patio. Sat on his office chair that he dragged outside, he lit another cigarette and opened a bottle of Jameson and began phase two of his plan: get really drunk.
The sun was beginning to set and his plan was being executed to perfection. This tranquility would not last, however. He began to hear desperate screams down the street, and they were growing louder.
“Help! Somebody please help me! Help! Anyone!”
Bob got up from his chair and leaned out over the patio, squinting to see what was causing all the commotion. Running up the street was what can only be described as a sexy woman in her panties and a torn t-shirt. Perhaps damsel in distress would be better.
She saw Bob staring from the patio and yelled up at him, “Sir! Please, you gotta help me! They’re after me!”
He looked down the street. Nothing. “Who’s after you?”
“Marauders!” she said out of breath, “They’ll be here soon!”
Bob was suspicious, “How do I know you’re not just gonna steal all my liquor?”
“What?” She was confused, “I don’t have any weapons, I don’t even have any fucking pants! They’re going to turn me into their Battle Queen! You have to help me!”
“Battle Queen? Well that doesn’t sound too bad,” Bob posited.
“They’re going to use me to repopulate society!”
Bob cringed, “Ewww. Alright, come on up.”
He threw down a rope ladder. Yes, a rope ladder. He blocked off the stairs, remember? The Battle Queen climbed up to the third-level patio and thanked him for his help. Bob liked where this was going, but then the sounds of engines echoed through the neighborhood. He looked down the street and saw a large, rough looking group driving dirt bikes, muscle cars, and dune buggies. Many of them shirtless. It was horrifying.
“Wow, less than two hours into the end of the world and we already have roaming bands of marauders,” he stated. He turned and looked at the Battle Queen, “Get inside and hide, I’ll handle this.”
“No, you need to hide too, come on!” she pleaded.
“I can’t. I already made eye-contact with one of them. It’ll be all weird,” Bob explained. She scoffed at him and ran inside, and naturally he couldn’t let it go, “Don’t roll your eyes,” he said. “There’s no need for that.”
Sure enough, the group stopped below Bob’s patio. One man stepped out of a Trans Am and jumped up onto the hood. He too was shirtless, like the rest, but had some rags tied to his arms. Bob guessed that made him the leader. This was all very strange.
“You seen a girl come by here?!” he called up.
Bob kept his cool, “Nope.”
The leader wasn’t convinced, “Who were you talking to?”
“Hm? Oh, that was my…son. Ugly cunt. I hate him.”
Just as it seemed the leader was prepared to continue his search for the Battle Queen elsewhere, a voice rang out below Bob.
“He’s lying! He’s got her up there!”
Bob’s eyes widened, “What the-?” he looked down below, “Anne?! What the fuck!” Anne, his downstairs neighbor, totally ratted him out.
“You stole my wagon and ruined my plants, asshole!”
“I borrowed it! I was gonna give it back!”
The wagon dispute was the least of his worries. Gunfire erupted from the group and Bob ducked for cover. Bullets struck the walls and windows around him, spitting debris and glass. He grabbed his gun and saw Battle Queen glaring at him inside.
“What?!” he shouted at her. She just shook her head. “What’s that look for?!”
Fuck it, he thought. The moment a break in the gunfire presented itself, Bob made his move. He stood up and began firing on the group, surprising himself as he took out one after another. Holy shit, he thought, I’m a badass. There was a slight concern he felt for not having any sense of remorse for taking another human’s life. It made him think back to the time he saw a dog get hit by a car and felt nothing. Just emptiness. He wondered if that was weird. Suddenly a bullet struck the wall just above his head and he had to drop for cover again. He reloaded his gun and waited for another break.
The gunfire died down and he heard the leader shout at him, “Just give us the Battle Queen, Rogue! Don’t make this harder than it needs to be!”
Bob chuckled. Did he just call him a rogue? The moniker inflated his ego. He felt like a cool anti-hero. He jumped up and called back, “I’m already hard!”
As he fired on them again he couldn’t help but feel his response didn’t quite live up to his previously ordained title as the Rogue. No matter, he cut through the group like butter, bodies falling lifeless and littering the street below. Still impressed by his marksmanship, Bob began to wonder why he had never gone into the military or something. It appeared he had a real knack for killing people.
The group soon began to shift tactics. From behind the cover of his Trans Am, the leader called to his cronies, “GO AROUND! GO AROUND!”
They followed his orders and made their way around the building. They were going to try to take him from the front! Bob rushed inside where Battle Queen sat on the couch, brooding.
He sighed, “Really, with the attitude?”
“You should have just listened to me,” she said.
“I was trying not to be rude!” he defended. “Whatever.”
She stood up, “Whatever? What’s that supposed to mean?”
Bob rubbed his eyes, “Oh my God, we do not have time for this,” he handed her the gun. “Here, take this and watch the back patio, I’ll defend the front.”
“What are you going to defend it with?” she asked.
Bob smirked, “I have a little surprise for them.”
The Battle Queen ran to the back patio as Bob opened the door to the front. He did have a surprise for them, and it was glorious. Little did the gang of raucous raiders realize, Bob was prepared to repel their advance with nothing more than A FUCKING MACHINE GUN NEST. He took his position behind the 50 caliber and waited for the bastards to get close. As they rounded the corner, Bob opened up on them and began tearing apart the offensive.
“GET SOME!” he shouted, “GET SOME!”
After about 43 seconds of pure ass-kicking, Bob remembered that he spent most of his cash on the gun and the sand bags rather than ammunition. He was empty, and the group wasn’t letting up. A bit of an oversight on his part, sure, but the feeling of cutting through flesh with a machine gun of that caliber was almost erotic. He definitely had a problem. No time to dwell on it now. He ran back inside as the Battle Queen met him in the living room.
“I’m out of bullets! They’re starting to climb up!” she yelled.
“Me too,” he said.
“What do we do?!”
Bob thought about it for a moment. There was only one thing left to do.
“Seppuku,” he said.
“Seppuku,” Bob had a curious fascination with Japanese history. “Ritual suicide. Samurai would do it to preserve their honor. Other times it was punishment, but sometimes it was because they were ashamed. I don’t know, they did it for all sorts of reasons, the Japanese were fucking crazy.”
It was true, it almost seemed like a get out of jail free card for the ancient civilization. Bob wondered for a moment what the modern world would be like if it was still deemed an acceptable practice:
Need help opening a bottle of spaghetti sauce? That’s defeat. Seppuku.
Have somebody else change your oil? Weakness. Seppuku.
Caught with your sidepiece? That’s right, shame. Seppuku.
“Normally it’s done with a short sword,” he explained, “but considering I don’t have a short sword, and that it would really fucking hurt anyway, I got these.” He produced two hand grenades from his kitchen drawer.
Battle Queen threw her hands up, “Whoah! No way, man! I’m not killing myself!”
Bob was surprised, “What are you talking about! You’d rather be ravaged by that band of hairy oafs?!”
She shrugged, “At least I’d live to have another chance to escape.”
Bob scoffed, “You gotta be kidding me, you’re going to leave me here to commit seppuku alone? Typical.”
“Yeah…I’m sorry. Thanks for the help though,” she said as she made her way to the door. The invaders were smashing up the furniture obstacles outside. It wouldn’t be long now.
Bob shook his head, “At least put in a good word for me, yeah?”
“Oh, definitely,” she assured.
Bob watched as she unlocked the door and stepped outside, closing it behind her. He listened to the muffled conversation on the other side.
“It’s the Battle Queen!”
“Are you hurt?”
Then she spoke.
“Barely…he kidnapped me and tried to rape me!”
Bob sighed, “No. Fucking. Way.”
The group outside roared with rage and the door burst open, giving way to a flood of really pissed off post-apocalyptic marauders. Before they could open fire, a voice rang out.
“WAIT!” It was the leader. He made his way to the front of the crowd and glared at Bob. “What is your name, Rogue?”
He looked at the murderous group and held his head high, “Bob,” he said.
The leader laughed, “Bob, huh?” the group joined in his laughter. “Any last words there…Bob?”
“Just one,” he responded.
“Oh yeah?” the leader asked smugly. “And what’s that?”
“Seppuku,” Bob said.
The leader was baffled, “What?”
Bob revealed the two grenades in his hands and pulled the pins.
The entire tattoo shop was captivated by the story at this point, staring at Bob as one would a vicious car accident.
“And that’s how it would end,” he said.
Spencer scratched his head and opened his mouth to speak, stalled, then started again, “I’m gonna go ahead and push past the whole machine gun nest thing and the – what did you call her, the Battle Temptress?”
“Right, the Battle Queen. I’m gonna move past that and clarify something: so you’re telling me, that even in your own post-apocalyptic scenario, you fail to survive?”
Bob thought about it for a moment, “Well, I took a bunch of them out with me, but yeah, ultimately I am vanquished.”
Zed sighed, “Jesus, dude.”
“Yeah, man,” Spencer added, “you got low self-esteem.”
Bob chuckled and made his way out, “Yeah, I do. Anyway, I gotta get back to work.”
“Alright, check you later.”