Ugh…what time is it? Last thing I remember is eating a Cheeba Chew and passing the F out. Everything’s different now, and not in a good way: I’m ensconced in a mound of debris that makes the one in the Star Wars trash compactor look like a cute little desktop wastebasket.
I claw my way to the top of the mound and look around my dimly lit studio. Rust and cobwebs are slathered across the corners and surfaces; it looks like an apocalyptic room straight out of a zombie movie. Old, crusted utensils, musty rubbish, and ratty furniture that’s dotted with tumorous growths of exposed stuffing. A naked bulb blinks erratically overhead, casting horror-movie strobe light across the walls.
I grumble under my breath as I make my way to the bathroom and flick the light switch. There’s a harsh, protesting buzz from the filaments overhead, then they let off a dim, grudging glow. I look in the mirror and stumble back in shock.
I have a beard…a WHITE beard.
I stare at the stranger in the mirror and take a tentative step toward him. Not only is my beard white, my hair is receded past the crown of my head, and a droopy potbelly dangles from my torso.
I wince and let out a hiss.
“Not good, Kent,” I murmur. “Ladies do not appreciate doggy style when they can feel your potato sack belly sliding and sweating across the surface of their butt cheeks.”
I gird myself for what comes next. With one trembling hand, I hook a thumb into the front of my sweats and pull em out so I can inspect my junk. For a long moment, I gaze in puzzlement at the alien sight that greets my eyes, then I clap my free hand over my mouth and stifle a scream. My eyes widen in horror.
I can’t see my genitalia; they’re covered in a giant white afro of old-man hair. I can feel my balls droop noticeably lower than they used to, though—I feel my withered, liver-spotted scrote brushing against the tops of my knees.
(FUCK! I’ve got Old Man Balls!!!)
And within that horrid white afro I see squirming, slithering entities. One of them—it looks like a demonic crab that’s roughly the size of my palm—levels a pair of pale, stalk-mounted eyes at me and hisses, “Thank you for the sustenance, Host Kent. We have fed off your substantial genitals for quite some—”
I can’t contain it anymore—a muted scream flies from my lips and I let the waistband of my sweatpants snap shut. I stagger back against the wall, slapping both palms against it. My breath comes in panicked gasps. I slowly slide down the wall, my fingers making small, desperate clutching gestures as they rise to my face. My eyes dart back and forth in nervous flicks.
What the HELL happened to me?
I sit there for a full five minutes, knees drawn to my chest, quivering in terror.
Finally, I muster the courage to rise to my feet and walk to my front door. The instant I open it I’m overwhelmed by the sight of a roiling black sky. All across the horizon, red-glowing towers pump like bellows, emitting massive clouds of gray pollution. The ground is webbed with ember-filled veins, each one gleaming with baleful lines of lava. Every visible patch of earth is cracked and blackened, and what grass remains has turned dull, sickly brown. Fell winds laced with monstrous whispers whistle past my ears.
“No,” I mumble. Then: “NO!” I drop to my knees and raise my wrinkled fists toward the sky. “DARK KNIGHT! WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME???”
*if this were a movie, here’s where I’d play the Requiem for a Dream theme song*
The clouds boil, and booming laughter echoes through the air. Hundreds of feet above me, I see a face formed by swirling masses of vapor.
The face thunders: “WITNESS WHAT HAS BECOME OF YOUR PATHETIC EARTH! WITNESS WHAT HAPPENS IN A WORLD WITHOUT A KENT WAYNE! YOU NEVER FINISHED ECHO! YOU NEVER WROTE KOR’THANK, BARBARIAN VALLEY GIRL, YOU NEVER WROTE THE UNBOUND REALM, OR THAT ONE ABOUT A HARD-BOILED DETECTIVE WHO FIGHTS CORPORATIONS THAT HAVE COMMERCIALIZED THE ASTRAL PLANE! FOR THE LAST SEVERAL DECADES, ACCOUNTANTS HAVE BEEN FREE TO RUN AMUCK, AND TRANSFORM THE LANDS INTO PURIFIED ENGINES OF PROFIT CREATION, DEVOID OF ANY CREATIVITY THAT DOESN’T ORIGINATE FROM THE BOTTOM LINE!”
“This is America?” I whisper.
“THERE IS NO AMERICA! THERE ARE NO COUNTRIES! ONLY THE RAVAGED STRETCHES OF FELLREACH! AND I, ATROCITUS, ACCOUNTANT SUPREME, AM NOW LORD OF THE LANDS! MWAHAHAHA!”
Tears well in my eyes. “There has to be something I can do,” I mumble. “Some way I can—”
“YOU ARE POWERLESS, KENT! THIS IS THE WAY OF THINGS! ACCOUNTING WINS! WRITING LOSES! AHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!”
A spark of my old self ignites in me, and my rheumy eyes steel over. “No,” I mutter. “NO!” I shout. Then I run back into my studio—now a battered, drafty shack—and begin rooting through piles of my old belongings. As I’m doing so, I can feel evil creatures in my crotch-afro skittering and laughing. After a few seconds of frantic rummaging, I find what I’m looking for: my old eReader.
“Please let it work,” I mutter. “Please let there be some charge left…”
Yes! 1% battery life! I open it to Echo. Magic flash.
I bolt up on my futon, scaring the hell out of my 10 lb. terrier buddy Bitefighter. He growls in annoyance as I cast wild looks around.
Everything is as it should be. But wait…I look at my hands.
I look down my pants.
Yep, huge and trimmed.
I hold my breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop and transform reality back into an accountant-managed hellscape.
Whew! I collapse back onto bed and Bitefighter curls into a little donut, nose firmly stuck in my armpit.
After awhile, I close my eyes and fall back asleep.
No more Cheeba Chews! JEE-zus!
Have you accidentally eaten too strong an edible and been blasted into the dark reality of a post-apocalyptic earth that’s run by Atrocitus? Never fear! Get Echo Vol. 1 on Kindle here: Vol. 1 on Kindle. Vol. 2 on Kindle here: Vol.2 on Kindle Vol. 3 on Kindle here: Vol. 3 on Kindle #kindle #kindleunlimited #sciencefiction #scifi #books #novel #book