Blood At Rosemary’s
“Peyote leaves mixed with the blood of a priest.” -C
The bar was called Rosemary’s.
Apparently named after an old song by some ancient rock band, but that could just be a rumor.
Once it had been the best place to grab a drink and laugh your worries away. But that was before. Before the world got infected by demons.
Its name was spelt on an old, battered sign.
The red lettering was done in an old traditional style, with the letters framed by curved green stems. It was used to rain, so the brewing storm in the air right now gave it no concern. Just sadness.
Inside Rosemary’s, faithful classic rock drifted out from a powerful speaker. Grizzled electric guitar, the type that this world would never hold again. Of course, there was no new music. Not in this new world.
But there would always be violence to count on.
Glass bottles flew. First just one, bright green and heavy, then a reply from a thicker, dustier wind bottle. Cork included.
That one hit its target, breaking itself, drawing blood, and setting off swears.
A sharp intake of breath. “Fuck.”
That coarse, miserable voice belonged to a coarse, miserable woman. Clever, brilliant even, but miserable. Cyan Crown sat crouched behind a giant countertop, the type that would cost an arm and a leg.
She waited for another bottle to whoosh over her head. Then chanced a peek.
Her opponent, a poxy-faced scavenger from whatever was left of the Haze district, glared with his one good beady eye.
In the good old days, Cyan did not doubt he’d been a reliable dead-head type. Someone who would relish the process of turning themselves into a human chemistry set.
The way his skin was sagged and scarred, with a poisoned amber tinge to it. On top of all that, weak genetics had gifted him with scraggly facial hair.
I’m not dying to him. Cyan thought.
There was a pause. No bottles flew.
The Haze born junkie stayed still and hidden behind three small round oak tables, clustered as a rough cover.
This fight had been going on for just shy of ten minutes, but to Cyan it felt like an hour. She’d only wanted to stop and rest, isn’t everyone entitled to that after breaking free from a metal coffin?
As the scavenger kept covered, more classic rock filled the silence.
“I’m Livin’ For Givin’ The Devil His Due”
Cyan grabbed something sharp and shining from one of shelves behind the bar, not taking the risk of taking her eyes off the scavenger. It was a miracle her hand wasn’t sliced up.
Electric guitar jolted itself into a burning rhythm.
“Burnin’ For You”
She leaped over her cover, bottle opener in hand.
He had not counted on her boldness, that’s what Cyan liked to think anyway. But when she loomed over the tables, her shadow fell over him. He was poorly nursing an arm wound from the last bottle Cyan threw. She must have missed the noise. Shards of glass stuck out the arm, dripping red. His eyes were pin-sharp, shaken.
Truth was, he had not counted on dying anytime soon. No one does.
The bottle opener Cyan held in her hand was the type, ironically enough, you’d use to open wine or champagne. Its parts that she needed use of were the sharpened fold out sections, and its corkscrew.
As she pushed his thin frame against the floor and opened his face from side to side, Cyan let her thoughts wander.
Crazy to be back in this place, sad really. Cyan sunk herself in unwanted memories, as the body twitched and spasmed.
Ever present in the background, the old music began to fade away. The speaker had taken damage.
Warm junkie blood caressed her face and neck. Spraying like a ceremonial fountain.
He stopped spasming. The music stopped. She nearly vomited.
After a beat or two of silence, Cyan took a deep breath in. Standing up put everything back into focus. Her heartbeat, her thoughts, Rosemary’s, the dead man, and those who had died long before.
On her right wrist, Cyan’s watch ticked and it felt louder than ever.
The atmosphere of Rosemary’s had Cyan’s full attention now. Apart from the already upturned tables, the rest were in decent order. Scratches and bumps were present on all of them, but from a quick glance you would not know that you were sitting in the hangover of a literal apocalypse. Just a normal low-key shit place to drink yourself to death.
Cyan’s favourite place for a number of reasons. One of those reasons had been nagging at her mind since when she’d walked through the door a couple of hours ago.
It manifested in the form of a door. Heavy and neat cut oak, with a wire mesh grate snug over it. Beyond it, a long horizontal window reminded her of the rain.
Cyan walked forward and then left through the door, it swept her to an axe throwing range.
On all the iconography, roses and skeletons grinned at Cyan, as if they could read her mind, smell her fear, or just see how shaken up she was.
“They’re all still here…”
Her arms shook, so Cyan stretched them out, resting on a bit of wall that jutted out. Memories were soaked into the place just as much as the skeletons and roses.
The actual targets stood still, with many axes embedded into it. Some were very familiar to Cyan. After all, they were hers.
“Been a while.” She said to them.
It had been. Cyan made sure to pick them up and hook them to her belt, just like old times. With every wide step there was a clink noise.
Soon enough she sat hunched on a bar stool, with a drink in one hand, under Cyan’s fingernails, dirt and blood clung with stubbornness.
Artificial light poured from faux plastic torches, her dark skin and hard-earned strength shone. In the fight with the Haze-born junkie, her shirt had been torn. Scarlet highlights still occasionally stung.
The young woman held the pose of a coiled reptile.
Cyan tried to relax. Lifting a cheap beer to her mouth, she winced. A slight foam crept out the glass bottle. That’s what you get for breaking it open.
No one there to flaunt the rules, just herself and a dead addict.
It had only been a few hours since she’d busted out the metal coffin. This was Eden’s world now. Cyan felt filled up with slight shame, was it her fault? Partially yes, totally? No.
But still your fault…In a way.
Sipping more beer, the foam fizzled in decline. She relaxed more.
An ant crawled along the bar counter, stopping to inspect the river of foam, before ending up stuck in the muck. It was surreal to watch it on its back, struggling.
“I must look like a God to you.” Cyan said to it.
Cyan hovered her thumb above it, poised and ready to squash. She considered how the already sticky blood would mingle with the sugary alcohol. Cyan resisted.
Habits formed quick and hard to warriors, and right now, Cyan weighed up which ones were worth breaking…
Outside, things were progressing in the exact same sickly cycle the Eden cultists had predicted, had caused, demonic Murmurs, psychic oppression, and plain old-fashioned systematic slaughtering.
“Not many people left.” Cyan murmured. The drink was finished automatically, and its bottle was left to dangle in one hand.
Cyan’s green-tinted watch seemed to grip tighter on her wrist, the engraving hidden underneath its face burned in her memory. She did not look at the watch. It ticked along, quiet and patient. The same way that the axes had waited for her at the range, soon it would be the watch’s time. Its own time to drag up things better left unremembered.
The rain growled outside. Flanked by thunder, commanded by clouds.
A voice sounded piped up behind Cyan Crown. Far from the voice she wished it would be.
Young, curious, cautious.
Cyan resisted the initial instinct to turn her neck. Instead choosing to lock both eyes on the bar mirror. It stretched far horizontally, with enough height to take everything in. Cyan found the young one in a split second.
The young bloke stood around five foot ten. Maybe a couple inches on top of that. Wide soulful eyes were framed by a mess of scratches and mud. Hair that held both the texture and shade of scarecrow straw peeked out from under the sides of a worn pirate hat.
Cyan estimated him to be around seventeen.
Taking her time to not rush, she twisted and stood up from the stool, bottle still in hand. Cyan made sure to keep her voice even. “Who are, what do you want.”
The stranger pretended he hadn’t heard. Instead he pointed to the soulless body in the far side of the room. Then he repeated himself.
Cyan found herself smirking.
The lad’s next question arrived easy, not even needed to be spoken aloud.
“Yes I did it.” Cyan said.
The lad nodded, and Cyan got the sense of weariness from that. For a blink and you’ll miss it moment, the youth fell away from his frame, both shoulders drooped, green eyes misted over. Not from tears, she doubted there was any grief for the dead scavenger. For this young man, it was just tiredness. Of everything.
Cyan approached. He had no marks that signaled him as another junkie, another danger. Not even as just as a scavenger.
The lad wore a torn-up t-shirt, like he’d been wrestling with a demon, and had heavy overall bruising, as if being strangled by a snake. On the t-shirt sat the faded graphic of a sphinx.
His build was crazed and wiry, with hiking shorts capped off by vintage trainers. Red and black, sweatshop style.
“Now you answer my questions.” Cyan broke the evenness in her voice, making sure to mix some edge into it. “Who are you. What do you want.” Her smirk had dropped off. Whoever he was, he was too silent for comfort.
After a pause, he looked up.
“I am Osiris.” He said, simply. A playful smile that seemed unconscious, crawled across the boy’s features.
Osiris continued. “I’m looking for heaven.”
Outside Rosemary’s, the rain began to blossom.
Cyan laughed, and despite her overly cautious nature, found herself warming. Before she knew it, the bottle was placed back on the bar countertop.
“Aren’t we all. Not to bring bad news, but I think you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.”
She gestured at another of the stools, Osiris took the offer.
Their early conversations skirted around various topics, ultimately in a circle. God, religion, souls and Murmurs, the demons engineered by Eden. Despite all this, he took Cyan’s sympathetic cynicism with grace.
“I could be completely wrong about it,” Osiris conceded for the ninth time (Cyan counted), he took a sip of his water. He’d deferred her offer of beer.
“So why.” Cyan said, trying and failing to not sound like broken record.
“I have to.” Osiris stated. “Call it a mission, a purpose.” He paused again, then a cheeky smile pushed his next words out. “A crusade. Shame I haven’t got a knife.”
“A gun will do you better.” Cyan mused. “Especially with those things.”
“Don’t be so sure.” He said darkly.
The storm continued to take its time. Rosemary’s doors were broken, and it could be felt.
“How did you survive.” Cyan asked. “Did you volunteer for…Eden’s program. Or were you forced.”
Osiris’ body language stiffened. It took him the longest time to answer this question.
“Hard to remember.” His tone shifted noticeably with those three words.
He turned the tables. “Do you remember, Zoltan, before it fell. Before the world fucked itself.”
Cyan took note that he wanted to swerve hard away from that particular subject. So took the bait. “Yes. Remember it far too much for liking.”
“How much would you bet on there being other survivors?”
A lot of questions being asked. Cyan thought, finishing her second beer. That glass bottle joined its sibling. Both empty. Both cold. Her watch ticked, the rain thudded.
Osiris pressed the issue, “What do you plan on doing with yourself?”
Mirroring Osiris’ earlier guarded response, Cyan considered each word with care.
“Go back to whatever is left of the three districts. And see what’s left.”
She silently added, “As well as who is left.”
It was the truth shrouded in a lie, much as Cyan expected Osiris had given her with ‘Hard to remember.’
“We’re far away.” Osiris said.
“Let’s get going then.”
They stood and the floorboards of Rosemary creaked, a ghost sighing.
As Cyan left the threshold, the three small throwing axes clinked.
They left the building that housed a million unspoken memories, mysteries, and a dead addict.
Rainwater drowned both them and the ground. Before Eden’s rise everything had been part of a solid, structured civilization. Now the earth was taking everything back. Already has done. Cyan brooded.
The world’s once great network of roads and cobblestone pavements had been scrawled over by mother nature, like throwing a map in mud and spitting on it for good luck.
“You were right,” Cyan said to Osiris, “We’re far from Zoltan, proper Zoltan that is. About a hundred miles or so from the main districts. Technically on a map we’re in the limits, but practically speaking, we’re fucked.”
Osiris’ worn pirate hat kept his eyes hidden. He nodded, attention sharp.
If either Cyan or Osiris was worried to death, neither showed it.
Cyan considered the fact she’d heard his name at some point long ago…not to mention his hat was familiar…she asked him. He gave a vague answer. Cyan did not forget the subject as they walked on and on…and on. Grief does that. Grief for someone she would rather forget.
Up ahead in their path a large hill reached up to the sky, matching it in moodiness and ugliness. It was composed of broken up metal. Ruined bots, rusted car bodies. Occasionally a failed coffin prototype jutted out, similar to an old-school fridge, sticking out like a fat thumb.
Any sun hid itself behind clouds. They hung in the sky, grey and heavy. More noise, more thunder.
“Have you seen any Murmurs.” Cyan asked, both eyes on Osiris and his hat.
He played stupid. “Don’t see none now.”
That response made his scratches, mud marks and bruising all the more obvious.
Soon enough they were climbing up the hill.
Neither said anything, or even made a noise of effort or frustration. From a distance, from a certain pair of eyes, they’d appear to be gliding up the thing, easy as blinking, tougher than remembering.
Reaching the rough half-way mark of the hill, the sky gave them a slight break. That being said, the rain continued to brew in the clouds before moodily cutting down at a steep angle. Neither were dressed for the weather, so sitting on the scrap in ‘relaxed rain’, made it feel worse. Each pellet of rain, by the time it got down, was akin to frozen bullets.
When Osiris and Cyan reached the rusted top, Rosemary’s, the dead junkie and the unspoken secrets were forgotten for the time being.
“Oh no.” The young one said, regret tinged his voice.
Down on the other side of the steep hill, a flock of Murmurs nestled around. Nestled is the wrong word, really. In actuality it was more like a swarm. Long gangly limbs, teeth that were almost as long. Red eyes like the worst of albinos. Some walked, others crawled, none flew. For the time being the pair were safe and hidden from view.
“Not long before we reach the main roads.” Cyan said, trying to lift the mood. With every word she never took her eyes off the eight or so Murmurs they’d have to face sooner or later.
“True.” The young one said with resignation. “But from there it’s a long way. Which of the three districts did they end up taking over?”
It was a smart question, one Cyan held no definite answer for.
“We’ll have to see.” She said lamely, searching her brain for the most likely place they’d have taken over. No way they stayed in that wreck of a compound, not after-
The lad spoke, harsh and quick, cutting off her thoughts. It sent an odd feeling up her spine, it rested at the top of her head, and did not ease until he finished speaking.
“Yes. A lot remains to be seen.” The weather sped up again, his scarecrow-like hair ran raggedly in the wind, still restrained by the hat.
The Murmurs continued to scavenge down below, the air tasted of burnt hair.
“A whole world.” The boy said, his eyes clouded by that faraway glaze again, like he was behind a layer of doors, talking through the letterboxes.
He muttered something that she could not understand, it sent that familiar feeling clawing up her spine to sit at her brain. Harsh and patient.
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