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Yes. I remember now. This is how it happened.
I nod to the man behind the counter, as he hands me the keys. I smile, and slide them into my pockets. He tells us where the bathroom is, and that the pool should be open tomorrow. This is a pretty nice hotel. Probably the best one we've been in this year. "Thanks, man."
“This is awesome, babe. I am so excited. This is, like, the nicest hotel we've been in all year."
She squeezes my arm, and I can feel her nails on my bicep. The rest of the band has already gone to their rooms, shared or not, but we were a little behind the rest of them. They were a good mile ahead of us on their bikes, because I had to piss, and two-person bikes aren't as fun with one person. “Hah, yeah. Hey, lemme carry your bags.
“Uh. 'Kay. Ooh, be careful with that one."
I look at her quizzically, but nod slowly and grin. “Hah, okay. Is there something fragile in it?"
“It's my lucky broken bottle."
I deadpan, and then heft the bags. My only bag is a backpack and my guitar. She's got more clothes than I do, along with her banjo and accordion. Not exactly the lightest packer, but it's still not like a pre-war plane-flight or anything. “Your lucky broken bottle? Whatever. We gotta get upstairs, and I have a feeling the elevator doesn't work."
She mock-pouts when I inquire about her peculiar good-luck charm, but it soon passes with an eyeroll and a smile.“Oh, how clever. Clearly I have chosen the most suitable male counterpart.
“Ha, ha, ha. Whatever, babe, let's go." I lead the way up the stairs, watching my feet as I go.
“Check out this banister," she says, and I turn. It //is// pretty cool. The metal parts look like they may have once been gold plated or something. All tarnished now, though. 
“Yeah, that's cool," I say, and then almost trip. “Hey, watch that step. It's rotted."
“My hero."
“Hah. Yeah. You know it." We get upstairs, finally, and head to our room number. “Hey, uh, can you get the keys out of my pocket? Never mind. I'll do it yself." It really makes more sense that way. I can just set the bags down and get them myself, and that's exactly what I do. I open the door, and it's a dark room. All the walls are painted a //dark// red. It's pretty cool. The bed looks nice, and there's this big fancy red chair, too. Two windows on the opposite wall, and outside there's the balcony. Sweet.
“Holy shit, Howard. This is kickin'."
“Nice bed, too."
“Hee. Yeah. Hey, do you wanna help me unpack, handsome man?" She shoots me some puppy-dog eyes, and I submit.
“If you keep talking like that, I think I might have to." We go through the motions of unpacking, unzipping and unfolding. The clothes for the concert go up in the mothballed closet, and the toiletries go in the bathroom. I get back to the main room, and the last bag has some //definitely// distracting underwear. “Woah! What's //this?//"
 She smirks, pushes some hair behind her ear, and looks away. “Oh, that's for later, if you're up to it."
 I am definitely up for it. “Ahurr hurr hurr. I'm okay with this. Okay, well, that looks like the last of it. We'll be here for a few days, so we can just chill out." We need a place to stay, so we can restock supplies. The desert's only gotten worse since the blast. “Hey, let's see if the rest of the gang is finished."
“Good deal."
We head downstairs, keeping an eye out for the bad step, and walk to the middle of the inn, where the rest of the band is assembled. Solomon looks up, from behind his sunglasses. They've got smiley faces on them. “Hey, fearless leader! You get a nice room? The Turtle Smashers deserve only the best, you know." Solomon's got some crazy muttonchops that turn into a crazy mustache, and hair down to his fucking waist. This guy's great. Good bassist, too.
“You know it, man."
“Good deal."
I nod, and then nod to the rest of TTS. There's Herman, the drummer. He's only got one eye, and he's missing most of his teeth. The dude's like seventy three, though, and fucking //covered// in tattoos. After Herman, there's Phillipe, the flutist. He's got the longest fucking mustache ever, and he's probably the only French-Korean I've ever seen. Good guy, though. Then, there's the new guy. He asked us to call him Cod Liver, but I don't know why. Something metaphorical, I assume. Anyway, it's this skinny French-African with an outrageous hairdo, like it's from the future, and the darkest skin around. This fellow could donate melanin to the needy, three times a day. One black motherfucker. He's fantastic, and maybe the best pianist ever. Cod Liver's girl is with us too. She's some Welsh bird named Blodeuedd that came to the states after the bomb. She wanted to see what it was like. She's killer on a harmonica.
We all chat and talk for a while, laughing at jokes and passerby, talking about the places to have a gig. There's a small town about three miles from here. Solomon says that he could probably sweet talk our way in, and I believe him. Solomon once talked some raiders out of destroying our shit. Then he killed them, all by himself. Solomon is the most intense fucker around, but you'd never know it by looking. 
Time passes, and we all go up to our rooms. Cod Liver and his dame pair up, Solomon stays on the couch, Herman shambles off to his room, and then so does Phillipe. Me and //my// lady go up the stairs to our room. I notice for the first time that the door is a peculiar shade of red. It's strong. I push that thought back and push the door open. In we go. I unlace my shoes, ancient PF Flyers that one of Solomon's enemies had, and then pull them off with my feet. I toss them by our bags and instruments, and then peel off my shirt. It's maybe my favorite shirt. Long sleeves with thick rugby stripes, minus the silly collar. Out slides my belt, and it flops through the air towards my shoes and shirt. My pants are over there too, shortly, and I lay back on the bed in my boxers and yawn. Long bike ride today.
“Howard."
 I roll my head over on the bed's comforter, towards the voice, and smile. There she stands, beautiful as ever. Long legs long thoughts round eyes and round curves, all wrapped up nice and pretty in the lace from earlier, and topped with an excellent haircut. “Hey." She steps towards me, one foot in front of the other in a way that makes her hips sway. Gorgeous. There she stands, in front of me at the foot of the bed. I sit up, to be closer to her warmth. She smiles, bites her lip, and steps forward one more time.
 Yes. I remember now. This is how it happened. 
 Her eyes bug, and she coughs. She falls to her knees, and tears stream from her eyes. She begins to scream and sob, and then there is a smell. I have experienced this smell only once before this. There were some raiders, and they were cooking some food when we came across them. It was people. She is burning. She coughs again, and her eyes roll back. Smoke curls from her mouth, and I drop to the floor by her, hands on her shoulders. I am crying too. I call for help, cry for help, scream for help. Cod Liver bursts through the door, and I recoil away from her. Her nose is smoking and her body curls. She throws up one last agonizing, blood-curdling scream, and bursts into flame. First her eyes go, tongues of flame spitting out like a fucking dragon lives in her skull. Then her skin darkens, from the inside out. Pink to red to purple to black to orange, coated in an infernal shell. Cod Liver holds me back, especially when her hair alights. It explodes, a loud hissing pop from where that beautiful hair used to be. I cry some more. “No no no no no no no //no no no no no no no no no!//" Cod Liver's grip is tight, digging into my bare shoulders. It's surreal, the way the smoke comes from her fingers and toes, at least in the parts not yet burnt. It curls from underneath the nails, and then the nails spark and crack and they light up too. The last thing to go is her underwear, the lace I would have pulled off of her carefully, while my mouth re-discovers her again. It never really burns, though. It curls and becomes brittle and melts where there is elastic, but never //burns.// 
 Blodeuedd sees the fire from behind Cod Liver, and runs to get help, in the form of an old pre-war fire extinguisher. She pushes past her man and me, and aims. The contraption sputters for a moment, and then fires. The cloud of gas masks her image but not her smell. I've stopped crying. Solomon and Phillipe have run up the stairs after Herman. The whole of The Turtle Smashers is here in this room. Blodeuedd stands by the burnt corpse, fire extinguisher in hand, and begins to cry as well. She looks at Cod Liver, and lets out a sob. The hotel manager, the man behind the desk, is the last to arrive. He's a short, fat man, bald except for the patches around the edges of his head. Like a monk without the front. “Good //God,//" he says. Phillipe gives him a nasty look, but for the most part we ignore the little man. Solomon puts his hand on my shoulder, and Cod Liver moves out of the way. 
“Come on. You need sleep."
He's right, of course. It's four in the morning, says Herman's watch, and I haven't slept. Besides, we've things to take care of in the morning. Solomon lets me sleep on the couch, and he goes to the bar. 
 Yes. I remember now. This is how it happened.
 I awake to an argument. The manager is arguing with a man in a suit. The man in the suit is tall and muscular, with a square jaw and jet black hair. It's funny to see him argue with someone so small as the manager. The man in the suit shows the manager his badge. Theyre close enough to the lobby couch I'm on that I can see what's written on the tiny metal shield. It says “**Network**" in dark red letters. The manager shouts how he doesn't give a “flying fuck about your shitty reality show! You can't just come in here and snatch up my customers, you twat!"
 The man in the suit sighs, and looks around the lobby I'm in. He zeroes in on me, and grins. I don't like the look of his grin, especially since I'm only in my boxers. He re-adopts his cool demeanor, and puts his badge back in his coat. He nods to the manager, smiles, and turns away. I watch him walk out the door closely, frowning. There are windows on either side of that door. I fall off the couch when they shatter inward from gunfire. 
 The manager turns to run, but he is cut down quickly. I don't know what his name was. Men come in from the windows, decked out in black combat gear and wielding sub-machine guns. Herman comes down the stairs, frowning. “What the //fuck'sh// going on down he--" Herman falls down, clutching at his chest. I don't even hear the shot. The old man rolls down the stairs and I gasp. Solomon runs in from the bar. He has a gun with him. It is a revolver that we took from the raiders he killed. He fires once, twice, and one of the soldiers falls backwards with a scream. He is dead, and the mask on his helmet is shattered. I stand to run to the bassist, but one of the armed men is too fast. He grabs me, and hits me on the side of the head. Phillipe is down the stairs already, falling over Herman's corpse at the bottom. He stands, quickly, but he's shot too. Cod Liver and Blodeuedd duck under him, and run away from the lobby, back towards the bar and the back door, if there is one. Solomon fires the rest of his shots into three other gunmen, who fall dead. He swings the gun into another gunman's head, cracking the face-shield. The man tries to hit Solomon with his weapon, but the Turtle Smasher's bassist is too quick. He punches the man in the throat and grins.    
He turns to Cod Liver and Blodeuedd, shouting, “//Go!// Run!" He's shot while he shouts to them, three bursts in the back. He cries out, turns around, and the last thing he says to me is, “I'm sorry."
 One of the men hits me over the head with his gun, and I black out.
 Yes. I remember now. This is how it happened.
 
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millpond.txt · Last modified: 2017/05/28 03:35 (external edit)