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A Rotting Eden
300 years after the Apocalypse came and went, the survivors join wandering gangs called Tribes in a bid for survival in a world without nations. This is the story of one man's struggle in one of the last remaining cities on Earth.
Gunfire.
The steady, thwip-thwip-thwip of bullets slamming into already crumbling concrete reminded Aramis how no day was ordinary.

Ducking low behind the abandoned husk of what was once a four-story apartment building but is now only a one-story outline of twisted steel and weather-beaten cement, he pressed his palms against his ears and waited for the gunfire to stop. His eyes were shut tight, blocking out stray particles of dust that were whipped up from the barren earth beneath him from the frequent gusts of wind that plagued this city. His heels dug into the hardened ground, keeping himself pressed tightly against a wall as the gunfire gradually began to die down.

Nine shots. Seven. A short, rapid-fire spray of nine. Five. Three. Then, silence.

For a long while, he didn't move. He would count to fifty not once, but twice before he even dared open his eyes.

There were sounds of cautious movement all around him; other people who were taking cover were coming out from their hiding places to take a look around and see if the coast was clear. There were rumblings and mumblings, some in languages he understood and some he didn't. This was, after all, Golgatha: the unfortunate remains of what was once a grand and powerful industrious city in what was once the most powerful country in the entire world: The United States of America. But after the Apocalypse, the concept of world borders faded as the masses came and went in search of food and water, in search of safety and community. It no longer mattered where you were from, only where you were going, and how you meant to survive when you got there.

"Is it safe?"

Aramis looks to his right. Beside him was his best friend in the entire piss-poor world: Mickey Shift. Sure, he didn't know Mickey's real name. And Mickey didn't know Aramis' real name. But nobody went by their given names anymore anyway, so what did it matter? He'd known Mickey for close to seven years, ever since Mickey joined the Gang Green tribe this side of Golgatha. Mickey was tall, maybe 6' 1", with a narrow, almost gaunt face. His complexion was pale, almost to the point of being ashen, though he had a smattering of freckles over his nose and cheeks. Mickey's nose, well, that was "prominent" for some, with a large bump in the ridge, but came down to a fine point, flanked on either side with long, narrow nostrils. His lips were wide yet thin, almost villainous. His eyes were a dusty sort of brown, like stagnant, fetid water in a shallow pool, framed by barely-there lashes under a set of narrow, lengthy eyebrows. Mickey kept his hair short. His logic was that the shorter it was, the less likely it was it would get caught on something when he was trying to get away. Mickey was the kind of guy that could never look you in the eye for anything, whether he was being serious or not. He mumbled a lot, and he spoke in a fake accent that nobody could place, probably because he was intentional trying to cover his a** when he made promises. He'd leave you in the dust at the first sign of trouble; he'd switch allegiances to the man pressing a gun to your head to save his own skin. Mickey Shift stole from his own blind mother for years before she was put under the earth, and nobody in the Tribe went to sleep before he nodded off. He was an a*****e, the kind that you wouldn't piss on to put out if he was on fire. The kind of guy you'd let drown if you saw him thrashing for dear life in the sea. The kind of guy who'd steal food from the mouths of his own children to feed himself, if he had any. And if it wasn't for the overwhelming amounts of charisma, he'd be dead by now. Mickey was born with the most glittering, gleaming silver tongue God ever blessed anyone with on this earth. And that was the only thing keeping him alive.

A lot of people liked Mickey... it was just that nobody trusted him. And that didn't seem to bother him one bit.

"Yeah, it's safe," Aramis said, trying to keep his head, his voice down.

"You didn't even look over the wall to check," Mickey sneered.
"Maybe you can make sure then," Aramis shot back.
"What good am I to you if I'm dead? You'll have nobody to talk to." Mickey cautiously rose to his feet to peer over the wall. All seemed well.

"You were never much good for conversation anyway," Aramis replied, getting to his feet as well and making his own cursory sweep over the grayish landscape. Seems this gunfight was more about whose balls were biggest than actually trying to hurt someone. A territorial skirmish. Nothing more, nothing less. Stepping out from behind the wall, Aramis continued what was supposed to be an non-eventful walk back to his tribe's base, with Mickey following close behind.

Aramis and Mickey wouldn't talk much for the rest of their walk back. There wasn't much to talk about anyway in a city like this: someone fought someone else, this guy went missing, the other guy got killed. It was amazing just how desensitized someone could become to the sort of violence, the negativity, the hopelessness when it's all they've ever known. Each time their heels struck the ground, another cloud of arid death rose to greet them. The very air tasted of dust. It always did; the automatic earth would twist up into funnels around your ankles with the dry winds that swept through Golgatha daily. Rare were the days when there was enough condensation in the air to have a little rain reach the moisture-starved ground beneath your feet. Water was in such short supply as to be something one might kill for. Well... for most people, anyway. Aramis and Mickey were lucky. They belonged to the Gang Green tribe. Although, technically, their direct rivals the Hardhats had physical control over the city's pipelines and cut off the water supply to most of Golgatha, there was currently a tentative deal with their sworn enemies: lend us the water from your pipelines and we'll supply you with food, another scarce commodity. As bitter as the rivalry was, the Hardhats and Gang Green needed each other. Gang Green needed that water to grow their fruits and vegetables, and the Hardhats needed to eat. For the most part, everyone else could rot. That sort of superficial truce didn't stop the occasional skirmishes from occurring between their Tribes every now and then.

"Toilet duty says we're in knee deep for being late," Mickey says suddenly, leaning too close to Aramis for the latter man's comfort. Aramis jammed his hands into his pockets, making them poor targets for Mickey's Russian hands and Roman fingers.

"I know better than to make a bet with you," Aramis sneered, picking up the pace. "...You're on."

And the two raced back the remaining quarter mile to the Gang Green home base.


Bleeding Apocalypse
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