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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.
It was a hot day.
        Running in the sun had its consequences. It was beating on Aramis and Mickey's backs as they walked, exhausted from their sprint towards the home base along the side of what used to be a busy freeway. Now, it was simply a stretch of blacktop leading out of the city, the paint long since faded by dust storms and the rare rains resulting in flash floods that would scrape debris along its surface. What was once paved and even now came apart like sections of stained glass, the grout growing wider and wider until at last no road remained. It came to an abrupt end only three miles outside of the city, forever lost to the impact of war and neglect over time.

        The soft jingle of metal sounded off with each step Aramis took, the only semblance of gaiety in this otherwise joyless world. He was the sort of person whose outward appearances gave him the look of someone who could care less about how he was perceived, his clothes a museum of discarded items and scraps that he put together without seemingly a care in the world. The truth was, however, that Aramis did care, very much, about his outwards appearances.

        Aramis took great care in making himself look attractive since his face, in particular, had been ravaged in many numerous brawls over the few short years of his life. He had extensive scarring; three long and savage scratches on the side of his face where he was clawed by a young woman who had fitted the tips of her nails with scrap metal. His lips bore a scar over their left side, where he had been punched in the mouth for drunkenly smarting off at a man a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier than himself. Another scar, from the upper part of the bridge of his nose to his lower right cheek, he can't remember how he got that one at all. But there was little doubt in his mind that he'd been doing something inherently stupid and deserved it. The scar on his chin was the only true accident, where he'd tripped over a fallen lamp post while running from the Curfew Police and busted his chin wide open. Aside from the hideous scars, Aramis had an otherwise pleasant face. Not as handsome as Mickey, perhaps, but not at all hideous. He had a wide forehead, with a gentle slope, that came to a halt above long, dark, shapely eyebrows. Smallish eyes in a perpetual squint were set beneath them. And though he often frowned, those eyes betrayed an easygoing humor about him that the rest of his face would not. He wore an eye patch over his right eye, though nothing was wrong with it. Aramis was heterochromic, with the exposed eye a deep forest green at the right a rich, sapphire blue. He kept his blue eye covered for reasons known only to him, and few knew that he even had an eye to speak of under the patch. Between them was a large nose with a strong slope, which made for an interesting profile, complete with small nostrils that would flare whenever he was thinking much too hard about something. A pair of full, curvaceous lips with a wonderfully defined cupid's bow completed his face. Lips that often smiled, even when the rest of his face wouldn't. His chin came to a decent point from a narrow, yet sharply angled jaw. Smallish ears were decorated with whatever gleaming object he could stick into them. He liked to shine, one way or the other.

        Aramis and Mickey were exhausted, and slowed to a trot before long, eventually falling into a slow plod. The blond caught Mikey looking at him in a sideways manner, and immediately shoved his hands into his pockets, lest Mickey's fingers found their way in there first. "You really ought to trust your own friends, you know," Mickey sneered, turning his nose up in feign indignation. "I'm hurt that you don't trust me near your pockets. Hurt!" Aramis waved off the comment much in the same manner that one would wave away and annoying fly from the front of his face. "Mikey Shift, you are a man whom no creature under God's earth should trust as he lives and breathes," he countered, stepping sideways and out of Mickey's immediate reach. The other man laughed, rubbing at the black stubble of his chin, mumbling an almost inaudible, "Yeah, I know." Any trek is made longer when you know there's work to be done at the end of it, and this was no different. Today was Thursday, and Aramis' turn to help fertilize and weed at the communal gardens and nurseries. Keeping a food supply sustainable for hundreds of people was backbreaking work, but everyone had their assigned jobs. After all, if you didn't contribute, you were dead weight. And if you were dead weight, you weren't good to anyone. And in a world like this, you had better be some good to someone to stay alive. Tomorrow they would keep close to the compound for cleaning duty, no small task when you consider the complexities that need to be accounted for in preserving food and a suitable environment for food. Even worse when you consider refrigeration simply just wasn't an option for Gang Green---only The Hardhats could afford that sort of luxury, and a few of their high-ranking clientele. And it goes without saying that organic food had some interesting effects on the human digestive system.

And so they walked. Until, finally, they were at a place they reluctantly called "home."

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________


        A shovel slammed into the soft, fertile soil of Gang Green's communal garden. Tired hands in thick, worn yellow gloves grip tightly the splintering shaft. The paint of the blade had long since worn off, showing only rust and dirty steel in the glare of an angry sun. Aramis was filthy. Sweat caused every bit of dust and dirt flung up during his time in the field to cling to his skin in a crumbling, muddy mess. And if he tried to wipe it off, he succeeded in only making himself dirtier. He'd forsaken his shirt for now, opting to wrap it around his head instead to protect himself from heatstroke. His jeans were rolled up to mid-calf, and the hand-me-down combat boots he wore were ill-suited for working in soft, malleable soil. And yet, he worked, along with two hundred other men, tilling and aerating between the grunts of demanding physical labor. To his immediate right was, of course, Mickey Shift. Mickey was mumbling his cusses to himself in that odd tongue he invented to keep anyone else from knowing what he was talking about. Every now and then Aramis could pick out a "gidfakin feyen humbrannin" or something there other. Things only Mickey knew for sure, but the average guy could probably get the gist of if they were said to him. It was beginning to try the blond's patience. He could only take so much stupid mumbling before it drove him nucking futs.

        "Mick, could you do me a favor and let up on the mumbling?" the blond asked finally, giving Mickey Shift and exasperated look. Mickey, indignant at being told to hush when he as in full swing of his string of cusses, didn't take kindly to the request. "Plug up your ears then," he sneered, giving a bit more attitude than what was usual in their normally playful jockeying for position. Aramis didn't appreciate this at all, but he was too hot and too tired to argue it further. As long as Mickey didn't irritate him any more than he already did, he could bite the bullet and keep working.

But it didn't happen that way, of course.

        Mickey began again with his mumbling, cussing out the fact that he had to work, that it was too hot to do this sort of thing, that his back ached and his hands hurt, and that all this equated to was slave labor. At last, Aramis had enough, "Mick," he spat, "Shut the ******** up already. Okay? Talk all the s**t you want in your head, I just don't wanna hear it." No sooner than had Aramis finished his sentence did Mickey Shift drop his shovel and stand straight up, removing the enormous rubber gloves and tossing them onto the ground beside him. "You gonna make me shut up?" he asked, dark eyes burning with more than just a bruised ego---it was an open show of disrespect in Mickey's eyes, and he'd be damned if Aramis tried to belittle him out in public and make him out to be some sort of easy target. "You don't wanna do this, Mick," the blond muttered. "Pick up your shovel, finish your work, and finish it quietly." The raven-haired man put a hand to the blond's shoulder and gave it a small, attention-getting shove. Just enough to light the fuse of Aramis' explosive temper. "You're only ******** deaf when you wanna be, is it?" Mickey chuckled. "I asked if you're gonna make me shut up." With his nostrils flaring like an angry bull, Aramis soon stood up to meet Mickey's glare, throwing his shovel aside and removing his gloves as well. "You've got all of two seconds to pick up your ******** shovel, Mick, before I make you swallow your ******** teeth," he growled, stepping close enough to feel the other man's breath on his face. Mickey wasn't one to back down, however. And as quick as Aramis' temper was, Mickey's reactions were much, much faster. He delivered a hell of a haymaker to Aramis' jaw, causing the blond's head to snap sharply to the right. His brain didn't even have time to process the very sensation of pain before Aramis had thrown himself at Mickey full-force, tackling the taller man to the ground. Covered in sweat and soil and fertilizer, they were a disgusting mess of machismo and mud, slimy limbs slamming into each other, dirty fingernails trying to carve out chunks of flesh, filthy boots kicking violently at their opponent. A small group of fellow Gang Green members began to gather to watch the fight with only a mild half-interest. Maybe it was just too hot to care, or maybe this sort of thing happened so frequently that it just didn't matter anymore. Whatever the case, Aramis and Mickey Shift were beating the snot out of each other until the very moment they were pulled apart by mutual friends, each telling them to "knock it off, before we all get in trouble!"

        But it was too late. The fight was already seen by someone in charge. It was seen by Tommy Relish, one of the more prominent members of Gang Green. And by the look on his face, he was not one bit pleased.


Bleeding Apocalypse
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