The Cupcake stares at me with surprise.
The world is fat and slow.
I manage a gurgling “what’r you looking at?” before my vision blurs, my legs wobble and I collapse to my knees. I can feel the blacktop beneath me, hot through the fabric of my jeans. A noiseless ‘snap’ inside my skull and a torrent of blood jets out of my already broken and dripping nose. I collapse forward into the growing puddle in front of me, and a sea of red stretches before me as my head bangs onto the blacktop and the lights mercifully go out.
I’m still on the road when I wake up. It’s night and I’m looking into a star filled desert sky. I stare into it for a bit, wondering just who might be hanging out up there, looking down on us meatbags. I mostly wonder if he’s laughing or crying. I imagine, like us, it’s not nearly enough of the former and a whole hell of a lot of the latter.
I’m enjoying the stillness when I hear Sara’s voice to my left. “Looks like sleeping beauty is awake.”
There’s a brief rustle of movement and The Cupcake’s moon face is looming over me blotting out the sky.
“That’s good then. Would hate to think that another of our happy little family had bought the farm.”
“Thirsty,” I say and lick my lips. They taste like blood.
“Back in a two shakes of a lambs tail,” the moon face smiles and disappears leaving the stars behind. I am sinking back into my revery when the face returns, only this time it has a hand as well.
The hand upends a plastic bottle and dribbles some water onto my lips. I open my mouth to catch the falling drops. It tastes like metal and burning. It tastes like blood. I gag and start to choke. I feel pudgy hands roll me onto my side and I vomit up a sickly stream of bile.
“Water, bad,” I say.
“Well boy’o, it’s not as bad as all that. I’ve had a cup or two myself. It’s certainly not lemonade, but, like Moses in the desert, we try not to complain. Water from our poor coach’s radiator will certainly have to do for now.”
“I need to sit up.”
“Demanding little tadpole aren’t you.”
I hear Sara’s voice, still to my left, “we should just let the shit die. Fucker knifed me.”
“Tut tut, dear. Don’t let her rough talk upset you little man. I offered to put one between your eyes hours ago. We could be having a nice little Bar-B-Que right now, but your lady friend convinced me not to. Now why don’t we see how the world looks from a more upright position.”
I feel the same pudgy hands grip my beneath my arms and I am being hauled across the pavement. My blood soaked clothes pull loose from my skin taking a fair amount of hair with them. I barely even wince. Pain and I are becoming old friends.
With a lurch I am tossed back against the wreckage of our tumbled truck. My head spins for a moment before my body decides it might as well send some of the blood still left up into my brain. I squeeze my eyes shut until the dizziness passes and my ears stop buzzing.
The bottle of radiator water is back. I take a deep pull and manage to keep it down this time.
I see Sara a few feet away, not looking at me, The Cupcake standing beside me, and a desert of shadows stretching out in front of us.
“What the fuck happened?” I ask.
The Cupcake sits down crosslegged in front of me and takes a nice long look. I don’t look away. He smiles his baby face grin. “Now that, my boy, is the question isn’t it? I really think it is. In fact, I think we would all like to know the answer to that little riddle. Isn’t that right Sara?” Sara doesn’t reply. “Well,” says the Cupcake, “I certainly would. It looked like we were in a bit of trouble until you killed that leather clad fellow.”
“Killed him?” I ask.
“Why yes. Don’t you remember? He gave you that little love tap on your nose and you gave him a look. Quite angry I might add. And ‘pop’, his head exploded like a ripe melon. Quite a mess, and quite a trick.”
The Cupcake leans towards me. The smile is gone, in it’s place is a malevolent intelligence. “So, now little man, I am thinking you are more than you seem, much more. How about you explain to me my why I shouldn’t gut you right here? You’ll still be crying and trying to stuff the steaming pile back in your belly when the dogs get here. Because, my boy, I don’t like surprises, not even on my birthday.”
I feel a pressure against my stomach and look down. The cupcake has a huge knife laid against my belly. I look up again. He’s smiling. I don’t like the smile.
I start talking fast. “Look man, I don’t really know. I mean sometimes I see things, sometimes I control it sometimes I don’t. I don’t know why, I don’t know how. My mom was the same way I think. I’ve never done anything like that though, like that guy in the leather, I didn’t mean to kill him, I just wanted to hurt him. This whole fucking scene man, it’s fucked up, and I just couldn’t take it anymore, I just wanted to wreck it, wreck everything. It’s all gone to shit man,”
I’m half sobbing half screaming now. On one level I’m ashamed , on some other level I don’t care anymore because it’s all true. “I’m tired of the hell I’m living in, I’m tired of friends dying, I’m tired of riding around in this fucking wasteland with a girlfriend who’s trying to kill me when we’re not fucking, and I’m sure as hell sick of having some fat fuck always waving knives in my face and threatening to gut me. How’d I pop that guys head? I don’t have any fucking idea. I wanted to destroy the world man, and I wish I could. Instead all I managed was to kill one guy who’s really probably no worse than any of the other homicidal maniacs left on this dust ball. So gut me and be done with it or get the fuck out of my face because I’ve had enough of all this bullshit you fat ice cream eating sack of shit!”
I’m staring into his face. The smile is gone again, and I’m looking into the face of a demon. I don’t care. For that instant I actually hope he’ll do it, that he’ll end this whole thing for me. And then the demon is gone and he’s smiling again. I feel the knife slide away. “I’m not fat, I’m just big boned,” and he’s laughing. And I’m laughing too, because what else can you do when the whole world has gone mad and even a hitman won’t kill you when you ask.
“Big boned my ass,” I say and the tears are rolling down my cheeks and the laughter won’t stop and I don’t want it to.
“You guys are completely fucked up,” says Sara. She doesn’t laugh with us, but at least she’s speaking to me again. The thought only makes me laugh harder.
Eventually it dries up to the occasional chuckle. The wheels of heaven spinning around and deciding that we’ve had enough fun for the moment, and that we can’t go completely insane, at least not yet.
“Kiddo,” says the Cupcake, slapping me on the shoulder, “our little conversation isn’t over yet, but it can wait a bit. Besides, when I come for you, you won’t even have time to know it, let alone pop my noggin.”
This makes me chuckle a bit, but something about the ‘when’ keeps it from being very funny.
I change the subject. “So, I hate to even ask, but what happened to McMurphy anyway?” Sara answers me this time. “Oh, those refugees from the Road Warrior drug him off after you passed out. You’re little head trick made em think twice about coming for us, but I saw them pull him out of a ditch and take him away.”
“He was dead wasn’t he?”
“Probably, but if he wasn’t then he is now. They had a cook fire going about a half mile from here. A little feast for the forsaken. If it’s too much trouble to eat the living, why not eat the dead. Times are tough all over I guess.”
“Jesus Christ,” I said, “McMurphy...”
Sara continues, “Better him than us, of course, we might be next unless we find some water and some transportation.”
“That’s not very likely in this empty stretch of hell.” I say, “At least we’ll have a tan when we die.”
The Cupcake chimes in, “That’s where your wrong. We’re going after our leather wearing friends. They obviously have water and maybe transportation. First light we’re on the trail. I for one can’t wait. It will be nice to hunt something besides mutants again.”
“Cupcake,” I say, “you might very well be the most evil creature left walking what’s left of this planet.”
This one makes us all laugh.
And then the wheels of heaven turn again and, in the distance, we hear howls.