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RPG The World Ends in Ten Posts


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[COLOR=DarkSlateGray]I pull the cord as the bus approaches City Hall, and the vehicle moans to a halt at my bus stop. I step out of the stuffy vehicle into the warm, lavender evening. It's summer?hot and muggy, but finally cooling down. We hit 102° this afternoon, and people in low-income apartments are dying of heat stroke... No one really pays attention to that; it's just a fact of life. People in this climate are never ready for hot weather... and sometimes, because of that, it kills them.

I try not to think about it. The sun has almost set, and we're on the verge of that long summer twilight that everyone loves... still light enough to see, but finally cool enough to move around.

I walk down the street towards the post office.

A woman ushers her daughter hurriedly past the bum sitting outside the local ice cream parlor. He calls out a hello; I avoid eye contact but give him a bus token.

A handful of children splash in the fountain across from the police station. Their parents sit on the patio of Jim's Grill, munching on french fries (best in town) or having a drink. One boy steals a sip of his mother's beer and spits it out.

The post office is closed (it's well after five o' clock), but there's a stamp vending machine by the door. The man in front of me buys five international-rate stamps ($4.50) and gets a fifty-cent piece as change from the machine. It flashes orange in the last of the sunlight before he drops it in his pocket.

I buy a sheet of ten postcard stamps and walk back to Jim's Grill. I've got a date.[/COLOR]
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[color=darkslateblue]Erin enters the dining room and begins scanning the crowd for my face. It's early in the evening, but for a small town like this five o' clock meant 'dinner time.' Despite it?s food, service and overall quality Jim?s Grill somehow remained a fixture of our nights together. Jim?s was definitely not my first choice, but dating a girl with so many allergies limited our options quite a bit.

I was seated towards the back, stuffed between a carousel horse and a barrel of peanut shells. Hoping to get her attention I raise my hand in the air and begin to wave it about. She locks eyes with me, a grimace is smeared across her face.

?You seem somewhat disappointed,? I say as she approaches the table, ?[I]I?m sure if we asked they would let us move near the pinball machine.[/I]?

Erin rolls her eyes and reaches for a package of postcards in her purse.

?It?s not that. I was hoping you?d be late. You see, the post office closes at five, and??

?Don?t worry about it. I was just soaking up the atmosphere. Like a sponge.?

The sour expression on her face quickly turns to a smile.

?I appreciate you coming down here,? she says, ?I know I?ve been so busy lately??

Our waitress approaches the table and asks if we are ready. Erin quickly grabs the menu and ducks her head in shame.

?Maybe some popcorn shrimp to start?? I ask the waitress.

?Peanut oil,? Erin replies while ducking behind the menu.

?Right. We need a few more minutes. Please.?

Our server shrugs and without saying a word begins to walk away.[/color]
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[COLOR=DarkSlateGray]I take a deep breath and [i]pull in[/i] the atmosphere around me. This is the non-smoking section, but the scent of old beer and cigarette smoke lurks in the upholstery and the table cloths. The back of the restaurant is dimly lit and full of odds and ends. It's more like an attic where they just [i]happen[/i] to serve a killer burger than it is an actual restaurant. I give the peanut barrel a wary appraisal, and begin to scan the menu.

I don't mind the allergies, really. People give me sympathetic smiles and shake their heads when they find out... "Oh, you poor dear. That must be so hard!" It's not, really. I'm used to it?when I was a kid I had cream cheese and jelly sandwiches instead of PBJs, and I had to give up most of my Halloween candy (people have no [i]idea[/i] how much chocolate comes in contact with peanuts)... but that's just my lot in life. I've never had a [i]severe[/i] reaction, because my parents were always really careful with me... but there's always the chance. My doctor says that about one in five people with peanut allergies "outgrow' them by their mid-to-late twenties. So, maybe... we'll see.

I know Cory isn't a fan of Jim's Grill, but I like it here. It's become such a tradition, and I love it because of that. They also make great milkshakes. I'm allergic to the strawberry ones, but I [i]happen[/i] to know that the chocolate shakes here are peanut-free, and that's a big plus.

The waitress comes back, annoyed, and asks if we are ready yet. We are. She returns in a few minutes with my milkshake and our artichoke dip appetiser. The burgers will be a while. When they arrive, I dig in. Cory looks with dismay at his order?they've gotten it wrong again?but he opts to eat it rather than try to get it changed. He really does have rotten luck with this place. We bask in idle, smokey conversation.

I finish my burger and fries (they're to die for) and flag down a waitress. She sighs heavily before asking what I want. I ask to see the desserts?and Cory sighs as well.

They have cherry pie.[/COLOR]
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[color=darkslateblue]While we wait to see the desserts Erin pulls out the postcards she was reaching for earlier and begins examining them.

"Who are all of those postcards for?"

She thinks for a moment and grins.


I nod, hoping I had somehow misheard her over the oldies music playing in the background.

"Brian? I didn't realize you two stayed in touch."

"We don't," she says as she points to her recent purchase, "Hence the trip to the post office."

There is an uncomfortable moment of silence before our server, Megan, approaches the table with a dessert tray in tow.

?They have a desert tray?? I ask, nursing my Roy Rogers, "Classy."

?It sells more desserts,? Megan says as her arm buckles under the weight of homemade pie crust, ?What can I get you folks??

Maybe a few hours ago this tray of ?live? desserts would have sold, but we were confronted with a melted, bruised and dried out selection of treats. I settle on a harmless choice: fudge brownie, while Erin takes her time to decide. Megan?s patience, and most likely our service, are dwindling by the second.

?You know you?re just going to get the cherry pie,? I mutter.

?I don?t [I]know[/I] that!? She exclaims, ?I?m thinking about this? cheesecake-looking thing here.?

?That?s actually white chocolate mousse.? Our server replies, ?It?s new.?

?Oh. Hm. What?s in it??

?White. Chocolate. Mousse.?

Erin waves her hands dismissively.

?Never mind then. I?m ready for the check.?

The ground begins to tremble, knocking Erin?s glass of soda onto the floor. Towards the front of the restaurant a baby cries, and its? mother makes a futile attempt to calm the thing down. Erin begins shaking herself. I often forget that they don?t have things like ?earthquakes? and ?sunshine? where she comes from.

?It?s only a small one,? I say, ?It?s nothing to worry about,?

I grab Erin?s hand, hoping to comfort her. She seems too distracted to even notice. A few assorted knick-knocks become loose from their fixtures, falling on some of the other tables but causing no real damage. Megan continues angling the dessert tray in our direction, perhaps hoping that fear and panic will compel Erin to change her mind about the white chocolate mouse.

The shaking stops.[/color]
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[COLOR=DarkSlateGray]The jukebox [i]screeches[/i] unnaturally. The kids outside start screaming and crying. My soda tumbles onto my lap, then to the floor as I jump up in alarm. Trinkets fall onto our table from the shelf above. A freakish smiling dog, two of the three Wise Monkeys, a tin robot, a metal slinky, a perfume bottle shaped like a pig?

The pig's nose breaks off, spilling perfume into the thick, noisy air. I stagger sideways, grabbing onto Cory as the shaking stops. The slice of cherry pie slides from Megan's tray onto our table, landing with a sickening [i]splat[/i] on my pile of postcards, staining them bright, bloody red?

The robot skitters across the table, beeping and blinking?

The restaurant lights flicker?

My heart is racing. I can't breathe?

[i]An instant of silence.[/i]

...The baby at the front of the room whimpers, and a moment later, general hubbub resumes. The jukebox hums back to life. The slinky [i]slinks[/i] itself off the table, unnoticed.

[i]It's over[/i].

I nearly collapse with relief.

"It's nothing to worry about," Cory repeats, squeezing my shoulder. "Just a small one." I feel like I'm underwater?I barely hear him. But I [i]do[/i] hear... a buzzing? I look around, seeking the source of the sound.

I find it. The tin robot on our table is still trembling. I reach out, slowly?and pull back, nursing my finger. The metal is hot to the touch. [i]Ow[/i]. I suck on my finger, peering at the toy. Its lights are blinking?now its eyes flash red. I stare.

"What did you do to your finger?"

Cory is looking at me.
I am looking at the robot.
...Which is looking at Megan.

The toy [i]creaks[/i], then [i]hums[/i], then [i]skeeeeeeews[/i]. I follow the tiny red lasers as they shoot out, focusing on our waitress's forehead.

Megan's eyes grow wide for an instant?then her face goes blank, and she falls to the ground, knocking over the barrel of peanuts.

The screaming starts again.
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[color=darkslateblue]As Megan drops to the ground Erin begins to vomit. The diners start to stampede out of the front doors, most not even sure what they?re running from. The small, innocuous looking machine at our table begins shaking again, this time turning its glowing red eyes towards me.

I grab for the nearest? [I]something[/I] could reach. It turns out to be one of the vanity license plates that fell off the wall: ELVS4EVR, or something like that. I immediately strike the robot, knocking it and its bizarre energy beams straight across the room. The heat from the beams narrowly avoids my face, but makes contact with the curtains behind me. Within an instant the entire restaurant is on fire.

?We need to go,? I say as I reach for Erin?s hand.

She looks at me, her face full of tears and confusion. I doubt mine looks much better at the time. Erin and I lock hands once more, and we rush out through the emergency exit in the back. The sun is almost completely set, but even from the alleyway we see that chaos and destruction had swept over the town.

A body lies on the street corner with a large, metallic appendage sticking out of it. Individual screams of terror can be heard echoing from all directions but are quickly drowned out by loud, mechanical sounds. It?s almost as if we are in a construction zone. I look at Erin. My eyes narrow and this time I?m the one to throw up.

Erin places her hand on my shoulder and begins to sob. I can feel her tears dropping onto my back.[/color]
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[COLOR=DarkSlateGray]The alley is grey and damp, but almost quiet. I catch my balance against the back of Jim's Grill, my fingers digging into the rough bricks as I try to stop the world from spinning. My face is wet?I feel sick. Cory doubles over?from shock of what just happened, or the alley's stink of garbage and sour milk. I hold his shoulders as he throws up, trying to calm myself down by focusing on him.

It doesn't work.

The alley echoes with pounding footsteps, awful screeches, and muted screams from the rest of downtown. There's a horrible [i]crunch[/i] of metal, and one nearby scream cuts short. Someone is crying uncontrollably?I realise it is me.

I try to stop crying, and choke. An instant of panic, a lungful of air, and I alter my approach to concentrate on [i]breathing[/i] instead of "not crying." I begin to hiccough.

Nothing here moves?for this second, we are safe.

Cory stands up, looking pale. "We need to get out of here," he says. I nod, and hiccough in agreement.

There is an old pick-up down the alley?it belongs to Betty, the owner of the ice cream shop, and it's older than I am. My brother runs errands for Betty sometimes... "She keeps the keys in the glove box," I say, and we dash toward it. We're a few steps away when it clunks, and settles.

We freeze.

The old Ford clicks, then hums. Its headlights blink on, and the engine [i]growls[/i] to life.

There's no one at the wheel.

We turn and run.[/color]
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[color=darkslateblue]A building is burning behind us. A truck is about to crash into us.

?I?m sorry,? I say with tears streaming down my face. Erin doesn?t know why.

We both rush into the adjacent building: A drug store, as the pick-up truck crashes into the wall behind us at full speed. The building shakes from the impact, and dust falls from the ceiling. We?re in the rear entrance of the pharmacy. At least I think we are. It?s too dark to tell.

I hear heavy breathing, but I can?t tell if it?s Erin?s or my own. I reach for my cell phone, but decide against touching it altogether. We creep further and further into the darkness. I?m leading.

?I? I think?? Erin stutters as she speaks, ?I think I lost one of my shoes outside.?

From the dim light shining in through the windows it looks as if the drug store is completely abandoned. A cash register is knocked onto the ground, cash lying across the floor. The temptation to grab some for myself sets in. I decide against it.

I feel a tug on the back of my shirt, and a muffled shriek. Erin points towards a security camera in the corner of the building. The light is on. They?re watching.

?We should leave.? I whisper.

Silence. The sound of Erin?s footsteps fade away.

[i]?Where else would we go??[/i]

Brief flashes of red light can be seen in the town square, each one followed by a brief, but terrible scream. The courthouse is in flames. The police station is in flames.

An enormous, metallic object rolls in front of the shop windows, obstructing our view of the town square. Strange, mechanical buzzing is heard. It?s almost deafening.

I think of the girl I love, and wonder why she couldn?t be here to die with me instead

?This is it.?[/color]
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  • 2 weeks later...
[COLOR=DarkSlateGray]The buzzing grows louder, louder, shriller?a terrifying, metallic crescendo. Louder, higher, impossibly high?I keep waiting for it to break, for the sound to stop, but it doesn't. It doesn't stop. [i]It doesn't stop[/i]. I want to run, to scream, to cry, [i]anything[/i] to lessen the sound around me.

Cory says something, but I can't hear him.
[i]The buzzing pierces my ears?[/i]

I follow his eyes.
[i]A hundred giant wasps?[/i]

He's looking outside.
[i]A thousand electric drills?[/i]

Our small town is in chaos.
[i]A dozen chainsaws?[/i]

There's a horrible knot in my stomach.
Something brushes my shoulder.

[i]...A lone, angry fly on a hot Sunday afternoon?[/i]

Something inside me snaps. I whirl around, startled, almost mad. Cory jerks away, drawing his hand back. His lips move. I hear nothing.

I scream, shove him away from me, and [i]run[/i].

Out of the shadowed pharmacy?an explosion of light as I burst into the street?I can hear again?cars swerve onto the sidewalks?a fire hydrant has been upended?water shoots forcefully into their air?it tumbles down from the sky?there is screeching?screaming?a woman?red, wet blood?

For an instant, almost a whisper, I think I hear my name...

I turn.

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