Another subgenre mash-up challenge from Chuck Wendig saw me asking my random number generator for two numbers between 1 and 20. 5 and 19 gave me the challenge of combining Post-Apocalyptic Horror and Bizarro. I had to look the latter up. I did my best, but forgot about the Horror aspect. I’m not good on horror. And Halloween was yesteday. It’s All Saints Day today. I know, I can drop the pedantry a bit, can’t I? Look I write the words, I count them. I give you 992 including the title:
The Indescribable Ugliness of Pants
Anyone who could remember the time before the second 9/11 was safely behind bars. Dawn mused on this patently absurd saying as she slipped through the grime-encrusted wreck of a diner, creeping after her next specimen. She wasn’t behind bars, and neither was the stick-thin woman, clad in a horrendously patterned pair of leggings that she must have found in a derelict charity store. There were plenty of derelict charity stores, and a mind-blowing assortment of badly patterned leggings to choose from.
The reinforced concrete upright yielded to her touch, bent sideways to let her pass, then resumed its strong support for the building above. Dawn snapped her specimen with her hand-held Parsnip, and checked her tally. Four for the day so far. Willoughby would not be content with less than six.
She squeezed through the grating of the subway vent, and swung herself over to the girder. While she moved, the beam held its rigid form, but once she stopped it would yield to her weight. Useful if she wanted a comfortable rest, but a bit of a let-down if she wanted to stand still. Not drawing attention to herself was a speciality. She reached a crossbeam where it was supported by an upright, and knew she could pause and survey the complex alleys below. For a City of Eternal Sleep, there was plenty of action. Two cats walked along the old 9 line, their humans on leads. Felines understood humans could be trained to heel perfectly well; canines had severe trouble in understanding the change in the top dog status. For all their advantage in size, neither cats nor dogs had succeeded in taking over a society in which all animals had become equals. Rats and their rodent cousins ran the show.
Rats made tolerant and intelligent leaders. They didn’t bother with the remnant human population. They left all that to those who needed their revenge. Pets. Companion animals, as they had once been termed. Show a human a ten foot guinea pig and they soon knew who was boss. Some had taken a little while to come round to the change in ownership status. Another black mark against dogs, many of whom had let the side down badly. The rats soon sorted them out. There was a reason for rechristening Liberty Island the Isle of Dogs, and it had nothing to do with international relations.
Dawn spotted another specimen, creeping along the side of the track. This one had done well on whatever scraps it had found. Either that or its pants were three sizes too small. Maybe both, Dawn thought as she snapped an eye-watering combination of Native American design pants with a bright orange top. No point in creeping along the track in that outfit, might as well brazen it out. Dawn couldn’t decide whether it was male or female. It seemed to be a shape-changer. It happened that way to some people. Dawn’s theory was that if you had a settled home life, you had a settled form, too. She felt drawn to the safety of home. One more specimen to find. Maybe if she started in that direction…
One of the best things about bendable metal is that you could always find a way out of awkward spots. Dawn’s attempt to run the girder to the next station was stymied by a rat coming in the other direction. She bent down, hugged the metal and swung her body underneath it. The metal bowed between her arms and she dropped safely to the ground. The rat swore at her and ran on.
Dawn paused, considering her options. The subway seemed unusually quiet for the time of day. She headed up the broken steps out into the daylight. Jagged teeth that had once been tall buildings warped like trees in the breeze. Clouds scudded across a khaki sky, the atmosphere barely letting in enough sunlight for photosynthesis any more. Just as well that plants had learnt to use potential energy. She grabbed a creeper and swung herself up onto the broken fascia where words ran together to spell “the world’s longest running m”. Dawn couldn’t remember what m was any more. It was just a handy place to use as a springboard. She kept hold of a couple of leaves as she made her next leap, and stuffed them into her mouth before she grabbed the swaying once-neon sign with both hands. You needed to be agile round here. She blessed those hours she used to spend in the gym. No need for them now. No gym, either.
She spotted it!
A prime specimen swinging through the ruined tower two floors above her. Willoughby would be delighted with that – his second favourite colour! Blue tie-dyed with chalky pink. OK, so he wouldn’t like the pink but there wasn’t too much of that. Dawn’s extra speed brought her up and parallel to the target. Leaping across a couple of streets far below was just the nature of the job. If she could just get close enough…
A howl of delight just in front of her made her lose her footing: foot-long teeth snapped the air above her as she sprawled over the side of the building. A sixth sense encouraged her to keep going, rather than save herself. She snapped her Parsnip at the slavering jaws she’d escaped from, and bounced on a load of smelly trash on the edge of the sidewalk below. It deflated with an odoriferous fart, but Dawn just thanked it for the soft landing, leaping to her feet and heading towards the R-UN crater.
She was ready for the safety of her cage. Willoughby would have to wait another day for the tie-dyed monstrosity. She gathered up dandelion leaves and strings of creepers that she knew he liked. When you were a guinea pig slave it paid to bring your owner fresh greens with his daily ugly-pants.