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Dead EarthI’ve reached the top of the building. The sky is filled with dark clouds, as is the usual. The air isn’t as toxic up here as it is down at ground level, so I take the opportunity to take my gasmask off. It’s uncomfortable and makes the air taste stale, but I’ve grown accustomed to it now. I look out across the remains of the city, destroyed and locked in perpetual twilight by the nuclear war that destroyed most of civilization. It used to be called World War Three. Now it’s just called The War. It’s not like any of the other wars fought throughout history really matter anymore.
In the distance I can see the Shamblers starting to form a horde. The Shamblers are those horribly disfigured and mutated by the radiation of The War. We call them Shamblers because most have trouble walking properly with their disfigurements. They’re feral. I’ve never encountered a Shambler with any sort of mind left. They have a tendency to assemble into large gr
The Coffee GodThe Coffee God behind the counter shuffles foot to foot, a dance of steam and espresso. Black painted fingernails, inch gauged ears and a gray striped sweatshirt, hood crooked on his back. There's a cigarette tucked behind one ear; it bobs and twitches with each step.
“Non-fat caramel latte,” he calls, just as he always does, part of a spell, part of a mantra, toneless (just a tuck at the end). I reach. He looks up.
The espresso maker hisses.
There's something like a grin, something like a spark, something like a shared secret linked eye to eye. When he passes over the drink (rough cardboard sleeve hot to the touch), he lingers. Our fingers brush, a shiver, a jolt, a ten-watt shock.
The Coffee God tilts his chin, shouts, “Hey, mind if I take my break now?”
and ducks around the counter without waiting for a reply.
He slips his cigarette between his lips without taking his eyes from mine. I follow him out the door.
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