Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Pallbearer: Funeral Music Part 1

 An Open Grave

"Bury 'em."
"Yes sir."
"Easy does it. We don't want any of them getting out."
"Yes Mortician?"
"This place is crawling up my spine."
"Heh. It's a grave boy, what do you expect?"

"I just don't like it. This far south on the wall in this narrow ass corridor? We're a shooting gallery."
"Stuff it boy. The cannons on the wall are automatic, the wall itself is twelve feet thick, and its three stories tall. What in the fuck are you scared of? I'd be more scared of the prisoners in the box 'Bearer's stuffing through the wall."
"But... don't the cannons shut off while we bury them?"

Before Mr. Arlee could answer Mortician, the music started. Merry-go-round music. Cotton candy, fairs, carnivals.

Why was I shaking?

"Pallbearer, hurry up. Shove em through."
"They're almost locked in."
"Hurry goddammit. They're here. I need those cannons back online now. Push 'em through and clear the grave."
"There. Locked in. Shrouds closing... There, coffin and all three hundred corpses are through."
"Bring the cannons back online."
"They won't have time to clear the wall."
"I don't give a shit. Turn 'em on."
"Activating security cannons and..."

The ten-ton titanum coffin burst through the wall and landed on Sgt. Arlee. A single crunch. The coffin slid another ten feet before coming to a rest.

"Pallbearer! Get it off him!"
"Mort, it's too late. Take defensive positions. Now."
"If you don't move it, the rest of us will! We'll find a way!"
"Mort, mine's the only one that can lift that coffin. It's too late. Get ready to repel attack."
"Goddammit Neil!"

She went silent. Blood was seeping through the cracks around the box. The music stopped.

"Move it people. That box brought down half the wall in this corridor. It's a fucking miracle we aren't being swarmed yet. Now get your asses ready to repel an assault."

They moved quickly and in radio silence, their suits lumbering into position, taking cover behind the coffin. No point in my hiding. Riding a twelve foot tall robot, there was no cover for me.

"Home Office. Come in Home Office."
"Name and rank?"
"Prisoner Disposal Associate Anderson, Tier Six, Unit A-113."
"Associate Anderson report."
"Mr. Arlee has been prematurely terminated. There is a breach, I repeat a breach, in Corrider B-779. Approximately 200 feet of wall is breached. Prisoner status unknown."
"Unusual activity?"
"There was music."
"What kind?"
"Merry-go-round music. Circus stuff."
"Associate you are acting Manager. Hold the wall until reinforcements arrive. Failure will result in termination. Am I clear?"
"West Worthington; Making Lives More Profitable."
"More profit, less waste. Choose West Worthington."

"All right people, you heard Home Office. Either we hold this breach or we're dead anyway. Mortician, Tomb, Digger, and Undertaker, keep your eyes open. We are the biggest guns here. Cleaners without Sanitation Suits on, keep your asses out of the line of fire. I want clean, clear aim from the rocket teams. Machine gunners... stay out of the way. You'll just get hurt."
"Where are they?"
"Why haven't they hit us yet Neil?"

I didn't speak. I didn't know... Not for certain.

The music started again. Different this time. More upbeat. Showy.
And something started through the breach.

"Jesus Neil, they're clowns."

Packs of them, claws scraping the ground, mouths overflowing with teeth. Painted white with cotton candy pink and blue polkadots. Naked. Snarling. Spittle-flecking their cheeks. Another fine product of The Black Symphony's hackwork bio-engineering program. I pulled St. George from its holster on my back.

It had taken me three years to wheedle, beg, plead, and kiss enough ass to get St. George authorized. A rifle too large to be carried by anything but my machine. St. George fired 94mm shells. I keep incendiaries and armor-piercers in the belt around my bot at all times. St. George, patron saint of dragon-killers. After that day, my best friend.


The Sanitation Suits spat flames, their chainguns blazing. St. George roared. The clowns howled, loping forward. They were cut to pieces, falling, screaming. Those St. George found were blown apart. More flooded forward from the breach in the wall, an untold horde. And more died. And more came. The concrete was slick with blood, littered with the corpses of the clowns. Wave after wave crashed through the breach. Tomb's guns jammed and he was swarmed. He swatted down three more before they carved open his suit and began to feed. He was still screaming into his radio when his suit's power cell ruptured. The blast threw Digger into the coffin. He laid still, dead or unconscious. The clowns swarming Tomb were disintegrated. One bayed, loud and long.

The clowns fled. Retreat.

Undertaker moved to check Digger.

"Hold your goddamn position."
"Neil! Let him check!"
"Damn it Cassie, just watch that breach for movement. Same for you John. The popcorn can check on Digger."

Popcorn. Thirty infantry? Popcorn. If five Sanitation Suits won't stop something, thirty infantry are dead. Among them were three rocket teams. The rest were machinegunners. Useless. Expendable. Popcorn.

"What now?"
"The wall..."

A figure stood in the breach, nearly as tall as the wall itself. Misshapen, gnarled, and twisted. Limbs like tree trunks, but warped like roots. Drool dripped down its chest, onto the ill-fitting leotard it wore. Three teeth the size of an average man were all that populated its mouth. A single eye glared at us. Where the other eye had been was cauterized closed.

A strongman.

A man stood on its shoulder. Black and red striped sportcoat, red pants... red shirt... red and black wingtips. A black and red polkadot bowtie. His hair was long, slick, and ebony, pulled back into a ponytail. Small round red glasses perched on his nose. His skin was blackened, like a marshmallow left too long in the fire.



  1. Pretty good, though I've still no idea what's going on, is there more?

    JC Axe

    1. There is. You can get caught up with Pallbearer through the link on the front page of the blog, or you can head over to our new home at Wattpad https://www.wattpad.com/story/55084465-rate-of-decay/parts