Because it wasn’t bad enough that I’m dying of food poisoning and have a snake bite on my ass and the wound is probably infected, now thanks to Martialla, I also probably have Dengue fever or Hippo pox or whatever you get from roughly a million gallons of dirty tar-water-oil being flooded into all the holes in your head. When Martialla fired at the beast, it charged at us because of course it did! Why would it not charge at us? You mess with the bull you get the horns. Or rather, as my grandmother used to say, you can’t go looking around with hot water and then act shocked when you get burned a little bit.
When it came at us it seemed like it pushed half the entire lake in front of it – I’ve seen surfers on smaller waves out at the Wedge. It was like a dam had broken. It was like a fucking tsunami. I suppose that worked out in our favor though because it was such a deluge of water flying at us that we were washed away a good thirty yards or so instead of being seized in the creature’s jaws or tentacles or claws or acid-pouch or whatever other weird mutant grabbers it had.
We were yanked off our feet and sent spinning around like a mouse in a washing machine. My mask was knocked off and pretty much every crease and crinkle in my body was aggressively infiltrated with filthy water. Filthy isn’t even a strong enough word. Sludge is what it was. Or some kind of slurry. It was like that slime they dump on people at the kid’s choice awards only with slightly more typhus. I thought I had a bad cough before, for a good half an hour after Martialla’s stupid maneuver got me drenched and full body enema-ed, I coughed so much my ribs felt like they were cracking in half. Lengthwise I mean.
When I finally managed to stop hacking and snorting the mud out of my face and staggered to my feet, there was no sign of the beast. Which is good because it easily could have killed us all while we were half-drowned and all filth-spattered. Our guide was not pleased by this turn of events. Not because he was drenched with garbage juice which would have been reasonable, because I think he was actually cleaner afterwards, or because our attempt at beast slaying was an utter failure, but because we had fired a gun. He was very upset about that. He said that guns were not allowed around here. What the hell did he think we were going to do? Jump in the water and wrestle the sharktopusgatorphant with our bare hands?
A bunch more dudes from the village with sticks showed up to tell us we were banished forever, not just from that village but from all the villages around the lake of disgusting filmy grime water. What would have been funny is if we shot them all while they yelled at us and shook their sticks in our faces about how guns were not okay. Irony? But we didn’t shoot them while they yelled at us and shook their sticks in our faces. What would have been the point? There’s nothing quite like being banned from a place you don’t want to go to anyway. Like that time I was told never to return to Chuck-E-Cheese.
We managed to pull our masks out of the muck but since all the filters for them got covered with mud and crud and scrud, there was no reason to put them back on our faces. I wore mine on my head like a hat, a little dash of post-apocalyptic flare. We headed north into (out of?) exile from grosstown because it seemed like the easiest path. For several hours, any time either of us tried to speak we were arrested by a coughing fit but eventually as we trudged along to nowhere, we managed to croak words at each other.
“Are we going to get used to this air quality or die of cardiopulmonary disease?”
Martialla though a moment before answering “Yes?”
“Remember in that movie Speed when Keanu accidentally stabs the gas tank of the bus with a screwdriver and then the girl from the Net asks him if he felt like being on a bus with a bomb wasn’t a big enough challenge for him? I’m trying to think of a line like that for you trying to drown us with a septic pit wave.”
“Well keep working on it, I’m sure it will come to you. Weren’t you supposed to be in Speed Three?”
I couldn’t help but spit, and not because my esophagus was coated with crude oil “Yes but that mother fucker Jason Patric said that I was too old to be his love interest. I’m ten years younger than him!”
“In Hollywood that does make you too old to be the love interest doesn’t it? If he’s in his mid-thirties, wouldn’t they have needed to cast a middle schooler as the female lead?”
“Yeah well he’s dead now, and good riddance I say. You ever see that movie Narc? What a piece of crap.”
“Speed Two wasn’t bad enough for you as a reference?”
I looked around at the blighted and benighted landscape “I can’t say that I ever gave much thought to what I would be doing after the end of the world, but criticizing the career works of Jason Patric with you is not what I would have expected at all.”
“Funny, I expected nothing else.”