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Monstropocalypse, Opus IV

Post Apocalypse

Mark Spitzer






Growing up in a nineteenth-century fortress in the upper Midwest was a bummer. On one hand, Finn lived like a prisoner. On the other hand, others didn't even get that option, because they were dead. Still, Finn didn't see what was so great about being able to breathe and eat and get homeschooled by Eli Kozwalski, his sick and eccentric white-haired father, the geezer who got him into this mess in the first place.

From the top of their turreted tower high above a tributary of what used to be the Mississippi, they reclined on lawn chairs, sipping homebrews in the green-glowing dusk. They were in Minnesota, or Wisconsin, or whatever. Place names didn't matter anymore, since no one could go anywhere. Not with the monster masses out there devouring everything that moved. That's why there were no squirrels in the trees, or turtles visible on the banks, or fish rising in the water, or even bugs. Those kinds of non-mutated creatures had ceased to exist following The Hurricane.

Finn was eighteen years old, Eli was sixty-one, and, like usual, the freaks of nature roaring below were swarming the ramparts: carp-headed mutants, mastiff-torsoed semi-humans, pig-faced primates, etc. In short, endless hordes of naked gnashing cannibals, shrieking and yowling, biting random chunks from each other, and clawing at the old stone bulwarks.

"Damn hybies!" Eli coughed, then spat over the edge.

The word "hybie" had been coined by Eli. It came from "hybrid," even though the scavengers below had nothing high in their breeding at all. They were accidents born from disaster, their genetic structures out of control. Nobody knew exactly how the process worked and nobody knew how it could be stopped.

Lighting a homemade grenade (a Molotov cocktail made from cornstalk alcohol), Eli tossed it over the edge and Finn watched it fall into the monsters' midst.

BLAFFF! It exploded in a flaming spray of body parts and viscera. This was about the only entertainment that Eli and Finn had known for the last seven years, isolated in the fortress.

"HACK HACK!" Eli suddenly erupted.

Another coughing fit was starting up and Finn wasn't fixing on watching his father fight it.

Finn chucked his beer bottle over the edge. It spun for a few seconds, then shattered on the lizard head of a three-armed fur-covered fatty that screamed back in blind fury, spraying vomit from its face.

"I'm going to go talk to Margie87," Finn said.

There were a few other survivors, down south, still holding out in "the Colony." That's where his father's identical twin brother Damien had hunkered down with the Doomsdayers.

"Okay," Eli responded, readying another grenade. "HACK HACK! Send my brother my best and tell him he's a real—HACK HACK HACK!—humanitarian."

"Sure," Finn said, descending the spiral staircase, then feeling his way through the pitch-black library. He could hear his father above, hacking his guts into his fist, but he made it to the gym where some lime-colored light was still diffusing through the room.

The exercise bike was there, hooked up to an old fashioned ham radio. Finn called it a "bike-o-phone," and this was as high-tech as it got.

Getting on, he flicked the switch. The fan belt tightened, the machine started humming, and he picked up the microphone while keeping up a steady pace.

"Hey Margie87, Margie87. You out there?"

Static came back, and then a crackle. This was Facebook, this was Twitter.

"Finn?" Margie87 replied in her sixteen-year-old-hipster voice. "I've been waiting for your call. WTF?"

"I'm so bored," he said. "I wish the old man would just hurry up and kick the bucket."

"Come on now," she chastised him. "That's no way to talk about Eli."

"Yeah, I know, but it's tough being a Post-Apocalyptic teen. I never get to do anything."

"Tell me about it," she returned. "Being a Doomsdayer sucks too!"

"What are you wearing?" Finn giggled.

"You're such a horndog!" she laughed back, adding a retro "LOL!"

"Well, at least tell me what you look like," Finn put in. "I've been talking to you for eight years now and I have no idea what you look like."

"You tell me first."

"You know, typical looking, somewhere in the range of six feet tall. Whatever color eyes you imagine, whatever color hair you want..."

"That's a lame description."

"Tell me what you look like."

"Oh you know, blonde hair, big breasts, sultry eyes."

"Tight ass?"


The teenagers continued to flirt, both pedaling hundreds of miles from each other. This took Finn's mind off his father's worsening cough, and the fact that their resources were beginning to run out.



The Kozwalski brothers had been born in Cuba, raised in South Korea and Japan, and had spent their high school years in private schools from Canada to South Africa, but they weren't your usual military brats. They were the sons of a Top Secret scientist-spy who worked for the US Government.

Damien and Eli inherited their father's aptitude for thinking in terms of numbers, sequences, cause and effect relationships, and chemical analysis. A few chemlab explosions and a suspected instance of stray animal dissection did not prevent scholarships to Göteberg University in Sweden, where the brothers roomed together and kept on raising scientific hell.

Ultimately, Dr. Damien Kozwalski was hired to teach medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans, whereas Dr. Eli Kozwalski went to work as a general practitioner in some po-dunk Midwestern town. Eli married and had a son, but Damien remained a bachelor obsessed with making mountains out of molehills. Or to put it less metaphorically: making mountains of food by speeding up the growth rates of certain proteins.

Eli had always known that his brother was whacked and that his experiments could end up having catastrophic results, but he had assisted him in his research anyway. When Damien compared himself to Jesus in an interview, feeding the hungry masses with nothing more than a fish and a few loaves of bread, things hit the fan. His license was revoked and he was fired from his job. With nothing more to lose, he put his visionary theories to the test.

Damien's former students saw the possibilities of their mentor's research, however, and raised funds to keep it going. They assisted him, provided food and shelter, and recruited more and more believers. And as the globally warmed tropical storms ravaged the water and land around them, Damien and company became known as the "Doomsday Cult," always decrying some sort of eco-Armageddon.

But the thing was: they were correct. The seas were warming two degrees Fahrenheit per year, the oceanic currents were radically changing, desertification was taking over, and floods were raging all over the planet.

The next thing they knew, the second mass oil spill hit the Gulf of Mexico, spread into the marshes of Louisiana, then gooped its way over to Florida and Texas, contaminating the shores for good. The residents of Petrochem Corridor (that industrial strip of factories and holding vats stretching from Houston to Tallahassee) had been too burnt out to even object. Ever since Katrina, it had been one disaster after another: BP, the quadruple meltdown, the Ozark Fracking Disaster, and now this.

In the following two months, 90% of the population below Interstate 10 hightailed it for the North, and the entire region was basically left to fare for itself. Lawlessness became the norm, criminals and Evangelists flocked to the swamps, whereas those with families and any sort of currency went in the exact opposite direction.

As the exodus continued, the Doomsdayers grew in numbers. They were certain that America was going the route of Rome, and since land was cheap and defendable in the super-contaminated Deep South, they bought the historic Garville Leper Colony on the banks of the Mississippi and converted it into a garrison.

With Dr. Damien Kozwalski as their charismatic leader, they prodded back the marauding gangs and militia thugs while treating the betoxined and belesioned rejects of the system who scratched and scraggled their way through the chaos. Treating the dirt-poor masses for environmental maladies, however, was just a convenient cover up for Damien's real research—which was making lemonade.

Or cancerade.

The way he figured it, there were mysterious multiplying forces in cells gone wild that could be applied to nutrients. It was a force that could essentially be harnessed to feed the starving throngs. This was the basis of his experiments.

So when Damien told Eli (in an old timey letter delivered by the US Postal Service) that he was going to start shooting food up with cancer cells, Eli knew the gig was up. There was no way he could stop his impulsive brother, and there was no way Damien was going to take the safety precautions Eli advised.

Finn was only ten years old when his father took him out of school and acquired the fortress off of Craigslist. Originally built as a trading post, it was a defunct mental asylum at the time. Eli traded his family's house for it, and his wife was so disgusted with this "lunatic move" that she up and left Eli pronto. She tried to take Finn with her, but Finn wanted to live in the fort. So that was that.

A few weeks later, Eli was the laughing stock of the community, stockpiling supplies and barricading the fortress even further. He bought weapons, medicine, machinery, books, clothes, soap, seeds. Contractors were constantly working at the fort, installing solar panels and hydroponics and joking about the crazy doctor who'd lost his marbles.

As soon as they finished their work, The Hurricane hit. It came barreling into the Gulf as what would have been a Category 6 storm, if that classification existed. It manifested to what might've been a Category 7, and because the wetlands and sand berms were gone, it made landfall as an estimated Category 8. It went screaming through the Delta, tore its way up to the Great Lakes, then shot straight into the jet stream, so full of toxic pollutants and dispersants that no unsheltered chromosome was spared.

Eli and Finn were protected, though. Well aware of what Damien had been cooking up when the 300-mile-per-hour winds had slammed the leprosarium, Finn and Eli had battened down the hatches and descended to the bowels of the fortress.

Pretty soon, the radio went out, then the Internet, phones, electricity.

Eli and Finn began their guerilla farming and refused to venture up for unfiltered air. They read books, built contraptions, and did a lot of nothing. Finn wanted to go outside.

"I'm sorry, son," Eli told him. "We're staying here for a full year."

Finn could hardly believe it. He knew his father was nuts, but never figured he was that nuts.

"We need to avoid the fallout," Eli said. "We can't take any chances. That stuff is going to rain all over the world and there's no way around it. Why couldn't Damien have been more careful?"

So they lived down there, cooked down there, played games and conducted experiments. Eli schooled his son in mathematics, biology, and survival techniques. Subjects like geography and social studies, however, were "completely obsolete now," according to Dr. Kozwalski.

At first Finn had been excited. He was taking part in an adventure and was hiding out from the poisons in the sky. But after a month, things got really boring really quickly. They only had enough solar power to run the oxygen filtration system and grow lights for the crops. Meat was a rarity. It came from cans. They had no ice.

Until, that is, winter came. And when it did, it was forty below for weeks in a row. They had to shovel coal into an outdated furnace from an actual coal bin, which had been filled to capacity right before The Hurricane. There was enough down there to keep them in business for up to a decade.

Sometimes the solar panels iced over and the batteries that powered their lights ran out of power. When that happened, Finn and Eli pedaled for days to recharge the cells. This kept them in shape, and they could always read while they generated energy. As for music, though, or movies, they were out of luck, since Eli saw these forms of entertainment as "frivolous distractions."

Communicating with the Doomsdayers sometimes gave them a break from each other. The lab at the Colony had been smeared by The Hurricane, but Damien and his clan had taken the same steps Eli did in sealing themselves in to protect themselves from the elements, and what those elements carried all over the globe. They were getting by in the corridors beneath the leprosarium, two dozen strong.

Eli figured that the Doomsdayers were the only other survivors out there.

Margie87 was the daughter of two of Damien's ex-students, the only kid in the whole bunch, and Finn instantly got a crush on her. There were twelve ex-students in the Colony, and they took turns schooling Finn and Margie87 on subjects such as world history and literature. And when Eli schooled Finn on math and science, Margie87 was always part of the dialogue.

Finn sometimes heard his father talk with his uncle over the bike-o-phone. It always ended in arguing. Eli would threaten to stop pedaling and Damien would tell him to "Have a nice day."

Then, one full year after they took cover, Eli and Finn climbed the stairs, unsealed the door, and went up the spiral stairs of the tower. Neither of them knew what to expect, but when they reached the top and went out on the rooftop, they could hear the snarling and screeching below.

It was a bright June afternoon, and when they got to the edge and looked down, there they were: thousand of roaring lump-headed freaks who used to be their neighbors, but were now somehow crossed with snakes, cattle, lemurs, the works—clawing and tearing and ripping at each other in order to scale the walls of the tower. They were climbing on each other and falling back down, gnashing like the damned and biting their own limbs. And behind them, for as far as the eye could see, filling the forests and the fields, thousands and thousands and thousands of hybies, ambulating stupidly, defectively, brutally—as if guided to this spot by the sheer scent of DNA.

"Welcome to your uncle's new world," Eli had said to Finn, staring wide-eyed at the horror beneath him. "Welcome to hell."





Author Bio

Mark Spitzer is the author of seventeen books ranging from novels to literary translations to poetry to a study of the ferocious gar fish. As an avid fisherman and expert on alligator gar, he has consulted for National Geographic and has been featured on Animal Planet's River Monsters series.

In his Bohemian days, Mark was Writer in Residence at the infamous Paris bookstore Shakespeare and Company, but he now lives in Arkansas where he is an associate professor of creative writing and the Editor in Chief of the literary journal Toad Suck Review. In his spare time he can be found paddling through the cypress swamps in search of massive, mutant, one-eyed fish that have inspired the creatures in his fiction.

Author web site.

TTB title: Monstropocalypse, Opus IV




Monstropocalypse, Opus IV Copyright © 2012. Mark Spitzer. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.



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