Flash Fiction Challenge: Apocalypse Now!

Hooray Flash Fictions are back! This week’s challenge was to write a “rare, strange, unparalleled” apocalypse. Hopefully you’ll find this one fits the bill.

“What do we have this time?” I stepped out of the car, and Matt handed me a large coffee. He knows me well.

“Weirdest thing. It looks like some sort of animal attack, but nobody can tell what kind. The teeth marks are like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

“Well, did we get some kind of expert? I’m no zoologist.”

“Yeah, a Doctor Anson? She’s looking at the marks now.” He pointed towards a petite Indian woman who was crouched over the body. I headed towards them, taking a large swig of coffee. She looked up as I arrived.

“Come look.” She pointed to the man’s torso, where a large chunk was missing. I crouched down beside her and took another sip of coffee, wishing there was something stronger in it.

“I wouldn’t even believe it if I wasn’t seeing it with my own eyes. These appear to be piranha bite marks, but I have no idea how he would get them in this park.”

“No kidding. I could see maybe if he had a tank at home, but here…” The recent drought had dried up all the streams nearby and there wasn’t another fresh water source for miles. I stood up, waving my hand at the nearest officer.

“Get this body to the morgue for further examination.” I turned towards Doctor Anson. “You have a card in case I have questions?”

 

I sat in the car for a while, long after all the evidence had been collected and everyone left the scene. I took a sip of my now stone-cold coffee, staring through the windshield with unseeing eyes. Twenty victims in two days. None of the victims had anything in common that we could deduce, except for the fact that their deaths were all unexplainable. The first victim appeared to be strangled by barbed wire, lying on her own bed, no trace of actual wire anywhere. Another seemed to be the victim of a scorpion sting in a Wendy’s bathroom. Yet another was half-eaten by some sort of wolf or dog in her car. In every instance, there was absolutely no trace of evidence. No logical way to connect the apparent cause of death with the circumstances.

My phone vibrated under my leg. “Jesus! Not another one!” I swore as I checked the screen. This was getting ridiculous. I took one last furious swig of coffee, tossed the empty cup to the passenger floor, and started the car.

 

“Are you friggin’ kidding me? Another one?” I stomped across the pavement from the car to the next dead body, lying in the middle of a Walmart parking lot.

“Afraid so. And we have no goddamn idea what happened to this one.” It was the grisliest one yet. Long, deep claw marks tore the torso from shoulder to pelvis, and the head was nearly ripped off. The face was so badly burned that it was unrecognizable. What on Earth could do this to a person? I wasn’t squeamish by any means, but that coffee I’d had threatened to make a comeback.

“Holy shit.”

“Right? And, like the others, not a shred of evidence.” I looked around, but all I saw were a bunch of cigarette butts and discarded receipts. I crouched closer to Matt, so nobody else would hear me.

“What the hell is going on? I don’t know what to do.”

“Me, neither. Send this one to the morgue, too? Maybe get that doctor to have a look.”

“Yeah, maybe.” I stood up. “Can you set it up? I’ll meet you back at the precinct.”

 

I sat at my desk, drinking more shitty coffee, staring at the files in front of me. I sifted through the papers, but there was nothing new. Nothing that would show a connection between the victims. I sighed and then glanced around, looking to see if Matt was back yet.

UNEXPLAINED DEATH TOLL RISES GLOBALLY. The headline on the TV news caught my attention. I bolted from my chair to the screen, grabbing the remote from the table in front of it and turning up the volume.

“Thanks, Lynn. Nearly every major city in the world is now reporting a record number of mysterious deaths. Many of the apparent causes of death are unlikely, and for others, there is no explanation at all. Experts are scrambling, but so far have not been able to find any connection between the victims.” The newscaster paused as a sheet of paper was handed to him. “This just in. Our own Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has been found dead in his home. No official cause of death has yet been released but there are several reports on social media that he was found with multiple small stab wounds and what appear to claw marks over his body.”

Stab wounds? Claw marks? What the hell would cause that? And it sounded like this problem was way worse than I thought. I shut the TV off and headed to the morgue, grabbing my jacket from my chair on the way out.

 

“Doctor Anson? You have a minute?” I caught her just as she was stepping into the hallway from the exam room. She was frowning, her look of puzzlement probably mirroring my own, but it changed to a rueful smile as she met my eyes.

“Yes, Detective Marlow. I was just examining that fellow from the parking lot. I’m afraid I cannot tell you what caused those injuries. They are like nothing I have ever seen before. And those burns…”

“I know. Thanks for taking a look, anyway.” She handed me the case file as she headed down the hall, and I flipped through it. At least the man had a name now. Darryl Jones. He must have had his fingerprints in the system. But as I read the file, I saw an item under ‘identifying characteristics’ that made my gut clench. A sudden, crazy, impossible thought entered my head

“Wait, Doctor!” She turned to me at the end of the hall. “Did you notice a tattoo on the victim? It says here he had one on his left leg. A large green dragon.”

“No, I didn’t.” She was frowning again as she headed back towards me. “I didn’t see any tattoo at all.”

“Would a…could a…” I was afraid to even say it out loud. But I had to. I took a deep breath. “Could his injuries have been caused by…a dragon?”

“I wouldn’t know. Dragons aren’t real.” Her look of confusion changed to concern. “Are you all right?”

“I know I sound crazy. But if dragons were real, could they have done what happened to him?”

“Yes, I suppose so.” My blood turned to ice in my veins.

“And what if a raven was to attack someone. What would that look like?”

“A raven attack is really quite rare. But there would likely be claw marks and peck marks. They would look like small shallow stab wounds.” I must have looked as horrified as I felt at this point because the doctor placed her cool hand on my shoulder. “Are you sure you are well?”

“I know how these people died.” My voice was barely a whisper. It all suddenly made sense. The unusual circumstances, the random places. Even the unlikely injuries. I swallowed the bile that was threatening to rise up, and took off down the hall at a run, carrying the file with me.

My hands were shaking so badly I could barely turn the key in the ignition. I opened my window, pulled the siren light from the glove box, slammed it on the roof, and took off back towards the station.

 

The downtown core was a mess. Abandoned cars everywhere. Bodies littered all over the sidewalks. Children, crying and screaming for their parents. It was overwhelming; I didn’t even know where to begin. I couldn’t drive any further, so I got out to walk to the station, stepping over a body covered in open, weeping pustules. Snake, or maybe a spider.

I pulled out my phone to call Matt, willing my brain to recall if he had any kind of tattoo. Voicemail. I tried again. Again to voicemail. Dammit. I broke into a run, weaving and dodging around the bodies. Suddenly I heard heavy breathing behind me, then a horrible, otherworldly screech. Something pounced on my back, knocking me forward into the concrete. I braced my fall with my hands, then turned my head around. No, it couldn’t be.

I pushed with my arms, trying to dislodge the giant rabbit from my back, but it just dug its claws further into my back. Another shriek, then a gunshot, then the weight on my back was gone. I pushed up again to a crouch, taking the hand Matt offered me to stand up.

“You okay?”

“Yeah.” I was shaking.

“What the hell was that?”

“My bunny tattoo.”

“Your….what?”

“I’ll explain on the way.” I brushed off the front of my jacket. “We have work to do.”

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