Playland: Episode 1 - The Roasted Man


Certified Shitlord
Life is too funny.

When I was 23, I used to sit in my parents' house reading post apocalyptic novels detailing gruesome deaths of the Earth usually involving zombies or nuclear bombs. The Road by Cormac McCarthy, World War Z by Max Brooks, stuff like that. It was during those woefully dull months I spent looking for a new job and attempting new careers that I would spend time basically fantasizing about the end of the world. Hell I would even indulge in Fallout 3, a favorite video game of mine that detailed, what else, the end of humanity and it's struggles to rebuild itself. Reading what I've written so far, I realize I've come off like a sociopath or some kind of killer. I wasn't before B-day ("Boom" Day it was called, the end of the world).

After a long night of driving around random locales for fun with my girlfriend, I dropped her off and decided to head home. It was my intention anyways but my music encouraged me to simply wander. I liked that a lot, just getting lost in something like music or a movie and letting myself ramble. Driving down a few back roads dotted with oversized houses, I found my girlfriend's hairpiece on the passenger seat. Being the strange person I am, I fondled it for a moment and smelled it, her familiar citrus shampoo scent pasted thickly onto it. That's when I blacked out. I had taken my eyes off the road. As I awoke, the day was arriving. Surprisingly, no one had found me and I was still alive. My eyes darted across the insides of the car. Most of it was in tact and the front end was totaled. I ran my hands up and down my face and body, feeling scrapes and nothing else. It wasn't until I opened the door and got out of the car that I realized something strange had happened. My car was smashed up in front but had taken no damage anywhere else. I had also sustained next to no damage despite blacking out at the wheel of a car zooming at 45 miles an hour down a suburban side road.

I plucked my cell phone from my jeans' side pocket and pressed a key to unlock it but received no response. Dead, it seemed. Being the technophile I was, I then pulled out my iTouch and attempted to power it on, still nothing. Both had been charged the night before in anticipation of the hours long drives my girlfriend and I enjoyed taking. I assumed I had been in the car for days.

Life is too funny.

I say that because I had paid all this attention to myself and my situation that I hadn't noticed the obvious. Standing on the side of the road where my car had apparently come to a halt and subsequently beaten itself silly, the eerily quiet neighborhood never came into view. The expensive houses of Cherrywood Lane were nowhere to be seen. On top of that, the trees were bare, their leaves nowhere to be seen. I also wasn't the only car on the road. About a hundred yards down the narrow road, I spotted a pickup truck with its doors ajar and someone laying on the ground next to it.

My inner good Samaritan (very diminutive in stature) broke free and I jogged over to the derelict. As I approached I saw not a driver, but a grizzly mess of burnt flesh and char. It seemed he, or she I wasn't really sure, had tried to leave the truck but burned up somehow in the process.

scritch. scritch. shuffle.

It was the first time I had ever seen a Roaster. Of course, at the time of this writing I had seen thousands of them and the sight of them couldn't make me flinch anymore. However, I was a naive, morbidly wishful young man looking for the world to be reset so I could have my second chance at greatness. Nothing could have set me back further in my ambitions than my first glimpse of the charred body slowly shuffling towards me. It looked just like the man on the ground at my feet, its body was featureless and thickly painted with blackened skin turned into hardened armor by some fiery intervention. Its right hand stretched out almost as if to say, "Come with me, I know the way." Awestruck and dumbfounded, there were no words that could leave my mouth. What was I to do in this situation? My childish worries emerged such as "Why hasn't my mother sent out a search party yet? Is Angela okay? Maybe she's hurt. What about dad? He was working the night shift?" They clouded my mind and I knew I had to clear those thoughts. I broke out of my stupor and jogged towards the burnt person.

"You're going to be okay, just stay with me I'll get-"

RAARRLLL! A large, gutteral roar came from the roasted man as he lunged at me, finger tips sharpened by crisp flesh and his mouth agape, chomping up and down viciously as the skin on its lips chaffed horribly. I jumped back and fell over, breaking out into a sprint as I began to run to my car.

The roaster was shuffling along much quicker and I yelled back, "What the fuck is wrong with you pal? I'm just trying to help you!"

I had a nice scratch across my left arm and I realized its fingertips weren't sharp because of thick layers of charred skin, but because its finger bones were exposed and had become jagged and saw-like. This was the very first time the thought occurred to me that this person may not be a person anymore. Surely anyone with these sorts of injuries should either be dead or in mind-numbingly searing pain. I was near the truck when I saw it, a Winchester 1887 hung on a gun rack inside. It was a modern version of an old classic shotgun, lever action.

"SHOOT IT!" Came a booming voice behind me.

In all the excitement, I hadn't noticed a small group of people on a grassy knoll behind me. Each of them held a firearm, mostly rifles. A bigger man with a scraggly beard was yelling at me.

"SHOOT IT! It'll kill you unless you do!" he yelled.

I could have yelled back that they should do it but some dark part of me took over, like a driver and passenger swapping seats, another part of me calmly took the shotgun off the rack and aimed it at the roaster. In only a second or two of hesitation I pulled the trigger. I nearly fell over from the recoil and not being used to firing a gun but I was fascinated by the whole ordeal. The way the body fell, the sound of the shell exploding. It felt as if some deeper part of me that had never been satisfied was suddenly alive. I felt cold and lifeless at the same time, worried about myself and what it would mean if I was right. Maybe some dormant part of me, some terrible part of me was rising. I do know that during those few seconds of hesitation, part of me died. Part of me was yelling and slowly being pulled into my mind's pit of tar and being dragged literally out of my mind.

"Damn good shot kid, now let's go there's a bunch of us hole'd up at St. Augustine's Church downtown . . . hey kid, did you hear me?" the man shouted.

"He's in shock Earl," said a feminine voice. I wasn't looking at the rabble on the knoll, but I heard footsteps and assumed the lady was coming towards me. "Hey, I'm Liz, what's your name?"

I turned from the freshly killed corpse to a woman who looked as if she had died the day before. Her hair was thick with dirt and her face was coated in ash and earth. She had a soft face hiding under it all and she was at least ten years my senior. Nevertheless, her voice caught me and calmed me in that intense moment and brought me briefly back into reality. Cold, smelly reality. I looked into her eyes and saw them shake like mine whenever I looked in the mirror. She was like me, close to the cliff and walking backwards.

"I'm Clark," I sighed.

"It's nice to meet you Clark, now would you like some food and water? You must have been out here for a few days judging by that five o'clock shadow you're rocking," she smiled.

I felt my chin and jawline, feeling some very obvious growth. It usually never got this long for at least a week. However, at the mention of food my mind jumped immediately to a Jimmy John's Burger, a local burger joint I had in mind during what felt like my previous night wandering the roads. My stomach lurched and seemed to punch my lower ribcage with throbbing hunger.

"I would like that."

Not for a moment did I think as I followed her up the hill and over it to where a school bus sat parked, covered with planks of wood and steel. Makeshift armor. Not for a moment did I pay notice to the mention of "us" and being "hole'd up" at a church. Perhaps part of me had always been dying to walk into one of my stories, to become one of them. Maybe even die a glorious death saving someone like Liz, a seemingly passive and unassuming woman on the edge of breaking under an immense weight of complete and utter failure of modern reality. Even as I write in my book and walk the wastelands that used to be the United States, I wonder what made me follow them, what made me so readily accept the end of the world and what made it so easy for me to kill them all.

Life is too funny.


It's not me, it's you.
I have to say that I don't venture into this section very often...mostly due to not having time...but I am glad you made me read this.

It's very intriguing, and definitely caught my attention right off the bat, which isn't very easy to do with someone as impatient as I am.

2 enthusiastic thumbs up, and I look forward to reading more.