Image by Shane Connolly via https://www.instagram.com/shakaconn/
Bullets rain as you stumble through Sweepers searching for clues amidst the abandoned shell casings of daily gunfire. A frightening yet familiar dystopia where guns and technology blur the lines between obsession and fetishism.

He awoke to a thud. It appeared that his phone buzzed right off the nightstand. He slid his thumb across the screen and Lana’s face appeared, “Dunn, are you awake?” as she adjusted her thick rimmed black glasses.

No, you must be dreaming, he thought sarcastically, “it’s a quarter to 5, Lana, what do you want?” He didn’t have to clock-in for another two hours but Lana’s face told him otherwise.

She placed her I.D. around her neck, “you stayed out long after I left huh?” He laid his phone in front of his face on the pillow and rolled his eyes at the screen as the impending doom radiated from his forehead, a precursor to his daily hangover. She began to laugh and said, “You’re a real bad influence you know that Dunn?”

He began fingering a burnt hole in his comforter and shortly thereafter found the culprit at the end of a trail of smeared ashes on the mattress. “Cleanliness is next to godliness” he thought as he pulled a swig from his bedside moonshine.

“Something’s up Dunn, I received a strange email late last night, you’re cc’d on it too but I assumed you hadn’t checked your inbox.” She was right, after a day’s work was done, he would predictably shut down. “I’m concerned, someone’s asking questions, some kind of investigator wants to be shared on all of our previous case files.”

Lana was wound up, nothing out of the ordinary. Dunn was familiar with a routine shake-down and had no reason to feel rattled. Lana was green though, a fresh hire at Bio Sweep Inc. and had only been a sweeper for about a year. Unfortunately, she got assigned to Dunn, who hardly resembled a role model. He leaned up off the bed, “Take it easy Lana, lets meet at Murphy’s before work, grab a little grub, and get all of our ducks in a row.”

“Okay Dunn, but hurry the fuck up!”

He flipped open his laptop, hoping to assess how this email might take a heaping, steamy dump on the day but instead was greeted to a pre-buffered video of forgotten high-definition pornography, blaring at full volume. This was a bonus, yet equally pathetic considering the context of his degenerate living space, which he both reveled and wallowed in all at the same time. He smirked and carried his laptop to the bathroom and proceeded to decompress his 5-star lifestyle.

As his legs began to go numb from putting off the day from his porcelain throne, the wooden doorway of his apartment splintered, hinges flying, followed by a steel toe boot. Three monolith-shaped men ushered themselves in, all brandishing steel.

Just a minute!” Dunn echoed from the washroom like a 50’s housewife on her way to the door just after removing warm muffins from the oven. Dunn realized his certain danger and hoped that his sardonic humor may pacify the goons, but they continued to pursue his helplessness. He attempted to stand up from his dawning throne but tripped over his boxer briefs which had been predictably resting around his knees during this embarrassing event. His brow line connected with the hard edges of the bathtub and everything went black.

“WHERE THE FUCK IS DUNN?!” Lana thought to herself so angrily that she was unsure whether or not she had actually said it out loud. In front of Murphy’s she nervously ran her finger around the drum of her American-180 sub-machine gun, staring into her custom-fitted display screen which sat comfortably between 275 rounds of lead.

Dunn was already 45 minutes late, which meant she was late for work, which also meant she was becoming increasingly anxious. With one hand she began scanning for any local headlines that might tip her off as to which case her, and more importantly, Dunn may have blundered, while the other hand satiated her anxiety by sniffing the last of her drone from an empty bullet casing. While sniffing and sleuthing the blogosphere, she noticed:

Missing Man Recovered

Author: Marvin Skurmles

Gary Grickle was last seen on his way to work Monday morning and was ultimately found lifeless, hanging from a drone, evading sweepers, and more importantly, disturbing the peace. In response to this unfortunate event, a statement was made this morning by Bio Sweep: “We do our best to assist the city in avoiding the unfortunate opportunities for citizens to potentially view and dwell on pornographic sensationalism, while also doing out best to maintain the traditions, values, and freedoms that make our country exceptional.” The Grickle family has also made a formal apology…

Lana’s attention was suddenly derailed and shifted towards a series of yelps resembling that of lap dogs, specifically two young bucks on the corner, both waving around matching MAC-10’s. The pistols’ polished exterior shot glistening beams of light in congruence with their brazen grins, which strongly suggested they had recently turned sixteen. Lana shook her head and chuckled thinking, “I remember my first piece.”

Lana reaffirmed her suspicions by employing the use of her digital weapon’s GPS system which identified all the necessary information: the MAC-10’s, the twerps, Clyde and Timmy, and their weapon’s miserable kill count. While reminiscing the days of yesteryear, before she began to make a more legitimate and honest living working for Bio Sweep Inc. (at least by today’s standards), a vintage rusty pick-up truck rounded the corner slowly, but then accelerated, dipping the bed, raising the grill, and roaring like a lion.

Two boys quickly emerged from the bed, like meerkats in the desert, except toting AK-47’s, and raining bullets down on the corner. Lana dipped for cover between Murphy’s and the adjacent building. On bent knee she peered with one eye as the shoot out unfolded.

Clyde had already received the brunt of the spray, convulsing on the sidewalk, as Timmy ran across the front of Murphy’s in a panic, returning fire sideways, eyes closed, screaming for Valhalla, or something. Bullets burned his ass and shatter the few remaining windows at Murphy’s pub that weren’t already boarded up.

Like an axe, the muzzle of a custom rose-gold Bullpup Unlimited Remington 870 Shotgun slammed down across the window sill of Murphy’s, unmistakably the barkeeps returning the favor to the trucker boys. The inevitable caught up to Timmy’s Hollywood reenactment. He missed everything, and received slicing punctures across his midsection.

Simultaneously, two calculated pumps from the barkeep ejected the trucker boys into the street as their loyal companion peeled out down the street, smoke emanating from the holes poked through the bed. It’s all over in less than six seconds.

Chances are, the cause of this outburst was trivial at best, for example, Clyde winked at trucker boy’s girlfriend, trucker boy put Clyde’s masculinity into question, the girlfriend sent Clyde a suggestive selfie, trucker boy got jealous, Clyde, Timmy, and the trucker boys got wasted, end of story. As a matter of fact, she’s been cheating on both of them, she’s actually better than ever. The world keeps turning.

Cheap shots were a daily occurrence ever since police departments began dissolving around the city. Following an “epidemic” of mass shootings, the public’s fear had reached a tipping point. Legislation boiled over and gave the thumbs-up for open-carry laws across the city. In essence, stand-your-ground rhetoric was synonymous to being an American.

While police became increasingly discouraged and outnumbered, vigilantes and criminals alike began to take these skirmishes into their own hands, supplying justice within their own moral framework, whether it be extremist, patriotic, radical, heroic, or pathetic, it was all the same; we love our fucking guns.

So as you may have already guessed, the sirens weren’t wailing, Officer Krumpdick wasn’t dusting off the donut grease from his dewlap, and he certainly wasn’t laying out first responder evidence markers around the shells, clips, mags, casings, victims, participators, hearts, minds, clues, or leftovers. But more importantly, the black step-trucks full of sweepers were already on the scene with backpacks pumped up full of bleach, spraying chemical erasures, cattle hooks thrust out and sweeping up bio mass into trunks, evaporating any inkling of humanity. Remember: Cleanliness is next to godliness.

Lana was already late for work, high on drone, and dreaded the thought of spending energy on an excuse for the likely event that she would run into a familiar sweeper, so taking a cue out of Dunn’s Standards of Living Manual seemed more than reliable. She quickly shuffled through the doorway of Murphy’s, punting broken glass as the patrons reoriented their shields back to their preferred functionality as beverage stands.

While claiming a stool, she caught eyes with the barkeep who raised both eyebrows at her, then lifted his chin slightly, suggesting Lana’s turn in the interaction. “Mezcal, double, on the rocks, please.”

The barkeep nodded and lowered his eyebrows stiffly, reaching down into the well with both hands, staring off behind her at absolutely nothing. He placed the rocks glass down in a stern manner with the dirty palm of his left hand protecting the mountain of ice. “Your boy Dunn stayed here late last night until I put the stools up around him” the barkeep grunted while his right arm returned with the mezcal, splashing it over the rocks. “A sweet bird kept gettin’ him rounds long after you left.” The barkeep slid the mezcal towards Lana slowly, like a gift of great importance, utterly different than his demeanor preparing it.

“Oh yeah?” Lana couldn’t be less surprised; as a matter of fact, she had completely forgotten about Dunn and by this point was far more occupied staring down the sights of her American-180, swiping through potential suitors on the internet.

Gasping, lunging forward, but shackled, and shrouded in darkness, Dunn began to calibrate his five senses to make sense of his predicament. “Hello?” his voice cracked and seeped out fear. He heard nothing, but felt a presence, a tickle right between his eyes, a deepness penetrating his frontal lobe, the kind that makes you feel and think as if you are about to be touched by some unknown force.

He breathed heavily, inflating and deflating the burlap sack that was tightly wound around his throat, perspiring and dripping boozy sweat onto his upper lip, nose running, and hair itching the way it does when you wear a hat for too long. The force lingered but hadn’t coalesced with his being, rather it hovered deeply and buried further into his skull. He felt a whirlpool of sensation, his eyes submerging into his soul, the lack of sensorial comfort consumed him, and poured adrenaline into the most capable of the five: his imagination.

Silence, light deprivation, and solitude all have a way with reality, or at least with what remains of it. They compose a collective symphonic static silence where your self fragments, truth splinters, time eludes you, and your senses polarize. Both panic and fear, byproducts of the unknown, or more importantly, your inability to negotiate where and what you are doing, inevitably take you as their hostage.

A static in the air, a drip off in space, your skin rubbing together, all get lost in the amplification. You tremble, twist your neck, clench your abdomen, exhaust bursting plumes of energy towards anything that resembles a familiar stimulus. Each rest and intermittent silence intensifies the looming spur far worse than the previous, until something hits you, like a bolt of lightning. White light flashes behind your eye lids, and your heart pulses rapidly. The terror, like a phase, resembles a series of infinite bell-curves.

Suddenly, the sack received a puncture and light flowed in, blinding Dunn. A shredding sound tore downward, a cold steel caressed his cheek, and the sack unfolded and collapsed like a dying tulip. “What’s happening?” Dunn nervously spat out, as he was unshackled, but still bound and dragged out of the room. A fist gripped his collar, long nails sunk into his neck, and pulled him across the concrete floor of what seemed to be an unfinished office space within a high rise.

“If only you could defend yourself” his captor uttered.

The captor leaned her shoulder into a steel door, letting in the outside air, a whistling breeze entered through the crack. She pulled Dunn’s body out onto the moonlit roof top and stood over him staring off at the skyline. Her hair blowing over across her face distorting her facial features.

“The lack of agency, the complacency, and misdirection” a rising anger began to erupt from the captor.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about” Dunn stated.

“Fear, Dunn. It’s around us, all the time. Like a burning flame, it both consumes us like oxygen and warms us like heroin. We’re hypnotized by it and they know this. So they shove it down our throats all day long until we’re choking on it. Where do the politics begin and the advertisement end? Who or what is trying to kill me today, Dunn? What am I not doing to avoid my impending demise? They’re all in the business of fear. Your hairline is too far back, you deserve a drink, your wife wants bigger breasts, your neighbor’s car is faster than yours, oh, and by the way, you know his dong is substantially bigger than yours too, right?”

“But more importantly, Dunn, make sure you keep your freedom close to your heart, snuggled up right beside your gun. It’s an impenetrable shield to your constant vulnerability. Except during the aftermath from a tornado of bullets, where they sweep it up, compress it into a pill, and medicate us through whichever moral framework, agenda, or motivation they desire. This is when the gun transcends reality. Instead, an idea, the mind of the radical, the extreme, the patriotic, or some psychological archetype, emerges. You’re just a bullet in the chamber. Are you scared Dunn? Do I have your full attention?”

Dunn ached and rolled his head parallel to the tar roof in submission. A quadcopter drone sat like an obedient pet adjacent to a length of twisted nylon rope.

Bullets cracked off in the distance as Lana stumbled out of Murphy’s with less monetary value than she entered with. She squinted with one eye closed into her custom fitted display screen on her American-180 sub-machine gun, swiping back and forth through windows, texts, news, messages, coupons, videos, reminders, data, and information. She lost her balance, sidestepped and tripped over the curb, falling to her side as her automatic Excalibur slid into the street. She rubbed her eyes, with her head down, and suddenly heard the sound of a static hum overhead, like that of a muted television in your living room.

A drone floated down suspending the shadow of a ghost. It passed through the light of a street lamp, illuminating the bold words painted across it’s torso:


Kevin M. New is a writer, gamer, community-builder, and bartender. His works have been featured on Futura Magazine and the Odyssey online. He currently lives in New Jersey.

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