FUTURE/PUNKS: Read “Russian Roulette” by Christopher Webster

The monumental black letters welcoming Vera and Hanna through the gates of Sublime City’s high concrete border wall were vandalized long before either of them was born. 

In what must have been a meticulously planned street art operation, the letters U and B of the city’s original name were turned into graphic representations of human anatomy as a way to demoralize its ruling class at the time; the true believers who held onto utopian Cold War aspirations while the city crumbled around them. 

Then the Black Glove revolution happened and they were all wiped out.

So, whatever, nobody bothered to clean up the wall and Slime City stuck.

Fitting.

Vera drives the buggy past two checkpoints, past the shanty town outskirts, and towards the monolithic Mega-Estates of Slime City city proper. 

Soviet-era punk blasts from blown out speakers. 

Hanna hits a pipe in the passenger side, gripping the roll bar to keep from being thrown out. She exhales multicoloured smoke and passes the pipe to Vera who takes it without taking her eyes off the road. 

She hits it, holds her breath, glances down at the butt of the revolver carefully tucked under the dash. 

Blowing smoke from pursed lips, she chuckles. 

Hanna asks, “What?” reaching back for the pipe. 

Urchins hurl themselves at the buggy, but Vera’s got the pedal floored so they can’t grab hold in time. They’re gone, baby.

Vera says, “I just had the funniest idea.”

“What?”

“I just had the most hilarious idea.”

“Oh no, what?” 

Vera yells, “Let’s have some fun!” and drums on the dash, singing, “Hey! Ho! Let’s Go! Shoot ‘em in the back now!”

Hanna laughs and chokes on smoke as the Mega-Estates swallow the buggy whole. 

Respirators hiding their faces, the girls strut through the crumbling lobby of a Mega-Estate shit hole called New Order. 

Fluorescents flicker.

Hanna kicks an urchin who crawls towards her, groveling. 

Vera thumbs an elevator button and they await its long descent.

When it arrives, the doors open, they climb aboard, wait for the doors to close. 

Vera says, “Eenie, meenie, miney, mo…” and pushes a button at random. Floor 93. 

Hanna asks, “What’s the game?” as the elevator whirs to life and climbs.

Vera pulls the revolver from her belt and cracks open the cylinder. Her palm glows blue as the remaining four bullets fall into her hand. She picks up one bullet, slides it into the chamber and spins it until it glows blue.

“Russian roulette,” she says, that shit eating grin on her face.

The elevator doors open and Vera marches onto floor 93. She walks down the long hallway lined with waste, peppered with sleeping urchins. 

Hanna follows her, fidgeting. 

Vera stops in front of a random door. She pulls the ident chip she’d removed from the cyclops from her jacket and pugs it into a socket in the wall. Then she puts her mouth to the wall mic and says,“Enforcers, open up!”

Coughing and scuttling behind the door. Then the jingling of locks and the door opens to reveal a young man, bearded, bleary-eyed, trying hard to button his pants. 

Squinting, he opens his mouth to speak. 

Vera presses the revolver to his forehead and pulls the trigger. 

Click

The man screams, falls to the ground and scrambles backwards into his domicile. 

Vera and Hanna squeal and turn and run back towards the elevator, slapping the button and doubling over with laughter as they fall inside and the doors close behind them. 

Vera hits the pipe and presses another button. Floor 134. 

“Did you see his face?” she laughs. “What a pig.”

Hanna says, “I thought he was cute,” but laughs along with her, adrenaline surging. 

Elevator doors open and the girls stalk down another hallway. 

Vera fingers the doors, whispering, “Eenie, meenie, miney, mo,” until she stops and slips the ident card into another socket. 

“Enforcers, open up!” she yells, stifling a giggle. 

The lock sounds behind the door and a woman emerges, two dirty kids at her feet. “What is it?” she says.

Vera says, “Good evening,” and points the revolver at the woman’s head. She pulls the trigger.

Click

The woman screams, shielding her children as she falls backwards into the doorway. 

The girls are gone, running at full tilt.

Vera turns back and offers an obscene gesture as the woman’s door slams shut.

Back in the elevator, Vera examines the buttons. Sliding her index finger all the way up, she stops at a solitary one labelled PH. 

“Penthouse?” she says. 

Hanna says, “No, let’s go. Meet Dimitry, get paid, get high and get out already.” 

“Just one more,” Vera says sternly. 

Hanna fidgets. “Come on, you had your fun-” she pouts. 

Vera says, “One more,” and pushes the button to take them to the top floor penthouse. 

The elevator hums and whirs and pulls them up past another hundred floors in the dilapidated Mega-Estate. 

When the elevator opens, they see a single door, shielded with sheet metal, at the end of a long hallway. No other apartments are on the top floor. 

Hanna gulps. “Who do you suppose lives up here?”

Vera says, “Who cares? Come on,” and walks with purpose towards the door.

Hanna hesitates, hangs back, instinct communicating something sinister even though there’s no sign of anything out of the ordinary. 

Vera looks back and waves at her to follow and she complies. 

Ident card in socket, “Enforcers, open up!”

No sound behind the door. 

Vera says, “What the fuck, man?” to Hanna, then yells, “Enforcers, I said open up!”

A deep voice, electro-chrunchy, behind the door booms, “Fuck off.”

Vera pounds on the door. “Who do you think you are, civilian? This is your last chance to open up!”

The metal door heaves open, revealing a behemoth of a man. Wraparound mirrorshades hide his eyes, bloated hirsute belly pokes out from behind a golden robe. 

The behemoth scowls, showing metal teeth. “You are not Enforcers. Fuck off, little girls,” he says, voice emanating from a round speaker embedded in his throat.

Vera pulls the trigger and half of the behemoth’s face explodes, spraying them with blood. 

His body falls backwards into the penthouse foyer and he hits the floor like game. 

No laughing now, just legs like rubber, running back down the hall towards the elevator down. 

Vera mutters, “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck…”

Hanna screams, “What did you do, man?!”

Vera hits the button and the elevator opens. They get inside, but the doors won’t close. 

Hanna screams, “Why isn’t it closing?” 

Vera presses buttons like crazy and yells, “Shut up!”

Hanna screams, “He’s coming!” 

Vera ignores her. 

“He’s coming!”

This time Vera looks up. The behemoth is coming at them, limbs flailing, face gushing, growling like an animal. 

Hanna is still screaming. “He’s alive! He’s coming, Vera, he’s alive!”

Vera screams, “I fucking see that!”

The door starts to close, but the man reaches it and pulls it open with superhuman strength. He grabs Vera around the neck and pulls her into the hallway. She stumbles and he drags her towards the penthouse door, still open. 

Hanna runs at him, fists raised, and he turns and he punches her in the side of the head and she falls to the floor unconscious. 

Vera tries to scream and the behemoth turns and steps on her head and the world goes black.

// continue reading //

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