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Ghosts
The Last Days
SCREAMING TOMB - TALES FROM THE GRAVE
Thursday, 2 June 2005
Broken Bat (The Prequel - 2) by Francis Allan Barangan
Topic: The Last Days

20 years have passed.

The world echoes with the moans of the living dead. The streets are littered with skeletal remains of older corpses and their victims while rusting old vehicles jampacked together, stood still amidst the gentle morning breeze. In Keystone city where the JLA waged their last battle, only tattered strips of their clothing remained as reminders that titans did walk on earth. But now they are all gone. Defeated and destroyed by hordes of walking decaying corpses that replaced human beings from the top of the food chain.

Amidst the old cities, there is Gotham. A city known far and wide for maniacal criminals and bats. Its sole protector, the Batman is very much alive after all these years. Though many in the old world believes he is not a man but a spirit of vengeance, in truth, he is just as human as everybody else. Perhaps more human now than before. The Batman is over 55 years old now but is surprisingly still strong and agile in mind and body that for two decades he was able to gather surviving human beings and band them together to form a small community which eventually grew large enough and form a strong resistance to the living dead.

The Batman is very instrumental in their success. Bruce armed them, protected them and lead them to form the community they have now. Fifteen years ago, their community started with sixty people. Now they close to half a million people. A large area of Gotham was slowly rebuilt and barricaded while Bruce and his trainees concentrated on keeping the living dead at bay. The rebuilding was finished after five years and from then on, the people of Gotham enjoyed the level of comfort that other inhabitants outside Gotham never had.

As good as life becomes for these people, they slowly descends into politicking and corruption. Bruce was the head of this group. In the early days he is the government. But as time passes by, he relinquished his position to the younger generations but remained as the head protector for the growing community. But as more years go by, he started to lose his influence on these people especially when he returns from month old missions with survivors from other cities.

The new community council does not agree with Bruce's thinking. They want "New Gotham" exclusive for Gothamites only. At the same time, the new head council thinks that a new head protector is needed. They want a head protector that will not clash with the council's decision and one they will be able to control.

Bruce, as always has inside knowledge of what's going through Jyra, a 23 year old rookie protector. Jyra is the younger sister of John, the child that Bruce saved in the streets of Gotham. Bruce took the two siblings and raised them as his own. However as the years pass by, John started to move away from Bruce. John became involved with politics which leads him to a position in the council at an early age of 17. Bruce does not approve of John's ambitions and they clashed on their ideals more often than never. Not long after, John decided to move out to become a man of his own. After a year John was nominated in the position of head council and eventually won that position. Only Jyra remained with her foster father Bruce.

Since a rift has occurred between John and Bruce, John no longer listens to Bruce's suggestions. Worse Jyra confided to John about Bruce's condition to try to rekindle his brother's lost relationship to his foster father. The effect of the drug that Bruce injected in his system 20 years ago that gave him an advantage in his fight with the living dead is starting to take effect in a different way. He is becoming immortal. But only his body is becoming immortal, his mind will bog down in 10 years and all that will be left is a person with no personality, no memory but alive. Bruce confided to Jyra that he shudders at the idea of becoming immortal and that someday, someone will have to do the job of disposing him since he cannot commit suicide. He told Jyra that he want that person to be John.

John is aghast at the thought that he would have to kill Bruce when the time comes and sorely interpreted Bruce's wish as a direct assault on his being. He told Jyra that he won't succumb to Bruce's wishes and that he will make use of this information to remove Bruce as Head Protector of New Gotham for good.

The council convened later that evening wherein they lambasted Bruce by saying his role as head protector is becoming as much a menace to people as the living dead. They threw many questions to psyche Bruce into resigning, but Bruce slams them down and showed them he is also their master when it comes to psychological attacks. Then John stepped forward and announce the information he knew about Bruce's condition. He goes on for 15 minutes and when John has finished, the council voted unanimously that Bruce resigned his position as head protector. Bruce never said a word but stripped himself of the badge of head protector, gave one slight look at John and walked out of the room alone.

A new head protector was chosen on the next day. Bruce was nowhere. That night, the Batman donned his costume and went out the walls of New Gotham. Hundreds of decaying corpses starts to meet him, but when they sensed the unique pheromone in his body, they move away. The Batman is leaving this time for good.

Jyra told John that Bruce has left. Jyra thought that John will try to go after him, but John just smirked and told her it's for the good of New Gotham that he left. Jyra couldn't take this anymore, she gave her brother a tremendous punch in the face that he fell on his back flat on the floor. Jyra then told him that he wouldn't even be alive today if Bruce hadn't rescued him on the streets. Nobody in the council will reach maturity if Bruce did not make the effort of banding and protecting the survivors many years ago. If this is how he and the council chose to repay the man who gave them a chance, then it is no use serving in this council anymore. Jyra ripped her badge and threw it at John who is dumbfounded at what he has heard.

- 0 -

It's been weeks since Bruce has left New Gotham where is travelling for days sometimes even nights. The drug that he injected in his body has strengthened him to the point where he can travel for miles without eating and drinking. He feels a bit tired but that's just it. But Bruce knows that this surge of strength is only temporary. His heightened strength will fade when his mind does. What will happen to him then? An old man devoid of personality but still alive and probably wandering like what he is doing now.

Just then he heard a scream in the distance. It's a woman's scream. His muscles clenched, his legs spring forward and he is running fast towards the direction of the scream. He found a woman surrounded by five ghouls. The woman is shivering in fear as the ghouls close in on her. But before the walking corpses could take a bite, a strong arm shot out from behind and took two ghouls down. A tremendous kick sent two ghouls breaking their backs on the steel pole. A whirl of the batarang takes care of the last ghoul.

The woman stared at the man dressed in the garb of a bat. Bruce offered his hand to the woman, helped her rise up and told her to take care of herself. The woman told him she's out trying to scrounge something for her children to eat but instead was pursued by the ghouls. Bruce reached something in the bag that he's carrying and offered food for the woman. The woman thanked Bruce heartily for the food where Bruce told her he'll accompany her back to their hiding place. The woman asked his name, to which he replies "I'm Bruce". The woman then told him her name. "I'm Clara"

Back at New Gotham, things are not going well. Ever since Bruce left, the living dead have become more agitated than ever and continously bangs the wall with their fists. The new Head Protector is inexperienced as he is young, sent his troops from time to time into the secret tunnel beneath New Gotham to stage a hit and run attack on the ghouls in an attempt to lessen their numbers. The strategy is dumb, everybody knows it, but the Head Protector has the support of the council so nobody says nothing about it.

John is feeling increasingly bad about how he and the council has treated Bruce. His sister Jyra does not see him anymore and John feels very alone. But as Head Council, John could not allow these emotions to dictate his decisions. In short, he is not ready to admit his mistake. So day after day, the council is giving erratic decisions that are costing lives. The living dead is increasing in number and the walls will not hold for long, not with the ghoul's continous banging.

One day, the Head Protector sent another group to the tunnel. When they opened the tunnel, decaying hands threw out and grabbed the nearest man. The man screamed as he is ripped to pieces by at least five corpses. The protectors opened fire! But their assault is in vain since there are more than twenty walking corpses inside the tunnel. They are quickly taken down and eaten.

Bruce motioned Clara to stay down. They've reached the hiding place of Clara and her children, but what they see filled them with horror. The place is crawling with ghouls. Bruce counts six ghouls, he told Clara to stay down until he returns. Bruce sneaks behind the corpses. The ghouls are kneeling to the ground and seemed to be eating something. As Bruce readies for the kill, he is shocked to see the bloodied hand of a child being chewed by one of the ghouls. This sight filled him with tremendous anger that he charges forward and slams the three ghouls to the ground. Bruce now sees the three mangled bodies of children, two boys and a girl lying in a pool of blood. His eyes turned on the ghouls who is walking back to their meal and oblivious of Bruce's presence. Bruce clenches his teeth and slams the head of one of the ghouls.

The people of New Gotham are now panicking. The ghouls are now inside the walled fortress and killing anybody within reach. The protectors are overwhelmed and have retreated three times already as more ghouls flood in through the tunnel.

The council is in disarray. The head protector is dead and the ghouls are closing in on their location. Many people are now dead. John could not believe what he is seeing. After all these years, it took the dead merely weeks to breach through the tunnels. Somehow the ghouls saw where the protectors are coming in and simply followed them. It could also be that the protectors panicked and neglected to lock the door. Whatever the reason, the ghouls are now inside New Gotham and hope is starting to fade.

Jyra approached her brother and told him to use the batsignal that is hooked to the J910 Satellite that is still circling the earth. John told her the situation is already beyond hope. But Jyra told him, there is still hope as long as you believe. "Call our father", Jyra told him.

Bruce broke the neck of the last ghoul and threw it to the ground. He is emotionally exhausted. Three children, dead. How will he tell their mother. Just then he heard Clara scream. With one thought he darts to Clara's location and found a ghoul sinking its teeth in Clara's neck. Bruce reaches for his batarang and made one mean swing which tore the body in two. The ghoul's upper half dropped to the ground, but the ghoul is still concious. Bruce finishes off by crushing its head with his batarang. He goes to Clara and found her dying. Clara asked Bruce about her children. Bruce whispers, "theyll be okay. You'll see." Clara's eyes closes and she breathes her last.

Just then, the sky lights up with a large batsignal. Bruce's heart throbs fast. He knows something bad has happened. He gently laid Clara to the ground and darts off, running as fast as he can.

Bruce runs without stopping. His body has truly increased its metabolism that he doesn't feel tired after hours of running. He covered hills and forests, running through the high-way packed with rusting cars, the weeks that he spent walking from Gotham, he covered in two days. But what a sight it is when he arrived. New Gotham is crawling with ghouls. Bruce hollered to the wallkeeper, but no one peeked nor answered him. He sneaked to the secret tunnel but is horrified to see it wide open.

Bruce is now inside New Gotham, the place is filled with its residents, dead residents who have come back to life as a ghoul, a living dead. Bruce could hardly walk to the council chamber but he knows he must do it. He must know.

Inside the chamber he is greeted by the council, all reanimated as ghouls. In the far corner he recognized a ghoul that is trying to get up.

It's John.

One of his legs is chewed up badly that only the bones are left. His neck is also missing a large chunk of flesh. Bruce steps back and covered his face. Then to his horror, he saw the remains of Jyra on the floor. Her body is ripped wide open and her head has been severed from her body. The sight is too much for Bruce that he storms out of the chamber, screaming in rage. In the middle of the walled fortress he drops to the ground shaking. The ghouls echoes Bruce's screams but took no more notice. New Gotham is dead.

- 0 -

Twelve years have passed.

Heavy rain is falling. A man in dirty black garb with a cape holding a rusted batarang is walking in the highway. He has been walking this way ever since. If one would look at him you would mistake him for a ghoul. But if you look closer, you will see that he is just an old man who have lost his mind completely. He simply walks on, oblivious of the time, the day and purpose. At the end of the road, a ghoul is also walking towards Bruce. The ghoul is very dirty but strongly built and his clothes are almost gone save for a very dirty patch that is partly sticking in his chest. There were bullet wounds in many parts of his body and he seemed to have been burned somehow. The ghoul noticed Bruce and walked towards him with his arm outstretched. However, the ghoul paused for a moment as if seeing a familiar someone. Bruce walks by, bumping the ghoul which tore down the patch that is sticking in its chest but still oblivious of the presence of this ghoul. The ghoul let out a moan as if to call Bruce's attention but Bruce did not respond and continued to walk. The ghoul turned his back on Bruce and walked on the opposite side of the road. The torn patch glides slowly down to the ground where the rain slowly cleansed it, revealing a red letter over a faded yellow background.

It's a letter 'S'.

Posted by Francis Allan M. Barangan at 1:29 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 10 June 2005 6:59 AM EDT
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