The Stand Mafia Scenario

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

--From The Wastelands by T.S. Elliot


Matthew Border
“Well what the hell?”

Matthew pushed his chair away from the desk with a disgruntled sigh. Was the world conspiring against him or what?

He stood up and picked up a hand full of dew cans and snack wrappers and took them to the trash bin. This habit kept him from being buried under a mound full of fast food containers and he prided himself on not being the complete worthless slob most people thought of when they conjured up the idea of hard core gamer in their head.

Right now the uncommon neatness helped him locate the nearest candle and lighter without killing himself on some forgotten pile of junk in the floor. It made perfect sense that he would have this kind of bad luck on his holiday. There was not enough money in his bank account to go to somewhere for vacation so his plan had been to spend it doing some much needed house hold chores and then spend the rest of the time squarely in front of his monitor playing Quest for MystCraft which was now in open beta. So naturally the game went offline his first night off. Matt had been bummed about it, especially when it was still down the next morning but it could have been worse. There was some flu going around so he could have been home with no game -and- sick and miserable. He sucked it up and amused himself with Dungeon Siege instead.... that was until today.

When the power went out.

Running a hand through his already messed up hair, Matthew pulled back the heavy curtains to look outside. At least the neighbor's useless rodent of a toy dog had finally shut up. The day seemed quiet and cheerful. He should really go out and check the mail.

It was on the way to the mail box that he realized it was -too- silent. There were no cars at all on the road. Granted, it was a subdivision but still he had yet to see even one soccer mom drive by. There were no little kids playing either. The day the earth stood still... creepy, man, real creepy.

A bright blue piece of paper lay in the middle of his sidewalk. Reaching down to pick up the millionth Chinese food delivery flyer, Matt paused in the act of crumpling it and smoothed it out to read when he realized it was something about the needle.

What the hell?

He turned to head back into his house and decide whether he would check out this crazy message, which was likely some stupid promotion stunt anyway,but then he noticed the neighbor's yard for the first time. Princess wasn't making noise because she was very very dead and laying in the grass like some strange furry yard ornament. Her owner had tried to make it to her car and had died there. The door had been swung wide, the battery had long since run down so the car no longer made the annoying tone that was to remind you of the very obvious fact that the door was wide open, and Joanie was half in and half out of the vehicle. She was bloated and black. In short, not a pretty sight, which Matt figured was a first for the woman who would have put make up on before escaping a burning house.

He looked down at the flyer again and revised his earlier opinion.

Screw creepy...this was ****ing scary.

Flagg

The man clad in denim, wearing cowboy boots on his feet, walked at an even pace down the center of the highway, an expression of morbid good cheer on his face. He would stop soon, and make his camp among the high sharp rocks and low scrubby bushes, but for now he was content to walk by the moonlight, making his plans and thinking his thoughts.

The West, he knew, was his territory, but he would still need to gather his people. His eye had swept out far and wide the night before, as he sat in front of his camp fire, and he would look again tonight, but already he could see people gathering, clustering together, beginning to make their way home.

Most of the crowds were too confused and frightened, traumatized one might say, to do more than follow along like sheep at a select few people’s bidding, but the Walkin’ Dude, as some called him, had observed one group that would need a little extra push. Maybe he hadn’t reached them soon enough, or perhaps somehow that witch to the east had influenced them first, but they seemed less…compliant than the others. He would need perhaps one leader, someone he could raise up above the others, and whatever followers that leader could sway.

And those who could not be swayed…well they could die. Perhaps he would arrange for one to die tonight, in fact. Simply to let them know he was serious. A wolf howled in the distance, the sound clear and perfect in the desert night.

The ‘problem gathering’ was in Seattle at the moment; he doubted he was mistaken about that. The Walkin’ Dude, otherwise known as Randall Flagg, thought that perhaps a few of them would have interesting dreams. He was relatively unconcerned; they were his, and they would come to him, though likely not all.

Oddly enough, at that moment it occurred to him to wonder what would happen should enough people choose not to align themselves with either party.

Flagg’s chuckle split the dying day just as his grin seemed to split his own face.

Vera Noble
Vera jogged every day, rain or shine, and didn’t see why today ought to be any different just because she was jumping bodies rather than hurdles. Stiff upper lip and all that. It was a tough old world, but Vera believed maybe she could be tougher. Or tough enough to stand, anyway.

She had buried her husband, the chief of police, that morning. It was afternoon now, the sun blazing in mocking good cheer. Why couldn’t it be raining, today of all days? Even if Vera couldn’t cry, that didn’t mean the world shouldn’t shed a tear.

Had it been raining, though, she would have never seen the marigold colored paper caught in a tree branch. Stopping to jog in place, she looked up, oddly curious but for some strange reason having a good feeling about that cheery paper. Making up her mind, she stood on tip toe and pulled the paper free. Vera Noble was a tall woman and had never had the experience of demanding assistance to get something down off a high shelf.

She held the paper up to read, and then sat down hard on the curb. She read the flyer twice, astonished even though really, this Vern person had done a rather clever thing and she shouldn’t be surprised at all.

She stared up at the skyline, shaking her head. That flyer had come a fair distance and Vera didn’t think she would make it to the Needle on foot. Giving a ‘what the hell’ shrug, she shoved the flyer in her waistband and headed back to her house, trying to remember where her motorcycle helmet might be.

Mother Abigale

The old woman pushed herself slowly out of her rocker, mumbling conversationally to herself as she contemplated what this evening would bring. Such sleep as one could expect to get at her age; 108, and she still baked her own bread. Even if age were not a factor, though, the dreams certainly were.

She knew there were more people coming than she could see; The Lord in his wisdom saw fit to show her only a small sample, the future leaders of a kind, and there were large gaps of information that she would have to rely on her fellow man to provide.

All in good time. Just like getting out of the rocker, then up the stairs.

As she painstakingly accomplished this task, which would have been minor when she was young, she thought over the names and faces she –did- know. Many were still scattered, going on their own personal journeys before the time came to head west.

Or East, for that matter. The Devil’s imp may well believe that the west is his, but the old woman, Abigale Freemantle, knew better. Their road, however, would be perhaps the most difficult.

Sighing heavily as she thought of their burdens, she dropped to one knee, then two in front of her bed. She was, not proud exactly, but thankful that in spite of her advanced years her joints and bones were not so weak that she could not get down on her knees in prayer.

She shut her eyes, and prayed for wisdom and healing for everyone in their journey.

Particularly those to the west.

Vernon Barns
The power had gone out in Seattle. Vern didn’t think it was like to come back any time soon.

He hiked up his pants and scratched lazily at the back of his neck. Already he was losing weight, just from not having any Mickey D’s for a week. Wouldn’t his doctor be proud…if he weren’t dead of the flu. The flu. Of all things.

He supposed he could have raided a store for something or other, a nice bag of potato chips or a can of those Vienna sausages he liked, but he was feeling a little too lazy to clean out more bodies. It had been enough effort just moving the corpses out of his current little space, though that had been worth it.

Heh, little space. He looked out on the city, feeling, for a moment, a bit like a giant who could step out and crush people like ants below. If there had been any people below.

Sighing a little and deciding it was time to get down to business he turned from the observation deck of the space needle and headed inside, glad that he had been able to get something productive done before the power crashed. He didn’t figure Kinkos would mind him borrowing some paper, not now.

He was actually wondering, in a way, why this particular task had fallen to him. Not that he minded or anything; he just didn’t think he was the best for the job of rounding people up. He’d never really been the type people listen to, he reflected as he picked up an armload of printed papers and turned around to go back out on the deck.

Then he realized why he was the first to think of this. He didn’t have any dead to bury. No sick mother or girlfriend or family to tend to in their final days.

He brushed off the thought and opened his arms, littering the fine city of Seattle with marigold and cornflower and lilac colored papers, with black print on both sides. It was a sight both pretty and sad, watching all those papers fly and swirl in the wind, and Vern gave a little bittersweet smile before a shiver went up his spine.

He suddenly felt watched, and by cold eyes. Turning all around, he called out, unnerved.

A crow took wing and flew away. Vern shivered again and headed inside for more papers.