Hello November

Hello November

45150747_10156630813152593_3865849915091451904_oIt has been awhile, but it always has been. I’ll get better about it one of these days. Thank God October is over! That is a busy month for me with my 31 Nights of horror, which is 31 nights of watching horror films. This year I did a Halloween marathon for 11 nights. Ten Halloween movies followed by the new one (It is really good!) My favorite random horror film to watch was The Invitation (2015) It is a solid movie! Watch it! Now, onto November….

There is thing where I try to write one page a day in November….but here we are on day six and I have already written over twenty pages on a new novel. At this rate I will be at a finished first draft by December! All of 2018 I have been lost on what I have wanted to write about since my collection of short stories (Stories we tell our Dead) and I have ideas for horror, syfy, fantasy, and even romance, but I couldn’t decide. A lot of changes have occurred this year and my loneliness had gotten the better of me….I need to write about the summer of 2016…

That was an interesting summer. A bad summer. I was drunk probably every single night back then….and adventures happened and i learned stories from many people and saw situations occur…all not good but at the very least it slowly formed a story in my brain…..my great American novel. (Life on Mended Wings) Since November 1st I began tapping away on this keyboard, and Buddy, business is booming!

I tell a lot of truths and secrets I have never told anyone. I feel I need to for reasons that are lost in the stratosphere. However the book is about millennials, mental illness, love, hate, sex, booze, drugs, and coming of age. Maybe you will like it? Or maybe you will piss on it? Lets see shall we….

Life. Life has been weird. I have been going through weird bouts of loneliness for some reason. I never really have this issue but something is causing it. I am having paranoid thoughts about my closest friends. Maybe they hate me, what did I do?  I only ever see Shaffer, Andrew, and Fat John which is cool I love those guys, some of my best friends but there are others and it makes me wonder….. Then there is my dog….

Nessie, my favorite. She is a 10 year old lab with some health issues. One issue that took a biopsy to check. I have not received the results yet and I am strong about it. I’ll do anything to save that dog. There isn’t a person on this world that understands me like that dog, and I know that there is a big chance at her death, and that will send me deep into a pit of despair that will take awhile for me to climb out of. If I am right about my thoughts on my friends then I can’t lose her….I can’t I just fucking can’t! She wouldn’t give up on me and I can read her face..she wants to live, she doesn’t want to leave. This loneliness, I’ll do anything. I love that dog so much! It was always suppose to her and I against the world but fate and life decided to take their big dicks out and slap me in the face. That is the world for you……..

In other news….I voted for Gov. and it looks like I voted right! JB do your thing Boy! Illinois Gov. usually end up in prison. So, if he succeeds that is awesome! If he goes to prison, well, that is pretty funny! Win, win!

I almost shot a deer last night while hunting. Didn’t work out, laws of mother nature playing her cards. Next time hopefully!!!!

I recently went to a club for some live music and had my face painted for charity. I had it painted like the wrestler Jeff Hardy. I kinda look like an I.C.P bitch, but I promise you I was going for the charismatic Enigma look!



My Chicago Bulls are losing…Levine Looks great though! My Bears are finally looking great! It is really exciting to watch them play….it hasn’t been that way since 2006…….I probably just fucking jinxed it (For fucks sake Tyler)

My kidneys started hurting bad last month, so bad at work I went into the bathroom and crawled into the fetal position, keeping myself from screaming. It was hurting so bad I wanted to fucking die. I kept remembering parts of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to try and take my mind off of it. Since then, I have made an appointment with my doctor, went on a diet, and have been working out after work. I cut back on the drinking pretty hardcore. Takes days off, but tonight I decided to mix cheap whiskey with filtered water and its doing the trick. Sorry vanilla coke zero…I do not trust you….

To all my Tyler Wayniacs who buy copies of my books, who support me, follow me, or even read these blog posts, just remember that I love you and will always be grateful for it. No matter what!

Till next time!

Love, Tyler Wayne






Lets talk about my new book

Lets talk about my new book

Welly Welly Well! So after a long absence of nothing but Scalp Collectors, I finally finished my book of short stories, Stories We Tell Our Dead. With a grand total of 7 stories, it is really fucking surprising it took me 18 months to release it. (18 months from my first novel)  I guess I just wasted my time, but with good and bad reasons…..

Fresh off the heels of my first book, I wanted to do a story collection of ones I have not released or no one has really seen. I wrote a couple already, a fantasy story for a friend, and a horror story for a contest (I didn’t win) so I went with those and dove into more elaborate long stories with complex plots and lots of characters….then I realized I was writing a novel. At the time it was called The Glass Spider, but it was topping out around 30,000 words and was still very far from the ending….so after a couple months of working on it, I hit a writers block and put the book away that I may one day go back to.

The next set back was once again another horror story called Blood of the Scarecrow. I really liked it, and wrote a sequel story to it, that became its own chapter, and then I was balls deep into 5 chapters before I hit a block and placed that on the back burner. My confidence level was dropping at a fast pace, clouds of depression slipped into the cracks of my skull, and I fell out of motivation.

I began drinking at impressive levels, blowing what little money I had on whiskey rather than going to the grocery store. Of course being drunk and dealing with a hangover every day while working a full time shit job really gets a big ZERO in the writing world….but then something happened…..

Scalp Collectors. Never meant to be anything serious, just a free online series I was doing for mental relaxation and for fun. A dark comedy set in a strange apocalypse world. Instead of focusing on back story or reasons and questions…I focused on the lead characters and how they interact…and I felt so relieved. However, every single day I worked on those chapters…I felt a voice in the back of my head….

So, I came back to it, not long after I ended most of my hard drinking. I stopped wasting my money and ruining my health to work, edit and focus on new stories. The ones I brought on board did much better, the new edits of old stories I felt confident about….and so everything seemed great….

But I fucking hated it. We loath the things we create…its a curse, and I feel unsure on a few things, but I did my best to make it look pretty (almost pretty) so I felt positive about that overall, but I was and still am confused.

I am not sure how good it is, but I will let you decide that. For the next couple of days you can get the digital copy for free, so give it a shot!

Scalp Collectors 5: The Hen House

Scalp Collectors 5: The Hen House

Kramer cackled like a loon, and Jones growled like an animal as they were dragged away to separate vehicles. They both had their hands tied behind their back and Kramer was dragged by two men and thrown into the back of a truck. Jones was dragged by his long hair, feeling strands ripping out of the scalp. The dragger stopped to look down at Jones with his dark blue eyes. He studied Jones like he was a fish in a bowl. Jones only noticed that the dragger had taken his knife and was wearing it in his belt.

“You sure are pretty, boy. Hair like this makes my marbles jump a throb. Yes sir! Yes sir!” The man said, blowing his dragon breath in Jones’s face. The yellowed teeth were picks in his mouth, but his eyes were dark blue and seemed to vibrate in the pupils. Jones had heard of these types before. A sickening breed of cannibal that made Head Hunters look like saints.

The cannibal began to smell Jones’s hair, and Jones let him get lost in his locks, so he could sink his teeth into the cannibal’s ear and rip it off. “YOU FUCK!” The man screamed, falling away from Jones in the dirt. Blood poured down his head and collected in the white of his shirt. Jones spat the ear from his mouth, blood worn on his lips, grinning. The beating Jones would receive from the man was worth it.

As the cannibal beat him, another man shouted at him. “Quit it! If you bring him all bloody to Ivy she might have the same thing done to you!”

The dragger looked down at Jones, with distance. “I’ll skull fuck you before I scrape your brains!”

“I look forward to it.”

Meanwhile, in the other truck, Kramer was laid flat on his back, with all his weapons removed. An oily muscled man stood over him. His skin was colored like cinnamon and Kramer bet his scalp would look beautiful drying from his window. He would be sure to keep it later. “Your fat friend was stuck under the car. We unfortunately had to cut him out, piece by piece. As he said this, Kramer saw Spencer’s severed head being carried into the truck.

“Well, I guess ginger prick got what he deserved. What are you going to do with us?”

The muscled man smiled as he cracked his knuckles. “Well, your fat friend will be made into soap, and the meat will be fed to the dogs. You and your friend will be featured at our feast this afternoon. We needed two more to appease our Goddess. All our followers will be there. It will be a bigger feast than last year. Your skulls will probably be used as sex toys or bowls. We will probably make canvas out of your back skin.”

The muscled man explained this without a flinch. He has said this before, maybe a thousand times and has performed it just as much. Kramer knew he wasn’t joking, but he didn’t so much care, for he was more distracted by the girl standing to the side of him. As the muscled man was talking, she walked over and began sucking on his left nipple. She was a short girl with a skeleton like body and short strawberry blonde hair.

As the truck began rolling, all the other cannibal hunters packed into the trucks. Kramer watched as this muscled man and girl started going at it. It wasn’t hard to miss since they decided to use Kramer as a mattress. As the muscled man yanked his pants off, Kramer witnessed a man who had mutilated his own penis. It looked he had sawed the head down the middle, giving the appearance of two heads.

As he began to thrust into the girl Kramer said, “Hey girl. If you reach back, you can unzip my zipper and I can slide into your other hole”

“Don’t talk to her!” The muscled man said, and struck Kramer across the face and bloodied his nose.

“Blood play! My favorite!” Kramer said, and used his head to rub blood across the girl’s back.

The muscled man struck Kramer multiple times and of course he spoke again. “Oh, shit! I forgot the safe word!” He felt the man’s fists hit him several more times. “Was it beach? Was it skunk? Maybe ravioli? Maybe monkey balls? Bacon strips?” This went on for several minutes, till Kramer could no longer speak, but he still cackled through a mouth full of blood.

As the trucks pulled the separate scalp collectors to the same destination, they both had secrets on how to get free. At any given moment, they could free themselves and possible escape the truck. The thought was provoking, and the common person would attempt it. They were Scalp Collectors and were above average at their skills. They knew patience was the safest route, because it was best not to panic. One of the largest tests from their training was about patience. Their teacher was a retired old Scalp Collector who went by the code name, Crook Shaw. During his prime, Crook and his late partner were the best Scalp Collectors that had ever lived. After his partner was killed when he stepped on a land mine, Shaw began to teach the up and comers. He was a rough teacher who would beat mistakes out of you, whip your back bare and force you to go days without sleeping. He was the weapons trainer and a survivalist master. His survival skills were the keys to his passing, his training, and his biggest test was his patience test.

He stated, “One day, some men are going to come and take you away. When they do, they will torture you, using any method. Normally, in these situations you would escape and kill everyone. This is not a killing test. Your test is to find a means to escape them and report back to me. If you escape the proper way, you are well on your way to being Scalp Collectors. If you use the wrong ways, then you will be punished. The right way to accomplish this, is with patience. If you do not escape, you will be expelled from the school. Now, these men, may not get you tonight, maybe not tomorrow, or hell, a month from now, but they know who you are, and they are coming. I wish you the best of luck.”

Most victims of the test were dragged through the dirt with wire wrapped around their toes. The easiest way to escape was simple. Rip your toes off. These people were crippled and never became Scalp Collectors. Jones and Kramer used patience and found a proper way to escape.

The trucks arrived in front of a church. Jones was kicked out of the back, “Shit, another church. Be more creative next time!”

The one eared cannibal dragged Jones be his hair again, towards the front door. Kramer followed him, his face a bloody mess, cackling as the pulled. “You people think you are savages, fuck, we are the real savages. Leading us to your leader is the worse fucking thing you could ever do. Most of you will die….and you have no idea!”

“Shut up!” The short hair girl yelled and stomped Kramer in the balls. “I will feed you your guts like spaghetti.

“I only eat tangerines with my sghetti!” Kramer yelled and spat his blood into her mouth. She screamed and spat the blood on the ground.

“Bitch be drinking blood but is afraid of my spit.”

Both Scalp Collectors were dropped at the back of the church. They were surprised to see that the church was filled. Every seat was taken by different people, not dressed like savages but in their normal every day garments, some were even in suits and dresses. They turned to look at the commotion at the back of the church. Someone called out, “Dinner is served. The audience clapped their hands and cheered. A couple of the cannibal hunters placed their weapons on a steal table to the left of Jones. One was carrying Kramer’s lightning bolt shaped knife and seemed memorized by the blade. On his back, he was carrying Spencer’s bag of credits. Jones and Kramer both eyed this with pleasure. The one eared hunter stood in front of Jones. His scalping blade was in the front of his belt. It should be too close for comfort, but the dumb hunter felt safe because he personally tied Jones’s hands behind his back. This is the biggest mistake they did that day. Since both collectors were forced on their knees, they had access to their escape.

“I’m going to bite your ear off first, boy!”

“Is that going to be before I bite your nose off and escape. You are running out of time!”

The hunter all stood in front of them and laughed. The Scalp Collectors counted twelve armed hunters and two more standing at the front of the church. Easy.

“Order!” A man yelled walking to church podium. “It looks that our Hunters have brought us the rest of our dinner for us. They were tipped off that some foolish men were traveling the Devil’s Alley. Our trusty friend Allocer and his lovely friend tipped us off! The rest of our pigs have been slaughtered and are currently being cooked in the basement below. These two will be ceremonially eaten to welcome out feast. Our Goddess Ivy will feast on their hearts like tradition has shown. They are Scalp Collectors, so their meat might be a little tough, but we will make screamers out of them no doubt.”

“I am a moaner!” Kramer yelled back.

“We shall see Pig!” Allocer said, walking down the aisle. His silver hair hanging on his shoulders. His smile made the blue crosses on his cheeks appear awkward, almost how awkward it was for Jones to see Amaryllis following him, flexing her razor fingers as she did.

“Pig!” Allocer said walking over to Kramer. “You have no idea it is for me to see you like this, all bloody and broken. It’s good to see you so filled of pride.”

“Wait till I get free.” Kramer said.

Amaryllis walked over to Jones. She looked stunning, her tanned skin covered in a long silver dress, her eyes bright with a sick love. She bent down in front of jones, close enough for him to smell her intoxicating scent. “This will hurt me, My Love. I asked to personally have your cock.”

“Maybe it will taste like what you remember. That’s only because you don’t get to eat my heart out like you tried before. Another girl gets that right.”

She whispered to him, “If they knew you like I do, they should have killed you when they had the chance. I am betting your heart will still be up for grabs before this day is over.” She kissed him on the tip of his nose and stood up.

“Fair well boys! It’s been a real pleasure knowing you. We are going to watch from the side!” Allocer said.

“Order!” The man at the podium cried. “It is time to introduce our Goddess! It is a real pleasure this year, for I Dokken, oversee bringing her forth!

“His name is Dokken?” Kramer said, confused.


The crowd cheered as if the anticipation brought forth a surge of an entrance, something they could tell people for years, but that is not what occurred. She simply walked out with her arms raised and took the podium. She was a brunette, but all the hair was pulled back into a single long braid, that went all the way down to the floor. The gold jewels that lined her ivory skin, gave her an Egyptian look, or based on what the Scalp Collectors knew of Egypt. The makeup was caked as if to make her a great beauty, but she lacked the interest or the raw power of a real woman. She wore an odd bikini top. It was made with the faces of skulls, and covered each breast except the nipples stuck out of the eye sockets. She was an interesting sight to the Scalp Collectors.

“Greetings my children! Welcome to our yearly feast!” Everyone cheered, children were raised in the air and she pointed to each one with a smile.

“This is your Goddess?” Kramer said. “Looks like someone brought a hem to the rooster house!”

Everyone froze in place.

“What?” Kramer asked within the silence.

Jones turned to him, “That is not a saying!”

“Yes, it is! It is what they used to say in the old days.”

“No, no one has ever said that!”

“Yes, they did! That is how we get chicken eggs!” Kramer screamed.

“How? A horny chicken walks into a rooster house and all the roosters take turns with her until she produces eggs?”

“Yes! Exactly!”

“No!” Jones screamed. “That’s not how it happens!

“Yes, it is!”

The muscled cannibal lost his temper. “Be quiet!” He slapped Kramer in the back of his head.

“Trust me, you can keep doing that to him and he will keep talking. He has the need to talk to everybody” It’s kinda annoying.” Jones said.

“Exactly!” Kramer said. “We have to talk about how I think your Goddess is the equivalent of a chicken, and how she is about to let everyone in this room how a go on her!”

This time Kramer took a several stomps to the stomach till he was on his back. He laughed through the whole experience.


“We already heard this fucking part! Just get to the killing already!” These words were spoken by Jones, a surprise even to himself.

“Yeah, Bokken Dokken, whatever your fucking name is!” Kramer said, moving to his side to help himself up.

The confusing nature of this conversation the Scalp Collectors had was entirely intentional. For they were distracting their captors from what they were doing. While they spoke to each other, they were blinking in rapid unique fashion. They spoke in a language they constructed on their own with winks and blinks. During this, their bound hands laid motionless on the back of their boots, slowly pulling the razor blades they had hidden in the skin of the boots. They rubbed their bound wrists against this, freeing themselves. They both were free, just waiting, being patient, just like they were taught. The whole while they devised their plan of escape. It wasn’t a smart plan, but they could operate it.

Ivy returned to her speech, completely unaffected by what had just occurred. “As I said, welcome to the yearly feast. We have many activities to attend to before the eating, mainly the sacrifice-.”

“The one eared cannibal lowered himself in front of Jones. The blood from his missing ear had dried down his neck, and browned in his shirt. He whispered carefully, his rotten breath was filling his nostrils with dread. “The killing starts real soon. Yes sir, yes sir. I think I will start with the ear.”

“Why not the nose?” Jones asked, headbutting him right in the spot with a satisfying crunch.

The cannibal fell back holding his nose, leaving Jones’s knife in his belt unattended. To everyone’s surprise, Jones stole the knife from the belt and slipped the tip across the cannibal’s throat. One of the other hunters ran at Jones and he stuck the blade through his belly, pulling him around and spilling his innards out.

Two armed guns from the stage fired at Jones, but he used the dying cannibal as a human shield as he back tracked to the steal table, flipping it on its side, spilling his weapons to the floor. Jones dropped the body and dove behind it to take cover.

Meanwhile, Kramer attacked too. He knew he couldn’t over power the muscled man with his own strength, so he took a note from Jones and bit him in the throat. His teeth tore through the skin as he pulled the neck open, like a wolf ripping apart a rabbit. Kramer threw the cannibal back and ran towards the opposite table, throwing down for cover, grabbing his hand gun and blunderbuss. The first cannibal tried to get him with Kramer’s own knife, but he jumps shot him through the head before he could use it. Kramer grabbed his knife and began firing.

Jones found his pistol and fired at the hunter’s dropping them where they stood. He fired one shot at Dokken, hitting him in the throat. Ivy was nowhere in sight. Jones ran from his side of the table, firing his shotgun as he did, drilling a few of the hunters down. He slides into the spot Kramer was. They circled into the corner of the church, hiding behind thick pillars. The towns people seemed to be armed as well, as they rained shots at the pillars, chips and dust breaking off the pillars. Clouds of dust were so thick no one could see. Kramer could make out several children all holding guns and firing wildly at them.

“Really wish I had my tommy gun right now.” Kramer said.

“Out gunned, out manned and back into a corner. This is not good for us.” Jones said, looking around. “You think Allocer is still around? I would love to end him right now.”

“Can’t tell. You think I could use my blunderbuss right now. Maybe blow like twenty of them down. Even the odds a bit?”

“How the fuck, do you think that is going to work?” Jones said.

“Watch and learn.” Kramer said, shouldering the gun and spinning around to fire around the pillar.

Before he could fire the gun, an explosion blew apart the side wall of the church. Anyone standing near that wall was killed instantly and several lifeless corpses flew across the building. The air turned to smoke, and the bright light of the sun shined into the church. Grenades were thrown through the hole and exploded into the crowd of people.

“Run for the hole!” Kramer said and took off into the smoke oh what could have been a suicidal approach to what was about to happen.

Jones followed, but was unsure. If they stayed they were easily killed and if they jumped through the hole they could also be killed. The idea did cut into his brain that this could very well be the day they die. Shots flew bouncing around as the Scalp Collectors found the wall and worked their way to the hole. Fire had ignited in the church and the screams and cries of the families inside were sickening.

When they approached the hole, they held their hands up, holding their dog tags in one hand. Several vehicles could be seen on the outside, mounted guns and armed soldiers stood on each end. A bald woman towered over them as she approached. She was wearing large black sunglasses and he facial expression went well with the muscled arms she had exposed. A large logo was patched over the front of her tan jacket, and all the other soldier matched as well. “Freedom Fighters.” Kramer said. “I guess we should be glad to see these guys.”

“You don’t think she is still mad at us?” Jones said.

The bald woman drew her katana at her side as she walked up to them.

“Well I had sex with her because we needed to distract her while you scalped her brother.” Kramer said.

“Well, fuck.”

Scalp Collectors 3: The Sghetti Incident

Scalp Collectors 3: The Sghetti Incident

Kramer rubbed his knee as Jones drove. The shrapnel in his knee was always irritated on the day they would kill someone…. or everyone. It was a warning sign he was very aware of. That morning, Jones picked him up with a smile on his face. “fifty thousand credits!”

“Who are we skinning?” Kramer said, hopping into the jeep.

“A mayor…”

“Oh, fuck…” Kramer said, and felt his knee begin to hurt.

Each bump in the road made his knee throb even more. He hoped he could run later, they both were about to.

“Man, knee hurts today.” Kramer said, a dark tone present in his voice, a rare occurrence.

“Oh, thank God! It has been awhile since we shed some real blood. All this talking we have been doing is really starting to haunt me. I’m itching to stick the gun barrel in the mouth of some of these pricks!”

“This is one is bad. Let’s try to aim for the heart or throat this time. We don’t need what happened last time.” Kramer said.

“I shot him in the fucking mouth!” Jones explained.

“Yeah, but the bullet ricochet off the jaw bone and went out his forehead, ruining the scalp we were going to get a bonus for! Fuck, it really hurts today.”

“Well maybe if you didn’t spend your off nights on your knees you would be in good shape for work.”

“Fuck you, man.” Kramer said, lighting one of his rolled-up smokes, trying to avoid laughter.

When the jeep approached the woods, they were located under 10 klicks from Head Hunter territory. “We got to be careful here. They could be watching us.” Jones mumbled.

At the entrance into the woods, he stopped the jeep and they both considered the green foliage for signs of anyone. The trail in front of them had a bloody sign peering at them. At first glance, they thought it was a Head Hunter sign. “I’m not seeing shit.” Kramer said, coiling his gun in both hands.

“Sometimes we can smell them, but I can only smell the woods.” Jones said, sniffing the air like a rabid dog.

“That sign isn’t Head Hunters, is it?”

Jones and Kramer stepped out of the Jeep, Kramer limping as they did so, and wondered over to the sign, guns raised. The sign was a wooden post at first glance, but was covered in a bloody sheet. The sheet was made of human skin, an entire blanket made from some person that had been flayed. From the top of their head to their tip toes was present before them. The eyes were present in the skin, but they were the blackest eyes and they were bulging out from the face they were stuck in. The hair and scruff of the beard were matted and caked in crimson mud. A sign was tacked into the chest of the skin.

Kramer read the sign in a whisper. “I was once skinned and I can’t control the crying. Now, I skin and I can’t control the laughing. Can you say the same? Will you think the same? I drowned in a Sea of salt and blood, but now Eye Sea everything!”

“Fuck is that supposed to mean?” Jones asked. “The previous sign is laying on the ground.” Jones kicked at it. “Petersburg, 1 mile.”

Kramer touched the blood on the skin and rubbed it between his fingers. “It’s jellied and the bugs haven’t done much to it. Maybe a day old.”

“Can’t be head hunters. They use skulls.”

“These are not human eyes.” Kramer suggested, pulling one out of the face.

“Buck eyes. They came from a deer.” Jones said. “I watched Georgie dig those out of a doe I killed last year.”

“What do you think it means?” Kramer said.

“That man is game now. Whoever did this, is sending a message. Sounds like he has been scalped before.”

A light breeze came from the woods, and chilled their skin on a late summer day. “Let’s keep going.” Kramer said, heading back to the jeep.

“On it.”

The tires kicked up dirt as they drove into the woods. Branches were scraping at the sides of the jeep. More alert than ever, the Scalp Collectors kept their guns unsheathed in their laps, waiting for the killer or killers to strike. An outsider wouldn’t be able to tell from their appearance, but they had their hearts filled with a sick love. They wanted to kill, something the Queen’s people slipped into their brains during their youth builds. They were calmer than ever, just itching to squeeze the trigger on anyone who gave them a reason to shed some extra blood. Kramer would gladly kill anyone if it would make the pain in his knee die out and Jones just wanted the game to be played. Maybe this was the day they would be bested? Or maybe this was another day of much slaughter, something to help them both sleep at night and make the money needed to get closer to the end. This was the best therapy for them.

“What’s that on the side of the road?”

Jones jerked the jeep to a complete stop. The foliage was thick on each side of the road, but there was no doubt there was a moving arm trying to drag themselves out of the brush. The skin was white and blistered. “A Burned One.” Jones said, stepping out of the vehicle.

Chaz followed and they walked over to the brush, guns raised.

The Burned One’s head was present, eyes red with a tanned orange face that contrast with his pale skin. It took them a minute to realize he spread some type of clay across his face. “Aye,” He said. “No harm from me. I am about done anyways.”

“Man, what you are doing rolling around in the bushes for?” Kramer asked.

“I ride the dust devils like the others, came to close to the woods and got caught in a tree.”

“Explains why you are not walking.” Jones said.

“Aye, lost that trick years ago.” The Burned One said, coughing in his raspy voice, beads of sweat rolled off his bald head towards his lips and he licked at them eagerly.

“Never met a dust devil rider that could talk.” Kramer said.

“Some can, I choose not to. I only do now because I know I am dead.”

“Yeah.” Kramer agreed.

“Can I trouble you boys for any water? It’s been a couple days. I have only had a couple handfuls of piss. I would like to die with a wet whistle.”

“Sorry, can’t spare it, man. I mean what happens if I get thirsty? I got a lot of better choices than piss back in the jeep.” Kramer said.

“Very well. End it then. I aint done a thing worth living. I might as well die like nothing.”

“Rock, paper, scissors, for it?” Jones asked, holding out his hand.

“Deal. 1, 2, 3, go!”

They shot their hands out and Jones’s scissors cut Kramer’s paper. “I usually never win!” Jones laughed and put his gun away. He drew his Bowie knife, his skinning blade to perform the deed.

“I thought you would just shoot me?” The Burned One asked.

“Yeah, I would, but I only have a few bullets. I have to save them for a really good time!”

“Well, be on with it, but can you humor me for a bit? Since I will be heading there soon, what do you think happens when we die? I never really thought about it until today, but where do we go from here?”

Jones knelt near his face. “Heaven? Hell? Some place in between the Void? Maybe a cool place in the shadows, or a dip in the icy pool? Fuck if I know, but what I hope for is a dark world where nothing exists. It’s just nothing.”

“That’s gloomy.” The Burned One said.

“Yeah, well, I don’t really give a fuck.” Jones slapped the blade into the temple of the victim and twisted the eleven inches of steal around his brain, and yanked the blade out before slamming the tip into the top of the skull, pushing his face into the dirt for good. When he yanked the knife free he watched the blood pool for a moment, and noticed the nerves twitched before he remained still for good. “That was quick, I guess he was close to death. How did that do for your knee?” Jones asked.

“Not a fucking thing! It is starting to stiffen.” Kramer said, massaging his leg.

“Well, if we hurry we can make it to town before night fall.” Jones said, using the arm of the dead Burned One to wipe the blood off the knife.

They journeyed on through the woods, hoping to reach Petersburg before dusk. Jones fiddled with the radio until a broadcast could be heard over the static.

“-when the Bloodsuckers hit St. Louis, they devoured and pushed out all the refuges from Illinois, all of which were victims of the bird attacks that were occurring upstate. During this time, the military was trying to hold the east coast from destruction. Panic had already spread and the only side of the United States with minimum panic was the west coast. Talk of the dead were the only report coming from San Francesco as of this broadcast. The dead have kept their distance in the south and west. The dry weather is treating them better than the harsh winters in the north and east experience. The Bloodsuckers are the real threat in the surrounding Missouri area. Just an hour before the broadcast I dropped a Molotov off the top of my tower to burn six of them that tried chopping their way in. Remember folks, fire kills them faster! The bird threats look to be tamed now. An unsung group of heroes started eradicating all the bird nests in the north. There is hope along the horizon! We will not divide! Remember, protect your loved ones and yourself! This is Riley Scott, and this was The Midnight Hour!”

“Fucking rerun.” Jones mumbled, switching off the radio.

“I wonder how many times we have heard that one.”

They drove on, down the dirt road, time clicked from the clock, and the sun was lost behind the trees. “I really don’t want to camp here.” Kramer said.

“So, what are we going to do? Scalp the mayor and sleep in his house?”

“Yeah, I am saying that.”

“That should go over well.”

Kramer cackled. “Yeah…. It will.”

The road took a large turn in the woods and they came upon the front of a gated town. A gateway was in the road, surrounded on each side by brick towers, but no access to a vehicle could happen, for large metal spikes were crossed in front of the gateway. A single person could move through them, but a car had no access. Walls, made of brick with barbed wire at the top were surrounding the town. It was more fortified than the Scalp Collector’s home.

Armed guards stood at the top of the towers, holding pipe pistols, potato guns, and house made rocket launchers. “How goes there?” One of the guards yelled down.

“Just a couple of the Queen’s men, hoping to enter your town and speak to your mayor?” Kramer asked.

“On what grounds?”

“We have word on some dangerous people in the area and we are here to offer our aid incase these people attack the town of Petersburg.” Kramer lied.

“The guards radioed back to someone else. After listing to a reply one motioned to the other. “Leave the vehicle and walk through the spiked gate. The mayor will be out shortly.”

“Christ, these guys are easy. That wasn’t even your best lie!”

Kramer smiled, “I know, man. How many guards do you think?”

“Homemade guns, maybe a dozen, probably less.”

“I was thinking that.” Kramer said, wincing at the pain in his leg.

Jones walked through the rusted spikes first, maneuvering through them carefully, keeping one hand on his gun’s holster. He laughed when he watched Kramer attempt with his crippled leg.

“You think this is funny, huh?”

“Crippled motherfucker!” Jones said, laughing.

When Kramer was free one of the guards yelled, “The assistant mayor will meet you down the street.”

“Will he show us to the real power around here?” Kramer asked.

When no answer came, Kramer rubbed his knee, nodded to Jones, and they walked side by side. They loosened the guns in their belts.

“I saw the guards were wearing dog tags. It’s a good target. Aim a little above and it should be a direct hit.” Jones said.

“How many are you thinking?” Kramer asked. “We only have seven bullets between us.”

“I only saw three.”

The town was well kept compared to what they know. Clean and kept homes with yards of fresh green grass. Everything was clean compared to wear they came from. The few people they saw on the street moved inside. Children were playing on a swing set and the mother called them into the house. “Well we sure stick out.” Jones said, watching the children running inside.

“Only one person was still standing outside. He’s leaning against the stop sign smoking something.” Kramer said.

“Might be our guy? Or the assistant.”

As they walked up to the guy, they noticed his faded t shirt, and torn jeans. His scruffy beard leads up to his blazed bloodshot eyes. He looked at them as if they weren’t there. He smoked more of his rollup and blew the smoke in the air. Kramer and Jones could smell the weed as they got closer.

“You know where we can find the mayor?” Kramer asked.

“He’s up in the house. Will be down in the minute. I am his assistant. What can we help you gentlemen with?” He offered the joint to Kramer who took it eagerly. After hitting it, he said, “Just an offer we have for him.” Kramer pasted it to Jones who took a long hit from it before passing it back. “That’s good shit,” Kramer began. “You have a stockpile around here?”

“The man smiled and said, “Got a whole garden in the back. You boys help yourselves to a bug full before you leave.”

“Nice.” Kramer said.

A man walked out onto the porch of a building to their left. He was wearing all black with a gun belt on his right hip. Jones noticed what kind of gun he had and knew then he was going to take all his bullets.

“Scalp Collectors. I recognized your kind as you walked down the street.” The mayor said. Kramer watched the assistant try sliding his hand behind his back all smooth.

“You are the mayor, Paul Peters?” Jones asked.

“Wait! That’s his fucking name?” Kramer chuckled.

The mayor’s face grew red behind his long white hair and mustache. “That is me. How about you boys come inside and have a drink while we discuss this business you brought to my doorstep.”

The assistant was struggling to pull something out from his pants and Kramer watched from the corner of his eye. “Sounds good,” Kramer said. “Lead the way.”

The assistant tried to pull his gun early and the killing began. Kramer drew his knife and slashed at his gun hand and the pistol dropped to the ground. The knife circled up into the assistant’s neck and Kramer pulled the throat open. Blood splashed out down Kramer’s arm and he laughed while the blood rained.

The mayor was quick with his revolver, but Jones was a second faster. While the mayor pulled the gun out of the holster to fire on them, Jones shot from the hip and the slug struck the mayor right through the wrist on his gun hand and the gun dropped into the dirt. The mayor screamed and ran back inside the building he came from. “Kill them you bastards! They came from my scalp!”

“Kramer jerked his pistol out and swung backwards, shooting three single shots at all the guards men. He could make out where the dog tags were and aimed a little above. These were hard shots, but all their training made them experts. Each bullet shattered into the chest bone of each guard. The chest bone exploded, sending shards of bone into the heart and lungs. Kramer watched one of the guards fall from the tower dead. They never got a shot off.

Others did, as people with homemade guns fired from the windows of their home. The bullets missed by a couple feet and Jones said, “Get the mayor! I’ll handle them.”

“On it!” Kramer said, and ran at full speed towards the building, ignoring the fact his knee was even hurting. The mayor slammed the door shut behind him and they imagined he locked it, but Kramer threw his shoulder into it and it smashed open. Jones moved his guns back and forth between every window on the street as bullets flew passed him. Homemade guns shot like shit, but Jones was carrying real steal, something he could rattle them back to their skeleton ancestors. The assistant mayor laid bleeding out on the ground, he recognized the 22. Pistol on the ground but ran backwards from a spray of bullets that came from between the houses. “There is one of them! Fucking kill him!”

Kramer ran into the building that looked like an old-time saloon. Chairs sat upside down on tables and a bar with a large mirror was present. He heard a door slam from somewhere nearby and he saw that the blood that sprayed from his gunshot wound left a blood trail heading towards the stairs. Kramer power walked with his gun drawn, knowing that he was going to have to kill this guy, but knew he probably had more guns.

As Kramer headed for the stairs. Jones ran to the porch, stopping to pick up the mayor’s gun as he did. A whole witch mob of people came from around the houses with homemade guns, knives, axes, whatever weapon they could use to cut down the Scalp Collectors.

“Fucking knew we were coming!” Jones yelled as he ran into the building, following Kramer. He checked the mayor’s gun and saw they were the same caliber. Jones’s gun was well oiled with a hair trigger, the mayor’s gun was rusted to the point of a dead weapon. Jones wasn’t sure the gun would even fire. The cylinder was full of six fresh rounds and Jones took these with pleasure, and rolled them into his own gun till he was fully loaded with a couple to spare.

Kramer made it to the top of the stairs and threw himself into the door till it opened. He found the mayor digging through a cabinet, knocking boxes of bullets to the floor, trying to find what he needed for shotgun he had laying by him. A pool of blood was forming from where the slug went through his wrist. A milk white color was staining his body. Kramer knew he didn’t have much life left. “You are feeling alright, man?” Kramer asked. “You are looking a little sick there. Can I get you anything? Medicine? Bandage? I’ll trade you for the scalp?”

Jones Pushed a chair to the door to try and block it from the witch mob that was making it to the porch. “C’mon Chaz!” He would mumble by flipping around to each window, knowing it was only a matter of time before they blew their way through. Gun shots rang and the windows broke of ancient glass as the bullets flew into the wall behind him. One hit the grand mirror, turning it into a spider web.

Kramer’s gun rang its last round throughout the room and echoed through the building. “C’mon God damn it! They are coming in!” Kramer heard Jones’s gun go off three times from the floor below. “Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!” Kramer laughed as he began skinning the mayor’s head. He let the poor man load the shotgun, but got so distracted by a gun in the cabinet that he almost let the man get the drop on him. Kramer pulled the trigger and the mayor’s throat exploded. He choked and wiggled but soon died. “I don’t fucking think so!” He heard Jones scream as more glass broke.

“You alright, man?” Kramer yelled. “I think you need to get up here. You need to see this.”

He heard him run up the steps and run into the room, gun still pointed. “What!? We need to go…”

Jones looked upon the open gun cabinet. Barrels lined the back wall and boxes of bullets we all over the floor. His jaw dropped. “Seriously?”

“Yeah, he tried loading this triple barrel shotgun. Looks a bit homemade.”

“I want that.” Jones said.

Kramer cackled. “Good! Because I want this one!” He pulled a tommy gun out of the cabinet and began to load it. “Plenty of your .45 rounds in here and my 9’s.”

“Hell yeah!” Jones dropped down and began digging around the bullets.

The door broke down and they heard the footsteps run around the bottom floor. Kramer shut the door. “Alright, so what’s up, man? How are we going to do this?”

Jones checked the shotgun and the barrels. All the hammers were welded into one big hammer. This gun was meant to unload all three barrels at the same time. He checked if it was loaded and stood behind the door and placed the barrels onto the midsection of the door. “When I drop down, unload the tommy on them.”

“Nice!” Kramer laughed. “What is this, like the ninth time this has happened?”


Jones felt pressure on the door and he unloaded the gun. It nearly kicked him over as if blew the entire midsection of the door apart. The midsections of three people behind the door spilled down the stairs. Blood rolled down onto the bottom step, ropes of intestines swam down like water snakes. Jones dropped and Kramer fired like a mad man, laughing as he did. The gun wasn’t the most accurate, but in the space of a stairwell it landed its mark as much as it missed.

Bodies slipped on blood and several more were thrown back as bullets caved in their torsos. The fell back when the bodies were piling to high and the rest ran out of the building. The Scalp Collectors ran to a window and began raining down on each one. Driving bullets into their back as they ran, screamed, and pleaded for their lives. The ones who tried to be brave died first and the cowards died last, using their handguns to see who could hit the farthest victim as they ran down the streets. Jones replaced bullets from a box next to him and Jones traded out a couple preset magazines that were waiting from him. The last person to run up at them had the white hair and beard of a crazy man. A red stain was all over his beard and he pointed a chunky finger at the window. “I only eat tangerines with my sghetti!”

“What?” Jones said lowering his gun.

Kramer chuckled. “Hey man, I always eat tangerines with my sghetti!” He shot the man twice through his throat and they watched as he choked to death on his own blood.

“Eat this,” Jones said. “You should have said that. Fits whatever the fuck he was talking about.”

“Dude, I have no idea.”

The mob was dead. One of the worst makeshift groups that ever tried to kill them. The whole slaughter only took about seven minutes Thirty-eight were dead and the biggest stockpile of ammo they have ever seen.

Let’s camp here. I am sure we just abandoned some of these houses.” Jones said.

“Yeah, and there is promise of sghetti for dinner.”

“Fucks sake.” Jones said.

Kramer laughed as they began to raid the gun cabinet. “So, how should we divide this all up? I mean, we probably have over thirty scalps worth 10 or more credits each.”

“I saw a couple who had been scalped in the past before.” Jones said.

“Right, I know we give ninety percent to The Dwellers, but what about that last ten percent? Like I feel that I killed most of them, so I should get a bigger cut.”

Jones laughed. “Right, you didn’t see the ones I gunned down at the windows, and I took out more far away than you did.”

“I got the three in the guard tower, and the other ones coming up the stairs!”

“Let’s just split it fifty each.”

“How about sixty-forty?” Kramer said.

“fifty-five for you and forty-five for me, but I get to pick through the guns first.”


Kramer found a large duffle bag in the closet and started loading all the ammunition in it. Even if they didn’t have the right gun for it, they could sell it for a lot of credits. Jones investigated a cabinet by the desk and found a bottle of whiskey sitting at the bottom. “Hey, Paulie. Hiding the good stuff down here?” Jones said. “What year do you think this was?”

Kramer took it and pulled the cork out and smelled it. “Man, before the bombs dropped. Wanna do some shots while we scalp the pile?”

“Yeah, man. Find more of that weed too.”

With the guns lined up on the floor, Jones picked a .38 revolver and hid it behind his belt in the back, a .22 Derringer pistol that he slipped into his left boot, and the sawed off three-barrel shotgun that he blew the door open with. “So, I’m getting the tommy gun, this gold plated .50, and this fucking blunderbuss?” Kramer said. “Look at the barrel on this thing, it’s like a megaphone! It doesn’t even take actual bullets! Pour some black powder in it, throw a bunch of metal shit in it and hope it shoots!”

“Got a problem with it?” Jones asked.

“No, this is pretty sick.” Kramer said, cackling.

They dragged all their goods to the bottom floor. Kramer found two shot glasses behind the bar and filled both. They clinked their glasses together and took the first shot down. “Hey man, I think you are bleeding.” Kramer said, pointing to Jones’s right arm.

Jones looked and saw a line across his arm that dripped blood down to his wrist. “I didn’t even feel that. One of those bullets grazed me. What luck?”

Jones rolled his sleeve up and took some of the scalping salt and clapped that one the wound to stop the bleeding. “Yeah, that burn.” Jones said, watching the white foam bubble from the wound. “It is almost addicting.”

They spent the next couple hours scalping and throwing back drinks. They would drag the bodies from the street into the building and scalp the ones who needed it. Thirty-five good scalps, counting the mayor’s. The flies were beginning to fill up the building to feed on the dead so they saw it best to camp in another house. Before they left, Kramer was chopping at one of the scalp victims. He removed the severed head of the last kill.

“He held the scalped head up and started moving the jaw, treating the severed head like a puppet. “I only eat tangerines with my sghetti!” He said in his best worst impression, something he constantly did to people who irritated him. Kramer chucked the head like a ball out the window.

“Fucking weird people live here.” Jones said, laughing. They took some string and linked all the scalps together like a large multicolored animal pelt, blood still dripping from the skin rags.

They walked down the street with their pay, guns, and booze when a little boy stepped out into the street. Jones and Kramer both drew on him but didn’t shoot. They boy had been crying. His red, wet, tired blue eyes were nearly hidden behind his sandy hair. “You killed my daddy.”

“Oh shit, I am sorry kid! Which scalp is his and I will let you have it!” Kramer said.

“I am going to kill you both one day.”

“Really?” Jones asked, Lowering his head smiling. “You know, I don’t know how many people in this world have threatened that. So far we are still standing.” Jones lowered down till he was standing eye level with the kid. He took his revolver and spun it to where the barrel was facing his own chest and the butt of the gun was facing the kid. “Come here, kid.” He gestured for the boy to take the gun.

The boy walked over, reluctant at first, Jones made a note of his dirty bare feet. He took the gun in both hands. Jones pushed the hammer back for him and he pushed the barrel into his own chest. Jones pressed his hands against the boys. “Pull the trigger, kid. Kill me. You may even have enough time to kill my partner. You got the look of a killer in those eyes.”

“I’ll do it.” The kid threatened, snot rolling from his nose.

“I bet you could, but that is the trouble with children. They think they know the whole truth of the world. You know, from the mouth of babes, but if that was true then the world would be a better place, but I see angry eyes on you, kid, but I also see something else. I see a little boy who can’t pull the trigger.”

Several seconds passed and Jones stared in a glaring smile. He flipped the gun out of the boy’s hands and pressed the barrel to the boy’s forehead. He slowly released the hammer and holstered the gun. “Don’t be like you dad, kid. Or you will end up just like him. Now get your ass back to your house before your mother worries.”

They walked on in silence. Knocking on doors, waiting to see who was home and who wasn’t. They settled on a two-story house. They could lock the bottom doors and sleep upstairs to give them the high ground incase if someone broke in to kill them in their sleep. Kramer locked picked the door and they walked in and investigated the house. It was in good shape, clean with paintings on the wall. Upstairs they found three rooms with empty beds. They decided to settle here for the night. Kramer tied a trip rope around the front door in case anyone kicked it open. The rope connected to the trigger of his blunderbuss that was filled with knives from the kitchen. Looking through the cupboard, Jones found jars of peanut butter, a half loaf of bread, and some salted meat. “It aint sghetti, but I guess it will do.”

They ate peanut butter sandwiches and salted meat that they believed to be pork. After drinking the rest of the whiskey, they each took a different bedroom. Kramer took the master bed, while Jones took a bed that looked to be for a guest room. They slept with the doors open, guns loaded on the nightstands and they dreamt of blood and torture. The residents that were hiding after the gun fight scurried through the night, but stayed clear of the house they knew they went in.

In the morning, they wondered down the street, headaches from the whiskey and they craved their own home.

“Someone sold us out.” Jones said. “Seemed like they were waiting for us.”

“It did seem like that.” Kramer said, squinting in the bright sun. “Rival skinners I think.”

“Probably. Your knee isn’t hurting, is it?”

“Nah, man. I guess we are in the clear to drive home.”

They twisted around the rusted spikes and made it to the front of their vehicle. They both stopped and stared at the wind shield of the jeep. Blood was dripping down the glass and a message was spelled out. “Eye Sea You.”

Jones walked forward and saw that a pair of black buckeyes were sitting on the hood, a bloody smile was drawn underneath, creating a monstrous face.

“Looks, like we have a fan.” Jones said.

“But who?” Kramer asked.

“I am not sure, but I think he knows who we are.”

Scalp Collectors 2: Missionary Position

Scalp Collectors 2: Missionary Position

The red door that gated the civilization from the outside world widened like open arms. The jeep pulled through it and pulled into the Way Station. The door slammed shut behind, locking them in to Queensmen, home of the pair of Scalp Collectors. They both jumped out of the jeep and headed towards the Dealer, Georgie.

“Chaz Kramer and Alpaca Jones! How the hell are my favorite Skinners doing?”

They walked up to the widow where they saw his melted face. Georgie was recognized as a Burned One. They were people affected by diseases and radiation as infants, the ones that lived had melted and scarred skinned that looked like they were burned all over. Most lost their minds and roam the wastelands like brainless animals. Georgie was an exception of this rule.

“Seriously you two are the only twisted motherfuckers that I would allow to scalp my sorry ass.”

“Your skin aint worth shit!” Kramer said, handing the scalp in through the window.

“Oh, but this is! Contract completed. Let me run this through our DNA Database.” Neither of the Scalp Collectors have ever seen how they scan the skin in the DNA Database, it was some type of computer screen that was kept below the window. “Yes, yes, a perfect match!” His smile was obtuse and sent cracks through his blistered face.

A ghastly sight Georgie was. Bald in a milk white with red blotches across his skin that cracked and peeled, with a clear liquid that soaked his skin like sweat. The whites of his eyes were blood red with brown pupils swimming within. He could blend in well with a crowd of his own kind, but Jones was sure he could pick him out in a line up.

So, let’s see…. three thousand credits for the single. Same as last time, two three hundred checks and the two thousand four hundred in one check””

Kramer looked to Jones who nodded in agreement.

“Pleasure doing business with you boys.” Georgie said. Blood oozed from one of the cracks in his face. “Oh, you know it!” Kramer said, taking the three checks that he was handed from the window.

“So, tacos!?” Jones asked.

“Drop off first, then tacos….and booze.”

They walked to the Dwellers Door. It was a medal tube that stuck out of the ground. A sliding door was present but sealed almost 100 percent of the time. A tiny drop off box was next to the door.

“State your name?” The drop off box said. “This Chaz Kramer and Alpaca Jones.”

“Welcome Scalp Collectors! Insert your payment into the box. Have a good day!” The voice was robotic and fake. It left a sick feeling in the stomach of the average person. Luckily none of them survived to see this.

After Kramer inserted the check Jones asked, “How much more do we have to pay?”

“Sixty thousand two hundred and twenty-seven credits.”

“A lot better than three hundred thousand.”

“Long time ago.” Kramer nodded in agreement.

“Tacos?” Jones asked.

“Tacos.” Kramer agreed.

The headed towards the cantina with the rush of the dinner meals endings. Hordes of people left the outside patio. Civilians from Queensmen, protected by the walls and the few men with guns to protect them. Queensmen was a nice settlement, far from most of the dangers with people of all types working different divisions of jobs. Teachers say that this place is the closest to a city from the past. Long before the destruction of man and the Last Plague.

They walked to a table in the corner, ordered their food, and a waitress brought their drinks. The mugs were nearly the as tall as wine bottles and filled to the point of overflow. Foam rolled down the side of the glass and Kramer took a long drink before wiping the foam from his beard. A couple locals were gathered in the corner and were playing music, a mix of fiddles and guitars. People gathered around them and clapped to the music. Jones and Kramer watched and drank, but cared little for the music. The tacos arrived and they ate quietly. The meat wasn’t beef, but it wasn’t baby either. Kramer guessed it was skunk, Jones was sure it was rat. At least the cheese and lettuce was real.

When they finished, Jones pulled himself from the table after draining the rest of his beer. “I got to buy a dead pig. Gotta feed the beast.”

“How big is she getting? I can’t remember the last time I saw her.”

“You don’t wanna know.” Jones said, turning from the table. As he did he stopped in his tracks at the couple entering the cantina.

“Alpaca!” Amaryllis said, cradling the arm of her date. Her blonde hair was curled at the tips around her shoulders, make up was thick and worn, but she made it work. She always did.

“Chaz!” Allocer said, scratching at one of the blue crosses on his cheeks. His silver hair stood out to the bronze skin of his muscled body. Tall and strong, it was no wonder he was the best scalp collector in the land. Jones and Kramer begged to differ.

“Hey…” They both said at once. “What is the Great Duke himself doing here?” Chaz said with every drop of fake happiness he could muster up.

“Why, I just came to try some of these famous tacos that all you Queensmen get to feast on. This is my hot date, Amaryllis. I believe you all know each other…You both do think she is a hot date? I bet Jones does…”

The words struck Jones across the face. The look in her eyes made it worse. She was an ex-lover for many years when he first started scalp collecting. Whatever they had burned away and now the ashes were before him, locked with a man in charge of committing horrid crimes. Jones noticed her hand was wrapped around the handle of Allocer’s short sword, still sheathed to his hip. That was his weapon for scalping. Her hand squeezed and rubbed up and down the handle.

“She is, but we have been hearing tales of you just snatching up whatever you see fit.”

“Well, I can’t help that woman throw themselves at my feet.” Allocer said, whipping his silver hair back off his eyes so you could see the diamonds that shined.

“Funny, if they are lying at your feet I bet you put them there.”

“Somebody is just jealous about my date! I bet you still think about fucking her repeatedly. Tell me, will you imagine me fucking her next time? When I am deep inside her tonight, I am going to imagine you are standing outside the window looking in. Crying and jerking off your prick. That thought might make it a little harder.” Allocer said. Amaryllis looked to Jones with a small smile. Her eyes cut into him and he tried not to feel sick to his stomach.

“The only thing we are jealous about is how you fucking suck at collecting scalps, but you get more rewards than we do!” Kramer yelled.

“We will ask the Queen and see what she says. I do control thirty-six settlements. Soon to be thirty-seven.”

“Good luck.” Jones said, his tone darkened. Amaryllis looked back once as she walked away. He noticed she wasn’t wearing her razor fingers. A good scalp collector always carries their knife.

“Where is her razor fingers?” Kramer asked.

“Maybe she bought her way out. You know he is rich enough to do so.”

“Maybe she is just sharing his sword. She was almost jerking off the fucking handle.

Jones looked to the dirt floor when he saw her staring back at him. “I need to buy that pig. I’ll check for any contracts in the morning.”

“Alright later man.” Kramer said, finishing the rest of his beer. He got up from the table and walked towards Clinton Avenue, the name of the street he lived on. He watched children run passed him, kicking a ball in the street. Other people walked hand and hand, smiling as they did. He saw some men crowded around a burning barrel singing a song and some people had gathered to watch. Kramer had always thought Queensmen had been a great place for people to live. He had visited several others in his days and they were dumps. Kramer looked to the walls they had. Reinforced with logs and steal. They were so thick the guards could walk on the top. Guard rails were intact after too many had fallen off. Guards for the guards. Kramer lit a cigarette and moved on.

Jones parked the jeep in an old parking lot where he always did. Jones did own the double garage and the apartment above it, but his beast lived in the double garage. He threw his purchased dead pig over his shoulder and entered the building. He hit the second floor ignoring the burned wall paper and blood-stained carpet. He found the garbage shoot that lead to the garage and opened it. He took the rattle sitting on the floor and shook it. His pet always heard the rattle before food. He dropped the pig down into the dark. No sound was made in the darkness, this indicated to Jones that the beast caught its dinner. “Night, Girl.”

Kramer unlocked his home door and walked in. He had shelves lining the walls with toys from the old days. Many were still in good shape. He had more figures of super hero’s than any one he knew. Over the years his collection grew. He would take them as keepsakes from filling contracts. There was a humor in the hobby he had. He once said, “If super heroes were a real thing then they really shit the bed when it came to the world.”

Undressing, Kramer took a shower, hardly aware of the scars across his body. Old gunshot wounds, stabbings and even bite marks from a girl with metal teeth. The scars across his back where the oldest and the thickest. Whip marks from his childhood. Jones had them too, they both saw each other get whipped nearly to death. The training for their future was the worst thing they ever had encountered.

Jones was in a similar state in his small apartment. Only he rubbed the claw scars across his chest. “Cross your heart, hope to die.” Amaryllis had said to him when their relationship ended and her claws cut deep. Seeing her still hurt him and she knew it. One day when the cards were in his hand he would kill her, and he would do it to keep himself from sleeping with her. Her scalp would be the prettiest one he would ever take.

Neither one of them knew at that moment but Kramer and Jones were kneeling in front of their beds at the exact same time. Each mumbled the prayer they were taught as kids, on the day they learned of their bloody future. “I hunt for my Queen’s Hand, I skin for my Queen’s Grace, I kill for my Queen’s Love.”

Jones laid in bed and tried to get Amaryllis out of his head. He slept with his skinning knife under his pillow for sweet dreams, but they were all the same. Kramer stared at picture of the Queen on his wall. She was Knighting him with her jeweled sword, some say that was the Queen’s own personal scalping tool. Kramer looked younger in the photo, clean shaven and wearing the coat of scalps he had to collect and sewed together to complete his training. “The Knights of New”. Kramer read the banner in the background. It was the happiest day of his life.

Sleep was similar for both. They heard the cries of a thousand people but only saw their childhood, they felt the whip and could still smell the bucket of piss they poured on the open wounds. They could still feel the pain, it had been imbedded in their brains so well that when they are ever in a conflict and take on pain, the horrible memories come back and it makes them kill any opponent in front of them.

Kramer awoke first and sat up covered in his own sweat. He looked from his window and saw the sun was peeking into the darkness. Getting up from his bed, he winced at the slight pain in his knee, wondered into his bathroom and ate his daily vitamin, that enhanced his senses but dulled his pain receptors. This was his favorite medicine. Afterwards, he went to his kitchen to get breakfast. He lacked any motivation to go back to the dreams that his memory tried to repress. He lit one of his rolled cigarettes as snacked on strips of jerky. Today would be a day when he grabs the contract first, if there were any available.

Slipping into his leathers, goggles, and gun belt, Kramer took his way out into the street and towards the Way Station, seeing that the sun rising was bringing the towns people out. A line of people was out in front of the way station, mainly the poor looking for a job to keep them busy for the day. No other Scalp Collectors were in line, so this was a good sign for Kramer.

“Good morning, Sunshine!” Georgie said when it was Kramer’s turn in line. “You actually beat Jones up today.”

“Hey man, got to get paid.” Kramer said, keeping himself from yawning.

Georgie scratched at his ruined cheek, “And if you complete this one, you could get double what you had yesterday.”

“Two scalps then?”

“Yeah, couple runaways took refuge in a church some ways from here. Dead or alive. Looks like it is in Farm Top.”

“Easy, I hope he gets his ass up so we can get going. We can make it back by dusk if we hurry.” Kramer said, referring to Jones.

Georgie handed him the contract and Kramer took the paper quickly, being careful to avoid Georgie’s yellowed and green fingers.

“Heading back out two days in a row?” A deep voice said from behind Kramer. He turned and looked up into the beast of a man, Mika. A man built on long bones and a thick muscles body mass. His skin brown and dark, eyes bloodshot and looked half dead. He carried a great sword in front of him, that he used as a cane. This made the sword less intimidating. There were disadvantages to being his size. His legs really couldn’t take his weight anymore. He spends his days sitting on top of the walls that surround the town, surveying and keeping the bad out.

“Yeah, when there’s Queen’s justice to give out.”

“Where are you heading on this day?”

“Some Church in Farm Top.”

Mika looked taken back. “Taking skin in a church?”

“More like taking skin from a church.” Kramer said, walking away from Mika.

“Those are places of sanctuary and peace!” Mika said, stunned.

“There is no sanctuary that protects anyone from the Queen. “Kramer said, smiling.

Mika squinted at Kramer and said, “So the bad guys will lose, right? Just to be clear, the people looking to be forgiven from their crimes, they still are the bad guys, right?”

“I guess so.”

“What does that make you?” Mika asked.

Jones pulled around the corner in his jeep, his goggles worn to cover his eyes from the morning light. “You are up early!” He yelled to Kramer.

Kramer turned back to Mika. “Have a good day. Hope your legs feel better. You got to be dulling that blade when you lean on it.”

Mika squinted at the collectors in the jeep. The red door swung open and the pair drove off into the morning light. The tires of the jeep kicking up dirt from behind them, and trailed behind until the entered the forest that surrounded the civilization. Half dead trees amongst dead grass, it was still surprising that some animals were still hunted in there.

“What’s the contract?” Jones asked.

Kramer handed the paper over. “It’s at Farm Top, in the old church. Sounds like missionary position and not the boring kind.  We have to get two in there.”

Jones read the paper, slowing down the jeep as he did. “Mattie Loven and Kirk Myers. Wanted for aiding Head Hunters that lead to the deaths of four Queen’s men at Outpost Z. Scalps to be taken dead, or alive.”

“Another day closer to the end.” Kramer said.

“Maybe, remember when that Scalp Collector got killed in a church?”

Kramer scratched his beard. “Chris, Amaryllis’s old partner.”

“Yeah, walked right into a church and they had a sniper up on the balcony. Blew out his right lung.

“I doubt bullets will ever kill us. Most people are terrible shots.” Kramer said.

“True, but I remember Chris being full of church. Converted after his first professional kill. He said he scalped for God, not the Queen.”

“Funny that he was murdered in a church. God didn’t love him that much.”

Jones sipped from a water bottle and turned the radio on to static. Occasionally they could find music, or some religious propaganda. A couple times the found an old broadcast from the old world. A guy named Riley, who was thought to be long dead by now, but for some reason his voice still lived on.

“After all the shit we have seen, do you believe in God?” Jones asked when he gave up on the radio.

“I don’t know.” Kramer said, lighting one of his rolled cigarettes. “Which God are we talking about? I mean there’s too many to pick from.

“They say the Christian one is the most popular, or that shadow religion.”

“Well, we are driving to that Christian church so let’s say that one.”

“Christ?” Kramer asked. “The one with the cross, right?”

“Yeah, what do you think?”

“Man, I really don’t know. I don’t even know what it is, ya know? I can’t even give an honest opinion on it.”

“We run across so many fucking people who hide behind fairy tales, you know? I remember that one guy who meditated while I scalped him, he said his faith would keep him from crying. I guess his God didn’t hear him because he sobbed like a baby.”

Kramer laughed. “Oh yeah, we burnt that church to the ground….”

“We have seen some shit in our time, but the worst thing we have ever seen is people. People hide behind fairytales to feel better about how useless they really are. They create fairytales to make them feel better about who they rape, kill, or maim, and act like they deserve some grand reward. People are terrible, and they created their religion, in return their religion is terrible.”

“I think a lot of them can’t help it. Many of them were brainwashed when they were children. Forced to believe what they believe.”

Jones sat back and had a familiar feeling. “Like how we are about the Queen?”

“No, not like her. She is real and we are right.” Kramer said, smiling.

“We sound just like them.”

They drove in silence for the remainder of the trip, feeling the sun change course into the sky. The early signs of dusk were coming across the horizon. The moon was showing its mutated face, sharp points revealing a piece that had broken off years before. Each of them appreciated a cold front that accompanied the open plains at night.

They approached the town before dark. A civilization that consisted of three streets. An old school house is where the settlers slept, each classroom consisting of another home. The church was in the center of town. They both have collected scalps in this town before, but they were all in the school house. The church was new territory for Jones and Kramer. All the homeless and guilty slept in the basement of the church, and this close to dusk would have them all inside, hiding from the horrors of the night.

They parked the jeep between a few other cars. A rare sight in a lot of locations. “We need more ammo. You think the church has some hiding underneath the organ or something?” Kramer asked, adjusting his gun.

“It looks like they have cars, unless some other Scalp Collectors beat us to the contract.”

“Well, maybe they will have ammo?” Kramer said. “It has been a long time since we shot some of our own kind.”

“The worst kind of prey. Can’t even believe the Queen tolerates that.”

“Competition. Everyone likes a good game. Lucky for us, we always score when we need it the most.”

“With knifes and our dicks.” Jones said, rubbing dirt from his knife blade.

“Could be some broken whores hiding in here, if we get a couple fingers in, then we are in.”

“Remember Rocco?” Jones asked. “The girl did whatever he wanted, just to save her husband from being scalped. When he finished on her back, he took her scalp because she was too rough with him. She didn’t even notice that he took her husband’s skin as well.”

“Wasn’t he eaten by a pack of wild dogs?” Kramer asked.

“Live like a dog, die like a dog.”

“Alright, lets focus.” Kramer said, adjusting his shirt. “Get into character. We don’t know what could jump out at us.”

They walked side by side on their way up the steps. Each churning to look over their shoulders. They couldn’t feel eyes looking on them, but they were positive people knew they were in town, and a warm welcome wasn’t going to be likely.

They both opened each door and wandered in, instantly looking up to see if a balcony was above them. When none was present they now had the advantage. Their awareness was sharp and they kept it focused on the seats going up the aisle. This was not their first time in a church and they have plenty experience having gun fights within them.

They noticed the large crucifix that hung from the back wall. It was a statue of Jesus Christ but his head was missing. In its place was a human skull with a crown of thorns wrapped around it. A man came through the door behind the podium, sweat rolled down his bald head. He was nervous, but his voice didn’t show a crack of weakness. “Gentlemen! Welcome to The Second Baptist Church of the great town of Farm Top. What brings a couple wonderers this late in the afternoon?”

“Well, we were looking for a place to hang our gun belts for the night and we found this place to look nice and cozy.” Kramer said.

“Are you children of God?” The man asked.

“Last we knew, we were children of the Queen, I am not sure who knocked her ass up, but God is a suspect.” Jones and the stranger both smiled. Kramer really did have a way with words.

“Well, all children are welcome here. We do not turn a single person away. Currently, my flock is making a supper consisting of fried egg sandwiches and milk. Would you two gentlemen like to join us.”

“Cows and chickens doing well out here?” Kramer asked.

“We provide with what the good Lord blesses us with.”

“This is not exactly why we are here.” Jones said, handing the man his paper contract.

“But we will take those sandwiches to go!” Kramer added.

The man looked over the paper and a frown crossed his wrinkled face. His pointed nose moving back and forth in disapproval. He looked Jones in the eyes with the most sorrow. “Oh dear, oh my dear. So, this is a business trip?”

“We apologize to interrupt, but we can scalp them out back if that would help?” Jones asked.

“We don’t wish to kill them or spill any blood in the church.” Kramer said in his most sincere liar voice.

“Very well. There is a well outback. I will send Kirk outback to grab a pale of water. Meet him there.” Jones nodded to Kramer.

“On it.” Kramer said, drawing his knife and he headed toward the door. When the door was shut behind him Jones turned to the man and watched as he wiped the sweat from his brow.

“I didn’t get your name.” Jones asked.

“Jack. I guess I am the new pastor of this church. Pastor Watkins went out looking for another of the flock and he never returned.”

“Strange. How long has he been gone?”

Jack scratched at a small scar at his chin. “A couple months. He was only going to The Oasis of Faith. He received word that he was to find someone seeking sanctuary. A bit worried that he wouldn’t be welcomed to the town.”

“There was never a person there. Watkins is dead.” Jones said, making the room seemed colder.

“How would you know?” Jack said suspiciously.

“We got a lot of reports from all around about how cannibals usually camp at Oasis’s waiting for people to stop by for clean water. They have been sending false messages to people to get them to stop by. If he has been gone this long, then I bet he has been killed, gutted, roasted, eaten and digested by now.”

“Well, that’s …”

“Maybe you should show me Mattie Loven. She is a part of the contract. It is odd you did not mention her to attend the well?”

“I meant them both. I-I haven’t seen Mattie in some time.”

“So, she isn’t in the back, making sandwiches and pouring milk?”

Jack froze in place; the sweat was soaking his shirt now. “Can we just say she wasn’t here?”

“You love her?” Jones asked, annoyed.

“No, yes, maybe. Look, if you heard her story, you wouldn’t want to see her scalped as well.”

“Well, she helped some Head Hunters murder some people, so I don’t need to hear her bullshit. Now, you don’t want to get scalped I bet, and you are trying to protect her and I have the authority to scalp you at this given moment. Your bald head won’t get me much for a rebel scalp, but I do need more credits to buy some more ammunition, so it’s worth it.”

“Let me ask you something?” Jack said, with the last bit of courage in his face.


“Do you see yourself as a shepherd or a wolf?”

“I see myself as a Scalp Collector who honors his Queen. What do you see yourself as?”

“A shepherd guiding his flock.”

“Maybe, but you are going to lead a couple of your sheep away. We will shear them, they will stumble back, and we will be on our way.”

“Give me a moment.” Jack said.

“I’ll give you three minutes. After that I am coming in gunning.” Jones threatened, tapping the handle of his revolver.

He watched Jack walk back up the stage to the door he came from. Jones didn’t feel threatened here. Moments later Jack stumbled out with a sad look and a red-haired man followed him, and a dark-haired woman walked out behind him. The red-haired man was carrying a couple of empty pales. “Howdy, friend! Always nice to meet a new face.” He opened one are for half a hug.

“Not a friend. Back off.”

“Sorry, some people just can’t feel the love.” Kirk said as he walked towards the front door.

“Someone is going to feel a lot of love in just a minute or two.” Jones mumbled.

During this, Kramer sat outside on the edge of the well and used his knife to dig the dirt out from under his fingernails. Staring up at the stars that began to shine down upon him. He was whistling a song he had heard them play at a pub years ago. He was halfway into a second song when Kirk wondered on up to him.

“Howdy, friend!”

“Howdy, friend!” Kramer said with excitement. “You wouldn’t happen to be Kirk, would you?”

“Why that is the name my dead mother gave me!”

Kramer opened his arms to embrace Kirk. “Come here you!” Kirk dropped the pales and went in for a big hug. Moments later Kirk was screaming and Kramer was laughing, fresh blood spilling down into the well.

Back in the church Jones watched Mattie argue with Jack. “Why do I have to go to the well? You know I am assigned to kitchen duties!”

“Mattie, I would you to meet this gentleman…”

“Why the hell do I care! Why!?”

Jones interfered. “Look, I asked him to call you out. I need to see you.

She turned to him, glaring with distaste. Jones could see how the girl could been beautiful in a different setting. Her hair was black, curly, and he knew she was going to miss it where it had always grown.

“I have seen you before! I watched you scalp Marty back at a gang I was hiding with.”

“Not ringing a bell, but I probably did.”

“So, you found me! Now what? You want my scalp?”

Jones walked towards her till they were nearly a foot apart. From the corner of his eye he saw Jack walked towards him and Jones held a finger up to keep him in place. Jack lowered his head and looked down at the floor. When Jones closed in on her he drew his blade and held it up to her nose. “It has never been this easy. Thank you.” Jones asked.

“You don’t scare me; your knife doesn’t scare me. If you heard what I had to say you would understand.” Her eyes looked ferocious and deadly. Jones could almost see the past events fly passed her eyes.

“I’m all ears.” Jones took a step back and lowered the knife.

“You stand there will all the confidence in the world, thinking that I am such a terrible person. That I did what I had to do to keep myself alive, and now I am guilty in the eyes of a woman who I have never seen, never met, who decides I deserve no trial but an active punishment! You stand by and hurt and kill the people over what a piece of paper says. You have no idea what I have done or what I have been through. I watched my parents and my brother get killed and they tied me down and force fed me pieces of their meat, while they took turns using me for whatever they wanted, tearing me up in every single way. Soon after I was used for their slave labor during the day and raped every night. Soon I had a child, and I never got to meet him since he was taken from me, to be eaten elsewhere. When I was pregnant again, I escaped the gang and fled through the woods and before they could trail me, I found another gang who protected me and allowed me to have my child. A child conceived by horrible men, so many I had no idea which one it could be. I wanted to hate him, but I couldn’t since he had my eyes. One day this gang wanted me to help them, sneak into Outpost Z, steal some supplies. I didn’t want to, but they held a knife to my son’s throat. I helped them and they killed four of the guards at the gate, but we never made it in. When I got back to the camp they killed my son for failing. They threw me out into the wild on my own. I couldn’t find any food till I found a frail old man. I had to kill him just so I could eat. In the middle of eating his leg was when Pastor Watkins found me and lead me here to clean my life up. Since then I have been doing well. I am part of a descent community, doing good for others. I never wanted what I had to do, but can I ask you that? Do you want to scalp me, do you want to hurt me, add another blow to my life, punish me for making the right choice for once? How many people have you hurt or killed? I watched you cut Marty’s throat after you scalped him and you did it with a smile on your face. I want you to question yourself, ask yourself that fucking question. Then, I want you to tell me what you want?”

Jones walked closer to her until their noses were nearly touching. He raised the knife up to her lips, the tip nearly kissing it. “I honestly understand what you are going through. I have scars you wouldn’t believe on the inside and out, but you know what? Who gives a fuck? Everyone has a fucking story and yours sounds practiced and true, but your nothing special, just like my story isn’t special. No single person is special. We all have seen shit, we all have done shit we shouldn’t be proud of. But you’re not special, sweetheart. After today I won’t remember a single word of this conversation. See, your story isn’t important to this story. This story is meant for others. The only reason you’re in my story is for me to scalp you, nothing more, and nothing less. Now, you asked how many people I have hurt? Hundreds, probably killed close to the same amount and I do it with a song in my heart. You asked me what I want? Well, I don’t need to ask myself these questions. I really do understand you, I really do…but what I need is that scalp of yours.”

Kramer walked into the church, still whistling a song. He treated the fresh scalp like a warm, clean towel, folding it kindly. “C’mon man, you’re talking forever!

Jones smiled. “So, shall we begin?”

Scalp Collectors: All in a days work

Scalp Collectors: All in a days work

The jeep roared across the desert plain, tires crushing the skulls of a forgotten people, killed long before the birth of the two men in the jeep. The driver and the passenger wore ragged uniforms of flannel and leather, goggles wrapped around their necks just in case of a dust storm. The rusty pieces of metal served as dog tags hung halfway down their chests. On each tag was a number that was tatted on to top of their right wrist. Jones, drove like always, Kramer sat passenger, smoking a rolled cigarette he made before getting into the jeep. Specks of tobacco still lingering on his pants. The contract was to collect from a neighboring settlement, with a high price that could be distributed between the two of them. Jones had his fear since they only had seven bullets between them, 3 for Jones’s .45 and 4 in Kramer’s 9mm magazine. They still had the knives, elegant and fine, or brutal with dash of gore. All good Scalp Collectors had their knives.

“So, what happened with that girl?” Jones asked, flipping the strands of long hair off the front of his face.

“I don’t know. I didn’t like her feet.” Kramer said, scratching his thick but short beard. The hit a small hole and threw them around in the vehicle. It lacked doors on both sides or even seat belts so they held on as if lost in a sand storm. This was common place in the desert.

“What, she has like mutant feet?”

“Nah, not like that. They were kind of manly. A little bigger than mine.”

“Well, it’s not like you were going to get a foot job, or suck her toes or some shit.” Jones said, smiling. They would often talk on their journeys. Usually, about anything even during the scalping process. The job itself was common place for the both, their conversations kept things interesting.

“Nah, not with feet like that. It would be like getting a hand job with toe thumbs.”

“Didn’t that happen to you? Jones asked.

“Fuck no! I broke up with her too! We spend all day looking at broken shit, I don’t want to come home to a girl who looks like broken shit.”

They both laughed. “We are going to hell.” Jones said.

“Nah, I think we already did.”

“And we can do anything with impunity.”

“Yup!” They fist bumped as they approached a sign that read, “Meadows Sanctuary, No Guns, No Knives!”

“Why the hell do they always write Sanctuary on their signs? That won’t stop us, nor would it stop anybody else from attacking them.” Jones said.

“Like we are not going to bring weapons.”

The jeep slide through the entrance gate. One guard tower stood with nobody in it. “Real fucking safe.” Jones said, shaking his long hair back.

They rolled down the street, kicking up dust as they did. The street was crowded with old rusted cars and ragged buildings. Most looked completed with old pieces of metal and rotted pieces of lumber. Kramer doubted that any of the cars still functioned, but something sat sour in his stomach as they drove on. “If no one in the guard tower, you think someone picked this place off already?”

“No idea.” Jones replied as her drove the jeep into the middle of the town square. Burned out buildings surrounded a fountain. A statue once stood in the middle of the fountain, but had since fallen over. Only the legs remained and a plaque that read, “Ghost t,he First Survivor.”

“Ghost?” Jones asked. “That hero from the beginning? Wasn’t he a legend?”

“Thought so. Wasn’t he that albino guy who killed a bunch of cannibals or something?”

“Something like that.”

Jones parked the jeep in front of the old fountain. Kramer slid out of the vehicle, taking a look down into the old fountain and saw how dry it was. He spat into the bottom and adjusted the gun on his waist. “What about you, man? Any girls lately?”

“Fuck no,” Jones said, tying his hair back. “There was this one that followed me back to my place and started stealing my booze.”

“What do you mean?”

Checking the cylinder of his revolver, Jones replied. “I was all drunk down at the Way Station. Some older lady was talking to me about how her boyfriend was cut to pieces by some Head Hunters. Well, I was trying to go home, but the bitch followed me back to my place. I had just shut the door and was taking my boots off when she just kind of walked in and instantly took her top off.

“What!?” Kramer said, laughing.

“I mean this wasn’t anything good either. She probably had like 15 years on me and her tits hung in different directions. I yelled at her to get out, but she walked over to my bar and started grabbing all the jars of liquor I had and ran out the door topless. She left her shirt and everything at my place. She was fucking gross, man. Boils on her neck and cheeks. I’m sure there was one on her nipple. It was like she bathed in a tub of radiation. She wasn’t even worth a scalp.”

“Man…” Kramer said laughing.

They found a town hall sign sitting outside an old white house. It was rare to see a three-story building still intact in the world anymore. It could have been a nice property years ago, but the siding on the home was faded and falling off, accompanied by every window being broken. The dead grass was long and yellowed in the dirt. The skeleton of a young tree still stood like a corpse of hope. It somehow tried to grow in this world but was prematurely killed, thanks to dehydration. Very common in these parts of the world.

“We need more bullets.” Kramer said, wiping sweat from his brow. “Don’t get payed enough for this shit.”

Jones just scratched his head. “Especially if Head Hunters are inside that building. We got to spot them if they feed us a line.”

Kramer took the gun from his left and let it hang lazily from his fingers for a quicker draw. “Let’s just walk in. If anyone is even in there.”

They walked side by side. Kramer trying to hide the limp in his leg where shrapnel hit him in the knee. Kramer always used to drive them to the jobs till that bomb went off. His leg gave out quite a bit and made it difficult to step on the gas pedal. It was one of many scars that were drawn over the bodies of each collector.

“You fucked that girl didn’t you!”

“Fuck no!” Jones replied. “God damn, all the booze in the world couldn’t get me to do that!”

“You have picked some winners, just saying man.”

“Like you never been there.”

“True, true.”

They walked the steps up to the town hall, barely glancing at the skeleton that sat in a chair as they did. The door swung open on its own and the head of a spear appeared in the darkness. The Scalp Collectors drew their weapons with lighting speed. They had been there, done that more than they care to.

“Drop your weapons and step out,” “Kramer said. “We are Scalp Collectors, show yourselves!”

“It’s alright Corey, drop the spear.” A woman’s voice said from the shadows.

A worn woman stepped into view, dressed in a dirty pink blouse, gray strands of hair were spread, throughout her brown hair. The Collectors had seen leather that looked better than her skin. Her eyes were aware, but tired all the same. “I am Gretchen, leader of Meadow’s Sanctuary. What brings collectors out this far from your safe zone?

“Contract to fill. One male, dead or alive. We mean to let him live if everyone cooperates.”

“If we don’t cooperate?” Gretchen asked, trying to show her strength.

“We take all your scalps.”

“Dead or alive.” Jones added.

Gretchen stepped more into view. They lowered their guns a bit. “Who is the contract for?”

“Arnold Jay Fletcher. Under Violation of propaganda publishing some 20 years ago, resulted in a riot that killed 7 of The Queen’s men.” Jones said this without a stutter. Kramer did most of the talking, but Jones memorized all the data.

“We follow no Queen but myself.” She said, a cold look overcame her leather like face.

“Treason, is it?” Kramer asked. “You know we could probably get more for your scalp if we say we got that leather from a cow.”

“Truth.” Jones agreed.

For a second they steadied the weapons higher, but shook with a magnitude of a fear they have once felt before. Jones saw from the corner of his eye that two more of her people had come out from around the building, spears in hand. “Give up Arnold or I will turn around and shoot both of your men in their spineless guts. You can’t trick us.”

For a moment, neither of the men thought she was going to give in. “Fine,” She finally said. “Stand down. We don’t have the fire power anymore to stop them. Follow me Skin takers!” She walked passed them down the steps with her head held high, as if this was to show she still had the power. Her spearmen followed her at her sides and the Scalp Collectors walked closely by.

“What happened to your firearms?” Jones asked. “You said you do not have it anymore? Was is Head Hunters?”

“No, it was a gang of your Skin Takers. Dressed and acted just like the both of you.” She didn’t show her face as if to hide her discomfort. A chill could be heard and felt from her voice that made both shiver somewhere deep within them.

“Scalp Collectors deal with skin, not theft.” Jones said.

“Well, maybe you should remind these men of who they kill and what they take.”

Jones looked over all five of the spearmen and saw they all had scalps. “They didn’t take any scalps, did they?”

“Just the guns and a couple of the children’s virginities.”

Kramer and Jones stared at each other for a slight second. They would keep this in mind later.

“How many?” Jones asked.

“Seven,” spearmen Corey said, “All had bigger guns than both of you. All took our guns and by night they took churns with some of the children and a couple of the older girls. Killed a couple of them that fought back. Still had their way with the bodies though.”

“You all just stood there and did nothing?” Kramer asked.

“They killed five of our own men from a great distance. Blew their fucking heads open.”

“Now I only have these five.” Gretchen added. “I admit we reacted poorly.”

“Got that right.” Jones mumbled. He felt Gretchen’s glare without looking.

They came upon on an old house that looked in better shape than the other ruined houses. Kramer thought it still looked like a piece of shit, but better than most. Jones checked all the windows, looking out for any snipers that Gretchen declined to mention.

“I’ll go in and get him,” Gretchen said. “Stay here.”

“Hell no! I’m coming in.” Kramer said, adjusting the grip on his gun. “You cool out here?” he asked Jones.

“I’m sure they would like to see my knife tricks if they get panicky. Drag his ass out of here. You guys are going to want to see Kramer scalp this guy all savage! You are in for a treat!”

They walked the steps into the house, Gretchen leading, with Kramer bringing the rear.

Jones sat back and looked at the spearmen who all eye fucked him raw. They all were skinny with scars and patches of hair across their bodies. Either shirtless or wearing the remains of once a shirt, Corey was a part of that category.

“So, what do you all do for fun around here?” Jones asked and felt the tension thick in the air. “You guys have any movies, like an old projector to show all those films they used to make a long time ago?”

“We don’t have electric anything.” One of the spearmen answered. He had a large gap in his mouth where his two front teeth were missing. Jones didn’t know what color those teeth were, but he guessed they were as brown as the others.

“Yeah, it’s a true wonder to live in a safe zone that our Queen gives us. It’s just as dangerous as this place, but it does have lights. Freezers to keep meat longer, and a movie is played every night. Giant walls to keep intruders out. It is real nice.”

“Those walls also keep you in.” Corey said, rubbing at a large sore on his shoulder, picking at it with a yellowed fingernail.

Jones had never thought it that way. His queen had always been good to them, providing them with contracts to make the land a safer place, showing that crime will not be tolerated. Since he was born, the walls kept Headhunters, walking corpses, and rabid animals out. As a child he felt safe, but now that he was older, it was the gun that kept him safe, and that little bit of paranoia that hung in his brain, kept his fingers on the handle of his revolver.

“GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!” Kramer yelled, dragging a short, round little man out onto the porch. The little man, Arnold, matched the contract description. The details were very elaborate, especially when it came to the pointed wart under his left eye, sticking out like a cone. His finger nails scratched at the porch as Kramer dragged him to the dirt. Gretchen stepped out of the doorway, her arms crossed with distaste.

“You got the wrong guy! I aint ever but had love for The Queen!”

“Maybe now you do, but 20 years ago you called her a robot!” Jones expressed. “Scalp him.”

Kramer removed his knife. A long crude thing that shined under the broken sun. The blade was zigzagged, almost like a lightning bolt. It was the same knife he had used since he started hunting scalps.

“Now, this will hurt a lot,” Kramer explained. “But if you don’t squirm too much, it will come off  quick and easy as those sheep skin condoms you all wear. You know, the ones you make from the intestines. So, we will begin at the middle of your forehead and pull it all the way to the middle of your skull and cut it free. You cool with that?”

“No I am not at all!” Arnold said, tears begin to roll down his face.

“Let us begin.” Kramer said and dug part of his knife into the middle of the forehead. Fresh beads of blood rolled down his face and Kramer jerked his knife to an angle and began skinning up. The little man squirmed and yelled in pain, but he couldn’t alter Kramer’s skill. He was a pro at what he did.

“Jones, how do you feel about those sheep skin condoms?” Kramer asked, working the knife farther up the skull.

“I don’t know. He replied. “I only use the latex ones back at home, or none.”

Kramer laughed as he got to the hair line of Arnold. The skin was peeled back from his forehead, looking like a bloody rag, pushed into a roll. “I mean isn’t like fucking the animal too, since your using its guts to keep you-.”

“GOD, THIS FUCKING HURT!” Arnold interrupted.

Kramer dug his blade into the skull, scratching at the bone. “Can’t you see we are having a very important conversation here?

“I hate it when people interrupt us!” Jones agreed. “I am getting sick of his sobbing. Hurry up and finish him off!”

Kramer ran the blade across the top of the skull, the zigzags in the blade helped cut and peel back. He made it look as simple as slicing a hunk of butter. Kramer was a little uneven, but when Jones would perform the procedure, he was straightforward and had a perfect rolled scalp by the end of it.

One final slice and he cut the scalp away from the skull, dropping Arnold into the dirt. His bloody face caked the dirt and he looked like a ragged mess, shaking and sobbing like a child. Jones reached into a leather baggy that hung from the side of his belt where he kept the powder. “Keep rolling in the dirt like that you are gonna get a nasty infection. Hold still, this powder will clean it and stop the bleeding.” Jones took a handful of the salt looking mixture and slapped it across the open head wound. Arnold yelled so loud he made both Scalp Collectors step back with laughter. The power caused a burning sensation across his skull, white bubbles foamed over and rolled down his face as he screamed like a child. For a split moment, Kramer felt sorry for the poor man, but the he looked down at the fresh scalp and the feeling went away. They were about to get paid.

“Is that all?” Gretchen asked. She was still standing on the porch with her arms crossed, a look in her face like she wanted to draw blood.

“Of course!” Kramer said. “Best be leaving.”

Jones looked back at all the spearmen, but they looked away in utter disgust for what they just witnessed. Arnold had calmed down to just a light sob. Shock had quieted him down some.

They were on the walk to the jeep and Kramer threw their payment at Jones. “What do you think, like three thousand credits?”

Jones rubbed the skin between his fingers and looked over the fine black hair. “He’s got some silver coming in, got to count for something worth a damn.”

“Yeah, might actually get to buy some more fucking bullets.”

Hoping into the jeep, Jones rolled up the scalp and handed back to Kramer so he could start up the jeep. “If I hurry I can get us back by dark. Maybe get some tacos at the pub?”

Before Kramer could answer Gretchen walked in front of the vehicle with her arms crossed. Her spearmen surrounded the car, spear pointed as if to block them in. “New development.” Jones mumbled.

Kramer stood up and pointed his gun at Gretchen. “We got a problem?”

“I just wanted to let you boys know that you are not welcome here ever again. Just a little warning of what’s going to happen if you come back!”

“I will tell you what’s going to happen. Jones and I are going to shoot each of these savage motherfuckers in their dicks and rape them with their own spears. Jones will run you over and spin the tires across your rubber face. Then we are going to scalp all of them, drive home and have steak for dinner. How does that sound?”

Jones smiled and all the spearmen frowned. Gretchen held her ground and didn’t let up. Kramer and Jones admired her at that moment.

“You seem certain of yourselves. Tell me, what are you going to do about those rogue scalp collectors? Will you let them dishonor the codes you live by, or are you going to deliver them The Queen’s justice?”

“If we find them, we will scalp them too, but we are going to do it for us, not for you.”

“Well the leader had long white hair and two crosses tatted on both of his cheeks. He forced me to watch as he raped my daughter. Make it painful.” Gretchen eyes watered as if she was seeing it all over again.

Jones and Kramer eyed each other. Jones nodded and Kramer lowered his gun. “Let them through!” Gretchen yelled and the Scalp Collectors rolled by, kicking up dust and decay from a world once lived.

Once they were out of the Sanctuary Jones finally spoke. “Allocer.”

“The Great Duke himself? How the fuck are we supposed to handle him? The Queen lets him control thirty-six settlements. He could have an army after us even if we mention his name!”

“I know! I know!” Jones said. His head shaking the entire time. “We can’t let him get away with that shit.

“The last time we took on a gang of more than 10 we nearly died. The scars are still pink, and we both do not have anywhere close to enough ammo.”

“We could invest the entire scalp into ammo. We can skip the donation to the Dwellers.”

“Are you fucking kidding me? That is our ticket out of here! One missed payment might come unforgettable.”

“Imagine how much more credits we can get from killing rapists!” Jones said,

“We can’t risk it. This could backfire on us and The Queen might want our scalps. It would be us against the world and eventually some fuck could come along and feed us to the reaper.”

They drove in silence for several minutes. The sun was beginning to settle in the west and they were nearly home.

“I would be fun though.” Kramer said. “You know, taking them all on.”

“All in a day’s work. Let’s wait on it for now. We are close to buying our way in with the Dwellers.”

“True,” Kramer said. “Did you mention something about tacos earlier?”

“Yeah, they sound good.”

“They won’t be as good as Big Mikes. Remember when we shared the 20 pack?”

“Yeah, but then we found out he cooked human babies in the meat.”

“Oh yeah…” Kramer said and grabbed his own throat. “We did get a shit ton for his scalp and an extra bonus for his skull.

“A job well done, but someone needs to feed the reaper.”

(Chapter 2, Missionary Position coming soon!)