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  1. The Apocalypse ()
    The Apocalypse is a story I have co written with another person, based on a shorter story by my boyfriend, let in a dystopian future where anti maps have won. Pestilence (Lecter) is me, Death (Francis) is my boyfriend.

    ...Tiny echo slowly died out in thick walls. A man dressed like a high rank officer was sitting the table, staring unblinkingly in the eye of the camera. He looked powerful and intimidating, even more now, when he was silent. “Ok, that one was good”, - his counterpart said. - “I think we're done here.” The man breathed out, closed his eyes for one moment. “That'd better work”, - he said. “Yes”, - the operator nodded. - “Or we're both dead.” “Still wanna be immortal, eh?” “Why not?” - a wink - “Don't you?” “I do”, - the “officer” got up, slowly moved around the table, his face emotionless. - “Just not with you.”.... Francis was sitting in a large studio together with about 10 people who happened to be just as unlucky. Or lucky, depending on how you looked at it. His eyes finally got adjusted to the bright light, so he stopped wincing all the time, and the cameras focused on his face more often. But it wasn't his time to speak yet. “And here”, - the host of the show, a young black woman with yellow eye lenses, made a gesture towards a skinny man with long black hair - “we have Mr Jonas Warren, a leader of an online pedophile community in the past, a law abiding citizen in the present. Say “hello” to our subscribers, Mr Warren!” “Hey, guys”, - said he nonchalantly. Francis looked at him. For a second he thought he could see the script coming up in Warren's glasses in tiny white letters, but, of course, it was impossible. Warren coughed and continued, his voice growing more mechanic: “Several years before the revolution I was one of the key figures behind the so-called “map community”. James the Map was the pseudonym I was hiding behind. But I never took pride in who I was, and I was seeking to destroy that horrible community from the inside...” Why didn't they kill him? Francis wondered. They killed Wert, Mells, almost everyone else who wasn't a minor back then. They could have easily made their poster figure out of anyone else. Nobody would even remember who he was and what he did. “... I taught child rights' protectors how to hunt down pedophiles in their own servers, and the pedophile community disowned me...” Of course we disowned you. You let a genocide apologist in a server where minor maps were sharing their personal information. If not Lecter, it could have gone far worse. Although what can be “worse” now, when everything is lost... “... I contacted the servants of the state right away. They put a bracelet that detect where I am on my arm”, - he lifted his left hand and demonstrated the small black thing - “I wouldn't be able to take it off even if I wanted to, and prescribed me meds that lower libido. “Never-ever”, they come in injections or pills, almost no side effects, you can order them online on the official site www.neverever.stat.med.” Francis shot a side glance at the host, and saw how her eyes widen a bit. Apparently, that wasn't in the script. Someone giggled. “Thank you for sharing this touching story of recovery with us, Mr Warren,” - the woman smiled. “Now let's listen to someone who was victimized and hurt by that community. Mr Francis Schwarz.” Francis felt the eyes turning to him. Red neon letters appeared on the screen on his glasses, invisible to anyone but him: “START SPEAKING”. So he started repeating after the text: “I was only 15 when I found the community Mr Warren was talking about...” *** It was past 3 am when he got home. The show left him worn out mentally and going up to the 22nd floor on foot left him worn out physically. He sleepily stumbled into the flat and closed the door behind. Only then he felt something he'd otherwise feel right after opening it. A tiny smell of leather and something acidic. Someone else was in the flat. Francis remembered about the gun he kept in his bedroom, which he, of course, didn't take to that dumb show, about two knives in the kitchen, and pepper spray in the bag that was supposed to be here, close to the door. He make a quick step, reached for it in the dark, feeling like he's losing precious seconds. “Hello, Death”, - a familiar voice called. Francis froze. Even if he hadn't recognized the voice, only one person in the world called him Death. “Lecter?” “Yes. Close the curtains and turn on the light. No point in sitting here in the dark.” Slightly disoriented, Francis did as he was told. Lecter followed him around the flat, staying several steps behind, and there was something in it that made Francis' mind go back to the pre-war times and his heart beat. Finally he secured the flat from whoever might have been outside and switched on the light. Lecter was standing in the middle of room, blinking at the sudden flash. Like in good old days, he was dressed in leather from head to toe. Natural leather was illegal, but from what Francis knew, it was the smallest of his problems. Then Francis noticed some changes in his friend's face and figure. “You quit T?” - he asked, and Lecter nodded. - “But why?” “I don't want to eat shit they want us to eat”, - he responded in his usual blunt manner. “Who knows what else they put there. But anyway, this doesn't matter.” “Ok,” - Francis felt a bit awkward. “Let's go drink some-” - he wanted to say “tea”, but reconsidered - “coffee.” They went to the kitchen, and Francis pulled out two cups and switched on the electric teapot. “You weren't as active online as you used to be”, - he noted. “Where?” - Lecter scoffed. “On your pocket tumblr?” “That's not a pocket tumblr, that's a free speech site!” - Francis protested. “A speech is free only when the speaker is free. Otherwise it's just a circus.” “Speaking of circuses, saw me today on Channel 2? I wrote about it on my blog”, - Francis said, reaching out for the teapot which was already hot enough. “Yes. Absolute degeneracy. I even liked it a little bit”, - he smiled somewhat bitterly. Francis poured the boiling water into the cups and dropped the coffee in. They sat in silence for a little bit, and just watched each other. They haven't met in person for almost a year, and a lot changed since then. “I saw your new political views update”, - Lecter finally said, as if responding to Francis' thoughts. “Why do you go with the centrists now?” “Do you like what the far left did to us?” - Francis replied with another question. “This is not the far left, this is just antis and neoliberals”, - Lecter shook his head to move aside the hair that covered his right eye. His hair looked as if he didn't wash it for at least a month, and probably so it was. - “In comparison to me they aren't even left.” “Maybe”, - Francis had to agree with the last statement - “but you know what I mean. You saw what this ideology does to people. I can't support something like this.” “Remember the post I made once?” - Lecter suddenly asked. “When I was still trying to persuade James. About the tendencies of the map community I dislike.” “Something about polarization?” - Francis wasn't sure. He took pride in his good memory, but even he couldn't remember a single post made years ago word by word. “Yes”, - Lecter picked up the cup, it was already cool enough to drink. - “We all have that temptation, to mirror our enemies, to be their opposite, but it's often counterproductive. Like it is now. You won't beat antis by being the opposite of an anti.” “It's not about being the opposite only, it's about not supporting what they promote”, - Francis felt like Lecter does have a point, and this feeling was rather uncomfortable. “On a site with nazis and other losers. Cheers!” - Lecter ironically saluted him with a cup. His hand twitched, and he spilled a couple of drops on the table. “Let's not argue now, please”, - Francis asked. He wasn't fond of offline discourse in general, and especially not now, when he just met someone that important to him after such a long break. “I didn't come to argue either, I guess I just get carried away easily”, - Lecter spoke quieter and slower, and carefully put the cup on the table. “I came to ask you a question. If I were to blow it all up, would you stand by my side?” “Sure”, - Francis nodded. - “I think, yes, of course.” “Thank you, Death”, - Lecter finished the coffee and got up. - “You are a good person”, - he added with unexpected sadness in his voice. - “And you belong to a better future than the one I can make.” “Um... Thank you”, - Francis wasn't sure how to reply. Before Lecter said such things sometimes too, and they always made Francis blush with embarrassment. He only hoped Lecter didn't notice. - “Are you leaving already?” - he asked, confused, when he saw Lecter heading for the door. - “I thought you'd stay for the night.” “I can't, I have work to do.” And so he left. Francis stayed in the kitchen and stared at the cup across the table, lost in thought, until it was 6 o'clock, and the TV set, compulsory for every flat, started showing the morning programs. *** The next several months he spent as if he was half asleep. He kept returning to this conversation, and to many conversations that happened before it, before the war, both online and offline, and he couldn't get rid of the feeling of loss. There was something he did wrong at some point, and that's why he was where he was. There were times when they were the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Right now “Death”, like an inside joke shared only between him and Lecter, was the only reminder of those times. There were times when they had dreams, had future. Everything went out of hand when James (Francis couldn't get used to calling him Jonas) betrayed them. And then there was the war, and then they were here and now. Francis went on with his life, he argued with nazis on “pocket tumblr”, how Lecter called a deep web site for people with controversial opinions, with slowly growing disgust for the right, the left, and the center alike. Sometimes discourse gave him a feeling of something familiar, but nothing of it was like before, when the map community was standing strong and protecting each one of its members. Lecter announced a hiatus on his blog, and without him Francis felt even more lonely. One day he was scrolling down his dash as usual, when he heard the sound of the sirens from the TV. He rose his head and froze. Lecter was looking at him from the screen. “Now, that I have your attention”, - he started with a wicked half smile on his face - “I am Marlen Belov, and I just overthrew your pseudo socialist government.” How? It seemed impossible. Francis stared at the screen with a mix of disbelief and happiness. He noticed that Lecter was looking better, he cut his hair, and the features of his face were more masculine, indicating that he started T again. He was wearing some uniform that Francis did not recognize. Lecter continued talking, something about bravery of his comrades and the army that joined him, then the camera switched off and on, and now Francis was looking at James. “They thought they could control us, they could not be more wrong”, - he started, tossing the bracelet that was once on his arm from one hand to another. His left arm was bandaged. Francis didn't know for how long the broadcast continued. It seemed to have ended in mere minutes, and the screen died. He reached for his phone, almost compulsively. The official internet didn't work. He tried accessing different sites, but it gave zero results. He felt lost and confused. Why was he not a part of any of it? There was an uneasy feeling growing, that all of it was some kind of a trick. Then a tumblr notification popped up. A message from comrade-lecter. “Pack up and go out. I'm coming for you” *** Francis heard the first gunshots when he just stepped out of the house. The echoed perfectly in the jungles of high buildings, and so did the shouts. Two cars drove by on a speed at least twice more than the permitted, a young man was sticking out of the window of the second one and yelling something incoherent. The street was slowly filling with people and with sounds. Then a car stopped in several meters from him. It was a black minivan that looked more like minitank, and Francis' hopes woke up. But when the door opened, he felt as if he was lied to. Yes, it was Lecter. He was wearing the same leather coat as during their last meeting, it only got more dirty and dusty. He did cut his hair, but his face looked pale and thin, and it was obvious he didn't even touch T. He jumped out of the car, and Francis made several steps towards him. “It was a recording”, - Lecter answered an unasked question. - “Made more than a year ago.” “And James?” “Made a virus that spread the video and will shut down their net for solid 6 hours”, - Lecter chuckled. - “They will never have the chance to restore it, not with all these riots that are starting now. Their state is destroyed.” “Where is he now?” “Dead.” They were standing mere centimeters apart now. Suddenly Lecter rose his hand and stroked Francis' cheek. The younger man instinctively stepped closer. “We are the only two left”, - Lecter almost whispered. - “This is the Apocalypse, and we are the Horsemen. Will you take a ride with me?” “Always.”

    This image has been resized from the original size of 1920 by 1920. To see the full image, click here or on the image itself.
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