Alex watched him from ruined office windows, a couple floors up. The guy moved fast between the car-wrecks, with a practiced precision. Pulse-pounding pace; perfect pistol posture. Ex-military maybe. Armed to the teeth, from the looks of it. The kind who survived this apocalypse shit, and with good reason. Alex could practically smell it on him. That man was a killer.
…Serious guy, Alex told himself thoughtfully, as he turned from the blown-out window and wandered silently away. Strong. Laser-focused. Multiple weapons. Hungry look. Possible warrior archetype; a model soldier. Weakness: trait openness. Strategy: misdirection through incoherence. Mentally disarm with whimsy. Go with Sage archetype.
‘Drop it,’ the stranger growled loudly from the doorway. Assault rifle aimed as he crept inside. Glancing around the vast sun-rayed office for any traps.
‘Are you familiar with the practice of zen mindfulness?’ said Alex, as the man stalked in cautiously.
‘…What?’ he grunted. ‘You ain’t got a gun?’ He watched with a puzzled look as Alex swept the floor peacefully with a beaten old yard brush.
‘It’s the ability to do Just What You’re Doing Right Now,’ Alex continued. ‘A pure meditation on breath, thoughtlessness, and the interconnectedness of all things through the negative space between us. You and me, we’re interconnected. We are all One. A beautiful way of seeing the world, don’t you think? …The serenity of enlightenment is right here with us, if we only focus ourselves entirely on the present moment.’ Alex continued to sweep ash from the tiled floor; attentive in his work until he couldn’t help but smile in satisfaction.
The man with the rifle simply watched in silence; searching for a handle on what the hell this was.
‘…Sorry,’ Alex added pleasantly. ‘At this point, I’m just craving conversation.’ He paused for a moment; carefully adjusting the mustard-yellow rags that he wore like a grand mantled scarf. ‘It’s been taking a while, to get this place clean. I apologize. Birds, mostly. They gossip about me, you know. I don’t know why I keep feeding them.’
‘You are one crazy bastard, you know that?’ the man replied. Alex glanced at him, and replied with a gentle smile. Searching the ruined ceiling for a few moments, for his answer.
‘…The ability to make order out of chaos is our most ancient and valuable skill,’ Alex said thoughtfully. ‘Our immediate environment is a direct reflection of our thoughts and behaviours. What could be more true? I was once buried in the ash and rubble of chaotic thoughts, when all of this happened. The End of the World. But now, I feel… swept clear. Untroubled.’ Saving his bullets, the man pulled a machete as he closed in on him; searching all around to check that Alex didn’t have a gun or a blade to hand.
‘Look, just give me all the supplies you got, you crazy fuck. I’m not here to listen to your bullshit.’
‘Have you ever heard of a bo staff?’ Alex pondered, as he continued sweeping peacefully. ‘It’s a very versatile principle. How about Vlad the Impaler?’ In the fleeting second that the puzzled man lunged at him, Alex stomped on the broom head, snapped off the wooden handle and speared its splintered tip clean through the man’s stomach. Snarling and straining, gripping the broom handle in both hands, he hoisted the man screaming over his head. Brought him down hard with a dustcloud smack on the floor tiles, and pulled out the broom handle to strike the man’s head with it in a sudden stunning crack. Dazed for a second, the man screamed a bloody gurgle as Alex drove the pointed handle through his throat.
‘…Resourcefulness,’ Alex said thoughtfully, as it occurred to him. Watching the man squirm and bleed out on the floor. Taking every weapon he had. ‘That would be the best thing I’ve learned from meditation. You should try it. Really. See you in Reincarnation, pal.’ With that, he pulled out the broom handle in a spray of spattered scarlet.
Smiling down hungrily, Alex drooled at the flesh-scent as he watched the man die.
* * *
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