They were just standing there near my pump, looking like something from an earlier era of The West.
Vests, belts, boots – all leather. Flannels, buckles, blue jeans – all faded. Hats, side-burns, mustaches – all huge.
There was probably a sixshooter in there somewhere. There was probably a horse&saddle just over there.
“Uh oh,” I thought, “I bet they like the way things usta be.”
They were too close to me, and I could see all the details. Like how the men were nearly identical except one was wet and one was dry.
The dry one’s skin was all splotchy red with patches of white flakes. Exteriors were cracked like mud under the sun and highlighted with scabs of stale maroon blood. He scratched the back of his head with vigor and particles flew up into the breeze.
And the wet one’s hair was all long and greasy with beads of drippy sweat. Face openings were glistening with mucous, and fresh red blood trickled down from his lip with ease. He let out a big hacking cough and the spray flung up into the breeze.
They were too close to me, and I could hear them even tho I hadn’t dared get outta the car yet.
“Welp,” the wet one said and reached out his unwiped bare hand to the other, “freedom.”
“Reckon so,” the dry one received the other’s hand and shook it hard, “freedom.”
Then they celebrated their agreement by drawing in close for a tight hug. Tops of torso pressing, hands patting shoulder backs. I figured they could hear each other’s breaths and feel the spittle and heat of it against their maskless necksides.
They were way too close to each other. So close, in fact, they actually got stuck.
And started melting together.
Formerly solid tough guy bodies liquefying and crumbling, losing all shape and form. Wet parts mixing with dry parts. Eczema and snot. Drool and dandruff. Callouses and pus.
There was no time for them to resist and pull apart. They were too quickly overcome by all their sheddings and oozings.
And soon there was just a single pile of goo and dust and Western Americana seeping into the pavement.
And then everyone hadta drive around it to get their gas.
April 2020, Cornville, AZ… First appeared in Infectionhouse