Agave Armageddon

by Wiebo Grobler

Change your ways darlin’, change your ways.” The music crackles over the AM and drifts across the sand in a ghostly whisper.

The horizon stretches out like a taut wire in the distance as heat waves dance to the beat of cicada song.

“I fucking hate the desert. Time stands still in this place.” Mark pulls hard on his cigarette, trying to smoke the taste of last night’s tequila out of his mouth.

Tiny black beetles scamper across the red dirt, following a highway of small crisscross tracks.

Gary straightens and stretches his back, sweat trickling down the side of his neck. High above an airliner makes its way across the sky, white contrails marking its progress against a backdrop of blue. Gary holds out his hand and Mark pulls him from the hole.

“Right, let’s finish this.” Mark flicks his cigarette into the pit.

Gary drops his shovel and they walk back to the car. Mark opens the trunk and they maneuver a large suitcase from the rear. They carry the case between them and then dump it into the hole. Their passage from the car is marked by small wet crimson dots on the hot sand which fold up into tiny origami flowers made from blood and dust as it dries.

Mark pulls the old .38 from behind his back and fires three rounds into the suitcase.

Gary sneers. “What’s that for?”

Mark puts the gun away. “Makin’ me come out to the desert that’s what.”

It is dusk by the time they finish covering the hole. The sun is a burnt mandarin, setting in the distance.

The radio has fallen silent. They throw their shovels into the trunk and climb into the car. Gary tries to start the Oldsmobile, but the fuel pump only ticks when he turns the ignition.

Gary smacks the steering wheel. “Goddamn battery!”

“One of us will have to walk back.”

“I’ll go. You know I can’t stand waitin’.” Gary gets out and pops the trunk. He grabs an aluminium torch. “I’ll see you in a few hours. Stay by the car.”

Mark nods and climbs into the driver’s seat. He throws the pistol in the glove compartment, lowers his seat as far as it will go, sighs and closes his eyes.

Mark’s eyes snap open. He wipes his hand across his face and checks the radium glow on his watch. He’d been asleep for forty minutes. Something woke him. The bark of a coyotes, chirp of crickets and hoot of owls, none of these he could hear. It was far too quiet.

He rolls down his window and strikes a match, squinting at the sudden flare. He lights a cigarette and flicks the match out the window. The smoke curls around his head before being sucked out into the dark night.

There is movement out there, he can hear it.

Mark sticks his head out the window. “Gary?”

He recoils as something strikes him across the face. He frantically rolls up his window and fumbles inside the glove compartment for his pistol.

The right side of his body throbs and burns. He gingerly runs his fingers across his face and flinches. Small needles riddle his flesh.

“What the fuck?” he moans and cuts his tongue.

Hissing in pain, he slowly starts to pull them out. They look like cactus thorns. Some prick had thrown him with a cactus. He switches on the car headlights. They glow to life briefly, illuminating the outside in a phosphorous yellow before dimming back into darkness. There are cactuses everywhere. He is certain there weren’t any this close by before.

Mark’s skin is changing color, becoming lumpy and bruised. He opens the car door and stumbles out.

“Gary!”

There is movement all around him now, he can hear it, a scrape and shuffle. Mark runs, firing his pistol into the darkness. The report like thunder rolls across the desert.

Each shot brings a flare of bright light. Green limbs absorb the bullets without a flinch. They keep coming, moving on an exposed root system like tendrils of white varicose veins, roving across the ground, searching.

Mark stumbles and falls over something soft and wet. It is Gary—or what is left of him. It looks like he’s fallen into a meat grinder.

The right side of Mark’s body begins to stiffen and turn green. He screams as thorns tear through his skin from the inside out.

He brings his pistol up to his temple and pulls the trigger. There is an empty click. He can hear them. Voices inside his head.

Humanity’s time has come.

An army of angry self-aware cacti—one with a pistol embedded in its limbs—turns towards the city lights shimmering in the distance like a neon mirage.

Above it all, Vegas Vic waves, welcoming the green apocalypse.

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