It technically may not have been a real earthquake, but the ground beneath him was shaking plenty enough, so Earl decided that now was the time to open his Shineglow Company-issued Do Not Open™ earthquake survival kit. He placed the small but still rather heavy attaché case on the floor, which was slowly fissuring underneath him, and opened it to find, not what he expected, no bottles of water, MREs or canned foods, a flashlight, radio, maybe some extra batteries, an extra cell phone, flares or a whistle, anything that, if he had to, he could have guessed was listed on a government disaster survival website, but instead, guns.
It was full to the brim with guns.
Not that Earl would have known one way or another, but the case, despite having the dimensions of three feet by maybe one and a half, with a depth of maybe half a foot, contained a truly international soupcon of arms: a twin set of Colt M1911A1 .45 semi-automatic pistols, two US Carbine Caliber 5.56mm M4 assault rifles, two Izhmash Vityaz-SN 9 mm Parabellum closed bolt straight blowback operated submachine guns (guaranteed two for each of these models, since, as the ad copy on the case said, “you always look cooler with one in each hand”), as well as a Franchi SPAS-12 pump-action rapid-fire shotgun, a Heckler & Koch Präzisionsschützengewehr 1 semi-automatic sniper rifle (some assembly required), a 6-round Croatian anti-personnel grenade launcher, and, just in case, a Raytheon FIM-92 Stinger Missile Man-Portable Air-Defense System.
Truth be told, even if Earl knew what to look for, he had little time do so, as less than a minute after he opened the Do Not Open™ he was accosted, and subsequently kidnapped, by a menacing Prius gang.
They called themselves “The Basket.” It was hard to believe that almost two years after the election there were still people this hard to the right, let alone in LA, but here they were.
The leader among them, before anything else, apologized for all the Priuses. After the collapse, or whatever, knocked out the entire electric grid in the state there weren’t very many Vander-Graph electric cars to choose from that either had a battery charge left or else hadn’t caught on fire already. The Prius takes fuel and is the most fuel-efficient car around, so what are you going to do? Then the grilling began:
So you wanna join the basket, huh? Yeah, you’ve got a good collection of gear, I’ll give you that. Still, I gotta ask you some questions first:
Are you, or have you ever been a PC liberal sissyboy who can’t figure out if the Lord gave you a pair of balls or a sloppy pussy and can’t answer cause you got a hard-ass dick in your mouth?
A cop-killing blacklivesmattering uppity liberal Mask-Up loudmouthing and badmouthing our boys?
A scabby jobs-taking rapist drug-dealing bad hombre?
It should be mentioned that Earl did not actually respond to a single one of these questions.
So where was I? Welcome to the basket. No, don’t tell me your name. I don’t want to know your name, I’m giving you a different one. I’m gonna call you Tittybitch cause you look like a big fat pair of tits I wanna fuck.
Next, of course, was the initiation ceremony, necessary for all hopeful members of the Basket, one so dangerous that sometimes those who didn’t pass the tests lost their lives, and one definitely not exhibiting a massively homoerotic subtext after even the faintest bit of scrutiny (Earl would know better than anyone, after all).
Look here, we didn’t make the mess. But we’re sure as shit gonna clean it up. We’re gonna take this country back, seize it right in the place I doubt I have to spell out anymore.
What, did I trigger you? Was that not politically correct? PC? POC? ACLU? LGBTQIA? What the fuck is that shit anyway, letters? Fuck letters, letters are in books and only faggots read books. There’s only three letters worth a damn, and its USA.
The first part involved Earl reciting these words into a Basket member’s phone video recorder (which was a great honor, since it had only fifteen percent of a charge left):
“I am (so and so), I am from (so and so), and I believe it’s not necessarily racist to be alarmed that liberal multiculturalism and political correctness is eroding the white race into a minority, I am not at all ashamed to advocate for a white ethnostate loudly and in public, and I am willing to fight for this cause by whatever means necessary, especially in the event of a major catastrophe the causes of which are not very clear which will give us a pretty good excuse to maraud around in cars and shoot guns at people and stuff.”
It took him a few tries, not because he sounded unconvincing to the group, but because he forgot the words quite a few times and needed quite a few do-overs.
Next was the all-important ritual of naming five breakfast cereals, and then promising not to practice auto-eroticism in the tradition of the inventor of corn flakes, then name five traditional pizza toppings, and then promise to never eat pizza like the how the lib Hollywood sickos do, then name five other kinds of breads, and then promise to eat those to own the gluten-free libs, and then name five cuts of meat, and then make a solemn vow to eat those meats to own the vegan libs, all while saluting the flag with one hand over your heart, and while getting simultaneously punched in the gut and spanked on the ass with a wooden paddle. Again, nothing homoerotic about all this at all.
Thankfully, the third degree of initiation, getting the logo of the gang branded on your left asscheek with the hot barrels of several shot-off guns, was interrupted by a pack of adorable eldritch dogs.
As the dogs, all leashed together, no doubt the remnants of some poor soul who died while walking them all through a gig-economy service app, and so now possessed by whatever interdimensional beings that crossed the fissured veil between our world and ours, and devoured all living things with their many-toothed maws and long, ichor-dripping, foul-smelling tendrils, Earl thought about his angle in all this.
Of course, everything the Basket was espousing to him he found ideologically repellent, and he did not have his heart in any of the rituals or declarations he was forced to utter by them. Rather, he thought he’d throw in with the Basket in the hopes that maybe they could drive him in their mostly-working Priuses from somewhere near La Brea (searching the Petersen automotive museum would prove to be a frustrating and ultimately fruitless experience for him; trying out the weird-looking Dale as a last resort was what eventually made him open the Do Not Open) over to somewhere near Venice, where Stacey lived.
Stacey worked in tech, Snap Inc. to be precise, so it was good for Earl he was dating someone well off. It was thanks to Stacey that he even had this stupid kit in the first place; it came free with a $3,000 purchase of a fully-automated earthquake survival system which Stacey bought for the new place, and figuring the third date went well enough, Earl might as well keep it around. It had been a whopping grand total of five not-bad OKCupid dates Earl spent with Stacey, so if he wasn’t dead-sure he was in love this was at least his best shot at eventually finding real love. There were not many other people in the city left that Earl cared about anyway, so he figured his best shot of getting through this collapse, or whatever, was a ride to Venice, by way of subtly leading the Basket there by reports of aliens, interdimensional beasts, or minorities disrespecting the flag or whatever.
It was easier than he expected to convince them. He told them there was a pizzeria in Venice. Naturally some sicko lib shit was going on down there, and no doubt it was the cause of everything crazy going on around here. Earl wondered what would happen to him if they found out he was making it all up, until he realized it can’t be that fucking hard to find a pizzeria somewhere.
The Basket, after losing a couple, uh, Basketmen?, to the eldritch dogs, eventually dispatched them with Shineglow Company-issue grenade launchers. The attack drove home the point to the gang that there was, regrettably, no time to complete the initiation, and they had to keep moving. They ushered Earl into the lead Prius, his earthquake kit in tow, and drove through the rubble and filth of the LA roads at a top speed of a little over forty miles per hour.
They were all only third-tier initiates of the Basket, you see. They were ever in search of the one thing that would allow them to finally to be full-fledged, fourth-degree Basketmen. It was a good thing they bumped into him, they said, having such a huge arsenal of guns, and telling them about the nefarious pizza place. They were sure to find what they were looking for there.
Something happened, the leader told Earl. The collapse or whatever brought out something in them that lied dormant during the long Obama years, something, some mysterious force, made them stronger, faster… um, smarter, than ever before.
How did it all happen? For that matter, what happened? The gang seemed to be under the impression that a certain toxic runoff from the Shineglow Company got into their water supply and gave them their… special abilities.
I don’t want to say evolved because this is a country of God and we sure as shit didn’t come from monkeys from fucking monkeyland Africa but you get the idea. We’re stronger, faster, we can punch holes into cinderblocks if we want to, and you bet your ass we want to all the time, we can run faster than anyone Kenya can shit out, and the more black smog we suck in and sludgy water we drink down the more we get stronger and faster!
There were also whisperings about the Space on a Jetski guy. Stacey talked about him all the time. It’s so amazing, they actually put a jetski in space. They put a guy on a jetski and sent him into space. What will he do next? Anyway, it was said that the jetski pilot spend all that time and effort asking “can” we reach the farthest limits of space, and never once thought to ask “should?” Surely that was what breached the veil between the dimensions.
Let me tell you about myself, Tittybitch. I’m the biggest fucking hardon this town has ever seen get hard. And thank the fucking lord above for the second amendment cause my specialty is guns. I’ve got more guns in my cabinet than fucking Switzerland, and I can shoot the cockring off a faggot I can see going for my tight ass balls a mile away. I’m like the eagle on a dollar bill, me and my eagle eyes when I’ve got my sweet-ass gold desert eagle tight in my white-hot knuckles. What do they call me? Shut your wet pussylips and never mind what the hell they call me.
Sometimes, when people have too much money, they buy drugs, or they gamble. Stacey would compulsively back crowdfunding campaigns. Earl would hear countless stories about them: the $400 juicer machine of course, but also a phone that covers your mouth so you can talk on the phone without bothering people, an EEG headset you could put on a dog so your dog could communicate his feelings and needs in human words (imagine if the eldritch dogs had one, Earl thought with a chuckle, then if you heard the abominable language written down by the Mad Arab himself through it you’d go mad yourself), even aerosol cans of gourmet air (literally a joke from Spaceballs made into a crowdfunded product). It was hard enough to politely decline Stacey’s offers of artisanal raw water on each date, but these were something else entirely. True, these were never purchases that came out of Earl’s pockets (and indeed, most of these purchases were for the promise of products Stacey would never see fulfilled), but nonetheless these things were still oppressive to Earl’s mind, perpetually broke as he was.
Let me show you my gang of fuckstuds here. This fat piece of shit right here is Bad Santa. Motherfucker’s so big he’s got midgets hiding in his fat rolls. I don’t even know how this lardfucker drags his ass into his Prius but Lord does he. Hey Tittybitch, you wanna know why we call him Bad Santa? Bad Santa’s a real fat hombre, full of cookies and milk. And boy he gets around town, and does it all in one night. He knows when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re being a mask-up anti-american socialist shitfucker and he’ll eat your ass up if you try any of that fuckshit…
No really. He’ll eat you. I’ve seen it, like he actually swallows and chews and gets nourished by people. Like whole. Just open wide for Jesus cause in a second you’re gonna meet him ready or not. Bad Santa ate a whole black lives matter rally last year. Granted it wasn’t very big, cause not many of those libcucks are left and we’re better for it but still, twenty people or so in Bad Santa’s guts. For real…
Earl remembered the initial outbreak with a chuckle. A group of shoppers had become trapped in a local vegan food and holistic pet-care shop. Two hours later the fire department arrived and found the group had resorted to cannibalism. The rescuers noted that there was still quite a bit of vegan food upon the shelves, and that it took maybe two leisurely swings of their battering ram to knock down the glass door that trapped them inside. Then again, they say that in desperate times the masks come off and everyone sees everyone for who they are. Not sure whether to let it slide or not (it was vegan food, after all), the survivors and rescuers alike soon found themselves with even bigger problems to worry about once the collapse, or whatever, started to pick up more steam.
This is Rawdog, and if you get the gay dicks out of your ears I’m gonna tell you why we call him Rawdog. This fuckstick here has a stomach lined with glass, motherfucker could drink his way out of a vat of antifreeze.
Fact he did once, it was cold out and we looted every single bottle of antifreeze we could find to stay warm one day. We jumped in the vat full of antifreeze and didn’t feel any warmer until I looked at one of the empty bottles and found out it’s for your cars. Looked like those dumb motherfuckers didn’t check the bottle beforehand, which I should have guessed cause I’m the only one can read some words but I was still mad and I headbutted them both while in the vat. They both passed out in the antifreeze their dicks and balls flopping around and I thought they were gonna drown in there cause they’re both kinda fat for me to pick up and also I’m not going near their gross balls and dicks, but then Rawdog came to and I told him all this antifreeze is worthless and what are we gonna do with it all, motherfucker opens his mouth wide likes he’s about to eat ass, dunks his head in and starts swallowing the shit, gulping it down until a half hour later the vat’s empty and he’s an even fatter bloated motherfuck full of antifreeze. Well that was what he could do after the accident but that’s not why we call him Rawdog. It’s because this one time we went to the junkyard to look for some swag and we found a refrigerator glowing blue, and Rawdog wanted to lock himself in it like he’s Harry fucking Whodini and punch his way back out, and who’s gonna tell Rawdog no. So he gets in and a few minutes later he punches it open and stomps the thing in half and the refrigerator starts leaking this blue stuff everywhere. Rawdog is like I bet I could drink that up, and we thought he could too because he wolfed down all that antifreeze that one time so he takes a mouthful and wolfs it down. Then the motherfucker starts growing blue and blue until this blue Rawdog head grows beside Rawdog for real and starts yelling and shit and biting him on the neck, you know I don’t actually remember why I call him Rawdog but that shit was fucked up.
I, uh… I don’t know, man.
The Prius envoy was stopped by a blockade of QR Bums, and they soon found themselves with no choice but to step out of their cars and prepare for battle.
Earl remembered Stacey telling him about his latest contribution to a startup, which set up a service of giving handouts to the homeless with your phone, via a QR code they wear like a badge. This was one of the talking points they vehemently disagreed on amid an otherwise cordial date. Stacey asked, how can someone be against a system that gives help to the homeless, and also gives you the peace of mind knowing that your contribution goes to something that will actually help them, instead of just more booze or drugs? Earl asked, how can anyone support a system that forces the homeless, already utterly beaten down by life itself, to wear a literal badge of their shame, as if they haven’t been humiliated enough, all so a couple spoiled techies can feel good about themselves donating a pittance while making sure their “investment” is secured against “just getting more booze or drugs?”
Against Earl’s protestations, this was the one crazy startup that actually gained traction, and QR codes for bums was officially a thing. After the collapse, or whatever, they started to organize into marauding bands, going around the strewn corpses of rich white people, checking them for phones, checking the phones to see if there was a charge left, then checking for an app that they could scan their QR badges onto to get a couple bucks, to get maybe food, maybe booze, or maybe the fashionable raw water they were sucking on (or for that matter, maybe the raw water the Basket was sucking down as well).
None of that mattered anymore. In a little more than fifteen minutes since they stopped the Priuses they made short work of all the QR Bums, burning them all, like an infestation of termites, with their special Shineglow Company-issue flame throwers.
The deed done, the battle won, the Basket ushered Earl back into the head Prius and onward to Venice they went.
It was at this point the leader of them turned to Earl and promised to “get real” with him. He could tell the man was serious because he took off his mirrored sunglasses.
Alright, let’s stop slobbering on the tip of my dick and get to real brass tacks. Here’s what you can do for me, Tittybitch. You gotta go out there, with your guns blazing, find the hombres and towelheads looking for our white women and gettem outta here.
And then… you gotta bring those women back to the basket. Look, try not to think about it too much. I mean you’re pretty much saving these women, they owe it to you, right? Shit, if you do a good job and get me enough women, what the hell, I’ll throw you one or two now and then, throw you a real bone am I right?
Nothing about this sounded like it was going to end well to Earl.
See here’s the thing. The smog, the sludge, the milk. It’s been great for me here in the basket, making me strong and fast with a thunder-perfect mind. But it’s taking a toll on the body, and sometimes the ol’ ticker has trouble keeping up. I mean there are hospitals but who wants to go to that shit for free, right, I mean being healthy? That’s for PC faggots anyway… so I don’t have a lot of time. I need you to help me pass on my DNA, help keep my legacy going.
See, I try to have kids, I really do. But I have so many guns you see, and I’m so busy fighting for freedom I keep forgetting to lock the cabinet. Seems like every week I have kids just going into that cabinet, helping themselves to my collection, going hey look I gotta gun I look so cool, flipping that safety off and… well, let’s just say there’s a reason why the grass hasn’t grown in my backyard in a while, and it’s not just the environment.
So you’re my only hope Tittybitch. You have to keep up my fresh supply of good American women, I gotta make the right batch of American boys who will some day, some happy glorious day, by the grace of God Almighty, reach into my cabinet and go through my awesome stash and somehow not get their dumbasses killed for it. Can I trust you? Are you with me or against me?
Thankfully, Earl stammered and dissembled just long enough for the Priuses to finally stop and park, having finally reached the Venice boardwalk, upon which there was a dilapidated pizzeria, no doubt full of sickos. Just long enough, in other words, to not have to tell this man that Earl was in fact gay.
…and after a moment or so of inspecting the insidious pizzeria, they found them.
There they were. The elusive key to attaining that final degree of Baskethood.
Holed up in the pizzeria was a gang of Black Mask-Ups.
The Black Mask-Ups were truly a horrible band of goose-stepping totalitarian bullies. You see, it was their sworn mission to hunt down perfectly innocent, upstanding members of the Basket and shut down their lawful assemblies, silence their exercise of first-amendment-guaranteed free speech, and deny them a platform to espouse their goal of bringing about a white ethnostate. The more one really began to understand what the Mask-Ups were all about, the more one could not help but realize how similar they were to Nazi Germany, or Stalinist Russia, or maybe even Maoist China. They were true fascists.
It was the mark of a true and fulfilled fourth-degree Basketman, then, to find a Mask-Up member and punch him or her (or whatever they “identified” as!) in the face.
The Baskets threw down their weapons and put up their dukes. They called to Earl, exhorting that he cover them with his immense collection of weapons while they beat the shit out of some Masked-Up fascist scum. They let out a war cry and charged toward their enemy.
Earl turned away and left them to it. He didn’t have a dog, eldritch, equipped with mind-reading wearable tech, or no, in that fight.
Who cares who’s right or wrong, when the whole city, and maybe even the whole world, had completely collapsed, or whatever, all around them? What ideas are worth fighting for when there’s no world left to enjoy those ideas in? Anyway, Earl had an okay OKCupid date to make.
It took Earl just a little longer than he thought it would to remember which really nice apartment in the landscraper luxury condominium building Stacey lived in. He eventually found him, all the way up on the penthouse suite on the fifth floor just like he remembered after their fourth date. The collapse, or whatever, had nearly demolished everything in the apartment, but Earl did find something he had noticed before.
It looked like a huge industrial packing container, right in the middle of Stacey’s bedroom. It also spoke.
—Earl? Is that you?
—Stacey? You’re… what are you doing in this… this…
—Oh, I’m surprised I never told you. It’s my new earthquake bed.
Earl said nothing long enough for Stacey, despite being encased in several inches of reinforced carbon-titanium alloy, to tell some explanation is in order.
—Go on YouTube and search for “earthquake bed,” play the first video, it’ll tell you all about it.
—Aren’t all the cell phone towers…
—I still have a little bit of wifi left. Go on…
Earl sighed and did as he was told.
—So… I don’t understand… you’re stuck there?
—No, I’m protected, against earthquake debris, as well as fires, attacks from Basketmen, eldritch horrors, QR Bums, all that stuff.
—So it dropped you in when the collapse, or whatever, started? It didn’t shut your arms or legs in?
—Nope. Just like the video said, there was a sensor on the edge of a bed that could detect if I had a limb sticking out.
—I don’t understand. Did it start to go, only to detect a limb sticking out, so you moved your limbs out of the way, and then it dropped you in?
—You know me, when I get spooked I always go into the fetal position.
—Can you breathe?
—The video said fresh air can be installed inside.
—I’m okay so far though, I have a bunch of supplies in here. Some raw water, juice machine packets…
—It looked like they were all under the mattress. How did you…
—Oh, it took me a while. I had to grab the edges of the mattress and peel it up before I could grab something. Thank goodness I got my phone charger on the first try.
—But there’s no signal to call anyone?
—Yeah, but that just shows you the metal is nice and thick enough to protect me. Good thing you showed up, I’m feeling a little queasy.
—Are you sure that’s not because of the raw water?
—I think some of these juice packets might be a little old, their a day or two past the sell-by date…
—How long have you been in there?
—Maybe about a week…
—I know, right? If I hadn’t downloaded some of the shows on my Netflix queue I don’t know what I would have done.
—Okay, well, I made it, I’m here now. How do I get you out?
—You can’t. Not just anyone can get me out. Only a Shineglow Company technician can remove the safeguards. Makes sense, you don’t want just anyone opening it up, right? Very unsafe.
—…so, how do you find a technician?
—I don’t know.
—Is there a service number I can call?
—I’m not sure how well it would work on either of our phones. Anyway, I doubt they’ll send someone over. It stands to reason that if the earthquake bed has been activated, it’s not safe for someone not in an earthquake bed to be walking around it.
—So you have to stay in there until a technician maybe, accidentally, stumbles onto your location and also has the equipment to remove the safeguards on here to let you out?
—I… guess so. Can you keep me company until then?
—Thanks. You have an earthquake kit, too. Will you be alright?
—I don’t know. It was just guns.
—The Do Not Open™. It was just a big box of guns.
—That doesn’t make any sense. What good are guns going to do you in an emergency?
—I dunno. They brought me here. And I guess… I can guard your metal box or whatever, in case anyone tries to attack us.
—You’d do that for me?
—Aw, thanks. Remind me to venmo you for it.
Earl opened the Do Not Open™ and took out some pistols, the grenade launcher, the pump-action shotgun. He wanted to maybe shoot off a couple rounds, but then thought against it, deciding it would be unwise to give away their position to sinister forces outside, before he started guarding Stacey’s earthquake bed, pacing around the ruined apartment like a soldier in a stealth action game.
And why not? What was he really giving up by deciding to stay here and guard his sort-of boyfriend trapped in a metal box full of bottles of pond water? And maybe he wasn’t really in love with Stacey, maybe not yet, but it was still the best chance he had at falling in love with someone. What else did he have out there, or who else? The world was a mess of decaying infrastructure, a complete absence of law and order, teeming with mobs of people possessed by a strange other-worldly force awakening deep-seeded animosities, led to commit heinous acts of violence against each other in the pursuit of one cause or another.
In other words, the world was just as shitty now as it was a month ago.