Five years ago, the world as we know it ceased to be. Luckily, the world as we know it from The Road Warrior came into being. Many people were prepared for this turn of events. Too bad those people were geeks and nerds without any real survival skills. Tragically, they were all rape-murdered by corporate CEOs who, it turned out, were the biggest sociopaths on the planet. Some nerds and geeks survived longer than others due to their proficiency at oral sex. But even these desperate, shameless nerds could not last for long. Eee! Tess Ate Chai Tea gave and gave and gave but eventually, as he knew deep down would happen, he used a little too much teeth. He was thrown into Lightning Dome, a more terrifying version of Thunder Dome, where twenty combatants entered and nineteen left. Mostly because the nineteen were working together to fightfuck the lone other. Eee! Tess Ate Chai Tea lasted thirteen minutes, a good showing but not good enough to be remembered for more than the long weekend.
As it turned out, some of the most depraved and richest CEOs were the biggest fans of Eee! Tess Ate Chai Tea. When the updates stopped (for, you see, DC Comics continued to publish during these post-apocalyptic times although their market share was now worse than Dynamite. In their defense, Gail Simone was being forced to write all of the titles deep within Dynamite headquarters, and all of the titles featured naked lesbians as every character), the CEOs grew desperate for the only written entertainment they could stomach. A new Tess was needed. And who better to take over the job than the monster that delivered the death thrust to Tess, Goggles McDeathhurt.
And now, five years later, while humans try to get on with their lives by broadcasting meaningless nonsense into the ether, another species has been given the chance, quite by nuclear accident, to make some kind of meaning out of universal chaos. Those creatures, just as familiar with civilization as humans, being those urban marauders we once called raccoons.
Skeezer: "Zip Billy, zip Billy! Uph! Uph! Seek sides! Sees? Sees? Top swarmers! Tip top swarmers! Teeth 'em! Teeth 'em! Nit! Nit! Too tip top! Spin off! Skip off! Make big! Slowp, slowp! Make big!"
Billy: "HSSS! HSSS! Flop off, swarmers! Slowp down, swarmers. Gots? Gots chew? Nit teeth ya gots chew! Gives off. Hey! HSSS!"
Goggles: "Hullo, hullo. Now, now. Calms down, ever duster. Give 'em some room. Make it easy on 'em. Dey ain't gonna try nuffin' mit dis here scattergun pointed up dere cute little noses, sees it?"
Skeezer: "HSSS! Gives off sting stick, swarmer! Gives off! Billy? Zip Billy! Zip har!"
Billy: "HSSS! HSSS! Skip off! Zip har ya, Skeezer!"
Goggles: "Ain't no duster gonna teef no ovver duster here, ja? Keep calms, ya fuzzers. Ain't no use teefin' us, see? Gots chew right her, Old Goggles does."
Skeezer: "*SNIFF SNIFF* Rand chew! Resher chew! Give off, ya? Give off!"
Goggles: "Go on. Youse can haves it, see? Whole bag a kitten chow, ja? None us desperate enough ta eats it yet."
Skeezer: "Make big! Big! Gives off!"
Goggles: *dumping big bag of kitten chow across the road*
Skeezers, Billy, and half a dozen other mutant biker raccoons hop off their bikes and begin rubbing the kitten chow around the road.
Goggles: "Any duster here speak raccoon? Or dey jess got dese here single dozen words dey gonna use over und over 'gain?"
Archivist Melville: "Why don't we just spread out the rest of the bags of cat food and go around them while they're eating? Maybe we can leave Weasel with them as well? I think he's gonna be a goner from infection anyway."
Goggles: "Naw, las' fing we need teachin' dese here raccoon men dat man flesh as tasty as it is. Donna need no competition on dat front, sees? Jess dumps out all dat kitten chow we been hoardin' and let dese fings feast, ja?"
Archivist Melville: "Wasting all of that food on mutant biker raccoons will not please the lower voices, Goggles. They're already grumbling about your rationing."
Goggles: "What else can we do? Corpse and eat dese fings? Dat meat cain't be no good, ja? Radioactive y merde."
Archivist Melville: "Hmm. Yes, I think we can convince everybody giving up the cat food is in our best interests. The lower classes have traded in urban legends about the raccoon bikers for enough years to make them superstitious and frightened about aggravating them. I'll organize the caravan to go around if you want to dump out the food. They seem to like you."
Goggles: "Fuckity. Ja, ja. Okay."
Goggles walks around to the trunk of the limousine which Archivist Melville pops open before heading back to where Goggles' throng wait nervously. He begins organizing them in two separate groups to head around the raccoons on either side of them. Goggles begins lugging big bags of dry kibble cat food into the road, tearing them open, and spilling the contents amidst the frenzied raccoon men.
Skeezers: "All chew, swarmer! All chew!"
Goggles: "Yeah, yeah. All the fuckity chew for youse and yer pals."
Goggles empties the trunk of cat kibble, slams it shut, and tosses a Futures End: Pandora comic book into their midst.
Goggles: "Here. Enjoy sum readin' material while ya eat, ya fuckity fuzzers."
Skeezers: "HSSS! HSSS! Skip off!"
Goggles: "Yeah, yeah. Old Goggs be skippin', sees it?"
Goggles gets into the front of the limousine, puts it into gear, and slowly edges around the feeding raccoons, eventually merging with the caravan slowly passing to either side of the gang as the lower voices gawk and stare at one of the more insane sights The Dusty Stretches has to offer.
Skeezer stands up, nose twitching, lips pulled back, sharp teeth bared. Billy sits upon the colorful book Goggles tossed at them. "Give off, Billy. Give off!" Billy looks up, stands, and hisses, baring fangs covered in cat food mush. Skeezer takes a swipe at him, bloodying Billy's nose. Billy drops to all fours and scurries off behind his bike where he begins eating kibble from off of the road again. Skeezer sniffs at the Pandora comic book and cautiously reaches out a paw. He touches it with his right paw, then his left, then his right, then his left. He sniffs it a bit and then touches it again, alternating paws back and forth. He stares off at the others, or through the others, or off into some place nobody else can see. Eventually, his ritual finished, he picks up the book and gives it a lick. His tongue scrapes across the lenticular surface, making a sound like a record needle skipping across a bumped record. He sniffs it again, then sits back with his legs sprawled out in front of him. Carefully, he opens the comic, and begins sniffing at the pictures.
Skeezer sounds out the words, slowly, cautiously. "Balty-more. Mary-land."
"Do ya sees lig hit?" Skeezer doesn't remember when he first began to recognize the symbols painted on every hideaway built by the swarmers. It must have been before the growing time though. He and his family would listen, and watch. They would wait in the underground built by the swarmers, eyes peering out into the darkness, waiting for the swarmers to lie still before stealthily making their way into the swarmers' world. Skeezer remembers nights when he and his sisters and brothers would chase hundreds of cockroaches from the underground and up into the lights. They would drive them like the swarmers' cattle, grasping and chewing and teething and feasting. But what he really enjoyed were the rubbins. They would knock them over and dump the contents across the world, always finding treats and chews, tasties and belly fillers. And, it seemed, he was learning a great deal even then. Becoming more than just a four legged night dweller trespassing on the swarmers' secrets. But it wasn't until the growing time that he found he could speak the swarmers' symbols, and open the swarmers' hideyholes, and ride the swarmers' zip zips. Most of the knowledge the raccoons possessed, they had already gathered before the growing time. Once the change had occurred, they found it easy enough to put their knowledge to use. Some would say the raccoons had mutated and were thus able to enter the world of men. But they had entered the world of men many, many decades hence, learning and stealing for years and years.
Skeezer works his way through the entire comic. He has time; there is much food and it will all be eaten before dark. While there is light, he struggles through the swarmer book.
Skeezer chews at the inside of his mouth. Something worries him intensely. He feels as if he just dropped down the inside of a fence to find a great barker drooling at him. He wants to scramble up something, or dig down below. His tail poofs, his hackles rise. He looks around and hisses at nothing, at everything. What is there to change? Why should Skeezer change? Is there...is there more? Something else? How could there be more? What more is needed?
Why do the swarmers make the symbols?! Skeezer drops the book and stands up, as tall as he can make himself. He hisses loudly but the others continue to snore or eat or fuck. He has awoken a barker that he cannot see but he can feel all around him and he doesn't know where to flee. He looks down at the comic and defecates on it. He scratches at it and kicks it away. He is panting now, and the world has gone blurry as it does when the sky wet comes down and mattes his fur. But the sky is blue and the ground is unwatered. Skeezer glances over at Billy. Something is missing. Something has been lost. Something has been awakened. Skeezer drops down on all fours and scurries to Billy's side. He sniffs at Billy's neck, and rubs his face with both paws, alternating one after the other. Billy fidgets but does not wake. Skeezer howls, drops his paws, and slowly, carefully, curls up against Billy's stomach. Billy puts an arm around Skeezer's shoulder, pawing, washing, fidgeting. And suddenly Skeezer feels calm settle down on him once again. His panic subsides. Some kibble sits near his nose and he flicks out his tongue, pulling it into his mouth. He crunches it slowly, sleepily, and eventually falls asleep enfolded in Billy's fuzzy embrace. For the first time, he dreams of something other than eating, other than fucking, other than the ritual. He will not remember the dream. But it will have an effusive, mysterious lasting effect. He does not know why but it makes him happy.