Category: 08. Shopping Trip

Paparazzi Boot Camp

Dear Planet Earth,

It’s been a long time coming, but Halston and Karter finally gave us some training with rifles. I’m surprised how easy it really is to use these things. Granted, we only got the most basic of basics in the hour-long crash course, but it’s still clearly unnerving that these weapons — created exclusively to kill people — can be used by ten-year-old girls.

“I got it! I killed him!” Rachel shouted with glee. The scattered remains of Justin Bieber’s head blew over the edge of the hotel.

“You sure did,” Karter said. He grinned mischievously and yelled, “Some of you got a real knack for this.”

I narrowed my eyes on Jennifer Lopez, pointed my weapon on her iconic legs, up to her perfectly sculpted chest, just under her pink lips that defined pouty.

“That’s right, man. Just below the chin.” Karter came behind me and matched his own line of sight with mine. “Let the rifle do the work for you. Let it move just –”

CHKTKCHKTKCHKTKCHKTK!

I coughed, rubbed my shoulder, and waved away the thin layer of smoke before me — only to see a perfectly intact Jennifer Lopez staring right back at me.

“Jesus,” Randall whispered nearby. Directly in front of him lay the stiff bodies of Stephen Spielberg, Nicole Kidman, and Audrey Hepburn. “Well, keep at it.”

A few yards away from him, Maria stood over Denzel Washington and Johnny Depp’s obliterated figures. She examined the areas that were once elaborate eye sockets and nasal passages.

“Die, motherfucker!” screamed Rachel. And Samuel L. Jackson’s intimidating frame toppled after a few deafening clicks.

Karter put a hand on my shoulder. “You got this, man. Don’t overthink it.”

I tried not to think of anything, tried to push away the memories of everyone I’d lost and everything I’d never have. Parents, friends, college, career — only dreams now in a world the mole men have turned into a hopeless nightmare.

CHKTKCHKTKCHKTKCHKTK!

I scanned the globs of wax that once looked like Jennifer Lopez and grinned.

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Sinking

Dear Planet Earth,

Our escape from LA drags on. Lieutenant Halston tells me it’s barren out there. The entire city seemed to just pick up and leave. They’re going to continue searching for at least a couple days more. Our group came to the consensus that we’d stay in places for no more than a week — any longer than that, and we’ll get lazy and vulnerable.

Mrs. Bing’s slowly improving, or so Maria tells me. They were in one of the suites for six hours together this afternoon. I sat outside the door with my laptop, trying to find any useful news online. Apparently, China tried to bomb one of mole people’s drills in Beijing back when they still had bombs and a military. It didn’t work.

The door opened suddenly and Maria emerged with her usual stoic face. She took a long, deep breath and didn’t seem to notice me sitting on the floor nearby.

“She needs rest.”

“She needs a straitjacket,” I said.

That got her to look at me. She gave me a hard stare, a glare really, filled with an intensity that usually only comes from a mother, not a potential girlfriend (as I’ve been laboriously working on).

“Maybe you’d need a straitjacket too, if your husband and two daughters had been killed in front of your very eyes. Maybe you’d try to off yourself when you realized that everything you’ve ever accomplished in your life was gone forever. Maybe you’d develop a fucking heart and realize that you’re not the only person in this crumbling mess of a world.”

She let that sink in, and I guess I did too.

I whispered, “Did she really try to kill herself?”

“She needs rest,” she said again. And she walked away.

Suite Setup

Dear Planet Earth,

I feel like I’ve been using the words “abandoned” and “desolate” too much in these posts lately, but those are the only terms I can think of to describe Los Angeles right now. There’s no one here. Dusty cars line the streets, some crashed into street lights, others frozen forever in a traffic jam that will never let up. Electronic billboards flash messages for movies, vodka, strip clubs — anachronistic reminders from a culture so swiftly extinguished.

We checked-in to the swanky Renaissance Hollywood Hotel and Spa and helped ourselves to the executive suites. It’s no Bellagio, for sure, though with a 6,400 square-foot spa and a diversely stocked, full-sized refrigerator in every room, this place is emanating pure swank.

Most of our crew is out scavenging for supplies in the shell of a city, but I offered to help Maria care for Mrs. Bing, whose scattered thoughts are becoming more and more unnerving everyday. Maria worked in a nursing home before the mole men attacked, so she’s more than qualified to babysit one hysterical old woman.

Lovely, lovely Maria. Okay, my intentions for staying here aren’t exactly pure, but my leg still isn’t 100%, you know.

You know?

New Real America

Dear Planet Earth,

Two cars, six rest stops, and nineteen stale cinnamon rolls later, we’ve made it Los Angeles. I’m charging up my electronics in the least disgusting Starbucks on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — it’s hard to tell if the mole men made this place such a rotting hellscape or if this is what LA always looked like.

I’ve only been to California twice for vacation, and even then my mom made sure to keep us only around the San Diego area. Still, there’s a charm to this place, a feeling in the air that we’re experiencing the real heart of America’s past, present, and future. It’s the same feeling I’d get sometimes walking the Strip back in Vegas.

This soulless neon cesspit, I’d think to myself in a drunken stupor. This is life.

But that was all a different life — in a different world. Homework, money, sexual frustration. My problems today involve constipation and an elderly woman going through a complete mental breakdown.

Mrs. Bing started wailing uncontrollably somewhere past Barstow. She begged us to stop driving, to let her go and meet back up with her daughter. So, we’ve stopped. We’ll try to find some other survivors, stock up on supplies, and hope to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that Mrs. Bing gets her shit together before we’re ambushed yet again.

Maria later whispered to me that her daughter was one of the many we lost at Apple Valley.

Fear and Loathing in Los Angeles

Dear Planet Earth,

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when I had the unshakable feeling that our troubles with mole people had just begun.

Ha. I’ve been dying to use that line ever since I knew we’d be driving past infamous Barstow. You have to keep it light around here sometimes.

Anyways, we snuck out of the mall late last night (assuming that the mole men keep their guard down at night). Maria, Rachel, the soldiers, and I had been suggesting for awhile that we stay on the move in the general direction of Fort Kross. The old people were intent on continuing our Cinnabon camp out for as long as we could. It all came down to an anticlimactic vote that only left Randall grumbling. I don’t think Mr. Ozawa speaks English.

There’s been no sign of mole people or huge bats yet, but we’re not looking forward to whatever’s going to greet us in LA. It’s become apparent that they began the invasion by taking out all of our major cities first. I thought the west coast was relatively untouched by everything — last week changed all that.

Rumblings

Dear Planet Earth,

The rumblings are coming less often now. But they’re still there, keeping us up at night, reminding us of our impending destiny.

I shouldn’t be a pessimist, though. I shouldn’t believe that after everything I’ve been through, I’m finally going to die curled up into a ball in the back room of a brightly lit RadioShack. It was just a few hours ago I told Rachel that we’re going to be okay.

“We’re going to be okay.”

“How do you know?” she asked. She had those eyes, those ten year old eyes that you’d think are so easy to lie to until you actually do it.

“I . . . I just know. Trust me. When you get to be my age–”

“You’re only sixteen.”

“I know,” I said. I took a moment to catch my breath, to not scream “Shut it!” on the top of my lungs. “When you get to be sixteen, you get these . . . gut feelings. And right now, I have one of those. I have a gut feeling that we’re going to get out of this.”

She stared at the ground, said “OK,” and walked away.

I’m not a pessimist. I’m not an optimist, either. I’m just a sixteen-year-old with terrible indigestion.

Dispatches from the Cinnabon

Dear Planet Earth,

I just heard another rumbling in the background. We’ve been hearing one every few hours now, some louder and more earth-shattering than others. It’s the drill snake, burrowing underneath, searching for more humans to kill. Searching for us.

It’s nine of us now: Mr. Ozawa and Mrs. Bing, both injured from our run in with the metal monster; Randall, the science teacher who must have been injured in Vietnam or Korea; Maria, who I’d try to flirt with if I could stop from shaking; Halston, Linares, and Karter, the hardened soldiers with no more than ten years on me; innocent Rachel, my quirky computer thief; and me, quiet, terrified, bitter, sleep-deprived me.

We’re hiding out in the back of Cinnabon now, having already raided See’s Candies, Taco Bell, and Hot Dog on a Stick. I’d worry about my girlish figure if I wasn’t already worried about being torn to pieces by a mole man super weapon with chainsaw arms.

As far as our game plan goes, no one’s offering any compelling ideas. There was some grumbling about heading back to the library, but we don’t want to lead the drill snake there when it’s unlikely Talpa and the rest of the troops could fight it off. It’s more likely that we’ll try to ride out this storm right here, listening for the rumblings and shitting our pants.