Bury Me In Smoke Moodboard: NOLA
 
Once inside the city, his progress slowed to a ridiculous crawl. The streets were stuffed with overturned buses, abandoned SWAT trucks, burnt-out NOPD cruisers and, most of all, bodies. He discovered he didn't much like urban warfare, no sir, not compared to the free hunting of the country. The air was thick with soot and smoke from still-raging fires, and the smell of the collected dead baking in the Louisiana summer was enough to bring him to tears. Not to mention all this climbing and balancing, checking every window for hungry infected mouths, peeking around corner after corner after corner…twice he nearly wasted his endangered shells getting spooked in his peripheral, first from a blood-stained mannequin in some dress shop, and then again when he caught his reflection in the broken glass of a jukebox someone had tossed into the street. Yes sir, the city was something else, and bad news in any language.

- - -
Morning came quietly. He took a breath, and smelled the warm, humid death of flora. Could instantly, by that certain dull feel of the light on his skin, tell that a thunderstorm was creeping along the morning's edges. And the next moment was bright red pain slashing across his back and kissing his broken ribs. He screeched. From the hedge maze of the yard below, a dozen white birds scattered in fright.

- - -

He lay flat on his back and stared up at the morning sky with its golds and pinks. Thick thunderheads gathered to the south, a great black hole in the world. The moment was almost peaceful.

- - -

When the cityscapes flying by her gave way to lush green canopies and slowly lightening skies, she realized why she had, up until now, lost track of the quads when she tried to follow them through Nola. Bastards had set up shop over five miles outside the city they were ruling! She was quick through the city, but she wasn't Spider-man. And no amount of practice readied someone for tracking while dodging undead cannibal teeth. Had Enzo and Michael made it just another fucking week, they could have uprooted Crimson together.

- - -


She followed the smell of moving water through the swamps until she came to an abandoned shantytown not half a mile from Crimson's plantation. It was probably the most pathetic sight she'd come across, even without its symptoms of the apocalypse. Every shack had been gutted with fire, and so she didn't waste time scouring for supplies. She slid among the carnage, ears tuned to the splashing of undead feet, being careful to keep away from dark holes and shadowy corners. The smell of rot from this place, it would be a miracle if she ever got it out of her hair. But the townspeople had built a sturdy boardwalk for getting through the swamps, and for this alone, she said a prayer over the blood and mud of their lives.

- - - - -
I live in the mountain west, ecologically a high plains desert. The concepts of swamps, humidity, and greenery so thick you can't see the horizon are pretty foreign to me, aside from a few lovely vacations to the South and New England. But there's something about the environment of the south that is ripe for horror (as authors like Robert Kirkman and Lovecraft, among others, would agree). New Orleans especially holds so much culture and history that it's hard to resist its pull. 

The setting was 100% inspired by my endless hours of playing Left 4 Dead 2. I already have a fascination with the environment of the south, so it wasn't a hard sell when I sat down to write this. I've never been to Nola myself. Instead, I did a bit of research on the city through images and history, and directly implanted my favorite scenes, environment-wise, from Left 4 Dead 2: the corner restaurant with the checkered floor where Hank meets Kitty; the huge cemetery where Kitty's hideout; the ramshackle houses built in the depths of the bayou where she scavenges the boat in Omerta, and the plantation house taken over by Crimson's gang.

It was important to me to explore a couple locations even in a short novella. Urban warfare is an ugly, messy beast, which I drove home with Hank's opening appearance as he enters the city desperate for supplies. He gets exactly what he expected: a whole mess of trouble that probably wasn't worth the shotgun shells he was hunting. Kitty has a past in urban warfare-- at least more than Hank-- as is hinted in Omerta, so she fares a little better. She's the one who takes the reader to my favorite location, one of Louisiana's gorgeous cemeteries full of crypts and mausoleums. And having Crimson's gang well outside the city they rule, reclaiming a plantation house for their disgusting mini-kingdom of violence and slavery, was too perfect to pass up.

Despite the short length of the story, I feel like New Orleans is easily one of the characters of Bury Me In Smoke. The environment was so vivid in my head as I wrote, and I could feel Hank and Kitty crawling through the ruined streets and endless encroaching swamplands.


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