Category Archives: Horror Fiction

5.05 Darkness

“I don’t know what bites a zombie,” Victor said, “And I’m not sure I want to find out.”  Victor gestured with his hands now as he added,  “Let’s check the garage and move on.  I don’t want to stick around here too long.”

The two men left the perfectly stacked corpses exactly as they found them, and walked over to the garage.  It had a small locking handle in the center.  Victor reached down and gave it a solid twist, breaking the tiny lock and opening the door.

“Not much for security here in America, eh?”  Sean asked from behind him.

Vic decided to brush the obviously condescending comment aside.  He was still annoyed from what happened with James and decided it was going to be easier to ignore the gibe than to acknowledge it.   At this point, he just wanted to get this the hell over with.  “Those locks are for show.  They were mostly to keep honest people out.  A thief would get in whether there was a lock or not,” Victor said.  “Watch out.”  The man took another breath and heaved the garage door open.

The two men backed off, but there were no zombies inside the garage.  A quick glance showed nothing particularly useful to Victor, but Sean started gathering everything he could get his hands on.  Power tools, screws, nails, yard tools, bits of scrap lumber, tool boxes, everything he saw went into the back of the truck.  Tookes stood in the entrance of the garage and watched him with great curiosity.

“Sean, these aren’t nice tools.  We’re going to go through at least a hundred garages before we find the generators we need.  Are you going to grab everything from all of them?”

“Every house in America has this many tools?” Sean asked, clearly surprised.

“No, but seventy-five per-cent of them will have better tools than this.”

“Fuckin’ American excesses,” Sean scoffed.  With a shake of his head, he muttered something under his breath and put the rest of the tools in the back of his truck.

Victor pursed his lips together and instead of coming back with a prickly response of his own, he stuck with “Whatever,” and tossed a case of bottled water into the bed of the truck.  The corpse piles had him a little on edge.  Vic wasn’t sure if Sean was being intentionally abrasive or if he was just being overly sensitive because his mind was elsewhere but Vic knew he had to concentrate on the job at hand.  He’d done enough of this to know it wasn’t just zombies you had to watch out for.  Victor hadn’t ever seen zombies stacked like that; this was something new.  And these days, “something new” was rarely a good thing.

“I’ll head to the next house.  Just back the truck into the driveway when you’re done,” he said as he walked through the yard.

The two men repeated this process through four houses.  By the time they’d reached the fifth house, the truck bed was full of junk.  Vic walked over to the truck and scanned the truck, trying to keep the frustrated look off of his face.

“Sean, we’re not going to have room for the generators if you keep piling shit in the back of the truck.  Remember, you can come back any time for this stuff,” he said, gesturing to the mound of stuff in the back.

“Not if some Drongo gets it first.  Never know when I might need this,” he said, hefting a wood-stove pipe into the back of the truck.  “Besides, we can always strap the gennies on the roof of the truck.”

There was a moment of awkward silence between them.  “Where the fuck are you from?” asked Victor.  “John never felt like he had to take everything.”

“John has talked non-stop about his ability to live off the shit you throw away, even now,” said Sean.  “He just doesn’t say anything to you.  Not that saying anything to you would have helped.  Fuckin’ Americans.”  Sean shook his head again and then headed back into the house for more trinkets.

Victor worked in silence for the next couple houses while Sean continued to pile every single screw, broken bucket, old mop, and half-empty bottle of cleaner he came across into the back of the truck.  And the higher the pile grew, the more patience Victor lost.

“Sean, at this rate, we’re going to be three days trying to find these generators.  We need to get water on quickly.  I don’t want to delay much longer.  I need to get home.”

“Nothing’s keeping you here, mate.  We can handle the house full of zombies,” said Sean dismissively.

My loyalty to John is keeping me here, Sean.  I don’t know what I did to piss you off, but we need to move.  We’re ten minutes drive from your town.  If you want to stay here all week and loot everything out of every house, that’s fine, but I’m going to grab a truck and find generators.  Surviving in this world means not taking your eyes off the goal,” said Victor, gesturing with his hands.  “You can’t just float along without a care.  You have to make a plan and stick to it.  I’m all for picking up a few things here and there, but this is ridiculous.”

“Alright,” Sean said.  “Next truck we pass, you can take it and go get ya fuckin’ generators.  I’m not passing up an opportunity to gather things that will make our life easier.”

“Fine.  See you back at Hazardville,” said Tookes.

Victor walked away from Sean, who continued loading his truck.  As he walked towards the next house, felt a sudden, small tickle on the back of his head.  As he ran his hand over the sudden itch, he shook his head at the same time.  The amount of bugs here was overwhelming – one of them was bound to be a mosquito.

He opened four different garage doors, never once encountering any undead, before he turned the corner and encountered another set of those unsettling zombie piles.  Just like the first, there were six piles, each with twelve along the bottom row, seventy-two bodies in each corpse-pyramid.  Tookes took a moment to stare at the piles, trying to make sense of it.  There is definitely a pattern, he thought as he walked around and in between the piles.  The corpses on the bottom seemed to be the ones in the best shape.  Those at the top were missing legs or large portions of flesh, while those on the bottom seemed to have all their parts.  In the middle of the piles were a couple missing arms, and several missing part or all of their face.  Every one of them that he could see had the same bite mark on their neck.

Victor, as he often happened when he was alone, was reminded of a movie quote.  “One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach, the damn zombie vampires,” he said to no one.

Twelve piles of seventy-two.  ‘All zombies when they died, that’s like nine hundred dead zombies,‘ thought Victor.  ‘What the fuck killed nine hundred zombies?

After a few minutes inspecting the piles of corpses, Victor walked towards the garage of the next house.

“Thank God,” Victor said aloud, when he opened the garage door and saw the control panel to a whole house generator next to the electrical panel.  One whole house generator would provide a huge amount of power, and would run on either propane or diesel.  Both fuels would still be in abundance long after the gasoline went bad.  There were three major components to it, the part that interfaced with the house wiring, the part that cut off the power grid so the electricity from the generator didn’t flow out and get lost in the grid, and the generator itself, which was probably mounted outside the garage directly behind the panel.

It took him about forty minutes to cut the panel down.  He cut all the wires, leaving the generator connected to the house panel, so that John could see how to wire it when they got where they were going to put it.

The generator itself was bolted to a concrete pad which quickly proved to be the worst job.  It was tucked back into some bushes.  Everything in this god forsaken desert was covered with spines, prickles, thorns or barbs.  These bushes seemed to be completely armored in all four.  Ultimately he threw a tarp from the garage over the abominable shrub, which only slightly diminished the vexation.

Victor had to search six additional garages to find the right tools to unbolt the generator from it’s foundation.  In the fifth garage was a small volkswagen pickup truck, fully restored to all of its mini-sized, 80’s glory.  Shiny chrome wheels, low profile tires, and a huge stereo system completed the build.  It was perfect for John’s group.  It ran on diesel, and probably got forty miles per gallon of fuel.  The truck had the utility of a bed, and easy wiring and mechanicals.  Vic opened the door and say down in the driver’s seat.  He was thrilled to see that the keys were still in the ignition.  It had to have been at least six months since it had been started and yet the truck started with the first crank of the starter.  As the engine came to life, that itch on the back of his head came back, but it was much stronger than it was previously.  Again, he ran his hand over the spot and realized it was much harder to ignore it this time.  That mosquito must have really dug into his skin and he was left wondering when the last time a mosquito drank the blood of a human that was still alive.  With a slight cringe, Victor decided to not continue that line of thought.

It was almost three in the morning by the time Victor had the whole thing loaded into the truck, and was on the road back towards the compound. Victor was not the least bit tired, still feeling unsettled, driving the mini-truck towards his family.  There was something nagging at the back of his head all night, besides Sean being a prick.  It was a little bit like the hairs on the back of his neck  standing up, except inside his head.  It was like something was pulling him, and the more he concentrated on the feeling, the harder it pulled.

The little truck rolled to a stop, and Victor shifted his eyesight, looking for auras, or lack of.  He was oddly reminded of an old spider man comic book, as if his spider senses were tingling.  The minute he re-opened his eyes, his breath caught in his throat.  He was completely surrounded by what he’d always thought of as negative aura, the type of blackness that surrounded zombies.  His own aura seemed stretched away from his body, as if something was trying to suck the colors off of him.

Reflexively, Tookes solidified the outer edge of his aura, and stepped out of the truck.  He left his hatchet and gun sitting on the seat, but had a fleeting wish that he was half a mile away safely behind Sammie’s scope, watching the goings on.  He made a mental note to go by Fort Hood on the way home and recover his weapons.  They wouldn’t do any good here, whatever this was was more powerful than anything he’d ever encountered.

He knew there was no sense in ignoring this, just like he knew that it had waited until he was alone to make it’s presence known.

“The theatrics aren’t necessary,” Victor said. “Show yourself.”

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5.03 Departure

The runway was like the ending scene out of a movie. There were hugs and handshakes all around. Introductions were made, and Victor was finally able to put faces to all the names he’d been hearing for six months.

The last to approach Tookes was Sean, John’s twin brother. He had a huge grin on his face as he walked up, so Victor was surprised when shadows shot out from him. One of them solidified and developed into a right cross aimed at Vic’s jaw. Reflexively, Victor ducked his head, taking the punch right where his hairline met his forehead.

Sean jumped back shaking his hand, “Ahhh, ya fuckin hard-headed Drongo! I think ya broke my hand!”

“I knew you Aussies were a rowdy bunch,” said Victor. “But that was out of line. What the hell did I do to deserve that?”

“All that screaming you do! My head is still vibrating from that last one out at the army base,” he said, gesturing with his hands. “I’ve had to listen to you blasting my inner ear drums out for the last six months. You need to learn to control ya volume, mate.”

Tookes laughed. “To steal a phrase from your brother, I have a teaspoonful of concrete in my pocket. Swallow that with a cup of water – it’ll harden you right up,” Victor said with a grin. He stuck out his hand. Sean looked at him thoughtfully and then smiled again, gratefully accepting the handshake.

“John, lets put you and your whole family in one van, and we’ll all pile up in the other,” Tookes said to his friend. “We’re going to need to find a third vehicle and fuel up. We should get moving; the plane made a lot of noise and I’d like to be out of here before things get ugly again.”

The group crowded into any available spot in the vehicles, and the two overloaded vans took off towards the city of Yuma to find new transportation. Just inside the city limits, they pulled into a Chevrolet dealership. There were a handful of wandering zombies, which were easily dispatched.

John picked a white Silverado four-door pickup. James picked the same truck in tan. Victor and Marshall both picked Eco-Boost enabled suburbans. They were the newest model that could turn off up to four of the eight cylinders and, according to the stickers on the windows, got up to thirty miles per gallon on the highway. Behind the shop, they found the dealerships gas pumps and filled all four vehicles, plus the gas cans they had in the vans. Marshall transferred all the food and gear into the various new vehicles. Victor looked up to see John coming towards him. John’s face was troubled.

“Tookes, can I chat at ya for a minute, mate?”

“Sure John,” said Victor, knowing what was coming. It seemed like he had just had this same conversation with Kris not too long ago. Was everyone going to leave? He extended his hand and said, “Walk with me.”

The two men walked a short way away. As they walked, John absently rolled a cigarette, clearly uncomfortable with the entire situation. Victor didn’t want this to be harder on his friend than it had to be, so he spoke first.

“I assume from your choice of gas guzzling trucks, you’re not making the trip all the way back to the train.”

“Yeah, mate. Jo’s adamant. She says you’re gonna get me killed.” John paused for a moment, took a deep breath and said, “And, she’s right.” As he spoke, Vic fought back the flinch that was forming on his face. “I have my family to look out for now. Plus, you’ve won, mate,” John said. He was speaking with his hands now. “Laura’s dead. We haven’t seen fuck-all for zombies in the last eight hundred miles. It’s over, Tookes. It’s time to start living.” The Aussie paused and looked closely at his American friend. His voice dramatically softened as he continued, “You always said you were working to create a safe place for Max and we’ve done that. Good people died along the way, but we made this place safe. I met you on the side of the road, and followed you through the depths of hell.” He paused again before turning to fully face Tookes. “Go home Victor, it’s safe.”

“She’s not dead, John. This isn’t over, all it takes is one zombie and all this shit starts back up again,” said Victor sadly. “But I won’t stand in the way of your family. Blood comes first. Besides, Leo’s dead and I’m crazy. Your family needs you now.”

“You know if you ever need anything, just speak. I’ll have Nori taxi me wherever you are,” John said, putting his hand on Vic’s shoulder.

“John, I think of you like a brother. We’ll help you clear out a spot,” Tookes stated. “Do you have any idea where you want to go?”

“We passed a neighborhood right off the highway about thirty miles east of here. I checked it out when we drove by and it looks like a good spot,” he said. “It has a huge cliff on two sides, and the highway barricade on the third. All we’d have to do is close off the road leading in and it’ll be tighter than a platypus’ clacker.”

“What are you gonna do about water?”

“We’ll get it worked out. We’re Bushies,” he replied with a smile.

“Alright, man,” Victor nodded, “We’ll help you clear it out.”

John looked relieved, and Victor looked haggard. His team was falling apart, and there was nothing he could do about it. Leo left, and was now dead. Kris left and had a new life with Alicia in Tennessee. John was leaving. Thoughts and memories of the times they’d all spent together welled up and were quickly stuffed in the box – the box where he stored all his emotions to be dealt with later. And although he desperately tried to ignore it, “later” seemed to be creeping up on him much faster than he had anticipated.

It was a short trip to the little village John was talking about. Victor was filled with a sense of dread about the place, but chalked it up to John and his family leaving. They paired off to clear the houses. Each of the Americans had a lot more experience with this particular task, so each team had one American and one Australian. Victor paired with James, Marshall with Nori, and John with Sean.

Renee and Reggie led the rest of the crew and the children to find the local water source. The town was really just a flat spot at the bottom of a huge sandstone cliff. Thirty two houses, a general store, and a gas station made up the village. The highway ran along the south side. It was raised about ten feet high, with an impossibly steep hill and a guard rail at the top. On the north and west side, there was a sheer cliff that rose hundreds of feet in the air. The area was only accessible from the east from a small, two lane road. The narrowest part of the road was just over one hundred feet from the road to the cliff. Against the short western cliff face was the town’s water tower, just atop a wellhead.

“Jo, let’s head into the store there and see if we can find some supplies, and something for the kids to do,” said Renee.

“Are you sure? They haven’t cleared it yet,” said Jo.

“It’ll be fine, I have a few tricks of my own,” said Renee with a wink. “Would you mind watching Max, Maya, and Holly for a few minutes?” Jo nodded. Renee made herself invisible before continuing, “Zombies can’t see me either. I can scout the store, but it’s likely empty or we would have heard something by now. The kids aren’t being exactly quiet.”

“Okay, but if you hear me scream, come quickly,” Jo said.

“I wouldn’t go if I thought there was any danger,” she said. Renee began to climb the stairs and called over her shoulder. “I’ll be right back. I’m just going to look.”

She opened the door to the hardware store, and saw a very good sign. The shelves weren’t bare, and there was no sign that the place had been looted. It only struck her as odd for a single moment before she remembered how small the town really was. There was a high probability that the entire town either turned or had fled before raiding the stores. The parasites had spread so fast that most people didn’t have time to react or even realize what was happening being it was too late. Renee searched the store quickly; there wasn’t anything living or undead inside. Renee grabbed a couple of large styrofoam airplanes from the small section of toys and took them outside.

Renee reappeared infront of Jo and said, “Nothing in there. But I brought some toys.”

All of the children heard that magic word and ran over to them. Renee laughed as the planes were taken out of her hands and began soaring through the air. Jo was standing there watching the children play with a smile on her face. Max was talking to John’s older son and the girls were running around looking carefree and happy. The children were their hope for a future and so far, that hope was still going strong.

“We can find a generator to run the pump for a little while, but eventually you’re going to need to put a windmill up on top of that cliff to run your well pump,” said Renee.

“John knows all that. He can fix it up.” Jo paused and looked around. She had a sad smile on her face as she added, “This is going to be a good place for us. It has to be.”

“I wish you’d come back east with us,” said Renee. “It’s much easier living out there.”

“For you, maybe,” Jo replied. “This is what we know, and this is what we love. We came all the way here and I want the kids to be in familiar territory.” She crossed her arms over her chest now and looked down. “Our whole life was there. Everything we loved and all of that is gone now. We need something that’s at least…somewhat familiar. Besides,” she looked over to Renee with a small smile and said, “John says out at Victor’s place he feels like he’s going to drown with all the humidity.”

The two women looked up at the sudden sound of three shots that exploded in quick succession. Down the street, Marshall and James were standing near three dead zombies. Marshall yelled something they couldn’t hear, and John waved his hand out of the second story window of a house.

Victor and James worked well together. After the second house, James had the routine down pat and Victor let him take the lead on the third. James stood in front of the door and knocked hard. The two men stood silently and listened for any sign of movement. Victor backed up a step to try and catch a glimpse of anything inside the porch window, but everything seemed clear. Victor nodded to him, and James opened the door. The two men instantly knew something was wrong. The second James opened the door, the stench hit both men like a brick to the face.

“There’s gotta be a bunch inside,” said Victor, suppressing a gag. He had pulled his shirt up over his nose. “I’ve never smelled anything that strong. Keep your wits about you.”

“I know that smell,” said James. “I smelt it in a petrol station. Musta had forty zeds in it.”

The two men waded into the house, warily checking every corner, doorway, closet, and kitchen. When they finally opened the door to the basement, they found what must have been the entire population of the town milling about. Taped to the door was a note:

The situation is dire
We have no food. We lost water when the power went out.
It has been six days without water and we are dying.
We are desperate. The only way we can preserve our bodies and return to Your service is to infect ourselves.
When Max arrives, He will save us, smiting the evil from our bodies and returning us to glory
We will spend the rest of our lives spreading the word of Max.
I have sealed these people in this basement with one of the minions of the Evil Father Victor Tookes, so that they may be preserved until The Savior arrives, and moved on to spread the Gospel.

In the service of Max, Nathaniel Rotelle.

“Oh shit,” said Victor, frozen in his tracks.

5.02 Gander Acres part 2

Kris only heard the tail-end of a conversation as she was coming up the stairs.  “Markus, I know you think you can do this.  But I swear to God, you’ll be more of a pain in the ass than an asset.  You can hardly walk for pete’s sake.”

“Alicia, come on.  I can do this.”

“Bull shit.  You’re sitting this one out and that’s the last I’m going to say about it.”

“Jesus Christ, Alicia.  I’m–”

“Markus, stop being a prick and just listen to me for once in your life!”

As Kris peered around the corner, the brother and sister were standing across from each other.  Even though Markus now stood a foot and a half taller than Alicia, she did not back down.  Having been a US Marshall, she was used to making herself appear to be the largest person in the room.  Although it was almost comical to watch the big man versus the petite woman, there was no doubt who would win this argument.  The two of them continued to yell at each other.  Alicia’s hand gestures were getting increasingly more and more dramatic and Kris knew she had to interject.

“She’s right, Markus,” Kris said from the doorway.  “I know you think you can help but for fuck’s sake, please listen to her.  We don’t have time for this.  You’re staying, even if I have to hold you here.”

“Hold me?” He said, walking over to her.  “Have you seen me?”

“Yeah, I have,” she replied, placing a hand on his upper arm, “But I can still lock your stubborn ass down.”

Markus started to laugh but before he got the chance, Alicia disappeared and then reappeared behind her brother.  She placed her hand on Markus as well and in a swirl of chilly darkness, Alicia transported the three of them out of the house and to the opposite side of the farm.  She was only there long enough to drop Kris and Markus off before disappearing again.

Alicia had dropped them off one of the spring houses on the property.  She had chosen the one that was farther away from the house and the battle.  The stones had all been hand-laid by Riley’s grandfather decades ago and even so, the small building was in excellent condition.  Of the three spring houses on the property, this one was the least used.    There was no furniture inside the single-room, save a couple of sections of an old tree trunk that were roughly the right height for sitting on.  The spring bubbled up through the stone floor, creating a small pond right in the middle, before flowing out a channel built into the middle of the floor.  The air inside the small building was almost chilly and Kris wrapped her arms around her body and sat down on one of the small retaining walls.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” Markus said throwing his head back.  He sighed heavily and began limping over to the doorway of the little house.  “I’m going to fight.”

“No, you’re not,” Kris said.  She tilted her head to the side and threw her dome across the floor and over to the door.  She pulled it taut across the opening, making sure to seal the edges.  He tried to take another step, and ran into the dome.

Markus drew his fist back and slammed it into the shield.  Kris felt her brain vibrate with the force of the blow.  He pounded on the shield over and over, lighting Kris’s brain on fire.  She wasn’t about to let him win, no matter how strong he was.

She sealed the dome to the floor, and whispered as softly as she could, “Keep on goin’, big man.  I’ll be here all day.” She trailed off and watched Markus closely.  He was hell bent on getting out.  He hated not being next to his sister, especially now that an attack was imminent.  Knowing the land as well as he did would have been a huge asset and Markus refused to believe that he would have been nothing but a help to his sister.  And now that she had gotten her way without a fair fight, he was angry.

Markus continued to beat on the inside of the shield for a full thirty seconds while Kris’s message bounced around, reverberating and gaining volume.  She had separated the dome for only a moment to create a second barrier around her own ears; she knew how loud it would get.

The strength of the sound continued to grow and as it did, Markus’s speed dramatically slowed down.  The large man shook his head, trying to ignore the pressure building inside his ears.  Before long, he brought his hands up to cover his ears and he was grimacing in pain.  Markus slowly sank to his knees, resigning himself to his fate. “Stop,” he muttered.  He took a breath and then yelled, “Kris, stop!”

As the words exploded from his mouth, Kris collapsed the dome.  In a second, she snuffed out all of the sound that was reverberating inside the small house.  Moments later, the soft sounds of the woods and the gentle trickle of the spring filtered back into the air.  Kris’s eyes never left Markus but she continued to maintain a look of neutral indifference.  The man stayed on his knees and sighed again.  Glancing over his shoulder, he met Kris’s gaze.

“You weren’t kidding,” he said simply.

Kris shook her head. “No, I wasn’t.”

“Alicia was telling me about what happened in Atlanta.  Is that what…” his voice trailed off.  Markus didn’t need to finish his thought – Kris already knew what he was going to say.

“Something like that, yeah.”

“Fuck me,” he muttered with a look of slight bewilderment on his face.  He pushed himself up off of the floor and as he stood, a grimace of pain flickered across his face. “Man, just trying to get the hell outta here wiped me out.  Maybe Alicia was right.”  He looked over to Kris and smiled weakly.  “But don’t tell her I said that.”

Kris laughed and said, “We’ll keep it between you and me.”  She patted the stones next to her and said, “Come on.  Sit next to me.  Alicia would kill both our asses if something else happened to you.”

“You have no idea,” he replied with a laugh.

____________________________________

Martin and Neil took off on the two tractors heading towards the oncoming horde of zombies.  When the they were about twenty feet away, Martin slowed dramatically and turned left.  At the same time, Neil sped up, pushing his tractor to its maximum speed.  The wire caught the outer edge of the zombies at waist height, and dragged them inward.  Neil arced around the walking dead, and then rocketed down through the middle, closing the loop.  He slowed down to match Martin’s speed as the two tractors dragged a hundred zombies towards one of the pits Joey had dug.

“It’s not gonna hold ‘em all,” yelled Martin over the sound of the two tractors.

“It’ll hold em’,” yelled Neil.  “It has to.  We can gather up the stragglers later.”

The two men dragged their haul of zombies into a pit where they separated the tractors and raked them in with the line.  Martin circled around and reset beside Neil, and the two of them started over.

“This time you take the outside.  You’re gonna have to gun the hell outta that tractor to keep up.”

“I know how this works, Neil,” said Martin.  “Joey!  Watch your ass; there’s a few stragglers.”

Joey hefted a spear over his head, and charged one of the few zombies that managed to avoid being dragged into the pit.

“I got ‘em Mart,” he yelled.

The two tractors rocketed off, repeating the same maneuver and dragged the rest of the horde into the pit.  When they were done, the two men parked their tractors and walked over towards where Joey was spearing zombies.

“It’s like fishin’ in a barrel, Neil,” Joey exclaimed with a broad smile on his face.

Neil patted Joey gently on his shoulder and then said.  “It was too easy.” He looked to Martin now.  “Did that feel right to you? There’s gotta be somethin’ else going on here,” said Neil as he speared a zombie through the top of the skull.  Something off to his left caught his attention.  It was pitch black now and a small sliver of moon barely lit the landscape.  On the ridge, silhouetted against the thin moonlight, were two lumps that shouldn’t be there.

“Joey, there’s two on the ridge watching us,” Neil said after several minutes of watching them.  “They’re not doing anything, they’re just laying there.  One of ‘em just moved his head, otherwise I mighta missed ‘em.” The older man pushed the brim of his baseball hat up off of his forehead, deep in thought. “Whaddya think they’re up to?”

“Looks like they’re fixin’ to start somethin.  No way to know.”  The younger man shrugged.  “Weren’t no other zombies anywhere ‘round when I was scoutin’.  We got em all, Neil.”  Joey pointed behind the older man.  “Watch behind ya.  One comin’ up.”

Neil spun.  With a grunt, he speared the zombie through the face, then put his foot on its chest to pull the spear out.  He couldn’t shake the feeling that this was way too easy.  Were the two smart ones sizing them up?

Alicia spoke from behind Neil.  “Is it just the two of them?”

Neil jumped in surprise.  “Holy shit.. err… crap, Alicia.  When did you get back?” Neil asked quietly.  “Sorry ‘bout my language.  And yea, just two of ‘em.”

He heard her chuckle softly, but she didn’t reappear. “No problem Neil.  You guys handle these.  You’re doing an awesome job,” she put her hand on Neil’s shoulder.  It was like a ghost was touching him.  “I’ll go take care of the two supers.”

Neil heard Alicia’s holster click, and then her heard her work the slide, chambering a round.

“Alicia, I gotta tell ya.  This whole “invisible” thing is weird,” said Neil spearing another zombie in the hole.

“Sorry, Neil.  I don’t want them to know I’m coming.  You three be safe,” she said.  She lifted her hand from his shoulder and left the three men.

Alicia ran up the hill as fast as she could, cloaked in her invisibility.  She knew nothing could see her.  ‘Other than Kris,’ she thought to herself.  Kris was such a mystery to her but on the other hand, she’d never known someone so well.  Their minds had been merged not once, but twice.  Kris’s mind was elegant, if slightly disorganized.  She was the most beautiful person Alicia had ever known.  Ever since she was 16, Alicia had openly acknowledged that she was attracted to women but there was something about Kris that was different.  It was more than just a physical attraction; she adored what she saw in her heart.  But then again, the way she bit her bottom lip was so…  ‘Snap out of it Gander.  Focus on the job,’ she thought to herself.

The lone woman reached the top of the ridge, where she paused for a second.  Two zombies were laying prone, watching the three men by the pit work.  She raised her gun and drew a bead on the first one.  She let out a slow breath as she squeezed the trigger.  Between the time she started to exhale and the time she squeezed the trigger, both zombies were on her with their hands at her throat.

“Shit,” croaked Alicia.  The blonde to her right was her first target.  She kicked him in the leg, then squirmed sideways and dropped to the ground.  She helicoptered her legs, spinning on her back so fast her legs were a blur, in an attempt to sweep their legs out from under them.  Both zombies leapt high into the air, dodging her kicks.  They landed squarely on their feet as Alicia threw her legs upward and flipped herself onto her toes.  She extended her arm, and pointed at the dark haired one.  “You’re done.”

Alicia sized them both up.  They had some skill, but she’d been top of her class in hand to hand combat, and her Krav Maga was better than the academy instructors.  They were faster than she was, but she’d fought faster.  The way she saw it, she just had to wait and bait them a little.

The woman decided to play with them a little bit.  She grinned and asked, “You just gonna stand there?”

In perfect unison, the two of them split and circled around her.  They came from both sides at once.  The two men moved so fast that they were a blur.  She dropped to her knees and brought her fists upwards, catching both zombies in the groin.  ‘Stupid,’ she thought to herself.  ‘They have no use for those.’

The two zombies brought their knees together, smashing Alicia’s head between them.  The force of the blow made the woman see stars.  Out of reflex, she wrapped her arms around their legs, and somersaulted backwards.  As she moved, she twisted their legs and brought the two of them to the ground with her.  She released one, rolled over sideways and scrunched her body up, breaking the leg she had in her hands.  “That’ll slow you down,” she said, bringing her heal up to smash it into his face.  As she did, she drew the KA-BAR knife from the small of her back.  As she knew he would, the second zombie caught her heel.  The moment she felt that pressure on her foot, she lunged forward and drove the knife into its nose.

The zombie with the broken leg screamed “No!” as she did, but it was too late.  The blade penetrated the soft bones of the first zombie’s face, into the brain.  The blonde zombie fell, dead, and Alicia jumped to her feet.  She’d twisted the dark haired zombie’s leg up pretty well; he was a little slower getting to his feet.  She wasted no time and drove her knife into his shoulder, severing the ligament that controlled the arm.

Alicia stepped back to catch her breath, knowing he was using the time to repair his leg and shoulder, but she needed a second to get her head.  He was enraged, and had to be worried about how this fight was going to end.  In less time than Alicia expected, he lunged forward, driving a huge fist into her nose.  At the same time, he simultaneously kicked the inside of her thigh with the leg that had just been broken.  He wasted no time, spinning and driving his foot solidly into her chest, knocking the wind out of her.

Alicia rolled over backwards and got to her feet, slightly dazed.  The zombie closed the distance, launching another punch towards her already broken nose.  Through the blood in her eye, she managed to bring her knife upward at the last second, driving the knife point-up through his arm at the base of his elbow.  The knife-thrust stopped most of the energy of the punch, but he still connected with her nose, causing a fresh geyser of blood.

The zombie pulled his arm back, splitting it wide open.  When the blade hit his wrist, Alicia twisted the blade, dislocating all the tiny bones in his wrist.  “Heal that, fucker,” she said as she reached around grabbing his shredded arm.  She stuck her fingers inside the slice she’d just created, wrapped them around his radius bone and yanked it fully out of his arm.  Without missing a beat, she used drove his arm bone into his eye socket and left him wobbling on his feet, dead again.  It was a full second before the corpse hit the ground.

4.05 Departure

Victor stood just inside the doorway leaning on the shopping cart, trying to puzzle everything out. Leeland stood on the front side of the cart where he’d dragged it inside the door. A few seconds later, Mother Rotelle walked in, set her rifle barrel up in the umbrella tree, and looked at the groceries.

“That seems like way more than I asked for, Victor,” she said.

“Well Mrs. Rotelle, I didn’t want you to run out, and I wasn’t able to get everything on the list. But, now I see how you were able to survive this long by yourselves.”

“How’s that deary? Survive what,” she asked.

Leeland looked puzzled at the entire conversation.

“You shoot as well as my friend John. And Leeland, do you often end up places and not know how you got there?”

“No, never,” Leeland replied.

Victor decided not to push any farther. Either they were both firmly entrenched in their dementia, or they were pretending and not going to let go. He liked them and decided to just play along.

“Alright,” Victor said. “Lets get these groceries put away, and then I need to be on my way. I’ve been gone from my son for far too long.”

“Oh, you have a son? What’s his name?”

Victor thought about lying, but he decided against it. He watched for reactions, switching his vision to see their auras. He looked to see what their actions would be. Their auras were as they always were, swirling rainbows of color. Most people’s auras were one solid color, or slashes of different colors. Both Leeland and Mrs. Rotelle’s were always shifting through all of the colors in big swirling patterns. It added weight to his thoughts that they may be suffering from dementia.

“Max,” said Victor.

“That’s a good strong name,” said Leeland. “What was your name again?”

“Victor Tookes, sir. It’s nice to meet you.” No change in either of their auras as he spoke. Either they really didn’t remember their dinner conversation or they just didn’t care, Victor couldn’t be sure.

He finished putting the groceries away while Mrs. Rotelle made lunch for them. One thing he missed about normal life was regular meals that consisted of more than one thing. Victor was so used to eating whatever food came out of the can he happened to open, even lunch consisting of Spam sandwiches and processed cheese-food were a treat.

When he was finished eating, Victor checked out for a minute in the middle of Leeland’s third telling of the time he arrived at the house just out of the army in the summer of ’53. ‘Kris, are you there?‘ he asked.

Well hot damn, Mr. Tookes! Glad to hear from you again. Ya get a little cooked in Atlanta?” He could hear the smile in her voice and she continued, “That resonance idea was GOLD. I’m out if the hotel and there’s no sign of those pricks that took me. Or Laura.

Great news. Where can I pick you up? I’m in Mobile now.

Moblie? Damn, you work fast. I ran into another group of humans that have a settlement up in Tennessee and I’ve decided to go with them. I honestly think I could help them. And to be honest? I think it’ll be more…normal than the usual bullshit,” she replied.

His heart sank. I really thought after we connected, after we worked so well together she’d reconsider leaving me. I liked Kris a lot.

‘Nothing against you, but I’ve had my fair share of humanity saving.

Kris, if we don’t do it, no one will. We’ll never be safe, we’ll never be able to relax our guard. I’d rather be sitting back at the farm with my mom watching the crops grow too, but this is way bigger than both of us,’ I replied.

I get that. I really do. I’ve been in your head, Tookes. We’re all on the same side. Why can’t I do my own part by helping another group survive?’ She replied. “Besides, if you really need me, all you need to do is ask. You’ll always knows where I am.’

Do what you need to do. If you ever get in trouble, call Max. We’ll be there for you. Stay safe out there, keep your head down and try to find some happiness.’ I said, ending the connection. He tried to shove his anger down into its box. His team was now down two members. How was he supposed to keep them all together? Not that it mattered, he’d do this alone if he had to.

Victor opened his eyes, or rather, refocused them. They’d been open the whole time, staring into space. Leeland was looking at him strangely. “You alright son? Looked like you left us for a while,” he said.

“Oh yea, I’m fine. I was just thinking about getting back to my family. I really need to be going. Leeland, do you know where the east-west train tracks are, up in Montgomery north of here? My family is on a train heading west, and I need to get to the tracks before they pass through here.”

“Oh yea, its about two and a half to Montgomery, but just over the boarder in Louisiana the tracks turn south and run down to Naw’lins. We can be at those tracks in Hattiesburg in under an hour.”

“Would you be willing to drive me to the tracks?” asked Victor.

“Oh, sure. Nothin’ to it. Let me know when you’re ready. Probably gonna have to gas up the truck though,” Leeland said.

“I’ll cover the gas, its the least I can do.”

“That’s a deal then, son. Let me know when you’re ready.”

“I’m ready now, just need to thank you both for your hospitality. I needed this night here,” said Victor.

“It was nothin’ deary, it was our pleasure to have you. Safe travels,” said Mother Rotelle, hugging Victor tightly. She laid her head on his stomach, as she hugged him. Once again he was astounded at how small she was. He hugged her back as best he could.

“It was a pleasure having you with us, son,” said Leeland holding out his hand. Victor took Leeland’s hand for what must have been the twentieth time. Before he could shake his hand, Victor felt the cold of travel surround him. A millisecond later he was shaking Leeland’s hand standing on a rail bed.

“Thanks for the lift,” Victor said. “Be safe when you head home, I don’t want you to doze off like you did on the way up here.”

“Oh, it’s always better when I’m driving. Nell always says I there must be an off switch on my ass that gets tripped when I’m in the passenger seat,” said Leeland turning to walk away. He’d gone about five steps when he yelled back, “Stay safe Victor Tookes.” And then he was gone, leaving only that familiar black mist.

Victor looked around. He was standing at an intersection where a small road crossed the train tracks. There weren’t any buildings in site. He was surrounded by hay fields. There weren’t even crossing gates at the intersection, just a diamond shaped sign facing away from Victor about a hundred yards up the road in either direction.

Victor slowly got down on his knees near the train tracks and put his ear to the steel. It had always worked in the old cowboy movies, but he couldn’t hear anything on the tracks. ‘Maybe they are still too far away,’ Victor thought to himself. He turned around and sat down on his backpack. It was a little lumpy, but far better than sitting on the road. He sat for the better part of an hour, getting up to listen to the tracks every ten minutes. He started to worry, which lead him to thinking about Kris leaving the group. That lead into Leo leaving, and that lead to Victor getting angry.

Like always, Victor shoved his anger down into a box specifically built in his brain to handle excessive and unnecessary emotion. A box he kept promising he’d open one day, and deal with. For now he needed to be busy, so he strapped his pack on his back and struck off up the road towards the nearest farmhouse. The house was up on a small rise, about half a mile from the tracks. It was the only thing he could see from where Leeland had dropped him off, so that was the target. He told himself it was to get out of the cold. It couldn’t be more than a few degrees above freezing. Victor was wearing lots of layers, but the constant breeze was blowing right through them all.

It took him about fifteen minutes to walk to the house. He moved slowly and deliberately, walking down the middle of the road looking through the tall grass for any sign of the undead. When he got to the house, he looked it over thoroughly. It was old, probably antebellum, although Victor was no expert on architecture. The wooden siding had once been painted white, although now it was mostly gray weathered wood with white flecks of paint. The shutters were still mostly black, and the tin roof looked like it had been painted within the last several years. It had a huge bi-level porch that wrapped around three sides of the house. On the back was a small addition, probably a wash room or a laundry room.

Victor slowly stepped up on to the front porch, trying to avoid stray creaks that a porch this old was bound to have. He failed miserably at that task. The porch creaked with every step. The whole area was eerily silent, there were no birds, no crickets, no grasshoppers chirping. It sounded like his footsteps carried for miles. That should have struck him as odd, but he was concentrating all of his energy on listening to the inside of the house. The front door was unlocked, and opened easily. The inside of the house was dark, and it took his eyes a couple of seconds to adjust from the bright sunlight outside.

Sitting in an ancient wingback chair in the middle of the parlor to his left was Joshua Frye. In one smoothe motion Victor pulled his gun and fired two shots. his aim was true, but Frye was surrounded by some sort of shield. Frye still had an aura, and hadn’t ever let on that he was a super.

“I told you he’d shoot first,” said Frye.