I have the great pleasure of hosting Melanie Karsak on the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour. Her book “The Harvesting” is Available for Purchase Here. She has offered us the first three chapters, which is a huge sample of the book.
I have the great pleasure of hosting Melanie Karsak on the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour. Her book “The Harvesting” is Available for Purchase Here. She has offered us the first three chapters, which is a huge sample of the book.
The men drove Nyko and his crew to the warehouse they’d designated as their train station and left immediately leaving the six men in the parking lot. Jonas started to the warehouse, and Nyko called, “Hang on a sec, J.”
Jonas came walking back. “What’s up, boss?”
“We’ve been gone for a while. They’ve had all that time to work the building and our train over. No talking about anything until we’ve had a chance to go over that train with a fine-tooth comb and make sure it’s not bugged. Check the warehouse first then work the train. We have twenty-four hours to get her ready, make sure no one’s listening.”
Sometime around the sixteen hour mark, in the desolate white room, Nyko realized he had to pee. In an attempt to take his mind off of the urgency, he started planning.
“What do we have for assets,” he said, breaking the long silence in the room.
“My skills,” said Jonas.
“We’re a strong force,” Said Derrick.
Nyko laughed. “My brains, your strength and his skill versus sixty men. If only I had a holocaust cloak.”
The men stared at him blankly as Nyko laughed out loud. “Come on,” he said, wiping tears from his eyes. “The Princess Bride?” More blank stares. “Fuck all of you, that shit was funny.”
The Evolution of Vaughn is a work set in the same universe as What Zombies Fear, but hundreds of years in the future. Several key players from What Zombies Fear make appearances, including the E’Clei. If you have read that series, you will pick up on some of the Easter eggs, but having read it is NOT a requirement to fully enjoy this story.
Thanks for reading,
Before we begin. This is sci-fi, and there are often words that you may not recognize. Most of them, like Alcubierre Drive, do mean something, but if you don’t know the science I do try to leave enough contextual clues that it doesn’t matter.
Vaughn and his son Matthew walked across an empty desert of salt and sand. A slight breeze blew from the west. The sun was still an hour from rising, but the blue light reflected from a massive gas-giant that filled a third of the sky illuminated their path. Matthew was almost as tall as his father, both had long, powerfully built legs and a thick torso from hours spent in their gravity chamber.
Vaughn was carrying two fishing poles and a tackle box while his son pulled a small boat on massive balloon-style tires. In the low gravity of their home moon, it wasn’t a difficult task. But on any planet, it was a long walk.
It was a cool morning, but that would change quickly once the sun was up. Vaughn looked back at their tracks in the salty sand. “Do you know why the Fogerians love Humans so much, Matty?”
“No idea,” the teenager said.
Vaughn leapt high into the air, sailing more than five meters up before drifting back to the surface. “When we were a new species, back on our home world, we were the top predator on our planet, even before we had tools. Does that make any sense? We have no claws, dull teeth, and we’re not particularly fast on our two long legs.”
“How did we catch things?”
“We out-endured them,” Vaughn stated. He glanced over his shoulder at his son before continuing. “Our species has stamina unmatched in the galaxy. We can walk for days without stopping. When I was a soldier, I could run two hundred kilometers in a day. Sure, Fogerians are faster than we are. But after four or five kilometers, we’ll catch them when they have to stop to rest.”
“Two hundred kilometers in a day? Really Dad…” Matthew rolled his eyes.
“One time Uncle Holdan and I covered almost twice that in a day. Although part of the trip was in a transport. And the last fifty kilometers I only had one leg.” Matt snorted in disbelief. “Humans are the endurance champions of the universe,” his father continued. “We are stronger than most races, other than perhaps Geraldinians, but they have to eat every two hours.” Vaughn paused, watching his son’s reaction. “We are relative newcomers to this galaxy. We don’t have a planet of our own anymore, but several planets have allowed us to live on their home-worlds. This makes us second class to many people, but don’t ever let their attitudes convince you that we’re not as good. Every race in the cosmos has its strengths and weaknesses.”
“Is that why you fought the war? To get back at the E’Clei for blowing up our planet?”
Vaughn shook his head. “Nah, that was eons ago, and revenge never solves anything. I fought the war because the E’Clei are a threat to you and Mom. I fought them because they take over your body and turn you into one of them. And because someone had to stop them. If I didn’t volunteer, who would?”
“I don’t wanna go to war. I want to go to Foger and start a restaurant in the Human district. Find a girl, maybe two, and have some adventure.” Matthew said with a smile.
Vaughn laughed. “I’d come eat in your restaurant every day.” A moment passed in silence before Vaughn looked at his son. “I hope you don’t have to go to war. I fought as hard as I could so you wouldn’t have to ever do that. Adventure is overrated. I’ve had my share; I’ll take my normal, quiet life.”
The two approached the edge of the vast ocean that covered the majority of the moon. Vaughn set the tackle box he was carrying in the boat and handed a rod to Matthew. They both climbed up in the boat and cast their rods far out into the ocean.
As they sat, the water rose all around them. Matthew was unhooking his second fish when the boat lifted off the bottom. The pair drifted towards home with the tide, reeling in fish as they talked.
“So, tell me about her,” Vaughn said with a sly smile.
Matty turned red. “Who?”
“The girl you’re talking to. What’s her name?”
“Oh. Uh…Seegu. She’s just a friend.” Matthew practically tripped over the words getting them out.
“I’ve had a few friends that made my cheeks turn that color too. Your mom was one of them.” Vaughn grinned at his son. “Seegu. That’s a Foger name, no? When I was about your age, I had the hugest crush on a Fogerian woman. What do you two talk about?”
“She’s a musician and plays in a gonse band. She’s so talented, Dad. She is talking to a guy who works for a producer. She’s really got a shot.” Any nervousness Matt had melted away as he talked about Seegu.
“Gonse, eh? Like ‘Fong Dolls?’ I dig that one song; what’s it called…”
“Forever Girl. That song’s like six months old.”
“Yeah, Forever Girl.” Vaughn started singing the chorus in an incredibly high falsetto. “Don’t you know, For all eternity, I’ll never go. So come on, let’s give it a whirl… I’ll be, your Forever Girl.”
“What? I’m a pretty good singer.”
“Yeah, but you’re wrecking the song! Now it’s going to be stuck in my head.”
“So what does Seegu sing?”
Matty had a far-away look in his eyes. “Oh, she’s not a singer. She plays the jusuede. She holds four mallets and she’s so fast! It’s really amazing to watch. And I’m pretty sure she can play any song ever written.”
“So,” said Vaughn, not really sure where to start. “You know Humans and Fogerians can’t…uh…Well, even though they look a lot like us on the outside, on the inside we are very different.”
“Dad, it’s not like that at all. We’re just friends.”
“Okay. But this is one of those conversations dads have to have with their sons.”
“Really. Dad… I have signal access. I’ve seen it done.” Matty shifted uncomfortably in his seat and tried to look everywhere except at his father.
“Whoa. Some of the things you see out there… They aren’t how it really is. Some of that stuff they do for the recorders is pretty crazy. Mostly, it’s about two people who love each other coming together. It brings new intimacy to the relationship, and that’s how children are created.”
“Dad, I’m going to swim home…”
“Okay… Fine. But if you ever have any questions, about anything, you know you can ask, right?”
“Sure, Dad. Whatever.”
“I love you Matty. I don’t often tell you this, but my life changed completely when you came into it, and I wouldn’t trade it for all the crench in the world. You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“I love you too, Dad. Can we just fish now?”
Vaughn clapped his son on the back. He opened his mouth to reply, but his vision saw something bug move in the water below. “Shit,” Vaughn muttered, looking over the bow of the boat. “Don’t move. Quiet,” he whispered.
“Yeah, big.” Vaughn slowly reached for his tackle box. They’d seen shrolg before, but Vaughn hadn’t ever seen one this big. They were the apex predator in this ocean. The creatures boasted ten long tentacles with razor sharp tips that reached out from a huge, circular mouth lined with row after row of inward facing teeth. Vibrations in the water attracted their attention; their tentacles had sensors in them that could feel a single drop hitting the surface from half a mile away.
It was close, about four meters away with all of its arms pointing towards the boat. The beast was trying to decide if the boat was random junk floating on the surface or something edible. Vaughn carefully opened his fishing box and removed the tray, gently setting it down. In the bottom of the box, he carried a small ionic plasma gun. He drew the gun and waited. Except for the tips of their tentacles, shrolg meat wasn’t poisonous, but they tasted horrible; there was no reason to kill this one unless it was absolutely necessary.
Suddenly, Vaughn’s comm started vibrating in the bottom of the boat. The tentacles honed in on the vibration, and the shrolg lurched forward, driving its arms up through the bottom of the boat. Letting out a surprised shout, Matthew was thrown overboard.
Vaughn threw the gun to the side and dove into the water, pulling out a long thin bladed knife used for skinning and cutting fish. When he hit the water, one of the tentacles lashed out at him. The creature threw the boat high into the air, scattering its contents across the surface. The number of items hitting the water temporarily disoriented the creature and it let go of Matty to investigate. Vaughn slapped his hands on the water over and over, furthering the shrolg’s disorientation.
“Matty, are you hurt?” he yelled.
“I’m okay. My leg is cut, but it’s not bad.”
Narrowing in on the sound, the creature converged on Vaughn, wrapping him up in its arms. Vaughn hacked furiously at it, severing every tentacle he could.
The massive shrolg pulled him towards its mouth.
Vaughn realized that dismembering the creature wasn’t stopping it. As it drew him closer to its gaping mouth, Vaughn arched backwards and drove his knife into the creature’s head. Instantly, the tentacles went slack.
“Matty, there’s a lot of blood in the water. Other predators will be drawn. We have to swim for it. Can you swim?”
“I can’t feel my leg, Dad!” Matthew was having trouble keeping his head above water. The shrolg’s paralyzing venom was coursing through his son. Soon it would reach his arms, and then Matty would no longer be able to swim.
Vaughn paddled over to the container they used to keep the fish cool in the hot sun. It was large enough to float Matthew. “Hang on, Matty. I’m coming,” he called to his son. “Relax and try to float!”
Vaughn pulled his son up onto the container, looped the carry strap over the teenager and started dragging him towards their home, which was just barely visible in the distance. If he didn’t get there soon, the tide would start going out, and they’d be washed out into the ocean.
“How you doing, bud? You okay? How are your fingers?”
“Okay. I can still feel them.”
Vaughn swam harder. After forty minutes of hard swimming, Vaughn’s feet touched the bottom. He stood and dragged his son out onto the sand. “The venom will pass. It just takes some time but you’re going to feel like hell tomorrow. Just try to relax.”
Vaughn tapped his ear. “Halle, can you connect me to Sarah’s comm?”
“Yes Captain. Are you alright?”
“Vaughn, are you okay?” It was Sarah’s panicked voice now. “How’s Matty? When you didn’t answer my call, I got worried. Why are you calling through Halle?”
“We ran into a shrolg. It’s dead now and everything is fine, but Matty got stung in the leg and we’re on shore. Can you bring a table? I’m going to need some help getting him to the house.”
“I’ll be right there,” she said and disconnected the line.
Minutes later, Sarah approached at a dead run, pushing a floating platform in front of her. Vaughn rolled over in the sand and stood to meet her. “Mom’s here, Matty.”
“Mm sgood,” Matthew replied through numb lips.
Vaughn picked up his son and set him on the table. “Oh, Matty! We need to get you into the house,” Sarah said. “Once we get you dried off, you’ll feel much better.”
The two parents pushed their son back to the house. Vaughn spoke quietly. “I’ve never seen one that big, Sarah, especially not that close to shore. We were only in two or three meters of water. I killed it, but we’ll have to figure out what one so big was doing in the tide.”
Vaughn knew there were massive creatures in the deep ocean, but the speed of the tidal changes and the distance covered by the rising water usually kept them way off shore, where water conditions were more stable and large prey was abundant. The fish that used the tidal surge to feed were usually small, fast moving fish that could get in to feed on the mollusks, clams and plants that lived in the tidal field, and then get out before the tide receded.
“I’ll put off my trip until late tomorrow, but I have to make the delivery,” Vaughn said. “Making sure Matty is okay is more important.”
Sarah turned and put her hand on Vaughn’s face. “It’s just a shrolg sting, Vaughn. Handle your business; we’ll be okay here at home. Matt’s going to be fine.”
Vaughn pulled her tightly to him and kissed her. “I love you, Sarah Troupe. You’re the most amazing woman. You know that, right?”
“I do know that,” she said, between kisses. “I just try to be as amazing as you. You really took out a shrolg with a fillet knife?”
“Don’t mess with my kid,” replied Vaughn, puffing his chest and grinning. “I’ll cut your heart out with a spoon.”
If you’re enjoying The Evolution of Vaughn, and would like to purchase the whole book, it is available on Amazon.
Before you read Chapter 2, I’d like to invite you to like my page on facebook, What Zombies Fear. The link opens in a new window, so you can click it without losing your place here. Facebook is the easiest way to keep abreast of everything going on in the worlds I create, however with their new rules reducing the number of news items you see from a page (it’s now below 10%) it’s still easy to miss something. The most foolproof way to know when a new book comes out is to please sign up for my email list. I promise I won’t spam you. I publish 4 – 5 novels per year, so you’ll get 4 – 5 emails per year.
Now, on with the show, thank you for reading.
After three hours of cleanup, Nyko tossed his keys in his pocket and walked across the concrete floor, through the door to the living quarters. He stopped in his room to wash his hands and face, changed clothes, and got ready for work.
The old familiar sound hit him as soon as he opened the door; a live band was playing on the stage. He vaguely remembered hearing them on the radio back in the day. They were currently singing a song about some girl. Three of his girls were dancing in cages around the bar, slowly grinding around the pole in the center of the cage. From the notes folded up in their garters, they were having a good night. Nyko made a mental note to invite this band back any time.
Behind the bar, Nyko’s favorite girl Charlotte was opening a Miller Lite. He must have ponied up something good; he had half a dozen empties on the bar and Taylor sitting on his lap.
The burly man walked behind his bar. “Hey Charlie,” he said as she came walking over, hips swaying as she strode across the distance. She was wearing a black leather bustier, black lace booty shorts, fishnet stockings and heels. She kissed him on the cheek.
“Hey Nyko. How’s stuff?”
“Not bad. What’s his story,” he said, nodding almost imperceptibly towards the beer drinker.
“Name’s Brad. He turned in five boxes of shotgun shells. I gave him a hundred in credit.”
“How much did we give for the beer he’s drinking?”
“I brought that in. It’s my own brew, just reused Miller light bottles. That’s why I open them for him; I had to find new tops.”
“Charlie, you’re a god damned genius,” said Nyko, grabbing her and twirling her around behind the bar before walking over to Brad.
The man looked up at Nyko. Fear crossed his face momentarily. It was a look Nyko was used to getting; most people found him intimidating. “Hey man, I’m Nyko,” he said, extending his huge paw over the bar.
“Brad,” the customer said.
Taylor looked up from nuzzling Brad’s ear. “Hey Boss.”
“Thanks so much, Brad. Those shells will help a lot. Being outside the wall, we have to worry about those pus covered freaks all the time out here.”
“No problem,” Brad replied. “I’ve been looking for something to get me enough credit to spend a whole day with Taylor.” Taylor winked at Nyko as he spoke, a silent acknowledgement that she was amenable to conducting business with Brad. Had she shook her head, Brad would be out on the street before he finished talking, and if she’d given her boss a high five, Nyko would have shot poor Brad on the spot.
It was a code he’d worked out with Charlotte when the two of them first started the bar, and she’d passed it on to all the girls who were in his employ. Nyko cared about his girls. He genuinely liked all of them, and felt personally responsible for their safety.
Nyko grinned at Brad. That was the best way someone could spend their credits. Taylor was well compensated, but alcohol was hard to come by, especially when he was trying to save most of it for fuel. The train itself was diesel, but the fleet of support vehicles were all gasoline powered. “Brad, any chance you’ll tell me where you found them? I’ll toss in a hot shower tonight and another in the morning.”
“Sure, man. I found them in the trunk of a cop car just outside the wall. They were in the well where the spare tire goes. Whoever looked through that car first must have missed them.”
“Fuck,” Nyko thought to himself. “No more where that came from.”
“Thanks,” He replied. He turned his head and raised his voice. “Charlie, see that Brad here gets a shower tonight and another in the morning.” Taylor nodded her thanks to Nyko. Brad, like most of the people in Vegas smelled horrible. All the girls tried to talk their clients into a shower. Not only was it a luxury, it made their job easier, and allowed them to inspect the prospective client for signs of disease or infection. Condoms were a must, but there were any number of STD’s that could get around a condom, and of course, any sign of The Infection meant immediate ejection from the premises.
Charlotte nodded and Nyko left the bar. As he stepped into the trading post, he nodded to Brian, who was working the door. “Hey Brian.”
“Not bad, boss. How was the run this afternoon? I didn’t get a chance to ask before the attack.”
“Fantastic,” he said as he kept walking. “Picked up a scout truck.”
“That’s fucking awesome, dude.” Brian’s strong southern accent hadn’t faded a bit.
Anyone coming into the bar entered through the store. It was a front showroom, designed to remind people that they needed something. Nyko’s version of putting the candy bars across from the cashier in the grocery store. Tonight, everything in the front was in good order. Shelves all fully stocked, and there was plenty of variety.
Everything Nyko did was done with a purpose. The bar created a need for people to have and a place to spend Nyko’s credits, which were earned by turning goods in to the store. The customers kept bringing him goods to trade for credits, and the girls had access to all the secrets of New Vegas.
The Governor of New Vegas, a little squirrely man called Jim Ratton had made a career of trying to shut Nyko down publicly, while making full use of the services he offered in private. Nyko was reasonably certain Jim was in the back getting his little dick sucked by Remmy at that exact moment.
When Ratton was done, laying back on one of Nyko’s feather pillows and smoking one of Nyko’s cigarettes, Remmy would steer the conversation towards what was going on in the political spectrum. Remmy was so deft, he just thought she was a good listener.
Satisfied that everything was in order in his establishment, Nyko went back to his apartment to prepare for the night’s activities. He donned heavy black leather pants, a black tee shirt, and a black leather vest. Over that, he slid his leather motorcycle jacket on. Inside the jacket, he kept a small caliber pistol under each arm and in a last minute decision, strapped his short barreled shotgun around his waist and tied the strap around his leg.
He slipped quietly down the back stairs and straddled his motorcycle, a custom 1992 Harley Davidson dresser, painted flat black with gloss flames that you could only see when the light hit them just right. He fired his bike up and rode off into the night, away from New Vegas, away from the din, and away from people.
Along the length of the wall, a multi-colored shield rose up, slowly at first, then faster, until it met in the middle directly over the manor house, two miles inside the wall.
“What the hell is that, Max?” asked Marshall.
“I learned it from Miss Kris. I thought the people would feel better if they could see the shield. I’ve been keeping it over the town since I was a kid, I just figured out how to make it visible to everyone.”
Renee looked up over her head, then towards the middle of town, before asking, “Can the zombies see it?”
“They could always see it. Well, they could feel it. It sends them away, makes them not want to come here,” said Max. “The visible part is the only difference. I thought it might give the supers something to think about.”
“Does your Dad know about it?” Renee asked.
“No,” said Max. “You know Dad. Better to ask forgiveness than permission, right?”
Renee grinned. Her nephew sounded exactly like his father. “Let’s get back to the house.” She was down the ladder in a flash. Marshall and Max watched the grass sway as Renee ran through the waist-high field on the inside of the wall.
“Reggie? You coming?” Max asked, holding his hand out. Reggie took one hand, and Marshall the other. Milliseconds later they appeared on the lawn of the house.
“Something’s not right,” Steve said inside Max’s head.
“I know. I think it might be the dome,” thought Max. “It’s like the world outside doesn’t exist. I kind of like it.”
Renee was there seconds later, having run the two miles from the wall. “I didn’t see anything on my way here,” she said when she came to a stop. Whenever Renee stopped from top speed, there was always a backlash, as if she was outrunning the wind. When she finally stopped it caught up to her, blowing her hair forward. She calmly smoothed her short hair back down before continuing, “Let’s get inside and check on Mom.”
Inside the house was utter chaos. Men were running back and forth between rooms, guns held low, making sure that each room was safe. Shouts of “Clear!” came from everywhere. Max went straight for the library, where two men stood on either side of the door with assault rifles pointed down.
“What’s the code, Max?” The first one asked.
“Alpha six four two…” His voice dropped and then reluctantly added, “Maxmonster,” said Max, turning red. His father would embarrass him to death one day.
The two men stepped aside, “Glad to see you’re okay, Max. Did you make this dome? Everyone’s freaking out.”
“Yeah. I wanted people to see that they were safe. Is the house clear?” replied the boy.
The man who asked for the code nodded to Max as he spoke into the radio on his shoulder. “All clear. The dome is friendly, repeat dome created by Paladin.”
Max turned eighteen more shades of red hearing his radio nickname. That one had been created by Jimmy, the head of house security. Max’s father was Renegade, and his grandmother was Evergreen. He opened the door to the library and stepped inside. His grandmother was reading a book, when she looked up and saw her grandson a single tear fell from her eye. Sharon quickly hid it with a scratch of her face as Max stepped towards her and hugged her. “I’m glad you’re okay, Gramma. The house is clear and we’re mopping up the grounds. We held them off. Have you seen Dad?”
“Last report was that he was passed out in the barn. I’m sure people are starving,” she said. “Children, lets go finish making supper. By the time we’re finished they’ll have all this mess cleared up and we can eat supper! Who’s hungry?”
All the kids let out a unanimous “Me!” as they raised their hands.
“I’m going to the barn then. I need to find Dad.”
“Max, wait.” said Sharon, causing Max to turn back around. “Use the door.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” said Max sheepishly. He stepped through the door of the library, down the short hall and out into the back garden before he disappeared.
Sharon took the two youngest children by the hand, looked down at them and said “Let’s go make something yummy. We’ll show those meanies out there that we’re not afraid. We’re going right back to our life, because they can’t hurt us, can they?”
“Not wif Max watching us,” said the little girl plainly. It was clearly a line little Jane Thomas had heard her parents say a number of times.
“That’s right. We have so many people keeping us safe. And now we need to go show them that we love them, and we are grateful for their hard work keeping us safe.” She shepherded all the children into the kitchen, where they finished up the evening meal. Sharon put the older children in charge of the younger ones, and gave them all a dozen cupcakes to decorate.
Inside the barn, Max appeared in the loft. “Your Dad just left,” three people said from all around him in unison.
He grimaced. “Any idea where he went?”
“He took Kris. Said he had to get her away from the farm. He didn’t say where he was going, or how he was gong to get there. He looked pretty rough,” said Addy Madison, Max’s old teacher. Miss Madison taught fifth through twelfth grades at the school.
“Thanks, I’ll see if I can find him. It’s a little weird that I can’t.”
Thousands of miles away, Kris was vaguely aware that time had passed. There was soft, warm sand between her fingertips. Just outside her consciousness, she heard the familiar sound of crashing waves and the sharp cries of distant seagulls. Jeff would be walking down the dune at any moment with a cooler full of Sam Adam’s Summer Ale in his hand. Kris hit the beach early that day and had every intention of taking full advantage of her day off. She sighed lightly and moved her arm to rest under her neck. The sun felt good on her skin and she realized it had been a long time since she was at the beach. She had been working so hard lately she just hadn’t had the time…
In the back of her mind, there was a nagging feeling that something wasn’t right – something had changed. But she was absolutely on a beach. She was certain of that.
Keeping her eyes closed in the sunlight, she pursed her lips together and tried to recall the last time she had been on a beach. After all, Tennessee didn’t have beaches and Gander Acres was always so busy, she and Alicia never had the time to…
She remembered Alicia laying on the ground, her body limp, her face bruised and bloody with a bullet through her skull. Lifeless. Never to look at her and whisper “I love you.” Her eyes snapped open and she sat up with a start as the memory returned to her. Fresh tears were rolling down her cheeks and she wrapped her arms around herself and began to sob.
“Kris,” began Victor.
“Stop, Vic. Just…stop,” she whispered through tears. “Why did you stop me? I didn’t want this. I didn’t want–” Tears took her again and she buried her face back into her arms.
“I had no right. I just had need, Kris. These fucking zombies have to pay. Then you can die. But not until you’ve extracted every ounce of vengeance from them. Not until they pay, Kris.”
She was quiet for a long time, thinking carefully about his words. “Haven’t I already paid enough?”
“None of us has paid more than you, except maybe John. He lost his wife, brother, friends, and five of his seven kids. I lost a wife, but have been very very lucky. Max, Marshall, Renee, and my mom are still with me. How much more are any of us going to pay?”
She shook her head but avoided the question. “We planned the farm so perfectly. I mean…it wasn’t flawless but it was damn near.” Kris looked over to him finally. “I never thought that other humans would have been our downfall. What kind of sick fuck betrays humanity to the zeds?” Kris trailed off, like she wasn’t talking to anyone in particular. Or maybe she was just talking to herself. Victor sat quietly and let her get it out. “And then they just…killed them like they were nothing. Stole Alicia from under me and I missed it. Missed it all. I didn’t even get to tell her I loved her.” She choked back another sob and then glanced over to Victor with big, tearful eyes.
“Everyone who ever saw you two knew you loved her. Just as we all know how much she loved you. You know in your heart she loved you, right?”
Kris nodded but didn’t reply, as Victor continued, “She died knowing how much you loved her. I know we’d all like to tell our loved ones how much we love them one last time, but she knew, Kris.”
“I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do. I’m so fucking angry. I don’t know if I’m safe to be around. I can barely handle my shit right now.”
“That’s why we’re on a deserted island somewhere in the Florida Keys. That’s why I’m here.”
“Was punching me out self serving? Because it hurt like some bitch. Hope it was worth it.”
“I couldn’t think of any other way to make you stop. You were beyond words. Kris, I’ve always been straight with you. I may not have always fully explained myself, but I never lied. I need you. I need what you can do, and I need your anger. I need your power. But I waded into that inferno you created, because I care about you.”
“My power?” She scoffed. “My…insanity?” Kris was standing now and her voice was hollow like before. “You mean this?” She shouted the last word and immediately threw a shield around herself and rapidly pushed it outward. It caught her voice and magnified it over and over again until the entire island was covered. The strength and force of the trapped vibrations was stirring up the island. The sand was pressing down against the ground and all of the palm trees seemed to shrink under the weight. As she pinched the sound, she felt the vibrations permeate the trees, the sand and the ocean and fill all of the open gaps in their structural makeup. All of the palm trees began to shiver and then abruptly explode and break apart, throwing ash into the swirling air. The ocean was boiling 100 feet away from the shore and Victor could see the bodies of a few fish floating belly-up in the water.
Kris only saw red no matter where she looked and screamed until her throat gave out. And she cried. “I amplify everything, Vic.” She wailed. “When things are good, it’s amazing but when things are bad, everything is so much worse. I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore. I’m not safe. I just–”
Victor drew her in close, hugging her tightly. He pushed his aura around her, enveloping her in his calm. He sealed everything out, all the noise he could. It had a much more profound effect than he anticipated. She slumped against him, sobbing.
“Oh my god,” she said between sobs. “It’s all gone. It’s normal again. Quiet like before I got bit. I can…breathe.” Kris pulled back from Victor and locked eyes with him. “Why did you do that?”
“Friends help each other, Kris. It’s the best part of humanity. It’s why we deserve to live, and they need to die.”
Her eyes narrowed and then she nodded slowly. “You’re right. Fuck them all.”
“When I let go it’s going to come roaring back, are you ready?”
“Can it last another minute,” she asked. “I forgot how silence feels.”
Victor pressed his palms to his temples and said, “I’ll hold it as long as I can, but I haven’t stopped in days. My head feels like it’s in a vice. It took me three stops to get here.”
“I hope I’ll be less weight this round.” She took a deep breath. “Okay – I’m ready.”
Victor held the shield for several minutes longer, giving her as much peace as he could. His vision started to blur. “I have to let go now.”
She nodded. “Okay. Do it,” She said, but it was already gone. The sound of the surf was roaring in her brain, she could hear crabs scraping along the rocks on the reef, and the ash from exploded palm trees hitting the sand. His heartbeat was slow, but the sound was intense and strong. It was the sound of humanity and of life. It gave her new focus, keeping the fiery rage at bay. “Let’s go fuck ‘em up.”
“I love the attitude, but I haven’t really slept in three days. Mentally, I’m toast. I don’t think I could teleport myself to the bathroom.”