Friday, July 18, 2014
IN THE FLESH: PART SEVEN
Carson Ryder: Former Marine/Former police officer/Has retrograde amnesia/Searching for clues to his past
Damien Albright: Found and saved Carson/Has no family/Doesn’t seem to care about anything
Kenny Sudrow: Former spa porter/Happy to be doing something else
Trevor Virden: Former comic book store owner/His knowledge of useless facts is limitless
Janice Whitfield: Four months pregnant/Wife of Regis Whitfield
Chuckie Razzano: His only concern is his Rolex and his hair gel
Chase Crawford: Religious zealot/Loner/Keeps to himself
Willard Pickman: Scientist/Worked for the C.D.C./Knows of a cure
Brent Blaze: Mall survivor/Former police officer
Ally Burton: Mall survivor/Sister of Eli Burton
Eli Burton: Mall survivor/Brother of Ally Burton
Vern Sheldon: New ally/Drives a box truck/Carries a badass flamethrower
Arnold Vesti: Biters got him
Regis Whitfield: Biters got him
Devin Morris: Strangled in his sleep
Darren Mays: Shot by Damien Albright/Claimed that Carson arrested him at one point
IN THE FLESH
DEATH COMES KNOCKING
Trevor had drunk five shots of Southern Comfort and two Budweiser’s. Then he proceeded to make a complete ass of himself. When he woke up on Friday, September 13, 2013, with his temples throbbing and red smears on his collar that he deduced as lipstick, he just assumed these were the signs of a good night.
The whole evening had been a drunken blur to him. It was a night he’d scarcely remember, until later that day when Kenny “Squeak” Sudrow would refresh his memory and remind him just what a fool he had made of himself.
But before all that, he glanced at the alarm clock and saw it was eleven. He was supposed to open the comic book store at ten, but he was pretty sure he had told Devin Morris to open for him that morning.
He didn’t realize how dehydrated he was until he tried to clear his dry throat and it sounded like a frog was lodged deep in his esophagus.
Rolling out of bed, he shuffled to the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water. He sipped the water, then set the glass down on the faux marble countertop and massaged his throbbing temples with his index and middle fingers.
From what he recalled, he had drunk twenty-four shots of tequila and made out with at least three different girls. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, he drank five shots and two beers, puked in a dumpster, dry humped a tree, and reenacted William Shatner’s rendition of Rocket Man on karaoke. The red smears he mistook for lipstick were actually ketchup stains from when he conked out at the bar and landed face first in someone’s basket of French fries.
Kenny had arranged a taxi for Trevor and he managed to get home safely. Again, all of this was a blur to a hung over Trevor.
He was going to call the store just to make sure Devin remembered to open, but when he reached for the phone, it started ringing.
“Hello?” Trevor said, lifting the receiver to his ear. He still had a touchtone phone in his kitchen, cord and all.
“Trevor, it’s mom. I’m calling just to make sure you’re all right.”
“I’m fine, mom. How are you?”
“Have you turned on the news today?” his mom inquired.
“Who watches the news nowadays?” Trevor answered her question with a question. “I get all my news from the internet.”
“Well, you better get over to your computer. Some really strange stuff is happening right now. I just called to make sure you’re safe. I want you to be extra careful. Please, Trevor.”
“Ok, mom,” he assured her. Trevor was twenty-seven years old and his mom still managed to make him feel like an undeveloped child that required constant supervision. Though, he supposed she wouldn’t make such a fuss over him if she didn’t care with all her heart. They exchanged goodbyes and they both said I love you before Trevor hung up the phone. Little did Trevor know, that would be the last time he’d speak to his mother again.
A heavyset Trevor waddled to the fridge and snagged a bottle of blue Gatorade from the top shelf. It was the cure for his every hangover. He ripped the cap off with one twist and started quaffing it down. When he finished the bottle, it was 11:15 and he remembered he was supposed to call the store to see if Devin opened up on time.
But when he called, nobody answered the line. The phone just kept ringing and ring. He hung up, dialed Devin’s cell number, and paced back and forth as far as the phone cord allowed him to as he listened to the phone ring and ring. Eventually it went to voicemail and he left Devin a brief message saying, “Where the hell are you? You better be at the shop. I was counting on you to open today.”
Trevor hung the phone up and waddled back over to the fridge, scanning the shelves for another Gatorade and finding none. “I should really just buy them by the case,” Trevor muttered to himself.
He wondered where Devin Morris could be. He considered the possibility that Devin’s first job had called him into work on short notice. The comic book store was not Devin’s regular gig. He just filled in for Trevor from time to time. His main priority was the Best Buy in Levittown, two blocks from Devin’s house.
That’s how Trevor and Devin first met each other. Trevor wandered in looking to satisfy his craving for action movies when Devin suggested The Raid: Redemption.
After that moment, they became instant friends. Trevor would visit the Best Buy all the time just to get movie suggestions from Devin.
An avid horror movie fan, Devin turned Trevor on to many great unknown French and Asian titles that blew most American horror movies out of the water. They’d talk movies for hours, exchange bits of random cinematic trivia, and have lengthy debates over their favorite or least-favorite titles.
A huge Tarantino fan, Trevor was shocked to learn that Devin despised Pulp Fiction. They argued about the film for hours, and when Trevor finally realized he wasn’t going to win, he threw in the towel.
Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, GoodFellas, Desperado, Fight Club. These were the movies Trevor grew up on and loved, in addition to all the horror movies he had digested over the years. He saw Texas Chainsaw Massacre and A Nightmare on Elm Street when he was seven, and had seen the entire Friday The 13th series before he was ten. But his personal favorite was Halloween. That film gave him nightmares for months to come after watching it late one night alone at the age of six. For months following, he’d check his closet and under his bed every night just to be sure Michael Myers wasn’t lying in wait for him.
By the time he ate, showered, and got dressed, it was past noon. His migraine had started to dissipate and he was praising the inventor of Cool Blue Gatorade. He tried phoning the store one more time. Still no answer.
He figured it’d be best if he went down there himself and checked it out. He stepped out the front door, and his mother’s words suddenly filled his head. He realized he had never gone online to check the news his mother was so concerned about. But he remembered her warning to be extra careful.
But outside, everything was calm and tranquil. Birds chirped and tweeted, the sky was clear and blue, and there wasn’t a person in sight. Trevor hadn’t the slightest clue what his mother was so concerned about, but he’d soon find out…
* * *
“Fuck me,” Trevor muttered.
“Vern, where’s the flamethrower?” Carson asked.
“Shit, I left it in the cab,” Vern slapped his palm across his head as if to say stupid me.
“They must’ve smelled the food,” Pickman surmised.
As the Biters crept past the lawn, their numbers became visible. It was dark and they couldn’t see all of them, but Trevor lost count after fifty.
“We need to find something to barricade the windows,” Brent suggested.
“No time,” Damien said as the Biters made their way to the front of the face, pressing their bodies against the glass.
Their chests bloated and distended. The flesh rotting away from their arms, blackened skin peeling from their faces. Among this congregation of the dead, Janice spotted a little girl, the skin missing from the lower half of her face, fully exposing her jaw and bottom row of her red stained teeth. Janice’s heart sank and she turned away, clutching at her belly, thinking of the unborn child that was growing inside of her.
“I don’t think the glass is going to hold them,” Kenny said, taking a few steps back to prepare himself for the inevitable.
Chase Crawford had locked himself in one of the bathrooms and had no intentions of coming out until the worst was over.
As the men scrambled for their weapons and extra rounds of ammunition, the glass couldn’t hold anymore and as it shattered, the mob of Biters began to spill in one-by-one.
Carson Ryder instructed the women, Janice Whitfield and Ally Burton, to seek shelter upstairs. “Lock yourselves in one of the bedrooms and don’t come out until we say the coast is clear.”
The ladies scrambled up the stairs as Damien made sure both of his pistols were fully loaded. Carson had his pistol tucked into his waistband, and cradled in his arms was Arnold Vesti’s Remington shotgun. Brent Blaze had his trusty service revolver, and Trevor and Kenny were both armed with semi-automatic weapons that held fifteen rounds each.
Vern was given a piece, which he tucked into his waistband, instead opting to use the machete that Ryder acquired from their trip to Dorchester.
“Have you two ever fired guns before?” Damien asked Willard Pickman and Chuckie Razzano.
“I’ve never fired a gun before in my life,” Pickman confessed.
“Me neither,” Razzano said, shrugging his thin shoulders.
Damien sighed and shook his head. “Just stand behind us and try not to get in our way. And try not to get bit.”
“Where’s Eli?” Carson asked as he fired the first shot at an impending Biter. He pumped the mechanism of the shotgun and an empty shell popped out from the breech.
“Who cares?” Damien replied as he fired the second and third shots with dual pistols. “As long as the kid stays out of the way. I don’t think the rich boy is cut out for this sort of thing.”
Trevor, Kenny, and Brent opened fire as the looming Biters continued to advance. Vern was on the front lines of the battle, slicing and dicing everything that lurched in his direction. The machete hacked and slashed away, decapitating the Biters with ease.
When he stopped to rest his arm, he counted about twenty headless Biters spread out over the house. His arm was getting tired, but as the Biters continued to crawl and fight their way in, he couldn’t stop. So he drew the pistol from his waistband and started shooting.
As the Biters multiplied in numbers and spread throughout the house, the group was forced to split up to try and combat them.
Trevor and Kenny lost sight of one another when Trevor wandered into the open kitchen and took two Biters down with two deafening shots. He noticed the backdoor had been left open by someone, and as he rushed to close it, he found himself cornered by a group of ten Biters that wandered in from the living room.
He took three of them down with three more shots that echoed through the house. He squeezed the trigger again, but nothing happened. All he heard was a faint clicking sound. The gun was empty. As he fumbled through his pockets for a spare clip, the Biters circled around like sharks in the water.
Just as Trevor retrieved the clip, the little girl that Janice had spotted with the exposed jawline, sank her teeth into his ankle.
Trevor squealed in pain as he stumbled and fell on his back. The Biters proceeded all at once, dropping to skinless knees to get a better grasp on Trevor. He fought for the gun, but with seven Biters tearing, clawing, ripping, gnawing away, he didn’t stand a chance.
As shots rang throughout the house, an unlikely duo of Vern Sheldon and Brent Blaze retreated to the dining room, their backs pressed against the wall.
“Bet you wish you had that flamethrower now,” Brent murmured.
“This isn’t the time for chitchat,” Vern chided. “But if you wanna talk, let’s talk about you putting me behind bars.”
“You were a drug dealer, Vern.”
“I was selling a little pot on the side to support my family. I still held a job, paid my taxes, went to church on Sundays. Why’d you do it? Was it just to make an example of me?”
“I did what the law required me to do. But since the law no longer seems to apply, I see no point in holding grudges. I’m sorry, but I can’t change the past. Friends?” Brent extended his hand and his face expressed a look that begged for forgiveness.
Just as Vern reached out to accept his hand, a stray Biter popped up out of nowhere, sinking its black teeth into Brent’s wrist.
“Fuck!” Brent exclaimed. Vern aimed for the head and blasted a hole right through it. The Biter sank to the floor as Brent applied pressure to the wound to slow the bleeding.
When the dust was settled and the final shots were fired, they had killed over seventy-five Biters. But their victory came at a terrible price. It was Kenny who discovered the mutilated body of his fallen friend in the kitchen. And it was Kenny who took on the horrible task of putting Trevor out of his misery by firing a single bullet into his head, to ensure his friend would never come back as one of those things.
The group gathered in the dining room, where Vern broke the news about Blaze. “You’ve gotta do the right thing,” Brent implored them. “You’ve gotta shoot me in the head. I can’t come back as one of those things. I won’t.”
“Don’t be foolish,” Pickman said. “There’s a cure. There’s still hope for you, even if you turn.”
“I’m not taking my chances on some miracle cure you may never even reach. Just do it, before I lose my nerve.”
Vern approached Brent and rested one hand on his shoulder. He extended the other hand for Brent to shake, and Brent accepted. “Friends,” Vern repeated “And I forgive you. Just as I hope you forgive me.”
Vern raised the pistol the group had supplied him, and one final shot echoed through the halls.
* * *
By morning, the remaining members of the group had moved on. The house was no longer safe, and they had used up all the food supplies they had found in the basement. Carson Ryder took the wheel of the van and Damien Albright, Kenny Sudrow, Chuckie Razzano, and Willard Pickman all piled in.
Janice Whitfield and Chase Crawford opted to ride in the back of Vern Sheldon’s box truck, along with Ally and Eli Burton.
They stopped up the road to regroup and strategize. A vote was held and it was nearly unanimous. The majority voted to pursue the underground lab in Texas. If there was any hope of survival, it rested in that subterranean lair.
“Do we even have enough gasoline to make it to Texas?” Chuckie Razzano asked.
“You can take the Interstate-81 S from New York to Texas,” Vern stated. “We’d have to pass through Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee, and Arkansas. With all the gas we’ve collected, I figure we’ve got enough to make it at least half of the way.”
“That doesn’t sound very reassuring to me,” Ally said.
“What other choice do we have?” Ryder asked. But nobody replied, nobody followed up. The decision had already been made. They were going to press on. They were going to make it to Texas. Or they were going to die trying.
To Be Continued with Part Eight: Helter Shelter