Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Genre: Horror (Zombies)


Carson Ryder: Former marine/Former police officer/Suffers from retrograde amnesia/ Searching for clues to his past
Damien Albright: Found and saved Carson/Was married once/Bad tempered/Doesn’t seem to care at all about family or traditional values
Kenny Sudrow: Youngest member of the group/Former spa porter/Happy to be doing something else/Lost his family to Biters
Eli Burton: Survivor found in Cherrywood Mall/Parents were rich and left him a large inheritance when they died
Vern Sheldon: Used to drive a truck/Lost his family/Carries a bad-ass flamethrower
Valentina Jackson: Tough as nails/Has no fear/Knows how to use a gun
Tyler Reese: A young man who saved Kenny Sudrow’s life/Carries a submachine gun/A native Bostonian/He used to be a mechanic
Taryn Mills: One of the newest members of the group/Little is known about her at this time
Diego Garcia: A ticking time bomb
Nikki Fox: A native of Tennessee/Former registered nurse

By Daniel Skye


Day Two Hundred and Eight.
It had been more than a week since the group had abandoned the Starlight Hotel and the journey to Arkansas had begun. They traveled the Interstate, despite the risk of encountering Biters. And they had encountered more than their share in the days that had passed. But every time their backs were against the wall, they managed to come out of it unscathed.
          The Interstate was cluttered with abandoned vehicles that once belonged to those who fell victim to the hands of the undead. It forced them to travel at a snail’s pace as they had to stop the RV every few minutes to push cars and trucks off to the side of the Interstate.
          At the rate they were going, Carson Ryder figured it would take a months’ time just to reach the border.
          Diego Garcia had been biding his time, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. But the sickness burned his insides, making it feel as if his internal organs had been set ablaze. The pangs in his gut that wouldn’t relent, the voices in his head that he couldn’t silence. It was all too much for Diego to bear.
          It was the sickness that forced him to move plans ahead of schedule.
          The RV had become cramped to such a degree that Tyler Reese, Kenny Sudrow, and Diego had opted to sleep in separate tents that were pitched just a stone’s throw away from the Interstate. It freed up some space in the RV and guaranteed that everybody could get a decent night’s sleep. Someone still had to keep watch, but they worked in shifts so everyone could do their share and also get a bit of rest.
          Vern Sheldon was the first to take watch that evening. And this was just the opportunity that Diego was relying on.
There was a longue chair set up for him outside the RV if his legs got tired, but Vern always preferred to stand while he was kept watch. It helped him stay vigilant.
          And so Vern stood with his .357 Magnum, waiting for any trouble that lurked in the surrounding darkness. His vigilance paid dividends as he heard the footsteps and raised his .357 Magnum, but lowered it as he saw Diego Garcia walk out from the shadows.
          The straight razor was polished and sharpened, ready to hack, slash, and sever any arteries Diego could find under the moonlight. If all else failed, he had a simple backup plan: Go for the throat. Sever the jugular with one quick stroke of the razor let him bleed out in a few short minutes.
          But he couldn’t do it there. Not with Carson, Damien, and the others all within earshot. He needed to lure Vern away from the RV.
          “What are you doing roaming around in the dark?” Vern asked. “I thought you were one of those things. I could’ve shot you.”
          “Lucky for me, you didn’t,” Diego said. “I can’t sleep. I figured I’d come keep you company.”
          “The watch does go faster when you have someone to talk to,” Vern shrugged. “Why the hell not?”
          “So tell me about yourself,” Diego said as he leaned up against the side of the RV. Kenny had used a can of red spray paint he’d been carrying in his knapsack to scrawl across the side. In all capital letters, he’d written: THE DEAD FEAR THE LIVING
          “Not much to tell,” Vern said. “I had a family once, but I lost them. My wife was the first to go. Those Night of the Living Dead wannabes took a chunk out of her forearm. I waited for her to turn before I put her down.”
          “Let’s talk about something a little more cheerful,” Diego suggested. “What’d you do for a living?”
          “I used to drive a truck. I had a CDL and used to drive trucks for Coca Cola, Walmart, CVS, 7-11. But the money was never enough. So I used to sell pot on the side to make ends meet.” A light popped on in Diego’s head. This was the opening he’d been waiting for to lure Vern away.
          “Did you used to smoke?” Diego asked.
          “On occasion,” Vern confessed. “It relaxed me, eased my tension. I sure could use some of that shit right about now.”
          “I have some,” Diego said. “Back at my tent. I’ve been hording it for a while now, saving it for a special occasion. What do you say?”
          “Man, I can’t leave my post,” Vern said, itching the back of his head.
          “You sure? We’ll only be gone a few minutes. It’s better if nobody else knows about it. They might want in.”
          “Ok, you twisted my leg,” Vern said. “Let’s go. Lead the way.”
* * *
          Diego took Vern around in a semi-circle, leading him as far from the RV and the tents as he could without arousing Vern’s suspicion. He couldn’t have anyone hearing the potential screams or sounds of a likely struggle.
          Vern was a big man, six foot three, pushing three hundred pounds. He wasn’t exactly a gym rat in his previous life, but he did have muscle underneath that thick exterior.
          And he still had the .357 Magnum, something Diego knew he wouldn’t be able to persuade him to leave behind. He knew the gun would stay by his side at all times. It was a dangerous new world they lived in, but Diego wasn’t afraid. At that very moment, he knew the Biters didn’t pose the biggest threat to him or Vern. It was Diego himself that Vern had to be afraid of.
          “Where’s your tent?” Vern asked as Diego slowed down to let him walk ahead a bit. He slipped the straight razor from his boot and opened it up. Vern turned just as Diego slashed with the blade, nicking his cheek.
          Blood oozed from the open wound that Vern had no time to address. This was a battle that meant life or death. Vern raised his gun, but Diego slashed again, this time slicing down his forearm and barely missing a main artery.
          Vern winced in pain and dropped his weapon. And he didn’t have time to search around in the dark for it. His only chance for survival was to wrestle that straight razor out of Diego’s hands.
          He came charging like a bull, but Diego was faster and the razor sliced across Vern’s throat with one lightning fast motion. Blood spurted forth in quick jets as Vern collapsed to his knees, gargling out his last words. Words that Diego couldn’t quite decipher. But it was all meaningless. Even if Diego could comprehend what Vern was saying, he’d never be able to share his last words with the group.
          Diego waited until Vern was gone. Then he crept back to his tent, wiping the blood from the razor and concealing it in his boot once again. He unzipped the tent, crawled back inside like a slug on his belly, and sealed the tent back up.
          The voices in his head had quieted. The pangs in his gut had been alleviated. But for how long? How long would the sickness let Diego rest?
* * *
          Damien Albright was a light sleeper. So when it was three A.M. and it came time to switch with Vern and stand guard, he got up and stepped out of the RV, only to find Vern had abandoned his post.
          “Vern,” Damien said as low as a whisper, so as not to disturb the others. “You off taking a piss somewhere?”
          When Damien’s call went disregarded, he said a little louder, “Vern, are you out there?” Still, this attempt to summon Vern had failed.
          Not quite sure what he was up against, Damien drew his .38 pistols from their respective holsters and waited for Sheldon’s return. He counted down the seconds of each passing minute silently in his head. When twenty minutes had passed and Vern had yet to return to his post, Damien had no choice but to summon the others.
          Carson was the first to awake from Damien’s rough nudging. “What is it?” Carson muttered, half asleep.
          “We’ve got a problem,” Damien said, as the others began to stir from their sleep. “Vern’s gone missing. I woke up at three to switch places with him and when I went outside, he was gone. I thought maybe he was taking a leak or something, so I waited. Called his name a few times. He never came back.”
          “Do you think he’s alright?” Nikki Fox asked.
          “I can’t say for sure. His bag is still here. His flamethrower is still in the passenger seat of the RV. He didn’t leave his gun behind. I didn’t see any blood on the road, no signs of a struggle. But it isn’t like him just to wander off.”
          Carson sat up and mashed his knuckles into his eyes and rubbed away all the sleep crust that had formed there. He brushed the blanket off of him and picked himself up off the floor of the RV. “Taryn, do you know how to use a gun?”
          “Are you kidding me? I group up on a survivalist compound. Guns, knives, crossbows, you name it and I know how to use it.”
          “Good. Damien, you go with Taryn and Valentina. Check on Tyler, Kenny, and Diego and make sure no one else is missing. Bring them back here and get ready for anything. Eli, you’ll come with me.”
          “Where?” Eli asked.
          “To look for Vern.”
* * *
          They took their guns and flashlights and went their separate ways. Their flashlights beamed over snapped branches, fallen leaves, and rocks that jutted from the earth. It was less than a quarter mile from the RV where Carson noticed the trail of blood that had poured over the rocks and dry leaf piles. He followed the trail with his flashlight and thirty feet ahead was where they found Vern’s body.
          His throat had been slashed by a sharp, unidentified object. The killer didn’t leave the murder weapon behind.
          “Oh, Vern,” Carson sighed as he kneeled beside his fallen friend. “I’m so sorry. So sorry…”
          Vern’s eyelids fluttered and he sat up. His pupils were gone. His irises had taken over, giving his eyes the gleam of death. It sounded like he was trying to speak, but no words escaped his throat that had been slashed to ribbons. Only terrifying growls and hideous snarling sounds.
          It stumbled to its feet. It had Vern’s face, Vern’s body, but Carson knew this wasn’t his friend. Not anymore. The color had been drained from his skin and the first signs of decomposition had started to set in.
          Carson inched back with Eli following behind him, pumping his Remington shotgun. “Vern, if you can hear me in there, please stay back. I don’t want to be the one who has to put you down.”
          Vern staggered forward, his legs wobbly, his body struggling to regain some sense of coordination. It walked in zigzag-like patterns as it tried to pursue its newly established source of nourishment.
          Its lifeless eyes were focused in on Carson, and the more that Carson inched back, the more that Vern inched forward.
          “Vern, please stay back,” Carson pleaded, his index finger tightening around the trigger. “I don’t want to shoot you.”
          Eli raised the .27 Beretta he’d taken from the stash of guns and urged Carson to duck. Carson dropped to the ground and Eli fired one deafening shot. The slug pierced Vern between the eyes and it was over in seconds.
          “I know you didn’t want to do it,” Eli said. “So I saved you the trouble.”
          “Thanks,” Carson sighed. “He was a great man. I’m sorry to see him go.”
          “Me too,” Eli said. “But we’ve got bigger problems than this. Somebody cut Vern’s throat. Either we’re being watched and hunted, or one of the group did this to him.”
          “You’re right,” Carson said. “Come on. Let’s get going. We’ll talk about this more back at the RV. I don’t even want to think of one of our own perpetrating an act like this. But in today’s world, you can never be too sure.”
How True, Eli thought. How true.
* * *
          The group was waiting for Carson and Eli back at the RV. Damien had taken the women and rounded up Diego, Tyler, and Kenny. They all stood beside the RV, guns in hand. They saw the men approaching with their flashlights and lowered their weapons as Carson stepped forward.
          “He’s dead,” Carson informed the group. “Someone slit his throat. He…he came back. Eli did the right thing. He shot Vern. Spared him from a life of death.”
          “Who…?” Nikki gasped and trailed off. “Who could kill such a sweet, innocent man?”
          “I don’t know,” Carson said. “But somebody did it. And until we find out who, I’m afraid to say that everyone here is a suspect. Everybody, take out your blades. If anyone has a knife, we need to see it.”
          Carson fetched his machete, the hunting knife Damien had parted with, and the pocket knife he kept stashed in his boot for backup and laid them all out in the road. Damien removed his second hunting knife from its sheath and laid it on the ground beside Carson’s blades.
          Taryn didn’t have any weapons aside from the automatic pistol the group had lent her. Valentina did however. She removed a switchblade from her pocket and placed it on the ground.
          “Since when do you have that?” Carson asked her. “I’ve never seen it before.”
          “Well, I’ve never had to use it before,” Valentina explained. “Not with all the guns and ammunition we have. But I’ve had this thing forever. It belonged to my father. He gave it to me on my thirteenth birthday.”
          “That’s one hell of a birthday present,” Tyler chuckled.
          “You got something you want to say?” Valentina asked Tyler. “Just say it.”
          “Hey, I didn’t mean anything by it,” Tyler said. “I was just trying to give the situation a little levity. Sorry for trying to stay positive.”
          “No, I’m sorry,” Valentina muttered. “We’re all very tense right now. I didn’t mean to go off like that.”
          “It’s quite alright,” Tyler assured her.
          “Does anyone else have a knife?” Carson asked.
          “I’ve got a butterfly knife that Trevor Virden gave me before he died,” Kenny said. “But the blade is dull as shit. You couldn’t cut through the stick of warm butter with it.”
          “Let’s see it,” Carson insisted, not taking any chances. Kenny fetched his knapsack and took out the knife, flipping it open. Carson inspected the blade and saw Kenny wasn’t joking. The blade was dull and weak. There was no way you could slit a man’s throat with it.
          He passed the knife back to Kenny and Tyler stepped forward. In his hand, a serrated pocket knife with a blade no longer than the palm of his hand.
          “The submachine gun isn’t enough?” Damien chortled.
          “It’s always good to have a backup weapon, Tyler said in his defense.
          “I can’t argue with that,” Damien said.
          “Anyone else?” Carson said, looking at Diego and Eli. They put their hands out and gestured as if to say “we have nothing.” He glanced over at Nikki, who was trembling slightly.
          “Nikki?” Carson said. “What is it?”
          “I don’t want you to think I did anything bad, so I’ll just show you,” Nikki said. She got her bag from the RV and removed a thick cloth. She unfolded it and in the center, a sharp scalpel.
          “Where’d you get this?” Carson asked her.
          “I told you I was a registered nurse,” Nikki explained. “I took this from the hospital the day the virus started to spread. I needed something to defend myself and I didn’t know how to use a gun at the time. I’ve been holding onto it ever since.”
          “So that’s it?” Carson asked. “No one else is holding out?” He took one last look around. The faces all looked guilty to him. He had been through so much these past few months that he couldn’t tell the innocent apart from the malevolent anymore.
          “I don’t expect anyone to confess,” Carson said. “But unless someone comes forward or we find out who did this, you’re all suspects in my book.”
          “What about you?” Kenny asked. “Diego, Tyler, and I were in our tents when this happened. Where were you?”
          “I was in the RV sleeping with everyone else,” Carson said. “And don’t you accuse me of anything. I didn’t kill Vern. I respected that man. He saved our asses on numerous occasions. He was one of the few people we could depend upon.”
          “So who did it?” Kenny pushed him for answers. “Who killed Vern? And why’d they do it?”
          “I don’t know,” Carson said with exasperation. “But I’m going to find out.”
* * *
Day Two Hundred and Nine.
          That morning, while the others waited safely inside the RV, Carson led Damien and Kenny back to where he and Eli had found Vern’s body. They’d brought shovels along with them to give their friend a proper burial.
          Damien and Kenny were the only two members of the group Carson trusted at this point, but even they fell under suspicion in his eyes. Carson knew that Kenny had taken a bottle of Southern Comfort back to his tent with him. If he was drinking all night, Carson doubted he was in any shape to kill anyone that night. Still, he couldn’t be too sure.
          And Damien was Damien. His icy demeanor and heartless attitude made him a prime suspect in any crime under logical circumstances. But Carson knew this man. This was the man who saved his life. He had traveled with this man for the better part of a year and he trusted Damien with his life. But he needed to be sure who he was dealing with.
          “You know,” Carson said as they dug a grave for their fallen comrade. “You were the first one who woke up last night. You were the first one who noticed Vern was missing.”
          “What are you implying?” Damien asked.
          “I’m not implying anything,” Carson said. “It’s just…strange. Why’d you wait so long to tell everyone?”
          “I’m a light sleeper,” Damien said. “You know that. I woke up at three to switch places with Vern, but he wasn’t there. I thought he strolled off to take a piss or something, so I waited. When he didn’t come back, that’s when I woke everyone up. That’s it. I didn’t kill Vern.”
          “I never said you did,” Carson said.
          “Yeah, but you implied it.”
          “Guys, let’s be cool,” Kenny suggested. “Vern wouldn’t want this.”
          “How the hell do you know what Vern would want?” Damien snapped.
          “Calm down,” Carson said, placing his hand on Damien’s shoulder. “I’m sorry if I offended you. I just can’t believe someone would do this to Vern. I can’t believe he’s gone.”
          “Well, believe it,” Damien said. “Now let’s get this poor guy in the ground and get back on the road. The three of us need to stick together if we’re going to find out who did this. We need to watch each other’s backs.”
          “If you hear anything,” Carson said, “Anything at all, you let me know.”
          “If I hear anything, you’ll be the first to know,” Damien assured him. Then he assured him of something else. “And when we find out who did this, I’m going to torch the son of a bitch with Vern’s flamethrower. You can bet on that.”

To Be Continued With Part Twenty: BURNING MAN

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