Thursday, November 27, 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
Valentina Jackson: Tough as nails/Has no fear/Knows how to use a gun/Claims to have crossed paths with Carson’s wife and daughter at one point in Tennessee
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 Seventeen.
          The road had not been kind to them.
          They had encountered Biters galore as they refused stray from the path of the Interstate. Carson tried to use his machete when feasible, and urged the others to use their blades in order to ration their ammunition.
          But they had wasted plenty of ammo when they ran into herds of Biter that formed walls, blocking the Interstate. When there was just too many of them, they couldn’t take chances with knives or machetes.
          They had used all the ammo for the five automatic pistols in their possession. The AK-47s they had acquired were long gone. And so were the three hunting rifles they had taken from Malcolm McCredie’s men.
          All the group had left was Carson’s shotgun and his backup Smith & Wesson. Damien’s dual .38 pistols. Kenny’s semi-automatic handgun. Tyler’s submachine gun. The .27 Beretta that Eli Burton had claimed. And two revolvers. One that was taken by Valentina Jackson, and one that Taryn Mills had secured as her own.
          Nikki was the only one left without a weapon, besides the scalpel she had been hording since her days as a nurse. So Carson parted with the Smith & Wesson, and gave her lessons on how to use it. Though at that point in her life, Nikki was well aware how to operate a firearm.
          Carson had consulted the map and they were so close to Arkansas, so close to finding his family, that he could actually see them every time he shut his eyes. Which, I might add, wasn’t very often.
          None of the group had slept well since the mysterious death of Vern Sheldon. Someone had slashed Vern’s throat, severed his jugular, and left him out in the woods to turn.
          Whoever it was, they had taken Vern’s .357 Magnum along with them.
          Damien Albright was a light sleeper as it was. Now, he wasn’t getting any sleep at all.
          Neither was Kenny Sudrow. He couldn’t rest knowing that there was a killer amongst them.
          Kenny, Damien, and Carson stuck close together, watched each other’s backs. They all had their own suspects they were keeping a watchful eye over.
          Carson suspected that Valentina Jackson was hiding something. Something other than the switchblade she had recently revealed, only at Carson’s request.
          Damien didn’t know Diego Garcia from a hole in the wall and since he was one of the latest additions to the group, he fell under scrutiny in Damien’s eyes.
          Kenny’s prime suspect was Eli Burton. There was something about him that just rubbed Kenny the wrong way. He knew Eli had secrets, but squeezing the truth out of him proved to be a difficult task.
          Anytime Kenny tried to engage him in conversation, he remained laconic. He spoke in short sentences and gave vague, ambiguous answers. He didn’t seem to like talking about his family, and his sister was a subject that was off limits. He never addressed his past, his childhood, his teenage years.
          All Kenny really knew about Eli was that he kept to himself, his parents were loaded and they left him and his sister a large inheritance when they passed on, and he sported an odd tattoo on his shoulder. It was a tattoo of the planet Earth with a skull and crossbones painted over it.
          Kenny had seen the design before, but his memory couldn’t recall where it was from or what the tattoo represented, if it represented anything at all.
          Only Chase Crawford knew the truth about Eli Burton’s tattoo. Only Chase had heard of the Black Lodgers before. And Chase was gone, dead and buried beside the grave of Janice Whitfield.
          The group had lost so many members, it was hard to keep track sometimes. But the loss of Vern Sheldon seemed to affect Carson even more than it did the others. Carson had great respect for the man and was sorry to see him go.
          But Vern left one thing behind that was going to become their secret weapon in the war against the undead. His flamethrower.
* * *
          As dusk settled in and they pulled the RV to the side of the Interstate to refuel, Carson decided this would be the best spot for them to rest for the evening. Kenny, Tyler, and Diego gathered their belongings, tents, and flashlights and set out to find a good spot to camp out for the night.
          Carson and Damien flipped a coin to see who’d stand guard first. Damien called tails and got the better of that exchange. Carson loaded his Remington shotgun and noticed he was running low on shells.
          He stepped outside the RV, closing the door behind him, and pumping the mechanism of his shotgun.
          It was nights like these that Carson loathed. The loneliness, the anxiety, the fear. You just have to stand there and try to keep watch in every direction by yourself and hope the shit doesn’t hit the fan.
          Nobody to talk to. Nobody to keep him company. This was what he feared the most. Complete isolation.
          He knew the majority of the group was in earshot inside the RV, but he wasn’t going to deprive them of the rest they desperately needed. He just had to wait it out until three A.M. when Damien would rise to switch places with him.
          Carson used this time to piece his shattered memories together. He knew he was in the marines at one point in his life. He knew he was once a cop, too. He knew his wife’s name was Caroline and he had a young daughter named Charlotte.
He remembered little things from the past: Movie titles, names of celebrities, random song lyrics. And his vocabulary remained intact. He still remembered how to drive a car and fire a gun. His instincts to survive certainly hadn’t abandoned him. He just couldn’t recall much else.
          He wondered if Caroline would remember him when she saw him again. He wondered if he could remember how to be a father again. Only time would tell.
* * *
          Diego Garcia was hearing the whispers again. Those rotten pangs in his gut had returned. The sickness was coursing through his veins. The only cure was fresh blood. He needed a victim. Any victim would do.
          He couldn’t kill Tyler or Kenny. That would be too obvious. The group was already suspicious enough as it was.
          Eli Burton had kept his mouth shut about the little chat he had with Diego. He hadn’t uttered a word about Diego’s hand in Vern Sheldon’s death. And Diego was grateful. So Eli would be spared this time.
          That left Carson, Damien, Taryn, Valentina, and Nikki to choose from. Diego identified Carson as the leader. Everyone in the group seemed to look up to him, to follow his command and never question his judgment. If he really wanted to turn this group upside down, he would have to take out the leader of the pack.
          And so it was decided. Diego would kill Carson Ryder.
* * *
     “I can’t sleep,” Valentina told Carson as she stepped out from the RV.
     “Fine,” Carson sighed. “You can hang with me. Just don’t distract me.”
     “I’m sorry I told you your wife was in Arkansas,” she said. “I was positive at the time that she said Arkansas. In hindsight, I could be wrong. But I could also be right. Are you still going to be mad at me if I’m right?”
     “We’ll see,” Carson said, cracking a smirk.
     “There we go,” Valentina said. “I knew you couldn’t stay mad at me forever.”
     “Let’s talk about something else,” he said. “Let’s talk about your father. If you don’t mind me asking, what was he like?”
     “He was a real jerk,” she said. “Anyone who would use his own daughter as live bait is scum in my book. He deserved everything he got. In fact, he deserved a whole lot more.”
     “Sorry I asked,” he said.
     “No, it’s good for me to get it out. I have so many emotions buried deep inside me. I need to find a way to let go. He was a horrible man, but he’s gone. Dead. And I couldn’t be happier. Thanks again.”
     “Don’t mention it,” Carson said, glancing around for impending danger. It was a quiet night. Not a single Biter was roaming the Interstate.
     From the darkness, he saw light and Diego wandered up with his flashlight in hand. “Couldn’t sleep,” Diego said.
     “That seems to be the trend,” Valentina said.
     “I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” Diego said.
     “Not at all,” Carson assured him.
     Diego had removed the straight razor from his boot and tucked it into the front of his waistband. He also had Vern’s .357 Magnum tucked into the back of his pants, but he was hoping he wouldn’t have to use it.
     He just needed to lure Carson and Valentina away from the RV. Then he could appease the sickness that boiled inside of him.
     “Do you guys smoke?” Diego asked.
     “Cigarettes?” Carson asked with a glint of hope in his eyes. He’d been craving a cigarette since he finished his last pack.
     “I was talking about weed,” Diego said. “I happen to have some back at my tent.”
     “No thanks,” Carson said. “I have vague recollections of smoking that shit in high school and I don’t think I liked it too much. Besides, I was a cop, you know.”
     “Sorry, didn’t know that,” Diego said. “What about you?”
     “I haven’t smoked in years,” Valentina said. “But I could go for some if Officer Friendly here doesn’t mind.”
     “Be my guest,” Carson said.
     “Great,” Valentina said. “So just go back to your tent and get it and then come back here and we’ll smoke.”
     “You sure you don’t want to come with me and smoke back at my tent?”
     “I’m fine here,” Valentina said.
     “Ok…it’s just…gosh, I’m embarrassed to say this, but I’m kind of afraid to walk back alone. You can never be too careful. I’d feel better if someone came with me.”
     “We’ll all go,” Carson said. “The three of us. Let me just tell Damien.”
     “No!” Diego exclaimed. “Don’t wake him up. It’s a short walk. We’ll be back before you know it.”
     “You’re right,” Carson said. “No sense in waking that grumpy bastard up. He’ll probably be pissed if I do. Alright, lead the way.”
* * *
          Just like with Vern, Diego led them around in a semi-circle, as far away from the RV and the tents as he possibly could. The farther he led them from the Interstate, the more suspicious Carson became.
          “You sure we’re going the right way?” Carson asked.
          “Positive,” Diego said, grinning from ear to ear.
          He stopped suddenly and spun around, the straight razor in one hand, .357 Magnum in the other. “On the ground, now.”
          “What the fuck is this?” Valentina demanded to know.
          “On your bellies, now, or I’ll blow your brains out.”
          Carson tossed the Remington aside and dropped to his knees. He lay on his stomach and Valentina dropped her revolver and followed suit.
          “You son of a bitch,” Carson muttered. “You killed Vern, didn’t you?”
          “I had to,” Diego said. “It’s the only way to cure the sickness.”
          “Yeah, you’re sick alright,” Valentina mumbled.
          Diego kneeled down beside Valentina and reached his hand under her shirt, caressing her back with the hand that clutched Vern’s .357 while holding the razor to her throat with the other hand. She refused to look him in the eye as he stared intently at her.
          Carson reached into his boot and slid his pocket knife out. The blade was three inches long, but it could get the job done if used right. He flipped it open and sprung to his feet, swinging the blade and grazing Diego’s cheek.
          Diego winced as he dropped the razor and pulled the .357 out from under Valentina’s shirt. He raised the gun, but Carson took another swing and grazed his other cheek.
          Diego had blood running down both cheeks, and under the glistening glow of the moonlight, he resembled a Native American with his face painted for war to Valentina. He raised the gun again, But Carson kicked it from his hand and stabbed with the blade.
          He missed and stabbed tree bark instead. Diego scrambled around in search for the gun and found it atop a pile of dry leaves. He fired three shots and took off running.
          Each shot missed, but it gave him the head start he needed. Valentina and Carson searched for their guns and found them with their flashlights. Now it was only a matter of making it back to the RV before Diego could plan his next move.
          They searched the area first and found the three tents. Diego’s tent had been abandoned, but Tyler and Kenny were still there. Carson woke them up and made them aware of the situation at hand.
          The four of them rushed back to the RV and alerted the others.
          “I knew it,” Damien said. “I told you I didn’t trust that guy.”
          “It doesn’t matter who was right,” Carson pointed out. “All that matters is that we stop him. We need to find him as soon as possible. I suggest we fan out, comb the entire area. He can’t go too far, not on foot. Not without supplies.
          Eli, you take your Beretta and stand guard. Nikki, stay behind with Eli and if you see Diego, don’t be afraid to put that Smith & Wesson to good use.
          Valentina and I will take one half of the Interstate. Damien, you and Taryn take the other half. Kenny and Tyler, you guys comb the surrounding area. Let’s go get this bastard. For Vern.”
          “For Vern,” the group repeated in chorus.
          They split up, and Tyler wandered off with Kenny, wondering how Eli got to be so lucky by getting paired up with Nikki.
          With the rest of the group off searching for Diego, Eli knew this was the perfect opportunity for mischief and mayhem. If he stepped out of line, there was nothing Nikki could do to stop him.
          But Eli wasn’t like Diego. He had total control of his sickness. And he knew if Nikki turned up dead, it would bring about too many unwanted questions.
          Though he supposed he could just kill her and pin it on Diego. But he had pinned his crime on one member of the group in the past and he didn’t want to push his luck.
          Instead, he did what Carson asked him to do. He played the good little solider and stood guard with Nikki outside of the RV.
          Eli also knew that Diego couldn’t resist the temptation to return to the RV, to finish the job he had started.
          And as he watched Diego run towards the RV, .357 Magnum in hand, he pondered what to do in this situation.
          “I’m willing to give you a pass,” Diego said. “Step aside and let me kill the girl.”
          “I’m afraid I can’t do that,” Eli said as Nikki cowered behind him. “Now beat it before I put you down.”
          “I’ve got you in my sight,” Diego said. “I can blow your ear off from this distance. Or I can just put one round between your eyes and then I’ll be free to do whatever I want to sweet little Nikki.”
          “You must be one hell of a shot,” Eli said. “But so am I. And I never miss. So why don’t you drop your gun and surrender while you still have a chance?”
          “Not happening,” Diego said.
          “Then let’s do this,” Eli said.
          “Let’s,” Damien said, jumping out from behind the RV, Vern’s flamethrower strapped to his back.
          He raised the barrel and squeezed the trigger. A long, steady stream of fire projected from the barrel, igniting Diego Garcia’s clothes. The fire singed his hair and spread over his body, engulfing him.
          He tried rolling across the Interstate, but the fire was too strong and Diego’s attempts to extinguish the blaze only seemed to fan the flames. His skin blistered, cracked, and bubbled as the fire seared his flesh to the bone.
          The screams that Diego made curdled their blood and made Nikki cup her hands over her ears. When it was over, Damien fired three shots into him. “Just to be safe,” Damien said.
          “You certainly are a man of your word,” Carson said, recalling when Damien promised that if they found Vern’s killer, he’d burn them alive.
          The smoke that curled up to the sky smelled worse than anything they could describe. You can’t accurately explain the stench of a burnt corpse. It’s not something you really can imagine.
          Burning hair, you might be familiar with that smell. Burning flesh, if you’ve been in a fire, maybe you know what it’s like. But boiled blood, nobody knows what that actually smells like until they’ve had a whiff of it.
          The sight turned Nikki’s stomach and she had to avert her eyes and hang her shirt over her nose to stifle the smell. “It’s ok,” Taryn assured, feeling a bit queasy herself. “It’s all over.”
          “No, it’s not,” Damien muttered. “There’s a herd coming our way. Must’ve heard the gunshots. I’m such a dumbass. Well, this is where Vern’s flamethrower gets put to the test.”
          He squeezed the trigger, but no flames sprouted from the barrel. The pilot light had blown out. “Fuck,” he said bluntly.
          “Can you get it lit again?” Carson asked.
          “I can, but it’s a bitch. And it’ll take time.”
          “Time we don’t have,” Kenny said.
          Carson kissed the crucifix around his neck and said a silent prayer. He was waiting for a miracle that wasn’t going to come.
          Tyler opened fire with his submachine gun and took down a row of Biters. But another row stood behind it, just as hungry as the first. If Nikki thought the body of Diego smelled bad, what until she got a whiff of these guys. Most of them barely even had flesh clinging to their fragile skulls.
          These were “oldies”, as Kenny referred to them. Humans that got turned during the first week that the virus spread. The advanced rot and decay made them look as if they had been dead for years, and some of them might have been for all Kenny knew.
          “I’ve got an idea,” Carson said. “Everyone pile in the RV.”
          They all climbed aboard and Carson started it up. He revved the engine and punched the gas. He mowed down row after row of shambling Biters. Severed limbs flew through the air, blood and guts splashed up in waves across the windshield.
          Carson turned the wipers on and kept on driving. When he looked in the side-view mirror and saw some of them were still twitching and writhing around in the road, he backed up the RV and ran them over again.
          Carson could feel their skulls squashing like rotted pumpkins under the weight of the tires. When the road was clear and Carson had taken out all his aggression on that army of the undead, they moved forward.
          Sleep was out of the question. The others could rest if they wanted. But Carson wasn’t going to stop moving until they reached Arkansas.

To Be Continued With Part Twenty-One: ARRIVAL

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