Monday, December 22, 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
Eli Burton: Survivor found in Cherrywood Mall/Parents were rich and left him a large inheritance when they died
Taryn Mills: One of the newest members of the group/Lost her boyfriend, George Verdi/Not afraid to use a gun
Nikki Fox: A native Tennessean/Former registered nurse
Reggie White: Born and raised in Arkansas/Has never left the state
Scotty Loomis: Originally from Utah/Friends with Reggie/A perpetual fountain of random facts and useless information

By Daniel Skye


          Day Two Hundred and Forty.
          Valentina Jackson was gone. Kenny Sudrow was gone. But the group had yet to move on from the market in Little Rock.
          The loss had thrown Carson Ryder off his game. He couldn’t sleep or rest his eyes for more than a few hours. He couldn’t let his guard down knowing there was another killer in their midst.
          “Eat something,” Nikki Fox told him that day, holding up a package of dried figs and apricots. But he just shrugged her off. “I’m not telling you what to do, but you should eat something for your own good. There’s plenty to go around.”
          “I’m not hungry,” Ryder insisted.
          “Is this about Kenny?” Nikki asked. “I miss him too.”
          “It’s about trust,” Ryder said. “And right now, I can’t trust anybody.”
          “Even me?”
          “I can’t trust anyone until I find out the truth about what happened with Kenny.”
          “Come with me,” Nikki said, taking his hand and helping him up from the floor. They walked to the stockroom and she closed the door behind them.
          The place reeked of sex. Taryn and Damien had been going at it on a nightly basis just a few feet from where they were standing.
          “Ok, we’re alone now,” she said. “And if you can’t trust me, you’ll never be able to trust anyone again. Tell me who you think is responsible for this.”
          “You’ve got me,” Ryder shrugged. “Scott and Reggie seem like good men, but if the past few months has taught me anything, they could easily be faking. I mean, we hardly know them, right? And then there’s Eli.”
          “Eli Burton?”
          “Kenny had his suspicions,” Ryder told her. “He had a feeling that Eli was hiding something. And I think Chase Crawford suspected something similar before he died.”
          “You think Eli killed him?”
          “I can’t say for sure,” Ryder said. “But I’m going to find out.”
* * *
          That day, when Damien and Taryn were fooling around in the stockroom, Reggie was taking a nap, and Scotty was enjoying a copy of The Catch in the Rye that Nikki had lent him, Ryder approached Eli.
          “We’ve still got a few hours of sunlight left,” Ryder told him. “You want to lend me a hand loading stuff onto the RV?”
          “What about Damien?” Eli asked.
          “He’s preoccupied at the moment,” Ryder said. “And I’d rather you help me.”
          “Sure,” Eli shrugged. “I’ll give you a hand.” He checked his .27 Beretta and made sure it was loaded.
          They used the backdoor and Ryder wedged a spare chunk of wood there to make sure the door didn’t slam shut and lock on them.
          They loaded a few bags of supplies and cases of water into the RV before Ryder said, “So tell me about yourself.”
          “What do you want to know?” Eli asked, loading another case of water on.
          “I know you don’t like to talk about your sister, but what about your folks?”
          “They died after we graduated. Plane crash. It was a freak thing. One of the engines failed. I don’t know, it was all very technical. All the families got a huge settlement out of it. The ones who were willing to settle out of court. We inherited the property, Ally and I. We lived there together for years. There was more than enough room for the both of us. And our parents saw to it that we were taken care of.”
          “So they were good people, your folks?”
          “My old man was tough but fair. My mom was a pushover. Anytime dad said no, we’d just ask mom and she’d say yes. She stayed home all day, cooked us breakfast and made sure we got to school on time. She’d clean or go shopping for groceries while we were gone. Then she’d pick us up from the bus stop and dad would be home for dinner by five o’clock.”
          “What’d he do for a living, if you don’t mind me asking? You mentioned your family had money.”
          “My dad had money, my mom didn’t. Her mom was his money. And he was a businessman. He owned a paper company, a water company, a cosmetics department, ran his own office that employed over five thousand workers. He made a lot of money in the stock market, too. He tried explaining the aspects to me–buying, selling, trading–when I was in high school, but I could never keep up with him.”
          “So how much did they actually leave you?” Ryder asked, continuing to load bags of supplies into the back of the RV.
          Eli had stopped working completely and was staring Ryder down. “Enough so that Ally and I never had to work a day in our lives after graduated. What’s this all about, anyway?”
          “I’m just curious, I guess,” Ryder said.
          “Bullshit,” Eli shouted. “You’ve got something on your mind but you’re afraid to just come out and say it.” His voice was getting louder, echoing past the market and down the vacant streets.
          “Keep your voice down,” Ryder said. “The coast might look clear, but those things can still hear.”
          “Just ask me what you want to ask me.”
          “Fine…did you kill Kenny Sudrow?”
          “No,” Eli said with conviction. “I did not kill Kenny Sudrow. We weren’t the best of friends, but I’m smart enough to know we need every man we’ve got. It’s not my call who stays and who goes. I’m not a leader, just a follower.”
          “I…I believe you,” Ryder said.
          “You should,” Eli said. “I’m not your enemy. I’m your friend. If you want to find out who the real enemy is, we should work together.”
          “No, I’m going to do this alone. For Kenny.”
          “Uh, I hate to change the subject, but we’ve got company.”
          “How many?”
          “Four of them.”
          “How close?”
          “We can make it to the door if we move now.”
          “Then let’s go.”
          Carson and Eli ran to the backdoor and Carson kicked the block of wood out that was wedged in between. The door slammed shut, locking automatically as the Biters approached.
          Ryder pressed his ear to the door and could hear them growling, moaning, scratching on the other side.
          If Ryder had learned anything, it was when you saw a few Biters traveling together, more were sure to follow.
          In minutes, the market was encircled by a herd of twenty or thirty Biters. The group couldn’t see past the windows that Reggie had blacked out. But they could hear the commotion the Biters were making with every attempt to claw their way inside.
          They pressed their bloated, maggoty corpses to the glass, hissed and snarled as they pounded and scratched against the doors.
          “I doubt that glass will hold them forever,” Reggie said.
          “We’re trapped,” Nikki said, panicking. “No way out. We’re surrounded.”
          “How many bullets do you have left for the Smith & Wesson?” Ryder asked.
          “Sixteen,” Nikki said.
          “You remember how to use it?”
          “Sure do.”
          “Good, then get ready to use it,” Ryder told her, drawing Vern Sheldon’s .357 Magnum.
          Damien had his .38 pistols locked and loaded. Reggie and Scotty had their hunting rifles. They also had Drake Sharpe’s rifle for when they ran low on bullets. Eli was clutching the Beretta, preparing for the inevitable. He still had twenty rounds or so left to spare. And Taryn had adopted both revolvers since the loss of Valentina.
          “What about the flamethrower?” Damien asked.
          “We’ll save that as a last resort,” Ryder told him.
          The glass could no longer hold and shattered as the Biters began to spill in. The first few had been impaled by jagged glass, but that didn’t stop the others from crawling over them.
          The smell of death filled the market and with Biters staggering up and down every aisle, the shooting commenced.
          Blood. Guts. Bullets. Chaos. Flying appendages. That about sums everything up.
          The bullets were flying fast and furious, the shots so loud that the group had become deafened by the blasts.
          Ryder aimed carefully and made every shot count. And Damien did likewise. Nikki didn’t miss any shots, but the first few she took were poorly aimed and failed to hit the head.
          Taryn was becoming a natural and fired both revolvers at once, cocked the hammers back, and fired again. Ryder assumed she must’ve been taking lessons from Damien Albright.
          And that’s when it hit him. Ryder had never thought to suspect Damien. He didn’t want to believe for a second that Damien was responsible. But Damien had that killer instinct, that will to survive. Ryder knew he’d do anything in his power to keep the group safe, including killing others who posed a threat or put them at risk.
          Well, with one arm, Kenny would’ve only slowed them down, been a nuisance, a burden. Maybe Damien didn’t want to take that risk.
          But he couldn’t ask him now. Every time they took down a horde of Biters, another mob had swarmed in through the busted windows.
          “If this was a video game, we’d have the high score right now,” Loomis shouted at Reggie before firing his rifle again. But all Reggie could hear was that awful ringing in his ears.
          Ryder saw the boys knew how to handle themselves, knew how to use their weapons. If they survived this ordeal, Reggie and Scotty could prove to be worthy assets to the group.
          Nikki felt her stomach tightening up in knots. She wasn’t accustomed to using a gun on a regular basis. And for a nurse, she was pretty squeamish when it came to seeing a zombies rotten head get split open by a bullet.
          Eli fired ten shots, took down ten Biters. Then popped the empty clip out and loaded a fresh one. This was his last magazine.
          Ryder fired his last shot with the .357, nailed one Biter between the eyes with stunning accuracy. He tucked the empty gun away and grabbed his trusty machete.
          He waited for a few of them to stagger over, get as close as possible. Wielding the machete, he hacked their necks to the bone and their heads rolled across the market floor like bowling bowls.
          It was an endless cycle. Taryn unloaded and reloading her revolvers. Damien firing his .38 pistols. Ryder hacking and slashing and slicing and dicing with that machete. The blood spraying and spurting across the market, coming down on them like thick, oily rain.
          Nikki counted four Biters impaled on the broken glass of the windows. Another ten that hadn’t made it more than a few feet past those windows. She counted six dead in aisle one and twelve dead in aisle two. She counted another two or three dozen scattered across the adjacent aisles. The numbers were starting to make her dizzy.
          She gasped when she looked down and saw the lifeless eyes of a Biter staring up at her. The head had been severed from the torso and had rolled near her feet.
          She raised the Smith & Wesson, fired her last bullet. Then screamed, “I’m out of ammo!”
          “So am I!” Eli shouted, his back against the wall.
          Scotty Loomis had run out of ammo too, but he picked up Drake Sharpe’s rifle and kept on shooting.
          “Damien, the flamethrower!” Ryder shouted. “Everyone else back up, grab your stuff if you can, and get ready to bolt.”
          Damien slipped the straps over his shoulder and hoisted the tank up on his tank. He scrambled from his lighter as Scotty, Reggie, Taryn, and Carson tried to hold the Biters at bay.
          It took a few tries to spark the pilot light, but once it was lit, Damien screamed, “Stay back!” and a sudden jet of flames exploded from the nozzle. The blue flames fanned across the aisles in waves.
          Damien held the flamethrower steady, using short, controlled bursts. The Biters wailed, croaked, thrashed about as the flames spread and consumed what remained of their flesh and bones.
          “Run!” Ryder screamed. “Go now!”
          And right on cue, everyone grabbed their weapons, grabbed whatever they could, and headed for the backdoor. A few Biters still lurked in the streets, but as everyone made a move for the RV, Damien used the flamethrower to send the Biters scrambling in the opposite direction.
          Carson fired up the RV and sped off into the night. Luckily, Eli and Carson had loaded most of the food, water, and supplies into the back. Only a few items were left behind in the fire.
          “Everyone all right back there?” Ryder called out.
          “Far from it,” Nikki said. “But I’ll live.”
          “That was quite an experience,” Scotty said, his hearing returning.
          “Let’s not do it again anytime soon,” Reggie suggested.
* * *
          Day Two Hundred and Forty One.
          They had stopped once to refuel and once to get some much needed rest. No one slept outside, not even in tents. With ammo so scarce, none of them wanted to take the risk.
          They had abandoned the interstate in favor for a more scenic route that Scotty Loomis had suggested. Ryder didn’t care which road they took as long as it led them to the guns and ammunition that Scotty had promised.
          That morning, while the others slept all cramped up in back, Ryder left the RV to stretch his legs and try to put the pieces together. He had taken the machete just in case he ran into any trouble.
          But as Ryder was well aware of, trouble comes in many different forms. And that morning, trouble came in the form of Damien Albright.
          “You look like you got something on your mind,” Damien said as he approached Ryder outside the RV.
          “I have something I want to ask you,” Ryder said. “I’m just afraid of how you’re going to answer. But I need to know…did you kill Kenny Sudrow?”
          There was a long, dramatic pause. His lips were parted, but he did not speak. He just let Ryder’s question, his accusation, linger through the air.
          He cleared his throat and sighed. “Yes, I killed him.”
          “Why?” Ryder asked, dropping the machete, balling his hands into fists.
          “Everything I’ve done, I’ve done to protect this group. To keep us moving. To keep us breathing and surviving. If I see a threat, I eliminate it. If I see someone who’s weak, someone who’s going to put our lives at risk, I step up and handle that problem. I do what you’re not willing to do. I killed Darren Mays. I killed Diego Garcia and everyone else that stood in our way.”
          “You killed Devin Morris too, didn’t you?” Ryder spoke through clenched teeth.
          “Devin was a junkie. He was weak. He put us all at risk.”
          “This whole time I thought it was Regis Whitfield who killed him. You fooled me. You fooled us all.”
          “I did what had to be done,” Damien said, defending his actions. “And as far as I see it, I’ve done more than you have. So you should be on your fucking knees right now, thanking me, kissing my fucking ass for saving your worthless life time and time again!”
          Ryder could listen no more. He raised his hands, pulled his arm back, and slugged him. The first fist caught Damien in the lower jaw. The second punch met the bridge of his nose and drew blood.
          Damien raised two fingers to his nose, wiped away some of the blood. “What are you going to do?” he chuckled. “Kill me? I don’t think you’ve got it in you. You’re too weak. Not like me. Someone who does what needs to be done. Can you do it, Carson? Can you kill your best friend?”
          “Kenny was my best friend!” Ryder shouted, slugging him again. Damien stumbled back, bouncing off the side of the RV, dazed. “And now he’s dead because of you!”
          Ryder swung again, but Damien ducked it and his fist went overhead, leaving his midsection exposed. Damien caught him with a punch to the cut, then rammed his knee repeatedly into his ribcage.
          Ryder fell on his back, clutching at his chest, gasping for air.
          “You can’t beat me,” Damien chided. “No matter how hard you try, I’ll always be better. Just remember that. Let this be a lesson to you.”
          Damien pulled his leg back and struck Ryder in the belly with his boot. He rolled on his front, but that just left his backside open for Damien to stomp away.
          Damien grabbed him by the collar, ripping Chase Crawford’s crucifix from his neck and tossing it aside. He pulled Ryder to his feet and held him in place. “Had enough?” Damien asked. Ryder spat in his face and Damien head butted him across the bridge of the nose, drawing blood. But he was still on his feet.
          A stiff right hand caught him across the side of the face and Carson staggered back. “You can’t win,” Damien taunted him. “Give it up. Put this all behind us. I’m willing to call a truce if you are.”
His nose broken. His ribs bruised, possibly cracked. His back aching, his body bruised and bleeding, Ryder still had some fight left in him.
Ryder eyed the machete that he’d tossed in the road. But Damien seemed to read his mind and made a dash towards the weapon. Just as Damien leaned down and snagged the handle, Ryder caught him with a boot to the chin that sent him reeling.
Ryder grabbed the machete, gripping the handle with both hands like a sword, and raising it above Damien’s chest. On his back, blinking rapidly, the world spinning around him, Damien didn’t even see the blade being plunged into his chest. But he sure as hell felt it.
Eli was the first to wake and notice that Carson and Damien were missing. He heard the commotion outside, but didn’t make a move until things were quiet again.
The first thing he saw was Ryder standing over Damien, bloody machete in his hands.
“What the hell is going on here?” Eli asked.
“I’m sorry I doubted you even for a second,” Ryder told him. “I found the culprit. Damien killed Kenny Sudrow.”
“I can’t believe it,” Eli said, feigning surprise.
“Well, believe it,” Ryder said. “And if you don’t mind, wake the others please. I want to make this place a memory.”
“What about the body?”
“Leave it,” Ryder said. “The Biters will clean up the mess.”


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