Saturday, December 13, 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
Taryn Mills: One of the newest members of the group/Little is known about her at this time
Nikki Fox: A native Tennessean/Former registered nurse


By Daniel Skye


          Friday, September 13th, 2013.
          Day One.
          Reggie White was twenty-one years old and his life was going nowhere. He was working as an assistant ice cream vendor for his Uncle Ben’s truck, and getting paid the bare minimum of wages, a detail Reggie might add if he was telling the story.
          And with fall on the horizon and winter right around the corner from there, Reggie was soon to find himself unemployed again. Nobody wants to hire a two time loser at age twenty-one. Too much of a risk. And what if Reggie felt compelled to steal again? He’d end up back in the slammer with three strikes under his belt. Life in prison.
          Reggie vowed not to let that happen. And Uncle Ben had made mention of a gig out in Little Rock. It was a sponsorship deal. A company looking for people to sponsor and counsel recovering drug addicts.
          “That job would be perfect for you,” Uncle Ben had told him.
          “How much does it pay?” Reggie had asked.
          “Twelve bucks an hour.” That was more money than Reggie had ever made without stealing. But little did Reggie know, fate was about to hurl a monkey wrench into the works that day.
          With all the kids back at school, it had been a slow Friday for Reggie and his uncle. The ice cream wasn’t moving as fast as it had in the summer.
          Reggie was bored out of his mind. By four o’clock, he was begging his uncle to drive him home. But Ben was a stubborn man and refused to lose any business that might come their way.
          Suddenly, Reggie heard a woman’s scream echo from down the street. And suddenly, he wasn’t the least bit bored.
          Across the park, Reggie could see a man who had been walking his dog. But he stopped dead in his tracks when he heard the screams. So did the two girls with pigtails who were bouncing a ball back and forth. The whole park seemed to freeze at the blood curdling sound of that woman’s scream.
          And that’s when all hell broke loose.
          The screaming woman came running through the park, her beige pant suit soaked in blood. A man trailed after her, but there was something strange to Reggie about the way he walked.
          But it wasn’t just the walk that disturbed Reggie. It was the blood dribbling from the man’s chin and that glazed over look in his eyes.
          The man gave up on his initial target as the woman in the pant suit ran out of sight. Instead, he turned his attention to the man with the dog, ripping the man’s throat open with nothing but his teeth.
          And then he started with the dog…
          The girls with pigtails screamed as they dropped their red ball and ran from the park. A woman with her kids scrambled to her minivan and sped out of sight.
          A trio of shiftless slackers who were loitering in the park with their bikes and skateboards were mauled in front of Reggie, torn limb from limb by a woman who must have been in her fifties. She had that same glazed over look in her eyes that the man had.
          A small boy was bit by a total stranger, then five minutes later, the boy was biting and clawing his own mother’s face.
          Tires screeched as a mail truck lost the road and veered off into a tree before catching flames.
          Across the park, where the man was still chowing down on that stranger’s dog, another man was clawing at his own eyes in a fit of insanity.
          “Uncle Ben, we have to go now!” Reggie screamed.
          But Uncle Ben was incapable of hearing Reggie pleas. A young girl, no older than six or seven, had climbed up the side of the truck and leaned through the open window, ripping Uncle Ben’s throat wide open.
          Reggie tried to stop the bleeding, but it was too late. Ben tried to warn him before Reggie moved him from the driver seat and took off. He tried to warn Reggie not to drive with him in the truck.
          Ben had seen this before in movies and comics, read about it in books. He’d prepared himself for this occasion, and he knew he was going to turn. And when he did, he didn’t want to be in the vicinity of any family members.
          But Reggie had no clue what was going on. He just knew the shit had hit the fan and he needed to get out of dodge.
          On the road, he watched a bike courier get mauled by an old man with a cane. Saw a woman get her stomach torn open and her guts ripped out onto the sidewalk.
          He couldn’t help but witness the horror that unfolded as he sat, waiting for the traffic to break up.
          He heard movements in the back of the truck and slammed it into park. He stood up and looked back, saw Uncle Ben writhing on the floor. The blood had already dried and coagulated. The flesh had already lost its color. And he had that same vacant stare; that same glazed over look of terror in his eyes.
          “Uncle Ben, are you ok?” Reggie asked, keeping his distance as Uncle Ben stood up. He had nothing to defend himself. And he couldn’t bring himself to harm another family member, regardless of the circumstances.
          So he did the smartest thing he could think of. He abandoned ship so to speak and jumped out of the truck, taking off on foot.
          There was panic, chaos, and confusion in every direction he glanced. And the blood…so much blood.
          He tried not to look, not to think about it. What he needed now was shelter, safety. He needed to get home. But how could he be certain that home was safe? What if his mother or father had turned? What if there was already nothing left for Reggie White?
* * *
          Day Two Hundred and Thirty-Six.
          It had been more than a day since the group moved on from the hospital. More than a day since the burial of Tyler Reese and their newest acquaintance, Aaron Black.
          Kenny Sudrow had taken the loss of Tyler very hard and started drinking again as a way to cope with the tragedy of the events. Carson Ryder didn’t approve, but he understood. Everyone needed a coping mechanism.
          After adopting Chase Crawford’s crucifix, Carson had turned to the Lord and started praying. That was his outlet. Trying to establish a connection with God…if God hadn’t already turned his back on them.
          It was in Little Rock, Arkansas where the gang stopped the RV to rest. And it was Little Rock where Carson was hoping to find answers about his wife and child.
          They set up camp for the night in the deserted strip mall corner market. It was there Carson hoped they’d find some supplies.
          “You got anything?” Carson asked as they walked up and down the bare aisles.
          “We’re in luck,” Damien shouted from the stockroom.
There were cases of water bottles, expired soda pop, packs of gum and other untouched candy and chocolate. Bags of chips, and cans of beans, corn, and green peas. Packages of dried apples, apricots, banana chips, dates, mangoes, and figs. There were cans of nuts and packages of trail mix that were still sealed. Boxes of raisins. Every kind of dry fruit imaginable. Everything they’d need to sustain.
          The shelves were stocked with dry rice, grain, chick peas, and lentils. A sack of potatoes rested on the floor.
          Eli found a box of fresh mushrooms on the shelf and beside it, a jar of peppers that were still fresh.
          There was salted ham and genoa salami logs sealed in plastic. And plenty of soup cans that hadn’t reached their expiration date yet.
          “This isn’t right,” Carson shook his head as he looked around the stockroom.
          “I know,” Kenny said, slurring his words. His breath reeked of vodka, which he had finished the last of. He was planning on working on the gin next. “We hit the cosmic lottery.”
          “No, I mean nobody would leave all this food behind. This could be a trap.”
          “Drop your weapons!” a voice shouted from the door and they turned to see three young men with rifles.
          “Oh no you don’t,” Carson said, pumping his shotgun. “Not today. Not after what we’ve been through.”
          “Don’t put up a fight,” the leader of the group said, stepping forward with his rifle. Carson could see his hands were shaking slightly. He wasn’t infected with anything that Carson could tell. He was just nervous.
          Carson gathered this was one of his first rodeos. “Just give us your supplies and be gone,” the young man said. “That’s all we want. No one has to die.”
          “I’m afraid someone does have to die,” Carson said. “Because we’re not giving up our supplies. Not after what we’ve been through.”
          “You’re one stubborn man,” the leader said, lowering his rifle. “The name’s Reggie White. The man to my left is Scotty Loomis. And this big lug to my right is Drake Sharpe. Guys, lower your rifles.”
          “Are you crazy?” Loomis yelled.
          “Do it!” Reggie shouted back.
          The young men lowered their rifles and Carson lowered his shotgun and gave his group the nod to do the same.
          “The food is ours,” Reggie informed the group. “We found it first. But we’re willing to share if you’re willing to have our backs with those firearms of yours.”
          “We don’t have much ammo left, but we’re willing to help in any way we can,” Carson said. “I’m assuming we’re the first person you tried to stick up.”
          “You’re the first people we’ve seen in months,” Reggie told him. “We were starting to think we were the only ones left besides the Flesh Eaters.”
          “We call them Biters,” Damien said.
          “I like that name,” Reggie chuckled.
          “Where are you from?” Carson inquired.
          “Arkansas,” Reggie said. “Born and raised.”
          “Utah,” Loomis answered.
          “Missouri,” Drake replied.
          “What about you folks?” Reggie asked. “Where do yawl come from?”
          “Most of us are from New York,” Damien said. “We met Taryn, Nikki, and Valentina along the way.”
          “This is your whole group?” Carson asked Reggie directly, addressing him as their leader. ‘”There’s no one else waiting in the wings to ambush us?”
          “This is it,” Reggie confessed. “It’s just us three. The group used to be bigger, but we lost people on the road.”
          “You’re not the only ones,” Carson assured him.
* * *
          That night they all pulled up chairs, or in this case it was empty milk crates, and made themselves at home by the registers. The windows in the front of the store had been blacked out by Reggie and his men. They used black paint to smear over the inside of the glass and the door.
          The lock was busted, so Carson and his gang gave Reggie and his men a hand barricading the door that evening. There was an emergency exit in back, but the lock still worked on that door. They were safe, at least for the evening.
          They drank rum and tequila while Kenny guzzled a bottle of gin. Carson wondered how long it would be before Kenny burned himself out. He wondered if it would come before or after he realized the liquor wasn’t a solution to his problems.
          “So you guys came all the way from New York, huh?” Drake asked. “You traveled a long way. What’s it like outside of Arkansas?”
          “Not much different,” Carson informed them.
          “Wait,” Eli said, “You guys haven’t left Arkansas since the shit hit the fan?”
          “Nope,” Drake said. “Like I said, I’m from Missouri. I was only out here on a construction job. The job was supposed to last for two weeks. But when things went bad and everyone sought shelter, I followed. I sort of got trapped here like a lot of other people did.”
          “Well, I’m sorry to tell you that there’s not a whole lot left,” Damien said.
          “I sort of figured that,” Reggie said. “Figures. I spent my whole life in Arkansas. Never bothered to travel or see the world. Now there’s nothing to see.”
          “Don’t feel too bad,” Loomis said. “The world was a cesspool then, and it’s a cesspool now. The only difference now are the Flesh Eaters.”
          “Biters,” Reggie corrected him.
          Taryn whispered something into Damien’s ear and they snuck off when nobody else was paying attention and went to the stockroom to try and get some privacy.
          “There was something I was going to ask you tomorrow, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask you now,” Carson said, removing the creased, faded photograph from his back pocket. He passed it to Reggie who unfolded the picture to take a better look. “Do you recognize the woman or the little girl in the photograph?”
          “Can’t say I do,” Reggie said. “Sorry. Hey guys, take a look at this picture and tell Carson if you’ve seen these two ladies.”
          “Hey, Drake, take a look at this,” Loomis said, eyeing the photograph. Drake leaned in over his shoulder and gasped.
          “Is that your wife and daughter?” Drake asked.
          “Yes,” Carson said. “I’ve been looking for them since we left New York. Have you seen them?”
          “I have,” Drake said. “Back when Scotty and I were part of another group. The group decided they were going to split up. Your wife’s goal was to reach Washington. Like many others, she figured it’d be safe there. She had others willing to travel with her.”
          “So she’s in Washington?” Carson asked.
          “I’m sorry,” Loomis said for Drake, who wasn’t exactly the best at expressing sympathy. “Before our group could split up, we were attacked by the Biters. Drake is a big guy, strong as they come. But even he couldn’t save them. Again, I can’t tell you how sorry we are.”
          “It’s true,” Drake said. “I tried my best. Believe me, I did. But there were too many of them to overcome. Those that survived had to abandon the campsite.”
          “You’re saying she…she didn’t make it?” Carson mumbled. “Caroline and Charlotte…they’re dead?”
          “I’m so sorry for your loss,” Loomis said again.
          “I don’t want your fucking sympathy!” Carson screamed. “I want to see my fucking wife and daughter!”
          “I wish I could help you,” Loomis sighed. “I feel your pain.”
          “We all feel your pain,” Reggie spoke. “I’m so sorry, man. Anything I can do for you, just say it.”
          “Clear the door,” Carson said.
          “What?” Reggie asked.
          “You want to help me, clear the door,” Carson said. “Get rid of the barricade. Then once I’m gone, you can barricade the door again.”
          “Look, Carson, I’m sorry you lost your family,” Valentina said. “But don’t walk out on us. We need you.”
          “She’s right,” Nikki finally spoke up. “We all need you. And whatever you’re thinking about doing, it won’t bring them back.”
          “Just do it!” Carson screamed at Reggie. Loomis and Sharpe helped Kenny reluctantly clear the doorway. Kenny tried one last time to talk him out of it.
          “Reconsider,” Kenny urged him. “Stay the night and sleep it off. I promise you’ll feel better in the morning. You’ll be able to think a little clearer.”
          “Like you?” Carson laughed. “Get the fuck out of my way.”
          Carson grabbed his Remington and Kenny stepped aside and helplessly watched as Carson walked out on them. Loomis and Sharpe barricaded the door when he was gone and the conversation came to an end.
          “Well, maybe we should just call it a night,” Reggie suggested. “It’s getting late. I’ll stand guard and wait up to see if Carson comes back.”
          Kenny wanted to argue and insist that he’d stay up to wait for Carson, but his body was too exhausted to allow him to protest. He curled up in the aisles with a pillow and blanket and found sleep before anyone else.
          “Where have you guys been sleeping?” Eli asked Reggie.
          “We’ve just been crashing in the stockroom,” Sharpe said. “One of us always stays up to keep watch. We work in shifts. I usually keep guard first, but I’m going to let Reggie have the honors this evening.”
          “I think the stockroom is taken tonight,” Valentina said, her ear pressed up to the door. From the outside of the stockroom, she could hear Taryn’s screams.
          “Oh yes! Oh yes! Oh God, yes! Don’t stop! Don’t stop!”
          “Sounds like they’re having fun,” Nikki chuckled.
          “I guess out here is just as good as in there,” Loomis shrugged and settled for the floor. Sharpe wasn’t pleased with the arrangement, but eventually settled down and went to sleep.
          Nikki, Eli, and Valentina were the last to turn in. Nikki felt awful about the news that Carson had received. She wished there was something she could say or do to ease his pain.
          Valentina was actually rather pleased about the news, but she didn’t show it. Like many other survivors, she had her ulterior motives.
          Reggie White sat awake with his hunting rifle, keeping his eyes and ears open for trouble, and waiting for Carson to hopefully return in one piece.
* * *
          It was an overload of emotions. The stress was too much for Carson’s shattered mind to bear. He felt guilt, regret, sorrow, remorse, agony, and rage.
          The aggression had been boiling inside of him for months and now it was time to release it. It was time to let go and let those violent tendencies take over. It was time to feed the rage.
          Six blocks from the mini market, Carson saw the first Biter of the evening. Its legs had been maimed, possibly from the wheels of another vehicle that had recently passed through. It crawled on its swollen, discolored belly, trying to reach the sidewalk. Its head was resting on the curb when Carson wandered over and stomped it, crushing the skull like an egg with his boot.
          Two more Biters lurked in the shadows of the car dealership across the street. One vehicle occupied the lot and had been stripped. All that remained was the body. The parts, the engine, even the tires had been removed.
When the apocalypse began, people weren’t thinking rationally and someone must’ve not realized they’d never have a chance to sell those parts. Not like it made any difference to Carson.
          He pumped the mechanism of his shotgun and fired one deafening blast. He pumped it again and took the next Biter down.
          He loaded two more shots and wandered across to the empty dealership lot. Both shots had been kill shots, but the sound just attracted more of them that were stumbling around in search of food.
          It didn’t mean anything to Carson. The more, the merrier. He cocked the shotgun again and fired one shot towards the road, bagging another.
          Four more came staggering from the road and advanced on him in the lot. The Biter that was closest to him looked to be the freshest one of the pack. Advanced rot and decay had yet to set in. He could’ve been turned just a few days before Carson encountered him, maybe hours.
          But that wasn’t going to stop him. He raised the shotgun and fired, the bullet tearing through the Biter’s eye.
          The one that stood behind it was an Oldie as Kenny liked to refer to them. A zombie that was most likely turned during the initial weeks of the outbreak. The skin that hadn’t rotted away was saggy and hung from its bones like layers of excess fat.
          He raised the Remington again and fired, and the bullet turned its skull to mush.
          As the final two Biters continued to advance on him, Carson took a few steps back and loaded two more shells. He pumped it twice and fired twice, tearing the heads clean off their shoulders.
          The echoes of the gunshots just drew more of them out of their hiding spots. Carson could see them shambling through the streets and circling the lot of the dealership. They were coming from every direction.
          He dug through his pockets and found the last two shells for his Remington. He loaded the shells and made them count, taking down the two nearest Biters. Then he ran like hell.
          He ran until his legs throbbed and his heart pounded against his ribcage. Then he ran some more.
          He jetted all the way back to the market and as he huffed for air, he pounded on the front door. “Let me in! For the love of God, let me in!”
          The noise stirred Scotty and Kenny from their sleep and they helped Reggie clear the door. They let Carson in and he barricaded the door by himself, moving like he was possessed.
          “Are you alright?” Kenny asked.
          “Far from it,” Carson said. “But at least I got that out of my system. The Remington is done. No more shells. I’m still going to hang on to it for now. Maybe we’ll find more ammo soon.”
          “I might know a place,” Loomis said. “It’s not too far from here.”
          “Would you be willing to lead the way?” Carson asked.
          “If you’ve got my back, I’ve got yours,” Loomis said. “Besides, we can’t stay camped out in this market forever.”
          “That’s the spirit,” Carson said, forcing a smile. It was going to be a long, tough road to recovery. But he had to put the loss of Charlotte and Caroline behind him eventually. He had to pull it together and survive for the sake of the group.
          “You’re going to need a new gun,” Kenny said.
          “We’ve still got Vern’s .357 Magnum. That’ll work till we find more guns and ammo.”
          “There’s only six shots left,” Kenny said. “So use them wisely.”
          “Will do.”
          “Hey, where’s the commode in this place?” Kenny asked. “I drank too much and I gotta drain the main vein.”
          “There’s a bathroom just past the stockroom,” Reggie said. “Make sure you don’t go in the stockroom instead.”
          “Who’s in the stockroom?” Carson asked.
          “Taryn and Damien,” Loomis said.
          “Well, I’ll be damned,” Carson said.
          “It’s dark in the bathroom and the toilet’s busted, but there’s a piss bucket in there on the floor. Make sure you don’t knock it over.”
          “Got it,” Kenny said and wandered off with a flashlight to use the bathroom. He opened the door, gasped, and dropped the flashlight. “Guys, come quickly!”
          The men rushed over and Carson picked up the flashlight to scope the room out. He saw the dangling legs before he saw anything else and realized what the fuss was about.
* * *
          A half hour before Carson returned, Drake Sharpe had snagged some rope from the group’s bag of supplies. He snuck off in the darkness to the restroom and in the sink, he lit a scented candle he’d been hording for the occasion.
          He made a loop and knotted it tightly in the center. He flipped the piss bucket over and the rank smell filled the restroom. But in a few seconds, the smell wouldn’t matter one bit.
          He flung the rope around a beam and fastened it securely. When he stood on top of the bucket, he noticed the rope was tied a bit higher than he anticipated. He had to stand on his tiptoes just to fit his head around the noose.
          Once the noose was snug around his skin and the knot was pulled tightly against the back of his neck, he let the bucket slide out from under his feet. But the initial fall had not snapped his neck as he had hoped for.
          His legs kicked involuntary through the air as his fingers moved on their own, pulling at the rope around his neck, trying to alleviate some of the pressure. It felt like a million tiny insects crawling around inside of his back, jolting his spine in every direction.
          He choked with every attempt to call for help and his tongue flapped over his chin like a panting dog.
          Soon, there was no sound. No sight. Death came calling for Drake Sharpe.
* * *
          Day Two Hundred And Thirty-Seven.
          They buried Drake that morning, three blocks from the market.
          The noose had succeeded in taking his life. But it didn’t stop him from turning. When they found him in the stockroom, his body was still writhing and struggling to escape the noose.
          Carson had to cut him down with his machete and finish the job.
          “Drake looked to act like he was tough,” Reggie said. “Like he had everything together. But I could see it in his eyes. He was a coward. He was secretly afraid of anything. When you guys told him nothing was left out there, I think he took that as his cue to exit.”
          “Sorry for your loss,” Nikki said.
          “Very sorry,” Carson added.
          “It’ll be ok,” Reggie assured them. “He was a good man, but we didn’t know him that well.”
          “We could wait till tomorrow to move on if you’d like,” Carson said. “I know it must be tough for you.”
          “No we should probably leave today if we’re going to find the place before dark,” Scotty said. And Reggie seemed to agree.
          On their way back to the market, the group fell under attack. It was a whole herd that came staggering from a nearby alley. There were Oldies and there were fresh ones, but one thing was certain. They were all starved and in search of fresh meat.
          Almost as if they were working in unison, the Biters staggered into the streets, forming a wall of flesh that prevented them from cutting straight across. And there were more lumbering towards the group from the other direction.
          “Take as many down as you have to,” Carson said. “Just until we clear a path.”
          The group raised their individual weapons and the firing commenced.
          Carson remembered the lack of bullets in Vern’s gun and took his time with his shots, made sure he didn’t miss.
          Valentina was a natural and Taryn had drawn inspiration from her and stepped up her game. She was firing and reloading with the speed and accuracy of a seasoned vet.
          Nikki still wasn’t quite there yet, but when push came to shove, she knew how to pull that trigger and eliminate a threat.
          Eli had taken lessons from Carson and seemed to adapt well to the Beretta. He was capping Biters left and right.
          A stray Biter in the distance caught up to the group, but they failed to notice it with their backs turned and this herd of Biters lined in front of them.
          The Biter sank its black, rotting teeth into Kenny’s shoulder and he wailed in pain. Damien saw what was going on and put a stop to it immediately by blasting a hole through the Biter’s head.
          “Fuck!” Kenny screamed as he applied pressure to the wound. Just trying to put pressure on it made him wince in pain.
          A path had been cleared and Carson assisted Kenny as they doubled back towards the market.
          Damien helped Loomis and Reggie barricade the door again as Carson had Nikki help him tend to Kenny’s wound.
          “What can we do?” Carson asked her.
          “Nothing,” she whispered. “It’s a bite. I can’t cure this. I can patch him up, but that doesn’t mean he won’t turn.”
          “Then we’ll cut it off,” Carson said.
          “What?” Nikki said.
          “Yeah, what?” Kenny asked. “Are you nuts?”
          “If we can cut it off and stop the infection from spreading, we might be able to save you. Is it possible?”
          “Yes, it’s possible,” Nikki said. “Almost anything is possible. But even if we cut the arm off and stop the infection from spreading, we’ll have to stop the bleeding right away. We’ll have to cauterize it.”
          “Cauterize?” Carson asked.
          “Burn the wound shut.”
          “Oh hell no,” Kenny protested.
          “Kid, I’m trying to save your life here.”
          “Is it going to hurt?” Kenny asked.
          “Yeah, it’s going to hurt like a bitch,” Carson said. “But when it’s over, you’ll still be alive. Nurse, prep the patient for surgery. I’ll get my machete.”

To Be Continued With Part Twenty Four: FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND

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