A collection of horror, mystery, and science fiction tales, with contributions from fellow writers, James Darko and Dexter Lynch. If you wish to contribute, I'd be happy to showcase your writing. Just send me a message. The stories are free to read and always will be. Some are better than others (I'm speaking only for myself), but I can't give all my best ideas away for free, ha ha. Feel free to share any stories, but please be sure to give credit where credit is due.
Sunday, December 7, 2014
IN THE FLESH: PARTS 21 AND 22
Genre: Horror (Zombies)
Ryder: Former marine/Former police officer/Suffers from retrograde amnesia/ Searching
for clues to his past
Albright: Found and saved Carson/Was married once/Bad tempered/Doesn’t seem to
care at all about family or traditional values
Sudrow: Youngest member of the group/Former spa porter/Happy to be doing
something else/Lost his family to Biters
Burton: Survivor found in Cherrywood Mall/Parents were rich and left him a large
inheritance when they died
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
Reese: A young man who saved Kenny Sudrow’s life/Carries a submachine gun/A
native Bostonian/He used to be a mechanic
Mills: One of the newest members of the group/Little is known about her at this
Fox: A native Tennessean/Former registered nurse
IN THE FLESH
By Daniel Skye
PART TWENTY ONE
Day Two Hundred and Thirty.
It had been one long, arduous month.
But they finally reached the border and crossed over from Tennessee into
Paradise it was not.
Not that Carson Ryder or the others
expected any different. New York was a wasteland. Washington had fallen.
Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Tennessee were in pieces. He didn’t expect Arkansas
to be any better. What he expected was to find his wife and daughter.
They drove through town after town,
never once spotting another glimpse of human life. What they did spot were many
cars and trucks that had been abandoned in the roads by panicked drivers who
were looking for escape.
It was a sight they had grown
accustomed to seeing. It was the same in every state they passed through.
Panic, chaos, disorder. These poor fools never stood a chance.
Carson tried not to wonder how many of
these fleeing motorists survived. The rate of survival had dropped significantly
and Carson doubted if most of them had truly made it.
Still, he knew they weren’t the only
survivors. They had encountered more than their share along the way. Some proved
to be worthy allies, others proved to be dangerous enemies.
But with Carson leading the way, they
had persevered and survived through it all. Well, most of them had. The group
had lost their share of members…Arnold Vesti, Devin Morris, Trevor Virden, Chase
Crawford, Chuckie Razzano, Janice Whitfield, Vern Sheldon, and Willard Pickman,
just to name a few.
But the loss that affected Carson the
most was the loss of Vern. It had been nearly a month since the discovery of
his body, and two weeks since the revelation that Diego Garcia had killed him.
But Damien Albright took care of
Garcia. He used Vern’s flamethrower to burn him alive on the interstate.
It was a memory the group had tried to
erase. But the sight of it, the smell of it, was not something you could easily
erase. It was times like these that Carson wished his condition affected his
short-term memory instead of his long-term memory.
Some of the shops and stores they
cruised past had been looted; the windows smashed out, the doors rammed in. The
shelves barren with no trace of food or supplies.
Other stores had caught fire during
the chaos that had ensued in the initial weeks of this cataclysm. Nothing but
the rubble and ash remained of those structures.
Some owners tried to protect their
businesses by boarding up the windows, barricading the doors. Some succeeded,
others failed. So when dark started catching up with them, Carson looked for a
place with the easiest access. Somewhere they could crash for the night and
strategize, plot their next move.
Danger lurked around every corner and
they needed to remain vigilant. They couldn’t let their guard down.
They found a hospital that was forty
miles from the line between Tennessee and Arkansas. Some of the windows were
busted out, some of the entrances sealed, and none of the ambulances or
emergency vehicles remained.
But when Carson pulled the RV around
back, he saw that the doors in the rear were not boarded or sealed up. They
were chained, but chained from the outside with a cheap padlock you’d buy at a
Five & Dime store.
Damien busted the padlock with a
crowbar they had stashed in the RV and unraveled the chain from the door
He yanked the doors open and rusty
hinges squeaked as they parted. Damien drew his .38 pistols from their
respective holsters and entered first. Carson followed close behind with his
Tyler and Kenny were in next,
brandishing their individual weapons. Taryn, Valentina, and Nikki were in the
middle for their protection. Eli was the last in and he pulled the doors shut.
The flashlights came in handy as they
navigated their way through each bare, vacant corridor. A few gurneys and
waiting room chairs aside, the halls and lobby were barren.
They split up and did a full sweep of
every room on the first floor to be sure they were alone.
The doors to the cafeteria were
chained and padlocked. “You got that crowbar handy?” Carson asked.
“Left it outside,” Damien told him.
“I hate wasting bullets, but screw
it,” Carson shrugged. “Kenny, would you do the honors?”
“My pleasure,” Kenny said, raising his
semi-automatic pistol and firing one shot that pierced the lock cylinder and
left a smoking crater in the center. Carson knocked the busted lock off with
his boot and undid the chain.
He thrust the cafeteria doors open and
moved in first with his Remington in hand. When he saw it was clear, he waved
for everyone to follow. They spread through the cafeteria and Tyler found the
cash register and pressed the NO SALE button. The drawer popped open and Tyler
saw there was still eighty four dollars in tens, fives, and singles. He scooped
the money out from the individual slots and pocketed it.
“Really?” Kenny asked, rolling his
eyes. “What good is money nowadays?”
“Hey, you never know what we might
need it for,” Tyler said.
The kitchen resembled a crime scene,
and Carson urged the girls not to go inside. Damien was the second to see the
carnage that had unfolded in the kitchen. Now the chains and padlocks made
Whoever put them there had done it
intentionally to lock several others inside the cafeteria.
The food was long gone. The prisoners
of the cafeteria had ripped through everything. They even wolfed down raw eggs
and bags of flour. Not a single crumb or morsel remained.
“So much for finding food here,”
“Who could be hungry after seeing
something like this?” Carson wondered.
The people must’ve starved to death
once they ran out of food and supplies. Then they turned and came back like the
others. Except they were trapped in this cafeteria; no food, no escape.
So they had done something Carson and
the others had never witnessed before. The Biters had resorted to
self-cannibalism, devouring one another. The last Biter standing hadn’t planned
on what he’d do when his food supply ran thin.
And so, with no other source of
attainable food, it had begun the process of eating itself. It started with its
own fingers, gnawing them down until all that remained on both hands were ten
little nubs of white bone.
When Carson and the gang stumbled upon the blood stained kitchen,
the last Biter was still alive. It had chewed off its own feet and gnawed its
ankles down to the bone. And at some point, it had devoured its own tongue.
With no survivors, Carson would never
know how these people came to be here or why they were locked inside. Their
deaths would remain a vague mystery. Were they good people or bad people? Who
locked them inside? Was it a greedy survivor who took their weapons and
supplies? Was it someone they had tried to harm or kill? They would never know
Damien cocked the hammer back on one
of his pistols but Carson put his hand out to urge him not to.
“The sound may only attract more of
them. We haven’t cleared every floor yet.”
“Good point,” Damien said, holstering
his pistols. He pulled the hunting knife from the sheath wrapped around his
thigh and he rammed the blade through its forehead, killing it instantly.
Though, Carson wondered how you could
kill something that was already dead. In a way, Carson thought they weren’t
even really killing these things. Just helping the Biters find eternal rest.
They abandoned the cafeteria and moved
onto the second floor. All was clear. So they pushed on forward to the third
The fourth floor…all clear.
It was when they reached the tenth
floor that the trouble began. Upon entry, the rank smell of death hit them,
making Nikki, Taryn, and even Carson gag like a punch to the throat.
The smell was so foul and pungent,
they didn’t have to ponder what they were up against. The floor was crawling
“God only knows how long they’ve been
here,” Kenny said, pinching his nose like a clothespin with two fingers. “They
smell like oldies to me.”
“All of them,” Carson told the group.
“Use your guns. No sense in playing it quiet or trying to use knives to kill of
these things. There are way too many of them.”
Tyler stepped forward first and let
the submachine gun rip. Bullets zoomed down the corridor and took out every
Biter that was standing in their way. But the noise just drew more of them out
from the various rooms of the tenth floor.
Like the Biters in the cafeteria,
these Biters bared numerous bite wounds and signs of self-mutilation.
“Fire!” Carson shouted and the whole
group commenced shooting.
Bullets ripped and tore through the
air, some striking and some missing their intended targets. Carson fired a
shot, pumped the mechanism of his shotgun, and fired another. He repeated the
process until he was out of shells, then he reloaded and started the cycle over
Taryn and Valentina were carrying
revolvers, so they could only fire six shots at a time before they had to
reload. In an ordinary shootout, this inconvenience could lead to your
downfall. But they were safely covered with the rest of the group beside them
and had plenty of time to reload their weapons before they resumed firing.
Damien unloaded both of his .38
pistols, popped the empty clips out, and loaded two fresh ones.
When all was said and done, they had
fired over one hundred shots and taken down over sixty Biters.
Kenny had missed his share of shots,
and Nikki wasn’t exactly a professional shooter. But even an experienced
shooter like Carson had wasted a few shells in the fray.
He counted the shells in his pocket
and realized that including the shells he had in the RV, he only had twelve
“Got to make these rounds count,”
Carson muttered as he reloaded his shotgun.
“I say we don’t waste any more
ammunition,” Damien said. “We’ve already cleared the first ten floors. I think
we’ll be safe if we stay away from the others and keep the door to the
stairwell barricaded from the outside. We can camp on the first floor and if
any shit goes down, at least we’ll be near an exit.”
“Agreed,” Carson said. “We’re running
too low on ammo to go any further.”
They headed for the staircase and
descended the first flight. And that’s when Damien noticed someone was
following them. A young man with a bad complexion and a NY Yankees cap.
As soon as he heard them coming, he
bolted down the stairs. “Get him!” Damien shouted and flew down the stairs.
Without even knowing who or what Damien was talking about, Carson took off
The group rushed down after Carson and
Damien and when they reached the first floor and stepped out from the
stairwell, Damien had already captured the person in question.
He had wrestled the young man down to
the floor, and Damien was pinning him down by the shoulders with his knees.
“Why were you following us?” Damien snarled.
“I wasn’t!” the kid yelped in pain
from the weight Damien was putting on his shoulders and chest. “I swear! I
thought you guys were following me! Honest! I’ve…I’ve been hiding out in this
place for a week, crawled in through one of the broken windows. All the doors
were locked or barricaded or boarded up. How’d you get in?”
“We have our ways,” Damien said. “Now
start talking, kid. Who are you and what are you hiding from?”
“The name’s Aaron Black. I was born in
Manhattan, raised in Staten Island. I ended up here because my folks thought
Washington would be safe. We were halfway there before we got overrun by the
zombies. I lost my folks…was on my own for a while…then I met some survivors
who accepted me into their group.”
“I didn’t ask for your life story,”
Damien said. “I just asked who you were and what you were hiding from.”
“Well, I already told you who I am.
What I’m hiding from is pretty obvious. I’m hiding from those freaks out there
that want to eat my face off. But I’m also hiding from a particular group.”
“What group?” Carson asked in place of
“I don’t know who they are or where
they come from,” the kid said, taking deep breaths from the pressure Damien was
applying with his knees. “The leaders calls himself Poppy. He’s hideously
disfigured. The dude makes Bill Maher look like a fashion model.”
“Where are they now?”
“I don’t know,” Aaron cried. “They
attacked my group. I was the only one who managed to get away. I found this
place, crawled in through a broken window, and I’ve been hiding out on the
third floor since then. I saw you guys coming through one of the windows. I
thought you might be with them.”
“Well, we’re not,” Carson assured him.
“We’re our own group. We’re not looking to hurt anyone who’s not looking to
“So what do you think?” Damien asked.
“Can we trust him?”
“I say we kick his ass just for
wearing a New York Yankees cap,” Tyler threw his two cents in.
“Ah, you must be a Red Sox fan,” Aaron
muttered. “Can you please get off me now? I’m having trouble breathing.”
Damien lifted himself off of Aaron and
Carson helped the young man to his feet. He breathed easy and regained his
Aaron’s thin arms, neck, and face were
riddled in red sores and blisters that looked ready to burst.
Aaron’s drug of choice happened to be
crystal meth, a nasty little mix of drain cleaner, battery acid, brake fluid,
and other harmful chemicals. These chemicals cannot be excreted through normal
bodily functions. But everything you put into your body must find a way out.
So the chemicals in your body escape
through the pores of your skin, oozing and dripping out, scarring your body and
causing the formation of sores, boils, and blisters. This grotesque process
results in the irreversible skin damage that Aaron clearly displayed.
And Damien was the first to pick up on
it, though Kenny and Tyler were both familiar with the drug and had their
suspicions about Aaron.
“You’re a tweaker,” Damien said. “I
can see it in your eyes. I can see it in the way your body twitches around when
you try to remain still. I can see it in the damage that you’ve done to your
skin. Now your personal business is none of mine, but I need to now for the
sake of our group, how long have you been using?”
“Five years,” Aaron confessed. “It
started as fun, you know? My friends got me into it. Just something we’d do
before we went out partying or dancing at a club. We only did it when we were
desperate and we couldn’t score cocaine. But next thing I knew, I was hooked on
that awful garbage.”
“And you still are?” Damien asked.
“Unfortunately,” Aaron muttered. “I
thought I had broken the habit. Then I found somebody’s stash when I was
raiding a house for supplies back in Missouri. I was with my group back then
and I kept it a secret the whole time. Once I lost them, I figured there was no
sense in holding back. Not with those flesh eaters outside and that band of
disfigured freaks hunting me down.”
“You’re safe now,” Carson assured him.
“You’re with us. Nothing’s going to happen to you as long as you play it cool
and you don’t try anything funny. Hurt us, we hurt you. If you’re cool, we can
be cool too.”
“Fair enough,” Aaron said, grinding
his teeth. “So how about you give me a gun then? I’d feel safer if I had a weapon.”
“No can do,” Carson said. “We’re
running low on guns and ammo as it as. But we’ll talk again once you’ve earned
your keep. Why don’t you start by helping the guys unload some supplies from
“RV?” Aaron said. “I hit the jackpot
running into you guys.”
* * *
Aaron helped them unload food, water,
flashlights, luggage, and other supplies from the RV. He helped himself to a
bottle of water, only after he asked Carson’s permission.
“I can’t thank you enough,” Aaron said
as Kenny and Tyler barricaded the door that they came through with anything
that wasn’t bolted down. “I’ve been living on toilet water for weeks, maybe
“Well we have plenty of water to go
around,” Carson assured him. But that wasn’t exactly true. They were running
low on food, water, ammo, and many other useful supplies.
Carson knew they’d have to make a run
through one of the towns soon, see what they could find. But he wanted to hold
off for as long as possible. The group had already been through enough as it
Aaron was trying his best to blend in
and lend a hand when needed, but the group knew what he was. Every time he’d
wander off to be alone, they’d mutter under their breaths.
And then Aaron would return, talking a
mile a minute, and confirming their accusations towards him. Day or night, it
didn’t matter. Aaron was high.
But how long would the supply last?
What would happen when he inevitably ran out and had to go cold turkey? The
group had experienced this before with Devin Morris and things didn’t work out
too well in his case.
Carson hoped this wouldn’t be the same
case with Aaron. At the time, the group had accused Regis Whitfield of
murdering a detoxing Devin Morris in his sleep. Looking back on it, it could’ve
The killer could easily still be among
* * *
Day Two Hundred and Thirty-Four.
Aaron Black had done his best to work
his way into the fold. The group still hadn’t quite accepted him as one of
their own, but they were decent enough to share food, water, supplies, and give
him the time of day.
For how long Aaron Black stayed with
the group depended entirely on him and his unpredictable behavior. One minute
he was drowsy and falling asleep standing up, and the next minute he was all
amped up and talking so fast that no one could keep up with him.
This pattern concerned Carson Ryder,
who had hopes that Aaron Black could conquer his demons and become a
full-fledged member of the group.
But the others wouldn’t accept him if
they knew he was heading for a meltdown when his stash ran out.
That morning, Aaron didn’t have much
of an appetite, but his lips wouldn’t stop flapping, either.
“So where are you dudes from?” Aaron
asked Tyler, Kenny, and Eli. The guys were munching on nuts, berries, dried
fruit, energy bars. Anything that they could scrounge up. Food was running low,
but Kenny was confident they’d find something soon.
“Long Island,” Kenny said.
“Same,” Eli said.
“New York boys, huh? I’m an NY boy
myself. Born in Manhattan, raised on Staten Island. I visited Long Island once
or twice. Loved the Hamptons. The beaches were awesome. Speaking of awesome,
how awesome are Taryn’s tits? I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t talk about her like
that. I hardly know her. But I just can’t help myself, you know? It’s been so
long since I’ve been with a girl. I’d fuck a hole in the wall if I had a drill
to make one deep enough.”
“TMI,” Kenny mumbled.
“So where are you from again?” Aaron
“Boston,” Tyler answered.
“Oh, yeah, you’re the one who didn’t
like my Yankees cap. Hey, I understand. We can’t all be winners.”
“Watch it, buddy,” Tyler said.
“Just joking around,” Aaron said.
“Don’t take it personal. I actually kind of liked the Red Sox. Too bad we won’t
be seeing a baseball game ever again. We should invent our own sport. Zombie Ball
“Does he ever stop talking?” Tyler
muttered to Kenny.
“Hey, I recognize that tattoo,” Aaron
said, admiring Eli’s shoulder ink. “It’s a gang tattoo, right? Am I right? Were
you in a gang? Like the Crips and the Bloods?”
“Hah, Eli in a gang,” Kenny chuckled
just at the thought. Eli rolled his sleeve down, covering the tattoo.
“It’s not a gang symbol,” Eli spoke
up. “Not that I know of, at least. I picked it off the wall at some tattoo shop
in Merrick. I just liked the design.”
“Ah, gotcha,” Aaron said and resumed
talking exclusively to Tyler and Kenny.
Eli wandered off with an energy bar in
hand and brushed shoulders with Nikki Fox, who was looking for Carson Ryder.
She found him stretched out on one of
the hospital beds in the west wing. “Catching up on your sleep?” Nikki asked.
“Just resting my eyes,” Carson assured
“Taryn and I were talking. Well,
people are getting worried. We’re running low on food, water, and so many other
supplies. We barely have enough ammo to survive another onslaught.”
“I’ll talk to Damien soon,” Carson
told her. “See what we can scrounge up in the surrounding area. If we don’t
find much, we’ll move on. We’ve still got enough gasoline to get us to
Washington and back if we needed to.”
“Ok, thanks for reassuring me,” Nikki
said. “I’ll talk to Taryn. She’s a sweet girl, but she’s so hard to calm down
once she gets worked up.”
“Tell me about it,” Carson said, his
eyelids flickering. He yawned and that was Nikki’s cue to leave and let him
On her way back to her room, Nikki
crossed paths with Valentina Jackson.
“What were you doing in Carson’s
room?” Valentina inquired.
“Just expressing some concern over the
lack of food and supplies. Carson said he’s got it taken care of though. So no
“If you’re trying to horde in on my
man, then we definitely have a problem,” Valentina assured her.
“Your man? Carson is married and
looking for his wife and daughter.”
“Yeah and what makes you so sure he’s
going to find them? Wake up. By now, they’re probably dead or halfway across
the country. He’s never going to find them. And when he realizes it, he’s going
to fall right into my arms.”
* * *
Damien Albright had spent the night
with Taryn Mills. The sex hadn’t meant anything to either of them. It was just
a simple case of satisfying their natural desires. And Taryn had to admit, the
sex wasn’t disappointing at all.
Still, she feared getting emotionally
attached to another man after the loss of George Verdi. So when the sex was
over, there was no cuddling, no pillow talk.
She just wanted to close her eyes and
sleep. But when she woke up that morning, she felt the sudden urge to share
with him. And Damien was not the guy who really cared for expressing his
“I miss George every day,” she told
him. “I honestly do. I realize now that Diego Garcia didn’t do everything he
could to save him. He left George for dead in that hardware store. For all I
know, he probably killed George himself. I guess I’ll never really know for
“Don’t let it eat away at you,” Damien
advised. “Just let it all go.”
“How can you be so calm, so cool all
the time? How do you keep it all bottled up inside?”
“Don’t you have any family, any friends
outside of this group?”
“Well, don’t you miss those people
that were once a part of your life?”
“Nope,” Damien repeated. “You can’t
miss what you never had. I never really knew my dad. And my mom gave me up for
adoption when I was six months old. I bounced around from foster home to foster
home, was on my own by age eighteen. I never knew my grandparents. I don’t know
if I had any aunts, uncles, or cousins. And I don’t really care. Like I said,
you can’t miss what you never had.”
“That’s horrible,” Taryn proclaimed.
“Not really,” Damien said. “I liked
being on my own. I liked being independent. I used to drive a taxi, work
construction, give guitar lessons, deliver pizzas, slice cold cuts, flip
burgers, mop floors, move crates and stock shelves. I did what I had to do in
order to survive. Just like I’m doing now.”
“Did you say you gave guitar lessons?”
“So you play guitar?”
“If I had my guitar right now I’d play
a tune just for you.”
“Wow, that is so hot,” Taryn said,
“Alright, don’t get all worked up on
me,” Damien told her. “I’m not ready for round two just yet.”
* * *
“We’ve got company!” Kenny shouted
from the east wing. He watched two young children, their faces caked in layers
of dirt and soot, their clothes tattered beyond restoration. “They’re kids!”
“Did you say kids?” Tyler asked as he
was the first to trace the source of Kenny’s voice. He entered the room and
approached the window Kenny was peering out. There he saw the children in
Taryn and Nikki were the next to come
along and see what all the fuss was about. “Aw, they’re so precious,” Nikki
“They’re caked in filth,” Tyler said.
“They’re still adorable,” Nikki
“If you say so,” Tyler muttered.
“Do you think they’re alone?” Taryn
asked as Damien Albright entered the room. Eli Burton followed behind him.
“I doubt it,” Kenny said. “No way
would two kids this age survive on their own this long. They must have parents
or a guardian. Someone they’re traveling with.”
The group crowded around the window to
watch the children frolic and play without a care in the world.
They skipped, hopped, played rock,
paper, scissors. Their hair was so long it was hard to tell if they were girls
or boys from the group’s vantage point.
“They could be decoys,” Damien said.
“Just a distraction to take our attention off of whatever’s coming.”
“HELP!” Aaron Black’s cry echoed
through every corridor of the east wing. “HELP ME!”
Out came the pistols and Damien went
running down the hall. He found Aaron in one of the rooms where the window had
been smashed out. Standing over him was a young woman.
She was naked as the day is long, to
steal a cliché. All that covered her thin body was a white loin cloth, nearly
transparent. Blood dribbled down her chin as she chomped on a piece of raw
meat. It was then that Damien noticed the chunk of flesh absent from Aaron’s
Missy swallowed down the last bite
with a single gulp and smiled, her teeth stained red, a piece of meaty flesh
still clinging between them.
She wasn’t a Biter. She was filthy,
but she showed no signs of rot or disease. She was just…hungry, Damien
“Step back,” Damien ordered her. At
that point, the rest of the group had gathered at the threshold of the door.
“Stay back, guys. I can handle this one.”
One window shattered suddenly in the
Another window was smashed to pieces
three doors down.
The kids. They were hurling rocks at
all the windows.
“What is this?” Damien asked. “Who are
“I’m Missy,” the young woman spoke. “I
see you’ve already been introduced to Brother and Sister. Mommy and Poppy are
waiting for you.”
“Poppy? Who the hell is–” Damien’s
words were cut off by the sudden pain brought on from the mace she sprayed into
his eyes. Missy had been cradling the can of mace in one hand behind her back.
Damien dropped both pistols and tried rubbing the burning
chemicals from his eyes. He thrashed on the floor, his throat swelled up, his
eyes turned red. He could barely breathe.
Kenny came charging in with his
semiautomatic pistol, but got an eyeful of mace for his troubles. Soon, Kenny
was writhing on the floor beside Damien and struggling to breathe.
Valentina opened fire from the
doorway, but by then it was too late. Missy had slipped out the window and was
“Where’s Eli?” Nikki asked.
“Gone,” Tyler shrugged. “I think he
took off after he heard Aaron’s screams.”
“Just great,” Valentina sighed.
They heard noises emanating throughout
the east wing. “The kids,” Nikki said. “They must’ve snuck inside.”
“Still think they’re adorable?” Tyler
“No time for jokes,” Valentina said.
“Taryn, you and Nikki stay here and watch over them. Tyler, you come with me.”
They ran through the halls, searching
for the children that were surely loose in the building. Instead, they caught
up with Mommy. Like Missy, she had donned a white, transparent loin cloth, but
she was otherwise naked. Blood had been smeared over her breasts and had dried
to a hard red crust.
“Will you be joining us for dinner?” Mommy
“I don’t think so,” Valentina said,
revolver in hand. Tyler had his submachine gun, but that didn’t matter. He
dropped it when he collapsed to his knees, as a sharp white instrument was used
to slice through his tendons.
He turned around to see Brother, a
young boy no older than eight or none, grasping what appeared to be a bone in
his hand. Only the ends of the bone had been filed down to razor-sharp points,
making it capable of hacking, slashing, penetrating.
Sister, an eight year old girl with dirty blond hair, picked
up the submachine gun and pressed it to Valentina’s back. “I’d drop the gun if
I was you,” Mommy advised Valentina.
She dropped the revolver to the floor and kicked it over to
Mommy. She picked up and her children gathered at her sides. Sister was still
holding Tyler’s gun and judging by the screams emanating from the nearest
corridor, Mommy assumed the girls had just met Poppy.
And her assumptions were accurate.
Missy had returned with reinforcements. The girls tried to defend themselves,
but with Kenny and Damien out of commission, Eli gone M.I.A., and Aaron in a
state of shock, they had no choice but to surrender their weapons when Poppy
crawled through the window with a hand cannon of his own.
He was a very tall man, dark skinned
and hideously disfigured. His face had been split down the middle and stitched back
together with a dirty, old shoelace.
In reality, Eli hadn’t abandoned the
group. He just went to warn Carson of the danger that they were up against. But
when they returned together, the others were gone and all that remained was a
fresh trail of blood from where Tyler had been incapacitated.
“Where did they…” Carson trailed off
when he heard the footsteps. He turned and caught just a brief glimpse of
Poppy’s mutilated face, and the steel pipe he was holding.
He swung the pipe and it clubbed
Carson on the side of the head, turning his lights out. Before Eli could even
attempt to barter or reason with this man, the pipe struck him over the head,
rendering Eli unconscious.
“Sweet dreams,” Poppy whispered. His
smile was pure malevolence. His wide, unblinking eyes told the tale of a man
who felt no compassion, no sympathy for others. Carson, Eli, Damien, the
others…they weren’t people to Poppy and his family.
They were livestock.
PART TWENTY TWO
Carson awoke in the basement, his wrists and ankles bound with
wire. But he wasn’t alone. The whole group was bound alongside him, sans Tyler
Reese and Aaron Black.
“What happened?” Carson muttered. He
was still groggy and his temples were throbbing. A small lump had formed on the
side of his head, taking the shape of an egg.
“We fell right into a trap,” Damien
“Where are Tyler and Aaron?” Taryn
“Yeah, and why did you abandon us?”
Kenny asked Eli.
“I didn’t abandon you,” Eli said. “I
ran back to warn Carson about what was going on. But that ugly bastard clubbed
us both with a pipe.”
“It’s true,” Carson told them. “I
remember it now.”
“What are we going to do?” Nikki
asked. “That’s the important question. How are we going to escape?”
“I’ll think of something,” Carson said
after some hesitation.
“Well, for our sake, think of it
fast,” Valentina said.
“Did you see the way they shake?”
Damien asked the group. “I’ve seen this before with your old man and his
buddies, Valentina. They’re infected.”
“You mean they’re Biters?” Taryn
“No, they’re infected with something
else,” Damien said.
“Kuru,” Kenny said. The word rolled
off his tongue and exited his mouth as a harsh whisper.
“You remembered,” Damien said. “Yes,
Kuru. It’s a nasty little disease. Comes from eating human flesh. Specifically
human brain tissue. See, this is something you’ll never hear in one of those
Hannibal Lecter movies. Brain tissue contains prions, little mutated protein
cells that, when ingested, can infect a living person with Kuru. One of the
main side effects is the constant shaking and involuntary hand tremors.”
“So what are you saying?” Eli asked.
“What’s the point of all this?”
“People with Kuru don’t last very
long. There’s no cure and it’s not something people contract every day. With
this disease, you have about a year, tops. What I’m saying is, they have
absolutely nothing to lose, and they’re probably aware of that fact.”
* * *
“Please don’t eat me,” Aaron cried. “I
have bad skin. I’m a meth head. I’m poor and ignorant, and I have bad hygiene. And
there’s a bag of meth in it for you if you let me go. Eat Tyler instead. He’s
healthy. He works out. He’s clean.”
“For once in your life, would you shut
the fuck up?” Tyler asked in rhetorical fashion.
“You can’t eat me,” Aaron screamed.
“I’m riddled with diseases. I have every STD known to man.”
“And we have the shakes,” Missy
explained. “Poppy says it will kill us soon. So we have to eat our fill while
“Listen,” Tyler said. “I have money in
my pocket. I also have a wicked awesome gun and a shitload of personal
supplies. It’s yours if you just let me go and take the others. No harm, no
“Money is no good to us,” Poppy said.
“And you can’t even walk. Even if your tendons heal, you’ll never walk right
again. No, that wouldn’t be right. The sensible thing to do with a wounded
animal is to put it down. But why should that animal’s carcass go to waste if
the whole tribe can benefit from its sacrifice?”
“You’re insane!” Tyler screamed.
“Now you’re getting it,” Poppy said as
he brought the sharpened bone down and dragged it across Tyler’s throat,
slitting it from ear to ear.
Poppy had a gun, but guns weren’t his
style. The hand cannon was strictly for backup. Poppy preferred the old
“Don’t fret,” Poppy told Aaron.
* * *
The more Carson and the gang struggled
to escape, the more the taut wire dug and cut into their exposed wrists and
ankles. It seemed like a futile effort at the moment. Even the most hopeful
members of the group like Kenny Sudrow appeared to abandon their faith and sink
into a pit of despair.
“Think of anything yet?” Damien asked
Carson. But Carson was in no mood for wise cracks. What he needed right now was
“I’m all out of solutions,” Carson
said. “But if we work together, we can come up with something.”
“Like what?” Eli asked.
“I don’t know,” Carson said. “But
there’s got to be some way out of this.”
“What if I pretend I’m sick?” Nikki
asked. “I pretend to faint or pass out and maybe they untie me to check me out.
And that’s when I can ambush them.”
“Ambush them with what?” Kenny asked.
“They took our guns, our knives. God knows what they’re doing with Tyler and
Aaron. The situation is hopeless.”
“Carson, did they take your pocket
knife?” Valentina asked. “The one you keep in your boot.”
“No, I think it’s still with me,”
“Well, if you can dig it out of your
boot, it might be our only shot at defending ourselves.”
“I can’t reach it,” Carson told them.
“The wire is loosening, though. Maybe I can slip one of my hands out and get to
Before Carson could do just that, the
door swung open and Mommy entered the room in the basement where the group was
being held. She had a shoebox she was carrying under one arm, even though the
box appeared to be heavy.
She lay the box in the center of the
room, right on the floor, and flicked off the lid with her grimy black fingers
that were now drenched in a layer of red. The girls couldn’t help but feel
repulsed every time they saw the dried blood smeared across Mommy’s bosom. The
sight was no picnic for the men, either.
“I thought I’d keep you folks
entertained,” Mommy said, sorting through her box of trinkets. “You are our
guests of honor, after all.” The box was filled to the top with earrings,
bracelets, wristwatches, IDs, passports, Polaroid pictures that Mommy took out
and flipped through.
“I took these myself,” she told the
“You don’t say,” Damien muttered with
a cool, dry wit.
“This was the first family we killed
out in Waco, Texas,” Mommy said, flashing the photos for the group to see.
Nikki winced at the pictures, which captured every gory detail of the crimes
that had been perpetrated. “And this was a young couple we bagged out in
Deerfield. Deerfield, Plano, not San Antonio.”
“Thanks for clarifying,” Damien said. It
might’ve seemed sarcastic, but what he was actually doing was distracting Mommy
and taking the attention off Carson, who almost had one of his wrists free.
“And these unlucky buggers were a
group we ran into out in Lake Mead. That was in Nevada. Good times.”
“So what are these, like souvenirs to
you people?” Taryn asked.
“Anything can be a souvenir if you
make it one,” Mommy said. “But I prefer the term mementos.”
“Add this to your collection of
mementos,” Carson said, and Mommy spun around to find that Carson had freed
himself and was on his feet, pocket knife in hand. He plunged the three inch
blade into her eye as deep as it could go.
Then he yanked the blade free, and a
jet of blood came spurting from the socket. Mommy collapsed to the floor, with
no pulse that Carson could find. He cleaned the blade, smearing the blood onto
his already dirtied jeans, then set about freeing the other members of the
group, starting with Damien Albright.
“Take the knife and guard the door,”
Carson told him. “I’ll free the others.”
As Carson did just that, Damien
accepted the knife and moved over to the door, peeking out into the darkness.
In the distance, sitting at the bottom of the stairs were Brother and Sister.
They were eating something with their
fingers. Something that looked bland and grey. Some type of food that Damien
could not identify.
And then it hit him like a kick in the
teeth and he realized just what these sick kids were chowing down on…raw
“We might have a problem,” Damien
whispered, just loud enough for Brother to overhear. He set his bowl of food
down and picked up his weapon of choice. As he grasped the sharpened bone used
to slice Tyler Reese’s tendons and eventually to slit his throat, he inched
towards the door and Damien backed away just as Carson had freed the last of
Brother entered the room, saw Mommy
lying dead on the floor, and uttered some loud, guttural sound that was
anything but human. It sounded like a caveman’s first attempt at speech. He
locked his eyes in on Damien.
This is what it came down to: Damien
with the knife, and Brother with his long, stringy blond hair and that
sharpened bone in one hand.
“What are you waiting for?” Eli
shouted. “Kill the little bastard! It’s them or us! You know that!”
“I know…”Damien started and then trailed
off. “I just…I just can’t kill a kid.”
“You’re weak,” Brother laughed. “Poppy
says the weak don’t deserve to live.”
“Is that what your Poppy teaches you,
kid?” Damien said, shaking his head in disapproval.
“Poppy teaches me to be strong. I’ll
show you just how strong I am.”
The boy came charging at Damien,
razor-sharp bone in hand. He lunged at him, but Damien sidestepped the child and
managed to avoid his attack.
“Come on!” Eli cried. “Do it, Damien!
Kill him! You’ve got no choice! He’ll kill you if you don’t kill him!”
The boy spun around and looked to
continue his assault, until Damien stuck the knife between two of his ribs,
causing Brother to scream out and alert Sister, who ran off to warn the others.
Damien wriggled the knife free and
lowered Brother gently down to the floor, showing remorse for his actions. The
boy attempted to apply pressure to the wound and slow the bleeding, but he was
too weak to find the ability to do so.
“I’m going to die, aren’t I?” Brother
asked. Damien refused to answer. He just wiped the blood from the knife and
handed it back to Carson.
“Let’s go find our weapons,” Damien
* * *
Their guns were on the first floor, in
the same room where the group found the dismembered bodies of Tyler Reese and
Aaron Black. Black’s head had been sawed open at the top, the brains scooped
What flesh remained on the torsos was turning
blue and discolored from lack of oxygen and blood flow. The sight of it and the
smell of the blood made half of the group retch as they entered.
Absent from the pile of weapons were
Tyler’s submachine gun and Kenny’s semi-automatic pistol. Carson grabbed his
Remington shotgun and Damien grabbed hold of his .38 pistols. The rest of the
group snatched up their respective guns, except for Kenny, who Carson
instructed to stand in back of everyone and stay clear of any gunfire.
They waited for a noise, any noise
that would give away Poppy’s location. But the east wing remained as quiet as a
“Maybe they’re lurking around in the
west wing,” Carson said.
They never even heard the footsteps.
All Carson heard was the sound of the hammer cocking back on Kenny’s gun and
then the bullets came flying. The group scattered and took cover in separate rooms.
Damien grabbed Carson and dragged him into one of the empty rooms, saving him
from a barrage of bullets.
“How many times is that you’ve saved
my life now?” Carson asked as the bullets from the submachine gun and Kenny’s
semi-automatic continued to zoom down the hallway. They didn’t know if it was
Poppy, Missy, Sister, or a combination of all three doing the shooting.
“Thank me later,” Damien told Carson.
The girls recalled that Poppy had a
gun of his own and it wasn’t among the inventory of weapons. Carson and Damien
moved to the doorframe and fired several shots outside.
But they didn’t hear any screams,
meaning they had missed their intended targets.
“They don’t seem to be conserving
their ammunition,” Damien pointed out. “Maybe they’ll run out soon.”
Bullets continued to fly fast and
furious up and down the halls of the east wing. The girls tried getting a few
shots in, but they missed every time. And it wasn’t worth the risk of sticking
their hands past the doorframe and losing a finger, or fingers for that matter.
“How many rounds does that submachine
gun hold?” Carson asked.
“Too many,” Damien told him.
While Carson and Damien were trying to
formulate a plan, Kenny was in the adjacent room, cowering behind Eli, who
still had his .27 Beretta.
“Even if I die,” Kenny said, “I’m not
going to give these freaks the satisfaction of eating me. I’m gonna go out in
style. I have a plan…”
The girls were in the opposite room
and Kenny mouthed his plan to them, gesturing with his hands as he explained
along, and they seemed to get the gist of it.
Valentina and Taryn each had their
revolvers, loaded with six rounds apiece. And Nikki had the Smith & Wesson
that Carson had once claimed.
“All right, you ugly motherfuckers!”
Kenny shouted. “I’m coming out! I give up, ok?! I surrender! Go ahead and eat
me, you sorry pricks!”
“Kenny, you don’t know what you’re
saying!” Carson shouted from the adjacent room. “Just knock it off.”
“Relax, Carson,” he said back. “I’ve
got this one. All right, here I come! Get ready for me!”
Kenny stepped past the threshold of the
door and raised both hands to the air and started walking down in the hall,
right in the direction of Poppy and his deranged offspring.
“Now!” Kenny screamed as he dropped to
the floor like a sack of potatoes, just out of the line of fire. Taryn, Nikki,
Valentina, and Eli sprang from their rooms and opened fire. They unloaded their
guns in the direction of Poppy and his children, and put an end to this
The group gathered in the hall, Carson
being the first to approach. Missy was long gone. Blood stained her transparent
loin cloth and lying beside her was the still, motionless body of her Sister.
Poppy was still clutching the
submachine gun. Carson had to pry it from his cold, dead hands.
He checked it. Empty.
“Damn,” he muttered, tossing the gun
aside. It was of no use to them now. Tyler was dead and there were no more
“Bunch of freaks,” Damien said,
kicking Poppy’s ribs.
“He’s dead,” Carson told Damien.
“Still feels good to me,” Damien said.
“Guys, let’s gather our supplies and
ammunition, see how much we have left.”
* * *
They moved to the second floor, where
the group all felt a lot safer. They had Poppy’s hand cannon, loaded with five
Carson had eight shells left for his
The Smith & Wesson he gave to
Nikki Fox still had thirty rounds left.
Kenny had one more round of bullets
for his semi-automatic, giving him fifteen in total.
Eli was down to his clip for the .27
Beretta. He still had ten bullets to defend himself against a potential horde
of the perilous undead.
Damien had two rounds apiece left for
his .38 pistols.
Valentina and Taryn were down to their
last six shots.
They also had Vern’s .357 Magnum, with
six shots left.
They had found their knives and
machetes, but those wouldn’t help if they encountered an entire horde. And they
still had Vern Sheldon’s flamethrower, but that was for emergency purposes only
and was too heavy to lug around on a regular basis.
“If you have to use them, make it
count,” Carson said in regards to the firearms. “Tomorrow, we move on from
Damien was silent for the rest of the
evening. Not even the advances of Taryn Mills could comfort him. He kept to
himself, and didn’t eat a thing. Though it can’t be said that the others were
very hungry. Not after what they had witnessed. Not after what had transpired.
“You want to talk?” Carson asked
Damien late that night, after some of the others had turned in for bed.
“I just keep thinking about that kid,”
Damien said. “About stabbing him. I keep playing the incident over and over in
my head. I can’t shake it.”
“You did the right thing,” Carson said.
“That kid was a vicious psychopath. He would’ve killed us all if he had the
chance. Eli was right about that. No matter what you feel, you did the right
thing. Remember that.”
“I know,” Damien said. “And I know I
come off as if I don’t care, but the truth is that this group is the only
family I’ve ever had. I would kill for these people. I’ll do whatever I have to
do to make sure we survive.”
“So will I,” Carson assured him,
leaving him alone to his thoughts.
* * *
“That was a brave thing you did today,”
Nikki told Kenny.
“Thanks,” Kenny said, blushing. Kenny
had been sober for days, maybe weeks. He couldn’t quite remember. The liquor had
hit him pretty hard this evening because his tolerance was so low.
But he was still quaffing down the booze
when Nikki approached him. That night, it was vodka he was drinking in memory
of his friend, Tyler Reese.
“No, I’m serious,” she assured him. “I
don’t think I would’ve been able to do that. I was too scared to even think of
“At that point, I didn’t really care
about life or death. I just said fuck it. Now if you’ll excuse me. I lost a
good friend today and I’d like to be alone with my vodka.”
To Be Continued With Part Twenty Three: