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.
Ryder: Ex-police officer/Ex-marine/Lost his wife Caroline, and daughter
Charlotte/The unofficial leader of the group/Dying for a cigarette/Has mixed
feelings about Nikki Fox
Smith: Doomsday prepper/He was expecting and preparing for the zombie
apocalypse for years/Lives in a fortified compound with a tremendous arsenal of
Mills: Survivor found outside the Starlight Hotel/Lost her boyfriend and her
family to the Biters/Former exotic dancer/Not afraid to use a gun
Fox: Former registered nurse/Lost contact with her family during the first
initial weeks of the outbreak/Was married once but hid that fact from the
group/She is secretly in love with Carson Ryder
White: Born and raised in Arkansas/Has never left the state before/He has a
criminal record, but he’s not a violent man and tends to avoid confrontation if
Loomis: Originally from Utah/Friends with Reggie/A perpetual fountain of random
facts and useless information
Chen: Runner/Competed in the Olympics/Knows how to use a gun but he prefers a
DeVito: Originally from New York/Not too bright/Afraid to use a gun for fear of
shooting himself or someone else/Former used car salesman
Greene: First survivor who was taken in by Corey/She is a recovering alcoholic
who manages with the support of Nikki Fox/Trying to take back control of her
IN THE FLESH
By Daniel Skye
PART THIRTY THREE
Day Three Hundred And Fifteen.
Sleep evaded Carson Ryder all night.
The last thing he was going to do was
surrender to Eli Carver and his gang of vicious, brainwashed thugs. Yes, they
were heavily outnumbered. But Carson would rather die fighting than surrender
to the likes of Eli Carver. Of course, refusing to surrender meant war.
These were all good people. And none
of them deserved to die. But Carson knew that battling Eli meant putting all their
lives in jeopardy. He had to prepare them for what they were up against.
The group was exhausted and unnerved.
They loaded up on water and stale soda pop for the caffeine; munched on fruit
flavored energy bars and preservatives. Anything to regain their strength and
Corey and Ryder were up at dawn to
raid the Quonset hut and take inventory. They had Carson’s twelve-gauge
Remington and four other standard pump-action shotguns. Plus two tactical Mossberg
500s. One Smith & Wesson pistol, currently in Nikki’s possession. Several
revolvers, one in Taryn’s possession. Two .38 pistols that belonged to Damien
Albright. Vern Sheldon’s .357 Magnum.
They also had three rifles that
belonged to Scotty, Reggie, and the deceased Drake Sharpe. And Corey had
several rifles in his own personal collection for backup.
Everyone in the group was carrying a
blade of some kind. Carson had his machete, and he always kept a pocket knife
tucked into one of his boots just in case. And Luke Chen had his katana, his
weapon of choice.
Corey also had grenades, chainsaws,
axes, hatchets, machetes, and a bazooka in his arsenal. Not to mention all the
other guns and ammo he’d stockpiled over the course of several years.
But all this weaponry did not distract
them from the fact that it was Eli, Mr. Jones, and their small army versus nine
“Taryn,” Ryder called her over that
morning as Corey distributed the artillery. “Let me see that revolver.” She
handed him her gun and Ryder passed her a nickel-plated Mossberg. “You’re going
to need a bigger gun. One that holds more bullets. And you’ll need this for
backup.” He gave her a holster and a .27 Beretta that held up to ten rounds as
opposed to the six the revolver held.
The Beretta also had a spring-loaded
clip which made it much faster and easier to reload. Corey passed her four
extra clips for the Beretta and a box of shells for the Mossberg.
Ryder gave the other Mossberg to Nikki
Fox and told her to hang on to the Smith & Wesson for backup. Corey
dispensed to her the rest of the additional shells for the Mossberg and told
her if she ran low on ammo, to head back to the hut and grab another weapon.
They also gave her extra rounds for the Smith & Wesson.
Scotty and Reggie claimed their rifles
and packed as many additional rounds as their pockets could hold. Then Corey
divided Damien’s .38 pistols and gave one to each of them.
“Amy,” Ryder said to her. “I know you’re
not a fan of guns. But we need every person we’ve got fighting on the
frontline. This belonged to my friend, Kenny. It’s a semi-automatic pistol and
it holds fifteen rounds.”
Ryder passed the gun off to Amy and
showed her how to load it, gave her three extra clips to stash in her pockets.
“Now it’s your turn, Dom,” Corey said.
“No way,” DeVito shook his head. “You
know how I feel about guns. I’m no good with them. I can’t be trusted. I’ll probably
shoot myself in the foot. Or I could shoot somebody else. Think about what
“Everyone has to do their part,” Corey
told him. “Now take your pick.”
Dominic sighed and eventually chose a
simple handgun that held ten rounds. Corey gave him a rundown of the basics and
supplied him with extra ammunition.
Luke Chen was content with his katana,
but Corey insisted he carry one of the pump-action shotguns. They had no clue
how many of Eli’s followers were armed with guns.
“I don’t really need a gun,” Chen had
said. “I’m faster than lightning. I was a professional runner. I won two gold
medals in the Olympics.”
“You’re not going to need gold medals to
survive this,” Ryder said. “Just brass balls.”
“We should talk strategy, positioning,”
Corey said to Ryder. “Do you have a plan?”
“The plan is to fight like our lives
depended on it,” Ryder said.
* * *
Eli Carver appeared first at the top
of the hill.
Then Jones. Then their sixty-plus followers stormed down the
hill, two broad-shouldered men lugging a police battering ram at their sides. A
little souvenir from the police station where they had taken up residence in
Most of them were armed with Mossberg’s that Eli had found
locked in a cage inside the station. The rest were armed with weapons they had
collected over time. And those that didn’t have guns were armed with baseball
bats, wrenches, lead pipes, or anything they could get their hands on.
Eli had one of those police bullhorns that amplified his
voice. He pressed the bullhorn to his dry, cracked lips and shouted, “Your
twenty-four hours are up. Set your weapons down and surrender, or we’re
prepared to ram this gate in, come in there, and take what’s ours.”
“This property isn’t yours,” Ryder shouted back, sans
bullhorn. “And I’d rather die than surrender it to the likes of you.”
“Ask and you shall receive,” Eli said through the bullhorn and
on his command, the two men started ramming the gate of the compound. It was
locked tight, but the lock wouldn’t hold forever.
Ryder and the group took their positions around the outhouses,
and Ryder gave Corey the nod.
Corey, up on the roof of the manor, peered through the scope
of his rifle and fired one warning shot that ricocheted off the wrought iron
bars of the fence. But their enemies just returned fire and sent the gang
running for cover behind the outhouses.
The lock inevitably snapped and the
gate swung open. Corey fired two more shots, taking down the men who were working
the battering ram. But the damage had been done. It was already too late.
With the gate open, the men and women
that hung on Jones and Eli’s every word entered, and the war had truly begun.
Corey used the sniper rifle to
eliminate as many foot soldiers as he could. But they eventually spotted him
and returned fire, sending him scrambling for cover up on the roof where he was
virtually out in the open.
The gun shook in DeVito’s trembling
hand as he fired rounds from behind the outhouse. He couldn’t believe he was
actually doing it. He tried to make every shot count, but there were enemies
moving in all directions and all the shots seemed to do was hold them at bay or
make them fallback and search for cover.
Ryder was in the zone. He pumped the
Remington, fired it, and repeated. He only stopped to reload and he made every
shot count. He never missed once.
Bodies were spread out all across the
compound, but there were still fifty or more followers they were up against.
Corey yanked the pin of a grenade with
his teeth, sent it hurling through the air, and it exploded just as it hit the
ground, taking out six men with one fatal blow.
And that’s when he saw the zombies
descending the hill. The screaming, the gunshots, the explosions. All the noise
had drawn them out and they had formed a solid pack. One by one, they all piled
into the compound through the busted gate.
Corey lost count after fifty, but he
assumed there was more than a hundred. And he could see more lumbering through
the woods, heading straight towards the compound. He’d never seen this many at
once before. It was unprecedented. And it spelled bad news for everyone
Note to readers: This story was contributed to the series by fellow writer, James Darko. All credit goes to James for his work on this fantastic entry to the series.
IN THE FLESH:
DOWN THE ROAD
September 13th, 2013.
end of the world.
has their own little phrase for it. But we’re all in agreement about one thing.
It’s the day the dead rose from the ashes. It’s the day a lethal virus was
unleashed upon mankind and the world changed forever.
took less than twenty-four hours for the virus to spread across the globe.
People were dying and coming back to life an hour later. Corpses were clawing
their way up from the dirt and bodies were disappearing from every morgue
across the country.
That’s what they called them in the movies. Except this was no movie. Rusty
Aberdeen stared out his window in awe that day, watching the carnage unfold.
zombies tore his mailman to shreds. They got three of his neighbors who tried
foolishly to make a break for their cars. He saw a young man stumbling down the
block, clutching at his stomach, his intestines scraping along the sidewalk. He
didn’t make it past Rusty’s house before the zombies finished the job.
were bitten, then they turned and started biting their parents or siblings.
Other children were lost in the fray. The more people that turned, the more the
violence escalated. Neighbors attacked neighbors. Parents attacked kids. Kids
mauled or maimed their parents. It was utter chaos.
army tried to intervene, but the battle was short-lived. Bombs were out of the
question. We couldn’t nuke ourselves. And the growing numbers were too much for
the military to fight. Soon, the dead outnumbered the living.
had inherited the Earth. And now, it was all just a matter of survival.
can’t live like this anymore!” Patricia Nash exclaimed.
her cries fell on the deaf ears of her husband, Gerald, who was busy polishing
the shotgun cradled in his lap. He’d been polishing the Mossberg for three
consecutive hours. Patricia hated when her husband zoned out like this, went
into his own little world. It’s like he was back in the nuthouse all over
blank expression, that vacant stare, the constant silence. That’s what he was
like when he was on the medication. Those pills messed his head up something
awful. But nothing had screwed him up more than Rusty Aberdeen.
years had not been kind to the Nash’s. They had lost the rest of their extended
family, they had abandoned the majority of their earthly possessions, and they
had lost more friends than they could count. But no loss stung Gerald more than
the loss of Rusty.
the days passed, Gerald’s behavior grew more disconcerting. He became more
detached, starting isolating himself and giving Patricia the silent treatment.
He started spending more time in the burn ward too. That’s where Gerald went
when he wanted to be alone. And one day, when Patricia was walking past the
ward, she could’ve sworn she heard Gerald talking to himself. Except he was
talking like there was someone else in the ward with him. Patricia was starting
to consider her options. She was starting to wonder if she and Kelly would be
safer without Gerald than with him.
was a fairly attractive, but pensive-looking woman in her mid-thirties, with
shoulder-length sandy brown hair that her daughter helped trim every few
help cut Patricia’s hair and Patricia would return the favor. It wasn’t salon
quality, but it was as good as it gets when you’re living in a post-apocalyptic
world. When they came across a bottle of polish or gloss, they’d paint each
other’s nails. Even with the absence of malls, restaurants, beauty salons, and
spas, Patricia and Kelly still found ways to bond.
on the other hand, had let himself go. His unkempt hair overextended his
shoulders and it had been nearly a year since he shaved. His beard was starting
to reach epic proportions.
was a gritty but handsome fellow in his day. It was those qualities that
appealed to Patricia back in high school when they first met. But now, when she
looked at him, she hardly recognized the man she agreed to marry.
had been five years since the initial outbreak. Five long, cold, miserable
years. Five years of running and hiding and scavenging. Five years on the road,
traveling from state to state, searching for sanctuary.
found a place to hang their hats in Burkittsville. Maryland was the last place
they had expected to settle down. But they had already traveled west, south,
and been up and down the east coast. And the journey had left them exhausted
and in need of rest. The hospital seemed like a fairly safe haven from their
was more than a place of refuge to their daughter, Kelly. It was home. They had
walls and doors and a roof over their heads. But what Kelly didn’t realize is
they were running low on food, supplies.
a month or two, there’d be nothing left. Gerald Nash was aware of this fact.
But he hadn’t decided his next move.
had already combed the area for supplies. If he was going to find anything,
he’d have to try the next town over.
Gerald’s batteries needed some serious recharging. He just didn’t have it in
him anymore. The years, the road, the traveling, the zombies. All of it had
worn him down, dissolved his spirit. The Earth had opened up and swallowed his
hope. All that remained now was doubt. Doubt and fear.
fear of not being able to provide for his family. The fear of not being able to
protect Patricia and Kelly. At this rate, Gerald was starting to think they’d
all be better off dead.
Gerald continued polishing his shotgun and Patricia whined away, Kelly Nash sat
in the adjacent waiting room, staring out the murky windows. She liked the
waiting room because the windows overlooked the street and she could look
outside and see the hell this world had become. And that’s when she truly felt
grateful for all that she had.
Warmth, safety, security.
The zombies roamed the streets freely, feeding on the brains of the living.
they’d travel alone in search of food. Other times they’d travel in packs.
Scavengers. Predators. Disease mongers. Carnivorous demons.
among these flesh eaters, Kelly saw not one, but two human faces. Their faces
and bodies were caked in blood and rancid flesh. The flesh of zombies. But
Kelly could still distinguish them from the zombies. They might’ve looked and
walked and even smelled like zombies, but they didn’t have that glazed over
look in their eyes.
Dad! Come quick!”
only Patricia responded to her daughter’s calls. Gerald didn’t bother moving an
is it?” Patricia asked, joining Kelly in the waiting room.
Kelly said, pointing out the window. The strangers were walking towards the
hospital, approaching the front doors. The zombies shuffled through the streets
around them, seemingly unaware of their presence. “We have to help them.”
don’t know them,” Patricia said. “We don’t know what they’re capable of. We
can’t let them in.”
they’re people, mom,” Kelly said. “They deserve a chance too. And dad is here.
He’ll protect us.” Deep down, Patricia doubted that last statement.
heard the strangers pounding on the doors from the lobby. Patricia reached into
her waistband and removed the 9mm pistol that Gerald had given her. She sighed
as she handed it to Kelly.
know the drill,” Patricia said. “You cover me. Keep your back to the wall at
all times and if you see them carrying weapons, you see them make any sudden
moves, you shoot them. Don’t even give them a chance to react.”
it, mommy,” Kelly nodded, accepting the pistol.
walked to the lobby and Kelly pressed her back to the wall and held the pistol
in both hands while her mom removed the metal bar wedged between the door
handles. The doors screeched as they were thrust open.
woman stepped in first, then the man. “That’s as far as you go,” Patricia told
them, pinching her nose with two fingers like a clothespin. She didn’t know how
these strangers could stomach their own stench. “Drop your bags and raise your
hands in the air.”
man and woman did as they were told and Patricia gingerly patted them down,
careful not to stain her sleeves with blood. Most of the blood smeared on their
clothes had dried anyway and formed a thick red crust that stuck to their
clothes like superglue.
She found a Glock 19 tucked into the
man’s waistband and a Snub .38 stashed in the woman’s bag. If it wasn’t for all
that blood and dirt smeared all over their faces, Patricia could’ve seen how
young they really were. She could’ve seen just how scared they were too.
“We mean you no harm,” the young man
assured her. “We’re just weary travelers like yourselves. Please don’t make us
go back out there. Our backs our killing us. Our feet are sore. We can’t spend
another night out on the road. We won’t survive another night. Please. Look in
“What happened to you?” Patricia
asked. “Why are you covered in blood and God knows what else?”
“The zombies, they don’t attack
their own kind,” the young woman spoke up. “If you look like one of them, move
like one of them, smell like one of them, they leave you alone.”
“But you smell like death,” Patricia
“That’s sort of the idea,” the young
“I think I’d rather take my chances
being spotted,” Kelly said, the pistol still in her tiny hands. “Pee-yew,” she
added, waving her hand in front of her nose.
“Can we stay just the night?” the
young woman asked. “Please. We’ll do anything you say.”
“I should discuss this with my
husband,” Patricia said. “But he’s been rather distracted lately. Oh, what the
heck. I guess you could spend the night and we’ll go from there.”
“Excellent,” the young man said,
breathing a sigh of relief. It was like a thousand pounds had just melted from
his shoulders. “We can’t thank you enough.”
“But if you’re going to stay, do me
one favor,” Patricia said.
“Name it,” the young man said.
“Get yourselves cleaned up, pronto.
I have some old clothes that should fit you both if you need them.”
“No, that won’t be necessary,” he
said. “We have fresh clothes in our bags.”
“Why are you being so nice to us?”
the young woman asked as Patricia rounded up their weapons and took the pistol
back from Kelly.
“I don’t know,” Patricia shrugged.
“I guess I’d want someone else to do the same for me and my family. By the way,
I’m holding onto your weapons. Just for the time being. I’m not taking any
“Fair enough,” the young man said.
“You were here first, so you call the shots.”
“That’s right,” Patricia said,
grinning. For once in her life, she felt something that she never felt after
she married Gerald Nash. She felt like she was in control.
. . .
Clark and Trisha Crosswell made
themselves presentable, changing their clothes and cleaning with a shared
washcloth and a basin filled halfway with murky water they had bottled
themselves from a nearby creek.
Then they went to thank Patricia
again for her hospitality and to greet Gerald Nash for the first time.
But Gerald was napping and requested
that they not disturb him. Normally it was Kelly she was reminding to leave her
father be. She was like a walking “Do Not Disturb” sign.
“We were never properly introduced,”
Patricia said. “I’m Patricia Nash. But you can call me Patti. All my friends at
the salon used to. And that’s my daughter, Kelly. My husband Gerald will
probably be awake soon. He only sleeps a few hours at a time. He’s very
vigilant. What are your names again?”
“Sorry, we never got a chance to
tell you,” Trisha said. “I’m Trisha Crosswell. This is my husband, Clark.”
“Clark?” Kelly smiled and snickered
a little. “Like Clark Kent?”
“Sure,” Clark shrugged and smiled
back. “Why not?”
“You’re both so young,” Patricia
said. “And already married?”
“We got hitched right after high
school,” Trisha said. “Our parents were opposed to the idea at first, but
eventually they came around. How long have you been married, if you don’t mind
Trisha whistled. “Sheesh. That’s a
long time. It’s so nice when you find that right person and finally settle
“Right,” Patricia said. It hurt just
to smile, but she faked a quick smirk for her new companions. She didn’t want
them to get the wrong idea about Gerald.
“How old are you, kiddo?” Clark
“And you’re a fan of comics?”
“I love comics!” she proclaimed.
“And you’re a fan of Superman, huh?”
“Uh huh,” she said with a twinkle in
her eyes. For a second, the conversation had made her forget all of her
troubles. She didn’t think twice of the rotting corpses shuffling through the
“Well check this out,” Clark said,
rolling up his sleeve to show off the Superman shield tattooed on his forearm.
“Cool,” she said in awe.
“Did you get to see Man of Steel?”
“Sure did. Mom took me the day it
came out. That was the last movie I got to see before the zombies came around.”
“In the film, Clark tells Lois the S
is not an S, but a kryptonian symbol for hope.”
“For our sakes, let’s hope that’s
true,” Trisha chuckled. “Patti, you mentioned something about a salon a few
seconds ago. Did you work there?”
“Yes I did,” Patricia said. “I
worked at a beauty salon almost half my life. I started out cutting and styling
hair, doing dye jobs. They loved me so much, they eventually made me the
“I figured you must’ve been a
stylist,” Trisha said. “Even in the midst of the apocalypse, your hair is
“Why thank you,” Patricia said,
smiling. And that time, she didn’t have to fake it.
. . .
Gerald awakened alone on that
adjustable hospital bed, relieved himself into a nearby bedpan. He had dreamed
about Rusty Aberdeen again.
Rusty, with his long, dark hair
always tied back in a ponytail. Rusty, with his lame jokes and strange aptitude
for music trivia. And those sideburns that he let grow down to his lips.
He’d talk for hours about Led
Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix, and go on rants about why the AC/DC Bon Scott era
was better than the AC/DC Brian Johnson era.
Even with his long hair and
Elvis-like sideburns, Rusty always had this pure, innocent expression. He had
one of them baby faces. No matter how old he was, he still looked like he did
back in middle school.
Gerald still remembered the look of
terror on that innocent, helpless face when the zombies swarmed Rusty. A few
seconds later, he didn’t look scared anymore. That’s only because there was
nothing left of his face. The zombies had chewed it off, leaving nothing behind
but a skull with two empty eye sockets.
Gerald lit a stale cigarette and
coughed as he exhaled. He remembered how giddy Rusty was when they busted the
lock on that Oldsmobile trunk and found all those cartons stashed inside.
Every pack either said MADE
IN CANADA or it had a Canadian tax
stamp on the bottom. Someone must’ve purchased them up north for cheap,
smuggled them across the border, and never got a chance to distribute them.
Rusty figured their loss was his and
Gerald’s gain. But that was four years ago. And Gerald forgot that like most
things, cigarettes do eventually expire in their own way. The tobacco goes
stale and every drag is harsh and leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.
All these years of lugging those
cartons along with him, rationing them, smoking one or even half a cigarette
each day. He’d finally reached his last carton. Gerald didn’t know what he’d do
when he ran out.
He’d survived without beer or liquor
since the second year when the whiskey ran dry and there wasn’t a can or bottle
of beer left to be found.
He walked from the room to the hall,
which was bare except for the row of gurneys lined up against the wall.
He turned left down the first
corridor and found his wife. “Morning, Patti,” he said casually. “Sorry about
last night. I was off in my own little world again. I’ll start paying more
attention, I promise.” Patricia had heard that promise before. “You know it’s
the strangest thing…when I was dozing off last night, I could’ve sworn I heard
voices. Not just yours and Kelly’s, but other people’s voices. I must’ve been
“You weren’t dreaming, Gerald,” she
said. “You were just in another one of those weird trances. A couple showed up
here last night. Clark and Trisha Crosswell.”
“And you let them in?!”
“They had nowhere else to go.
Besides, I searched them thoroughly and took their guns for the time being. I’m
not an idiot. You taught me how to handle myself. And we’re in the east wing,
they’re crashing in the west wing. What’s the harm? Let them stay a couple of
days. We could use some company.”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea for
us to be getting attached to strangers. Not after what happened with Rusty.”
“Rusty died three years ago,”
Patricia said. “I know you were close, but I wish you could find a way to move
past it. And these kids aren’t Rusty. They’re young. They look like college
kids. Rusty was older, stronger. He had experience on his side. And look how he
“Alright,” Gerald said, almost
yelling the word. “But don’t you ever, ever let a stranger in here again
without me knowing.”
“You would’ve known if you’d been
paying attention. Kelly was screaming our names and you didn’t even budge. What
if she was being attacked?” She had that pensive look on her face again. Her
mind always raced around Gerald, his actions leaving her deep in thought,
questioning her decisions in life.
“But she wasn’t,” Gerald said in his
“But what if she was?” Patricia
asked again. “I want you to think about that the next time you start
“I think about Kelly every day,” he
said vehemently. “I think about you, too. I think about our past. About our
future. And I want you to think about the fact that I’ve kept us alive these
past five years. I’ve gunned down every threat that stood on our way! I taught
you and Kelly how to use a gun, how to hunt, how to defend yourselves! I’m the
only thing that’s kept you alive! Remember that!”
Patricia took a step back, her upper
lip quivering. She feared Gerald when he regressed back to his primitive ways.
He’d get all worked up and start yelling, screaming, punching holes in the walls,
flipping tables or throwing chairs.
It was this savage behavior, these
brutish, reckless, carefree ways that once attracted Patricia to Gerald in the
first place. That and his looks. But they weren’t in high school anymore.
Gerald wasn’t ripping through the teachers’ parking lot
on his Harley, wearing his black leather jacket, smoking a cigarette. But he
didn’t come off as cool when he acted tough at this age now. He came off as a
bully. An unapproachable animal.
“One more thing,” Gerald said as she
started to walk away. “I want to meet this couple today. See what they’re all
. . .
Kelly Nash had taken quite a shine
to Clark since seeing his Superman tattoo. Trisha could never have kids of her
own. She was declared biologically infertile by her doctors at the age of
eighteen. Clark was aware of this fact, but he chose to marry her anyway.
It was true that Clark wanted
children. But he also couldn’t imagine life without Trisha by his side. So if
that meant adopting or never being a father, he was fine with it. And now he
couldn’t even imagine trying to bring a child into this world.
“So where are we exactly?” Clark
asked Patricia later that day. “I know we’re in Maryland, but whereabouts?”
“Burkittsville,” Patricia told him.
“Oh, man,” Clark said in awe.
“That’s so cool. They filmed the Blair Witch here.”
“What’s the Blair Witch?” Kelly
“Ah, I guess Blair Witch Project was
a little before your time. It was a horror movie filmed in the style of a
documentary. You probably would’ve loved it, kiddo.”
Gerald stomped through the hall, the
soles of his boots hammering the tiled floor. He peeked into the waiting room,
where Patricia was seated with Kelly and their guests. “You must be Clark. And
you must be Trisha. Pleased to meet you. I’m Gerald Nash. I see you’ve already
met my wife and daughter.”
“Yes we have. And it’s great to
finally meet you.” Clark extended his hand and Gerald shook it. “We can’t thank
you enough for letting us stay here.”
“Actually, that was my wife’s call,”
Gerald said, stroking his thick beard. “I was unaware at the time. But, you’re
here so we might as well make the best of it.”
“Well, if there’s anything we can do
to help, don’t hesitate to ask,” Clark said.
“Yes, we’d be happy to help in any
way,” Trisha said. “And your wife is such a lovely woman. Your daughter is a
sweet young girl, too. You’re a very lucky man, Mr. Nash.”
Gerald ignored her comments and
looked back at Clark. “So, Clark, you know how to use a gun?”
“Drop the sir. This isn’t the
military. But I do need you for a little mission. We’re running low on supplies
and if you’re going to stay, you’ll have to pull your own weight. So what do
you say? You want to go for a little walk?”
“I do need to stretch my legs,”
Clark shrugged. “Sure. Let’s do it. But I’ll need my gun back…if that’s ok with
“Patricia, get his gun.”
Patricia fetched the Glock 19 and
handed it back to Clark, who tucked the gun in his waistband and followed
Gerald’s lead. As she watched Clark and her husband turn and disappear down the
next corridor, she felt a sickening pang in her stomach. Then she turned back
to Kelly and Trisha, both oblivious to Gerald’s savage nature
The whole time they were absent, it
wasn’t Gerald’s safety she prayed for. It was Clark’s.
. . .
“Do you know the area well?” Clark
asked in an overly benevolent fashion. He was trying to be as friendly as
possible with Gerald and get on his good side. Clark figured Gerald just needed
a little time to warm up to him and Trisha.
“I’m familiar with the surrounding
area,” Gerald whispered. “And keep your voice down. Any loud noises will draw
out the zombies.”
“Sorry, my bad,” Clark whispered
back. Clark looked Gerald up and down. He saw the way he carried himself. The
way he cradled the Mossberg in his arms. The way he always walked like he had a
mission, a purpose.
“Were you in the army?” Clark asked.
“What makes you think that?”
“The way you walk, the way you carry
your gun, the way you constantly move your eyes without turning your head. It’s
like you’re trained for this sort of thing.”
“Nobody’s trained for a zombie
apocalypse. But to answer your question, yes, I was in the army for several
years. Dishonorable discharge.”
“No kidding?” Clark said. “What
happened, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Truth be told, I was bored. And
there were only two ways for me to get out of the army. The first was fail a
drug test. The second was to pretend I was crazy. I couldn’t score any drugs on
base and even if I could, they were never my thing. I always preferred booze.
So I decided to fake insanity to get the fuck out of there. Little did I know,
the insanity plea would land me a psych ward for two months.”
“You were committed?”
“Standard procedure for anyone who’s
discharged for being a loon. Had I known that at the time, I would’ve just
smoked some grass and failed a piss test. I spent two months in a hospital I
didn’t belong in, being forced to take drugs I didn’t require. They had me on
these pills that really fucked me up. I guess if you’re not crazy and you take
those psycho meds, they can actually make you wind up going crazy. I remember brushing
my teeth like fifty times a day. I think I went through a toothbrush a day when
I was there. And blankets…I always had a blanket tied around me like a cape. I
thought it was a shield or something, like it was going to protect me from all
the other crazies. And I couldn’t tell them I was faking or the jig was up. So
I was stuck until they let me out. Patti was waiting for me as soon as they
released me. She was so happy to see me. But I was so doped up I hardly
recognized her. Yeah, those meds really fucked my head up. I had to take them
for another month, just to wean myself off and help with the withdrawals. Not
my proudest moment.”
“Wow…” Clark said and trailed off
briefly. “That’s insane…I mean, no offense. It’s just not every day you hear a
story like that.”
“No offense taken,” Gerald said, but
his sharp tone said otherwise.
“So where are we going?” Clark
asked. “And why aren’t we checking any of these stores for supplies?”
“Because I’ve already checked them.
There’s nothing left to find in Burkittsville. We have to take Route 17 and
travel to Rosemont. It’s about a ten minute drive from here, so we got at least
thirty minutes of walking ahead of us.”
“Great,” Clark muttered.
The road to Rosemont was a smooth
trail. They made it there without incident. This was the longest Gerald could
remember going without seeing any zombies. But on the way back, the road got a
Their search had yielded a medical emergency supply kit,
a bag of dried figs and apricots, two cans of mushroom soup, a jar of peanut
butter, a package of beef jerky shreds so loaded with salt and preservatives it
hadn’t spoiled yet, a few boxes of granola bars, some bottled water, and a
laser pointer. All the other food they came across was rotten or five years
past its expiration date.
Gerald didn’t see the need in taking
the laser pointer, but Clark grabbed it and gave it to him as they walked back
through town. “For Kelly,” Clark told him. “She might enjoy it.”
Gerald accepted the laser pointer
and muttered an ungrateful, “Thanks.”
They searched every store and shop
they could before it started getting dark and they had to head back. They
walked eight blocks, then turned the corner to get back towards Route 17.
Around the corner, a lone zombie
shambled through the streets. Five years of rot and decay had turned its flesh
a ghoulish charcoal grey. Clark’s instincts took over and he yanked the Glock
from his waistband and fired two shots. The first missed, but the second bullet
pierced its skull and its body crumpled in the street.
“No, you idiot!” Gerald shouted.
“The gunshots are just going to attract more of them.”
Right on cue, the areas undead
inhabitants spilled out into the road, flooding the streets. Gerald had spent
five years studying their patterns and movements. A single zombie was easy to
take down without giving up your location to the masses. Most times you could
use a knife to take them down quick and quiet. And on some occasions, you could
stroll right past them without harm. If they don’t see you or hear you, they
don’t even know you’re there.
But dealing with zombies in packs
were a different story. When they ganged up and worked as a unit, nothing could
stop them. You could fire as many bullets as your gun holds, but they’ll still
keep coming. And this ain’t the movies, so you’re guaranteed to miss at least a
shot or two. Eventually, when you stop to reload your gun or you get a little
too close, the numbers will catch up to you and the zombies will have their
That’s what happened to Rusty Aberdeen. The sight of the
pack instantly triggered bad memories for Gerald.
“We can’t take them,” Gerald said.
“Not all of them. We’ll die trying.”
“So shouldn’t we be running?” Clark
“They’ll just trail us all the way
back to the hospital,” Gerald said. “They’ve got our scent now. We’ll need to
slow them down.”
“How do we slow them down?”
Gerald pumped the Mossberg, lowered
it, and squeezed the trigger, reducing Clark’s kneecap to splinters.
“Eat hearty,” he said to the
zombies, grabbed the bag of supplies, and took off.
He could hear the screams all the
way from Route 17. But those screams didn’t last very long.
He felt something pat his shoulder,
consoling him. Then he heard the voice. You
did the right thing. You did what you had to do to survive. That’s what you’ve
always been about. Don’t let it get you down. No regrets.
That voice was Rusty Aberdeen’s.
. . .
When Gerald returned to the hospital
sans Clark, he didn’t even get to say a word before Trisha burst into tears.
She knew what this meant. And Gerald validated her worst fears when he told
Trisha and Patti that Clark didn’t make it. He left out some major details, but
made it clear Clark was never to be seen again. No wake, no funeral, no
memorial service. Just a memory.
“Where’s Mr. Crosswell?” Kelly
asked, rubbing her eyes as Gerald’s voice had stirred her from her nap.
“I’m sorry, sweetie,” Gerald said,
dropping down to one knee to look her in the eye. “Clark didn’t make it. But he
wanted you to have this,” he said, removing the laser pointer from his pocket.
A tear rolled down Kelly’s cheek as she accepted it.
“What about his gun?” Patricia
asked. “The Glock.”
“I had to leave it behind. I
couldn’t save him. And I couldn’t go back and get it. Too risky. We were
surrounded on all sides. I barely made it out alive myself.”
“And what about supplies? Did you
guys find anything?” Patricia felt so guilty asking with Trisha standing mere
inches away, but their survival depended on it.
“We found food and water. Not much,
but it’s something. And we found a medical supply kit. It’s all in the bag. If
you’ll excuse me, it’s been one hell of a day. I need to clear my head. Trisha,
I’m very sorry for your loss.”
The truth was Gerald wasn’t sorry.
He didn’t feel a thing. Something in his mind had snapped. And he was hearing
the voices again. The voices that reminded him of how tired and weak he was.
The voices that told him to give it up and throw in the towel.
He wandered down those sterile white corridors, entered
the burn ward that was centered in the east wing. It was where he went when he
needed to be alone with his thoughts. Patricia never bothered to look for him
when he was roaming. And Kelly stayed away from the burn ward at all times.
It brought back unwanted memories of childhood from when
a firecracker went off prematurely and burnt her leg. She still had the scars
as a reminder.
In the burn ward, he heard a familiar call, and glanced
over his shoulder. “Hey, Rusty. What brings you down here?”
thought I’d drop in and check up on you. See how you’re doing.
“I’ve been better, Rusty.”
know. I want to thank you for all those times you watched my back and looked
out for me. You were my guardian angel since high school.
“No need to thank me,” Gerald said.
“That’s what best friends are for.”
Remember us back
then? You, me, and Patti; we were inseparable. Best friends. We’d always go on
double dates and I’d always be with a different girl, but you’d always be with
Patti. Remember when I got kicked out of the movies for throwing my soda at the
screen? And Patti told the manager to go fuck himself and then she got kicked
out too. She seemed cool back then. But it was all just an act. She was just
trying to impress you. Now she’s changed. She’s different.
“I know. I’ve noticed the changes in her. She could use a
little attitude adjustment. This past year all she’s done is fault me, doubt
me, look down on me. She never gives me any credit. She does talk to me or open
up anymore. We haven’t fucked in ages. And even when we do fuck, it’s like she
feels nothing. It’s like she’s just going through the motions.”
She’s a hard woman to
satisfy, in more ways than one. This isn’t high school anymore. You don’t
impress her. She doesn’t think you’re cool. She loathes you. And a change of
heart won’t make her feel any different. You can’t change her opinions of you.
No matter how much you change, no matter how hard you try.
“I loved her. I still do. That bitch…she doesn’t know how
good she had it. Hell, she wouldn’t even be alive if it wasn’t for me. These
past five years, I’ve led the way. I’ve kept us alive. And what do I get for
it? Nothing. Not even a thank you. That ungrateful bitch.”
Indeed she is. But
she’s also tired, in a weakened state. And by the looks of it, so are you.
“I am tired and weak. Every day is a struggle to survive,
to keep it together. I don’t know how much longer I can hold on, Rusty. I feel
like I’m losing it half the time. And now, with Patti acting all weird on me,
doubting me, I don’t know…I don’t think I can keep this up.”
why not call it a day? You’ve done more than your share. You’ve gone as far as
you can go. There’s no cure. No backup plan. The planet is doomed. But you can
still save Patricia and Kelly. You can stop them from turning into one of those
drooling, mindless freaks. You know what has to be done, Gerry.
“I can’t! That’s my wife! My
me, they’re better off. You’re all better off. It’s so peaceful on the other
side. You should be here with me. All of you should be here. There’s no fear.
No dread. Only serenity.
“I can’t do it…I won’t. I mean, I
thought about it in the past. Killing them and then myself. Sparing them this
awful life. But I just can’t do it.”
you can. It’ll be easy. That Mossberg will put them down with a single shot.
They’ll never know what hit them. It’ll be quick, almost painless.
“I can’t…I’m sorry…I just can’t do it. Patti may be a
bitch. But she’s still my wife. And Kelly is an innocent victim in our marital
squabble. She doesn’t deserve this.”
she’s been thinking about leaving you. She thinks you’re unstable. She thinks
you’re incompetent. That you can’t protect and defend her and Kelly. Kill that
bitch now while you have the chance. Show her what you’re really capable of.
“Is that so?”
true. She’s going to take Kelly and abandon you. Worse, she’ll kill you in your
sleep. She might be afraid of you coming after them. If you’re dead, you won’t
be a threat to them. Take the bullets out of her gun and kill her when she lets
her guard down. Don’t let her win, Gerry.
“You know, you’re right. Heh, you
always did know what to say, Rusty.”
that’s what best friends are for.
“Ok, I’ll do it. I’ll put them out of their misery.”
. . .
Gerald waited for dark. As he
entered the west wing, he could Patti and Trisha’s muted conversation from down
the hall. Kelly was sleeping in a nearby room. Gerald saw the glow of the
flickering candle as he walked down the hall quietly, barely lifting his feet
off the ground. He poked his head in the first room, saw the burning candle
placed in a holder beside the adjustable bed. Kelly was all curled up, a
blanket draped over her thin body.
Gerald walked past the door and
poked his head into the next room. Patricia and Trisha sat by candlelight and
talked quietly, Patricia still consoling her over the loss of Clark. The
hallway was pitch black and candles aside, the room was so shadowy that they
never saw Gerald approach.
He racked the Mossberg and Patricia
jumped at the sound. Trisha was the first to let her instincts take over. She
reached for the Snub .38 that Patricia had given back to her, cocked the
hammer, and squeezed the trigger.
But the gun didn’t kick. No bullets
propelled from the barrel. All she heard was the click sound a gun makes when
“Something wrong?” Gerald asked, one
eyebrow arched. “Could it possibly be that someone removed the bullets from
your gun while you were napping earlier?”
He raised the Mossberg, pulled the
trigger, and Trisha went flying back into the wall and slumped to the floor,
her body leaving two thin streaks of blood down the wall that looked like red
He pumped the shotgun again.
Patricia had her 9mm pistol on her, but she didn’t know if Gerald had removed
the bullets too. Not taking any chances, she used the next best thing. She
clocked him with a bedpan.
Kelly woke after the first shot and
stumbled in to see what was going on. She saw her unconscious father sprawled
out on the floor and Trisha’s dead body propped against the wall.
“What’s going on?” she asked,
shaking. Kelly had seen worse. She had witnessed everything the zombies were
capable of. But the sight of Trisha, her chest ripped open from the shotgun
blast, the blood splattered across the wall–it scarred her.
“Kelly, listen to me, I need you to
go and hide. Whatever you hear, you don’t come out until I tell you to. Got
“Where do I hide?”
“The burn ward.”
“But that’s daddy’s special place.”
“I know. But he won’t look for you
there. He knows how you feel about the burn ward. You’ll be safe there until
this is over.”
“Until what’s over?”
Gerald rolled to his side and
groaned, starting to come around.
“JUST GO!” Patricia shouted and
Kelly took off running.
Patricia checked her pistol. No
bullets. Gerald had gotten to her gun as well. She frantically searched her
pockets, looking for a spare clip. Gerald rubbed the lump that had started to
form on his head and sat up.
Patricia gasped and dropped her
unloaded pistol. She saw him eyeing the shotgun and made a move. But Gerald was
closer and got his hands around it first. He pumped the gun and fired it at an
empty doorway, as Patricia was already halfway down the hall.
She started running towards the east
wing, unarmed and unaware of her next move. She couldn’t retreat and leave her
own child behind. Then it dawned on her where she was. A hospital. Plenty of
sharp objects or surgical tools to defend herself. She just had to remain
vigilant and take Gerald when he least expected it.
She darted into the ER, where she
had her pick. Bone saws and abdominal retractors and scalpels. But Patricia
wasn’t looking for a heavy instrument or anything like a drill or a saw that
would make noise and give her position away. So she figured a scalpel would
suit her needs just fine.
“PATTI!” Gerald’s voice wailed
through the halls. Outside the room, Patricia could hear him approaching fast
and took off running again. Her new plan was to lead her husband around in a
circle, away from Kelly and back towards the west wing, where she could sneak
up on him with the scalpel and surprise him when he least expected it.
But she had a dead end as she turned
down the next corridor and saw there was only one way to go: The burn ward.
She turned around and was going to
try and head back in the other direction. But it was already too late. She
could hear Gerald stomping through the hall, screaming her name. She entered
the burn ward and Gerald followed.
As soon as he stepped through the
doors, she slashed him with the scalpel, slicing open his forearm. He winced in
pain and gritted his teeth, but the Mossberg was still in his hands. He refused
to let go.
She slashed again, aiming for the
throat. But he stumbled back and the sharp blade caught his chest instead,
producing another deep gash that oozed dark blood.
Unable to fire at such a close
range, Gerald struck her with the butt of the gun, causing her to fall back.
The scalpel fell from her hand and blood trickled down her nostrils. She
reached for her weapon, but Gerald stepped forward, pressing one boot down on
her hand and causing her to yelp.
“KELLY! COME OUT WHEREVER YOU ARE!
WE’RE HAVING A FAMILY MEETING!”
Gerald racked the shotgun and
pointed it at Patricia’s head. Kelly, who was hiding under a gurney, her body
hidden by the draped sheet, popped out. She screamed to grab her father’s
attention. As he glanced over, she flashed the laser pointer in his eyes. It
wasn’t strong enough to blind him, but it was disorienting and distracted him
just long enough for Patricia to snatch the scalpel and slash Gerald’s tendon.
She grabbed the Mossberg the second it hit the floor and told Kelly, “Get out
of here. I don’t want you to see this. This isn’t for a child’s eyes.”
Kelly exited the burn ward and
started counting silently as she walked. She made it up to thirty-eight before
she heard the echo of the shotgun. It took her mother less than a minute to
pull the trigger.
They had moved on from the hospital.
Nothing remained there but unwanted memories. They walked during the day and
slept in a tent at night. On colder nights, they would make a fire and Kelly
would entertain her mom with stories she had memorized from her comic books.
Patricia started carrying the
Mossberg when Gerald was gone. With no use for the 9mm pistol, she passed it
off to Kelly to keep permanently. Gerald had taught them how to shoot and one
day, when they came across their first zombie in weeks, Patricia let Kelly put
her skills and her pistol to the test.
She raised the gun, held it tight
with both hands, aimed steady, and squeezed the trigger with her index finger.
The bullet propelled from the barrel and split its head down the middle.
Kelly kneeled beside it. It was the
first time in five years she had really seen one up close, actually studied it.
The stench hardly fazed her at this point. What fazed her was its charcoaled
flesh, its lack of pupils, the exposed tendons and muscle and sinew. What truly
frightened her was ending up like this. Some days she really pondered if they
would’ve been better off dead.
“How will we live?” Kelly asked her
mom that day. “How will we survive?”
“We’ll find a way. We always have,
we always will. What did Mr. Croswell say to you about Superman’s shield?”
“He said it was a kryptonian symbol
“Right,” Patricia said. “If Superman
were here, would he give up hope?”
“Superman isn’t real, mom.”
“Just answer the question.”
“No, I suppose he wouldn’t.”
“Then neither are we. From now on,
think of me as Superman’s shield. I’m going to protect and be your symbol of
hope. Are you with me?” Patricia smiled. Her first genuine smile in weeks,