Sunday, January 24, 2016
ONE FOR THE BOOKS: PART THREE
ONE FOR THE BOOKS (A Jacob Slade Story)
By Daniel Skye
PART THREE: SEEING RED
Adam Ridley would come home every day after school, do his homework, eat his supper, and then rush straight up to his room to work on his secret project. He wouldn’t dare let his parents see what he’d been slaving away on. It was for Adam’s eyes only. Nobody could see it until it was finally complete.
Sitting at his computer desk, Adam took a short break from his work to check his email and peruse a few sites. He checked his Facebook page–a page his parents had no knowledge of–and was happy to see he had two new friend requests.
The Internet was a wondrous place for a boy Adam’s age. His parents didn’t allow him to watch movies with excessive violence, language, or nudity. So the Internet was where Adam got his fix and downloaded all the latest titles. Adam had a fascination with the macabre. And his love affair with forbidden movies didn’t stretch too far outside the horror genre.
Adam had an affinity for horror movies, old and new. And Facebook was one of the few sites that Adam used to keep tabs on all the latest horror-related news. He’d read the posts in his newsfeed, watch the trailers, comment and share.
Most of his friends who had Facebook thought he was a weirdo for liking that sort of crap. But Adam didn’t find zombies and werewolves and monsters and demons to be grotesque or strange. He found them–as he so eloquently phrased it–to be awesome.
It was on his Facebook page that Adam came across several status updates, all mourning the loss of Harold Moss or offering condolences. Adam was familiar with the name, as everyone from Dorchester had been. But he wasn’t allowed to attend the funeral. And his parents didn’t want him reading anything about how Harold died. They figured it’d give the poor kid nightmares. Little did they know that Adam was watching movies like The Exorcist and Texas Chainsaw Massacre every night after they went to bed.
Adam slid out from under the desk on the wheels of his chair, brushed one hand through his reddish brown hair–the color of copper–and then used the other hand to stifle a burp. His stomach gurgled and he giggled at the sound it made. His belly was always bloated from too much cola, but he was an otherwise healthy child.
He had rosy cheeks with a scattering of golden brown freckles, and his teeth were remarkably white for a boy who drank six sodas a day. He didn’t have any problems with his hearing or his vision. There was only one thing that truly stood out about him. And not even Adam knew the secret to that.
Adam Ridley was an ordinary ten-year-old boy with an extraordinary gift. More exceptional than Jacob Slade’s gift of telepathy. Adam was an artist.
An artist with a mind so powerful, he could make his drawings come to life. It took years for Adam’s powers to reach their full potential. And when they did, Adam unleashed hell on earth without even realizing it.
Adam had a vivid imagination. At the time of Harold Moss’s death, he’d been working on an epic comic book project. A comic book about the end of days. A comic that had something to give everyone a scare: Zombies, vampires, werewolves. It was a smorgasbord of chaos and carnage and gore, monsters and savage aberrations.
The more Adam sketched his masterpiece, the more the plague of violence and insanity spread. There seemed to be no end to the horrors in sight…
* * *
Thursday, October 8, 2015.
It was just after midnight when they arrived at 1478 Bishop Street. The sheriff accompanied Jacob and Drake, but they had no additional backup. Karl Booth needed his deputies out on the streets to try to maintain order, and of course, he needed at least one man operating the phones down at the station.
The zombie bloodbath at Shadmoor Stadium was just the opening act. The show had barely even begun.
Multiple sightings had been reported. The undead were still among them. They still had bodies that were missing from the morgue. And these walking corpses were scattered throughout Dorchester, infecting anyone or anything that crossed their path.
The government had issued a mandatory quarantine until the situation was contained. All roads to and from Dorchester were blocked off and guarded by military personnel toting AK-47s. There was no escape.
Jacob Slade had never encountered a situation of this magnitude. He’d tangled with ghosts and spirits, danced with werewolves, hunted down a few vampires. But this was some next-level shit. And he didn’t quite know how to tell Booth he wasn’t the man for the job.
Slade wasn’t a hero. He was a mutant. His powers could only take him so far. They weren’t going to help him save the world. But Booth had faith in him. And that faith led them to Dane Hall’s doorstep.
Dane had been missing since the day they found Harold Moss. Slade wasn’t positive if Dane Hall was the Howler they were searching for, but his powers warned him of the presence of evil.
All the lights were out, but the front door was slightly ajar.
“My men just checked the place this afternoon,” Booth said. “They would’ve told me if the door had been open.”
“Isn’t this our cue to get the hell out of here?” Drake Furlong asked. “I mean, I’m not entirely sure I want to know what’s on the other side of that door.”
“We can’t back out now,” Jacob said, nudging the door forward and stepping in.
He ran his hands over the smooth plaster in search of the lights. When he found the switches, he flipped them on, but no light enhanced their vision.
“The powers out,” Jacob said. “Hey, Drake. Do you mind?”
“Not a problem. This is one of the few moments I get to shine.” With the snap of his fingers, the lights clapped on and house lit up like Yankee Stadium.
Standing in the darkest corner of the living room was Dane Hall.
But it didn’t look like Dane Hall to Booth. More like Dracula. But this was no movie Dracula. This was not Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee or Boris Karloff or Frank Langella. This wasn’t even Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise.
Dane looked ancient, like he had aged two hundred years overnight. His hair was pure white, whiter than snow. His cheekbones were gaunt, his ears pointed, his face fatally pale. His eyes were red and purple, the color of blood clots. His mouth dropped open to reveal his jet-black gums and razor-like teeth.
“Jesus!” Booth exclaimed. “Is that you in there, Dane? If you can understand me, please say something.”
“I’m going to drink every pint of blood in your body,” the voice that had taken over Dane’s body declared.
“He’s a fucking vampire,” Drake said, drawing his gun. Jacob already had his gun out, safety off.
Dane went straight for Booth, and Drake and Jacob opened fire.
“Aim for the heart!” Drake screamed. But it was easier said than done. This was no movie, and even at close distance, they missed a few shots. Booth had dropped to the floor, taking cover. He worked his service revolver from his holster, raised it, and fired one shot. The bullet tore through Dane’s chest, piercing his heart.
His body disintegrated before their very eyes. And all that was left was a pile of ash.
“I take it this wasn’t the Howler we’ve been looking for,” Booth said, picking himself up and dusting himself off.
“Nope,” Jacob responded. “But Dane might’ve been the one who killed Jenny Washburn, and those victims your men found down by the train yard.”
“What do you mean might’ve?”
“I mean Dane might not be the only vampire lurking in the shadows of Dorchester. There might even be more than one Howler. Anything is possible after tonight.”
“Well we can’t stand around and wait for it to find us,” Booth said. “We need to find it before it kills again.”
“Well I’m all out of ideas,” Jacob shrugged. “Did you get the silver?”
“I stopped by the pawn shop and told Gene Carlson it was a police matter. He hooked me up big time. Got a whole case of silver bullets.”
“Good. Now all we need are the squirts guns and the whiskey.”
“Oh, no problem. We’ll just swing by the twenty-four-hour liquor and toy market.”
“I have some squirt guns in my garage,” Drake said and they both stared at him awkwardly. “What? I collect lots of childish shit.”
“Well that saves us some trouble,” Jacob said. “And Portside Pub is still open. So that solves the whiskey crisis.”
Booth’s radio went off and he unhooked it from his belt. It was Deputy Brackett. They were needed at McDowell Memorial Hospital immediately.
* * *
Wesley Reese was barely alive when they brought him into the hospital. They’d managed to stop the bleeding. The wounds were too big to stitch, so they had to cauterize them. Afterwards, Wes was bandaged and doped up with enough painkillers to calm a wild boar.
He drifted in and out of consciousness, listening to the insipid hum of the fluorescent lights. Wesley had no affinity for hospitals. He associated them all with the same morbid notion–Death.
Hospitals were a sterile, yet unwelcoming environment. They all carried that same lingering odor of ointments and disinfectants. And they all gave Wesley the willies.
He tried not to think about where he was. Instead, he tried to think about Cynthia. But all he could think about was lying in the bushes outside of her house, bleeding to death. He was too weak, too powerless to save her. Cynthia Rockwell was dead because of him.
The painkillers aren’t working, Wes thought as a sudden pain shot up his left arm. His chest felt like it was on fire. His heart monitor was going berserk.
It can’t be a heart attack, Wesley thought. I’m too young. I just need to calm myself down. Where the hell is the nurse? Shouldn’t someone be checking on me? Okay, just relax. Calm down.
But Wesley could not come down. Something was terribly wrong. He could feel it inside of him, bubbling its way to the surface.
His eyes turned yellow and glowed like the moon itself, and the transformation had begun.
* * *
Nurse Harper’s feet were killing her.
She was working a double shift and she was on her tenth hour when Johnny Gallo flat-lined. She summoned Doctor Ken Dodge immediately. They did everything they could to revive him, but nothing could bring Gallo back.
There had been many casualties at the stadium that evening, but plenty of others had survived the attack. Johnny was the only survivor who had been brought in from Shadmoor Stadium with a bite wound. He developed a high fever and his body burned out quickly as the infection spread.
Nurse Harper was called away shortly. And when she returned to collect Johnny’s chart for the necessary paper that needed to be filled out, his body was gone. She looked down and recoiled at the sight of Doctor Dodge splayed out on the floor.
He wasn’t dead. But he was going into shock.
He was missing four of his fingers on his left hand.
A set of bloody footprints started on the floor by the bed and ended at the bathroom door. “Mr. Gallo?” Harper called, her voice cracking. “Are you in there?” The lights were off, the door slightly ajar.
The bathroom door swung open and Johnny Gallo stood there, the corners of his mouth smeared red. A shark tooth necklace dangled around his chest, also stained red. She saw that crazed, glazed over look in his eyes. He had lost all control of himself. His body was operating on instinct and instinct alone. The need to feed was imperative and took priority over everything else.
Harper scrambled for the door, but she tripped, twisting her ankle. And Gallo advanced on her. She thrashed and kicked her legs around as he grabbed hold. She let out a loud, sharp cry as he tore in. She wanted to scream HELP but the pain was too intense.
His teeth were locked around her leg, tearing the sinew from her femur. She let out another cry– this one dull and muted–before she lost consciousness.
Downstairs in the lobby, the automatic doors slid open and the bodies from the morgue came piling in, still sporting their toe-tags. They smelled blood and fresh meat from a mile away.
The nurse who was stationed at the front desk took one look and ran down the hall screaming. Security stepped in, but they didn’t stand a chance. Nobody did.
* * *
When Jacob and the men arrived at McDowell Memorial, the place resembled an abattoir more than a hospital. The smell of ointments and disinfectants had been replaced by the metallic scent of blood. Blood ran down the wall in uneven streaks. Severed ears, fingers, and arms adorned the lobby. Past the front desk, Drake found the bodies of the security guards. Maimed beyond recognition. Their faces clawed, their intestines ripped from their body and gnawed at like raw sausage links.
Drake gave them mercy and put a bullet in each of their heads to make sure they wouldn’t come back.
But the echo of the gunshots seemed to draw them all out. One by one, they filled the hall and moved almost in unison towards the entrance.
The bodies from the morgue were fresh, but already showed signs of advanced rot and decay. They were decomposing at an exponential rate. Their skin had the pigment and texture of rancid meat. Their dead eyes looked like dirty marbles.
“Remember, aim for the heads,” Drake said.
“Got it,” Jacob said. “I’ve seen Dawn of the Dead.”
One of the bodies from the morgue had a badly mangled leg. It hobbled along, a snapped bone jutting out below the knee. It was an easy target, and the first zombie Jacob took down.
Drake aimed for the biggest, meanest looking zombie he could find and pulled the trigger. He raised his semi-automatic, aimed carefully, and nailed him right between the eyes.
Jacob took two more shots and brought two more of the undead to their knees.
A young woman ambled along in a hospital gown, her throat ripped open. The zombies from the morgue had gotten to some of the patients and the staff. Karl hesitated to shoot her, but as she drew closer, he fired his service revolver.
“So this is what you wanted,” Jacob said to Drake as he capped another zombie. The bullet ripped through its skull, exited out the back, and entered the skull of the zombie lined up behind it. “This is what you’ve been waiting for, huh?”
“Okay, maybe the zombie apocalypse was a bad thing to add to my wish list,” Drake admitted. “But I don’t think right now is the best time to talk about it.”
They kept shooting, reloading, and shooting some more. But it still wasn’t enough to stop the onslaught of the undead.
There were too many of them. The corridors were teemed with a festering mob of zombies.
“I’ve got this,” Drake said and tucked his gun into his waistband.
Drake glanced around and found what he was looking for–an outlet. He pressed his hand to the outlet, crouched, and rested his other hand to the floor.
“Get back,” Drake advised them. “Way back.” Jacob knew what was coming, grabbed Booth by the lapels of his jacket, and pulled him back.
The electricity from the outlet passed through his body and traveled from one hand to the other, electrifying the floor. It didn’t fry them all, but it did stun them momentarily.
“Let’s move,” Drake said. “We’ve got to get everyone out of here, including ourselves.”
They sprinted through the halls. Even at his advanced age, Karl Booth moved with grace and speed. His life did depend on it after all. They checked every room on the first floor, finding nothing but casualties and empty beds.
They moved to the second floor and split up to cover more ground.
Nurse Harper, missing most of her lower lip, had turned at the hands of Johnny Gallo. She stumbled awkwardly through the hall, like a newborn infant learning to take its first steps. Doctor Dodge had turned too.
In fact, half the staff had been turned, and the rest were either wounded or in hiding. Jacob was the one who had crossed paths with Nurse Harper and Doctor Dodge. He granted them mercy and moved on, checking every room he passed, eventually coming across a familiar face.
“It can’t be,” Jacob said, unsure at first. Then he saw the shark tooth necklace and confirmed it. “Johnny Gallo. Son of a bitch.”
Jacob knew Gallo personally. They played cards, drank beers, hung out on Sundays to watch the games. Jacob hesitated, but only momentarily before he gave Gallo mercy. If there was any way to bring him back, Jacob would’ve spared his life. But he knew there was no coming back.
Wesley Reese, or the beast formerly known as Wesley Reese, stalked the halls of the west wing, which happened to be Drake’s current location.
“Nice doggy,” Drake said nervously.
Its snout wrinkled back, showing a mouth of razor-sharp teeth. Drake unloaded on the beast, but his bullets were not silver and they accomplished nothing. The wounds only seemed to anger the beast.
It came charging. Drake felt someone brush his shoulder and push him aside.
It was Lenore Foster, armed with a squirt gun. She sprayed the charging brute down and halted it in its tracks.
The whiskey was like acid. Globs of fur and flesh dripped from its torso. It howled in pain as Lenore sprayed it again, this time in the face. She watched its snout dissolve, its yellow eyes melt from the sockets.
“We have to get out here,” Lenore said in a matter-is-settled way. “Where are the others?”
“I’m right here,” Karl said, limping towards them.
“Are you bit?” Drake asked, inching back.
“Nah,” Karl said. “Just old age. I fell running from some zombies, hurt my leg. We have to get out of here. There’s too many of them.”
“I heard the shots,” Jacob said as he came running towards them. He saw the remnants of
Howler that stained the hallway and motioned towards it with his pistol.
“It was the Howler,” Lenore assured him.
“How did you know where to find us?” Karl asked.
“I have a police scanner at home. I like to keep tabs on things. And it gives me ideas for my stories and helps with police lingo and dialogue.”
“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that,” Karl said.
“Listen, we have to get out of here,” Jacob said.
“That seems to be the phrase of the day,” Drake quipped.
“We need to find a place to regroup and formulate a plan. They’ve infected the staff and the patients. By tomorrow it could be the whole town.”
To Be Continued With Part Four: BAD MOON RISING