Tuesday, April 5, 2016
RABID: PART THREE
Genre: Horror (Zombies)
By Daniel Skye
PART THREE: THE FALL
Massapequa, New York.
“I just realized something,” Ira told Jackson as he bummed a cigarette. Jax was running low, but he didn’t mind sharing while he had them. He passed one to Ira and then lit one for himself.
“What is it?” Jax asked. They were standing behind a magazine kiosk, trying to avoid Lance Mathis. Ira was still fighting the urge to punch that racist jackass in the throat.
“I haven’t had a drink in five days now.”
“Okay,” Jax said, shrugging his shoulders. “And this means…?”
“Jax, I’m an alcoholic.”
Ira Schillinger’s confession lingered in the air for a moment. Jackson Creed was not one to pass judgment. Everyone has their own internal demons to battle. And sometimes those demons have demons of their own.
“You don’t have to tell me this,” Jax said. “I won’t think any less of you.”
“Well that makes one of us. Being an alcoholic has cost me countless jobs, friends, girlfriends, and it has ruined relationships with family members. As horrible as it is to say, this whole situation could be the best thing to happen to me in years. I’ve been sober for five days. And I’m not backsliding. I’m not regressing. I’m done drinking.”
“You picked a hell of a time to quit drinking,” Jax said. “But I support your decision.” He finished his cigarette and stamped it out with the heel of his boot.
“Do you think it’s over?” Ira asked. “The world, I mean. Do you think this is the end?”
“No,” Jax said vehemently. “The military will take care of business. And the CDC will figure out what’s causing it. They’ll engineer a cure. You’ll see.” Jax seemed certain. But he wasn’t sure if he was trying to convince Ira, or himself.
* * *
Ryan Slater called every co-worker in his phonebook. Not one of them returned his calls. Not his boss, Francis Laymon. Not Todd Noonan, who sat in the opposite cubicle. Or Johnson, whose assignment Ryan had been stuck with. Johnson, with the bad case of dysentery. Laymon could have spared Ryan the personal details of Johnson’s ailment, but Laymon was a contemptuous prick after all.
He ventured to the food court that morning and Allison Shane approached him at the coffee bar. She had taken a keen interest in Slater.
“What’s your story?” Alice asked.
“What makes you think I have a story?” Ryan replied.
“Everyone has a story.”
“Very true. But is every story worth telling?”
“I’ll be the judge of that.”
“Fine. I was a cop for ten years. I worked my way up to vice, then homicide. Then I was forced out. They let me keep a quarter of my pension, and I ended up working as a reporter for the Daily Buzz. And that’s why I’m currently here talking to you.”
“What do you mean you were forced out? You mean they fired you?”
“I don’t think you’re ready to hear that story. We don’t know each other well enough.”
“We can change that,” Alice said. “We’ve formed a small group. You should stick with us. Just in case things take a turn for the worst.”
“There’s always safety in numbers,” Ryan said. “Sure, why not? Lead the way. Let’s meet your group.”
* * *
Jackson Creed was so bored he found himself counting ceiling tiles to pass the time. When he found the energy, he’d wander to the front and side entrances and watch the MP’s who were standing guard, hoping to catch a glimpse of them gunning down a zombie or two. But he’d always make his way back to the food court to keep track of the others.
Evan Larson was keeping to himself while still sticking close to the group. He was a young kid, about as young as Mac and TK. However, the precipitating events of this calamity had no effect on him. Evan seemed unfazed by the lingering presence of the undead. Ira Schillinger viewed him as an anomaly, an enigma. And he knew that could make Evan a valuable asset to the group. Or it could make him a very dangerous threat.
Lance Mathis took this opportunity to collect a few souvenirs. Though, he didn’t pay for any of them. He used the old five-finger discount. Lance didn’t view it as stealing. Things were spiraling out of control. The world as they knew it was changing. And soon, money would be obsolete. So what did it matter to Lance if helped himself to a few trinkets? And Ira Schillinger expected no different from an ex-con like Mathis.
And Mac and TK took this temporary inconvenience as an opportunity to pick up chicks. Or try to, at least.
It was on the mezzanine floor where TK spotted Brenda Barker. It wasn’t just her slim figure, shapely legs, or chestnut hair that caught TK’s eye. It was her leopard print bracelet.
“Is that a slap-on bracelet?” TK couldn’t help but ask.
“Yeah,” Brenda said and nearly blushed.
“Man, I haven’t seen one of those since the 90’s. Sorry, I’m just very nostalgic. I love anything that can be considered retro or old fashioned.” He chuckled nervously.
“That makes two of us,” Brenda smiled benevolently. “I grew up in the 90’s and I’ve had it all these years. I’m surprised it still fits around my wrist.”
“Are you here by yourself?” TK asked. His subtle way of inquiring about her relationship status.
“Afraid so,” she said. “My bastard of an ex-boyfriend cheated on me. So I kicked his ass to the curb months ago. And my family is scattered all around the country. My parents live in Florida. My brother lives in Texas. I have an aunt in Montana and a cousin in Illinois. And I’ve only been able to reach my brother. I can only hope everyone else is alright.”
“I’m sure they are,” TK tried to comfort her.
“Thanks. But I’d feel better if they’d call me back.”
“Don’t worry, you’ll hear from them soon, I bet. And I bet in a few days this will all be over. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I can’t wait to get back to work.”
“What do you do?” she asked. “Well, what did you do before the shit suddenly hit the fan?”
“I like a woman who cusses,” he said. “I owned a comic shop in Seaford. It’s not much, but at least I owned it. What did you do?”
“I was, and still am, a registered nurse.”
A light went off in TK’s head. “A nurse, huh?”
* * *
“Guys, I’d like you to meet Brenda Barker,” TK said to the rest of the group. “She’s a registered nurse. And I think she’d make a great addition to our group.”
“Pleasure to meet you,” Jax spoke first. “And we’d be happy to have you. I’m Jackson, but you can call me Jax.”
Jax went around the food court table and introduced the others. “This is Ira Schillinger.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Ira said.
“And that’s Allison Shane, but everybody calls her Alice.”
“Hiya,” Alice waved.
“And next to Alice is Ryan Slater, another new addition to our group.”
“How you doing?” Ryan nodded at Brenda.
“And that’s Evan Larson.”
“Hey,” Evan said quietly.
“And I have no clue or Mac or Lance are.”
Right on cue, Mac came sprinting towards them. He stopped for a moment and gasped for air. Mac, even at a young age, was not in the best of shape. Considering his diet consisted mostly of Pop-Tarts and Hot Pockets, it was a miracle he could run at all. Once he caught his breath, he broke the news.
“There’s some commotion going on outside,” Mac alerted the group. “Several vans just pulled up.”
Following Mac’s lead, the group marched to the nearest entrance, where a mob of fellow survivors had already formed. Mac forced his way to the front and counted more than a dozen of them.
“Protestors,” he went back and informed the others.
“Protestors?” Alice repeated. “What could they be protesting?”
“The murder of zombies,” Mac said. “They’ve got signs and they’re apparently taking a stand against the military.”
“That’s got to be the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” Lance snickered. “They’re already dead. What does it matter if we kill them again?”
“Says who?” Ira asked. “Who are you to decide that?”
“All I’m saying is, if it’s them or me, it sure as hell ain’t gonna be me.”
“I’ve got to see this,” Evan said, forcing his way through the crowd. He made it to the front and saw protestors shouting and holding signs. Signs that said ZOMBIES ARE PEOPLE TOO and GIVE ZOMBIES A CHANCE.
It didn’t take long for things to turn ugly. Military personnel tried to force the protestors to disband. The protestors fought back. The military officers fired their guns in the air as a warning. But the shots only attracted more unwanted visitors.
“Oh, shit,” Evan muttered. He slipped through the crowd and made his way to the back of the line.
“The zombies are attacking the protestors,” he informed the group.
Lance almost barreled over in laughter. He couldn’t stop himself from cackling at the irony of the situation.
There were muffled cries and screams, followed by a series of ear shattering booms. It sounded like firecrackers going off inside a steel trash can. The military was fighting with every weapon at their disposal. But the sound of the gunshots only seemed to attract more and more of the undead.
The men were outnumbered. But none of them retreated. They stood their ground. They fought with everything they had. Unfortunately, the odds were too great to overcome.
The zombies tore their way through the wall of soldiers. And then they turned their attention to the reticent bystanders. The crowd gasped and shrieked as they staggered towards the doors.
The zombies pounded, scratched, clawed against the glass.
“Everyone get back!” one of the spectators shouted. “The glass is not going to hold!”
People were shouting and shoving, pushing their way through the packed corridor. The group cleared out of the way to avoid being trampled. People were fleeing in every direction. But once the zombies were inside those walls, nothing could guarantee their safety.
The doors could no longer hold. The glass exploded, shards flying in every direction.
And an army of the undead spilled through, ready to devour anything in their path.
To Be Continued With Part Four: LEFT FOR DEAD