His face came away from the asphalt with a wet sucking noise and he nearly stopped. Expecting pain to come. Expecting the sky to fall. Expecting something, but nothing happened. The sucking sound stopped when his face finally pulled free… #Horror #Zombie https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/necro/id1238359802?mt=11
This past week I left all of the work there still is to do on this house and kicked back and worked on video games. Sometimes I need a head break to just let stuff go. I had a blast. learned a lot more about the system I use and made progress on a game I have been working on for quite a while.. That gives me winter to catch up on writing projects and that should be fine.
What went on this week:
Monday night my cat kept me up all night long yowling. There was a female outside and when I let him out Tuesday morning, that was it. He never came back.
Tuesday I spilled a very small amount of coffee onto the keys of my laptop and messed it all up. How, you might ask, could I be so stupid as to spill coffee on my keyboard? I don’t know. Plain old stupidity… Half awake… A cup of coffee in my hands… All of the above. After determining that, yes, it was fried, I bit the bullet and headed to eBay where I found a replacement.
Wednesday I wrote code all day and into the next day (3:00 AM)
Thursday I did the same, and then tried to put together some computer parts I purchased. Failed. Realized I had bought a BTX form factor Motherboard (Advertised as an ATX), and even though it would not have fit the case I bought, I had not purchased the ATX case I thought I had, but a MATX case. Confused? So was I. After a gazillion hours trying to make it all fit I went online and looked for solutions. Ha Ha, I say that with the deepest sarcasm.
To fix the situation I needed to purchase a BTX form factor case, but I quickly found out a BTX case is hard to come by and more expensive than the whole combination I had bought. So, I looked for an MATX board to put the processor I had purchased on. But, a MATX board, at least the ones I found, would not hold as much memory, slots, etc. They were generally more expensive with less to offer.
Which begs the question, why? I have noticed that a lot of the last several years. Want to buy a dog? Well, a German Shepherd or a Malamute, both about the same size, will cost about the same price. But, a small dog, I won’t mention the breed, costs more than either of those dogs. Huh. Along those lines, as a dog, if a cat can kick your butt you’re probably too small.
Anyway, I finally decided to buy an ATX board and case. That worked except I was out more green. BTW, if you followed all of that you are probably as geeky as I am.
Friday I did some editing on Geo’s Smashword interview. Why is it that it is so easy to edit someone’s work, find all the mistakes and correct them, but not your own?
Saturday (So Far) site updates for SOTOFO and a few other sites. Writing, and eating Candy Corn. I have to admit it was great to get back to writing, but the Candy Corn was pretty good too. And, listing all of those computer parts I bought that I no longer need. Let’s see. I spent about $250.00 in parts that I didn’t use, and another $200.00 in parts to actually build the thing, plus the cost of another laptop (Used on eBay), a really good deal for $125.00, I would say this week the computers won. And the thing is, in this society, you can not do without them. I guess I’ll be happier on Monday when the laptop shows up, and in a week or so when I put my fast computer together and convince myself that I am not really an idiot at all, technology is just faster than it used to be… Did that make sense? No.
What did I learn this week?
#1. Cats are not very useful when it comes to making you feel good about yourself. I mean they take off chasing the lady cats and don’t even bother to come back. That is a direct hit to the old self esteem. Of course maybe he was kidnapped or eaten by a dog, or a Sasquatch. After all there have been a great many Sasquatch sightings lately on the National Geographic channel of all places. I hope he didn’t suffer. That is of course if he was eaten. If he did run off with a lady cat I hope she takes him for everything he has.
#2. Laptop computers really suck. I have spilled whole sixteen ounce Cokes on my desktop keyboard, no problem except the keys began to stick bad. Also, the laptop keyboard stayed screwed up, I had to plug in a USB keyboard to type with, until I bought the replacement laptop. Second, I looked up form factors with Google. Holy Crap. The odds of me getting the wrong parts are very high, especially since some of the people that sell them don’t have a fricken clue what they are selling. There are dozens of form factors. Let me geek this out for you. Form factor refers to a common build for a particular board, across different manufacturers. Same pin connections, width, length. Etc. The last time I built a machine I only knew of two form factors, ATX and MATX which is a smaller board, and then there were proprietary boards built by some manufacturers. Yeah. No longer. So now I think, spend the extra and have someone else build it to your specs. And, after I get through this fiasco I will do that the next time.
#3. Writing code is easier on the body than building a house is.
#4. I am no longer sure I should drink and keyboard. Coffee, Coke, it always ends up on the board before I am finished.
Earth’s Survivors News: The first Earth’s Survivors book, Apocalypse will remain free the balance of this year. After that it will be reevaluated.
Everything else is in line and going well. Well, except computers, Cats and coffee cups.
I will leave you with a true short story…
Copyright Wendell Sweet 2010 All rights reserved
This work is copyright protected. You may read it in it’s present form. You may not alter or transmit it by any means. If you would like to share this material with someone, please direct them to this URL. This is not a work of fiction. The people and circumstances really existed and I have faithfully reproduced the circumstances without excessive artistic license. I have changed names to protect innocent people.
Published by independAntwriters Publishing and Wendell Sweet
It was summer, the trees full and green, the temperatures in the upper seventies. And you could smell the river from where it ran behind the paper mills and factories crowded around it, just beyond the public square; A dead smell, waste from the paper plants.
I think it was John who said something first. “Fuck it,” or something like that,” I’ll be okay.”
“Yeah,” Pete asked?
“Yeah… I think so,” John agreed. His eyes locked on Pete’s, but they didn’t stay. They slipped away and began to wander along the riverbed, the sharp rocks that littered the tops of the cliffs and the distance to the water. I didn’t like it.
Gary just nodded. Gary was the oldest so we pretty much went along with the way he saw things.
“But it’s your Dad,” I said at last. I felt stupid. Defensive. But it really felt to me like he really wasn’t seeing things clearly. I didn’t trust how calm he was, or how he kept looking at the river banks and then down to the water maybe eighty feet are so below.
“I should know,” John said. But his eyes didn’t meet mine at all.
“He should know,” Gary agreed and that was that.
“That’s cool. Let’s go down to the river,” Pete suggested, changing the subject.
“I’m not climbing down there,” I said. I looked down the sheer rock drop off to the water. John was still looking too, and his eyes were glistening, wet, his lips moved slightly as if he was talking to himself. If he was I couldn’t hear. But then he spoke aloud.
“We could make it, I bet,” he said as though it was an afterthought to some other idea. I couldn’t quite see that idea, at least I told myself that later. But I felt some sort of way about it. As if it had feelings of it’s own attached to it.
“No, man,” Gary said. “Pete didn’t mean beginning here… Did you,” he asked?
“No… No, you know, out to Huntingtonville,” Pete said. He leaned forward on his bike, looked at john, followed his eyes down to the river and then back up. John looked at him.
“What!” John asked.
“Nothing, man,” Pete said. “We’ll ride out to Huntingtonville. To the dam. That’d be cool… Wouldn’t it?” You could see the flatness in John’s eye’s. It made Pete nervous. He looked at Gary.
“Yeah,” Gary said. He looked at me.
“Yeah,” I agreed. “That’d be cool.” I spun one pedal on my stingray, scuffed the dirt with the toe of one Ked and then I looked at John again. His eyes were still too shiny, but he shifted on his banana seat, scuffed the ground with one of his own Keds and then said, “Yeah,” kind of under his breath. Again like it was an afterthought to something else. He lifted his head from his close inspection of the ground, or the river, or the rocky banks, or something in some other world for all I knew, and it seemed more like the last to me, but he met all of our eyes with one sliding loop of his own eyes, and even managed to smile.
The bike ride out to Huntingtonville was about four miles. It was a beautiful day and we lazed our way along, avoiding the streets, riding beside the railroad tracks that just happened to run out there. The railroad tracks bisected Watertown. They were like our own private road to anywhere we wanted to go. Summer, fall or winter. It didn’t matter. You could hear the trains coming from a long way off. More than enough time to get out of the way.
We had stripped our shirts off earlier in the morning when we had been crossing the only area of the tracks that we felt were dangerous, a long section of track that was suspended over the Black river on a rail trestle. My heart had beat fast as we had walked tie to tie trying not to look down at the rapids far below. Now we were four skinny, jeans clad boys with our shirts tied around our waists riding our bikes along the sides of those same railroad tracks where they ran through our neighborhood, occasionally bumping over the ties as we went. Gary managed to ride on one of the rails for about 100 feet. No one managed anything better.
Huntingtonville was a small river community just outside of Watertown. It was like the section of town that was so poor it could not simply be across the tracks or on the other side of the river, it had to be removed to the outskirts of the city itself. It was where the poorest of the poor lived, the least desirable races. The blacks. The Indians. Whatever else good, upstanding white Americans felt threatened or insulted by. It was where my father had come from, being both black and Indian.
I didn’t look like my father. I looked like my mother. My mother was Irish and English. About as white as white could be. I guess I was passing. But I was too poor, too much of a dumb kid to even know that back then in 1969.
John’s father was the reason we were all so worried. A few days before we had been playing baseball in the gravel lot of the lumber company across the street from where we lived. The railroad tracks ran behind that lumber company. John was just catching his breath after having hit a home run when his mother called him in side. We all heard later from our own mothers that John’s father had been hurt somehow. Something to do with his head. A stroke. I really didn’t know what a stroke was at that time or understand everything that it meant. I only knew it was bad. It was later in life that I understood how bad. All of us probably. But we did understand that John’s father had nearly died, and would never be his old self again, if he even managed to pull through.
It was a few days after that now. The first time the four of us had gotten back together. We all felt at loose ends. It simply had made no sense for the three of us to try to do much of anything without John. We had tried but all we could think about or talk about was John’s father. Would he be okay? Would they move? That worried me the most. His sister was about the most beautiful girl in the entire world to me. So not only would John move, so would she.
He came back to us today not saying a word about it. And we were worried.
When we reached the dam the water was high. That could mean that either the dam had been running off the excess water, or was about to be. You just had to look at the river and decide.
“We could go to the other side and back,” John suggested.
The dam was about 20 or 30 feet high. Looming over a rock strewn riverbed that had very little water. It was deeper out towards the middle, probably, it looked like it was, but it was all dry river rock along the grassy banks. The top of the Dam stretched about 700 feet across the river.
“I don’t know,” Pete said. “the dam might be about to run. We could get stuck on the other side for awhile.”
No one was concerned about a little wet feet if the dam did suddenly start running as we were crossing it. It didn’t run that fast. And it had caught us before. It was no big deal. Pete’s concern was getting stuck on the little island where the damn ended for an hour or so. Once, john, and myself had been on that island and some kids, older kids, had decided to shoot at us with 22 caliber rifles. Scared us half to death. But that’s not the story I’m trying to tell you today. Maybe I’ll tell you that one some other time. Today I’m trying to tell you about John’s father. And how calm John seemed to be taking it.
John didn’t wait for anyone else to comment. He dumped his bike and started to climb up the side of the concrete abutment to reach the top of the dam and walk across to the island. There was nothing for us to do except fall in behind him. One by one we did.
It all went smoothly. The water began to top the dam, soaking our Keds with its yellow paper mill stink and scummy white foam, just about halfway across. But we all made it to the other side and the island with no trouble. Pete and I climbed down and walked away. To this day I have no idea what words passed between Gary and john, but the next thing I knew they were both climbing back up onto the top of the dam, where the water was flowing faster now. Faster than it had ever flowed when we had attempted to cross the dam. Pete nearly at the top of the concrete wall, Gary several feet behind him.
John didn’t hesitate. He hit the top, stepped into the yellow brown torrent of river water pouring over the falls and began to walk back out to the middle of the river. Gary yelled to him as Pete and I climbed back up to the top of the dam.
I don’t think I was trying to be a hero, but the other thought, the thought he had pulled back from earlier, had just clicked in my head. John was thinking about dying. About killing himself. I could see it on the picture of his face that I held in my head from earlier. I didn’t yell to him, I just stepped into the yellow foam and water, found the top of the dam and began walking.
Behind me and Pete and Gary went ballistic. “Joe, what the fuck are you doing!”
I heard it, but I didn’t hear it. I kept moving. I was scared. Petrified. Water tugged at my feet. There was maybe 6 inches now pouring over the dam and more coming, it seemed a long way down to the river. Sharp, up-tilted slabs of rock seemed to be reaching out for me. Secretly hoping that I would fall and shatter my life upon them.
John stopped in the middle of the dam and turned, looking off toward the rock and the river below. I could see the water swirling fast around his ankles. Rising higher as it went. John looked over at me, but he said nothing.
“John,” I said when I got close enough. He finally spoke.
“No,” was all he said. But tears began to spill from his eyes. Leaking from his cheeks and falling into the foam scummed yellow-brown water that flowed ever faster over his feet.
“Don’t,” I screamed. I knew he meant to do it, and I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
“Don’t move,” Gary said from behind me. I nearly went over the falls. I hadn’t known he was that close. I looked up and he was right next to me, working his way around me on the slippery surface of the dam. I looked back and Pete was still on the opposite side of the dam. He had climbed up and now he stood on the flat top. Transfixed. Watching us through his thick glasses. Gary had followed John and me across.
I stood still and Gary stepped around me. I have no idea how he did. I’ve thought about it, believe me. There shouldn’t have been enough room, but that was what he did. He stepped right around me and then walked the remaining 20 feet or so to John and grabbed his arm.
“If you jump you kill me too,” Gary said. I heard him perfectly clear above the roar of the dam. He said it like it was nothing. Like it is everything. But mostly he said it like he meant it.
It seemed like they argued and struggled forever, but it was probably less than a minute, maybe two. The waters were rising fast and the whole thing would soon be decided for us. If we didn’t get off the dam quickly we would be swept over by the force of the water.
They almost did go over. So did I. But the three of us got moving and headed back across to the land side where we had dropped our bikes. We climbed down from a dam and watched the water fill the river up. No one spoke.
Eventually john stopped crying. And the afterthought look, as though there some words or thoughts he couldn’t say passed. The dying time had passed.
We waited almost two hours for the river to stop running and then Pete came across…
We only talked about it one other time that summer, and then we never talked about it again. That day was also a beautiful summer day. Sun high in the sky. We were sitting on our bikes watching the dam run.
“I can’t believe you were gonna do it,” Pete said.
“I wasn’t,” John told him. “I only got scared when the water started flowing and froze on the dam… That’s all it was.”
Nobody spoke for a moment and then Gary said, “That’s how it was.”
“Yeah. That’s how it was,” I agreed…
I hope you enjoyed the short story. Check out more here
See you next week, Dell
Earth’s Survivors Settlement Earth
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Zombie fall is a collection of Seven short stories including the title story Zombie fall. These stories have been best sellers on their own but never before offered in a collection…
Zombie Fall: Geo Had lived along the River all of his life. Spring was beautiful. The summer one of the best. But the fall was not so good. Fall was when Geo discovered that Zombies had moved into his old barn…
Alive Again: They were three, set out to leave the city for the safety of the road, where they would be relatively free from the dead that plagued the cities, but only two were destined to escape the dead that plagued the city, and even then what did they escape to? The Dead were everywhere…
Rapid City One, Two and Three. When the Zombie Apocalypse was at it;s height, gunslingers roamed the new frontier towns, offering their services to hunt down and kill the zombies. Theses are short stories from those days…
Jennifer learns more about the undead than she ever wanted to when she is murdered and then rises from the dead to her new life…
Donita, the birth of a Zombie Queen. She feels the changes as she leaves life, and her memories remain for a short time. It is only after the major changes have taken her from life solidly into death that she no longer remembers her old life at all, just this new need to kill and eat the flesh of the living…
READ MORE RIGHT NOW…
ZOMBIE PLAGUE: BOOK TWO
Zombie Plague: Book Two is copyright © 2010 Geo Dell. All rights foreign and domestic reserved in their entirety.
Cover Art © Copyright 2018 Geo Dell
Some text copyright 2010, 2014, 2015 Geo Dell
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental.
No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission.
Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.
ZOMBIE PLAGUE: BOOK TWO
On the road
~ March 26th ~
The camp was up before dawn, tents packed away and breakfast and coffee taken quietly together around the low embers of the camp fires. The breakfast didn’t consist of much more than the coffee and a few energy bars, but it suited their purpose well enough. The Dog, who still had no name, was going person to person and begging little tidbits even after his own breakfast of canned meat.
As the sun was touching the horizon, the small caravan of six vehicles were once again winding their way southward, leaving the roads where they were impassable and taking to the fields.
The two Suburbans that had been fitted with lifts and bigger tires had no problem with the on and off road transitions. It was tougher for the other four vehicles.
They monitored the radios as they drove along. Bits and pieces of conversation and skip came through the static. Sometimes clear, sometimes garbled and barely intelligible, but there were no conversations they could follow. Mike had never been a C.B. Radio fan, but Bob had been and he explained skip to everyone.
Skip could be two thousand miles away, or only a hundred. It was a signal that hit the atmosphere just right, or cloud cover, or a mountain range, and carried farther than it normally would have. You might talk to someone a thousand miles away as clearly as though they were no more than a mile down the road. And you might have that conversation for ten minutes or two hours and then suddenly they were gone because those atmospheric conditions that had allowed the conversation had changed.
Early on, Mike had thought about Ham radio. You could reach around the world with Ham radio. But Bob had explained that Ham radio accomplished that with relays. All the people that did the relays were most likely gone, at least for now. Maybe they would be back eventually, but they had heard nothing but a soft electric hiss cutting across the miles the two times they had tried the bands, and no one had answered their calls.
The F.M. Band had also remained dead. It seemed all the traffic was on the C.B. Channels. The V.H.F. Bands, normally used for Marine conversations, were empty too. But that offered a secure option for them to talk without being overheard. As they drove through the morning now, they talked back and forth on the V.H.F. Band, monitoring the C.B. and the F.M. Bands.
They filled their tanks two hours after dawn at a collapsed gas station next to the interstate. A length of rubber hose connected to a hand operated Kerosene pump made the job quick. The only hard part had been locating the underground tank. The cover had been found though, the cap spun off, and the odor of gasoline drifted up into the air telling them that the underground tank had not been ruptured.
The little area that serviced the interstate contained a large garage, two small Mom-and-Pop stores, the gas station and a chain auto parts store right next to the garage, probably built with the garage in mind.
On the other side of the asphalt parking lot sat a motel unit that had seen better days. Most of the units were flattened. The swimming pool was cracked and empty; wire mesh and what looked to be a bottomless void graced the middle of the rust stained pool. A second row of motel units running parallel to the pool looked to be untouched. Across the road were two name brand outlet stores, obviously placed to take advantage of the interstate. They had pulled the trucks onto the cracked pavement of the gas station, and after they had finished gassing up the trucks, Mike had gathered everyone together.
Bob and Tom came back from checking out the garage and the auto parts store just after the trucks were gassed up. Bob nodded his head at Mike.
“You noticed Bob and Tom looking over the garage,” Mike said. “We’re thinking of stopping here. We’d probably end up here for a few days while Bob and Tom work on the other four trucks. And we need a few other things: tail gate swing outs that can hold a spare tire, gas can too, roof racks to carry gear, lifts, better, bigger tires… In short, the things we had intended to do back in Watertown.” He looked around, trying to catch the eyes of each person individually.
“You can see how much easier it is for the two Suburbans to get around wrecks, buckled roads, down in to and out of ditches. It just makes sense to give the other four trucks that ability, otherwise they’ll just be slowing us down. You saw a little of that this morning.”
“Makes sense,” Janet Dove agreed.
Molly nodded. “My only concern is, are those…” she paused and her face reddened, “People,” she managed after a long pause, “coming after us?” Her eyes were dark and questioning. Mike could read the fear in her posture.
“I doubt it,” Candace said. She spoke quietly but forcefully.
“We’ll listen in on the radios,” Nellie added.
“They won’t come. In the city they knew how to get around… Out here,” Patty waved her arms around, finally lifting them to the sky. “They wouldn’t know what to do. Couldn’t sneak up on us.” She shook her head. “I just don’t think they’re the kind that want to deal with even odds.”
Candace nodded in agreement. “You know, Molly. Spineless, right?”
Molly nodded and Mike watched the fear leave her and something closer to determination replace it. She nodded her agreement once more, looking directly at Candace as she did.
Mike cleared his throat and continued. “The reason we traveled on was to put some miles between us and them. It’s a long way for them to come. I don’t see it,” Mike said. He let the silent nods continue for a moment and then continued.
“There are other things we can do, things we need. Canned goods, maybe one of those cows, or a deer. They seem to be wandering everywhere. There really is enough to keep all of us busy for the next few days while Bob and Tom get the truck situation straightened out.” He paused but no one spoke. “So… If there are no real objections?”
“Let’s do it,” Molly said.
“Yeah, I’m for it,” Patty added.
As Mike turned away, Patty, Candace, Molly and Nell began to set up a plan for monitoring the radios. Everyone agreed that they would probably hear about anything coming their way long before it reached them. Molly went over to the garage a few minutes later and pitched in, helping Bob and Tom move whatever was in the way so that they could reach the racks and garage bays. There were two tow trucks that they used to do most of the work, but chains and muscle power accomplished the rest.
In the end, they cleared out three stalls that they could work in. Molly stayed, and not long after Nell found her way over and began to work side by side with her.
The garage was a prefab steel building that, either because of a whim of the Gods’ or its design, had remained standing. By the time some others were returning with a cow and two large does in the back of one of the pickup trucks, the garage was ready to go. Molly and Tom wheeled out a towering chain-fall for the hunting party to use to dress out the animals and then went back to work.
By late afternoon the third Suburban was well under way. The lift was done, brush-guards installed and they were working on the carrying racks. Mike and Ronnie stopped by to look over the effort and were amazed. The Suburban looked like something that had rolled out of some sort of Safari outfitters garage, or a futuristic end of the world epic, Mike joked. But that sent them all into silence for a few moments, and Mike didn’t mention it again.
Molly and Nell were working on bolting a huge winch to the front bumper of one truck while Tom and Bob worked on stripping out one of the pickups to get it ready for a lift kit.
Tim and Annie had made their way to the garage and then found themselves drafted and made part of the work crew. Annie was in the third stall laying out the parts they would need for the lift on the pickup truck while Tim worked at mounting the oversize tires to new, larger rims, using a pair of heavy iron bars and his body weight to accomplish the work. He and Annie joked back and forth as they worked.
They were using a small twelve volt air-compressor to inflate the tires after they had them mounted. They both seemed to be enjoying themselves, Mike thought, and they seemed happy to be in each other’s company.
Outside, near the far end of the garage, the chain-fall had been set up, and a group led by Janet Dove, which included Sandy and Susan, were hoisting a large cow up into the air.
“Mike,” Janet said as he and Ronnie passed by on their way out of the Garage.
“We would like to smoke most of this meat… If we’re going to be here a few days, I thought…”
Mike nodded. “Yeah. Might as well, Jan. We have the time,” He assured her, “And, it’ll help to have the meat with us, who knows what’s ahead.” He shrugged.
Janet Dove smiled, turned away, and Mike stood watching as the huge cow began to lift into the air from the back of the pickup truck before he and Ronnie turned and walked away.
A few minutes later, the two of them fell in with Candace and Patty who were sifting through what the chain stores had to offer in the way of clothing, canned goods and whatever else they came across that they could find a use for. They passed by Lilly who had taken over the toy department, blocked off one aisle, and was keeping Brian and Janelle busy. She smiled and waved as they passed. Janelle waved back. Her dark eyes finally looking rested and happy.
Brian had built himself the biggest Lincoln Log village that Mike had ever seen and was now busy populating it with dozens of green, plastic Army Men. Mike smiled and Brian took the time out of his game to smile back at he and Ronnie. He held a large plastic Tyrannosaurus Rex in one hand which seemed to Mike about to wreak havoc on the village and its population of Army Men.
A half dozen trips with Candace and Patty, and late afternoon turned into early evening. Fires were burning to smoke the meat. Two large roasts were spitted over a huge fire pit made of field stone. A stew was bubbling in a pot that had been suspended over the flames. Nearly everyone had found a reason to stop by the area Janet Dove had set aside for cooking, most arriving just as she had been about to send some others out looking for everyone to round them up for dinner. The Dog was running around in circles, happily racing from person to person, tail wagging crazily. The smell of roasting meat hung heavy in the still, cool air.
Everyone sat close together at several wooden picnic tables that Janet had drafted a few volunteers to bring over from the collapsed section of the motel. They had sat in a small clearing not far from the building, untouched, while everything around them had been leveled.
The temperature was in the low forties, but with the early evening sun still shining, it felt much warmer.
Mike sat next to Candace, Ronnie on his other side. Across the table, Molly sat with Nell. They were both laughing, involved in conversation with each other. It was the happiest that Mike had seen Nell or Molly.
Canned potatoes, fresh beef and venison, a stew that held a bit of everything in it and a steaming platter of peas dominated the table center. Everyone had heaped up their plates. Too long eating thrown together meals or energy bars had left them hungry for real food.
Their basic protein needs had been met, but there was nothing like real food to make you… Happy, Mike decided. He looked around the table at all the smiling faces. It was actually a mood elevator, he decided.
“What’s on your mind, Baby?” Candace asked. Her eyes smiled, but her mouth wore a question he had come to know was more serious than her smile insinuated.
He bent forward and kissed her, making the smile on her face spread wider still. “I was thinking how happy everyone looked.” He turned his head and let his eyes sweep the tables once more, then turned back to Candace whose eyes and face now wore another look he was becoming familiar with. He bent forward and kissed her once more. “I’m pretty sure I love you,” He told her.
She laughed, “Pretty sure!” She slapped his arm with one hand. “You better be more than pretty sure, Mister.”
Mike laughed and kissed her again. “Positive,” he said. “I’d be lost without you.” His eyes turned serious. “That’s the truth,” His voice dropped to a near whisper as he leaned even closer. “I love you so much that I don’t have words for it. I only know it’s real. I only know I need you.” He kissed her once more and sat back up to catch Annie giggling and looking away.
Candace laughed beside him. An easy laugh that eased the seriousness of the conversation.
“I hope we’ll have some time later on,” she said, her voice still low, husky.
“I’ll make sure of it,” Mike told her.
“I was looking at that garage building,” Ronnie said from beside him.
“It’s one of those industrial prefabricated jobs. I’ve put up a few, but I had no idea how well engineered they were. They hold up pretty well, or at least this one did. The buildings not really damaged at all.”
“I noticed that too,” Mike agreed, “What are you thinking?”
“Well,” Ronnie grinned, “When we get where we’re going, it may not be a bad idea for a dwelling… or dwellings. At least for a temporary dwelling until we build… if we build. Lightweight, easy to put up. Easy to insulate. Not bad in an earthquake, if that stuff’s not completely done with us.”
Mike was nodding his head. “I’m for it, but are they hard to come by? I mean, where could we get one?”
“Not as hard as it seems. There are outlets where you can buy them in larger cities. And there are thousands already set up. We could take them apart pretty easily, take them where we want them and put them back up. All the structural supports are pretty much the same. You just add more or take away to make the building the size you need. Very lightweight, so they’d be easy to transport. They’d go up or down pretty fast,” Ronnie finished.
“Has my vote,” Bob added. “Fast, easy. They seem solid. It will save us a ton of time.”
“I’ve seen them around. I think it’s a good idea. We wouldn’t have to worry about wooden structures falling down on us.” Mike looked around. “Almost all the wooden structures are down. Concrete seems okay, for the most part, steel. But wooden structures just give too easily. Putting them up fast would also be a plus,” he finished. He raised his eyes from the ground – he had a habit of looking at the ground to visualize his thoughts – and saw that Molly and Nell had been listening to their conversation. They were nodding their heads in agreement.
“That garage is really solid,” Molly agreed.
“Cement’s cracked here and there, but the building itself held up really well,” Nell agreed. “I don’t even like walking into a wooden building anymore. You can feel it move, hear the creaks and groans… pops.” She shook her head.
Mike and Ronnie both nodded.
”It’s a good plan,” Mike said. He turned his head to Molly. “Where did you learn to turn wrenches?” he asked her.
Molly smiled. “My dad had a race car. It started out as a hobby but became something else. He’d work on it all week long and then run it in races on the weekends.” She smiled shyly. “When I was a little girl, as far back as I can remember, I used to go out and watch.” She laughed. “Pretty soon I was fetching wrenches, parts.” She laughed again. “The first time I came in with greasy hands, I thought my Mother was going to die. When I was fifteen, my Dad bought an old beat to shit Mustang. A sixty-four. It was a project car, he’d said. We’d work on it in our spare time together, finish it up and sell it for a profit.” She smiled and her eyes misted as she seemed to be looking back through the years.
“It took nearly a year of work. That was also the time I was eligible to get my permit. The day I got my license, he handed me the keys,” she finished, smiling happily at the memory.
“Pretty nice,” Candace said.
“Yeah, except it got smashed flat when this,” she lifted her hands and gestured helplessly, “happened. But once we’re where we’re going to be, I think I’ll try to find another one, or maybe a two door sixty-two Chevy Impala. I’ve always liked the way those Chevy’s look.” She shrugged, “Crazy, I guess, but I really think I’m gonna do it. There must be one somewhere.”
“I can see that,” Patty said. “Or something else worth rebuilding.”
More than a few heads nodded in agreement.
“Sometimes,” Patty added as an afterthought. “The thing you find is better than the thing you thought you wanted.”
Nell looked at Molly. Molly smiled, and Nell leaned closer and kissed her.
“You two?” Candace asked.
“Nell tempted me,” Molly said.
“It’s like Patty said, sometimes the thing you find is better than the thing you thought you would find… or want. I hadn’t expected this much out of life in the old world let alone this one,” Nell said smiling, but serious. She worked her hand into Molly’s and leaned closer to her.
Mike’s eyes swept across Patty’s face, expecting to see a smile but finding a distracted, sadness on her face instead. Patty swept it away so quickly though that he wasn’t sure just a second later that it had really been there at all. Maybe, he decided, he had imagined it. After all, Patty had found the better thing she hadn’t known she would find in Ronnie. There would be no reason for that sadness to be on her face. He found his own hand holding Candace’s, and she leaned into him for a kiss.
“Get a room, you guys,” Tim said as he and Annie passed by. Annie was blushing but had a huge smile on her face.
“Horn dogs,” Tim told her as they walked away, laughing with each other and holding hands as they went.
“Horn dogs?” Mike asked.
“I don’t know about you but I am no horn dog,” Janet Dove joked as she passed by.
The thought of prim and proper Janet Dove making a statement like that caused everyone to crack up. Janet stopped, a shocked look on her face.
“Good one, Jan,” Candace said.
“I can’t believe I said that,” Janet said.
Everyone cracked up then, including Janet Dove.
Candace lay in the crook of Mike’s arm as they talked quietly.
“Gotta go in about five minutes,” Mike told her. “My watch.”
“No,” Candace said. “You can’t go if you can’t get out of bed. Besides, we paid for the room for the night,” she finished and laughed.
Mike chuckled. “This is nice. Privacy, first we’ve had in… well, forever.”
“When we leave, we’ll be back to getting none at all again,” Candace told him. She snuggled against his side, one hand resting against the flat of his stomach, her index finger drawing small circles. “But,” she lifted her eyes to his. “I guess I have to let you go. Just think about that alone time for later.” She kissed him softly. “Something to keep you thinking about it.” She turned away, swung her feet to the floor and began to get dressed.
“You do give me things to think about,” Mike told her. He trailed his fingers down her back, bent forward and kissed her shoulder.
Candace looked back at him. “Do you want to make that watch?”
Mike laughed. “No, but I have no choice at all.” He leaned forward and kissed her mouth. “Later,” he said.
“Later,” She agreed.
The room had not been in bad shape. It was funny how fate could be, Mike had thought. One wing flattened, one untouched. From sleeping in a cave a day ago, to sleeping in a real bed the next.
The room was dusty, a slight musty, unused odor, but dry. The roof had held up. The walls seemed untouched.
“Where are you going?” Mike asked.
“You’re not on, Babe,” Mike grinned.
“Correction. I wasn’t on. You had Patty on, but she wanted to spend time with Ronnie, so we switched. That way, when we’re done, we can come back here again…” She cocked her eyebrows. “And take our time?”
“What, not be rushed?” Mike asked.
She stood and turned into him as he was getting ready to leave. A beautiful woman wearing only a pair of white socks, which was all she had managed to get on. She stretched up onto her tip toes and kissed him. His hands pulled her close. She pulled away with a smile.
“I thought you were coming with me,” Mike said.
“I am,” She giggled.
He reached for her once more, but she skipped away. “We’ll never get there, Baby,” she told him.
“As it is, I’ll probably be thinking about you throughout the whole watch and waiting to get back here. God, Candace, you’re so beautiful.”
She looked at him seriously. “Keep that up and we’ll never get out of this room.” She crossed the short distance between them and kissed him once more. “Say it just once more?”
“You’re beautiful,” Mike told her as he pulled her close.
It was about an hour and a half past sunset when Mike took over one of the perimeter guard posts from Susan. It was simply the far corner of the garage complex that overlooked a field and the highway beyond it.
“Quiet?” He asked.
“Pretty much. The dog… what’s that dog’s name anyway?” she asked.
“He doesn’t have one,” Mike admitted. “We, uh… we just call him The Dog, you know. He survived. He got through it same as us; he made it, you know. He’s The Dog.” Mike finished lamely.
“Oh. Sounds like a little guilt there, Mike. Maybe we should all get together and name it,” Susan suggested.
“Well, anyway… The Dog kept looking off towards the highway. He didn’t, like, bark or anything. I thought maybe deer, cows, something else. But with the meat drying, it could have drawn anything at all. The fires and so many people should be enough to keep anything away. Even if it’s wolves, they’ll probably stay away, right? I just thought you should know about it.”
Mike nodded. “Could be something, but you’re probably right. Most likely it’s nothing. I imagine the smell of the meat will draw every carnivore in the area. That’s okay as long as they don’t try to bother us. There will be plenty of scraps when we’re gone.”
Susan nodded this time. “Mike,” she hesitated and Mike nodded for her to continue. “Well, I wondered what you thought about Jan and Bob’s idea of settling in the wilderness. You know, deep in the middle of nowhere… a new Nation.”
Mike nodded slowly. “I think they really want to do it. I think they really believe in it, Susan,” he shrugged. Her eyes questioned him. “Okay… and… And I wish I could believe in it they way they do. Not that I believe it won’t work. I think anything we do will take hard work, a good deal of hard work,” he shrugged again. “And I think they’ll put the work in, I really do. Maybe you’re asking me what I want to do, and I can’t tell you that. I don’t know… I haven’t decided. It’s something Candace and I would have to take the time to sit down and decide, and we just haven’t had the time to do that.”
“You know, in my head the old world was selfish. It was all about selfish. The me-generation? Something like that. And I’m not saying I was any better. I wasn’t. Oh, I had my friends, and I helped them when I could, but when it came down to push or shove, it was me. It was me, and a lot of the people I knew, worked for, with, associated with, were the same way. Social on the surface, but scratch that surface and it’s a different story. Push or shove… and not an overly hard push or shove either.” He looked at her and Susan nodded.
“At least for me it’s been that way. I guess I sound cynical. But it’s not that way anymore. I’m not that way anymore. It’s not about me. It’s about me and Candace. And it really isn’t about us either. It’s deeper. There are people here I’ve really come to care about. I mean really care about. Do you realize that I haven’t watched T.V. Since the night this all started? Sounds ridiculous, right? None of us have, but I did computer work. Scripting, C, C plus, plus, graphics, more. I used to turn my computer on, turn on the T.V. for company and go to work. Eighteen hours sometimes, even longer on occasion. It… that… was my life. No relationships. No one to really care about. No time for it. And everyone I knew was the same way. Superficial. Shallow? Yeah, that too. Well… I don’t do that anymore; I don’t want to.”
Susan nodded. “Everyone I knew was too busy living to think about how they were living,” she said.
“That I do understand,” Mike said. “But not now, you know, somewhere, in some secure building, on some secure server I have a couple of bank accounts that were well over a million dollars each.” He laughed. “All means nothing now, Susan, nothing. I am happy with what I have. I don’t want what I used to have.” He sighed.
“The Nation? Probably a great idea. I can think of only a few things that I could do that would matter as much to me as that does to them. Kids… love… Candace, you know? Do it right, not like the old world. And that’s the rub. It depends on Candace… and the baby. She’s trying to get pregnant. It seems like almost everyone is.” He rubbed the flat of his palm along his jaw feeling the stubble that was softening into a beard. “If she wanted to do it, yes. If she wanted to travel to Alaska, yes. When the time comes, and it’s probably not all that far away in the scheme of things, but when the time comes for Bob and those that have committed to go with them, and those that will – I know there will be more – when that time comes, if Candace wants to go with them, I’ll jump in with both feet. That’s the truth of it.”
Susan’s eyes were misted. “Thank you,” she said.
“Thank you for being long winded and entirely too personal on short notice?” Mike asked.
Susan laughed. “No, for being honest. I think I’m going to go have a talk with a young lady. I’ll see you later, Mike,” she said. She smiled and then walked off into the shadows of the night.
Mike watched her go. Apparently everyone was more appreciative of people now, not just himself, he thought. He turned his attention to the field and the highway. After his eyes became accustomed to the darkness, he could see the dark shapes of cattle grazing in the field, a few deer mixed in with them.
He thought about what he had just said, how much he felt for Candace. How for the next few nights they would have a real bed. His mind filled with thoughts of her. He almost missed the radio call, almost wrote it off as one of their own, until he realized it wasn’t.
“Hello the camp,” the voice repeated.
Mike unclasped the radio from his belt and raised it to his mouth and spoke. “I guess you mean us,” he said more calmly than he felt…
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Earth’s Survivors SE 4. The Story of Candace and Mike
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THE EARTH’S SURVIVORS SE 4
The story of Candace and Mike
PUBLISHED BY: Dell Sweet
Earth’s Survivors: SE Four: the story of Candace and Mike is © Copyright 2017 Wendell Sweet, all rights reserved.
Additional Copyrights © 2010 – 2012, 2014, 2015 by Wendell Sweet, All rights reserved
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In the Trees
The eyes watched her and the other cows from the cover of the trees. The hunger was terrible, all consuming, and it came in crashing waves. The impulse to feed seemed to be the only coherent thought she had. It was hard to think around, hard to think past.
A few weeks ago she had been… Been? But it did no good; she could not force the memory to come. A name came, Donita. She had been Donita; she knew that, but that was all she knew. And a name was not everything she had been. She had been something else… something more, but she could not get to whatever it was. Something that did not wander through the woods: Something that was not driven by all consuming passions that she could not understand.
She turned her eyes up to the moon. It pulled at her. Something in it spoke directly to something inside of her., something deep, something she believed had always been there, but there had never been a need to address it because it lived under the surface, out of her line of thought, sight… below her emotions. Now it didn’t. Now it ruled everything. It was all she could do not to rush from the trees, find the smell that tempted her and consume it. Eat it completely. Leave nothing at all. Oh to do it… To do it…
Her eyes snapped back from the moon, and a low whine escaped her throat. The calf, sated, had wandered away from her mother. Behind her, the boy made a strangled noise in his throat. She turned, gnashed her teeth and growled. The thin, skeletal boy fell back, hungry but frightened. She could feel his fear. It fed her, tempted her to taste him, but he was no food for her. She knew that much. It was a sort of instinct… Drive… Something inside of her. The boy was not her food. The boy was not her sustenance: He was one of her own; corrupted. And corrupted flesh could not feed and sustain itself on corrupted flesh. Fresh flesh was needed, live flesh. Fresh human flesh, she corrected.
The boy trembled and grinned sickly, his one good eye rolling in his head. The other eye was a ruined mass of gray pulp sagging from the socket. A great flap of skin below that socket had curled and dried, hanging from the cheek. He felt at it now, carefully, with his shrunken fingers. She hissed at him and his hands fell away. She turned her attention back to the wandering calf that was nosing ever closer to the edge of the trees.
She desired human flesh. She needed it, but it didn’t absolutely have to be that way.
Two nights ago it had been a rabbit. The night before that she and the boy had shared a rat. The night before that they had come upon the old woman. She thought about the old woman as the calf wandered ever closer to the line of trees.
The old woman had been good. They had brought her back here and her bones lay here still, in the weeds at the edge of the clearing behind her. She turned and gazed back past the boy into their makeshift campsite, searching for what was left of the old woman, finding her bones where they lay at the edge of the clearing they had made. She turned back to the field, watching the calf as she remembered the old woman…
The old woman in the ditch
They had come across the old woman at near morning. Near morning was the best she could do. Time was not a real concern to her anymore. The concept held no meaning. She understood near morning because the sickness, the sickness that began to send the searing pain through her body, had started. The boy had already been whining low in his throat for an hour in pain. It was like that whenever the night began to end, when the morning was on the way, soon to be.
She remembered sunlight. Her old self had needed sunlight just as she now needed darkness, absence of light. That had been Donita as well, but a different Donita.
They had been crossing the rock filled ditch to get to an old house on the other side. The basement of the house was what she had in mind: Quiet, private, darkness. She had been scrambling down the steep, sandy side when the scent had found her eyes and froze her brain.
That is the way she thought of it. Frozen. Everything… everything besides that smell of flesh was frozen out. The boy’s whining, the coming dawn, the constant hunger in her belly, the moon silvery and bright so far up in the night sky, nothing got by that desire. Urge. Drive. It consumed her, and it had then.
It had touched her eyes and then seeped into her brain; then it had spread out into her body. Her legs had stopped moving and she had nearly tumbled all the way to the bottom of the rock strewn ditch before she had caught herself, her head already twisted in the direction of the smell. Her ears pricked her tongue licking at her peeled, dead lips.
She could smell the old woman. Knew that she was an old woman. It was in the smell: Somehow it was in the smell; and her flesh, her fear. The boy had slammed into her then, still whining, and nearly knocked her to the ground.
She had come up from that near fall in a crouch, and the boy had slammed into her once more, so she had grabbed him to steady him. He had thought she meant to kill him and had pulled away, but a second later he had caught the scent and they had both gone tearing down the ditch.
The Old Woman
The old woman had heard them coming. She had begun to whine herself, replacing the boy’s whining which had turned to a low growl. The panic had built in her as she heard them coming. Her heart pounded, leapt, slammed against her ribs, bringing pain with it. The pain rebounded and shot down into her broken leg, the leg that she had broken the day before trying to scramble down into this ditch to reach the house across what was left of the highway so she would have a safe place to stay. The pain slammed into her leg, and she cried aloud involuntarily. A split second later, the female slammed into her.
She had been on her belly. The pain was less that way. When the female hit her, she drove her over onto her back. A second after that, she was ripping at her flesh, biting, feeding and she could not fight her. She was too strong, too… Animal strong. And then the boy hit her hard, pouncing on her chest, driving the air from her lungs, and before she could even react, catch her breath back, he was biting at her throat.
She felt the pulse of blood as he bit into her jugular, and it sprayed across his face. She felt it go, felt her consciousness drop by half, her eyelids flutter, flutter, flutter and then close completely. And the biting was far away, and then it was gone.
The boy had her throat, but Donita had been biting her way into her chest. She had felt her heart beating, and she had been gnawing against her ribs when she felt it stop. They had calmed then, loosening the grips they had on her, and settling down to feed.
She glanced now at the calf that was less than three feet from them, its huge moon eyes staring curiously at them. The calf did not know death, had not seen it, she thought. It knew its mother’s tit, the sweet grass of the spring field, the warmth of the sun and nothing else. It edged a little closer.
She had killed the old woman. She had no use for her at all. They had eaten so much of her flesh, that she was useless to them. Couldn’t sit up all the way. The boy had taken one arm off at the shoulder and carried it away like a prize.
Donita had eaten so much that she had vomited, but that had only forced her back to feeding until she was once again filled. She had looked around the ditch and spied the rock. The old woman had come back already, and she was trying to raise herself from the ground, trying to raise herself and walk once more. She had picked the rock up from the ditch. A big rock, but she was powerful, and she had smashed the old woman’s skull in as she had tried to bite at her. They had dragged her into the woods a little farther down the road, this place where they still were.
She turned again to the calf. The calf was not what she wanted, but the calf would have to do for now. She let her hand fall upon the boy’s thigh and they both sprang at the calf.
The calf did not have the time to react. It did not even bawl. One second it was standing, and the next it was on its side, Donita’s teeth clamped tightly across its throat. A second after that, it was sliding across the dew wet grass and into the woods, one wild eye rolling and reflecting the silver of the waning moon, as Donita and the boy dragged her into the trees.
SE 4: The Story of Mike and Candace. The most popular group from the website writings were Candace and Mike.
EARTH’S SURVIVORS: Home in the Valley from Dell Sweet
This is Copyright protected material used with permission
Mike and Candace
West of Manhattan
“Nobody,” Ronnie remarked as he clicked off the CB and stepped down from the truck.
“Maybe the weather,” Alice said as she took his hand.
“May be,” Ronnie agreed with a smile. He bent forward and kissed her softly.
“You do that so well,” Alice told him. She had that secret little smile on her face, the one that turned up the corner of her lips. The one that had made him say yes when she had asked to join them.
They had met her and the small party she had been traveling with the day after they had left Billy’s camp and started on their way. Ronnie thought back on it now. That had been more than two months before. They had spent those two months just trying to get out of the city, past all the stalled traffic that went on forever, and into a place where they could actually have trucks, drive, make time. That day they had still been driving, or trying to. They had come around a curve on a barely held together state route that paralleled the thruway and there they had been: A truck parked in the middle of the road. Mike had locked the brakes up; the curve had not given much warning. Alice had been standing at the front of the truck and she had never even flinched.
Mike had stopped a good fifteen feet away. When he and Ronnie had stepped from the truck she had hit Ronnie with the smile. He had fallen right then. No arguments.
“Could’a killed us,” Toby Black had said. He was the leader of the six party group. “Shouldn’t ought to drive so goddamn fast.”
Mike was speechless; it was Ronnie that had fired back.
“That may be,” Ronnie had allowed,” But maybe you should give a little thought to parking in the middle of the road too.”
“On a goddamn curve,” Candace added, barely cracking a smile.
“Yeah, well,” Toby said. He seemed to consider a few moments, tugged at his graying beard, and must have decided to say nothing. He had just nodded, dusted one hand against his jeans and extended it to Ronnie. “Toby,” He had glanced from Ronnie to Mike to Candace, nodding as he did. “This’s Andy,” he had nodded at a skinny man who stood a few feet away. “Galloway over there, Flint at the back of the truck, Lucy sitting inside there and Alice right here.” He had tried to slip one arm over Alice’s shoulders, but she had smiled and shrugged it off.
“And who are you,” she had asked Ronnie. Behind him Candace had chuckled.
“Ron,” he had said.
She had taken his hand and held on, her eyes on his own.
“Listen, you can stay to dinner with us if you like. Fresh venison, killed a deer a few hours back.” Toby had pointed at a fire where what looked like both haunches of a small deer had been spitted: Fat dripping and sizzling.
“Yeah,” Candace had agreed. “We’d be glad to.”
“Yeah,” Mike had added. His stomach had been growling so loudly he had been sure that everyone could hear it. He had reached in, shut down the truck, and then shifted his rifle to his opposite shoulder as he shook hands with the others including Alice who had finally let go of Ronnie’s hand.
A little work had secured some late corn from an overgrown nearby field, that and the venison had made an excellent dinner.
“So where you folks going to,” Toby had asked.
“Alabama,” Mike had answered around a mouthful of corn. “Dammit this is good.”
Toby had laughed.
“There are, I think, more deer than there are people. Could have had a cow, in fact, but it would have been a waste of meat,” Alice had said.
They had traded small talk as they ate, sharing road information. Toby was bound for Manhattan, even after he had talked to them. Mike had shaken his head. The man was stubborn; there was no changing his mind. Mike had offered them to join with them and continue on to Alabama.
“Maybe,” Toby had agreed. “I might come back and look you up, but I got to know for myself.” They had been getting ready to leave a few minutes later, having refused politely the offer of spending the night, when Alice had asked if they would accept only her since the others didn’t want to go.
“Yeah,” Ronnie had said, nearly immediately. Toby had not seemed surprised although more than a little let down. He had, had a hard time hiding his frown. Ronnie smiled now thinking about it.
“What,” Alice asked.
“Thinking about how I like the way your mouth turns up at the corner the way it does,” Ronnie said. He reached forward and pulled her to him, at the same time walking back to the fire and Candace and Mike. Alice laughed.
“Dead,” Ronnie repeated to Mike and Candace.
“Kind of weird,” Candace said. “I mean, it’s been chatter, chatter, and chatter the last few days and now it is dead; doesn’t make sense.”
“Is strange,” Alice agreed. “But we’re also further away from the city. Maybe all that chatter was the city… Or most of it.”
“My thoughts exactly,” Mike agreed. “We need to find a map and see what is near. Maybe the largest cities close by were destroyed.”
“I imagine they were: When we came this way it was the same. The few times we got close to a city it was bad. Destruction, the smell was horrible, and the sick ones too,” Alice said.
“Sick?” Mike asked.
“You haven’t seen them yet?” Alice asked.
“I don’t think we saw as much of the really bad stuff I have heard on the radio…” Candace paused for a second. “Back there, Manhattan, when we were with Billy, we heard some bad stuff out of the city. I mean like horror movie stuff. People looking dead but still walking around… Going without food for days, but not dying; attacking other people,” She shrugged. “Had to kill them, the ones that told us said so: Had to kill them because they were just gone. Come right at you and try to kill you if you didn’t… Some kind of bad sickness,” Candace finished.
“Zombies,” Alice said with a small nervous laugh.” She held her hands up when Mike and Ronnie shook their heads almost in unison. “I know, I know. They are not zombies, living dead, whatever, but I’m telling you I’ve seen them and they are bad shit, bad shit. They may as well be zombies. No real thoughts seem to be going on in there.” She tapped her head with one finger. “They will attack you. They will try to kill you, eat you” She shrugged. “Not zombies, some sort of disease, but it is some very bad shit.”
“Like… Like plague of some sort,” Candace said.
“Yeah… Yeah, but they keep moving. I mean they should be dead, right? Their necks are swollen, faces black and blue, skin all messed up, running sores, this mass of black lines, like infection, running all through them, under their skin; but they don’t die. It’s like they are rotting on the bone, but they keep moving somehow. I don’t get it, but I have seen it a dozen times. Crazy too, not rational, I mean they are attacking and trying to eat other living people, how is that rational? Head shot, yeah, maybe you could kill them some other way too, but you don’t want to be screwing around, because maybe they’ll bite you. I have seen what happens to those who get bitten; they get sick pretty fast… A day or two tops. And in just a few hours they got those little black lines running off under their skin. Like I said, bad shit.”
“Jesus,” Mike said. “Billy told us about some that were camped near them. They didn’t even know it. They live like animals, nests in the woods, darkness, got one of their women, never found her, never found them, but the smell in the clearing was bad… Like death. And a few from the city told other stories. Central Park is overrun with them. Thousands of sick and dying, only they aren’t dying for some reason, like… I don’t know, like they can somehow stay alive when they shouldn’t be able to stay alive.” He shivered involuntarily. “Little spooky… I can see why some are calling them zombies.”
Alice nodded. “Difference is these are real. I think zombies are a made up thing, these are something goddamn close to that, but they’re real. And there are some who seem sane, or… Calculating, I know that sounds even crazier, it’s like they evolve into something else… Some higher form of insanity that is so far gone they’re almost, well, sane again.”
Silence held for a few moments, Ronnie broke it.
“But a shot to the head does it, huh?”
“Yeah, works every time. I mean, it sort of makes sense. Whatever the hell it is keeping them alive it requires them to have a brain so they can at least function on that… Well, on that animal level, I guess. No brain, no functioning at all.” Alice nodded once she finished and the silence held again for quite some time. This time Candace broke it.
“Well,” She squared her shoulders, “I guess if they look suspicious it has got to be a shoot first ask questions later sort of deal then, right?”
“Yeah,” Mike agreed.
“Yeah,” both Ronnie and Alice chimed in.
Candace leaned forward and threw a few heavy chunks of wood onto the fire. Night was not far away and the shadows were closing in fast.
“There were stories about that shit the planes sprayed on us,” Ronnie said after a long pause.
“Like?” Candace asked.
“Billy said he heard about it more than once. Almost all of us have stories about planes spraying stuff on us. I saw it back in Watertown, I… I think it was the next day… March 2nd, maybe March 3rd. We were up there in the Southern Tier… Raining all goddamn day, remember? Planes flying overhead: I remember seeing them. Blue shit… You guys?”
“I don’t remember the blue shit… Seems I remember the planes, but I thought, I don’t know, military transport planes. I really didn’t think about it until we got back to Watertown and there were no troops there at all. I expected them to be,” Mike said.
“I remember planes,” Alice said. I was in Schenectady… Planes, I remember thinking the Army had arrived, but they just flew over real slow, cargo doors open, that was weird, I half expected paratroopers to jump out… No blue stuff though, not that I remember… Why? What was it about?”
“I remember the blue shit,” Candace added, as Alice finished. “What was it about? What did Billy say?”
“Some government shit designed to strengthen us,” He held his hands up as everyone spoke at once. “I didn’t say I believed it. Hell, Billy said every time he tried to nail someone down about what they heard and who they heard it from, they would get all sketchy. Oh, it was a soldier I met on the road, told me he knew because the planes flew out of the base he was assigned to, but no name of the base no facts about it, just like a… You know what it reminded me of? Like an urban legend. They get going the same way. Always sketchy details, low on facts.”
“Yeah, well, that’s one hell of an urban legend,” Candace said.
“Yeah, but the thing is there is always, they say, some seed of truth there,” Ronnie said thoughtfully.
“Maybe is,” Mike agreed.
“All I know is those things are real. We’ll have to be careful,” Alice said. The silence fell and held this time.
“Well,” Mike said at last. “Sleep beckons.” He looked over at the tents they had been using. “Maybe tomorrow, take some time, pick up bigger trucks… Maybe taking a chance sleeping outside isn’t smart.”
“I was going to mention that,” Alice said. “They might not bother us… Seem to hate fire, bright light. But if they did,” she shook her head. “I don’t want to go that way.”
“Me either,” Candace agreed.
Mike sighed. “Why don’t you two sleep…? Ronnie, you too, I’ll take four hours and then wake you for the next four.”
“Done deal,” Ronnie agreed. They all rose from the fire, Candace stretched up and kissed Mike.
“Be okay?” She asked.
“Perfect.” he kissed her again. “Listen… Why don’t you and Alice sleep in the truck, you know, just to be safe?”
“I second that,” Ronnie agreed. “I’ll take the tent. You guys can do most of the driving tomorrow; let us nap a little to catch up.”
“After we get better trucks we can sleep in,” Alice added.
“After,” Mike agreed. Candace stretched up on her tip toes and kissed him once more. She left without another word.
“Sure you want first?” Ronnie asked.
“I’m good,” Mike agreed. He watched Ronnie walk away and then turned toward the black landscape and the trees that surrounded them, wishing he had not parked so close to the woods.
White Trash: Fourteen million dollars in a burned suitcase. Parts of a dead man in a duffel bag. Hired killers, drug dealers; all chasing two white trash kids as they head for what they think will be safety in Mexico #crimefiction
A look at the title story, Mister Bob…
Collected Short Stories
Mister Bob: Collected Short Stories is Copyright © 2015 Dell Sweet
Copyright © 2015 by Dell Sweet All rights reserved
Cover Art © Copyright 2015 Wendell Sweet
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.
This novel is Copyright © 2015 Wendell Sweet and his assignees. The Name Dell Sweet is a publishing construct used by Wendell Sweet. Portions of this text are copyright 2010, and 2011, all rights reserved by Wendell Sweet and his assignees. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s or assignees permission.
Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.
The Middle of the night: Lisa
She awoke suddenly in the darkness of the bedroom. Panic rode tightly in her throat, but nothing in the silence told her anything she needed to know.
The clock read 2:38 AM, green numerals lighting the bedroom in eerie, fairy half light. Spooky light, she decided. It was adding to her sense of something wrong. Would red be better, she wondered. She would pick up a new clock… Make sure it had red numerals.
Don slept on beside her, apparently undisturbed, but the sense of panic, touch of fear, would not leave her.
“Mommy…!” Alandra, sobbing, calling her name. She threw the covers aside and nearly leapt up, out, and to her feet in one motion: The cotton night shirt fell to her knees as she ran for Alandra’s bedroom. Behind her, Don grunted in surprise, but she barely heard him: Her mind had kicked into a higher gear; suddenly working overtime.
…Nightmare? … Kidnapping? …Killers? … Burglars? … My baby! …
And why is it, she thought, as her mind threw all the worst possibilities at her, that your mind does exactly that? Why?
She pushed it all away as she pushed the bedroom door open to find Alandra sitting up, staring at the closed window that looked out over the back yard.
She reached the bed and gathered Alandra in her arms… “What, baby? … Bad dream?”
“No,” Alandra sobbed. “Not a dream. You have to stop them, Mommy. They were killing Mister Bob… He told me.”
Lisa let her eyes fly quickly to the window, and then flit around the bedroom, alighting here and there, in case there was some wack-job standing in the shadows… Closed window… Tree limbs outlined outside it in moonlight… Closed closet door… She thrust one foot at the darkness under the bed.
“Baby, there’s no one here.” She pulled Alandra’s head away from her breast which was already wet from her tears.
“Honey, Alandra.” She waited until she turned her tear stained face up to her own. “Baby, there’s no one here… See?” She turned her eyes to the empty room.
“Mommy, Mister Bob,” Alandra said. “Look at the window.”
Lisa looked more closely at the window, but saw nothing more. “Honey, are you saying that Mister Bob was at the window?”
Alandra nodded solemnly.
Dan was supposed to take care of getting the tree outside the window trimmed. Lisa had been concerned of just this thing: Someone climbing that tree and having access to Alandra’s bedroom window. A spike of fear lodged directly in Lisa’s heart. “Stay here, baby, okay?”
Alandra nodded once more. Lisa gathered herself, rose from the bed, and went to the window, wishing she had thought to grab her pepper spray. Better yet, her mind supplied, Don’s 9 mm. The window was closed, but the thumb lock was off. She eased up next to the window, holding herself in the shadows, and scanned the back yard. … Nothing … The bedroom door opened suddenly and she turned quickly, her heart hammering hard against her rib-cage.
“Whatzit?” Dan asked.
“Jesus, Dan,” Lisa said. One hand went to her throat.
“Sorry…” He turned to Alandra. “What’s wrong, honey-pie?”
“She said someone was at the window,” Lisa supplied.
“Christ,” Dan muttered. He walked across to the window: A big man who moved fast. His eyes scanned the yard.
“Well… I don’t see anyone now,” he said.
“I don’t either, but I thought…”
He nodded. “Tomorrow morning, noon at the latest. It’s spring… He’s backed up.” Dan shrugged helplessly. “I’ve been on him, Lissy. I have.”
He held up a hand. “Or I’ll take the day off and do it myself… Promise… I’ll call him in the morning before I leave.” He sighed.
“Honey, you want to sleep with Mommy and Daddy,” Dan asked?
“Uh, uh. What if Mister Bob comes back?” Alandra asked.
“Mister Bob?” Dan asked.
“He told her that was his name,” Lisa said.
“Were you dreaming, honey?” Dan asked.
“She wasn’t dreaming, Dan,” Lisa warned.
“Well… Cops… Should we?”
“There’s nobody… What do you say exactly? No… Just make sure it can’t happen again,” Lisa finished.
“Okay… Okay.” He turned back to Alandra. “Come on, honey. Sleep with Mommy and Daddy tonight. Tomorrow we’ll make sure Mister Bob can’t wake you up in the middle of the night again.”
“Mommy will stay in here with you,” Lisa countered.
Dan looked from Alandra to Lisa. Lisa shrugged.
Dan frowned and then turned and left the bedroom. A few minutes later he was back.
“Here,” he said as he handed Lisa her pillow. His own pillow and a wad of blankets were tucked under his other arm
“We’ll have a camp out,” Dan said. He looked at the floor, yawned deeply and then spread out the blankets and tossed the pillow to the floor.
Alandra giggled as Lisa climbed into the narrow bed and pulled her close.
Dan was already softly snoring and Lisa was sure that Alandra was sleeping too. Her own thoughts were getting farther and farther away from her. Her mind free falling into the spiral of sleep when Alandra whispered.
“Mister Bob is my friend, mommy.”
She came up from the edge of sleep just that fast.
“He talks to me every night.”
Lisa pulled her closer. “When, baby?” she whispered back.
“All kinds of times… Sometimes when I’m awake, sometimes he wakes me up. He’s not mean, mommy. He’s my friend.”
“But, baby, a man shouldn’t be climbing a tree to talk to you,” Lisa told her.
“But he doesn’t, mommy. He’s already there. Mister Bob is a tree. My tree.”
“Oh, baby… A tree? The tree in the back yard?”
Alandra yawned. “Uh huh. My friend, Mister Bob.”
“He talks to me… He said… He said, they’re going to kill me, sissy. Don’t let them kill me.”
Lisa’s heart leapt in her chest. Sissy had been Alandra’s nickname until she had discovered that she liked her real name better in Kindergarten and had solemnly told she and Dan not to call her Sissy anymore. Lisa yawned in spite of herself. She pulled Alandra closer. Maybe it had been a dream after all.
“He calls you Sissy?”
“I told him I’m not a baby.” She yawned again and the rest of what she said was lost as she began to drift into sleep.
The fear that had been rising in Lisa’s heart bled out just that quick. Her own lack of sleep caught up to her. She yawned too, and a few seconds later she drifted down into sleep thinking about talking trees that spoke to little girls and called them by their nicknames.
She heard the alarm from her own bedroom. Dan had turned over, pulled the covers over his head and balled the pillow up under his head. He slept on, oblivious. She recalled a dream of her own. Must have been after all that had happened, she thought. She had dreamed that she had awoken briefly to hear Alandra holding a conversation with Mister Bob. Something like, “I told her… She’ll make sure you’re okay.” And the impression of another voice. Deep, resonant. She couldn’t understand it. A weird dream provoked, no doubt, by what had happened earlier and what Alandra had told her. She looked down into Alandra’s sleep eyes.
“Want to sleep a little longer, honey?” Lisa asked her.
Lisa kissed her forehead, got out of bed and then tucked her back in. She turned to Dan.
“Do you want to sleep in a little longer too, honey,” She asked.
The wad of blankets surrounding his head nodded.
“Well, you don’t get to sleep in. Come one. Get up.”
Dan groaned. He struggled briefly with the wad of tangled blankets that surrounded his head. Alandra looked over the edge of the bed and giggled. Lisa looked at her.
“You’re not going back to sleep are you.”
“Nope,” Alandra agreed.
“Well come on then. We’ll get breakfast and coffee going while Daddy gets his shower.”
Lisa shifted through her email: Nothing too pressing. She closed the browser and popped open her scripting editor. She worked for the next three hours straight after she had gotten Alandra off to school. The website she was writing a script for was nearly done. She had written the site, incorporated the graphic elements, and was finishing up the scripting that would load the cart system for the site and control purchases. She had one small script to write yet, and a few graphics to tweak and that would be it. She reached for her coffee cup, found it was empty, and headed for the kitchen.
She had just poured the coffee when she heard the sudden roar of a chainsaw. She knew the sound. She heard it often enough in the spring and fall, but it was close. Much closer than it should be, and that rattled her. She took a deep sip from her coffee, set it down on the counter, and headed for the back door, glancing through the windows as she went: Two men she didn’t know were in her backyard.
At first it alarmed her and then she realized they must be there to trim the tree. She levered open the rear door and popped her head out anyway. They both looked over and nodded.
The bigger one held the chainsaw in his hand. A bigger saw than the models she had seen used for yard work. Somewhere, probably in the garage, they had one of the small ones tucked away for just-in-case themselves.
She smiled. “Here to trim the branch?” It made her blush. She felt a little foolish asking, but the saw was huge. Maybe they were at the wrong house… Wrong job… Something.
“The tree, miss,” the smaller man answered over the roar of the chainsaw.
The smile left her face. The words Alandra had said the night before surfaced on their own but she couldn’t quite get them. Something like, Mister Bob was her friend… A tree… This tree, in fact, and they were going to kill him… Trying to kill him…
“The branch,” she said.
“Uh, uh,” the small one said. He pulled a notebook from his breast pocket, studied it. “Danny said… Danny said take the whole thing.”
“Well that just can’t be right,” Lisa informed him.
“Well, miss. I got it right here in black and white.” The big one was revving up the chainsaw and looking at the big tree with something like desire on his face.
“Well, see, I give Danny a good price, ’cause we’ll just cut this son-of-a-whore-tree…” He seemed to remember that he was talking to Lisa, met her eyes and blushed deep red. He turned away. He continued after a few seconds of silence.
“This ol’ tree, we’ll cut her up for firewood,” the bigger man continued. He had let the chainsaw fall to a rough, popping idle as they talked. From the kitchen came the ringing of the telephone.
“Excuse me,” Lisa said. She turned to go and then turned back just a quickly. “I’ll have to call Dan… Maybe that’s him. It’s only the limb though, not the tree.” She turned and headed for the back door.
The phone stopped ringing just before she reached it. She cursed under her breath, picked up her coffee, sipped at it, then picked up the handset, punched in Dan’s number.
The house phone was something that their friends considered an oddity and she considered a necessity. She liked it. She had a cellphone she rarely ever used. She had no real reason to. Her cell phone dislike wasn’t part of some strange phobia, it was just a habit she had never developed. She was a stay at home mom, what did she need a cellphone for, she asked her friends when the chided her about it. Secretly she hated it. More truthfully, she knew, she loathed it. It was something akin to being tracked everywhere you went. She had tried one for a year and that was how it made you feel. You didn’t have to slip it in your pocket, but you did. You didn’t have to answer it in the super market, but you did. While driving, while gardening, she had even tentatively answered it once when she had been in the bathroom.
That had been it for her. The cell phone had gone in a drawer, and the next time she had been at the big shopping center she had bought a wall phone with a built in answering machine. She had bugged Dan to get the house phone put in and things had been perfect. Calls went to the machine: If she felt like answering she did. But she didn’t rush to answer. She didn’t buy a portable phone to add to the line. She liked it the way it was.
Smooth silence greeted her on the line, then it clicked and a voice was in her ear.
“Hello? … Hello?”
“Hello?” Lisa answered.
“Miss Stevens?” A voice asked.
“That’s so weird… It never rang… Just sounded as though a number was being punched in,” the voice said.
“You must have been there when I picked up to dial,” Lisa said. “Sorry.”
“No… No, it’s okay… Miss Stevens, this is Ms Edwards… Joan Edwards?” Alandra’s teacher.
“Is something wrong?” Lisa heard the panic as it jumped into her voice, but she couldn’t have stopped it if she had wanted to.
“No… No, but, well, Alandra’s upset… Very upset. I’ve honestly never seen her like this… She wants to talk to you… About Mister Bob? I know her father’s name is Daniel, and the explanation about Mister Bob is hard to understand… She”s upset of course, but whoever this Mister Bob is, she believes…”
“Someone is going to hurt him?” Lisa supplied.
“Well, yes… Her words were stronger.”
“Kill?” Lisa asked. Her words seemed forced, her heart hammered right at the back of her throat, fast, hot, her tongue was dry and hard to move.
“That was it… I know it’s unusual, but I’m here in the principle’s office…, She’s quite upset.”
“Put her on? Put her on,” Lisa told her. “Baby? Alandra?” The sound of Alandra’s sobbing came to her. “Baby, what’s wrong…? What about Mister Bob?” She was getting more than a little freaked out. Two men had come to cut down her imaginary friend the tree. But there was no way she could know that, was there?
“Mommy, they came to kill Mister Bob.” Lisa only understood it because she was listening for it. Otherwise, it was just broken sobs and syllables. In the backyard the chainsaw revved up to a high whine.
“Honey, they won’t cut down Mister Bob.”
“Kill, mommy, kill.”
“Kill… They won’t kill Mister Bob. They won’t kill Mister Bob… I promise.”
“Mommy, I want to come home, mommy. I want to. I want to see Mister Bob!” She sobbed even harder. The phone clattered and the teacher was back on the line.
“Miss Steven’s, I don’t know…”
“Ms Edwards… Ms Edwards I’m coming to pick her up. I’ll explain when I get there, but I’ll come to pick her up.”
“Well if you think…”
“I do… Thank you so much, Ms Edwards.” The phone was back on the hook before the teacher answered, and Lisa was palming the back door open. The big guy was getting ready to cut a notch into the tree. She waved her arms and yelled at the smaller guy who tapped the bigger guy on the shoulder. He seemed to hesitate, then he turned to face Lisa. She motioned impatiently at the saw: Reluctantly he shut it off.
“Did I say you’re not cutting down my goddamn tree?”
“Miss… The mister said…”
“I don’t care what the mister said. The tree stays.”
“Miss,” the big one soothed. “It’ll be quick. I’m insured if that’s what you’re worried about. Let me take this ‘ol bitch down and get it over.”
“It’s a he,” Lisa said.
“A… Never mind. You’re not cutting down my tree… Are you really standing here on my property arguing with me about my own goddamn tree?” She took a few steps toward him and he stepped back, flinching as he did, despite the fact that he was easily twice her size.
“Miss,” he started, but the smaller one patted him on the arm. He turned, paused, and finally seemed to realize he would not be cutting down the tree after all. “We’ll be going,” he said after a long period of silence.
Lisa didn’t wait. She walked back into the house and was backing her Honda out of the driveway before the two men had finished loading up their truck.
Lisa popped her head into Alandra’s room, but she was fast asleep. Dan looked over the top of her head.
“Okay?” He asked.
Lisa nodded, closed the door a little farther and then followed Dan down the darkened hallway to their own room.
“A talking tree,” Dan said, not quite laughing as he changed for bed.
“She believed it… Believes it… I can’t cut down her tree.”
Dan shrugged. “Willy and Timmy were pissed off.”
“So was I.” Lisa said.
“I heard.” He held up his hands. “Not that you didn’t have a right to be… I should have told you. I made a deal to just take down the tree. I figured I’d just end up trimming the thing for years… It’s a bad place… But, if it stays, it stays.”
“I didn’t say the tree talked to me,” Lisa said.
“I know,” Dan agreed.
“I feel a little defensive.”
“Don’t… It’s over.”
“Would you have done the same thing?”
“Are you kidding? Nandie crying on the phone? I would have run them both out of the yard.” He sighed.
Lisa smiled. “Okay, that made me feel better.” She reached for the light, casting the bedroom in half light from the glow of the red numerals on the clock. Dan noticed but said nothing.
“I didn’t like the other clock,” Lisa said.
He pulled her close. “Okay,” he agreed. “Red’s good.”
“Baby,” Lisa pulled back and looked up into his eyes. “Do you think, well, do you think trees can …”
“Talk,” Dan supplied.
“No, I was going to say feel pain… Weird, right?”
“Well, they’re alive, aren’t they? But pain? I don’t know… Are you serious?”
“Well, Alandra was so upset… So hurt and…”
“It was a bad dream. You know how a dream can seem at that age. Like everything… Real. Completely real to a kid.”
“I think,” Dan soothed. He pulled her closer.
Lisa snuggled her head into his chest, meaning only to close her eyes for a few moments, but she drifted off into sleep instead.
“Sissy…” Softly on the wind…
Alandra’s eyes opened in the darkness of her bedroom.
“Mister Bob,” she whispered. She sat up and looked to the window, got out of bed and walked over quietly raising the window a little. She sat down on the floor and looked up at the branches that were only a few feet outside the window. The blue-gray moon floated above the limbs far above the tree. The name came again on the wind. Softly… Barely there.
She smiled. “Mister Bob,” she whispered once more…
Get Mister Bob from Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/mister-bob/id1197058839?mt=11
Earth’s Survivors Plague
Book Previews Posted by Geo July 02, 2017 12:06:32
EARTH’S SURVIVOR’S: Plague
PUBLISHED BY: Dell Sweet
Earth’s Survivors: Plague is © Copyright 2015 Wendell Sweet, all rights reserved.
Additional Copyrights © 2010 – 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 by Wendell Sweet, All rights reserved
This book preview is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book preview may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Complex C: Patient Ward
Test Subject: Michael Hunter
Gabe Kohlson moved away from the monitors. “Heart rate is dropping, don’t you think…” He stopped as the monitor began to chime softly. Before he could get fully turned around the chiming turned into a strident alarm that rose and fell. “Dammit,” Kohlson said as he finished his turn.
“What is it,” David Johns, wheeling his chair across the short space of the control room. His outstretched hands caught him at the counter top and slowed him at Kohlson’s monitor.
“Flat lined,” Kohlson said as he pushed a button on the wall to confirm what the doctors one level up already knew. Michael Hunter was dead.
“I see it,” Doctor Ed Adams replied over the ceiling speakers. The staff called him Doctor Christmas for his long white beard and oversize belly. “Berty and I are on the way.”
“Lot of good that will do,” Johns muttered.
Kohlson turned to him. “Go on in… Do CPR if you want… They don’t pay me enough to do it. I don’t know what that shit is. Look at the way the Doc suits up. Michael Hunter will be in rigor before anyone gets in there at all.”
“No argument,” Johns said. He wheeled back to his own monitor, called up an incident sheet and began to type.
“Me too,” Kohlson agreed. “Preserve the video, med and monitor data.” He punched a few buttons on his console and an interface for the medical equipment came up. He saved the last 48 hours of data, and then began to fill out his own incident report. These reports might never be seen by more than one person, maybe two if you counted the person that wrote it, Kohlson thought, but it would always be there. Classified. Top secret for the next hundred years or so. And he wondered about that too. Would it even be released after a long period? He doubted it. The things they were doing here were bad shit. Shit you didn’t ever want the American public to know about. This incident report, along with the one Johns was doing, would probably get buried deep under some program listing that no one would ever suspect to look into. Or, maybe it would get burned right along with Michael Hunter’s body. He glanced up at the clock and then went back to typing.
“Uh… Call it 4:32 PM?” He asked.
“Works for me,” Johns agreed.
“I got 94 for the body,” Johns said.
“Yeah… Yeah, me too. That’s a fast drop, but we both got the same thing. 94 it is… No heart, no respiratory, dead as dog shit.”
“Dog shit,” Johns agreed. They both fell silent as they typed. A few moments later the doors to the observation room chimed, the air purifiers turned on with a high pitched whine, and they could both feel the air as it dragged past them and into the air ducts. The entire volume would be replaced and the room depressurized and then re-pressurized before the doors would open. And that would only happen after the air was tested and retested. A good twenty minutes away before anyone would step foot into the room with Michael Hunter.
Complex C, Autopsy Room: 6:58 pm
Ed Adams and Roberta Summers had dissected Michael Hunters body methodically. The autopsy had been painstaking. It had to be, it was recorded in detail and some General somewhere, hell, maybe even the president would be looking that video over in the next few days. Maybe even watching live now. They had that capability. There was nothing to see. He had suffered a major heart attack. The heart had a defect. No history. One of those things that just came along and fucked up your two billion dollar research project all at once.
“Coronary Thrombosis,” He spoke in a measured voice. “Appears to be after the fact. The artery looks to be mildly occluded… The myocardial infarction appears to be caused from a congenital defect… Specifically an Atrial Septal Defect… Berty?”
“I concur. Easily overlooked. The lack of sustenance put a higher demand on the subject’s heart, the defect became a major player at that point… Bad luck for us.”
“Uh, bad luck for Michael Hunter,” Ed Adams added.
“Of course. Bad luck for the subject, Michael Hunter. I simply meant bad luck for a research volunteer to be defective in such a way that in effect it would compromise a project of this magnitude so badly.” She turned her eyes up to one of the cameras she knew to be there. “This in no way paints a true picture of V2765. We should proceed, unsatisfying as these circumstances might be, we should proceed with subjects 1120F and 1119X… Same compound.” She turned back to the corpse on the table. “You want me to do the brain biopsy,” She asked Ed.
Ed frowned as he made eye contact with her. They had decided, at least he had thought they had decided, not to mention brain biopsies. Three times now he had discussed the importance of not focusing on the changes that V2765 made to the brain. Anything that altered the brain could alter financing, funding, lab time. Even the government didn’t like changes to brain matter.
“Are you thinking there could have been an embolism?” He asked.
‘Well I,” she sputtered away for a second until Ed rescued her.
“I think all we would see is evidence of the embolism that occurred near the heart. We could search out areas of the body and most likely find more than one occurrence of embolism. Well thought, but I believe we will take a look at the brain later in the week. Right now I want to focus on the enzymes, blood work, and readying the other two for a conclusion of this trial.”
“Yes. I agree entirely, Doctor Adams.”
“You have your samples?”
“Yes of course, Doctor. Rex?”
Ed frowned hard and shrugged his shoulders in the direction of the thick glass. He lowered his voice to a whisper. “None down here. That was stupid, Berty.“
“What was that,” Kohlson asked Johns in the control room.
“What?” Johns asked.
“That… Whisper, I guess,” Kohlson said.
“Oh… That. You know those two got it bad for each other. Probably making little remarks you don’t want to hear. Besides which, you make a report on that and we all have to deal with it. Them, sure, but us too because they’ll be pissed off about it. Best to let that shit slide: If the boss wants to know he will. He looks at all of this shit in depth.”
Kohlson looked about to say more when Doctor Christmas began talking once more in the autopsy room.
“Let’s close him up,” Ed Adams said. He stepped on a switch set into the floor, paused, and then spoke again. “Lower the air temperature in here. We intend to keep him a few hours while we attend to other parts of the autopsy… No one in here for any reason.”
Out in the control room Johns keyed his mic button. “Will do… How low, Doc.?”
“I guess about 34 Fahrenheit will do… Just to slow it all down for a while.”
“Done,” Johns agreed. He adjusted a temperature graphic on a nearby monitor via his mouse.
Kohlson leaned over across the short distance. “So we got to look at that shit for a while? Great.”
“They’re gonna sew him up so it won’t be so bad.”
“Yeah… That’s like, I got a mild case of flu. It’s still gonna suck because every time I look anywhere I’m gonna feel compelled to look at it.”
“Yeah. Me too. It’s there. Draws you to it. Like the Bunny on the Playboy Cover. You look at the rest of the magazine, but you know you’re gonna end up looking at her. She’s the reason you bought the magazine after all.”
Kohlson nodded and smiled. “And I’d rather look at Miss January than a dead guy with big stitches across his belly and over his chest, sewing him back up again. That is some ugly shit.”
Johns laughed. “Human nature. Why do you think people slow down and look at accidents?”
“‘Cause we’re morbid mother fuckers,” Kohlson agreed.
“Well, that too, but it is that fascination with death we have. Look,” He pointed at the monitor. Do you think Michael Hunter knew he’d be laying on a steel slab this afternoon, dick hanging out, with Doctor Christmas shoving his guts back in and stitching him up with his nursey assisting?” They both laughed and turned away.
“She ain’t half…”
A scream cut off the conversation and both men turned quickly back to the monitor.
Michael Hunter was sitting up on the steel table. Arms drooped at his side. Mouth yawning. Doctor Christmas had backed away until he had met the wall behind him. Nurse Berty was nowhere to be seen.
“What the fuck… What the fuck. Get a camera on the floor… Maybe she fainted,” Kohlson said.
“Got it,” Johns agreed. He stabbed at the keys on his keyboard and a view of the table at an angle appeared. Nurse Bertie’s leg could be seen, angled away from the table, skirt hiked high. The camera paused briefly and then the view began to shift as Johns manipulated the camera angle. Her face came into view. Mouth open, blood seeping from one corner.
“Doctor,” Kohlson called over the speaker system. Outside the airlocks had clicked on and the air was cycling. Good, he thought, in twenty minutes the Calvary would be here. “Doctor Adams?”
The doctor finally took his eyes off Michael Hunter and turned toward one of the cameras. On the table Michael Hunter leaned forward and tumbled off the edge of the table. At the same instant the air purifier quit cycling and three armed men in gas masks stepped into the airlock.
“Jesus,” Johns sputtered. “You guys can’t do that shit. That air has to be worked?” Three more men stepped through the lock and the door to the autopsy room opened as well as the door to the control room. A split second later the rifles in their hands began to roar. The sound was louder than Kohlson expected in the enclosed space. He clasped his hands over his ears, but it did little good. The soldiers, he saw, were wearing ear protection of some sort. Noise canceling headgear. The remaining three soldiers had stepped into the control room, he saw as he looked back up from the floor. They kept their rifles leveled at them, the others were still firing within the confines of the small autopsy room. A small gray cloud was creeping along the floor and rolling slowly into the control room. The stench of gunpowder was strong in the enclosed space. The air purifiers were off. Kohlson knew there was another control room outside this one that controlled this space, and possibly another outside of that space that controlled that space. Built in protection, and they were in a very bad space.
Kohlson saw Michael Hunter lurch to his feet and stumble into the soldiers who were firing point blank range in the tight confines. A series of bullets finally tore across his chest and then into his head and he fell from view. A second later the firing dropped off and then stopped completely.
Johns was listening to the sound of his own heart hammering for a space of seconds before he figured out it was his own. The smell of gunpowder was nauseating, and he suddenly lunged forward and vomited on his shoes. As he was lifting his head he saw that the soldiers were retreating back through the airlocks and into the outer spaces of the compound.
“Jesus,” Kohlson managed before he to bent forward and vomited too. He heard the air filtering kick back on and both of them rolled away from the puddles of vomit and quickly disappearing low, gray vapor from the rifles firing. The doors into the autopsy room suddenly banged shut and then their own door whispered closed as well: Once again they were isolated in their small space.
They both sat silent for a moment, and then Kohlson left and returned from the small bathroom with a mop and bucket from the utility closet there. He left and returned with a bottle of disinfectant and sprayed down the vomit and the balance of the small room.
“That won’t do shit,” Johns said solemnly. We’re infected. Whatever they infected that guy Hunter with, we got it now.”
Kohlson ignored him, sprayed down John’s shoes as well as the floor. He handed John’s a pack of Sani-Towels and a red plastic bio bag, and then sat down to wait the ten minutes for the disinfectant to work. Neither spoke as the minutes ticked by.
Eventually John’s looked at his watch, sighed, and then began to clean the mess from his shoes. Kohlson checked his own watch. He had been thinking about what had happened. Playing it over and over in his head as the minutes ticked by. No way were they in the clear. No way. John’s was right. They were fucked. He rose and then walked the short distance: He bent and cleaned up the mess. He returned the equipment to the small closet, silence still holding, and then came back and sat down.
“You heard me, right?” John’s asked at last when the silence became unbearable for him.
“I heard you,” Kohlson admitted. “I just don’t give a fuck… It’s too fresh… I can’t believe it right now.” He looked up at the clock. “Mother fucker… I was off duty in twenty minutes… Twenty goddamn minutes!” He spun and looked at Johns, but Johns was looking up at the monitors that were still on in the autopsy room. The smoke was being drawn out by the air exchange, and the horror of the room was slowly coming into focus.
Doctor Adams lay sprawled in one corner, a line of bullet holes stitched across his back. The back portion of his skull was missing, jagged bone and gray-black hair clumped wildly around the fractured bone. Johns gagged and looked away.
“Jesus… They killed everybody,” Kohlson said as he continued to watch. Nurse Bertie lay where she had fallen. Only her legs visible in the shot they could see. Michael Hunter lay against the end of the stainless slab. His head a shapeless mass. The stitches across his chest and stomach bulging. Kohlson finally turned away too.
“They’re coming back for us.” Johns said.
Kohlson spun to the door.
“Not now, stupid ass, but you can’t think we get to live after that. They contaminated our air. We’re dead. No way are we not dead.”
Kohlson said nothing.
It was six hours before the soldiers came.
They had finally taken a better look at the room. Johns moving the camera around as Kohlson watched.
“Dave… Tell me I’m wrong, but that fucker came back to life, right?” He was unsure even as he said it.
Johns shrugged. “I think what happened is they missed something… We missed something. Maybe a lead came off. You know, and the lead came off and so he seemed dead and he wasn’t dead at all, not really, he was still alive. Just that lead was off.”
“Yeah. I mean… I mean the alternative is that he came back to life… You don’t think that do you? I mean, do you? ‘Cause that’s fucking crazy, Gabe. Crazy.”
“No. No, I can see what you mean I can see where…”
The air lock cycled on and six soldiers stepped into the hall like space that was actually just an airlock between the control room, the autopsy room, the former patient ward and the outside world. Johns tensed, waiting for the door to their space to cycle on, but it didn’t.
The soldiers were dressed head to toe in army drab plastic coveralls. Respirators, big units, sat on their backs and a full face shield and breathing apparatus was on their face, somehow joined into the coveralls. Tape was wound around the elastic cuffs of the legs and the plastic boot covers that joined there. Flexible olive green gloves covered their hands, also taped where they slipped under the plastic coveralls.. They never looked their way at all, just waited for the air lock to cycle and then stepped into the autopsy room. A second later the monitors went dead in the control room.
“Fuck,” David Johns said. “That is not good at all.”
Kohlson got up and left the room. A minute later he was back with two diet colas. He handed one to David johns and then sat back down. Johns glanced down at the cola. The top was open already. He looked at Kohlson and Kohlson stared back unblinking. The med supply was also in that closet. They had talked it over once. They had decided that… He pushed it away and focused on the low whisper of the air exchange
“You think they will outright kill us,” Kohlson asked after a few long minutes of silence.
“Gabe… I think they will, Gabe.” Johns said after a hesitation. He tried to stop himself but he glanced down at the cola in his hand. It was half full. White powder floated on the surface. Clumped and drifting like tiny icebergs across a cola sea. “Probably… No. They’re listening in right now, I’m sure. Listening to see where our minds are at: As soon as those flunkies in there are finished with that job they’ll be in here to finish up the clean up.” He swallowed hard.
“Yeah. I guess that’s how I see it too,” Kohlson agreed. He raised his can and tapped the side. “Been good knowing you, Dave.”
Johns stared him down for a few moments and then sighed. “Yeah… Same here. He raised the can in a salute and then downed it. Kohlson followed suit. Silence descended on the control room.