Chapter 17: Bugging Out
Ben musters everything he has taking the stairs two at a time fearing for the safety of his wife and children. Bursting from the basement Ben throws the bags to the floor sweating spinning about he sees the children all huddled together with no trace of the women. His legs move before he tells them to Ben finds the women gathered in the living room. At their feet lay the battered decomposing motionless bodies of Napoleon Archer and Bianca’s husband Carl Fullerton. Between the wailing infant, Bianca’s hysterical howling and Anne attempts to console her friend the house was a symphony of noise. “Bianca ….. Bianca …” Ben wades in to the fray. The sobbing woman with the baby in her arm whirls about slapping him across the face hard. “You bastard you murdered him.” She screeches storming forward. “Hold on damn it.” Ben stands his ground catching the woman’s arm mid swing. “Look dammit Bianca…“ Smoke drifts down his throat seizing his lungs. Ben forces the racking cough back down. “I’m sorry Carl attacked me but he wasn’t himself, so did Nate. I didn’t know how to tell you I’m sorry.” He shouts at the struggling woman who is no match for Ben even if she wasn’t cradling the baby with one arm. “Bianca please we have to go and you have to be quite those things are everywhere they’ll hear you.” Ben begs with his neighbor’s wife glancing over his shoulder. “Please we have to go…” He tells woman as she rips from his grasp.
Bianca breezes past the couple pulling her daughter Dakota from amidst the James children. Suddenly the barred front door rattles as something is hammers against it from the outside. The sounds become a steady drumming of blows to the plywood security barrier. Anne only catches a glimpse of Ben’s terrified face his eyes so wide they appear lidless. She backs down to her own children trembling in fear. “Bianca please we have to go.” He implores the frantic angry woman but to no avail. On the second level of the house something gives way with a splintering crash. A wave of thick choking smoke pours down the staircase enveloping the rooms shrouding everything in a suffocating mist. “Last chance Bianca…” He shouts through the smoke. “Get away from me murderer.” That’s all Ben needs to hear bolting though the haze he collides with his wife feeling for his two smaller children. He dips low snagging the bags he’d deposited on the floor in haste. “Anne?!” He stammers pushing forward lifting one of the forms at his legs up over his shoulders. “Yeah Ben it’s me…” As she answers she feels herself being drug though the house her eyes unable to adjust until she realizes they are in the garage the air slightly clearer. Ben pins his wife and kids to the rear of the van then runs around to his son sitting in the driver’s seat. Under the door the daylight is now almost totaling obscured by wobbling shadows. “Open up Chip now.” The boy does as ordered Ben returns popping the door ushering his family in to his work van. Ben heaves the bags of supplies in first then hops in behind them closing the doors tripping over the wheelchair making his way up from the rear. “Ben….. Ben baby please.” Anne is crying from the vans cramped rear holding her babies who weep softly. “Please baby we can’t leave her and the kids Ben please.” She pleads with her husband knowing he was a better man than this. “Anne honey for God’s sake if you have seen what we’ve seen baby we have to go she’s attracted Lord knows how many of them to us. My family first she made her choice. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Now Chip start this damn thing up now so we can get the hell outta here!” He stabs a finger at the keys dangling in the ignition acutely aware he rarely raises voice at his children.
The van’s engine turns over smoothly without a word she appears at her father’s side hands folded in front of her little baby fat potbelly. “Daddy why do bad things happen to good people?” She inquires softly leaning on her father’s brawny shoulder. The big carpenter stammers uncontrollably. “Daddy what’s going to happen to Dakota and her mommy and the baby?” Ben couldn’t look his daughter in the eyes. “Honey her daddy is in heaven and I have to take care of you and our family.” In the back of the van Anne’s tears have stopped. For while she holds sway over her husband Anne knows his “baby girl” is his Kryptonite. “Daddy you couldn’t save Dakota’s daddy I understand if you can’t save her and her mommy but the baby that makes me sad.” The little girl returns to her mother plopping down her lap huge salty tears of anguish pooling at her feet. Ben sits paralyzed by the weight of what a man is versus what his child thinks he is …… a superhero. Ben’s jaw clenches his breathing quickens a vein pulsates at his temple. “Keep the van running lock the doors.” Ben says stepping back out into the smoky garage mumbling to himself something about “being a damn superhero.” He runs back into his burning house trailing his hand along the wall he pulls away once the wall gets hot. The flames leap down the stairs now roiling across the ceiling from the stairway into the kitchen. Ben hunches low using the light from the flames and the pounding on the front door to orientate himself as he’s nearly blind. “Bi…” Was all he could get out before he gagged choking from the thick noxious smoke. Dropping to the floor Ben begins to commando crawl forward to where he had last seen Bianca. Hearing the infant girl moan Ben lashes out a hand he takes hold of a warm leg. Feeling about he grips a tiny gym shoe pulling the bodies closer. Ben feels the soft robe Bianca was wearing gently he takes the baby up. Ben then positions Bianca on her back laying Dakota across her mother he then places the baby atop the pile. Pushing his hands under the pile Ben grunts between coughs hoisting all three likely unconscious figures up against his chest. Light fills the dark smoky room as the front door finally gives way under the assault caving inward.
The fresh infusion of oxygen invigorates the fire fueling it to consume the kitchen wall. Smoke is pulled towards the smashed front door the air clears enough for Ben to see. What he sees coming through the now swirling clouds of billowing smoke spurs him into action. Dozens of heads and hands crowd their way into the doorway. They smash against each other in an undulating mass clogging the doorway wailing and moaning. Snarls fill the air Ben stands lifting the remnants of the Fullerton clan hustling nearly blind through the house. Instinctively he pulls back as the intense heat forces him away from the engulfed staircase. Ben huffs woefully out of shape carrying what he assumes to be no more than the bodies of his one time neighbors. Behind him the sounds of the house being ransacked echo over the roaring flames. Ben’s lungs burn from the smoke he falters as he hears the figures behind him. The image of the person walking consumed by flames from Nate’s house with no concern for the fire searing its flesh drives him to move faster. Going though the doorway he bumps Bianca’s head on the door frame “that’s for slapping me” he thinks tinged with guilt. “Anne.” he wheezes no louder than a whisper the mob sounds closer now. Ben doesn’t know if the heat on the back of his neck is from the fire on one of the “matchstick people” now bouncing around his house. Ben spins in the garage using a foot to kick shut the door to the house. He bumps painfully into his van hearing movement from within and the doors open. “My God…” Anne shouts flinging open the doors pulling the bodies from Ben’s arms onto the floor of the van. He slams the van doors shut just as the door to the garage splinters. Ben fumbles eyes burning chest heaving he flings the passenger door open jumping inside. “Go boy go!” He cries mashing the button on the garage door opener hanging from the visor over Chip’s head.
The door lifts slowly on well oiled wheels shuffling feet coming into view as the rear of the van is battered from yet unseen attackers. Chip has tunnel vision driven by nerves and adrenaline. The handicapped teen lets the door get about half way up seeing the bodies pressed against it before he guns the van’s powerful engine. The van lurches forward like a battering ram scattering bodies while peeling the aluminum garage door from its track. The sunlight is a shock to those who’ve spent the last two days in virtual darkness nothing is more shocking that the horror before them. The heavy van bounces wildly as it rips the door free while driving over prone bodies. Their once quite Cul de sac is now a scene of utter chaos. The houses are ablaze in a horseshoe of fire bloodied battered forms wander from every direction and then they all hone in rushing the van. “Dad I think we just ran over Mr. Mohammed.” Chip stammers his father placing a hand on his shoulder to steady him. Ben cast a glance in his rear view mirror to see the home he built from the ground up consumed in an inferno. Pouring from the open garage door dozens more of those shambling things his son had called “zombies.” Turning in his seat he watches he wife vigorously performing CPR on Bianca. His little girl B holds the Fullerton’s fussing infant daughter who has soot cake around her nostrils on her lap. Dakota sits against the vans rear door crying softly. Ben speaks with a great sense of I told you so. “Hey baby since the zombies are just walking around all normal like. Do I at least get partial credit for there being actual zombies?”
Well now all hell has officially broken loose as the James family has fled their once safe home. What will they find in this new unforgiving world? Can Benjamin James keep his family together more importantly can he keep them alive?
Comeback the week of December 16th to find out the answers to all your questions and for the next chapter of The Living Dark.
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