Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chapter 17: Buggin Out

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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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Chapter 16: Exit Strategy

Chapter 16: Exit Strategy

  Sprinting across the smoky basement huffing Ben negotiates the corner behind his workbench bouncing down the tight passageway. The husky man pounds the rusty steel door until he hears the wheels on the door turning from the other side. As the door cracks open a sliver Benjamin James shoves his way in coughing his chest heaving deeply. “Ok we have a problem…” He squeezes out between gasp leaning heavily against the doors other side. Anne brings him a white wash cloth she has soaked with water. “To be honest …” he says in the hazy air as others around him cough and gag periodically. “We have several problems everybody and before I lay out the biggest of them. I need everyone to be quite and understand this we have to leave here today.” He gazes around to see all the panicked faces looking toward him for assurance. The only solstice he has is that his son Chip knows what he is about to say is hideously ugly but true none the less. “Ben is the house on fire?” Anne shouts muffled through her washcloth. “Yes honey it is on fire the attic was burning when I went check the source of the smoke.” Ben stands upright taking his weight off the door. “To be honest when I checked every house on the cul de sac is on fire including you guys house Bianca.” He points at Carl’s wife nursing their baby girl. “We need to get the hell out of the house now Ben.” Anne starts arraigning the frightened children into a single file line like a school teacher.

“Honey listen please.” Ben grabs his woman by her arm the shock in her face more than evident. “We can’t go outside Anne not like we used to honey.” He tells his wife releasing her arm but making sure he still has her full attention. “Benjamin we can’t stay here this shelter isn’t smoke proof. The house is gonna burn down around us.” Ben pulls the cloth from his face. “Anne we have to leave baby but things have change outside it‘s no longer safe. Chip and I think it has to have something to do with that what happened when the power went out and the sky started to glowing orange at night.” Bianca stands moving closer. “Benjamin we can’t leave without Carl he won’t know where to find us.” She says her eyes pleading for his understanding Ben however had to look away. Staring the woman in her sad blue eyes wasn’t on his mind when he and his son narrowly escaped death at their neighbor’s hands by caving his head in. “Uh Bianca I….” He stammers before breaking into a coughing fit as if on cue he needed time to think. “I don’t think Carl is going to make it back.” He mumbles sheepishly face cast down at the floor. “Why Benjamin?” She implores tears starts cascading down her cheeks even as Anne comes to Bianca’s side to console her. “Bianca …..Anne.” Ben places a comforting hand on both women‘s shoulders. “Yesterday morning Chip and I powered up the laptop using the generator. The Internet is mostly offline but there were still some news sites up and we watched a video. It appeared to show a woman attacking someone.” Ben sighs aware he’s taken this story far away from the point and no matter how he tried to avoid saying it eventually they would find out. “Ben the damn house is on fire and we’re in the basement which just happens to be the worst possible place to be.” Anne screams at her husband pulling her washcloth off her face. “Honey I’m sorry this isn’t something I have to do everyday but there are zombie-ish like people wandering about the street. That noise you heard last night was me fighting Nate he had broken though the attic window I had forgotten to secure. This is how the embers from the other house fires got in. I had to bash his head in he was possessed by something Anne. His skin was brackish and peeling as it oozed he wanted to kill us said he always hated me, you, our marriage and our kids.” Ben felt like he had just farted during a wedding now that it was out and the awkward moment had past all he felt was relief.

The women stare at him in disbelief. “Mom …Mrs. Fullerton.” A soft voice masculine arises from behind in the haze. Anne’s mouth hangs wide as she turns to see Chip licking his lips his hands placed on his lap. “As bad as it sounds Mom Mr. Archer was changed he climbed the side of our house and Dad hid me under the sink and he killed him last night. Dad’s not crazy ….. Well that crazy Mom. Please you have to believe us there is something bad happening and it’s definitely tied to the power going out.” The boy sits silently before coughing from a tickle in his throat little Dakota runs into her mother’s thigh weeping. “I have no idea what to say I really don‘t.” Anne pulls her babies to her picking Belinda up hugging Brandon against her leg. “Ben I don‘t know what to believe but so for you haven‘t lied to me yet. So tell us what to do as long as we are safe the rest we can deal with ….. I hope.” Ben leans in kissing his wife on her forehead tasting a slight tinge of salt. “We have to go guys the van still works probably because it wasn’t running at the time of the Event I assume.” Ben scans the shelter “Gather up all the supplies we have down here. Brandon and I will run them up to the van. We will get Chip’s chair from the living room too.” Ben instructs those gathered below ground in his burning home. “There isn’t much room in the back of the van so we take food, water and weapons only. Anne do we have anything else for the baby diapers formula?” Ben asks his wife who takes a moment to answer. “Yeah honey I think we do upstairs.” She tells her husband. “Ok on the way out grab what you can honey.” Ben makes to walk away then Bianca stops him. “Ben can we head by St. George’s please to see if we can find Carl?” He places one of his large hands on her nodding his head “yes” vigorously. “Chip you’re driving son.” Ben calls out even though Chip was “legally paralyzed” from the waist down he could still move his legs. He didn’t posses enough lower body strength to stand but he could move his legs enough to drive short distances. “Alright dad.” Ben lifts the boy up placing him on his back. “Get ready I’m taking Chip upstairs and you all need to be ready when I get back honey.”

Ben and Chip leave the shelter heading up to the garage. Once back in the kitchen Ben rounds the corner passing the base of the stairs the smoke was acrid dense and thick pouring down the carpeted stairs almost like water. The orange glow dancing through the smoke like a bad seventies disco in the sparsely lit house where light filters in between boarded windows. Ben bearing Chip scampers along the wall finding the door to the garage in the darkened house. Opening the garage door Ben watches the smoke as it is sucked into the garage and under the white rolling garage doors. He grabs the keys from a peg board sliding along the white windowless van. Ben smoothly turns the keys jingling softly in the door. In the cramped tool packed garage the door bumps into a second workbench. He hefts his son into the drivers’ seat handing him the keys. “Do not start it wait until we are all in get yourself situated son can you do this?” Chip adjusts his side view mirror. “Yeah dad I got this.” Chip smiles broadly. Ben goes to leave but stops frozen at the sight at the base of the garage door. Shadows cross back and forth eclipsing the shining rays of sunlight with shambling forms. Ben’s mind grinds to a halt “don’t separate don’t split up” rattles around in his brain. He moves his thick legs through the smoke streaming over the concrete floor kicking up grey wisps as he goes. “Son take this.” Ben locks eyes with his son producing the small silver revolver from his waistband. This left Ben with the lucky mallet as his only weapon riding up in the small of his back. “Roll the windows up lock the van and don’t unlock anything until you see us at your window.” The boy swallows hard under the pressure of things to come he doesn’t debate or make a smartass comment to hide his nerves. Chip takes the gun and the weight of his father’s trust. “Yes dad I won‘t.” he whispers slamming the door locking it immediately. Ben moves back through his dark burning homestead passing the staircase he can hear the flames roaring as they consume his home. Taking a few seconds Ben jumps into the front room picking up Chip’s overturned wheelchair his eyes stinging from the smoke. Running he takes the chair back to the garage bumping alongside the van he raps a knuckle on the window starling Chip. On instinct the boy raises the pistol pointing it at the window. “Wooooooo” Ben ducks stumbling backwards hands held out defensively. “Sorry dad sorry!” Chip stutters. “Unlock the back door I’ll toss you chair in.” Chip nods once Ben hears the lock pop as he hustles the chair to the rear of the white paneled van embossed with his name. Grabbing the handle he yanks the door open. Ben lobs the lightweight chair in the pathway between tool racks. “I’ll be right back son lock up tight.” Ben slams the door vaulting out of the garage back into the house he run wheezing at glistening stream of saliva coating his chin.

He stumbles bounding down the creaky wooden stairs meeting his wife leading the group u to meet him. “Honey you need to grab the supplies I bagged them up for you.” She rasps surrounded by a chorus of coughs and gags. He signals his agreement with a head nod pulling his shirt over his mouth and nose. “Be careful babe…” He shouts though his soot streaked tee shirt. “Junior has my gun go up and tap on his window then get in back I’ll sit next to him.” It was Anne’s turn to bob her head that she understood they pass each other then Ben is greeted by a conga line of red rim eyed children. Bianca brings up the rear her baby crying underneath a white towel. Wasting no time Ben heads for the shelter “Bianca honey the baby supplies are in the cabinet in the kitchen.” He hears Anne shout down to Bianca. Trotting as fast his exhausted legs will carry him Ben finagles his way down the pathway and into the shelter. There in a neat pile in the middle of the pitch black tiny room is a pile of duffel bags. Ben drops to one knee pulling bag after haphazardly packed bag over his shoulder the lifting the last two up. Ben stands then leaves the room without closing the door he bangs down the pathway he struggles out into the basement. Passing the workbench littered with various electronics charging from a battery pack. As soon as one booted foot touches the bottom high pitched screams from upstairs start.
Better late than never we find the James clan coming to tems with fleeing thier burning house. Ben has to come clean with his wife and Bianca Fullterton about the undead in their midst. A new problem confronts Benjamin James as Bianca wants to visit St. George's hospital to look for her husband who is laying dead in the living room. All that takes a backseat as he hears screams from upstairs.
Come back to find out what happensin the next chapter of The Living Dark.
The Living Dark