Chapter 29: Enter the Sin Preacher
Everything goes blank for Benjamin James his mind fills with visions of his children being torn apart while screaming for his help. He stares down at the pileup of twisted cars littering the intersection at the bottom of the hill. Ben doesn't realize that he has the gas peddle pinned to the floor until White Magic starts tugging his shirt. "Find something to hold onto." He shouts out the open window over the rushing wind. Private Lockett stands up cautiously gazing over the cab of the truck. "Wha … wha ..." Looming ahead of them the jagged wreckage. "Oh Jesus ...." she says dismissively to no one in general. With no warning the pickup truck veers hard to the right throwing Lockett off balance. Before Lockett can right herself they hit the curb and plow over a soft earthen hump. She realizes she is no longer tethered to the truck's bed. Instead she’s momentarily weightless like an astronaut. Carson lashes out with his left arm while securing himself the speeding vehicle with his right hand. His eyes never leave the floating girl he reels Sara in by the waist as the truck comes down bouncing hard against the asphalt. Ben takes the truck up and over the embankment into the sub division. He obliterates the white wooden sign reading “Welcome to Clow Oaks.” Pieces of the splintered wood fly up and over White Magic’s dead grand pa’s truck as it chews up grass fishtailing onto the sidewalk. Ben drives as recklessly he’s a bull in a china shop of the living dead. He doesn’t swerve when confronted with an oncoming shuffling pack of zombies. Ben crashes the ton of Detroit steel he controls through the middle of the group. The vast majority of the undead are crushed and tossed about like cigarette butts on the ground. White Magic flinches as a pair of zombies ride the hood up and over the cab landing in the midst of the grouping in the truck’s rusty bed. Privates Carson and Locket have yet to uncoil themselves from their embrace. They are lying on their backs when a wadded up corpse lands atop them. Carson reacts out of shock at the attacking zombie whose jaw is broken into splintered bony spikes. Letting go of Lockett Carson grabs the dead man by his filthy gore stained suit coat heaving him out of the speeding truck. Lockett safe in the knowledge that Carson can handle himself reaches out seizing the mangled barefoot of a female zombie pulling herself towards Jamal with her one good arm. The young Iranian man sits up against the cab with his eyes closed clutching his baseball bat to his chest. His lips move silently as he mumbles to himself. “Jamal..!” Lockett screams into the wind to get his attention as the truck races onward. Jamal opens his eyes and fear takes over in an effort to get away from the dead woman he scurries up and off balance. He topples sideways until Carson Grabs his elbow. “Gotcha….” The big soldier yelps. Lockett comes to her knees deftly drawing her knife once more. She jabs the blade down with such force it penetrates through the zombie’s skull clanking off the truck bed. Carson uses a thick hand to pound the window angrily “Hey cut us a fucking break please?!” Carson looks at the two men in the cab getting his answer. Ben doesn’t even acknowledge the world around him his thick hands fiercely kneed the steering wheel. White Magic however has a wild eyed look of terror as he has both hands planted firmly on the dashboard like terrified senior citizen watching their grandchild weave the in and out of traffic. “Aw shit.” Cody Carson blurts dismissively as they round a corner having made it in record time through Clow Oaks.
“Lockett Mr. James has tunnel vision.” He says breathlessly to his partner who peers to the side taking in the ever growing crowd of zombies coming up fast ahead of them. “Alright if we want to survive this rescue mission we have to work together.” Lockett says into the stream onrushing wind caused by the speeding truck. She readies her M-4 patting herself down realizing they can’t get involved in a shootout she and Carson don’t have more than fifteen clips between them. “Carson you and I are on clean up detail. Jamal …..” She looks up to see the dazed look in their compatriot’s eyes. Lockett snaps her fingers to get his attention. “Jamal …..” After squeezing his chest with one hand Jamal seems to find his nerves once more. “Jamal stay between us you take care of the stragglers understood?” “Yes Lockett.” He responds tightening his hold on the baseball bat that had seen him through several undead close encounters. “Man Lockett he aint stopping …” This is as close to a complete sentence as Carson can get out before Ben hops the truck back up onto the sidewalk. Lockett is aware of why Carson is so concerned. Ben James plans to simply drive the truck as close to the house in question as he can get it. This course of action will place them smack dab in the center of a large horde of zombies. Lockett makes her way to the two men standing leaning heavily on the truck’s cabin. The three of the scan the hellish landscape in the distance a battered white pick up trucks sits stalled against a tree. “Hey guys see that truck?” She says pointing as the truck they are riding in clips a hapless zombie. “I think our missing people might be in that house.” Lockett can’t help but admire the resolve of the younger James if he has survived. Even if he wasn’t in a wheelchair to make this far fending of the dead alone while protecting a child was certainly impressive. They close in on the house being assaulted and Ben guns the engine across lawns. A two muffled gunshots pierce the air as the pickup skids onto the lawn of the house bowling zombies in every direction. “We got survivors people.” Lockett shouts. The truck’s momentum has barley stopped Ben emerges from the driver’s side door in full blown panic mode leaving the truck running “Chip …..Belinda!” He bellows moving across matted grass. “Dad!” a scream answers from inside the house. “Christ he’s not even paying attention.” Carson shouts Benjamin James cares about one thing and one thing only his children. “Jamal go with Mr. James.” Lockett orders over the eyesight on her rifle. Without hesitation Jamal bails over the side of the truck. “Carson back to back you take out the ones coming I got the ones on the porch. Magic slide over into the driver’s seat and close the door.” Lockett opens fire on the zombies who have turned their attention away from the door onto the man foolishly charging empty handed into their number. Lockett and Carson begin laying the undead flat permanently in their designated fields of fire.
Ben is vaguely aware of the gunfire around him even as Lockett skillfully cuts down the dead gathering on the porch. A one arm corpse reaches clumsily for him Ben throws a crushing right hook to its jaw. “Chip! …. Is that you son?! “He shouts back dismissing the zombie sprawled at his feet. Jamal appears at Ben’s side smashing the zombie’s head into paste before it can stand. Ben doesn’t flinch taking his first step up the porch. He watches two zombies stepping down from the porch as their heads explode less than a foot in front of him bodies toppling down the steps past him “I’m coming son!” Ben calls feeling what he first believes to be raindrops pelting his shirt in actuality they are tears. He has no idea why his eyes are dribbling tears down his face and he doesn’t care. “Hurry dad.” Chip’s disembodied voice beckons from the house two more gunshots from inside. Ben pushes up the stairs onto the body littered front porch. Jamal turns to see a zombie at the base of the stairs he draws back a full swing. Jamal swings the bat arching towards the side of the aggressive zombie’s head. Which explodes seconds before Jamal’s bat deals a devastating blow. His momentum unchecked Jamal goes spinning of balance Lockett nods her head sharply back up the porch. Ben latches onto the shit collar a zombie who has its arm stuck shoulder deep into the cracked open door. He brutally smashes the dead man in hospital scrubs head into the door stop over and over creating a thicker read streak with successive each blow. He doesn’t hear the dead firefighter Lockett is desperately trying to get a clearer shot on creeping up besides his exposed arm. Back in the truck Lockett steadies her shot the first two she had attempted ricocheted harmlessly off zombie’s sturdy black firefighter’s helmet. The undead firefighter with Rodriguez emblazoned in neon yellow on his thick black coat clasps his vice like dead grip on Ben’s exposed arm. The zombie’s mouth opens impossibly wide teeth preparing for the fatal bite. Jamal flies in knocking the dead man hands off Ben. Using his bat he pushes the corpse onto its back dislodging the protective black helmet which clatters across the porch. Jamal brings the bat down with two hands as if it were an axe. The dead firefighter’s soul is put to eternal rest as his head is crushed. “Dad .. Dad they’re coming in the back too.” Chip calls from behind the door. Jamal leaps to his feet. “Everyone they are coming in the back of the house too. “ Ben shoves his way in the door seeing only his son gun in hand pressing back against a cabinet propped across the door. Coming down a hall several undead townsfolk bump about making their way forward. “Where’s Belinda Chip?” Ben hollers coming over the downed China hutch “Daddy!” Ben spins around to see his daughter’s tiny scarred head poking out of a closet door with a smile bright as the midday sun. The undead have now noticed her too “B get back in there.” Chip shouts firing a wild shot at the pack of walking corpses. Ben’s head swivels around the room. He presses his son’s hand holding the pistol down pushing his chair to the side. Ben James grabs the cabinet that has been blocking the door in a rage. In a display of Herculean strength Ben lifts the hutch up just as Jamal, Lockett and Carson pile into the door behind him. The incensed father with his furniture battering ram charges down the narrow hallway. “Man I though he was brutal driving the truck.” Carson says absently. The sound of bodies hitting the back of the hollow cabinet reverberates about the room. Ben finally tosses the bloodied China hutch on top of the remaining zombies pinning them in place. He turns back as the Privates Lockett and Carson along with Jamal in tow move in to finish off the twisted zombies crawling about the floor like partially stepped on ants. Ben James twists the door knob yelling out for his little humming bird “Belinda.” When the door doesn’t open he blindly puts one of his big feet through the door. Ben kicks and kicks at the old door until it’s just splinters. He reaches his baby leaps into his arms “Daddy … Daddy … Daddy.” She says squeezing her father’s thick neck pressing her smooth cheeks against his tear streaked ones. Ben falls back into the wall hugging his daughter dropping to knee as Chip wheels into the reunion. The James family embraces in the center of the hall the front door burst open. “Hey all them motherfuckin’ zombies we saw at the house are here and they bought some friends too.” White Magic shouts slamming the door Uzi in hand with Ben‘s rifle over his scrawny shoulder. “Hey is this the right dude in the wheelchair we was lookin’ for?” He says with his usual lack of tact. Lockett pushes past Magic pulling the door open cautiously. “Holy shit there’s at least two to three hundred hostiles.” The dead they had put down to get into the house lie scatter across the ground were but a fraction of living dead force hunting them. Private Lockett watches a sea of bumbling corpses coming from both ends of the block. The dead flow from between houses like moaning flood waters. The zombies have come for them en mass using their sheer numbers to overwhelm the living.
“Out the back people it‘s clear.” Carson shouts running up from the back door. Lockett reaches into the pocket of her flack jacket. “Hey Magic I’m sorry.” She says stepping on the porch. “Sorry for what?” White Magic says looking at the others. Lockett produces a grenade she has retrieved from her pocket. Pulling the pin on the explosive she lobs it under handed watching as it lands in the bed of Magic’s grandfathers still running pickup truck. Quickly she moves back into the house closing the front door. “Fire in the hole.” With that said Lockett and the others duck. While Benjamin James shields his children. From out front the explosion is deafening rattling the prefabricated house knocking out the remaining windows. Flames billow in the shattered windows igniting everything in the houses living room. “Go … go while they are distracted.” Lockett stands heading for the back door of the house. “What the fuck did you do bitch!” Magic’s face is red with anger. He tosses down both guns stepping to Lockett. “I can’t be without my lights you fucked my ride back.” Magic stops ripping off his sunglasses he pivots and bolts out the backdoor. “Magic wait …..” Carson calls out getting no response as the dreadlock headed man disappears from view “We got no time for him.” Lockett steps gingerly by the fire licking from the doorway scooping up the dropped weapons. Ben James rises placing his daughter in her big brother’s lap. He pushes the kids around the down China hutch avoiding the corpses on the floor. Ben follows Carson and Jamal out the back of the burning house with Lockett bringing up the rear. “Where the hell did he go?” Ben asks looking at the empty suburban backyards. “Doesn’t matter Mr. James we aren’t going back the way we came. So the task at hand now is survival.” Ben pushes his kids across the stained wooden deck and helps Chip maneuver down the stairs. “Come on we need to go down to that river and cross it.” Carson leads the charge down the sloping overgrown grass to a fairly calm river. The back of Clow Oaks and the other side of the river appear to be blessedly devoid of zombies for the time being. Locket stares back into the house the fire consuming the structure grows ever more menacing. “We need to get across and get out of sight or they will follow us.” She agrees with Carson. “Alright here’s how we do this.” Chip hands Belinda to their dad. He tucks the pistol in his waistband like his father along with the Lucky Mallet. His fingers dance along the wide skinny rims he secures his chair’s wheels in place. “Bring my chair will ya?” He dives head first into the cool late summer water feeling the slow current tug gently against his body. The one thing Ben did not fear with his handicapped son was the boys swimming abilities. Considering Chip’s muscular trunk he was more than capable of swimming. He crosses the river easily his arms rising and falling in rhythmic unison. “Well let’s go guys and gals.” Ben tosses Belinda on his shoulders then folds up Chip’s wheelchair. Before he can lift it up Jamal politely takes it from him “I have it sir.” They wade into the water taking quick but careful steps. Carson looks at Lockett hunching his shoulders sloshing out into the water. Belinda giggles most of the way across having been reunited with her father. Chip waits patiently watching from the other side of the river flipping his hair back up out of his face. Tessa’s house was now engulfed in flames the smoke blowing in would shroud their escape. Jamal comes out of the river first taking the chair directly to Chip. Ben watches his son climb into his chair as he had done hundreds of times before but this time he felt some thing strange pride. Not proud that his son was physically handicapped but proud that the boy hadn’t allowed his disability to define him. “Head out everyone we’re coming.” Lockett calls from the center of the river black rifle held high over their heads. Jamal and Chip wait for Ben and Belinda before the all hustle off together. Seconds later Carson and Lockett weighed down by soaked battle fatigues beat off chasing down their group.
The survivors run up a ridge then down a hill the smoke now the only sign of the chaos they’d left in Clow Oaks. They run on for what seems like an eternity crossing an expanse of grassy country overgrowth giving wide berths to any vegetation more than chest high. “Do we know where we are or are going?” Ben huffs stopping to catch his breath he places his daughter Belinda besides him. “Everybody huddle up.” They gather about in a circle wet and tired everyone panting except for Chip and Belinda. Sara Lockett looks back the way they had come the smoke spiraling skyward was now off to their left instead of behind them. “I don’t know this area and that damn coward bugged out on us.” She hisses. “Still I hope he made it if he can’t get back in time Mr. James he could prove to be a very dangerous adversary to everyone at the farmhouse.” They all look to their De Facto leader who is lost in thought. “Damn this is getting old.” He thinks rubbing his forehead. The sound of a branch breaking echoes from a dense thicket of trees a few acres from where they stand exposed. Carson taps Lockett’s shoulders pointing two fingers at his eyes then to pair of massive dead tree trunks. She motions for them to take cover and they all scramble for the trees. Once they are hidden Lockett hands Ben the hunting rifle. She hesitates briefly before giving Jamal the Uzi White Magic has tossed aside. “Look umm the safety is off sooooooo ….” She taps the short stubby barrel. “Point this end away from us and pull the trigger.” She gives the shy former college student a short lesson on proper firearm safety. Chip presses against the tree Belinda at his side he retrieves his dad’s pistol. They all aim over the fallen trees at the tree line waiting for this new threat to materialize. “If they don’t see us let them pass stay low and quite.” Lockett whispers around. “If who doesn’t see you?” a woman says behind them. They turn shocked to see a lean brunette woman with gold wire rimmed glasses standing behind them. She had come up on their rear as they focused on the tree line. “The zombies …” Locket says cautiously to the woman in the hunters camouflaged. She wears at cap on her head with a ponytail dangling from beneath it. Her hands are shoved low in her pockets a beautiful hunting rifle hangs lazily over her shoulder. The woman appears not to have a care in the world as if the whole zombie apocalypse thing hadn’t affected her. “Yeah I heard about them zombies and let me tell you The Lord is clearly not pleased with us.” She says looking back toward the smoke miles away. “I’m sorry where are my manners? You folks look like you could use a hand.” She takes a pronounced step forward. “I mean you no harm name’s Miriam Jacobs ….” She stops abruptly her hands held passively in the air. “…. I am Pastor Miriam Jacobs of the First New Faith Baptist Church to be exact.” Miriam notices the group relax upon hearing she is the leader of a house of worship. “I was out hunting for food for my congregation I got a truck back in the woods a bit. I will take you folks back with me it’s a little safer where I’m from.” Lockett looks to Benjamin James for guidance. “My name Benjamin James Ma’am and we have to get back to the rest of our group Ma’am but thank you anyway.” The woman produces a set of binoculars focusing back the way they had come from. “You sure cause it looks like you have some followers.” She can see a group of corpses some of them still smoldering coming into view miles behind them. “I’ll get you back to your people later but I suggest we leave now.” She cocks an eyebrow. Ben looks over the logs he can just see the relentless zombies now. “Alright Pastor Miriam Jacobs we’ll take that now ride …if you don’t mind.” Ben picks Belinda up. She turns back the way she’d come. “Follow me folks and no need to be so formal folks round these parts call me The Sin Preacher.”
Benjamin James has lead a group to successfully rescue his children Chip and Belinda but at what cost? White Magic their host who knows then ends and outs of the farmhouse where the rest of the group is hold up is missing. Now the question arises how much damage can the man who was bitten the day of "The Event" inflicted if he turns? The group is cut off by a huge heard of zombies so they run. While fleeing the undead they find themselves needing help of a Pastor who calls herself The Sin Preacher.
What's next for our survivors? Come back the week of April 14th to get the answers in Chapter 30 of The Living Dark.
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