Monday, January 14, 2013

Chapter 2: Fact Check

Chapter 2: Fact Check

He heard voices somewhere close by. Ben floated in that confusing realm between sleep and consciousness. It was then that the previous day’s angst plows its way back into his mind. Benjamin's eyes pop open darting about back and forth. The house remained black and devoid of power. From above his bald sweat streaked head a ray of sunlight parted the curtains racing over his sleeping children before disappearing down the shadow filled hallway. Shifting slightly so as not to rouse his wife who slept soundly on his chest. Instinctively he counts his children for reassurance and takes comfort from feeling the heavy revolver under his right leg. Undulating slowly from his under wife Ben frees himself pausing to lightly kiss her forehead. Ben steps through the minefield of sleeping children watching for stray fingers and tiny toes.

He felt as if he had fur growing on his body still sporting the clothes he'd sweat through the previous day in. Once at the door revolver in hand he pulls wine colored skirt from the small window. He could see three figures in the middle of their dead end street. Ben kneads the gun he clutches in his right hand. Unaware of his hesitation Ben realizes he's holding his breathe in an attempt to go unnoticed as he surveys the trio. The men are conversing amongst themselves it was then he shook the cob webs of sleep from his head. They were his neighbors and suddenly Ben was subtly aware of a deep seeded rampant paranoia taking hold of his psyche. Everything had kept him on edge as if he were waiting for the other cosmic shoe to drop. Since the power had gone out he had been dismissive of his children and negligent of his wife. Silently he opens the door which moves on its well oiled hinges. Once on the front porch he trots down the steps and into the driveway. He was now in full view of the group.

Ben discreetly tucks his weapon in the small of his ample back before flipping his baggy shirt over the silver pistol to cover it. Shouts a tall lean blond athletically built man walking his way. He's wearing workout attire. Ben knows his neighbor and friend Carl Fullerton had spent the morning undoubtedly hitting some type of exercise regime hard power or not. The guy was a fitness fanatic and it showed as he looks no part of forty five. "Good to see you buddy! How are Anne and the kids?" He asks extending his hand to Ben as the two men met. They greet one another with a fierce handshake. Ben notices the shorter man over Carl's shoulder. Although Napoleon Archer was Ben's longest serving neighbor the two men and their families shared a sterile suburban relationship. Ben had long told Anne that while he felt "Nate was a good guy. Who had no qualms with my being African American. His feelings on interracial marriage may not be as progressive." "Family is fine Carl and yours?" Smiling back at his buddy "Bianca and the girls are fine... fine.... fine." Carl shouts gleefully the men turn back to the others. "Good Morning Nate." Ben nods to Napoleon who returns the gesture sheepishly. Ben breaks into a wide genuine smile “Mohammed good morning Sir.” He was speaking to their neighbor from the other side of the street who was a polite white haired diminutive Iranian immigrant. "Good Morning my friend Benjamin. How are you this fine day!?" The small man gives Benjamin James a brisk warm handshake. "Mohammed how is this a fine day?" He chuckles "We have been without power for over a day now." The small man walks over to his neighbor clapping his hands together. Leaning forward he places a tiny hand palm down on Ben's wide chest. "My friend I was twenty two years old before I slept in a house with electricity. Man has survived centuries without the benefit of electric power and yet we can't go a day?!" The man rears back with laughter soon he is joined by the other men gathered in the street. "Speaking of which has anyone heard anything about when we can expect power to be restored?"

Ben scans the men's faces in the haphazard circle. Carl looks about mockingly confused "Uh Ben ole buddy old pal!” Slapping his friend's back "Dude this is so bigger than EdCon. We got blasted by a stellar tidal wave of solar flares pal they overloaded everything everywhere." Ben however is genuinely taken aback "what!" He exclaims shaking his head while pressing his rough hands to his temples. "Yeah" it was Nate's turn to weigh in. “I had been keeping up with the news via the web. The Internet however kept going in and out but then my laptop’s battery died. Globally those solar flares damn near knocked us back to the Stone Age. There's limited information flowing out through the mainstream media. Now the web is ablaze with reports of rioting around the world. Even though the U.S. government is mustering plans to alleviate some of the inconvenience. It's going to take time to get things back to normal." Ben was trying to hold his anxiety in check but his nerves felt like a million burning fuses. "Shit!" Was as good as he could muster when presented with the overwhelming news he'd been dealt. "Yes my friend it is true." Mohammed interjected." My son Jamal he calls me last night from school to tell me he was OK. He says there is fighting total chaos around UCLA." He stops suddenly the others can see the emotions washing over the kindly father. Ben places a reassuring hand on Mohammed's back as the man stammers. "It is just ..... that.... he is my only child... my world." "Mohammed… Jamal is a smart resourceful young man." Carl breaks in "you guys raised him well he'll be ok." Carl prods bobbing his head urging his neighbors to join in. A chorus of awkward "of courses" rises up on the quite sunny dead end street.

All the while Ben consoles Mohammed he eyes his home. Knowing full well he would rather tear his heart out than switch places with Mohammed Al. "Soooooo." Napoleon blurts "what's the plan? Who wants to run to the store with me?" Carl raises his hand "me! We need some more non perishables." "Not I…” Mohammed speaks after regaining his composure "thank you my friends." Ben James is lost in thought he was unaware that the group was staring at him. "Ummm no… no… not me guys!" He fumbles "I think we can make it through a few weeks or so. We'll be fine on that front." Ben turns his back on the men sizing up his house mentally taking notes. "Ben are you alright my friend." Mohammed calls aloud to a distracted Benjamin. "Yeah… I'm cool. Look guys be careful when you go out. Maybe we should consider battening down the hatchets and watching out for each others houses." The men look about confused "why?!" Nate blurts hunching his shoulder as birds chirp in the distance. "Because …” Ben begins “we are stronger together than we are alone. We can pool our resources." Pointing in the distance "We can barricade the entrance to the street with cars. It's the only way in as we're surrounded by gates behind and around us one way in one way out. Then we..." "Wooooow woooow woo!" Carl interjects. "What are we talking here the end of the world?! Slow down Ben lets take baby steps here!"

An exasperated Benjamin James rubs his smooth chin while frustration clouds his mind. "Guys no one knows for certain exactly what the hell is going on? I'm just saying we can fortify our houses or maybe just one of them and have everyone hold up there. Remember the three little pigs?" He chuckles as Nate gives off a disbelieving snort. "I do not understand my friends." Mohammed offers up. Carl strolls up to Mohammed placing an arm around his shoulders. "It's a fairy tale Mo'!" He affectionately tells the Americanized immigrant. "Ben is having a laugh at our expense he's not serious my friend."

Ben is going through a mental check list in his head. Recapping the supplies he had brought home from his job site. He had extra water, snacks and building supplies. It was time he plotted if he was going to secure the house he was burning daylight. "Guys be safe if you go out alright? Let me know if you guys want to come over. I have to go I got work to do." The tired construction worker peers back at his house. His wife was now standing in the doorway a look of concern gracing her beautiful face. He turns about to his neighbors "Mohammed…” He spoke to the man wrapped in Carl's used car salesman's embrace. "You know a tiny bit about the Bible right?!" The burly black man states stepping back from the two men. "Yes... yes that is correct my friend Benjamin." Mohammed responds. "Remember this then they laughed at Noah too when he told them he was building the Ark." His words are still filtering into the men's sub consciousness. Even as he jogs back towards his home stripping the shirt from his thick chest. Benjamin James was on the clock and in his element now.

In the latest chapter of The Living Dark Ben awakes to find his immediate neighbors gathered on their dead end street. The group of me break the news to Ben James that the power outage is going to get better anytime soon. As a matter of fact they inform him that due to solar flares. The power is down across the globe and civil unrest is breaking out all over. Carl Fullerton Ben's close friend,  Napoleon Archer who is uneasy around Ben but not because he's black and Mohammed Al a kind older Iranian immigrant. Are all making preparations for the long haul with no signs of power restoration anytime soon. Ben suggest they fortify one of their homes and pool their resources.
Come back the week of August 13th to see if anyone takes Ben up on his offer.


Chapter 20: Come Together

Chapter 20: Come Together

   Chip drives his father’s white paneled cargo work van containing his family and neighbors blindly through tears heading in the general direction of the highway at his father's request. His mother's gut wrenching wails of heartbreak at the loss of her parents have slowly subsided. Now from the rear of the van he hears the soft clogged nose sniffles of his younger two siblings. Jamal Mohammed sits to his right silently scanning the road from the passenger seat. The van rounds the corner of an indiscriminate suburban block guided by the wheelchair bound teen. He is vaguely aware of the devastation that greets him no matter which direction he turns his head. He hasn't seen any of the fast infected since last night when their neighbor Nate had attacked their house. Thus far today the boy believes this is the only good thing to have happened all day. There were zombies milling about moaning at the sight of the streaking van. He observes the same reaction every time. First the dead moan as if to signal each other that fresh human meat is present. Then they lurch into action feebly attempting to catch the van and its occupants. "Chip ahead of us is the bridge we need to cross over to get out of town.” Jamal says softly from his navigators perch. "How does it look guys?" Benjamin James calls from behind them still cradling his wife. "Not bad Mr. James the bridge has some abandoned cars on it, but we can maneuver around them if we take it slow." Jamal replies craning in his seat to get a better view of the surrounding area. "The highway is packed and impassable." Chip mutters keeping his eyes on the wreck strewn streets. "Do we see any?” Ben hesitates as suddenly. Things aren't as jovial as they were when his family initially had left their house they were detached from all the worlds suffering. "....any of them about." He finishes his thought set in the belief that maybe if he doesn’t mention them the zombies would simply cease to exist. The closer they drive to the freeway's entrance the easier it is to see the carnage. "Yeah dad the freeway is one mass of tangled vehicles." Chip tells his father as Jamal unbuckles his seat belt. He gets up on one knee in his seat taking care to avoid bumping Chip’s wheelchair and the rifle Anne’s father had given Ben both of which are propped between the two seats. "It looks as though we can also determine what has become of the passengers of said mangled cars." Jamal chimes in staring in disbelief at the moving mass of corpses on the freeway below. "They look like marauding ants marching about with no orders." He says in shock. "Best to do this as quickly and quietly as possible Chip would you agree?" Jamal asks taking his seat his hands shaking as he fastens his seat belt. Chip James nods his silent agreement.

    Jamal unlike the James and Fullerton families had seen the undead up close and personal in the days after "The Event." On his way home from Southern California with his dorm mate John. Watching zombies tear into someone from a distance left you removed from the trauma. He unlike them had been close enough to hear the sounds a human made when the life was stripped from their throats. While his body was hidden his ears were left open and exposed to the gut wrenching sounds. Chip begins to decelerate closing in on the bridge he aims the bulky van for the center of a four car pile up. To his left and right he watches the dead draw a bead on the white van as if it has a dinner bell attached to its front. The dead swarm after them like children moving with glee for an ice cream truck on a hot summer’s day. Chip's heart pounds its way up from his chest lodging in his throat to his right he listens to Jamal mumbling a prayer. Raking his tongue across his lips Ben junior decides to do the same. As the van inches its way though the narrow opening Chip notices the tops of heads bobbing up and down. The first dead have made their way up the embankment on the far end of the bridge. Chip drives past the point of no return realizing he can't possibly back the van up through the opening with his lack of driving skills.

    Chip catches movement alongside the van from his window. Cutting his eyes to the left his first thought is that there's a zombie keeping pace with the creeping van. Turning further to investigate the body he sees what turns out to be a young African American girl dressed in military fatigues carrying a large rifle. The young woman is wearing gore covered fatigues with a large pack on her back. She's desperately attempting to get his attention waving her hand briskly in front of her face and the pointing forward with her whole hand like she's mimicking a shark’s fin. "Uh daaaaad." Chip calls out in alarm. "There’s a soldier walking besides the van carrying a huge gun wearing a bloody uniform." The boy squirms in his seat hearing his father leap up in the vans claustrophobic rear. "There is one on my side too and he's carrying another soldier I think." Jamal blurts out as the soldier on his side with a fresh bandaged splint covering the bridge of his nose moves in to pound the window with the back of his fist. "Let us in now!" The big man with the other soldier on his shoulders shouts leaning so close his breath condenses on the dirty glass. Ben comes into the picture from the back pressing his bulk over Chips back. "Dad." Chip protests swerving gradually to his left. "What are they doing?" Ben demands glancing nervously to his left and back over to the right in an effort to take in the scene. "Mr. James should we let them in the van? So you know there are a lot zombies walking up from the opposite end of the bridge headed this way.” Jamal begins to move his hand for the lock on the door. "No." Ben cries freezing Jamal's hand in midair. Gunfire erupts from the female soldier on the Chips side as she engages the dead alone. The girl drops to one knee measuring her shots methodically. She takes on the advancing corpses before them each round she’s fired so far is a clean head shot dropping one of the scattered zombies in stride. "Get to the back." Ben pounds the window over Jamal's head stabbing a meaty finger in the air as if the soldier couldn't tell where the back of the van happened to be. The sound of the gunshots instantly brings screams of terror from baby Cammy nestled in Bianca’s arms. Anne who is still copping with the weight of losing her parents in such a horrific manner does not hesitate to motion for Bianca and her children. Bianca Fullerton scrambles over to the cluster of James' against the vans wall dragging Dakota roughly as she goes. "Stop the van junior." Ben bounds past the women and children hunched over in the vans rear to the back doors. Without pausing he throws the doors wide bringing his pistol to the ready. However the sight that greets him he is in no way prepared for.

    It seems as though every shambling zombie they had past by this morning tracked the dingy white van like literal bloodhounds as it drove. The dead were a mass reminiscent of the crowd one sees when looking from the stage back over hundreds of concert goers and their numbers grew by the minute. The horde of living dead was so massive that it generated enough noise to attract aimless zombies from blocks away. The first ragged corpse was no more than ten to twenty feet back of the van with stragglers scattered about in advance of the main herd of flesh seekers. "Dear God." Ben chokes on his words the pistol in his hand dropping silently to his side. From his left the large soldier with his comrade draped over his shoulders appears. He is less focused on the dead and more concerned with quickly relieving himself of the weight on his shoulder. "Pull her in” the he orders laying a young Hispanic looking girl with a nasty head wound at Ben’s feet. Ben James grabs the girl by her uniform straps then drags her further into the vans belly. In that time the boy with the name "Carson" emblazoned on his military fatigues has unhooked a black rifle. With a flick of his thumb he disarms the weapon’s safety taking two long steps over to the side where the girl was steadily firing her gun. "Locket we gotta go let's go!" He screams around the corner getting no response. Ben stares at the boy seeing the fear in his grey eyes over the nose splint. Ben's mouth feels dirty as he prepares to speak. He wonders briefly if his kids can see the fear in his eyes. "Hey get your friend this is a pick up not a delivery we’re leaving.” Ben checks the girl lying unconscious at his feet for bite marks or other suspicious wounds. "Damn." The soldier boy peeks around the corner then back out the advancing crowd of zombies. "Just wait sir please." Carson props his black assault rifle on his shoulder. He pours an entire clip into the zombies coming for the exposed rear of the van. Aiming high Carson increases his head shot count zombies topple back slowing their ever advancing kin. Dropping the gun to his side he flips a second identical gun up holding up his index finger to Ben pleading for a few more seconds. Carson closes the distance between himself and Locket with two great strides. He doesn't give a second thought to grabbing the focused young woman from behind in all the chaos. Carson had done his stint in basic training with Locket and he'd seen her get like this once before. She and their squad leader were competing for bragging rights and Locket had tunnel vision. She didn't snap back to normal until her last spent shell clattered about on the concrete floor at the shooting range. Carson is stunned by the sheer number of dead converging on the van. The slightest noise something heard thousands of times a day magnified by the sounds of daily life and all it took was the sound of one car engine to draw the attention of hundreds of zombies. He snatches her up in one quick motion "Locket it's me whatever you do don't stop shooting." There was more room separating the dead from the front of the van than behind it. Carson spins about bringing Locket's attention to the greater threat with her held in a tight bear hug. Locket steadies her sights on the dead as best she can while begin jostled in Carson‘s embrace. Her shots are far less accurate with this volley. She hit’s more limbs and body trunks which the dead simply shrug off continuing their advance. "Holy shit when exactly were you planning on telling me we were being flanked?” Locket stammers as they round the van. Carson simply rolls eyes in annoyance he doesn't look back as he heaves Locket into the open bay. The first hand grabs his pack from behind tugging him backwards.

    On instinct Carson lashes out blindly with a wicked elbow. He feels something wet crunch against his elbow then the sound of something heavy and meaty dropping to the pavement. Locket is up grabbing Carson along with Ben yanking him forward. She jabs her sidearm out over Carson's shoulder preparing to pull the trigger inches from her team mate’s ear. Locket presses the barrel to the forehead of a zombie bearing its rotten splintered teeth like a snake ready to strike. She squeezes the trigger then dispatches another six zombies before Cody Carson gets his balance. Private Carson flexing his long legs lunges into the van tackling both his rescuers driving them to the floor. "Go boy." Ben screams to in terror to his son as the dead mount the rear bumper ready to follow them into the vehicle through the opened doors. With no regards for his earlier trepidation Chip presses the gas pedal to the floor with as much strength as his stringy feeble legs can muster. The cargo van fishtails forward slinging the dead off en mass. They clip two burnt metal car husks with the back bumper. Speeding forward the panicked boy slams headlong into a female zombie tossing her twisted form up and over the wildly careering van. Chip swerves to avoid a dense pack of zombies at the end of the bridge. Trying desperately to compensate for his quick turn he slams the vans right front into the back of an overturned school bus. Tools and other assorted materials fly from the shelves in the rear of the van pelting those huddled helplessly on the floor the van picks up speed rocketing forward down an almost deserted frontage road.

      Chip is griped with such deep seeded fear he doesn't hear the screams of pain behind him. One of the van flailing doors claps shuts while its companion continues to swing back and forth. Before them the road on the other side leading to the bridge is clear except for the dead flocking to it in droves. Chip is driving faster than he'd ever dare in the course of a normal life "handicapped" or otherwise. "Slow down some Chip." Jamal snaps his fingers from the passenger seat attempting in vain to get the boys attention. Anne moans in agony to Ben’s right he tosses the muscular soldier off his chest in one quick motion. Coming to his wife's side "Honey what's wrong baby?" Anne rolls off her children having shielded their two youngest with her body when tools began raining down on top of them. "My foot … my foot ... my foot." She wails in pain. Rolling over sitting against the wall she cradles her injured left foot. The brown skinned female soldier rights herself before she fearlessly leans out the back of the speeding van. With one hand clasped around a shelf in the back of the cargo van Locket reaches out snagging the wayward open door pulling it closed. Anne places a hand to her mouth stifling a scream before speaking to her husband. "Something big hit my foot and it hurts like hell.” Ben scans the floor of the van as they hit a pothole causing everyone to duck and cover on instinct. "Chip slow down son and watch where you're going we can't afford another crash." Ben yells over his shoulder gently holding his wife's foot he slips her shoe off after untying it. Flecks of blood stain the outside of her sock which he then rolls down and off revealing a thin cut on the top of Anne's small foot. The entire top of her foot is a beet red bruise and shows signs of swelling. Sitting next to Anne is their overly concerned youngest son Brandon resting his hand on a rusted length of pipe. The offending item essentially a collection of joints he'd cut from a customer house months ago during a basement reconstruction weighing twenty pounds easily. "It's busted pretty bad honey." He tells his wife as she grimaces through gritted teeth. "Would you guys happen to have a first aid kit I can use?" Benjamin James speaks to the soldiers huddled panting out of breath over their comrade. Private Sara Locket looks up perplexed furrowing her brow. "Well hello to you too Sir.” She says curtly. "I'm Private Sara Locket United States Army and this is Private Cody Carson." Pointing to the girl lying sprawled on the floor. "This young lady here is Private Carlita Medina. If you cared to ask us who we were before telling us you needed something." "I'm sorry please forgive me where are my manners.” Ben starts to speak moving to the middle of the packed van's belly. "My name is Benjamin James and this is my wife Anne and our children Belinda, Brandon and the young man driving is Ben Jr. Sitting in the Corner is Bianca Fullerton, her infant daughter Cammy and Dakota her oldest daughter.” The child buries herself deeper into her mom’s side after hearing her name. “Up front next to my son is Jamal Mohammed he's the son of our neighbors." Suddenly Ben's mood darkens considerably his face becoming a more serious mask of anger. "And wasn't aware that I needed to make a formal introduction or cow down to someones whose life I'd just saved before I dared to ask them for a simple favor." He slams his fist into his calloused palm in anger.
 Well another week in the undead world of The Living Dark has come and gone. Our two groups of survivors have finally "Come Together." It doesn't however appear that all is going as smooth as was expected. Temper are flaring as toes are inadvertently stepped on. Come back the week of January 20th to see if the James group and the soldiers can put aside their differences.

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