Chapter 32: Unredeemable Qualities
Magic limps his way down into the basement stairs creaking under foot. He wants nothing more than to lock himself away again. He mulls the nagging question of how he plans to raise the false wall section downstairs. The pain in his face is his singular thought and right now it‘s all consuming. Even though his chest has been throbbing since the crazy man in the ice cream truck had kicked him in the gut. By the time he hits the mid point on the stairs he realizes he won't have to worry about opening the secret door. A shaft of light illuminates part of the packed dirt floor in the basement. Magic can barely make out the sounds of children laughing somewhere far away. He shuffles across the basement right into the tunnel clearly annoyed they had left the door open wide. "Behold" he thinks to himself upon seeing the rusty inner door partially ajar as well. He's not trying to disguise the noise he makes or sneak upon the women. He simply can't move any faster in his current state. He finally makes it to the door and pushes it inward with the last of his strength. The startled women and children are shocked to a one they freeze in place where they stand. All except Private Medina she is kneeling besides his hydroponics plant station. The young Hispanic soldier grabs her black rifle rising it up as if she means to shoot. "I .... I …" for a brief moment Magic fears the lunatic has broken his jaw. Holding one hand up in a submissive gesture Magic takes his time. "I ... not zombie." He manages to get out before before collapsing. The women rush to his aid Bianca Fullerton getting to him first. "My God what happened to you?" She shouts cradling his head on her lap. Medina is knocked aside as Anne James wobbles over on her tender foot towards Magic. "Where is everyone else? .. Where are my children? ... My husband.” She screams falling to her knees placing a hand on the boy's frail chest. He winces from her touch to the same spot he'd been kicked in. "Easy Anne …" Bianca cautions her. Just then baby Cammy starts fussing in her makeshift crib. "I got her Mrs. Fullerton." Brandon James calls from behind his mother. Anne's gaze washes over Magic coming back to his partially opened eyes. He tries to manage a smile but feels a molar pop loose landing on his tongue. Leaning to his side Magic spits the tooth and a wad of blood on to the floor. "Family ....okay." He forces out of his damaged mouth.
They slowly sit Magic up on his backside. He swallows hard hoping to tell their tale in one breath. "Your kids we got dem." He grits his teeth at the pain. "We ... got .... separated ... Sara blew up.… Truck to…distract zombies." Magic stifles a cough dropping back to the floor in pain. "Get him up …" Medina orders moving over to the first aid pack Carson had left. She riffles through the sack coming up with the pain pills that Mrs. James had given the soldiers for her the previous day. Looking around she sees a bottle of water sitting near the children. Medina carefully steps by the boy rolling about the floor corralled by Anne and Bianca. "Here … here!" she calls out to the women offering up the pills and water. They gingerly place the pills up to Magic's swollen lips. Bianca tries her hand at assisting Magic with drinking the water from the bottle. Magic chokes down the pills spraying water back over Bianca and Anne. "Soo … sorry." He offers up an apology. "Th … thanks..." Magic continues to attempt to swallow the pills down. After much effort he succeeds in doing so. Magic places his busted right hand on Anne James hand. "A guy .... A… big… nuuu ... nut job in a suped… up ice cream truck ....pick ... me up." He fumbles looking directly at Anne James. "Says ... hisss ... hisss." Magic proceeds to vomit the meager contents of his stomach onto the floor. "Eww …" Dakota Fullerton shouts from across the room. He lays there surrounded by greenish puke momentarily looking truly content. "The … guy … says his Preacher found ... your people …rescued them. He says ... they ... are at ... a church cross da…… county." Anne is bolted to the floor tears welling up in her eyes. Bianca reaches over placing her hand in Anne's. The two women embrace in a motherly sisterhood a bond that comes from knowing all is well with their children. Medina attempts to help Magic off the floor but he brushes her hands away. "I just want to relax." He breathes in swallowing hard. Magic sits cross legged on the floor methodically breathing in and out. His busted nose whistles with each breath. He places his bruised head in his hands his composure slowly finding its way back. "The asshole ... that did this to me is waiting for you all. Got his … rrrrr .. Rig parked out …front." He speaks much slower deliberately focusing on not causing himself more undue pain. "Why is he waiting on us?" Anne says the confusion evident on her face. Magic looks up "He... wants to ... take you guys to the …” Magic closes his eyes squeezing them shut a single tear spills down his cheek. "Ahh man .... That hurts." The young man looks defeated as he wipes blood from his nose absently. "He wants to take ... you toooo .... the church where ... your family is." Anne gets it now her eyes light up. Medina steps in offering to play devils advocate. "Mrs. James ..." The soldier sporting the head bandage begins. "How do we know this guy is telling the truth?" She holds up a hand stifling Anne’s protest. "Also what the hell happened to you and are the others in the same shape as you? You have to come with us Magic you can't stay here in your condition." Bianca nods her head. "Agreed Anne I know how you must feel but we have to think this through. I mean a mysterious church, suped up zombie proof ice cream truck driven by a mad man." Magic snaps his fingers from the floor waving his hands. Medina clears her throat. “I’m just saying it all sounds far fetched and no offense I find this all hard to believe.”
Together they all lift White Magic to his feet He throws an arm around Medina and Bianca. They guide him back to his CB radio cluttered desk. "Brandon." Anne calls out painfully coming up behind the trio. "Go clear Mr. Magic’s seat for him please." Anne James younger son darts down the length of the room. "Yes Mom." Brandon pushes the rickety chair up bracing it from behind. They sit White Magic down taking great care not to jostle the boy. Once he is safely seated White Magic spins around in his chair to open the top desk drawer. He pulls out a yellow tablet of paper and begins to write. Minutes later he hands the tablet of paper up to Medina. Her first thought is how exquisite Magic's handwriting is. She starts to read out loud. "The ice cream man did this to me. He was cool one minute the he started whopping my ass the next. He said I ‘blasphemed.’" Medina looks up in disbelief the other women are equally appalled. Medina reads on. "He described your husband and kids down to their clothes. He knew what your daughter was wearing even the color." Magic lays his head down on the desk feeling the cool wood soothe his aches. She reads on “Let me get this straight Medina. The world was cast into almost total darkness. We are huddled in a bootlegger‘s cellar as zombies some of who can talk roam about outside and yet you don‘t believe my story.” Medina chews her bottom lip cocking an eyebrow upward as common sense filters slowly into her mind. “Okkkkkay …” She says defensively. “When we you say it like this anything sounds logical now moving on.” Carlita finishes reading Magic‘s hastily written summary. "I can't go because I am ‘unclean’ he told me." Magic his head still on the desk dismissively holds up his arm the bite mark now in full view. "That's not acceptable ..." Bianca blurts. "You're one of us now." She looks to the other women pleading. "He's one of we can't leave him here. He took us in when we needed help." Magic lifts his head with much effort as Medina slaps the tablet of paper down on the desk besides Magic. He stares at the women coming to his defense clearly perplexed. He views them as no more than bumbling unwanted vacationing in-laws. He couldn’t wait for them to move onto greener pastures. They on the other hand had absorbed him into their clique making him one of their own. Medina pulls a lever on her assault rifle dropping the magazine into her hand. With a quick flip of her wrist he jams it roughly back into the receptacle on the weapon then pulling back its slide. “I say we go visit this mystery ice cream man Mrs. James.” Says the Private through teeth gritted not in pain but in anger. “Yes Ma’am I say we go see him this instant.” Anne James agrees Medina slipping her arm under Anne’s shoulder for support.
The two women move slowly for the door until Medina stops. She takes the pistol on her side from its camouflaged holster. Medina extends the weapon in Bianca Fullerton’s direction. The woman takes the pistol she eyes it with a great deal of unease. Carlita Medina points a finger down at the pistol which looks oversized in Bianca’s petite hands. “Flip this lever down …” Medina shows the housewife how to use the safety. “Hold the pistol with two hands Mrs. Fullerton. Aim for the center mass or chest if your target is human. You have seventeen shots so count them off ok?” Bianca’s mouth hangs open “Ok ….. I guesssss.” Bianca looks to Anne for guidance. Private Medina taps Bianca Fullerton on the shoulder grabbing her attention back. “Mrs. Fullerton you and this pistol are all that stands between the children and this lunatic …. your children. I don’t need you to guess I need you to know if it comes down to it you have the life of everyone down here in your hands.” Bianca Fullerton glances quickly at the kids around the room. “Yes … Private Medina … I can and I will protect them.” White Magic has propped his head up on his arms absolutely amazed at the women’s sudden resolve. Medina and Anne make there way down the tunnel into the basement side by side. “Mrs. James you take the lead in the talking and I will keep my weapon at the ready.” The two women walk Medina helping Anne who is attempting to tear away from her. Private Medina was starting to feel sorry for the “ice cream man.” Anne James’ mood had darkened like a storm had rolled in across her face. Boldly they go up the stairs into the living room and out onto the front porch.
Medina feels even dumber as she steps out into the sunlight behind Anne. One could have given White Magic the word skills of a literary master. He still would not be able to do justice to that which stands before them. “Good Morning ladies my name is Gustavo but everyone at the church calls me Brother Gustavo.” The man bows slightly leaning against his massive blood stained truck. Anne looks from side to side along with Medina searching for any signs of the undead. “Good day Sir my name is Anne James and this is Private Carlita Medina.” Anne says motioning to her dutiful helping hand. “It is a pleasure to meet you both. Now ladies if you don’t mind I still have much work to do today.” Brother Gustavo points a finger up the ladder leading into the rear of the truck. “Umm not so fast Brother Gustavo. We have some questions we need answered. Not that we aren’t appreciative but how do we know you aren’t lying to us.” Gustavo looks offended for the briefest of seconds. “The desire of a man is in his kindness: and a poor man is better than a liar. Proverbs chapter nineteen verse twenty two.” Gustavo speaks then stands stoically but Anne simply bats her eyes. She speaks almost as soon as Brother Gustavo has uttered his last syllable. “I said in my haste, all men are liars Psalms chapter one hundred sixteen verse eleven. Quoting the Bible neither explains who you are or your intentions Brother Gustavo.” Anne’s hands move up to her hips as she becomes more confrontational. The woman teeters on her injured foot momentarily ignoring the pain she feels. “All it does is show you know the Bible when Satan tempted Jesus the book of Matthew it showed he too knew the Bible.” Gustavo’s heart starts to flutter smiling broadly clapping his hand over his heart. “My sister you know the word of God too!” He shouts with glee. “Yes Mr. Gustavo so do my kids and many other people. It wasn’t written just for you in case you were wondering. Now why did you beat my friend so badly?” Gustavo moves towards the bottom step of the porch. Medina tenses up on her rifle at the sight of the gun in the stranger’s hand. “Remember this, that the enemy hath reproached, O Lord, and that the foolish people have blasphemed thy name. This my sister as you know is …” Anne cuts the gangly man off mid sentence. “Psalms chapter seventy four verse eighteen. Now that still doesn’t explain why you had to hurt my friend. You can’t use the Bible to bully people Mr. Gustavo Jesus died for all of our sins. The most prevalent theme in the Bible is forgiveness.” With that Brother Gustavo begins to stammer tugging nervously at the tie around his neck. Medina smirks from besides Anne James this feisty side of her was new. “I am … No bully Mrs. James I practice the way the Old Testament tells us to.” Anne rolls her eyes at the man. “Why can’t our friend go with us Mr. Gustavo?” Medina asks placing a steadying hand on Anne. Gustavo can’t believe the mouthy pair of women. Here he was trying to do them a favor. He could wait to get back to First New Faith where the Sin Preacher ran a much tighter ship. “Miss I presume due to your age but your friend can’t come with us due to the fact that he’s been bitten.” Gustavo hunches his bony shoulders. “We all know what happens next I am afraid.” Medina doesn’t know if it is wise to let on what they know of Magic’s condition. She’s concerned about what will happen to their host if others find out he maybe be some kind of anomaly. Anne James however doesn’t have the same common sense caution. “He was bitten the day after ‘The Event’ thingy Mr. Gustavo. His wound has been healing itself as long as he is inside by nightfall and under ultraviolet lights.” Medina taps the woman’s elbow to get her attention. “Really? …..” Brother Gustavo breaks off mid sentence.
He spots it in the distance several miles across the dried barren field. Along the back route he had taken to get to the Olmsted Farm. A lone figure emerges from the tree line falling face first in the dirt. The figure awkwardly attempts to right itself before finally rising to its feet. “An Unclean” He says absently as if the women aren’t there. “Ladies the time for talk has drawn to an end.” He says pointing in the general direction of the lone zombie. Medina trots over to the edge of the porch looking over the rail. Just then a second and third zombie makes their way from the thicket of tree. “Shit we got Rotters Mrs. James.” Anne’s face goes white with fear. “Look ladies …” Gustavo pleads. “I swear to you I know where your family is and I will take you right to them but we must hurry.” Private Medina blows air through her clenched jaw. “I’m afraid he’s right Mrs. James. If we don’t leave now and that’s a zombies becomes a Trotter tonight we could have our position compromised.” Anne finds her nerves. “Worse yet we could leave White Magic here alone having inadvertently given up his hiding spot.” Anne cautiously makes her way to the top step. “We’ll go with you Mister ….” Anne rethinks her options seeking to curry favor. At this point it is clearly evident that they will be visiting The First New Faith Baptist Church by way of a monstrous ice cream truck. “Brother Gustavo we need to know if we choose to leave your church we can and you need to draw those things away from here when we go.” Brother Gustavo is lost in thought having reset his brain to the task of dealing with ‘the unclean’ as he calls them. “Yes Ma’am you have my words on both counts.” He responds flatly without taking his eyes from the dead spilling across the field. “Private Medina will you hurry and gather the rest of our people and our things.” Anne says as she is assisted down the stairs by Gustavo with all the chivalry of a date to the senior prom. Medina vaults back into the house. She bull rushes back down the stairs ignoring the dizziness that has clouded her mind. An unwanted by product of the concussion she had suffered. She burst into the room with the remnants of the van’s occupants. “Let’s go guys we are leaving.” She yells sending everyone with the exception of White Magic scrambling about. “Mrs. Fullerton there are zombies in the area and Mrs. James is on the truck already.” Medina is picking up sacks and duffle bags as she goes. “Please lead the children out behind me we are in a hurry. She takes the time to go back to the injured young man resting his dreadlock covered head on the desk in the midst of all the commotion. “Magic look …” She says barley able to make eye contact with the houses sole living owner. “We are leaving you the pain pills and I swear to you we will be back for you.” “You have our word.” Bianca shouts from the front of the cellar. “I will lock you up tight on the way out.” Magic interrupts tearing off a sheet he has scribbled numbers on. Medina is confused by the strangely written number sequences. “I don’t get it.” She says in a fog partly due to her concussed brain. Magic pats the CB units on his desk then motions a finger to the bottom of a pack slung over Medina’s shoulder. “Oh … Oh these are the radio frequencies you’re broadcasting on. Magic beams back a smile from his pulverized face. He also holds up a thumb signaling that she is correct. “Also you hydroponics systems is awesome I went and grabbed some fruits and veggies from upstairs. I rigged them up so in several days you should start seeing edible produce growing to sustain your non existent food stock. I had to toss out your weed though.” The mask that is White Magic’s face droops downward. His thumb soon follows as he turns it down signaling his disapproval. Medina smiles as he lowers his head waving a hand over his head. “Go!” Medina urges Bianca and the kids forward. They exit the door into the tunnel Carlita uses her weight to push the door close satisfied once she hears the metal latch. They head out into the basement proper Medina repeats the process slamming the fake section of wall down and sealing White Magic back in his hiding spot. Medina resembles a weighed down pack mule but she still takes the lead. She guides Bianca and the kids back into the living room where she hears the first gun shot. “Fuck!” She mutters to no on in particular.
Upon exiting the house the ice cream man is no where to be found. “Let’s go babies!” Anne James screams from her perch leaning out the rear of the truck waving. “Mrs. Fullerton you need to get the kids up the ladder now and hurry.” Private Medina orders dropping down of the front porch. She dumps every pack at the base of the metal ladder and starts to search the immediate area. The dead are now coming from the end of the driveway as well as across the field. She can see Brother Gustavo has ridden out to meet the incoming dead head on. Medina watches the man he has only a pistol in one hand and a big rock in the other. Behind her she hears the first child move up the ladder. Checking their rear to assure the dead aren’t boxing them in and encircling idling the truck. Medina sights down her rifle at the dead coming up the driveway they will cut off their driver as he foolishly bashes in the Rotter’s head with a rock. The first shot drops a corpse spraying brain matter up and out the back of its skull. Brother Gustavo turns at the sound of the gunshot. Medina furiously waves the man back to the truck. From overhead Bianca Fullerton calls out. “We’re in Medina pass me up the bags.” Medina fires a three round burst mowing down the advancing dead. Brother Gustavo’s lanky legs carry him back in great strides kicking up dust as he comes. Medina lets her rifle falls to her side and begins to toss bags up and into Anna and Bianca’s waiting arms. Three gunshots echo over her shoulder as Gustavo shots down a walking corpse with less than stellar accuracy. Medina turns throwing the last few bags into the ice cream truck. “Get in.” Cries Brother Gustavo tucking the gun in his waistband he lifts the rock with both hands over his head. He brings it down comically atop two zombie’s heads in rapid succession but there is nothing comical about his results. The dead fall at his feet their heads now a dark cranberry color pulp. Medina moves up the ladder her concussion catches up with her as she wobbles about the mid way point. She pitches to the side only to feel hands lock on to her. Anne and Bianca catch Private Medina before she can fall. Brandon heroically has his mother by the waist ensuring isn’t pulled from the truck. They drag Medina into the truck as Brother Gustavo comes sprinting the dead hot on his heels. He takes to long strides before hitting the ladder full speed plowing into the women clustered in the doorway. Brother Gustavo whirls around grabbing the ladder tugging it upwards but not before a zombie latches its cold dead grip onto the steel. Gustavo looks as the bloodied rock in his hand smiles and lobs it into the dead postman’s forehead. The crack of bone is loud the corpse pitches backwards into the dirt. He snatches the ladder up and into the truck letting it clatter to the floor. The noise instantly starts the infant on board to start wailing. The rear door is slammed as the living dead begin battering the truck again.
Gustavo weaves his way past his passengers. “Can we please have some ice cream sir?” Brandon James grins at the though of being in an ice cream truck. “No!” Brother Gustavo points a bony finger at the children. “Don’t touch those freezers matter of fact don’t touch anything.” The man demands sitting down roughly his familiar driver’s seat. “Mrs. James …” He shouts over the moans of the dead as they beat the sides of the truck snarling in the mesh covered windows. “You wanted me to lead them away from you snake tongued friend?” Gustavo runs his own tongue across his teeth. He flips the switch “pop goes the weasel” rings out from the speakers atop the truck. “Next stop First New Faith Baptist Church.” He squeals putting the truck in gear he slowly rolls away from the house crushing the dead under the thick black off-road tires. He swings wide of the house past the stagnant “James and Sons Construction” van. Driving across the field behind the house he heads towards the way he’d come. Directly into the thick of the dead pouring from the tree line leading the trotter’s right back the way they’d come. The heavy black tires chew up the dead almost as easily as they do the loosely packed soil. They make small talk as Gustavo drives further away from the corpses struggling to keep up. They pass by the scattered cluster of wandering zombies he’d left earlier. Brother Gustavo takes a mental note. “I still have work to do” He cautions himself. Some time later he is backing the truck into his shed. He summons Brother Silas over to the front of the shed. “Take these folks straight down to the Sin Preacher’s office. So she can reunite them with their family and friends.” The obese man with the round belly nods his head. He appears to make an effort to stay well away from Brother Gustavo. Which all of the adults present take notice of. Brother Gustavo gives the man further instructions. “Tell her I was side tracked but I will complete the Lord’s work as she ordained before the sunsets. Tell her I will brief her fully upon my return Brother Proctor.” “Yeah … Yeah … yeah.” Silas offers up hoping to end the conversation as soon as possible. With that they part ways the women and children head into the church and Brother Gustavo takes back to his vessel of the apocalypse. Anne watches the man disappear back into the shed with the truck. She is immediately struck by how mislead Brother Gustavo is and how little of the Bible he must truly understand. The question she has floating around in her head is “who is his puppet master … who pulls his strings?”
Well looks like the James family is on it's way to a family reunion. Seems the ice cream man is going out of his way to help reunite of family of survivors. It also looks like Anne James doesn't fear the odd Bible quoting loner.
Come back and see us the week of May 19th for Chapter 33.
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