Sunday, June 15, 2014

Chapter 46: Double Time

Chapter 46: Double Time

  He pulls his battered body up to the back door of his house. Colonel felt the aches and pains of age on his tweak his bones. More so he felt the pain for the “ass whoopin’” the muscular young soldier has laid on him. His head throbbed the pain emanating from a tender swollen bump between his eyes. The blow to his head had slowed his reaction down to a near zombie like state. Colonel’s mental faculties moved about slowly as if in a thick sea of pudding. He thought to himself that this fact alone had served him well. He had traversed the back roads home after narrowly escaping the slaughter back at the church. A nosy Rotter now appears in his peripheral vision. The woman has had her scalp peeled back like a banana. The loose meaty clump of hair and skin sways across the back of her neck like a ponytail. He thinks he recognizes the ragged woman from the neighborhood. She closes in on him one unsteady step after another her dull cloudy eyes fixing on him. Colonel thinks he may have given himself away. He kept a slow and steady dead like gait as he shuffled home passing clusters of zombies with no problems. However, the sight of his house had invigorated him causing his pace to quicken. He knew any unwanted attention would cause more zombies to congregate around his home thus slowing his plans for revenge. He makes his movement’s quick and precise dropping down seizing a hefty brick in his calloused hand. The bear sized man launches himself at the slack-jawed fetid corpse. With the crunch of fine china, breaking Colonel slams the brick home. Dispatching the zombie with such brute force her moan caught in her throat where it will remain forever silent unable to alert more of her kind. Panting his husky chest heaving the old soldier takes a brief instant to scan the open backyard. With no sign of further Rotter encroachment Colonel rummages a blood cake hand through his pants pocket. He winches from the pain in his groin “damn bitch” he thinks back to the little Hispanic female soldier and the kick she delivered to his nutsack. Once he hooks a finger around the key ring. Colonel nimbly opens the rear door of his humble non-descript house and steps inside.

   Familiar smells greet him some new some decades old. He steps over one-step that he knows will emit annoying creak in one giant stride. He moves through the kitchen, dining room and into the living room. The front of the house is pristine decorated with furniture from the late seventies. The casual observer would have no clue of the cataclysmic events that have befallen the world outside. Still playing the key ring in his hand as he marches down a narrow hallway. The gooey zombie blood drying on his fingers like syrup from some long ago breakfast. Having never married he turns the key in the lock of the only bedroom he’s ever known. Not counting the barracks of untold military bases across the globe, he had called home temporarily. The room in his parents’ home has grown with him over the decades. Today in the midst of everything, he enters a place as familiar to him as his own skin. Now he heads towards a place in this sparsely decorated bedroom that is a little less familiar his closet. Colonel sighs his heartbeats erratically in his chest he unlocks the heavy doorknob. The thick metal door he installed after returning for service in Vietnam groans on it’s hinges. A smile begins at the corners of his mouth Colonel lets his eyes wash over the shrine before him. This had once been a simple closet. Colonel had remodeled the cramped dank space into a vault paying homage to his military service. He feels around in the dark finding the cheap dollar store light he mounted years ago. A tiny round battery operated light buzzes to life casting its weak beam upon several dress uniforms spanning his time in the Marines. Photos cover a black shelf on the rear wall of the closet. Colonel pauses briefly at each one of the half dozen photos. The face of a young burly boy holding an M-60 in the jungles of Vietnam greets him. Moving from top to bottom, he ages forty years in a manner of seconds. There the last picture of him arm in a sling his newly mangled hand wrapped with so much white gauze it resembled a big Q-tip. He recalls The President having to reach up to pin his Purple Heart and Medal of Honor on his chest. Colonel thought he was going to cry right there in front of his parents, the President and the world. His emotional state was not due to his injury. It was due to that I.E.D he spotted as he and his men patrolled that stifling hot wretched town square in Iraq. Without thinking, without fear he tossed the bag containing said device away from his troops mere seconds before it detonated. His actions after losing most of three fingers and the wounds he sustained in ensuing firefight had earned him the Medals. The last medals he knew, he would ever receive as Marine. They forced him to retire. Left with no others options than to drag himself back to this derelict outpost of tobacco chewing humanity. He was about to reach out and caress the sash of medals that twinkled in the dim light like ornaments on a Christmas tree. A new sound found its way to his ears along with an even more familiar smells. “Mom …” he gripes like a teenager demanding privacy.

  Colonel cocks his head ever so slightly. He sees his small mother standing in the doorway to his room. A post she had taken more times than he can remember in her eighty-five plus years of life. A thick white bandage adorns her left forearm, he had field dressed her wound himself. “Bradford Beasley” she kept calling him by his legal name and she was the only human he allowed that privilege. She had done this an attempt to sooth him and forestall the inevitable explosion of his legendary temper. The frail white haired woman who walked with the aid of an old weathered brown cane stood swaying side to side in the doorway. Her cane now absent as her dull milky white orange-flecked eyes settle on his warm flesh. Colonel had found the man who attacked his mother and bit his mother. He staggered about mulling aimlessly at the end of their driveway that day. In fact, the man’s corpse still lay at the end of said driveway. Colonel didn’t know it then but the man whose head he had viciously twisted almost a hundred and eighty degrees on his shoulders was a Rotter. “Momma …” he heard himself croak as the only woman Colonel had ever loved came at him. Her feeble arms were outstretched a string of brackish saliva dangled from her chin. The elderly woman’s false teeth fell clattering comically to the floor with the opening of her mouth. Colonel steps forward pinning his undead mother’s arms to her side. He lifts the small woman up like a baby. In life, he had gotten all of his massive size and girth from his father. With a violent whipping motion he slams his mother’s head into wall sending shard of plaster raining down on them both. The second blow rattles the walls with a wet snapping sound his mother going limp in his embrace. Colonel throws his mother’s body back out the doorway. It lands in a heap resembling dirty laundry and old belched white dough. Colonel turns his attention back to his closet. Suddenly he feels something wet hit the back of his hand. “Blood … she bit me …” his panicked mind, screams.

 Colonel staggers over to the closet jabbing his hand into the light. There on the back of his hand a tiny droplet of clear liquid trails off. Initially Colonel is confused until he reaches up touching his cheek. “A tear …” He mutters to no one. The sudden appearance of humanity and useless emotions within him fills his chest with a burning rage. The mere thought of showing what he considers weakness pushes whatever is left of his soul back into the vault he kept it locked in for so many years. Colonel grabs his sash of medals tossing them to the floor. He does with all the grace of a man throwing change in to a beggar’s cup. The snarls erupting from his mouth would freeze a Rotter in it’s tracks. He grabs both sides of the small black shelf yanking it free. He propels it over his head not even bothering to look where it lands with a crash. There hanging on the wall is his true uniform a dull faded sandy mixture of camouflage patterns. The left side of it tattered and bloodied from the explosion that day so long ago. Above it sits his olive green helmet from yet another conflict still covered in frayed netting. One of the first thing the Marine Corps had ever issued to him. On the wall mounted next to it were weapons that had served with him in combat. A black batter M-16, two .45 caliber pistols, and a long polished bayonet all decorate the closet’s back wall. Beneath that, hanging from a hook is a chest harness with three egg shaped grenades on either side. On the floor is as much ordnance as one could sneak home during forty years of military service. Colonel was ready for war and he had the tools to wage one if he so desired. He would as of yet meet his end on the battlefield. His mind let go of everything except one fact, he knew the rats were hiding at the old Olmsted farm. He would get them out the same way he got “Charlie” to come out of his hidey-holes dug into the soft jungle floor by blowing them apart.

 “Ok ... Ok…” Sara steadies herself as she navigates the police car back down the road towards Lawrence’s house. “We get Lawrence to tell us how to get back to White Magic’s place.” Ben nods leaning forward in his seat willing the car to go faster. His family was safe for now and every minute he has spent apart from them in this hellish reality weighs heavily on him. “Can we just raise them on the radio?” Ben points at the dash mounted unit in the Sheriff’s car. Sara steals a quick glance down hesitantly taking her eyes off the road. “Not sure ….” She says returning her attention to driving around wrecks and avoiding the Rotters now littering the roads. “Flick it on Mr. James and hand me the handheld mic.” She says. Sara notices far more zombies crowding the once wide-open country road than she did on their way to the church. “We brought them out Mr. James.” She points taking the mic as Ben slaps it into her palm. “Yeah I think you’re right.” Ben replies looking at all of the dull creatures shambling after the speeding car. Coming up in the center of the street, they see the biker’s corpse they’d dumped in the road surrounded by zombies. The dead almost appear to be investigating the body their now singular thought process unable to comprehend its sudden appearance. “Let’s just not be here when the sun goes down Sara,” Ben says nervously. “Agreed Mr. James” Sara tells Ben holding the mic up and pressing the lone black button on its side. “Hello is there anybody listening over?” Sara tries the last radio station used by the car’s previous occupant. Static bursts of white noise assaults their ears filling the car causing the pair to recoil. Sara gives Ben the most common military frequency she can think of. She knows that White Magic had a military radio in his bunker. “This is Private First Class Sara Lockett come in farm house over.” She calls into the mic again. She uses her military rank and title just in case. “Watch out!” Ben screams pointing to a large hunting pack of Rotters flanked by burnt out cars on either side. Sara drops the mic clamping both hands on the steering wheel. Sara swings the car onto the sidewalk brutally bowling over a trio of walking corpses. Entrails and blood baptize the car as they narrowly miss the blackened husk of a minivan. “Shit that was close.” Ben sighs. “Here’s Lawrence’s street.” He continues noticing they had indeed brought the dead out with their noisy exit. “Drive on the grass around back.” He instructs Sara as she guides the car around a large house.

 Ahead of them in the distance is Lawrence’s house. Ben glances across the field they had traversed earlier. He can see the river and railroad trestle in the distance. “You stay on that radio I’ll get Lawrence and Willie.” Ben shouts as the car bounces over the uneven earth. The car fishtails to a stop a few feet from the back of the rickety back porch. Ben is out running across the gravel with the big shotgun clutched tightly to his chest. He moves with the focus of a football player who sees only open field and the endzone before him. Ben hits the porch hard twisting the knob he realizes its locked. Gazing back, he sees Sara now standing with the idling car’s door open. She hold the mic in one hand AR-15 in the other the way cops on TV do. She stares back in the direction they had come then she speaks “Umm better make this shit quick!” Ben turns leaning further off the porch coming for them is a phalanx of Rotters. The undead pour around the house at the end of the block like concertgoers pushing towards a stage. “Lawrence ….” Ben screams as he pounds the door feeling it rattle in it’s frame. “Lawrence ….” His blows continue to assault the thin door. It takes less than two minutes for Lawrence Faulkner swing the door open. To Ben however it drags out like an eternity before he sees the man’s flushed and terrified cherub like face. “Lawrence get in the car.” Ben orders. “I … I can’t leave ...” Ben interrupts “I can’t get back to my family unless you tell us how Lawrence.” Ben implores. “Lawrence there are zombies coming for us.” Lawrence steps past Ben grabbing his shovel. “Now Mister James we can handle zombies.” He brushes past Ben “Now how many do we got?” Lawrence says stepping down from the last step. “All of them Lawrence we fucking have all of them.” Ben says with a sarcastic smile from the top step. The shovel drops from Lawrence’s hand and for brief second Ben thinks the man is going to turn and run. “Mr. James go now I got him.” Sara urges Ben on as she grabs Lawrence’s fat elbow escorting him to the back seat of the cruiser.

 Ben bounds up the ladder frantically yelling “Willie!” Cresting the stairs with all the grace of a slapstick comedian Ben scurries over to the prone man. “What …” Willie squeaks out of his dry lips. “Great you’re not dead.” Ben blurts flatly, “We got to go Willie.” Sweat pours from his baldhead in the muggy attic. “Sorry Willie.” Ben tells the man as his sizes his long lanky frame up. “Wha ... whas wrong wit you man.” Willie’s eyes flutter between pain induced grogginess and confusion. Willie O gets his answer in the form of white-hot agony as Ben drops the tactical shotgun on his chest. In seconds, the streetwise criminal blacks out from the pain. Ben drives both hands under the injured convict using a much rougher technique than he did with Chip. A pang of guilt hits his heart as he lifts the man up. Ben feels as though he hasn’t seen his children in forever. His body cannibalizes this feeling of guilt converting it to will power. His legs move him to the small ladder leading out of the attic. The sound of gunfire begins to echo up from outside. Ben decides to take the express route down. The throws himself forward legs outstretched like a man at the mouth of a waterslide. The ride down is painful as his tailbone slaps each wooden plank rattling his teeth. A pile of trash unceremoniously ends his ride abruptly. With his knees, protesting Ben huffs twice rocking himself to a standing position. He stumbles through the trash heaps balancing Willie and the gun on his chest. Ben notices thin tendrils of fresh blood coloring the edges of the bandages on Willie’s lower midsection. Mercifully, Ben makes it to the open backdoor. Immediately a zombie coming up the stairs greets him with a low growl. Instinct drives Ben’s leg out and into the big festering corpses chin. He feels the kick break bone as it lifts the zombie up tossing it backwards down the stairs. Ben doesn’t hesitate leaping down the two remaining stairs as the Rotter and two of his kin wallow about on the ground attempting to stand.

  Sara engages the horde approaching them from the rear. The soldier stands a few feet from the open car door giving herself room to retreat. She drops zombies with short three shot burst only to watch as half a dozen more take their brethren’s place. The air around her fills with blue smoke. She is in her zone placing bullets in eye sockets, foreheads and otherwise decimating facial features of the once living. “Someone was on the radio.” Sara’s eyes never leave her targets as she shouts out. “Com’on!” Lawrence barks waving to Ben his shovel in hand again. Lawrence defends their flank between his house and that of his neighbors. The same narrow space that Ben and Sara had used as an escape route earlier. The chunky man pounds a Rotter comically in the face and in the same motion, he shoves the rounded handle into a dead man’s eye. Ben hunkers low running for the safety of car’s open rear door. He is blindsided by a pair of Rotters. Their probing hands grabbing for open exposed flesh. Ben whirls throwing a smaller child zombie in a Boy Scout uniform into the dirt. Over his shoulder, Ben feels cold undead saliva pelting his neck. Fear digs into his gut as he awaits the inevitable bite. He feels the blade of Lawrence’s shovel breeze by his cheek. “Got’em” Lawrence reassures Ben James grabbing him by the shoulders. Lawrence Faulkner rides Ben and Willie into the back of the car as if he were a Secret Service Agent. “Go!” Ben wheezes from under Lawrence’s bulk. He feels something warm soaking into his shirt struggling to breath. “Come in I say again over.” A man’s voice calls from the radio’s microphone. Suddenly Ben feels as if the weight of the world has lifted off his chest literally. Lawrence sits up stretching for the door. The instant he grips it cold hands grasp his wrist. The car lurches forward chewing up gravel and grass in a cloud. The Rotter’s hands slip harmlessly from Lawrence’s arm as a dead postal worker sinks it’s teeth into thin air.

 Ben rights himself noticing the Rorschach pattern of blood on his white shirt. He winces looking at an unconscious Willie. The blood on Willie is now more evident coating his arms and bandages. Ben sits the man up pulling the shotgun onto his lap. “This is Private Locket over.” They hear Sara from the front of the car. “Was it them?” Ben asks a look of hope flickering in his eyes. “No Mr. James I tried that channel.” The car bounces roughly Sara fights to hold on to the wheel. “Lawrence can you tell us how to get to the …” Sara snaps her fingers caught in a bout of absent-mindedness. “They called it the old Olmstead Farm.” Ben interjects. Lawrence stares ahead still breathing heavily. He rubs his smooth meaty chin. “It’s near a subdivision called Clow Oaks I think.” Ben adds his mind travels back to the sub-division they had more than likely burned to the ground. “Is it atop a hill all out by itself?” Lawrence holds a sausage like finger in the air. “Yes … yes …. Yes” Ben shakes the fat man with gusto. “I know where it is!” Lawrence stares blankly out the window as they crash through a small thicket of trees onto a road. “It’s back the way we just came from.” The hope drains from Ben’s face like air leaving a tire. “I say again this is Sara Locket speaking to whoever answered earlier over.” Sara grips the microphone in one hand and the car’s wheel in the other. “Sara ... Sara.” Lawrence slaps at the mesh cage separating them. “What?” She calls back clearly frustrated. “Gone back down this road I know another field we can cross up the road a bit.” Sara spins the big Crown Victoria about and rockets the other way as instructed. “This is Brigadier General Patrick O’Malley Private Locket over.” The hoarse voice is different from the one she heard at the house. Sara almost drops the mic as she attempts to respond. “General O’Malley Sir exactly where are you stationed at Sir?” Sara is practically shouting the question. “Never mind that Private Locket that’s top secret where are you and where is your unit over?” The grizzled electronically tinged voice responds. Sara licks her lips steering the car down a twisting country road. “Ms. Sara…” Lawrence bangs on the mesh gate from the backseat again. “Gone and cut cross this field here.” The man hooks a big thumb in the general direction of a green flowing pasture stretching towards the horizon. Sara doesn’t protest hoping the cruiser over a slight gulley. The car immediately begins to chew up the soft grass ejecting dual pinwheels of dirt. Sara gives the unknown General on the other end of the radio the information he requested. “General O’Malley Sir I was with the unit assigned to St. George’s.” She breathes deeply fighting for control of the car like trying to ride a bucking horse. “We were under the command of Staff Sargent Glass’ detachment sir.” The radio goes silent as Private Lockett powers the big V8 engine mashing her foot on the gas pedal. “Private Lockett how many are you?” General O’Malley’s voice sounds more urgent. Sara imagines the old General sitting closer to the microphone wherever he is. “Sir there are three of us remaining and a group of civilians Sir.” The General’s voice blares from the microphone. “Private are you outside now?” His voice crackles. “Sir ….. Yes we are Sir over” The confusion more than evident in Sara’s voice. “Private you and your people need to go to ground now over.” Sara feels the mic vibrate in her hand as the General’s words explode into the cabin of the police car. Sara is not sure how to answer which is irrelevant. General O’Malley voice booms out an ominous warning. “In approximately nineteen minutes the entire central United States will experience a total solar eclipse.” Sara’s hand begins to succumb to a low electric tremble. Her blood has gone stone cold suddenly she struggles to breath. “Whys that a problem again?” Lawrence muses a smile of ignorance on his face. Ben grabs his shotgun off his lap swallowing the bile rising in his throat. “Cause I assume the Rotters will flip their switches and go all hyper smart on us.” Lawrence turns to Ben his jaw slack open wide enough to catch stray bugs. “Aww now that aint even fair its day time!” Lawrence protest. Sara’s mind pushes the only word it can find free from her lips. “Fuck …” She trails off staring blankly ahead.

Well it looks like the James family is in for one hell of  a family reunion and they will have more than a few unwanted guests.

Come back the week of July 6th for the next Chapter of The Living Dark

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