Aberration (Eulogy Book II)

Hello Readers,

This is the start of the second book in my Eulogy series. I plan to do only three but it may end up being only two. We will see how far my characters are willing to go. I had always intended three but to be honest it is more up to Alex than me. If you read Eulogy then you know Alex has been on a journey of pain, love, loss, and is battling to keep his sanity in check. In Aberration (a working title) He releases the mad man inside. He nurtures his rage and anger and sets out on a path of wanton destruction with only one thing on his mind. Killing. All critiques, thoughts, heckles, and the like are welcome. Thanks for reading -JM

Aberration

1

He woke covered in blood, some old and some fresh from the previous night’s hunt. He had an acidic taste on his swollen tongue. His fingers were numb from the sub-freezing temperatures. Undaunted by the cold the fire still raged in his cracked psyche. He crawled from the wreckage of a half destroyed camper he had made his bed the previous night. He could smell the bodies of the innocent travelers who had been mercilessly killed only a few days before. He had grown accustomed to this smell. Even frozen, the dead still had a noticeable stench. This odor no longer sickened him.

He yawned and stretched surveying the destruction around him.  It was the third group he had discovered since he began hunting them just before winter set in. He had caught a few he believed to be scouts or messengers but they were useless to him. They couldn’t speak English so he had dispatched them with little courtesy and no regrets.

He was a killer. He could do it with no remorse and sleep like a baby the very same night. The days without kills were the ones he found it most difficult to sleep and most of his days were like this. He began carving his kills into the flesh of his left forearm and was pleased to see that it was filling in quite rapidly. There had been fifteen in the first group nine in the second and to his pleasure twenty-three in this last group.

These were trained soldiers he was killing. He sometimes hoped he would die when he went after them then anger would chase away his weakness and he would openly admonish himself. “They all must die, you swore it!” After this thought he would trek on confident in knowing his was a just mission and he would see it through.  He often found himself chuckling at the idea that he, a simple country boy was capable of taking out an entire platoon of trained and heavily armed fighters.

He was aware that he had several key advantages. His first and greatest advantage was the element of surprise. He could see the shock and awe on the faces of these sun hardened men. The look of disbelief that they the holy ones could be thwarted by a single infidel. He gloated and silently cheered himself as he crept across the countryside.

The second advantage he had was that these men had limited communications abilities and were forced to use shortwave radios. He could not understand their language but he learned to track the convoys based on the terrain and signal strength. He tracked one group of these terrorist for two weeks before he caught up.

The third and most important advantage Alex had was the cold. No amount of training could prepare you for a night of negative fifteen degree weather.  He had grown accustomed to it and thrived in it. He traveled lightly and could cover as much ground on foot as his quarry. Despite being well supplied and in large off road vehicles they had no chance of out pacing the ruthless predator that stalked them.

Alex traveled at night to keep his body temperature up. He could easily track the lumbering machines. The moon illuminated the snow so much it was as if the ground were glowing. He would sleep only when his body found it necessary. He was in the best physical condition of his life. He hadn’t eaten or drank anything unhealthy in months and the endless hike was turning what remaining fat stores he had from his lazy days on the couch. “Waiting to die,” into pure muscle.

He had never been characterized as small by any means. It had been his meek personality which made him seem smaller somehow. This was a new world and no one would ever think of this burgeoning titan as meek again. When he stopped to eat he obeyed all the rules he and his former traveling companions had put into effect. He sterilized everything before handling. The only difference now was his diet which consisted of mostly protein shakes, vitamins, and occasionally canned soups when he stumbled upon them.

When his mission began he was not in bad shape at 6’3 270 lbs. After months of hard traveling the former was a complete contrast to the chiseled 225 lbs. he now carried. He did not seem to realize the changes in his appearance. He rarely saw himself, lately the mirrors in the stalled cars he passed were caked with layer upon layer of ice and snow.

He did notice a change in his strength. His mind wandered as he trudged through the waist deep snow. “You almost got me didn’t you?” He asked aloud to the driving snow. He was unsure as to where he was, he sometimes just walked when he wasn’t stalking prey and he had new information to digest.

He remembered the night before. He crept up on the encampment during a complete white out. He almost felt sorry for the men he was about to kill. He had been watching them for days just staying out of sight. Being alone he could hide just about anywhere and not be noticed. Any tracks he left were quickly swallowed by the blowing winds and snow which he had been traversing for what seemed like an eternity.

He had been waiting for a night like tonight. The poor desert dwellers were trying in vain to stay warm. He chuckled as they tried to light a fire repeatedly but the frozen wood and wind had made it nearly impossible. He watched as they formed a circle with their vehicles trying to block the wind and snow. With this and a gallon or two of diesel fuel they were successful.  This was the last thing Alex had been waiting for.

Alex knew that seeing him dressed all in white in a blizzard with fire blind eyes would be near impossible. He was now virtually invisible. Alex treated these usurpers as vermin, nothing more than an infestation that needed eradicating. He treated them just as he and his kind had been treated. He had no mercy and went about his work as anyone would who enjoyed their business.

Alex carried few weapons these days, he found at the first Army reserve station he came to that it had been emptied of weapons. It was soon after he tracked down the first smaller platoon and discovered they were the weapons thieves. He got lucky and quite by accident discovered the offices of a blasting company. He used the munitions he found to dispose of the first group of interlopers. Periodically as he travelled he would find a phone book and seek companies such as these and help himself to their blasting supplies.

He smiled as he remembered crawling in a wide arc around the trucks creeping up every so often to carefully place more charges. The fools weren’t even posting a guard. Well why would they? He thought. They couldn’t know I would be out here. His grin widened as he remembered sending the charge through the wires.

The roar of the detonation was deafening. The blast created a reverse snow globe effect. There was a huge ball of fire and flying debris. He wished he would have had the foresight to have brought a camera. The devastation in that moment was a thing of beauty. The illusion was short-lived and quickly dispelled as the debris began raining down around him along with miscellaneous charred limbs. He ducked behind a large oak hoping he would not fall victim to his own handy work.

He stood cautiously with pistol in hand and surveyed the damages. Everything was destroyed. All eight of the charges intended for leveling old buildings had blown. He was getting better with this type of work. On the first two attacks not all had detonated.

It was then he saw movement just to the left of the biggest crater. He had missed one. He was on him in a flash before the stunned man could react. He appeared shaken but not seriously injured. When Alex pinned the much smaller man to the icy ground he began to yell in his native tongue. Alex pressed the muzzle of his 9mm into the soft exposed flesh of the man’s throat. There was already a round chambered as Alex had grown accustomed to doing. He was always prepared.

The man’s yells ceased and he closed his eyes seemingly preparing for death.

“English?” Asked Alex expecting to receive no reply or possibly more of the incoherent language his victims spoke.

Very clearly but terribly shaken, the man answered, “Yes, I speak it well.”

Alex was stunned. He had spoken to no other English speaking person since the day he buried his wife. This thought caused a lump in his throat and he quickly forced the memory away. Without warning he hit the man hard in the head with the grip of his gun rendering him unconscious.  He then tied the man to a tree and waited for him to wake.

Alex was deep in thought when he was drug from his reverie “please, I mean you no harm. I am a scholar. I was a doctor before all this. I had no choice. I had to work with these zealots to ensure the safety of my family.” The man’s plea angered Alex. Had this man traded Alex’s friends and family for his own? Yes, Alex thought. He had.

“Where were you going? What was your mission?” Alex was stern and the man knew this was his last day on earth. This man had struck without warning in the harshest weather he had ever known against twenty three heavily armed men alone. Yes he would soon be dead and he would tell this man whatever he wanted to know.

“I will tell you what you need to know. What was done by our leaders was unconscionable. I know I will die here today and you are right in doing so. If by chance you release me and I survive and rejoin my superiors I will, however unwillingly, be working against you again. I sir am, as I said a man of science. I hold a doctorate in Mechanical Engineering from MIT. I will die with dignity. I will for my part do what is right. In an attempt to save myself and my family I have gone against all that I know is right and true.” He was silent.

Alex felt the man’s confession was honest but was still wary just the same. He spoke only one word. “Continue.”

“You know the plague had not been expected to spread so far or so fast. Our people were decimated just like everyone else. It came quickly but what was not known to anyone was that our leaders had known. Only the highest up knew what would happen. It was on a need to know basis. They called it the second flood. They were willing to sacrifice our own people in order to rid the world of the non-believers. In the story of the flood, God saved Noah and his family to start over. This is not a bible story sir; they saved only people with skills, allegiances, and money.

They began moving scientists like me, soldiers, various tradesmen, and others with useful skills to isolated encampments which were under quarantine. They used extreme caution and began the quarantines weeks before the virus was to be released. The story that was given about these quarantines was fictitious but who is going to question such a thing?

When the news reports began to trickle in, it was obvious as to what was going on. We had been spared when the rest of the world had been left to rot. There was a great deal of dissension amongst us and there were a few executions of the loudest of the naysayers. This quickly quelled any further argument. We were frightened. We all had family and friends who were left behind.  Darkness fell over our camp.

They waited until the reports stopped and they pooled our resources. They began trucking us slowly cross country carefully avoiding all populated areas and preparing us for our journey here. Our families are to be sent to us after we have settled and secured several strategic areas. These men you killed were escorting me to various power plants and strategic sites and my job is to disable them and to gain as much Intel as possible on other possible targets.

There are at least 100 different groups here now ranging in size from five to fifty men strong. They are all on different missions of this sort. We came by ships and were ferried on land by helicopter. Our ultimate mission is to colonize and…” He paused for the first time since he’d began speaking, knowing his next words would probably enrage this silent blue eyed giant whose gaze had not yet faltered from his face as he spoke. He gained his composure and finished despite the weight of his words, “and to exterminate any and all remaining indigenous peoples.”

Alex’s expression did not change with this revelation. Alex had already guessed this from the bodies he had found and from the carnage he had discovered in his own home months earlier. Yes they were here and they intended to stay.

The man waited for Alex to reply wondering how painful his death would be. He deserved it after all. His people, the ones he swore allegiance to had killed nearly the entire population of the world. They all deserved a tortuous death. He silently prayed.

“Where are the others?” He was angry, but he was always angry. This man’s story had made him no more or less so. It was an even burn Alex felt, nothing seemed to fade it. He was consumed with his obsession. He just wanted to know in which direction his next victims awaited.

He had expected this question and answered with no hesitation. “I know there is another group twenty miles north of here. Their mission is not known to me. We passed briefly a few weeks ago and we camped together for a night. As far as the others, all I can say is that we are here to take control of the power and most important resources or to destroy what we can’t control. We are seeking power plants, gas companies, water treatment facilities, and things of that nature. It is going to be a long effort. We are the advance groups. There will be others, many others. The ships have returned and are readying the next shipments.

Nearly half a million useful and trained people are coming. You may be in the right my friend, but you are terribly outnumbered.” As he finished Alex searched his face for a hint of satisfaction in this last damning statement but there was none. All that the man’s face held was remorse and guilt. Alex almost felt sorry for him, almost.

Alex turned and dug into his duffle bag. The man knew his time was short so he prayed. Alex could hear him under his breath and gave him ample time to finish. Alex mused momentarily that he would probably enjoy talking to this man under any other circumstances. He was educated and spoke with a refined air. Even tied to a tree he managed to hold himself together with a dignified presence.

Alex turned slowly and the man held his breath expecting to be torn to shreds in a hail of gunfire but it was not what greeted him. Alex had a small crystal decanter the man could see he had wrapped with care. He held two crystal snifters into each he poured two stiff Brandies. It was aged and very expensive. Alex kept it stocked to knock the chill out on the worst nights. Alex drank his quickly and despite his faith’s intolerance for alcohol the man did not object when the second snifter was put to his lips. He drank as quickly as Alex poured it into his mouth. His last thought was how warm and delicious this drink was.

Alex had laced the man’s glass with cyanide. “Thank you.” Alex said to the slumped corpse which had been so informative only moments earlier. He rose, dropped the glasses to the ground, he then took a long pull from the decanter. He returned the 400 dollar piece of fine crystal to its wrappings and safely tucked it away. Alex hoisted his pack and headed north.

Surviving Cleveland

(I began this several years ago, it is my story, well at least the part I’m willing to tell.)

Surviving Cleveland

 

Many times I have heard people say everything happens for a reason. I have heard others call in Karma as the great mediator of life’s events. These things I do not truly grasp or hold much confidence in any longer.

I am no one you have ever heard of nor am I some well-educated scholar with a new philosophy that will change your life. I’m just a guy who’s been beat up a bit by the occurrences in my life. I think I am writing this more or less for my sanity. Writing has always been a way for me to create physical renderings of my inner demons. I forget the bad to a point where it’s like all the “bad” that happened didn’t exist. I guess this can be a good survival tool but from what I know of psychology repressing bad experiences is not a healthy means of coping.

Then: I was one of those people who never stopped talking. I loved to learn and would become fascinated by the oddest things. I enjoyed it and happily referred to my behavior as “nerding out.” Susie used to pick on me for it but she seemed to enjoy my ravenous ranting on whatever new topic I was all wrapped up in. She always made me feel so right and so loved. I will talk far more about my Susie later I am getting ahead of myself. I wasn’t always but I had evolved into a hyper-motivated person. Just about everything I did was for the betterment of mine and Susie’s life.

Now: I am withdrawn and I find myself putting forth an effort to have even the simplest conversations with people. I feel rude for this because I sometimes find it hard to keep up with what’s being talked about. All the many things I used to get so wrapped up in annoy me now. I feel anger because I think of all the time wasted learning and doing my “nerding out” activities when I could have been spending more time with the people I love. I am now anti-motivated. I have gone a very long time when just getting out of bed is more than I can bare. Some days I feel that stubbornness is the only thing that allows me to do anything.

“I don’t understand how you haven’t killed yourself,” this was recently asked of me by someone who loves me. She was referring to the events of the past few years and I didn’t know how to answer. At the time I still had hope. I suppose that’s why. I still had love in my heart and somewhere deep inside a desire to do more or better depending on what day you asked me.

In conclusion, I am writing this because I never want to forget a single wonderful, horrid, beautiful, or heart breaking minute of it. I will leave this intro at this. I have only ever loved two women in my life and if you choose to continue I will tell you about them.

[This I began long ago but I would become so mired in despair as I began to delve into the recesses of my mind I’d ultimately ramble on for five pages then delete the results. This is something I repeated numerous times. I have sent no less than fifty pages of my lyrical meanderings to that great recycle bin in the sky. So now it’s years later and that last sentence above needs a slight rewrite. “I have only ever loved three women in my life and if you choose to continue I will tell you about them.]

Part I My Susie

 

I have a past just as you do. It’s nothing spectacular and I can’t say I accomplished anything grander than getting off parole early back in 1999 because I was a model parolee. If you must know I went to prison for crimes I committed in 1991 at the ripe old age of sixteen. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I actually became incarcerated for these crimes. [That in itself is a story which could fill its own book.] Not to downplay the severity of my actions but that was twenty two years ago and I’m not even ashamed of it any longer. It was a stupid drunken teenage rampage and nothing more. I didn’t hurt anyone I just hurt people’s things.

I have battled with depression in its many noted manifestations since I was fifteen years old. At first they said it was “depression.” By age twenty I was labeled with “chronic depression.” It was in my mid-twenties that I was upgraded to “manic depression, bi-polar II” with a laundry list of symptoms. It was around this time that I came to live alone in this little house in the middle of nowhere. It was one of the most peaceful times of my life. I worked only two days a week twelve hours each day on Saturday and Sunday.

I sometimes went weeks without seeing people save for the days I worked and I loved it. I would write when I wanted, I would fish, sleep, work in the yard, or just clean the house. I was so relaxed during this time. Things had been coming to a head for so long that I needed that long break. It was wonderful. I actually kept a normal schedule at this point in my life. I was up early I slept at a normal hour. I found the solitude to be very therapeutic. I got a great deal accomplished during the course of a day. I didn’t have any issues with depression or anything of the sort until many years later.

After a time I ended up moving and changing jobs. I decided it was time to get back into living life and I had a plan. I got a great job working for a friend of mine and actually moved out to his place for convenience. We were replacing carpet and vinyl floors in motels up and down the east coast and Midwest. It was well paying and I was planning to move to another state once I had enough money saved up which wasn’t going to take long and then it happened.

It was April 7th 2006 we had been working for weeks in and around Cleveland Ohio and we were exhausted. The weather had been horrible the entire trip and we needed to relax. So we went out one night after we had finished for the day and that’s when it happened. That’s when all my plans got smashed. That’s when I met her, my sweet, shy, quiet, beautiful, Susie.

I was nearly asleep on my feet sipping a jack and coke when my buddy tapped me on the shoulder as I turned I heard him say “this is Jeff.” I looked down into her eyes and at that moment I knew this was the woman I was going to spend forever with. I never believed in love at first sight or any of that but I’ve learned as I’ve grown older you don’t have to believe in something for it to be true.

We spent every moment we could together. I was moving from location to location as my job demanded and each day when I was finished I would call and she would be there to pick me up. Each morning she would drop me off at 7am before I had to work again. It finally happened our work took us to Toledo and it just so happened to be on a Friday and she drove all the way there so we could spend the night together. We were so very happy. I had never experienced anything like it. I was 100% in love with this woman and she was in love with me. I didn’t get to see here for a week or so after that. Not until the next trip. It just so happened we were driving through Cleveland and my buddies new I wanted to see her so they dropped me off and let me skip the Michigan leg of our trip. I was so happy. I loved those guys for that, and so did she.

It was her birthday and I got to be there with her. She drove me to North Carolina shortly after and I got my things and came back with her. It had only been weeks but I felt like I had known her my whole life. She made me feel so good about myself. She was what I had been missing my entire life but I didn’t realize it until I found her.

I won’t say our relationship was perfect it wasn’t at first. We had some rough times. I am a little hard to handle. She had been through a horrible relationship and had a hard time trusting. She later told my mother that she felt guilty because it took her two years before she fully trusted me.

[So I say to you dear reader, be wary of how you treat people

because if you hurt someone enough you can

 negatively impact every relationship they will ever have.]

 

In contrast I dole out trust like I’m trying to get rid of it and that has caused me nothing but pain and heartache. She was the exception. In all of our time together she never once hurt me. We had nearly five years together and I think we averaged about one argument a year. Once we had been together a few years then yes I can say we had the perfect relationship. I looked forward to coming home to her and I missed her when she wasn’t there. It was true happiness.

With her by my side I started college working on two separate Networking degrees and at this I excelled. With few exceptions, I had excellent grades. I’m not much for algebra I am afraid to say. I made the Dean’s List and I saw her watching me as the Dean handed me the award. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. I would have never made it that far without her by my side. She was truly a magnificent woman. She was a giving soul without equal. My God I loved that girl so much.

We always had the neatest looking house. Halloween decorations were up year round and our eclectic taste of décor. I always felt so at home. Whenever we moved the first thing I did was hang her wooden spider in its web in some visible corner of the new living room. This always made her smile. I would say we’re home now and plop down somewhere only to be run back out to the moving truck to unload the rest of our things.

It was October of 2009 when the headaches started. Susie had three appointments with her doctor and each time was prescribed an anti-biotic which did nothing to ease the pain. Finally she was referred to an ENT and was quickly diagnosed with a polyp with no real testing just a brief exam lasting maybe two minutes.

The polyp removal surgery was done the following week I took her home. She was in a tremendous amount of pain. She called the doctor’s office who assured her this was perfectly normal but I knew better. She was not one to complain of pain even when she was hurt. I was getting more and more worried.

The Sunday morning following the surgery she yelled for me when she woke up. She was in tears and said my eye is messed up. We spent three days in the hospital affiliated with the doctor who performed the polyp removal surgery but were finally told by a nurse that we should go to the Cleveland Clinic because they didn’t know what to do and no matter how much of the pain medication they gave her they couldn’t ease her suffering.

A few days later the head of the ENT department at the Cleveland Clinic Dr. Knott, performed surgery on my fiancée. He and the other doctors saved her life. The problem was she never had a polyp. She had cancer and the “polyp removal surgery” punctured a hole in the rear of her nasal cavity and caused the protective fluid around the brain to start leaking out. That’s why she was in so much pain.

Susie was far tougher than I’ll ever be I can assure you of that. She endured weeks upon weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. The type of cancer she had was Rhabdomyosarcoma. This is a rare childhood cancer and she was the first adult ever to set foot in the Taussig Cancer Institute at the Cleveland Clinic with it. That’s saying something considering it is the number one rated cancer center in North America.

I have written about her struggle and honestly I don’t want to delve too far into that subject here. I don’t want to talk about how she died. I want to talk about how she lived. The disease changed our lives and her passing forever changed me. So yes I must mention the affliction which ultimately took her away.

We were very busy creatures her and I. She worked for a large bank’s processing center there in Cleveland. She for the most part liked her job. She had been there for several years before her and I met. She had two cats, Punkin and Gobby, of which I am highly allergic and a dog named Roxy whom thought she was a cat. The cats spent so much time trying to cuddle with Roxy that I was allergic to her as well.

We tried every remedy and every allergy pill on the market and finally I went and saw an allergist. The shots were the answer and I was all for it. She decided to take the cats to her mother’s instead. That’s how much she loved me.

In the beginning I was having trouble finding a decent job so I started working at a local convenience store third shift. The hours were horrible and we were apart a great deal. We decided we were going to move to Maryland where I got an awesome job and went ahead as the advanced party. She was driving down on the weekends interviewing on Mondays using up her vacation days. The separation was rough but by some twist of fate I injured myself pretty significantly about three days before I began my new job.

I was told to stay off my foot for months. I couldn’t because we were trying to get relocated and part of that required two incomes. I worked injured as I was for over three months and by the time I threw in the towel, [Susie told me to come home so she could take care of me] my right foot had changed to many colors and had swollen to an unnatural size. It was green and purple and yellow and some colors I can’t begin to identify. I walked with a limp for over two years. Even now all these years later when I am tired or have been on my feet too long the limp creeps back into being as if it never left.

About a year and a half after returning to Ohio I enrolled at Cuyahoga Community College. In the beginning I had two jobs. I worked as a custodian at the Berea Children’s Home and I was a bouncer at a local bar with a bad reputation. It was a busy existence but I did truly enjoy our life together. After three or four months I let the bouncing job go. It was taking up far too much of our weekend.  My weekdays began at 6:30am and didn’t end until 4:00am. I was going for two Networking degrees as well as a minor in Literature. We only had one good solid “us” day a week but we made it work.

[I shall break for now but I will return to add more in due time. I take the writing of this slow because it tears at my heart strings far beyond anything else I have ever written. Thank you for your patience dear reader. This is the literary equivalent of me moving my own personal mountain of doubt and remorse. That mountain is all my fears come to pass, my nightmares realized, and every imaginable “WTF!” one can imagine…]

           

Hansel and Grethel (a retelling)

(So I found this going through some old files from my back up hard drive. I wrote this for a children’s literature class I was enrolled in. Susie’s condition worsened and I never even handed this in to be graded. We were to rewrite a child’s fairy tale and I chose this one. It was the first and only time I attempted to directly rewrite someone else’s story.  I hope you enjoy what I tried to do here. It was fun. Thank you. – JM)

Hansel and Grethel

As written by

Jeffery Vogel

2010

Eng 2601

Hansel and Grethel (a reimagining)

            This is a tale of two children who lived on the edge of a large forest with their parents; the boy, Hansel and his sister Grethel. Theirs was a sad story for their parents had no food left to feed them. The children lay awake far too hungry to sleep when they heard their mother speaking to their father. What they heard sent chills down their spines.

“Husband there is no food left to feed the children, we must get rid of them right away. How shall we feed ourselves, shall we all four die of hunger?”

“But dear wife they are our children how could you be so cold?” Hearing their father speak these words, the children wondered the same thing.

It did not take her long to convince him; even the children noticed some subtle change in their mother’s voice. Their father’s objections faded to nothing more than an accepting groan.

“We shall take them deep in the woods and leave them; they will never find their way home.” The mother’s voice was calm and gentle, as reassuring as any mother’s would be accept for the terrible words she spoke.

Hansel spoke softly to his sister, “dear sister, I know what has happened, two nights past I heard a noise and awoke startled. I followed the sound outside; it led me down past the woodshed. I could see a bright almost heavenly light seeming to flow between the trees from deep in the old wood.”

“Were you not terrified brother? I could not have gone alone and seen such things I would have fallen feint.” Grethel was still shaking and her voice quivered as she spoke.

“I was frightened but I could not stop myself from wandering deeper.” He stopped and pondered what he had seen, trying to decide the best way to relate his tale to his sister.

“Well?”  Grethel ordered. “What did you see?”

“Sorry sister, I was lost in my own foolish head. I followed the light or was it the sound? My feet were finding their own way, as if by magic. It was as if I had no control over my own parts. I have never felt in such a way before, I felt like I was dreaming.”

Grethel was terrified and growing impatient to hear what Hansel saw but was too fearful of what she may learn from his answer to ask again.

“I came to a clearing and the light was so bright I could not look directly at it, there was a sound and it was then I knew that the sound had been calling to me. That’s when I saw her come from the center of the light as though she was in that moment born. She was wearing her night clothes outside!” Hansel was again thinking and grew silent.

“Who, who did you see?” Grethel could no longer tolerate another long silence so close to hearing the end.

“Mother, It was mother. She was the same but not the same. Her eyes were red like coals but as I stood watching they changed back to her normal lovely blue. Before the change she seemed not to see, perhaps that is why she did not know she was dressed so.”

“What has happened to our mother? She would never dare set foot out of her dressing room in such a state, what if someone had seen?” Grethel was mortified at the thought of being seen in her nightgown.

“I do not know. I hid behind a tree and right before my eyes…” Hansel trailed off again lost to his memories.

Grethel did not like the look on her brothers face and shook him till he became aware and he continued. “I ran and ran as fast as I could. The sun was creeping over the trees, I had been outside for hours but it only seemed a few moments. When I woke I thought it was all a dream. I prayed it was all a dream. When I was dressing I saw that my shoes were filthy, I still thought it was a dream.” Hansel was trying to convince himself but his attempts at self reassurance failed.

The children were frightened; revealing his tale to his sister had done little to dispel his own fear from the encounter in the woods. This did not make sense to them, they were terrified.

It was Grethel who broke the silence. “Father, we must tell father. She must be possessed by some evil beast or perhaps she is bewitched, yes that must be it a witch has taken mother!”

Hansel sluggishly nodded his approval and the children waited until they heard their mother’s rhythmic breathing. She was sound asleep.

“Father, wake up please.” Urged the shaking Grethel as Hansel stood blank faced. Grethel was not noticing the change in her brother’s demeanor. If she had she would have noticed that each time he thought of the encounter and remembered the night he grew more docile. His face was losing expression. In the dark and in such a hurry to quietly wake her father these things she did not notice.

Their loving father woke without a sound, he just starred blank facedly and spoke only three words, “Your bidding master?”

To this the mother who was no mother at all bolted from the bed and with a grotesquely distorted and serpentine like arm grabbed at Grethel, but the girl was faster.  Hansel was watching eyes wide but no sound issued from his mouth.

“Oh no Hansel not you too!” Screamed Grethel, she saw that what ever her mother witch had done to their father was now starting to take hold of Hansel. She quickly reacted as the mother monster crept closer to her and began throwing anything she could find to block her path.

Grethel threw clothes and finally through pure luck in the dark she found a blanket and she threw it over the mother imposter. This gave her enough time to grab Hansel by the arm and get him moving out the door.

Half pulling, half dragging she got Hansel down the stairs and out into the woods. She had been wary of the woods at night for fear of the wild things that live there but tonight nothing seemed scarier than her own mother witch.

Her mind raced trying to figure out what had happened. Slowly her brother regained his senses and after some time he stopped bewildered and asked, “Grethel what in the world are we doing so deep in the woods at night?”

“Do you not remember?” She was frightened and was certain that her brother may have been in shock but for him to have no memories of the terrible scene they had just fled doubled her fears.

“We were in our room talking and I must have dozed off.” He was completely unaware of anything happening.

Grethel quickly recounted the story and Hansel did seem to remember it but only as if he had dreamt it.  As they stood they realized they had never been this deep in the woods and they decided they needed to leave a trail to find their way home. Grethel had a piece of bread; it was half her dinner from earlier that night. Hansel would drop a bread crumb every so often so they would be able to at least find their way back to the spot and from there they could get home. They needed help so they wandered ever deeper in the hopes they could find a woodsman’s shack. They believed if they could find a big strong man he could save their father and hopefully return their mother to them.

They walked until they could walk no more and there on the ground where they stopped to rest they slept. They did not wake until well past noon. They were hungry and it was then Hansel noticed that even the closest pieces of bread he had dropped were nowhere to be seen.

“Oh no Grethel, the crumb trail is gone! We are lost!” Hansel’s eyes began to tear up as he yelled at the unresponsive trees.

“Quiet now!” Grethel demanded. “How can I think with you howling like a banshee?”

It was true they were hopelessly lost, but their mission had not changed they needed to find someone, anyone, only then would their family be saved. At last Grethel spoke. “We shall mark the trees; scratch the bark so we shall know if we have passed it before.”

Hansel was overcome with grief and trudged along quietly. Occasionally Grethel would see his eyes begin to glaze over but as the hours passed this seemed to lesson. Hansel was not quite himself but he was improving as night began to fall.

“Oh dear brother, we are saved! Look there, a light, it is a cottage!” Grethel ran towards the source of light with Hansel close behind. As they reached the cottage they were both speechless for the cottage was made of candy and cakes and all manner of delicious treats.

Hansel immediately set to eating a gingerbread flower box covered with rich icing. Grethel more cautious than her foolish brother broke off a small piece of a shutter which was made of peanut brittle. She sniffed cautiously and gave it a little taste, once she was convinced it was good she began to eat voraciously.

With a loud bang and a cackle a long bony arm came through the open window and snatched Hansel by the collar of his night shirt pulling him effortless into the house. Grethel saw this with amazement for the arm looked frail and weak but was deceptively strong.

Grethel found that though the urge to run was upon her she could not move, she was more sleepy than she had ever thought possible. She stretched out on the ground just below the gingerbread flower box and slept soundly.

She awoke when she was poked hard in the back with an old broom stick. “Wake up missy!” The old witch demanded.

Grethel’s mind raced. “It is you, you are the one who bewitched our mother!” she was frightened, but could not stop the words from coming. “I demand you give us our mother back!”

The witch was taken aback, usually the children who fell into her trap were scared and sheepish, but this one surprised her. “Missy you just hush up that nonsense, I have no use for mothers or fathers it is children I desire. Now you have work to do, your going to help me fatten up that scrawny brother of yours so I can eat him. If you give me any trouble I’ll eat you to!” The witch was sure this would quell the girl’s impetuous nature.

To the witch’s dismay this only riled the girl further. She saw that Grethel’s face had turned the darkest crimson. “You are lying!” Blurted Grethel she stepped closer to the witch. The witch retreated back a step.

This made the old hag think a moment. “What have you seen girl that would make you fearlessly speak to me so? In all my years I have never been spoken to in such a way, not even by grown folks.” It was then the witch allowed her eyes to turn to their true color, a dark glowing red.

In spite of scaring the girl into submission as the witch hoped, Grethel’s resolve was strengthened. This is indeed the witch who had taken their mothers place. “See you have the eyes you are the one who took my mother!”

The witch’s anger had grown she raised the handle of the broom to strike the girl but before she let the blow fall the girl’s words began to sink in. “You have seen such eyes as mine girl?”

“No, but my brother has”, he saw you in the woods when you turned into our mother!” Grethel was angry, scared, sad, but most of all angry.

“Interesting little one, there are no others in this part of the world like myself. I have lived many generations and never seen a single one of my kind. Perhaps there is a new arrival. This is not at all good for you or me you senseless child.” The witch’s tone was not as menacing as before; it had grown a curious air.

Grethel was trying to think of what to do, could it be there are two witches. The thought of one was bad enough, but the thought of two, well that was far worse. If this witch did not know of the other and it is bad for her maybe this could be good for us.

“So you are not the one who took our mother and entranced our father?” Grethel asked.

“Of course not you daft girl! I thought surely you would be smarter than that dim-whit out in my shed. Perhaps I was wrong.” The witch was lost in thought and the girl’s interruption warranted a thump with the broom handle. “We witches can never be to close you see, we need children to make our brews and stews which make us live. Too many witches in one place attracts too much attention, silly people will start to wonder where their little ones have gone.”

Grethel had a plan, she did not know if it would work but she had to try. She would go along with this witch’s desires, seeing the old hag’s annoyance at the thought of another witch in her area. Grethel decided to use that for her own good. She calmed herself.

She accommodated every whim of the old woman, occasionally when the moment was right she would mention something about the mother imposter. “I have never seen anyone or anything so strong! She can change her appearance with out a thought! You don’t think she is stronger than you, do you?” This went on for days, to the witch’s annoyance.

Hansel, Grethel had found, was locked in a shed heavily chained with no hope of escape. She whispered to him on the first day. “Do whatever she says brother I have a way to right things, I just need some time.” Hansel agreed and things went thusly for five more days.

Hansel ate and slept. Grethel cleaned, cut wood and did anything else the witch demanded of her. On the fifth day the witch said “that brother of yours will be ripe tomorrow and I am going to bake him in this oven so you need to clean it out and fetch some wood.” It was now or never Grethel thought.

“Mistress I have an idea that might solve two problems for you at once.” Grethel had taken to calling the old hag mistress in an attempt to show respect, the witch had not argued but seemed to rather enjoy it.

“Oh have you now missy?” The witch was intrigued for the girl was clever and not only had she jabbed at the witch’s pride she had tried to boost her ego as well by feigning interest in becoming a witch herself.

“Oh yes, I have been thinking since we got here, since there are two witches and you need children to make your brews and stews that the mother witch must have been going to cook us herself. Perhaps she is weak and long without food.”

“Dear child, you are wise. What is it you have in mind?”

“My brother you see is so plump and ready for cooking; perhaps we could use him as bait to bring the mother monster out in the open. You being more powerful than she is could kill her and take her power. There are very few children in our village; two witches will be too many to go unnoticed.”

The witch was wary as witches tend to be, she felt like the girl was up to something. “What is in this for you lass, why are you so willing to help me?”

“I want to be a witch. I always have to do what I am told and my brother being a boy can come and go as he pleases! My chores never cease!” Grethel was as convincing as she could be.

Grethel never expecting this, but the witch’s crooked mouth widened into an unnatural smile that sent chills down her spine, but this she hid well.

Grethel told the witch of her village, the witch knew it well. For over the centuries when no children wandered close she had to go and capture them herself. Grethel’s plan was to have her brother, who was now fully under the witch’s control after eating a weeks worth of bewitched goodies, would walk up and simply knock on the door. The mother monster would simply think he had wandered lost and hungry for a week and had haplessly wandered home. Grethel and the old hag would be waiting out of sight ready to attack.

The old witch had promised if Grethel helped in this task she would be given the secrets that only witches know. Grethel pretended to be pleased.

Though they had walked countless hours to come to the old hag’s candy cottage it took merely minutes to reach their village. Indeed the old hag had power, but Grethel was growing nervous that the mother imposter may actually be stronger.

The witch instructed Hansel and set him to his task. Grethel and the witch hid behind a large tree just off the corner of the house. Hansel knocked and no sound issued for such a long moment that they began to fear the mother monster had moved on.

A light flashed on in the parent’s room, unnaturally bright. Not candle light, something else. It was something sinister Grethel surely thought. Even the old hag seemed unnerved by it. The sounds of heavy footfalls echoed through the house and out the dusty windows into the night air. The anticipation was almost more than Grethel could stand. She nearly shrieked when the door slowly creaked open. Unaware, Hansel stood there stupidly slouching with his hands hanging listlessly by his sides.

In the doorway stood Grethel’s mother; she as beautiful as ever. Her blue eyes beamed in the darkness, as if illuminated by some inner light. “Ah you’ve returned. Where is your sister?” The mother witch softly asked.

Hansel turned towards the tree, at that moment the mother imposter burst through the door just as the old hag rounded the tree. They stared at each other; both seemed very surprised to see each other. Twenty feet of earth separated these two menacing creatures.

“You are not like the others.” Softly spoke the mother imposter.

“Child this is no witch.” The old hag spoke gravely.

“What are you old woman, why have you come to seek me out?” The mother monster asked pleasantly.

“A witch I be, older than even I remember. No more of us I imagine. I came here because I were told there was another witch here.” She answered, curiously she added. “Now what might ye be?”

The mother witch’s eyes blazed red, her limbs began to change, she began to grow larger. “I ask the questions and you dear witch shall make a fine addition to our collection!”

“Collect me! We will see who gets collected!” The old hag grew fierce all the while Grethel watched in horror. What ever it was that had taken their mother was far worse than the old hag who intended to eat her brother. She gained her composure as the two monsters began to circle each other. She crept around the yard to her dazed brother and pulled him into a hedge. They needed to run but she had to see what was to happen.

The two seemed to grow larger. Clumps of earth were raised and circled in the air about the old hags form. No longer frail and weak in appearance. Grethel had only heard stories of such things, monsters able to change their shape to any they desired.

When the old hag took a step towards the now completely misshapen mother imposter lightning struck the ground around her and the earth shook. Fire shot from the old woman’s eyes and the thing that had been their mother made an unearthly noise and jumped back. It was hurt but this only slowed its reaction a mere second. It retaliated with light, blazing red and blue so bright it stung Grethel’s eyes to watch. The light struck the witch in the shoulder and with an ear splitting screech she stumbled to her knees.

The mother witch no longer resembled their mother. It was now twice her height the arms were larger and much longer. The fingers were much too long; the same was true for the legs and toes. Grethel gasped when the thing that had been her mother scanned the bushes seeking their hiding place. Its head was tall and askew, the closest thing Grethel could liken it to would have been a green giant gourd. The eyes were lifeless, colorless slits, these too were abnormally proportioned. Even Grethel crouched petrified as if bewitched like her brother. Her paralysis was fear induced unlike her brother’s magic induced stupor.

While distracted by the search for the children the [not] witch mother took her eyes off the witch. Commanding the air and earth the old witch hurled dozens of rocks and chunks of earth at the no longer mother thing. These hit home and when the mother thing screeched into the night Grethel nearly collapsed. The sound had seemed to pierce her ear drums and left her with a intense feeling of vertigo.

The old witch did not let up for a moment. Before the mother thing could retaliate the old hag was launching trees, farm equipment, lumber, and even parts of the out buildings and parts of the house were torn free and battering the screeching wailing mother thing.

The witch had created a vortex firmly around the mother monster. Stone and wood and steel battered it ceaselessly. It was hurt and in a final attempt to end this fight the old hag sent the weather vane straight through what passed for its chest. Grethel knew their plight was yet to be over but at least with this mother thing gone they might have a chance of escape and reuniting their family.

“Hansel, the witch killed the monster, we need to run away now.” Grethel whispered to her brother not wanting to attract any unwanted attention. Her plan was going to work. The witch was wounded and exhausted. The battle had taken its toll. They needed to flee. Grethel could hear Hansel was speaking in a very soft voice. She leaned in to hear.

Slowly as he began to drool on his nightshirt, Hansel spoke one last time. “It was some kind of coach with no horses, it moved freely and it flew into the sky like a bright round bird.”

There was a flash and Grethel could see the witch consumed in the brightest most brilliant light she had ever seen. She watched the witch scream as she was seemingly melted in the bright light. The light was upon her now and as she saw her fingers begin to melt away, there was no pain, only warmth, she lost consciousness.

Hansel, Grethel, their father, their mother, and the witch were never heard from or seen again. All that remained of their home was a scorched hole large enough to fit their house in three times over. Many years later the place seemed untouched even by the dense forest which surrounded it. Nothing would grow inside this scorched ring and it became known as an evil place to be avoided.

fin…

Eulogy Post XII

newskull

(This is the last post from Eulogy. The entire book is now posted in my blog. I would appreciate any critiques you may have. If you took the time to read it all, thank you! 🙂 I certainly hope you enjoyed it.

– JM)

Mark/Anna 18

 

Anna was driving like an old pro, this Mark was proud of. He knew she was a survivor and he couldn’t imagine anyone he’d rather be with on this weird post-apocalyptic journey. The first few days had been uneventful; they had stopped at a hardware store and filled his trailer with gas cans. Then they had stopped at a gas station and pried open the lid to the tanks and used a modified kerosene pump to fill all the cans.

 

They had made incredibly good time, they were completely self-efficient, and didn’t need to stop unless they needed to use the bathroom. Whenever one of them needed to they would just yell out “BIO”, it was a term Mark had picked up from an online video game he used to play, meaning: biological function.

 

They rode side by side when traffic permitted, traffic Mark thought was a morbid way to think of it. Usually  being stuck in traffic meant you were trying to get somewhere. Now it meant you were dead, or at least stuck trying to get around the dead.

 

Alex had picked up a nice CB at the ATV store, this he had attacked to the 4 wheeler, and ran it using batteries. He had tried regularly to get a signal, and a few times he thought he had heard something. He was a bit downhearted that he had not once in three days heard a single voice.

 

It had rained several times the past few days, and he was worried they would get sick. They were riding along steadily, and he had the CB on as usual draining battery after battery. There was a loud burst of static and then he heard, “ello…one……there.” He stopped and killed the engine. Anna did the same.

 

Mark ecstatic threw off his helmet and grabbed the hand set, “Hello I hear you!”

 

“E…got…sumbody….ed.” It sounded like a woman’s voice, but was hard to tell.

 

“I can barely hear you,” Mark yelled at the handset, sure they were having as much trouble hearing , as he was.

 

“We..ear you..ine, lease..on’t ell.” Came a different voice, an older man maybe, hard to tell.

 

Anna giggled at Mark, Mark smiled back. “Sorry, we can only hear bits and pieces of what you are saying.”

 

“Copy, will try..nd..alk..lower..so you can..ear us.’ Slowly spoke what he was now sure was a woman’s voice.

 

“Thank you, we are on 4 wheelers, and my CB is running off low battery power.” Mark told them.

 

“Copy, ow many are ith you?” Asked the man.

 

“Just two of us, we have only seen one other person alive, he was sick, got sick after everyone else was dead, he tried to kill us.” Mark told them matter of fact like.

 

“We are lad you re safe. There are our of us, be areful, some of the ealthy vivors are killing eople oo.” The static filled voice of a younger man broke through.

 

He understood every word, then thought to himself, that’s just fucking great, survive this bull shit just to be attacked and killed, what the hell could someone possibly want, everything is free. Then it hit him, he had thought the diseased man who had attacked them had only done so because he was delirious. Then every movie, book, news article, expose, and story he’d ever heard about rape. They would want the women. He tried to shake this thought off.

 

Anna noticed the distressed look on his face and asked. “What’s wrong Mark? This is great, there are more people.”

 

“Nothing sweetie, just a bad thought is all.” Then he continued into the handset. “Copy, we are somewhere on 77 just north of Bluefield, we started out near Philadelphia. We are clipping along at about thirty miles per hour, but we don’t get stuck at roadblocks.” Mark answered.

 

“at’s smart. E have umthing for traffic ams.” He thought he heard the guy chuckle.

 

The ladies voice came through again, “e are in orth arolina.” Then after a loud burst of static, “east of aleigh.” By this time Anna had their map out, and he again felt grateful for her.

 

She had her finger on Raleigh even before he had gotten a good look at the map. “That’s why you’re the navigator.” She smiled and kissed him on the cheek.

 

“Not far,” came the older man’s voice.

 

The woman again, “we ure could use ome more company, we onna run out of tories oon.”

 

“What do you think?” Mark asked Anna.

 

“May be a good idea, hard to hear what they are saying, but I don’t think people warning us of danger, would try to hurt us.” Anna replied. That was all the assurance Mark needed.

 

“We are on our way, we will be there as soon as we are able. Will you wait?” Asked Mark anxiously.

 

“o ourse we I’ll wait or you.” Came the woman’s voice, she sounded cheery even through all the static.

 

Mark and Anna agreed to check in with them periodically, but knew that the reception they had gotten had to have been a fluke, They were still inside West Virginia, at a place where even the best car tuner could barely pick up a local station.

 

They drove harder and longer than on any other day since leaving the park, they had only spoken briefly about the man who had attacked them. Mark felt pity for him, but was not sorry he had killed him. Worried how Anna may have taken this information, he winced when she began to speak. He was expecting to be admonished for having such a callous attitude, but she hadn’t. She had in fact told him that she was glad he had done it.

 

She said, “you have saved my life on two separate occasions, the second time you risked your life in doing so. I owe you more than I can ever repay. Even if I save your life ten times today and twenty times tomorrow, I am only able to do so because you saved me first. I am yours, always and forever.”

 

She stared unblinking at him as she said this, he thought he could feel the heat emanating from her eyes. He began to speak, but found he could not. His eyes never left hers until she broke contact. She had kissed him, and awkwardly they had made love.

     They were like any kids, although she had been repeatedly raped, she was still as much a novice as he was. They explored each other with rabid curiosity, this too skinny boy and a too skinny girl. They were truly in love, and knew their roads however twisted and long, were forever entwined.

Alex/Red 19

 

It had been two days since the dog attacks, Alex was still in a great deal of pain from the gunshot, and his head wound had become infected. Sherry had used one of the remaining Hazmat suits to care for him, it was cumbersome, and made tending Alex’s wounds a great deal harder. This caused him extra pain, but he never once complained.

 

While Alex was under Sherry’s care Red had surveyed the work he had done to the large military vehicle, and with Alex’s blessing had started doing some work to it himself. He used the hummer and went exploring a bit, he took a gun, as would become the new fashion. He had found a large scrap yard and had been going and returning with loads of steel he added to the monstrosity.

 

From Alex’s tent, he saw that Red had done some serious work, Sherry had him sealed up in the tent for most of two full days, until she was sure he was not infected with the virus. He was no worse for the wear, just terribly sore.

 

Red had given him a walkie talkie at some point so he wouldn’t feel alone. And he could ask if he needed help. These were good people, and he was very glad to have encountered them. He had a few feverish dreams until the antibiotics and aspirin had knocked it out of him, and he finally felt like himself.

 

They had just gotten off the CB after talking to a young guy somewhere up in West Virginia. Red had hopped in the truck to talk to him, Sherry was in the jeep, and Alex had climbed in Sandra and Phil’s car. They had them all brimming with excitement. They were on their way, soon the four would be six. The kid whoever he was had sounded excited to talk to them, and they couldn’t wait to hear if he had any more news.

 

Sherry along with caring for Alex, had taken it upon herself to reorganize their supplies. Beth had offered to help, and they had done quite an efficient job of this. They had made a ledger, to show what they had in stock. It was busy work, something to keep their minds off things, and so they would feel like they were contributing.

 

Red had gotten directions from Alex and had set off the next day, in search of the armory. They were waiting on the kids and Red decided another big truck like Alex’s was just what they needed. He hoped their party would continue to grow, and he wanted to be prepared for the time when it did.

 

Red surprised them all when he pulled back into camp with not one, but two large vehicles, he had gotten another five ton identical to Alex’s with the exception of the modifications they had done, he was towing it with a semi wrecker.

 

Alex said, “Nice one Red, nothing’s gonna stop us.”

 

“I just thought we could use the extra room for supplies, and the wrecker was just to cool not to take.” He smiled.

 

Beth hadn’t spoken very much the past few days, she had been in a state of shock, and slowly but surely seemed to be coming out of it. “Nice work.”

 

“Now if you think we are moving all that stuff into that truck well you’re certainly mistaken mister!” Sherry said with a grin.

Red set out again no sooner than he had arrived with the big trucks. Alex fell back to sleep before he returned and snoozed a deep and dreamless sleep.

 

Alex woke to the sound of the semi’s air brakes relieving pressure. Red was lowering the massive truck so he could do some modifying it appeared.

 

“What’s up boss?” Asked Alex as he approached Red operating the giant wreckers controls.

 

“Well it occurred to me, that loaded down as your truck is, and the added weight of all that steel, you may need a bit of a push in some of the tighter areas.” Red replied.

 

It’s then Alex saw the large tractor tires Red had picked up, “So you just want to play giant bumper cars?” Alex smirked.

 

This is how they spent the next few days, cajoling each other, collecting things, and just relaxing, it had rained heavily for over a full day and the travelers they were awaiting had stopped to wait it out. They didn’t mind. They made modifications, some practical, some impractical. Red had added a makeshift periscope to Alex’s truck while Alex was asleep one day and painted a pirate flag on the driver’s side door.

Today the new guys would arrive, and they would be on their way. They were all anxious, even Beth seemed to be opening up a bit more. Red was seeing more of the girl he had met that first night at the campsite, he was glad, she had a normal reaction to a horrible event.

Alex had spoken with Mark a few times as they had waited, he asked if he knew how to drive something so large, and Mark had assured him, if you teach me, I will be fine. He hadn’t thought to ask Beth, he found himself acting geeky around her, and would find a reason to be anywhere else at just that time.

He was sitting by his truck watching the wind wave the branches of the pines lining the interstate. It put him in mind of some giant ancient concert taking place within and without everything on the earth. Only the trees could hear the music. So they swayed along with the rhythm.

 

“I don‘t bite you know.” Beth said shyly snapping him out of his reverie.

 

“I, I didn’t.” He stuttered.

“I’m sorry, I am being stupid as always.” He saw tears form in the corners of her eyes, and as she turned to walk away he grabbed her hand.

“You make me nervous.” Was all he got out. She grinned, tears streaked her cheeks falling from the most beautiful green eyes he had ever seen. She was stunning in the afternoon light.

He guided her and she sat beside him, sniffling as she went. “I make you nervous, but why?”

“Under any other circumstances I don’t think I could even say this, but the world has changed, and I am changing with it.” Even after that declaration, he found the words still tried to balk his will. “You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.” He finished with a very serious look on his face, as if he believed saying these words, would cause him some horrible affliction, but hadn’t.

It wasn’t that she had never been called beautiful, it wasn’t that she believed herself ugly, but the way he had said it, and the look in his eyes, had completely taken her by surprise. She was speechless, she leaned into him, and kissed him on the cheek.

He could see her tears had returned, but this time he sensed no sadness. He hugged her to his chest and they sat like that a very long time.

Mark and Anna made it to where they were camped at 6:14PM that evening. They warmly greeted each other, pleasantries were exchanged. Alex and Beth had gotten them each a clean bucket of water, and sat up curtains behind one of the trucks so they could freshen up.

While they bathed, Sherry and Red managed to cook up a very tasty meal, of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and dinner rolls, complete with a large onion. Sherry made a gallon of her world famous Iced Tea, “well it’s world famous in Tennessee, where I’m from.” She told them defiantly, grinning all the while.

 

This had even been a surprise to Alex and Beth. Red on one of his outing’s that day had found a restaurant, and although the last of the power had gone out, the food in the freezer was still good and frozen. They were all glad he did.

 

They all had so many questions to ask, and so much on their minds, but none spoke during dinner, after Red said the blessing. “Dear Lord, thank you for this bounty we are about to receive. Please allow it to nourish our bodies. We thank you dear Lord that you decided to spare us, we know not why, but we do know you have a plan for us all. Thank you for this one last home cooked meal, because you only know when the next one will be. Amen.”

 

The all chimed in, “Amen.” Then there was only the sounds of eating.

 

They each in turn surveyed those surrounding them, unable to keep the thought of “why us”, out of their minds. Mark kept wondering what he had in common with these people, he had been worried about coming to meet these strangers. He was worried for  Anna’s sake. He had calmed considerably when they had said they had two women with them. He hadn’t told them that the person traveling with him was a woman until after he knew that.

 

They had all eaten their dinners, and were stretching, it was still quite early. Red said, “Ah, almost forgot, one more thing.” He disappeared into the semi wrecker and came out with several bags a few minutes later. One was full of cigarettes and cigars he had all sorts of brands. The other bag was full of beer.

 

He took out a large cigar and a beer, then handed the bag to his wife. “Hey, these beers are cold.” Sherry was surprised.

 

“Truck has a fridge in it, and I know smoking is bad and all that, but all the cigarettes and cigars won’t be fit to smoke before long.” Red smiled.

 

Sherry looking in the bag smiled, he had remembered what brand she smoked, and had gotten her a full carton. She leaned over passed the bag to Beth then turned back and kissed Red deeply.  They all drank and smoked to their hearts content, then pair by pair all headed off to sleep. Alex and Beth had been the last to go.

 

“Would you lay with me a while? I think I would enjoy that. Only if it’s ok and you don’t mind?” Beth asked Alex.

 

He stood and took her hand, they walked back to his tent and slept curled in each other’s arms.

 

 

All Together 20

 

The night before they collectively decided to wait until breakfast to tell all their individual stories. They had all agreed and most had lain that night thinking how to explain what all they had seen and heard. Sherry and Beth had the shortest stories to tell, allowing Red to take over and start from the moment he had met Sandra and Phil at the manager’s office. He added how strangely they had acted, and how aggressive Sandra seemed to be.

 

Alex was grateful for Red’s small attempts at letting him know he was not at fault for the confrontation with Phil and his unstable wife. The stories continued till nearly lunch, Anna had shared much of her story at the reformatory but she had skipped the most horrid parts she had been trying to forget. These parts she was afraid to share with anyone other than Mark.

 

Mark started his story all the way back days before his father had died, he liked talking about his dad. Everyone seemed to enjoy his story, as much as one can enjoy such a story. Knowing that the ending will be the most unbearably tragic ending one could imagine even before the telling has a tendency to put a damper on the subject matter. Apocalypse.

 

Alex was last to start and everyone had listened with great interest at everyone else’s story, the mood quickly changed when Alex began. Alex was a natural story teller. He is able to draw you into the story. He can make you see just what he saw and just how he felt.

 

Everyone had cringed when Alex told them of what the neighbor had asked and as he told how he squeezed the trigger and nothing happened, he could see the strain on the faces of his audience. He could see their longing for someone to burst in and save the day, but this was his story, and it was not a happy story.

 

Alex had tastefully left out the pills and liquor. He told of his accident, but not how or why it happened. He thought to himself, I was just upset. I am better now. No need to make people think I’m crazy. When he finished everyone was staring at him. He felt a little uncomfortable, until he realized the expressions on these people’s faces was not one of hatred, mistrust, fear, or any of the other things he had half expected to see when he told his story.

 

The looks on their faces could best be described as adulation mixed with pity. He was at a loss when Red chimed in. “Alex we’ve all had a hard road so far, you did what you had to do. Don’t be sitting around here thinking we got bad feelings towards you for what happened. Seems to me, you probably saved all our lives. That woman was terribly ill and I don’t think her husband was much better off than she was.” Red paused and looked around at all those faces surrounding the long dead campfire, signaling now was to the time to add their two cents worth.

 

Mark, spoke next, “look, we have seen it firsthand. There were bodies everywhere, some appeared to have been healthy and they were shot and killed. It looks like a lot of people just went crazy, if ya ask me to much of the population was relying on pills to get by. Everyone ran out of pills at the same time, that’s my guess.”

 

Sherry spoke next, “I think you may be on to something young man. We need to be careful.”

 

“I agree totally, that was something I wanted to bring up, security.” Red added.

 

“What do you mean?” Asked Beth.

“Well, as Alex told us he was attacked and nearly killed by that man at the store and as I and Alex said earlier, there was Sandra and Phil. Mark you and Anna were attacked also. Then there were the bodies at the Wal-Mart.” Red pointed out.

“We are all with ya, so what do you suggest?” Asked Sherry.

“Well,” Red paused a moment collecting his thoughts. “We have no choice but to assume that these were not isolated incidents. We need to be proactive, we have 3 large vehicles, perhaps we should follow Alex’s lead and modify them a bit for our needs. The hummer can be used to scout ahead seeing  what obstacles  lay ahead. It’s just a thought I had.”

 

“Sounds like a pretty good idea.” Stated Alex.

 

“I added some support to the plows on the front of your truck, I was thinking after hearing what has happened to all you guys, maybe we should add some plating to the trucks. This way there will be something between us and any would be assassins. I found a nice supply of steel not far from here.” Said Red.

 

“All in favor say I.” Sherry told them.

 

Unanimously, “I!”

 

“We have a lot of supplies, but we don’t know what may happen on the road. Maybe we need to get a fuel truck in our convoy, I don’t like the idea of having to stop, if we carry all that we need with us we can make it all the way to the Rocky Mountains without stopping. Then again, we have no idea how many people we may meet.” Alex had collected what he could find. But knew it would never be enough. Then after a brief pause added, “Think of it as packing for a trip your never coming back from.”

 

“It’s like the old question. What three things would you take with you on a desert island?” Beth said.

 

“Well we aren’t going to do without, not for a while anyway, I was thinking of heading up near Yellowstone, somewhere out in one of the national forests, so there will be no stores nearby. We will have to take everything we can. Then after we are settled, we will have to travel to stock up.” Replied Alex.

 

“Well this is going to take us probably the rest of the day and maybe part of tomorrow, so we had better get busy.

 

They sat a few seconds, then Mark rose first, and Anna followed suite, “Ok what can we do?” Asked Mark.

 

Alex was already trying to figure out how to attach plates to the sides of the trucks, he hoped Red was more knowledgeable than he himself was. He stood and wandered towards his truck and the pile of scrap metal that he and Red had already amassed.

 

“Well I think you and Alex had talked about you driving one of these trucks here.” Red said as he approached Mark pointing towards the truck that had yet to be modified.

 

“I can learn, if you are willing to teach me.” Answered Mark, earnestly. “ Then he added, Anna can learn also. So we can switch off. He saw a wee bit of a reproachful look on her face, he shrugged at her and she gave a nervous smile.

 

“Well if you’re willing to learn, I can’t ask for more than that. They are really very simple, they are just big is all. He set off with Mark and Anna in tow, he noticed Alex had out a measuring tape, and was measuring his truck meticulously taking notes of every dimension of the large motorized beast.

 

Sherry and Beth were the last to rise, each of which lit a cigarette after everyone else had made way to their various chores. “Well Beth, want to go shopping?”

 

Beth perked up at the cheeriness in Sherry’s voice and answered, “sure thing.”

 

That day turned to two days, two days turned to three, no one was unhappy they had not left yet, the second day as they were finishing up work armor plating their trucks they had gotten a signal on the CB. They used the radios constantly, never going more than fifteen minutes without someone just saying, “hi, everyone ok?”

 

They would tell jokes back and forth as they remembered them. Everyone was in good spirits, there were three more survivors coming to join them. They couldn’t have been more pleased. Mark and Anna were both comfortable with the large vehicles, Red who had paid his way through college driving a rig had taught Alex to drive the giant tow truck.

 

The vehicles all looked like some fierce futuristic fighting machines. There were hinged slots to be open when driving, Red had set up a clever system so that all you had to do to close the slot was to pull a rope he had tied inside the cab, this would pull free a small pin he had put in place holding the slots open. The windows had several peep holes large enough to fire a rifle out of. These side pieces and the steel over the windshields had been the thickest they could find.

 

They had driven the trucks following Alex as he tested out his makeshift dozer, which worked quite well. He flipped a few vehicles and was sure he would break something, but he had not. He put their work through its paces and it was good. Once at the scrap yard they used winches and pulleys to set the heavier pieces into place for welding. Red was excellent at this and taught Mark how to weld, and filled Alex in on the parts he had missed in his classes.

The time had come for them to leave. They all stood around surveying their convoy of vehicles. Alex said aloud to everyone, “Well looks like we are about to film the remake to one of the Mad Max movies.”

Red, Sherry, Alex, and even Anna laughed. Mark and Beth just looked puzzled. Alex explained, “Mad Max was a movie franchise starring Mel Gibson that took place in a post-apocalyptic world. They drove stuff like this.”

Mark and Beth both shrugged, “guess ya had to of been there huh,” offered Mark.

“Guess so,” agreed Beth and the both laughed.

Everyone grinned at this. Their spirits were as high as they had been all along. They felt as if they were making progress. They felt alive, no longer despairing about what they had lost. They were focused on the future.

They loaded their gear and made plans to travel at least twenty miles. They would then wait on the new arrivals who were driving motorcycles and wouldn’t have an issue catching up. They wanted to get an idea of how slow going the traveling would be. They were going to carefully plan their route and distance goals for each day. They set out not knowing what the road ahead held for them but they were optimistic.

 

Jakobs

 

     Jakobs and his crew had slowly made their way through Tennessee waylaying any travelers they found. They stole their gear and left the bodies of the victims hidden out of sight. Jakobs, as was his habit inspected each group looking for a suitable wife to replace the whore he had murdered. His hopes were always doused. He began to wonder if there would be a suitable woman left for him to take. He was careful not to let one of his men slip up and alert the group he was following of their presence. He would show himself but not until he was ready.

He had worked out a plan to help him with his conquest. He knew he had to be subtle and was a little worried one of his killers would blow it for him. The men he traveled with were the most vile he had ever met. They accepted his leadership and no one questioned his orders. Why would they? He thought I let them do whatever they like. They are free men.

He dreamt at night that he had not escaped the confines of the police cruiser and would wake with leg cramps so sever he would nearly cry out. He thought they were just remnants of the strain he had put on his muscles while he was wearing the shackles. “Fucking pigs!” He spat aloud at this thought.

Jakobs’ group was very well stocked now. They each drove a large truck all loaded down with anything one would need. All stolen and the former owners murdered. Jakobs had no hand directly in their killings but he was responsible just the same. “Their business, not mine.” He would tell himself aloud to quell any feelings of guilt which were trying to arise.

As they neared the larger group, “Alex and Red’s group,” he called it he admonished his men to leave people alone. They sulked like children when Jakobs forbade them to stop the two women and three men who had passed them on motorcycles. They had quickly pulled off to the side of the interstate and hid. Yes Alex and Red, they were the ones to win over. The others were following them just as his group followed him.

He was waiting to meet up with them at a place where they could take what they wanted and leave quickly with options for multiple routes. He wanted his guys to split at the same time; he just didn’t want them to know that.

The kid was pretty smart and Jakobs knew he could be useful. The rest were almost animal like. They lived and breathed anarchy and death. They, Jakobs noted all seem to have some sort of mental disease. Once there was no one to give them rules they did just what they wanted when they wanted. Jakobs was the only law they had now and he didn’t care what they did as long as it did not interfere with his plans.

Jakobs spent every night intently listening to his CB trying to figure out how many people they had now and when more were arriving. More importantly he wanted to know how many women they had and how old they were.

So Jakobs quietly stalked Alex and his group careful not to be noticed. They didn’t have to be close he knew where they were heading so he was just waiting until he knew they had what he needed. He even considered taking two women.

This idea he dismissed. He was looking for a wife and that was all. He didn’t think it would be right to take two because two would be harder to break at once.

 

 

 

Meeting Alex

 

Their journey had been fairly uneventful. They were meeting new people gradually at first but then with more frequency. These new travelers were all happy to be with a larger group and to Alex’s dismay they all seemed to look to him for guidance.

One day Alex confided in Red, “Red these people act like I am in charge or something. Before all this happened I could barely guide my ass off the couch to go to the toilet.”

Red chuckled at this and then earnestly to Alex he said. “Great leaders seldom choose to be leaders. It is chosen for them. You have strength in you; you stepped up when I could not. If not for you that girl over there,” he pointed to Beth, “my wife, and I would probably all be dead. I froze you see. I couldn’t shoot him. I am sorry. You have risen to the occasion my friend. You possess all the qualities of a great leader.”

Alex looked on dumbfounded as Red spoke; he wanted to balk but did not interrupt.

Red continued, “You don’t want to be a leader. That is the number one sign of a great leader, no desire for power. You do everything for the betterment of the whole and not yourself. It was your idea everyone got behind so I believe you’re stuck with the moniker, Boss Man.”

Alex just grinned and said, “Thanks Red.”

Alex and Red spoke a great deal as the days wore on, everyone in their steadily growing convoy listened as they goofed and joked. Occasionally others chimed in. They talked about building an entire compound so they could defend themselves. People would say what skills they had and how they could help.

The feeling of hope spread like wildfire through the group. With each day the hopelessness that all once shared faded. It was always a bit tense when new arrivals came; everyone would stare looking for signs of sickness. Many had had violent encounters with other survivors and were wary. As the group grew these feelings were washed away. The group’s mantra was “Strength in numbers.”

Some that came were injured and Sherry ever vigilant tended their wounds. It had begun to wear her down because she barely slept. By the beginning of the second week they had a second nurse traveling with them. She had been out of town when the virus struck traveling to a wedding. She heard the news and drove her truck into the woods off the side of the highway and waited it out. Her truck had been stocked with food and drinks for a charity drive. By luck she hadn’t had time to deliver the food before leaving town. Her name was Ruth and after her arrival Sherry slept for the better part of a day.

Things were coming together fast and happily. No one fought or bickered. The convoy grew.

Little did they know Jakobs was listening as well. He made note of how many people they spoke of traveling. He knew there were at least a dozen women or more with them now. There were even more men he guessed but they never said the exact number on the CB.

Jakobs’ men grew restless and he knew he would have to meet up with this group soon before his animals were foaming at the mouth. He hated laws and rules but he could see from these killers that they were necessary for some. He was not the one to institute and enforce them. He was his own man and would not be told how to live or what to do. So he did not want to tell another man how to live. Take away a man’s freedoms and you take away your own he thought.

He was closer now to them than he had ever allowed his group to venture before. He stopped his truck and they all followed suit. He had them gather around as he picked up the transmitter.

“Hello?” He spoke.

“Hello, we hear ya.” came Mark’s voice.

“Hey we heard ya talking the other night and started heading in this direction.” Jakobs was cool and calm. This new manner of speaking unnerved even the most hardened of the killers he travelled with.

“You should have yelled at us before now then, we have a nice sized group. Safer to travel with numbers ya know?” Mark replied.

“Well we ran into some trouble with some other survivors we met so we waited and listened but you folks seem friendly enough.” Jakobs laid it on thick.

“Hey my name is Alex,” he had overheard and jumped in the conversation.

Jakobs knew his voice well he had been monitoring it for nearly two weeks now. “Jakobs here, I am traveling with four other men five people in all.”

“Well why don’t y’all come join us we can have some coffee and get acquainted.” Alex had a knack for saying the right thing the right way to put wary travelers at ease before they came to join them. He just didn’t know this was no wary traveler. He was about to let a pack of murderers into their midst.

“We sure will buddy, that sounds real nice. I haven’t had a good cup of coffee in ages.” Jakobs had not lied. The prison coffee would have been better suited for use as paint thinner.

Jakobs could see the way his killers grew antsy. They too knew there were women in this group. They wanted to have some fun. Jakobs thought a man with no conscience in a world without consequences was a dangerous thing.

Alex relayed their position and told Jakobs they’d be anxiously awaiting their arrival. Jakobs already knew where they were. He had never been more than five miles from them for days careful not to be seen by passersby.

Before setting out Jakobs addressed his men, “listen close now, we can’t screw this up. I am finding me a wife and I don’t care what y’all do after that. I suggest getting you a woman and disappearing. There aren’t many left ya know?” He looked from man to man and they all nodded agreement at his tyrants gaze. Jakobs enjoyed the power of being the leader.

“This thing that killed everybody was no accident and these fools banding together are making a huge mistake. A large group is easier to find than a small one. Those foreign bastards will be here to claim their prize one day and I ain’t going to be a sitting duck when they come.” Jakobs could see from their cumulative expressions that this idea had never crossed their minds.

Jakobs continued, “If you think our rules were bad wait till you have to follow theirs.” He cleared his throat and thought a minute. “Listen we got to be calm a few days and then we will make our move.”

They all reluctantly nodded agreement. Jakobs saw the disdain on all faces but the kids. He would have to assess the situation quickly make his choice and get the hell out before these murderous fools thwarted his plans and got him killed.

They arrived at the meeting spot an hour later and had all eyes on them. Jakobs exited his truck with a un-Jakobs like smile on his face and walked right up to Alex and pumped his hand as if they were long lost best friends. They made their introductions and Jakobs one at a time shook everyone’s hand that came out to greet them. Silently he took note of all the women he saw.

He looked Anna over and was not noticed, she had been attractive before whoever smashed her face had done their handy work he could tell. She was also young, but not to young a perfect specimen. Then he saw the remnants of bruises on her legs. She was wearing shorts and he noticed that the bruises were mainly on her inner thighs and she walked with some discomfort. She was not what he needed. He assumed she had been beaten and raped and somehow survived. He wasn’t sure but from what he saw he doubted she would be able to conceive.

It was then Beth walked around the corner of a large semi wrecker where they had fashioned a makeshift shower. She was gorgeous and seemed as healthy and fit as any woman he had ever seen. This was the one he wanted. He decided they would spend a few days with these people and watch their habits. Then he would steal away during the night and take his prize with him.

Beth walked up to Alex and kissed his cheek leaving a big smile on his face. Fool kid Jakobs thought to himself. Let a woman act like that in public and next thing you know they are slutting it up with every man they meet. That would be the first thing he’d have to teach her. That behavior will not be tolerated. He felt a tinge of guilt. If I had of not been so easy on the whore this wouldn’t have happened. I won’t be so easy on miss pretty here.

“So you were a police officer before?” Inquired Red to Jakobs.

“I was a deputy, mostly transported prisoners to and from court.” Jakobs lied.

They sat around and drank coffee telling stories and joking. Jakobs was surprised his merry band of murderers were able to hold it together as well as they did. A few times he caught them ogling some of the women but they went unnoticed.

They ate dinner that night and all retired to their individual camps which made up the whole. Jakobs slept in the bed of his truck as was his habit. He liked the open air and did not want to be confined inside a tent.

The next day Jakobs spoke with Alex, Red,  and some of the others throughout the day telling improvised stories to pass the time. He needed them to be comfortable with him and his men and so he kept up the charade. His men had mostly been quiet, even the kid and that was not his way. Jakobs still liked him but he talked a bit too much.

They travelled and slept another night. The day was uneventful and a new smaller group merged with the larger. It was four women and six men. Jakobs knew it was almost time to act, before too many joined them to safely pull off his plan.

 

 

The Trouble

 

“I’m a little worried Red.” Alex confided.

“What about Alex?” Red asked, but he already knew.

“Well that Jakobs fella seems nice enough and the young one he is a bit strange but he seems harmless. The other three kind of give me the creeps. Every now and then I see them looking at some of the women like those poor dogs looked at me. It’s like they haven’t seen a woman in years.” Red could see the sincerity on Alex’s face as he spoke.

“Yeah, I think your right. I have noticed and so have some of the other men. I hope we don’t have any trouble. It’s like what Mark said, ‘all the meds are gone.’” Red was just as concerned as Alex.

They had talked with Jakobs’ men at different times. They had each asked where they were from. Were they married and what they had done before all this happened. It was a common thread of conversation amongst all the new people.

They found it therapeutic to discuss what they had lost and at times they shed tears amongst others who truly knew their pain.

Jakobs’ men were different. Jakobs had not cried and caused no suspicions they just figured him for one of those tough country folk that knew how to choke down pain. His men seemed put offish and closed lipped about their origins. The kid had freely admitted he had lost his entire family. He had not cried but there were the hints of tears in his eyes. His behavior was odd and he seemed somehow overly geeky. No one thought badly of him for it and glazed over any odd comments he made.

It was late in the evening on Jakobs’ second day with Alex’s group. They had meals of various canned foods and warm bottled water. Alex, Red, and Jakobs accompanied by the kid as he often was, were all sitting around a small campfire talking. They all looked up when they heard a scream coming from one of the tents one of their traveling companions had pitched some 100 yards away.

As they ran towards the source Jakobs scanned the alerted faces of all he passed searching for those of his murderous cohorts. There was one he could not find. There number was nearly thirty in all and all were eager to discover the cause of the scream.

Alex, Red, and Jakobs arrived at the tent simultaneously followed by a few dozen others. Weapons were drawn and all were anxious. Alex never hesitated he approached the tent and asked “are you ok in there?”

There was no answer. The silence to his question sent a wave of foreboding through all that heard. Alex unzipped the tent as quickly as he was able leaned down and peered in. His moan of distress was audible to only those closest him. The look on his face when he straightened and turned was not.

She was one of the youngest of the group. She had joined them just a few days earlier. Her parents fell ill while they were at work and managed to keep her secluded in their home. She had been alone nearly a week and was half-starved when she was discovered by an elderly man, his wife, and the rest of the group which had arrived on motorcycles two days prior.

She was nervous all the time and kept to herself. She had watched her parents as they slowly died sitting in her driveway and was having a hard time coping with the loss. That would have been hard for any thirteen year-old.

Mark and Anna made regular trips to check on her through the evening hours and nights. She had accompanied them that day in the oversized truck. She had finally seemed to be coming out of her shell.

Alex could not hold back the tears of rage that welled in his eyes. He could barely keep his feet. The air grew thin as he gasped for breath. Had not Red and Jakobs been there he would have collapsed right in front of the tent.

“What is it? Is someone hurt?” Sherry asked as she pushed through the crowd.

Alex wasn’t able to stop her before she darted into the tent. Her sobs came fast and loud.

“Oh dear God no!” she cried. “Who did this?” she demanded.

Jakobs knew but would not let his face divulge that fact. He kept his expression of concern and bewilderment just as all the rest around him did.

Sherry knelt beside the lifeless naked body of the young girl. Her mouth had been taped and her arms bound with the same material. It appeared she had gotten her hands free and ripped the tape from her mouth long enough to let out a single scream before her attacker plunged a knife deep into her throat. Sherry could hardly catch her breath the poor child’s head had been nearly severed.

Alex and Sherry were the only ones who had seen the body but the rest understood quite easily. The stories of wanton violence they had shared amongst each other were horrific at best. Some had discovered mutilated corpses which had shown no signs of disease. Rapes had been witnessed. Random murders committed for no more reason than someone felt like it. All their minds immediately jumped to the same conclusion. They were all correct.

Alex was quickly gaining his composure. “Everyone out here now!” he demanded. The tears were gone, the rage was not.

Most everyone was there already; even Jakobs’ men were present albeit as far back as they could be save one. Alex scanned the gathered people and quickly knew who was missing. It had been one of the men he had watched staring at the women. One he had sensed would be trouble. This thought would eat at him for many months to come but now was not the time for regret. This was a time for recompense.

He turned to Jakobs and howled, “Where is he?”

Jakobs feigned distress and blubbered, “I don’t know man. I haven’t seen him in a few hours. He was always kind of weird ya know?”

“There” a faceless voice from the crowd shouted. The man was hiding behind a car some five hundred yards away. They saw his head pop up. He heard the shouting which ensued and he began to run as hard and as fast as he could. He had killed the girl and made a slit in the back of tent to escape.

He was barefooted and the asphalt hurt his feet as he pumped his legs as hard and as fast as he was able. He left the interstate and tore through the bushes and brambles. He could feel the briars tearing into his skin from head to toe yet he kept on.

He could hear engines roaring to life as the men began to give pursuit. Alex jumped on one of the four wheelers Anna and Mark had arrived on. He was glad they had unloaded them for a short supply run.

Alex blasted through the woods full force as briars tore into his face, hands, his bullet wound, and the gash on his head, which had not yet fully healed. He was determined to catch this man and kill him. He would not let a man like this live. He knew he could easily track them and possibly kill another of his group.

He wondered how the people who considered him to be some sort of leader would feel about him executing another murderer without a trial. He did not care. He would do what needed to be done.

Almost all of the men went after the killer. Jakobs had not. Only a few of the women gave chase and Jakobs’ remaining men slunk back towards their camps. Jakobs just as the women did looked on as the mob gave chase.

“Run you glorious murdering bastard” Jakobs grinned as he spoke. The time had come, this was his chance. This is not how he planned it nor was he expecting this but it was perfect.

Jakobs pulled his revolver and shot the three men who had not gone. The women began to scream and immediately his men were at his side each armed.

“Get over here girl” he demanded of Beth.

She took a step back and Jakobs shot the woman closest to her in the forehead spattering Beth’s blouse with blood and grey matter. He gave no warning before firing. He knew this window would be short lived and would close quickly, he had no time for idle threats.

“Get the fuck over here now!” He was losing his patience. “I will shoot all these worthless bitches if you don’t move your pretty little ass now!”

She obliged the man that no one had suspected. She now knew the police uniform was loose on him because it was made for someone else. She thought going with this man meant certain death but would not let another die on her behalf.

The men he had arrived with started grabbing at different women. One tried to fight and had been rend unconscious with a blow from the butt of a shotgun.

Jakobs cared not for what his men were going to do he had his prize and he needed to go. He guided Beth to his truck and darted off in the direction they had come from earlier that day. It was growing dark and he wanted to get to the exit three miles back they had passed before nightfall.

He grinned as they flew down the shoulder avoiding stalled cars. The look made Beth’s stomach turn. As the camp was nearly out of sight he saw two more sets of headlights coming in his direction. Well at least two of them got away he thought. He wondered if one had been the kid.

 

 

 

 

Catching The Killer

 

Alex was relentless in his chase of the murderer. He followed him over an embankment now noticing his old wounds were fresh with new blood and would need more mending. His arms were shredded. He saw the creek and never slowed it was dusk and he didn’t see the large rock jutting out of the embankment.

The four-wheelers axle struck and he flipped. He left the damaged machine head first and struck the opposite side of the embankment hard with his shoulder and the side of his face.

He never faltered he was up on his feet and still in pursuit within seconds. As he chased he noticed how oddly fit this man was, he would have had to be to keep up such a grueling pace. He didn’t seem the athletic type at all. Alex could envision him working in some office somewhere mindlessly banging on a keyboard then off to home where he’d whack off to some sleazy magazine and eat junk food until he passed out on his mother’s pink taffeta couch.

Alex often had such visions of people and in this case he was unknowingly close to the truth. The man’s name was Jason Smith as unassuming as any Alex had ever heard. The only oddity about his name was the lack of a middle name. “My parents just couldn’t agree on one and decided to wait and add it later but they forgot I guess.” He had tried to exhibit humor when he said this but the now dead girl had walked by at that moment and his smile had distorted into something far more menacing than what he had set out to show them. He was good at blending in but his taste for young girls was insatiable, hence his lack of subtlety when in the presence of adolescent girls.

As Alex gave chase so many things about this man ran through his head. Then he began to recall how the other men acted much the same as this killer. Jakobs paid no special attention to any of the women, or had he. Alex was plagued by the thought that he had missed something important. He could see Jakobs mindlessly staring into the distance it seemed. Alex remembered looking in the same direction and at first he saw nothing.

As if on cue Beth appeared from behind the truck which Jakobs was mindlessly examining. Alex thought he saw a knowing grin on Jakobs’ face but dismissed it as his imagination. He had turned back towards Jakobs but his attention was elsewhere. He was sure it was his imagination, now his certainty was fading.

There were far too many people in camp for anything to happen Alex was sure. He wondered how many had given chase and how many had remained. He dismissed this thought. There was killing to be done and he was the man for the job. Despite his own distaste for blood he grinned as he barreled through the woods. He felt nothing but adrenaline and the cool of the wind against his sweaty and bloodied body as he gave chase.

His mind was solely on his prey. Alex was only slightly aware that he was unarmed. His rifle had been dropped when he flew haphazardly over the handlebars of the wrecked four-wheeler. He didn’t care this man had no gun and would have to face him one on one. Alex was far ahead of the rest of his pursuers. This he was glad of. He’d rather do what needed to be done in private.

He had known people who thrived on the spectacle of causing others pain. It was a common situation in high schools all around the world, he assumed worse at some than others. He didn’t want to ridicule this man or seem powerful by what he intended to do. He just wanted it done and over with as quickly as possible.

Even in his rage he understood this man was sick like the poor dogs which had nearly taken his own life. Jason Smith needed to be put down and that was all. He had never cared one way or the other about the death penalty laws and such. He had no political affiliation. He just wanted to survive and that would be made easier without a murdering rapist on his trail.

Jason Smith owed his stamina to the Kentucky State Prison System. He was nowhere near as fit when he had first been arrested for the brutal rape and slaying of the young summer intern at his small accounting firm. As Alex imagined, the murderer enjoyed porn and self-gratification. He preferred DVD’s and the kind he owned were very much illegal in the United States. This was a charge he didn’t even bother fighting once the 200 plus videos were found when his house was searched.

He ordered new videos monthly from all over the world. That had been his only indulgence. With these videos he had managed to keep his urges under wraps.

He would sit and eat greasy pizza from a local pizza place and watch young girls in every imaginable scenario. This had been ok for some time. Occasionally he would hire a prostitute and though they pretended to be young and put on the guise of an innocent teenage girl in distress he just wasn’t satisfied.

His first victim had been a runaway, she did fight but not until he got real rough and this had bothered him. He wanted the entire event to be unscripted and as real as it could be. The runaway was drugged up and fought but not with the intensity he longed for. He had kept her alive for a few days but as the heroin left her system it became to unseemly for him. She would vomit as he had his way with her and she quickly lost all strength.

He had more fun with her after she died than he did while she was alive he would muse to himself. He very abruptly without warning walked up to her where she lay in his basement half conscious and struck her in the base of the neck with an old Louisville slugger. After one last fantasy he rolled her up in a blanket and drove her far into the backwoods of Kentucky and dropped her into a ravine right off the side of a small broken road. He counted as she fell it took five full seconds before her stiffened body reached the rocks below. He had watched the news and perused the paper every day for months but there was no word of a missing girl or any bodies found.

After his apparent success with this girl he was emboldened. He would just wait for an opportunity to present itself. His firm had decided to host a summer intern project for high school age kids and he had luckily been put in charge of interviewing. He was an excellent accountant and very well respected by his peers. They decided that three interns would be sufficient and he had hired two girls and one boy.

They each were assigned to their own accountant and given specific duties to perform. He had interviewed many girls and was pleased to see the two he liked best were also the two with the highest GPAs. He had accepted the boy first so he would not draw any suspicions.

He plotted for weeks as to how he would pull off the abduction. He alternated leaving each day at the time of departure of each girl. He soon knew where they each lived, who they lived with and what their basic schedules were.

After a few weeks of more internal deliberation he switched the interns around so that the girl he decided to take was not working directly with him in any capacity. There were three more weeks left in the internship and he waited until it was complete before he enacted his brutal plan.

His reasoning was to keep suspicion away from himself. By this time he had been watching his target for nearly six weeks and he knew when and where she would usually be on any given day. He knew where her spare house key was hidden. He knew her parents work schedules and both of their places of business. He had taken to driving rental cars telling any coworkers who noticed there was a problem with his own vehicle and the mechanic was having trouble pinpointing the failure. No one was suspicious.

The girl he chose was an advanced student. She was thirteen in the eleventh grade. She had advanced years beyond other students her own age. He was very impressed with her scholastic record. She reminded him of a girl in his favorite movie. This had sealed her doom.

He took her on a Friday and to his delight she had fought like a tiger. She clawed and scratched and she almost got him caught because in his lust filled rush he had forgotten her cell phone. She dialed out to her father’s phone but had accidentally put it on speaker. He quickly wrested the device away and powered it off. Jason knew had she not made this mistake he would have surely been caught before he had any fun at all.

This he should have paid more attention to. She had screamed as he yanked away her smart phone her father had heard the terrifying exchange and immediately called the police. Being the careful parent he was he had installed software that allowed him to track his daughter’s cell phone. She had known and had no issue with this intrusive program.

He spoke with detectives and met them at his home where he could monitor her from his own computer. Jason Smith’s downfall had been the software’s ability to power on the phone remotely. They quickly located the vehicle he had been driving. He had switched cars but within minutes they knew who had the girl.

Regrettably Jason had been more careful as to where he had taken her to act out his greatest fantasy. It was two full days before they found him. He was on his way to dispose of her body. The runaway he had slain had been from Tennessee and no one had any idea she had gone to Kentucky and that alone kept him safe. Once they saw what had been done to the young intern they began cross checking his credit card receipts and realized the half eaten body of another girl had been treated in the same manner.

He was convicted of two counts of first degree murder and was sentenced to die by lethal injection on both counts.

These were all things Alex didn’t know but that was of no consequence. He knew what this monster had just done and he would be shown no mercy.

The fleeing killer was losing his momentum. He ached with every forced step. His legs began to spasm and he stumbled landing hard on his right knee tearing the flesh on a jagged rock.

He could hear the pursuing footfalls through the brush. His pursuer had not faltered. He had heard the crash and thought he was safe. Alex closed in with every second.

Jason gained his footing and forced himself onward but could barely keep a normal walking pace. He didn’t know what they would do to him in this lawless world for what he had done to that girl. He would fight. He only heard one pursuer and knew the rest could be anywhere he had tried to veer left to lose them and gain as much ground as possible. If he could just kill this guy he’d be free.

He hid behind a large oak and readied himself for an ambush. As Alex cleared the brush to his left Jason lunged forward knife raised high and swung at his throat. In mid swing Jason’s leg gave out due the collision with the jagged rock. He fell hard to the ground in an attempt to catch himself his arm twisted and he drove his own blade deep into his side.

Alex was stunned by the encounter and was grateful to be alive. As he watched the murderer slowly bleed to death he was grateful he didn’t have to kill the man. His rage was gone and the sorrow crept in as he watched the life fade from this mad man’s gaze. He felt no sorrow for the dead man as he walked away. His sorrow was solely for the poor girl he had allowed to be slain. Despite his companions assurances that he was not at fault her death haunted him ceaselessly.

 

 

 

 

 

Pursuing The Enemy

 

     The camp was in chaos, the screams reverberated from what seemed like a thousand unified voices. It was far from that many but the wanton carnage unleashed upon the bereaved travelers without warning caused pure anarchy.

The pursuers save Alex who did not hear the gunfire over the sounds of the straining ATV returned to camp as swiftly as they had fled. Many thought the shots had been for the murderer assuming he had somehow doubled back.

The scene they found when they arrived brought fresh gales of sorry, pain, and rage. Sherry explained as quickly as she was able. It took Red a full five minutes to quiet the group enough for her to even be heard.

She described the slayings perpetrated by Jakobs without so much as a warning and then she explained how the other two men had taken women as well. She said one man had taken two, the one who had ruthlessly been knocked unconscious was bleeding quite badly so the villain had taken another much younger girl. She was only twelve years old.

The uneasiness and anger grew amongst the travelers and they were growing mad not unlike the bloodlust of lynch mobs Red had read in the old western novels he had been fond of as a child. He did his best to calm the crowd but it was a losing battle.

Five different vehicles with armed men and women gave chase trying to catch up to the kidnappers and Red and Sherry both knew that if they caught up there would be casualties.

“Sug I think we should wait for Alex to get back. He may be hurt. We can’t run off halfcocked like mad people. What if they set a trap?” Sherry was solemn and quite shaken by the events of the past thirty minutes.

“I think your right honey.” As Red spoke he put his arm around her shoulders trying to reassure her.

Mark and Beth had pursued the man into the woods and when the shots were heard they did not turn as the others did but continued to follow Alex’s trail.

About the time the mob discovered the grisly scene at the camp they were finding Alex’s four wheeler. They were frantically scouring the woods searching for any sign of Alex or his trail. He was far easier to pursue when he was riding than when he was on foot. When they heard approaching footfalls through the brush they both tensed. They breathlessly waited.

They each stood at the ready guns raised about fifteen feet apart ready to mow down the murdering bastard when he came into view.

As Alex entered their line of sight they both audibly sighed startling Alex so badly he fell backwards over a root. He had been deep in thought and had no clue he was not alone in the woods. “Oh shit!” Alex exclaimed.

Despite the horrid events the younger two of the trio burst forth volleys of laughter. Alex sitting up seeing such uncharacteristic smiles on the faces of his young friends joined in.

It was Anna who broke the frivolity when she noticed Alex seemed to be bleeding from everywhere. “Oh my God you’re hurt bad!” She bent to him feeling foolish for the hysterics as Mark followed her lead.

“Oh no, I’m just scratched up pretty bad, I’m ok, really.” Alex reassured them.

“You’re pretty tough for an old man Alex.” Mark joked as he helped him to his feet.

The walk back for the three was silent. Alex had only spoken once when he noticed the curious looks of Mark and Anna. “He’s dead, fell on his own knife.”

The two never questioned whether it was the truth or not, not even in private. They later told everyone just what Alex said. Alex wondered how saying that would have gone over before. He wondered if a detective would have accepted that answer as freely as these people did.

The journey back seemed to take a long time and all were glad when they heard the commotion coming from camp. They were drained and Alex wanted nothing more than to give the poor child a decent burial and then sleep. He ached from every joint and the thought of one more step made him cringe.

As they approached they noticed eight or nine different vehicles were no longer there. They had grown accustomed to lining up the trucks to create a wall to avoid surprise canine attacks. It was one of the unwritten rules of the convoy they had become. There were holes and almost immediately Alex realized whose vehicles were missing. They were Jakobs’ men’s trucks that were gone and five others.

The only one that remained was the Durango the kid had picked up a few days earlier. Alex saw him sobbing behind the wheel. Alex assumed for a moment that the missing vehicles had gone looking for the man he had watched bleed out a few miles back in the woods.

As they were passing the kid, the kid looked up and panicked. “It wasn’t me, I swear it. It was Jakobs. He is the one that made us come, just him. I like it here with you guys. I didn’t want anyone to get hurt!” It was hard to discern the words but Alex managed.

“What they hell are you talking about?” Alex asked, it was then he saw the leg of one of the newest arrivals protruding from behind the wheel of one of the large trucks. It was bloody, his heart sank.

He bolted around the corner and saw what Jakobs, the new object of his rage, had left for him. He nearly collapsed when he was filled in on what had taken place.

Without a word he began packing a bag. He took only guns and bullets. He shrugged off Sherry’s attempts to dress his wounds. He climbed on Anna’s pink four-wheeler. Under any other circumstances this would have been funny but no one even thought of grinning. He did not speak, only nodded when he was wished well and told to be careful. He’s got Beth. It was all he could think of.

He understood from the kids blabbering that this had been a planned attack. The girl was not an intended diversion but had just happened. Jakobs had taken advantage of the situation. He would decide what was to be done with the kid when he returned, if he returned.

Alex wondered as he drove off in the direction Jakobs had fled how many more situations like this had already transpired and how many more he would be responsible for. He understood now that he was what passed for law in these hardened times.

 

 

 

 

The Hunt For Jakobs

 

Alex followed swiftly, his rage growing with each passing mile. Jakobs had at least a forty-five minute head start on him and he wasn’t trying to let it grow. He knew that he would most likely encounter one of the other abductors on his way and it was even possible that the mob that pursued would catch him first but he dismissed this thought. Jakobs was a murderer but stupid he was not. He would have to find him fast. He had to think like Jakobs.

He knew it would be stupid for them to head straight down the interstate. They would run the risk of being over taken during the night. The smartest thing to do would be to exit the interstate and back track or even hide out until their pursuers had given up the chase.

Alex didn’t take Jakobs for the kind of man that hides out so he assumed the former would be Jakobs plan. He would exit somewhere ahead and back track perhaps continuing in the same direction as the convoy shifting directions further ahead.

Jakobs didn’t exit at the first off ramp he couldn’t maneuver, the exit he intended had been fully blocked in every direction. This caused him to travel several miles further than he had originally intended. This had not thwarted his plans he knew, but it was an irritation. He knew someone on a smaller vehicle like some of the travelers used he had just murdered would have little difficulty catching up. He was a good shot but he knew to underestimate your foe is foolish. He had to gain ground and get around those law makers. He had begun calling the members of Alex’s group the law makers in his head. They were the type who sentenced him to death for what they called a crime. He was no criminal it was his God given right to protect his family and that bitch destroyed it.

“Till death do us part bitch!” He spat at the steering wheel, chilling Beth further.

“Please mister, I didn’t do anything to you.” Beth begged as sweetly as she could.

“No, I reckon you didn’t but I ain’t gonna kill ya if that’s what you’re thinking. You’re gonna be my new wife. The last one cheated on me and gave me a bastard son that weren’t mine. You be a good wife and what happened to her won’t happen to you!” To punctuate this last comment he slapped her hard on the side of her face with the back of his hand then added. “Don’t speak unless spoken to. Women and children are to be seen and not heard.”

Beth was stunned and involuntarily sank into the seat as far from this crazed man as she was able.

Alex could see Beth terrified in his mind and his rage grew worse. He was already swerving threw the stalled cars at a haphazard pace risking life with every jerk of the ATV’s handlebars. He was half mad with the hunt. He imagined Jakobs bent and broken beneath his boot heel. This caused an evil grin to creep onto Alex’s face.

He reached the first off ramp. And saw that in all directions it was impassible. He did not tarry, he throttled the machine onward.

Jakobs exited at the first semi-open ramp and picked his way through the streets trying to get out of sight and down any open side roads he could find. He knew he was being pursued. He knew the men he traveled with would give some cover. He wasn’t sure if they would be smart enough to leave the interstate. He didn’t care, they weren’t his problem.

He was driving as fast as he dared not wanting to crash and risk injury to him or his prize. He knew he would have to start over if he accidentally killed his new wife. He didn’t relish the thought of going through the entire ordeal again.

Every so often Alex saw fresh tire marks on the sides of the embankments as he followed. He didn’t know who the tracks belonged to. He kept his break neck pace.

Only one of the two killers that followed Jakobs was smart enough to exit the interstate. The other was not so smart he continued on straight and sideswiped a panel van blowing his driver’s side tire flipping the truck he was driving four times coming to rest upside down. His captive had been thrown from the cab and died on impact with the rear bumper of an old pickup truck.

He was knocked unconscious and hung there upside down with a broken leg until the mob caught up.

They drug him from the truck with vengeance in their hearts and murder on their minds the rubbing of the freshly segmented pieces of his femur shocked the man awake. He screamed and begged as they drug him free of the wreckage.

All five of the vehicles had pursued him straight down the interstate they were so wound up it had not occurred to them to exit. They had passed two of the fleeing abductors and their captives completely oblivious to their oversight.

They screamed and yelled at the murderer who was begging for mercy until the first shot was fired into his leg and then they all began shooting. They shot until the man was not even discernible as human. He no longer had form, just a lump of meat on the asphalt.

One group gathered the body of the dead woman and set off toward the convoy the rest continued their pursuit of the murderous kidnappers.

 

 

The hunt for Jakobs 2

 

Alex was relentless in his pursuit. He exited at the first open exit just as Jakobs and the other kidnapper had done. Alex found it easy to follow their trails and quickly realized at least two vehicles had passed this way.

They left fresh tracks on the sides of the congested roadways in the moist shoulder. He hoped the trails stayed together.

To his dismay he found a fork in the road and he could discern by the markings one vehicle had gone left and one had gone right. He had no way of knowing who had passed here so without hesitation he veered right and throttled the ATV.

The stalled cars grew fewer as he got further from the interstate, he was grateful for the speed the open roadways afforded him but he knew any benefit he reaped would be reaped as well by his quarry.

He nearly crashed numerous times, just missing a stalled van in a blind corner. He was risking it all to save these girls, to save his Beth.

Beth travelled almost solely with Alex now and they shared a tent. They were in love and even in these most strained of times it felt good. They were happy they had each other. They were both equally grateful for each other. Alex had never felt this way for anyone and Beth had told him she had not either. They were sometimes embarrassed when they were caught kissing by their travelling companions. They would both blush and Beth would nuzzle into Alex’s neck to hide her rosy cheeks.

Remembering this Alex nearly broke the throttle on the pink four-wheeler he was pushing it to its limits. He had to get to her. He wanted her safe, he needed her safe. She was everything to him and everything she would remain, even if it cost him his life.

Alex traveled on, encountering wrecks at nearly every intersection he came to. Even as he got further into the more isolated areas he saw this to have been a common problem. This made his tracking easier. The truck he was following had been forced to leave the blacktop numerous times.

This he was glad of. “I am coming you fucking bitch!” He screamed at the road ahead. “Oh I just may enjoy watching you die.” He whispered and drove on.

Alex could see a wide intersection ahead. No houses around only deserted farmland. There was no wreck here. He had three options; he sighed as he took a hard right only slightly releasing the throttle.

He drove until he found a wreck covering the road in its entirety. He cursed under his breath and headed back in the direction he had come.

He took another right at the empty intersection and continued his maddening pace. Again after five miles he encountered a wreck covering the blacktop with no tire marks visible on the shoulder. He knew which direction they had gone.

The poor machine screamed as he headed back once again to the intersection. He rode on frantic and unaware of the fact tears had begun to flow from his eyes. He began to feel his pursuit was pointless but he would not give up. He would chase them for the rest of his life if it was what it took.

He quickly regained the trail and saw where it appeared the abductor had stopped to relieve himself. There were empty beer cans beside what appeared to be a sizable puddle of urine.

Alex gave the empty road a maniacal smile and shouted, “you been holding that a while you scared bitch. I am coming for you. You are mine!”

Alex had to stop and fill his tank from a gas can strapped to the rear of the pink quad and other than that he paused for nothing. He had lost time at the intersection and could not afford to do that again.

He worried the long miles running wide open would damage the off-road vehicles transmission but despite his abuse the pink machine held up.

It was nearly nightfall when he saw the tail lights a quarter mile ahead. It was a pickup truck but whose he did not know, he was too far away. He had been pursuing this man and the man’s captives for over four hours. He felt nothing, No thirst, no pain, no hunger, no fear, all he felt was rage.

He kept the ATV’s lights dark and as carefully as he dared followed the killer waiting for the moment he could attack. He prayed the man would stop to piss again. He wasn’t going to warn him just pull out his rifle and end this chase as quickly as possible.

Alex had grown terribly impatient before the truck finally stopped. He did not hesitate. He was a quarter of a mile away. It was full dark now and he walked right towards the truck. He could hear screams and didn’t dare run for fear he may be heard. “I am coming baby.” His rifle was hanging on his shoulder unusable in the dark. He had a 9mm Beretta in each hand a round chambered in each and both with full clips.

He heard more screams as he covered the short distance which in his mind stretched an eternity. He realized these screams were not Beth’s but a different woman’s. His heart sank. This woman deserved to be saved just as much as Beth, but Beth was his woman. He needed this over post haste.

When he was close enough he could see illuminated by the dim dome light that the woman was being choked as her vile attacker pleasured himself. There was a second woman unconscious beside the struggling woman face down surrounded by a halo of blood.

He did not hear Alex approach and the look of surprise when Alex grabbed him by his hair and drug him backwards causing him to fall hard on the asphalt would be etched in the poor woman’s face for the remainder of her life.

Without a single word Alex shot the stunned pant less man in the face three times. He climbed in the bed of the truck and asked the woman if she were ok without a single glance in her direction he was checking on the seemingly unconscious woman.

“She’s dead. He spoke and covered her with his jacket tucking it beneath her head so it would not blow off on the trip back.

“Can you drive?” He asked the sobbing woman shocking her from her hysteria.

“Yes.” She stuttered.

“There are two more who took hostages, you need to get back and I have to go find them.” He said numbly, then added. “Follow me.”

She did as he said. She had trouble navigating the way in the dark but Alex managed to guide her. The trip back was slow and arduous. It was very late when he got her back to the interstate. She was reproachful and afraid when he bade her goodbye. He felt guilty considering the ordeal she had just endured. This he could not help; he was going after Jakobs and his girl.

 

 

Jakob’s Stand

 

Jakobs had been ever vigilant watching his rear view mirror as he went. He kept the windows down even as the cool of night crept in he did not run the heater. He was listening for any would be pursuers. His gun never left his lap.

Beth had inadvertently fallen to sleep at some point but he never let his guard down even from her. She had been too long with the backwards thinking law makers and he knew she may try to escape and the thought that she may even try and kill him crept in to his mind.

“I’ll have you in chains if that’s what it takes missy.” He whispered to the sleeping girl.

Jakobs found a deserted logging road and slowly backed the truck far enough down so that anyone following would pass right by without a clue they were there.

Beth stirred as he did this. “What are you going to do?” She sleepily whimpered. For this act of malcontent she was punched hard in the face. The blow sent her falling into wonderful dreams.

Jakobs used duct tape to bind her hands and legs and laid her in the bed of the truck beside him and fell fast asleep.

Alex headed back to the fork in the road and headed down the left side this time. Even with the lights on it was hard to see what was coming. He made his way to the first intersection and to his dismay there was no blockage. He could see no signs of which way they had gone.

He had to wait until the morning; it was as dark as any night he could remember. He dozed fitfully and dreamt only of Beth. He woke her name caught in his throat just as dawn was breaking. He scoured the area and in the gloomy light he saw a cigarette butt. It was the type Beth sometimes smoked and it was a little further down one side than the other.

“Oh thank you God, you brilliant girl I love you so much.” He topped off the four-wheelers tank and blasted down the road.

Jakobs woke at precisely the same time as Alex. Jakobs undid Beth’s legs and allowed her to pee under his watchful eye of course. He gave her a can of beans to eat and despite her loathing for this man she gulped them greedily. She didn’t usually eat much and hadn’t eaten at all the day before.

He freed her hands so she could eat and she was hoping he wouldn’t rebind them. To her great pleasure he did not. She needed them free to leave her markings for Alex. Alex was smart and if he were following she knew he would know the things he found were from her and not just random garbage.

She only had a few cigarettes and she wanted to mark everywhere they turned with something. She had first dropped the butt of one and later last night when Jakobs believed her to be asleep she had flicked the remainder of that cigarette out just after they left the road they were on.

She feigned sleep as Jakobs busied himself with his flight avoiding wrecks where they came to them. She always kept something in her hand ready to drop. She would lay her head on her arm to obscure the view from Jakobs and she noticed he had started being lax with his gun. It was still in his lap but he no longer kept a firm grip as he had done for hours the night before.

She ran out of cigarettes and buttes a few hours into the day. They had to stop to refuel and he bound her again. Once he resupplied his gas cans and filled the trucks gas tank he again released her and fed her. He gave her a can of peaches this time. And plainly in front of him she threw the empty can out the window. What he didn’t see was that she had tucked a piece of the duct tape inside.

This went on all day. Alex unbeknownst to Jakobs was steadily gaining ground. His ATV wasn’t faster but it was far more agile navigating the congested byways.

Alex had a few close calls that day and was disheartened when the transmission of his ATV began to whine and periodically jerk. He was not a forgiving operator; each time he was slowed he gunned the machine when he was free as if he were a drag racer in some high performance nitrous powered funny car. It was taking its toll. He kept his eyes open for a replacement he knew that he could lose Jakobs and his girl forever if he got stranded in the middle of nowhere following a trail of garbage and cigarette butts.

Jakobs thought women were dumb. He knew God made them from Adam’s rib to please man, but what a joke that was to him. “You can’t get a decent days work out of one without a strap.” He used to chuckle and say to his bastard son, just as his father had told him as a boy.

Jakobs sense of superiority over women was slowly proving to be his downfall. His wife had another man’s son right under his nose. This thought angered him; he slapped Beth hard across the face. She believed from the blow her scheme had been found out. She shied away but could only move so far in the cab of the truck.

She waited for him to stop and the beating to begin, or worse she thought. Nothing happened; Jakobs spat at the floor board and kept on driving without a word.

She stifled a sigh of relief faking a sneeze when Jakobs glanced towards her. A few minutes later they made another turn and she dropped the top from her now empty cigarette pack with a small piece of duct tape stuck to it. She didn’t know if this was going to work but she had to fight a smile knowing that this man so full of himself was being fooled by a little ole girl.

Alex found sign after sign and a few times had to double back until he was sure he was following the right trail. She left a peach can for him, pieces of cigarettes, pieces of toilet paper, small pieces of trash from the floorboard of the truck, and they all had duct tape stuck to them to let Alex know he was on the right path.

He was happy simply because he knew she was alive and well enough to be leaving signs. He hoped this meant she was well at least.

The second night came and Alex knowing there would be signs slowed his pace but did not stop.

Jakobs pulled into an old coal processing facility and taped Beth up for the night. Jakobs did not see when Beth dropped another sign at the entrance just as they left the road. She had dropped the biggest one yet. It was the remainder of her cigarette pack with toilet paper stuck in it and a big piece of duct tape attached. She knew that if Alex was following he wouldn’t stop for the night if he had something to look for.

Alex’s tenacity and singleness of purpose frightened her sometimes but more than anything it made her feel safe with him. She knew if he were out there he would find her. She just worried that Jakobs, who had little trouble killing, might get the drop on him.

Alex drove all through the night. Somewhere he heard a rooster crow. It was four in the morning. He was exhausted and hungry but he knew his diligence may yet pay off. He used the lights of the four-wheeler and his mag light at every junction and found the make shift bread crumbs which had been left him.

He was driving slowly, the machine was getting close to breaking down he knew and was looking for a replacement when he saw something in the road ahead. He quickly shut off the engine and killed the headlights.

He drew a 9mm from his bag and carefully walked towards the object in the road. It was Beth’s cigarette pack. There was no intersection here and it took him a moment in the dark to discern the mouth of the old drive, He crept closer and saw to the side was an old broken down sign with an arrow which read deliveries.

He slowly walked down the old long deserted dirt road. There was a low muddy patch and it was here he carefully shielded his flashlight and illuminated the ground. There were fresh tire tracks. Alex’s adrenaline was pumping. He felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck. Despite the chill he could feel sweat begin do bead on his forehead.

“I caught you, you bitch.” He hissed. Alex could feel every nerve in his body tingle. He was going up against a madman who was armed and willing to kill. Jakobs had proven that. He would do whatever it took to get what he wanted.

Alex was willing to do whatever it took to free Beth. In contrast to her he considered his own life forfeit. It was hard with such limited light and he was careful not to give himself away with the flashlight but he managed to track the tire marks to a large building.

It was nearly pitch black inside, Alex was kneeling just to the left of the big open bay door. In the dark the building seemed to go on forever. He kept the light off and stared into the darkest part waiting for his eyes to adjust. He was tired but his blood was pumping hard and fast.

After five minutes he began to see shapes in the dark. Long defunct coal bins were strewn through this old place. He slowly entered the building being careful to make no sound. He was overly conscious of his breathing. It seemed a symphony in his ears as he strained to listen for any sign of Beth or her captor. He was hoping to hear Jakobs snoring away but didn’t.

He crept around the wall of this huge empty place. Had he been wrong he wondered. Perhaps they were here and left. Perhaps those were somebody else’s tracks altogether. Then he heard a familiar sound, a slight sleepy whimper. He recognized it. He would lay at night beside Beth and would fall asleep listening to this sound.

He wanted to shout out her name. To do so he knew would be his greatest folly. He had to be careful. He followed the feint sound to its origins. Tucked away in the corner was Jakobs pickup truck. He spent a long time carefully circling around as to not be caught off guard or to warn of his presence.

He was thirty feet from the truck, pistol drawn safety off, round chambered when three things happened.

He saw a flash of light from high up on a catwalk, heard a thunderous boom, and it felt as if his left thigh had been stabbed through with a fire hot poker.

Alex fell hard and managed to scramble behind one of the massive coal bins. When he tried to ascertain the damage to his leg he became aware of Beth’s screams.

“Alex, oh dear God Alex. Are you hurt, is it you? Please answer me.” Beth was frantic squirming hard against her bonds begging them to break. Willing the harsh tape to lose its grip and free her.

Alex was in a great deal of pain but he made no sound. He had seen this scenario played out many times on television shows, in movies, he had read it in books, and he had even played it in video games. He was playing dead and he meant to do it properly.

Jakobs chuckled at the girls cries. “Shut that mouth you stupid bitch.” He was full of himself. He heard no sound from the law maker he had just shot. He was either unconscious or dead or soon would be. He would finish him off if that was what was necessary. Any man who tried to tell another man how to live deserved no better than death and he would oblige Alex to that end.

“You think I’m dumb don’t ya? You really are fucking stupid if ya think I didn’t notice ya throwing stuff out all this time.” As Jakobs spoke Beth sobbed. She had gotten Alex killed and now she was probably next. Then she shuddered it will be worse to live.

Alex could hear Jakobs speaking and noted the change in the sound of his voice. He was moving. Alex quietly removed his shirt and used one of his pistols to make a tourniquet for his leg. He was bleeding very badly.

Jakobs had his eyes and ears trained on the spot where he had shot Alex. He was sure he had hit him. He wished he could have shot him with his big handgun but at this range and in this light it would have been a luck shot if anything. He used his rifle instead. He decided to wait him out. He’d probably bleed out in five or ten minutes.

“Girl I’m going to hurt you for this real bad. You’re gonna find out what living with pain is like if you don’t learn to mind me.” Jakobs spat at the darkened building. He then got very still and stopped speaking.

 

 

He quietly crawled away from the coal bin making sure it was in between him and Jakobs. He could hear Jakobs’ footfalls on the old rusted walkway and gauged his distance by this.

Beth could do nothing but cry, she had never felt more helpless in her entire life.

Alex was fully awake and despite his wound and exhaustion had grown quite accustomed to the darkness of this place. He shimmied up on to a low loading dock and crawled behind a steel guard for cover. He readied his rifle and began scanning the darkened building in the direction he believed Jakobs to be in.

It wasn’t long before Alex could make out the outline of the killer high above the floor. He was poised just above a ladder seemingly trying to decide if it were safe to come down yet.

Jakobs silently stood there for a solid twenty minutes not speaking or moving. He began to descend the ladder Alex waited till he was about twenty feet down and fired. The first shot went wide and hit the wall behind Jakobs. Jakobs tried to climb back up.

Alex fired again and caught Jakobs in the shoulder. He clung fast to the ladder and let out a yelp much like one of the dogs Alex had shot. This hesitation gave Alex the shot he needed he fired again and Jakobs fell.

Alex couldn’t see where he landed but he heard breaking boards and an audible thud. It took Alex ten minutes to crawl to the truck, he nearly lost consciousness several times.

With great effort he managed to open the tailgate and climb in. He fell onto Beth’s legs and felt himself passing out. He fought the urge and squirmed higher and chewed through the duct tape which was binding her hands. Once she was free he passed out. During her rescue Beth had been speaking but Alex had no idea what was being said.

Alex had lost a great deal of blood and was delirious.

 

Jakobs Last

 

Jakobs couldn’t move. Something was broken and he had been shot in the shoulder. He remembered now. He dropped to fool the kid. He fell making him think he had been shot again. He surely would have hit him had he stayed still on the ladder. His shoulder was bleeding a great deal, this he could feel. He wasn’t sure if the bullet had passed through or if it were lodged in there.

That damn kid tricked me. This was his last thought as his eyes rolled back and he lost consciousness.

 

Safe

 

Alex woke two days later with the sun blinding him in the early morning light. He was warm despite seeing the breath of those outside the window of his rolling hospital bed. He was in a big SUV on a gurney. He ached all over and he could feel the bandages on his legs. He saw Beth sound asleep beside him and with a warm smile dozed off knowing that she was safe and they were together again.

 

 

2 Years and 11 Months Later

 

Alex sat in the remains of the burnt out fortress. He had named their settlement Keira after the little girl he had watched die in that long ago parking lot. The pretty sign Beth had painted over the main entrance hung charred and unreadable.

They had spent many months building and fortifying this place to prevent being attacked. These very fortifications had been their undoing. The walls charred black and covered in soot still stood. Alex wondered how long it would be before Mother Nature reclaimed the materials they had used as their own to build his home. A chilling thought crept into his mind, a long ago memory he hadn’t visited in many years. “Ashes to ashes dust to dust.” That had been the only thing he remembered from the day his parents and baby sister had been buried.

He convulsed and began coughing uncontrollably coughing up black phlegm. He thought aloud, “It has started, I will be dead soon.” At this declaration he drank deeply from the bottle of liquor, and then vomited.

Aloud he spoke to the dead walls in this cold place that had once been so full of life. “John I did as you said, I found survivors and we found a safe place. Why did this happen?”

Alex had been on a gathering mission, he had been gone for several days keeping in contact the whole time at regular intervals. Beth had not gone because she had not been feeling well. Alex didn’t mind, being alone from time to time truly helped him appreciate his new life here with Beth. “My wife.” He cried.

He really didn’t understand what had gone wrong, and how did they get infected. When he arrived he found only three survivors. Only two of these three could speak and one of those was his wife.

He found Beth badly burned on both of her legs, she had managed to crawl to their favorite spot. The place they spent hours talking about the future, what their kids would be like and how things would be for them when they grew up. It was nearly too much for him to take, his heart breaking could have been heard for miles around had there been anyone there to hear it.

Alex fell to his knees at Beth’s side but with all her strength she screamed at him to get away once her eyes focused enough to see it was him. He had a great deal of trouble speaking, “what happened to you babe?” Silent tears spilled down his cheeks.

It was hard to breathe even here because the wind kept changing blowing the smoke towards where Beth had settled to die. Alex again attempted to touch her and she again at great pain to herself yelled for him to stop. He couldn’t bear seeing her in such pain.

Just loud enough for him to hear Beth said, “Alex I am infected, I am going to die soon, but you have to go survive. I know this will be hard for you but you must. I can’t really tell you what happened here because I don’t know.” She stopped choking and spat up the green phlegm Alex had dreamt of for almost two full years after they arrived here.

“Who did this to you? Why?” He stammered, feeling the old panic taking hold as he knelt there helpless to help the person he loved more than anyone on earth.

“All I know was that I heard engines and yelling in a foreign language, before I was even out of bed there was a huge explosion. Fire tore through the entire place. It spread so fast. I managed to slip out the rear. They were here and gone so fast. They didn’t want anything but to kill us. I was burnt pretty badly but I knew you’d be here soon, so I thought me and the baby would be ok. Then I began coughing.” As if on cue she again started choking.

“God no,” he cried.

“It’s OK Babe you will meet your child in heaven, but not yet you must live, it seems God has a larger plan for you than anyone can guess.”  She was crying but had an oddly peaceful look on her face.

“I can’t do this alone, I need you.” He demanded with no real conviction his strength was waning and he felt as if he would collapse.

“You gave all these people hope, they are gone now and it happened fast that is the one good thing.” She was searching through her fevered mind trying to find the right words to comfort him, they did not come easy. “You read history you know how things are, hope is worth its weight in diamonds. To live one day with hope is better to live an eternity with none.”

Alex suddenly felt panic and dread over take him, he wanted to just curl up on the pile of ashes by his feet and die, but more over whelming was the urge to get out of here. He loved this place more than any other he had visited in his life. It was here he came to the realization that his brother and all those he had loved before the virus were dead. He had come to terms and moved on. Now it has started again.

Alex had combed the entire area and checked each room, it was then he realized others must have survived or had not been in the compound when it was attacked there were at least twelve bodies unaccounted for but he had no idea who was dead or who was missing. The fire had erased all identifying markers from the dead.

He tore out of the blackened tomb and collapsed under a nearby tree panting, coughing, and then throwing up undigested liquor. As he passed out all he could see in his mind’s eye was him brutally slaughtering faceless men as they begged for mercy in a language he could not comprehend.

He woke early the next morning with death in his eyes and hate in his heart, he was not sick as he had first thought. His coughing and choking of the previous day were merely symptoms of smoke inhalation. He went to where he had buried his wife and unborn child and softly spoke, “I will kill them, I will kill them all, I swear it.”

 

 

 

 

Fin…

Eulogy Post XI

 

blue skull

Alex 16

 

It was an easy trip back for the Hummer, but he had to be a bit more careful pulling the trailer through all the stalled cars. He was real excited about all the things he’d found, two large steel plows, a welding setup, complete with cutting torch and plenty of fuel for what he needed.

 

He intended to use the plows to make a cattle catcher for the front of his truck. He would have to do quite a bit of cutting and welding, and hoped if he wasn’t finished that day, that Red would be willing to wait till he was finished. He knew the rainy season was about to begin and didn’t want to get held up by being stuck in a ditch trying to get by the wrecks they were sure to find in more populated areas.

 

He made it back to where he had left his things, and as he had expected nothing had been bothered. He had gotten the idea pretty spur of the moment and had not looked to see what the truck was equipped to handle.

 

He unloaded all the parts, the plows were large and really heavy, he had used a wench to get them into the trailer. He had very little experience welding, he had only tried a few times in high school in shop class. He thought he could figure it out. He knew how to use the cutting torch, it was simple enough.

 

It took him quite a while to wrestle the plows down off the trailer, once he had them on the ground he was able to drag them into whatever position was needed. He took a break and called Red still panting, He told him what he was trying to do, Red joked that he must be bored. Red told him it was much slower going than he had imagined. After checking in with Red he got back to work.

 

He spent the next two hours practicing welds, once he was sure of what he was doing he began work on his make shift cow catcher. Using the cutting torch he removed all the parts from the blades, when he was finished he had two curved pieces of steel. He placed them flat and using the mammoth truck he attempted to flatten them. After a few attempts he saw the blades were still curved, but not nearly as pronounced as before, it would have to suffice.

 

Using various pieces of steel he fashioned a frame for his cow catcher, he loosely bolted this to the bumper so that it could tilt, he welded a large eye bolt to the point in the frame, to this he attached the wench. He drilled holes into the large semi flat pieces of steel, then bolted each to its own side of the frame in the shape of a V. Once he had the blades bolted up he welded the bolts to keep them secure, he used the wench to raise the front to the desired height He set it at about  eight inches above the asphalt, he hoped it was high enough.

 

He then reinforced it as best as he could, this permanently locked it into place. “In theory this should work.” He said aloud as he climbed into the cab, wanting to test his work.

 

He drove about a mile before he found a wreck, three cars wide on a two lane road, he slowed a bit and aimed the truck carefully, he only wanted to move the vehicles aside, not destroy them or flip them, just clear a path wide enough for those following him. The test started off well enough, the cars were parting seemingly at the trucks whim. Alex heard a loud snapping sound. A bolt had broken.

 

He would need more metal, he had to reinforce it further. He turned back and returned to his camp. He got out and surveyed the damage, it was not severe, the right blades main support had shifted and a bolt gave way.

He was thinking of ways to correct this problem when suddenly there was a black flash on his right side. Then he heard a snarl. Without so much as a glance back he bolted for the trucks passenger side door. He climbed in and locked it and hastily grabbed for the closest gun. It was a nine millimeter, he had gotten from John’s safe.

 

He wasn’t sure what he had seen, it had happened so fast, but he had heard the snarl. It was a dog, in his mind he pictured some hell hound from an old movie he’d seen late one night when he had a bad bout of insomnia. He felt a bit foolish, running from a dog as if it were Satan himself.

 

“I bet he’s just hungry.” Alex laughed to himself. He grabbed an MRE he had half eaten earlier and when he began rolling down the window noticed that there was more than one dog. He saw seven just on the driver’s side. They were keeping their distance, but not too far. There were all sorts of dogs,  medium to large. He was searching the cab for more food. That’s when he saw several more dogs walk around from the passenger side. They were far bigger than the rest, one a Great Dane, the other a bull mastiff. They were fearsome, and easily two of the biggest dogs he had ever seen.

 

He suddenly felt afraid, he was not scared of dogs, but these dogs just didn’t seem right. The sun was high in the sky, and he could see clearly. Was that blood on their mouths? He wondered. “Your just cracking up bud.“ He said aloud to himself. He convinced himself these were pets abandoned as their owners had died. They must have been going through garbage, and no telling what else to get food.

 

He cut the MRE all the way down the side and tossed it out. The MRE had barely hit the black top when the fighting had begun. They were all trying to get the food, then one of the first dogs he had noticed, a pit bull had latched on to a chow. The chow gave a shrill howl of pain and tried for the pit’s throat, before Alex’s very eyes the chow and pit bull were shredded to pieces and eaten.

 

It was then as the remaining animals sat and finished off their meals he understood, they were diseased. The poor creatures had been left to starve as everyone died, maybe their owners had set them free in the hopes they could fend for themselves.

 

“Red, this is Alex, where are you guys?” There was urgency in his voice, God if they pulled up and got out of their vehicles they would be killed or worse yet, infected.

 

“Yeah Alex, what’s wrong, you sound a bit wound up.” Replied Red, concerned, he then added, “last sign said ten miles to Burlington, that was a few minutes ago.”

 

“You guys need to stop, I was nearly attacked by a pack of diseased dogs. I caught a glimpse of one out of the corner of my eye and got in the truck just in time. At first I thought they were just hungry. I dropped some food out and they went after it, two began fighting and the others killed and ate the two who were fighting.” Alex was freaked out.

 

“Are you ok, did they touch you?” Came Sherry’s voice.

 

“No, but I have to do something, traveling is slow at best, they will have no problem keeping up with us. Maybe they will die, or maybe we run out of gas first.” Explained Alex.

 

“Think you can handle them?” Asked Red.

 

“I think so, I will call back shortly.” He answered.

 

“Good luck.” Red ended.

 

He had to think, there are at least seven of them out there, think Alex think. He was worried that if he weren’t careful they’d come after him in the truck. He knew they couldn’t get in, but they could contaminate his supplies.

He found another MRE he had left in the floor board, for eating that afternoon. He opened it and split its contents into three portions. This had to work. Dogs are not stupid animals, he knew, but he hoped the disease would make them less intelligent. Just maybe he could manipulate them enough.

 

He wrapped one portion into a piece of paper and threw it out the window, it landed about fifteen feet from the truck and as he hoped the dogs went after it. They began fighting almost instantly, he aimed with the pistol and began firing. There were yelps of pain and one fell on its side, seeing the wounded animal the two largest grabbed it and began dragging it away from the fight.

 

Alex was careful and was able to shoot four of the seven, sadly they had not all died as he had hoped, several lay whimpering. It hurt him to hear their pain, he reloaded and carefully ended their suffering. It’s then he realized the two larger animals were no longer in sight. He saw a blood trail leading towards the embankment in the median.

 

The dog he had missed seemed completely oblivious to the shots and just continued eating the nearest carcass. He shot him three times, the dog never made a sound, it just stopped moving. He began looking around for the other two.

 

He threw the remaining food he had been using as bait out and readied the gun. After a few minutes they crested the hill slowly, they seemed to know it was a trap. “Now you’re losing it, they are just sick animals. Get a grip dude.” Alex said to himself.

 

He noticed as they warily approached the food he had thrown out that the two dogs were wearing matching collars. He couldn’t help wonder who‘s pets they had been. They appeared to be healthier than the rest of the animals they had been traveling with. Alex was not a dog person, but to him these two could have been show dogs. The only dispelling feature was the foam dripping from their snouts and the blood matted around their mouths.

 

“I’m sorry,” Alex said before he opened fire, the first shot hit the lead dog, the mastiff, in the leg, then the gun jammed.

 

The wounded animal scampered back over the hill, but her companion charged the truck, he was quick and Alex barely got away from the window before the huge jaws were after him, frothing and snapping. He yelled out in fright, as he slid backwards across the seat blindly grabbing for his rifle. He found it, the dog was nearly in the cab, he could hear the claws scratching at the metal of the door trying to gain purchase.

 

He chambered a round and shot, the bullet tore into the door and the dog let out a yelp, but did not stop it’s advance. He chambered a second round cursing himself for missing. He was panicking, he knew if this dog so much as licked him, he would be a goner.

 

He aimed and shot, hitting the dog in chest, it fell with a thud, he scrambled out the passenger side door, gun at the ready, he needed to finish this. First he ran twenty feet from the truck as to prevent a sneak attack, he turned, and backed far enough up, to kneel and see where the dog had fallen and if it was in fact dead.

 

He heard whimpering, the animal was dead, the whimpering came from its mate as it limped towards where the animal had fallen. Alex made a wide circle around the truck trying to keep his distance, he had no way of knowing if there were any other surprises lurking.

 

He was fifty feet in front of the truck carefully scanning as he went, he could clearly see the two dogs, the wounded animal was licking the face of his dead companion. He whimpered as he laid down beside her, he placed his muzzle on the back of her neck and cried.

 

Alex had seen terrible things all around him for days, so much in fact that he had started getting used to seeing the dead in their cars, as if it were perfectly natural to stop on the side of the road and die. The sound of that dog crying, and the tears in his eyes would haunt Alex as much as any human tragedy he witnessed would haunt him the rest of his days.

 

“I am sorry old boy,” Alex said just before he fired. He had tears in his eyes, Alex thought, each day a little more of me dies.

 

He went to the hummer after he was sure the area was clear, worried he may have gotten infected, but having no way to know for sure, he would just have to continue on as if he weren’t. the thought of him sitting here waiting to see if he were infected, was an undertaking he would not concede to.

 

He stripped completely naked and tossed his clothes in a pile on the ground and using bottled water and soap cleaned himself using ten full gallon jugs. He used alcohol on a rag and wiped his entire body.  He put on another of his Hazmat suits and set out to clean the truck, he used four full gallons of bleach, liberally pouring it on every surface the animal had touched. He heard Red try him on the CB several times, but did not want to handle it, fearing he may contaminate it.

 

He used more bleach to fully decontaminate the suit, then using rags he fashioned from his discarded shirt he scrubbed the truck thoroughly. Satisfied it was clean he drove it away from where the animals lay. He walked back then moved the hummer and trailer.

 

The gash in his head had been a solid hum of dull pain, but had not troubled him very much, now it began pounding. This made him nervous. Still wearing the suit he used a chainsaw and cut down several trees, he used these to build a pyre. He carefully collected the bodies of the terrorists latest victims and placed them on it. He put the last two he had killed together on top as they had lain on the asphalt.

 

He piled more wood all around them and over them. He wondered how insane people would find his actions had any been alive to watch. He felt it was only right. He had killed them, and felt responsible for them. He used bleach on the places they had died. He soaked the pyre with a mixture of oil and gas, and as the sun was sinking he lit the wood.

 

He went through the routine of dousing his suit with Clorox, and remembered he had been naked inside the suit, he was drenched with sweat. He threw the suit into the fire careful not to touch it with his bare hands. He imagined he must have looked comical naked standing out there in the road.

 

He dreaded calling Red with the news that he may be infected. It had been hours since his last troubled message and he knew they would be anxious to hear from him. “Red you there?”

 

“Thank God!” It was Sherry’s voice he heard. “Are you ok?”

 

“I killed them all, but one nearly got me.” He answered solemnly.

 

“Did it touch you?” Sherry asked, with true concern in her voice.

 

“I think you should gather everyone around the CB so I can tell all of you this story at once.” Alex told her.

 

“Ok.” She answered.

 

A few minutes later Red’s troubled voice broke the silence, “Alex, we’re all here, what’s happened?”

 

Alex told them about waking that morning thinking he had heard a dog, but shook it off thinking he had imagined it, then about the growling he had heard in the parking lot at the Tractor Supply store. He even added what he had done with the truck, trying to soften the blow to himself as much as them. As he talked about one thing, he was continuously trying to organize his thoughts on the dog attack, trying to make it easier to say, as well as hear.

 

Finally he gave every detail of the attack as he remembered, starting with the glimpsing of the dog, all the way up to burning the bodies. He was finished. He had talked for nearly thirty minutes. His mouth was dry and he was as nervous as he had been in high school, on stage in front of hundreds of blank faces accepting his diploma.

 

Red broke the silence first. “Well son sounds like you did everything I would have in that situation, and I pray you aren’t infected.” His voice was warm and caring, there was a hint of sadness.

 

“Look I have enough supplies in the back of this truck to last you five for a good long while, there are weapons, and if what I have seen is any indication of what is to come, you will need them. I haven’t been in the back of the truck since the attack, and I will not. If I am infected you will need to find another large vehicle to carry it all in, The cab of this one will be too dangerous to enter. If it is fine with you, I will stay ahead of you guys and use my truck to clear the roads. We will know if I am sick within a day.”

 

“It sounds fine to me son, let me see what the others think.” Alex heard a click then silence fell for a full five minutes.

 

“Sug, it’s Sherry, I want you to listen carefully, I really hope you’re not sick, but if you are we won’t abandon you. I’m a nurse, and anything I can do to help I will. Look,” Her voice went grave after this last word , “the couple who is traveling with us are a bit strange, Red Is out there trying to calm them down. The woman has had a complete breakdown. From what Red said the night we met them and even before what happened was clear to us, she had acted as if she were suffering from some sort of mental illness. My husbands a psychologist you see.”

 

“Ok, but please tell them I will keep my distance, I would never try and get someone else sick.” Alex answered.

 

“I know you wouldn’t sug, but some people just can’t be reasoned with. Here comes Red, one sec.” Sherry as before had forgotten to let go of the button.

 

“Well, are they settled down?” He heard Sherry ask her husband.

 

“Hardly, the woman has completely lost her mind, she thinks just looking at him will make her sick. She needs to be institutionalized, only problem is those institutions don’t exist anymore. I have been trying for days to get Phil aside to talk to him about her, he knows I am psychologist. He acts as if he doesn’t know what I mean when I ask him how his wife is doing.” Red paused.
“I tried asking him about her the other morning and got my head bitten off.” Sherry added.

 

Red began again, “this guy may be sick, but I am not gonna leave him to die alone, that would be cruel and inhumane. I pray he is not, sounds like he has a good head on his shoulders. As long as we take precautions we should do fine. Look I told Phil if they felt so strongly they could go on their merry way without us. I knew something like this was gonna happen with them.” Alex heard a noise, and someone shouting inaudibly.

 

“Oh Christ Red, they are going to kill him!” He heard Sherry scream.

 

“They wouldn’t came a quieter voice,” Then there was silence.

 

 

Alex/Red 17

 

“Red what’s going on?” Asked Alex.

 

“They just took off towards you, Sandra was screaming that they are gonna kill you. We are coming towards you, but we don’t see them yet. She just kept screaming at him to go kill you. I am afraid they may very well be on their way to do just that. You need to hide.” Red said exasperated.

 

“Well we definitely have a problem then, because I can’t move this truck right now, and I am not leaving a massive stash of weapons for some psychos to pick up. I won’t do anything crazy, I will try and talk to them.” Alex didn’t know what he was going to say in this talk, but he would have to come up with something.

 

“Well we won’t be far behind them, good luck, and Alex be careful these people are terribly unbalanced.” Red said solemnly.

 

Phil was weaving in and out of the stalled vehicles far too quickly, but somehow he managed to keep the SUV from crashing, he had been listening to everything. Red hadn’t noticed him removing the CB from his RV before they had abandoned it.

 

Sandra had been steadily mile after grueling mile repeating like a mantra, he’s a murderer, he will kill us. At first she had tried to make arguments, some even sounded half based in reality, but she was in another world all her own. She was schizophrenic, a fact Phil had kept to himself, for many years. He was skilled at glossing over any sudden outbursts and deviant behavior anyone had witnessed from her.

 

He had met Sandra, while he was a patient at a psychiatric hospital nine years earlier. He was a manic depressive, with psychotic symptoms. He heard voices, but having Sandra to care for and the meds had allowed him to function for all these years without anyone knowing.

 

He had kept Sandra on her meds, and she was usually very lucid, she was very sweet to him and him alone. Anyone else she encountered was treated as an enemy. She had been in the hospital due to the fact her last parent, her father, had died leaving her without anyone to administer her medications. She had curled up in a corner. She was terribly malnourished, and dehydrated. When they found her she had scratched and dug at her skin so badly she required skin grafts on each of her arms. Thus leading to her always wearing long sleeved shirts. Phil always dressed the same so that she wouldn’t feel different.

 

She attacked the first officer to enter the room, gouging his face horribly screaming that he had murdered her father. They were forced to use mace. She had been charged with a felony, but it was thrown out of court on the grounds she was completely and utterly incompetent. They found her father in an upstairs bedroom. He had been dead five days from massive heart failure.

 

Phil had come to visit her every chance he could, he even took classes and became an RN so he would have leverage in his court case for having her released. Everything had gone great for them after her release. They shared a little condo and were left alone most of the time, Phil had gotten into the habit of giving her a larger dose of Thorazine, a powerful sedative, so that he wouldn’t have to worry about her while he was at work.

 

The arrangement had went very well, until shortly after they had a new neighbor move in. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but he liked to listen to his stereo a little loud. Not even loud enough to hear through the walls. The only way you could hear it is if his windows and theirs were open. One day a few weeks after Phil had lowered Sandra’s Thorazine dosage, he came home and first thing he noticed was one of Sandra’s shoes in the flower bed between the separate walks for the two condos. He grabbed her shoe and hurried toward the door, which he now noticed was ajar.

 

He searched for her but she was not home, he began to panic, he ran outside frantically searching for her. He decided to go knock on the neighbors door and see if he had seen her. He approached and saw there were long gouges in the door, his heart sank. He knocked and from the force of his knock the door swung open far enough for him to see a man’s bare bloody leg.

 

He whispered, “Sandra, honey are you in there?”

 

He slowly pushed the door open, not sure what he was going to find, as more of the man’s body was exposed he saw that he had been mercilessly stabbed, head to toe, he could not possibly guess how many times as he looked at the poor man’s remains. In places he looked like ground meat, and beside his body drenched in his blood laid Sandra, unconscious with exhaustion.

 

He quickly grabbed a blanket got her up and back into their place, where he administered a large dose of the sedative. He placed her in the shower and scrubbed every inch of her. This took well over an hour, she was completely drenched, she had parts of the man stuck in her hair, and under her fingernails.

 

Phil had taken an oath, in sickness and in health, he would not let her be locked up ever again, he could fix this. He would fix this. He rationalized that she had done what she did, solely because she was sick, and thus did not deserve to be punished. He loved her, he couldn’t stand being alone again. If that happened he would pull the trigger next time.

 

As he had been washing her, she had only said one thing, “make him turn it down.” To Phil this bolstered his rationalization and he began to think the guy had deserved it. He had been torturing his wife with unbearably loud music.

 

Phil went next door, found the knife his wife had used, he wiped the door down inside and out, making sure she had not left bloody prints anywhere. He found a box of candles and lit them placing them all around the room the man was in. He lit them all, he rearranged the man’s furniture staging an apparent home invasion gone wrong. He took all the man’s valuables, wallet, anything he thought a would be robber or crack addict would want.

 

He took one of the candles spilled a little wax on the counter it had been sitting on and slid it’s container back until it was under a shelf on the edge of the counter. He then placed all the flammable things he could find on the shelf, bottles of cologne, cooking spray, oil, and a quart jar of gas. He had gotten the gas from the dead man’s garage. He then piled paper cloth anything he could find that would flame up and  burn hot and quick. The idea was for the candle to burn down to a point and then it would ignite the accelerants, which would in turn ignite the gas and other things stacked on the shelf.

 

He was careful not to overdo it, he wanted the evidence here destroyed, not his condo or his things. The guy was dead so screw him, he didn’t need his stuff anymore. He went home got himself cleaned up and dressed his wife, they were going out. Despite her protests she reluctantly allowed him to lead her to their car. They stopped at a fast food restaurant, he paid with his credit card. Then they saw a movie, where he also paid with his credit card. As they left the theatre he casually threw a bag of garbage away in plain sight of a police officer. The bag of trash was the man’s valuables and wallet. After discarding the last of the evidence, he nodded and smiled at the police officer as they passed. The clothes he had gotten rid of simply by putting them in a plastic bag, he then drenched its contents with ammonia, and threw them in the dumpster at the fast food place they had stopped at.

 

The plan had worked as he had hoped, he had been worried that maybe it wouldn’t. Even the officer outside the theater remembered seeing them. There were police cars and fire trucks everywhere. Smoke still issued from the gutted condo but Phil and Sandra’s seemed unharmed. He grinned. The police had no reason to doubt where they said they had been, he didn’t offer but they asked and he showed them both their stubs, and the receipt from the restaurant. They simply had the officer from the theater come by and he said he saw them leaving the movies. They had to stay at a hotel a few days. There had been damage to the electrical lines, but that had been the extent of the repercussions for committing murder.

 

Phil and Sandra were both out of meds now, both were in desperate need of them. “There!” Screamed the psychotic woman from the passenger side of the SUV still barreling through the massive car graveyard. They could see the smoke from the fire creeping up over the trees from around the slight bend in the interstate.

 

They had listened the night Alex had told about the man he had executed, and Phil knew then he would have a problem with him. Who was he to dole out justice, he was nobody, and now he was sick. Yes Sandra was right, if he couldn’t get us sick he would murder us in our sleep. His thoughts tormented and twisted were not a match for what was going on in his wife’s mangled psyche.

 

They were both out of control and on a mission to kill. Phil, not a very rational man in the best of circumstances hadn’t even considered sneaking up on Alex, who knew they were coming. He had heard that coward Red kissing up to him, so he would be safe. Phil had decided to kill them all, and he would.

 

He slid the SUV to a halt and jumped out, Red hadn’t known Phil was armed, he was always armed. No one would keep him from her again. He jumped from the vehicle gun pointed at the large truck, Sandra spilled out and crowded close behind him.

 

Alex didn’t have much time to prepare for their arrival, and decided the plows were his best bet, no matter how they approached. He had an M-16 clutched clumsily in his hands, he had never fired such a weapon, but knew he may get his chance soon enough.

 

“Come out you murdering, diseased freak, we’re gonna kill you.” Cajoled the woman, he now knew how Red felt when he had first glimpsed the couple.

 

“Listen I don’t want a problem, I don’t have a problem with you guys, and I want to be left alone. So you just go on your way and we never have to see each other again.” Alex replied.

 

Alex was waiting for a reply when Phil started shooting, his shots were wild and inaccurate, but far too close for comfort. Phil then demanded, “come on out so we can end this, we have to get ready for that old fuck, his bitch, and the little slut they have with them.” As Phil had said this he didn’t see Red, Sherry, and Beth, in his mind he saw his mother, father and his sister. Whom he hadn’t seen in fifteen years.

 

Red had arrived, but they had parked just past the bend, he approached on foot in the median just out of sight down the hill. Alex saw him as his white hair crested the hill, he knew who he was the second he saw his face.

 

“Phil don’t move,” Red demanded.

 

Phil turned and saw Red standing there shot gun in his hands pointed at his midsection. “You old bastard, after all I have done for you.”

 

Red found this comment a bit strange, considering he and Sherry had taken care of all the meals, had gotten them a vehicle, and never asked for so much as a thank you. Red knew insanity; it was his life’s work.

 

While being distracted by Red, Alex had taken the opportunity to get into a better position and had his sights trained on Phil’s chest. “Look man just put the gun down, no one is here to hurt you guys, why the hell were you shooting at me for Christ’s sake?”

“Not here to hurt me not here to hurt me, just here to blare your music and steal my RV and kill me, kill me kill me!,” Sandra repeated gaining volume and pitch with each burst.

“Phil put the gun down, we have to talk, we can work this out, you and your wife are not well, I can see that, your out of medication aren’t you? Of course, if that is all, we can find more pills.” Red pleaded.

 

For a moment Alex thought he saw rationality set into Phil’s eyes, he was grateful. Phil dropped the gun, all the while his wife circled him like a wild animal protecting her young from multiple attackers. When she saw the gun fall she screeched a blood curdling scream. “NO HE”S GONNA KILL US!” She dove for the gun, Phil feebly grabbed at her, he appeared lost in a dream.

 

Red and Alex were both yelling at her to stop, Phil looked on stupidly. Before anyone could do more than yell she had the gun in her trembling hand she lifted it from her knees and aimed at Alex and fired, all the while they were yelling for her to stop to no avail.

 

The bullet ripped the flesh of his left shoulder grazing the bone, the feeling was hot flaring pain. Alex did not want to fire, but at feeling the bullet tear at his shoulder involuntarily squeezed the trigger. She was hit once in the throat and once in the chest. She dropped to her knees with her head bent forward as if she were praying and fell asleep.

 

He remembered it all as a dream, one minute she was screaming trying to kill him, and the next it was if something had exploded in her, the blood, he thought how could so much blood come from one person? Alex could hear the gurgling as she tried to breathe, only then did her expression change from one of malice, to an expression only someone aware of their own imminent demise can manifest.

 

Phil stood watching the last of his wife’s life blood pump out, he knelt and kissed her face, her eyes glazed over and finally she was at peace. He wanted this man dead, and he wanted to be dead. He reached over the corps of his slain wife and grabbed the pistol. He slowly stood, never taking his eyes from Sandra’s deadened stare.

 

“Why did you do this, this is your fault?” Alex demanded of Phil with tears in his eyes. Then he added. “First my neighbor, then the crazy man at that store, the dogs, and now your wife, what the fuck is wrong with you?” Alex demanded.

 

Red had stood speechless, he hadn’t been able to shoot Sandra when she had opened fire, and he knew that had she killed Alex, he would be dead also, and then they would have went after his wife and the girl. He was an old man, playing at young men’s games, but no, these aren’t games are they? He wondered if he were in a state of shock, all this had happened around him and he didn’t even have the presence of mind to run.

 

“You’re right, it’s been my fault all along, now finish it.” Phil demanded.

 

Phil raised the gun towards Alex, as Alex pleaded. “Please NO!”

 

Alex obliged, however unwillingly, he did as Phil asked.

Eulogy Post VII

newskull

Alex 11

 

Alex couldn’t bear staying the night at that store, so he packed his gear into the car that had belonged to the poor woman who had died so gruesomely at the hands of that vile man. He fueled it up and decided to drive it as far as he could go with it.

He had to leave the road more than once avoiding wrecks and nearly got it stuck more than a few times. He knew that in the event of rain he would be screwed. Using a map he took from Fred’s store he made his way to Burlington. He was not in much of a hurry, knowing to speed on roads where people had spontaneously died while driving would be a hazardous endeavor at best. He took many back roads hoping to avoid major traffic blockages. It began raining early the next day so he parked and slept in the car in a Glen Raven strip mall. The wind blew eerily, howling as it rocked the old Buick. It frightened him out of his sleep.

He had the rifle in his hands before his eyes were fully open. The rain was pounding the car in sheets. He had no choice but to just sit there. There was no hope in traveling in this, with the roads blocked as they were. He smoked cigarette after cigarette, trying to keep his nerves calm. He tried to ignore the memories from the previous day as best he could.

On any other day the rain would have calmed his nerves, but he could see out in the street the vague shapes in the rain, iron monoliths in an asphalt landscape, housing the bones of the dead. He felt pity, sorrow, guilt, shame, hate, fear, pain, and he felt responsible. Hadn’t he always known something like this would happen? How many times did visions of vast wastelands strewn with the bodies of the dead, enter his head as he watched the evening news.

Then it occurred to him that he was being foolish. Who would have listened to me? The wonder mental patient says the world’s gonna end if we don’t hear him out. He could imagine the padded room he’d be put in. Then another haunting thought entered his head. He saw himself disease riddled dead in that same padded cell. When they realize you’re right, you still have to die, they deny you exist, cover you up with dirt and move on to the next problem they need to bury.

He felt he would go mad if this rain didn’t end soon, he needed to be moving. It’s the only thing that helps him now, as long as he is moving he can believe he is getting away from this mad place the world has become. He started drinking beer after beer in the hopes that he could pass out and sleep straight through till the next day.

He was running through a field holding a rifle, he noticed it was a soldiers uniform he wore. How he had gotten here he did not know. There were other soldiers around him, he knew this, but they were to his left and right, just out of sight. He couldn’t even spare a glance at his brothers in arms, the goal was straight ahead.

The smells in this place were nauseating, but he was immune, he had been here a long time, he knew not why, but he had a job to do. Soldiers don’t question orders; they just obey. He then thought and then they die. He can hear the footfalls of his allies all around him growing fainter and fewer as he went. There was no sound in this place other than the footsteps. He saw silent explosions all around him, tracer bullets whipping by him in all directions, some from behind, some from ahead, and from both flanks.

“What kind of hell am I in?” He asked silently.

The explosions of light began to trickle to nothing, and he noticed he could no longer hear the footfalls of his comrades. His rifle was warm and heavy in his hands, his muscles were tense, he began firing at shapes in the distance, this was his target the time was at hand, even if all the rest of his platoon was dead or running away he had a job to do.

He shot till he saw no more enemies in the darkness, he approached slowly ready for a reprisal, but none came. It felt as if he walked for days just to cover this little battlefield. He thought the area was vaguely familiar, but just couldn’t place it. The time came and finally he was upon his prey.

He knelt down beside the first body he came to, the man was on his stomach, the back of his head gone, he appeared fake somehow, Alex rolled him over and  he screamed till he felt his throat would shred itself, but still it was silent in this place as he stared into his own dead eyes.

He heard footsteps approaching, from all around, he snapped out of his shock at seeing he had killed himself. He saw then these were not soldiers. They were just people, dead rotting people and they were all there for him. He saw himself brainless and dead rise from the ground and join the ranks of the undead encircling him. He no longer tried to scream, he had no strength left, they all moved as one to devour him.

He woke, a scream stuck in his throat, still drunk, he had not been asleep more than an hour. He was in a complete panic. The rain had not let up even a little in the hour, if anything it was coming down harder, he cranked the car sure the dead had followed him out of his dream. It was almost full dark now, visibility was no more than thirty feet. He came out of the parking lot sideways clipping a Pontiac that was stalled in the street, but he never slowed his pace. He was doing eighty when he went through the first intersection. Luckily it was not completely blocked. He threaded that needle with his twenty five hundred pound bullet like an old pro.

He made it three miles bouncing off cars, sometimes hitting the curbs to avoid pileups. The car was straining to keep up with his break neck pace through this rain soaked maze. Then finally he came upon a roadblock he just didn’t have room to navigate. He clipped the rear bumper of a large truck causing him to spin out of control. He slid sideways into a curb exploding both drivers side tires and causing him to smash the driver’s side window with his head, rendering him unconscious. The car did a complete 180 and struck the side of a building, where it came to an abrupt stop. He lay motionless mashed into the floor board. His blood flowed unchecked from a gash on his head.

He woke hours later, he couldn’t tell whether the pain in his head was from the wound, or if it was the beer he had drunk. His neck was stiff and he noticed he had broken three fingers on his left hand, these he taped together. He was afraid they may never work the same again without being properly set. He surveyed the wreck, astonished he himself wasn’t dead. The blood had clotted and although he lost a bit, he was fine, only mildly dizzy.

He was a tough man, and growing more so by the day. He left the car and all his things and began walking. It was dark, maybe three or four in the morning he wasn’t sure, he had lost his watch at some point. He found a used car dealership nearby broke the window to the office with a brick he found lining a little flower bed at the edge of the lot.

It took him a while to find the keys in the dark, the power was out here now, and would probably never be back on again he thought grimly. He took an old Ford Bronco, he knew that given the choice between it and one of those large full sized 4X4’s he’d always op for the Bronco.

A friend of his had one years ago, and had once told him they are hard to get stuck. So they got drunk and tried it. He wondered where his friends were and how they had died. He hoped that they had survived, but with each passing day his hope was fading and despair had set in. That feeling of despair was slowly changing into something else. He was beginning to fear loneliness as much as the thought of being attacked by an army of the dead.

“What’s happening to me?” He asked the darkness. “I executed a man yesterday, yeah he deserved it, but my God, who am I?” He added to his query.

He couldn’t understand how he couldn‘t feel the slightest bit remorseful for killing the old man. It bothered him so bad, because he was ok about it. He, who couldn’t even now, bring himself to litter. He thought of movies he had seen where someone with a random mental disorder was put in a crisis situation and ended up losing it and murdering people. He didn’t feel like a murderer. No, the man had been a murderer.

He remembered going to church as a child with his parents and learning the Ten Commandments. He had most definitely smashed one all to hell. He prayed aloud, “God please forgive me for what I did, but I don’t feel sorry.”

He went back to the crash, gathered his things from the battered vehicle and felt a lump rise in his chest when he saw the toys that had belonged to that beautiful little girl. What her name had been, he wondered. It suddenly became very important for him to know. He tore the car apart looking under the seats, several times hitting his injured hand, he ignored this. The pain seemed a faraway memory.

He had searched the car thoroughly but found only a piece of mail with what he assumed was the mother’s name. Sarah. He checked the trunk last and just when he was about to give up hope he found a children’s book. It was inside a little girls purse, the book appeared well read and worn. He opened it and inside it said:

     To Keira, our sweet little angel, on her second birthday. Love Mommy and Daddy.

He saw where she had colored on some of the pages, not random scribbles as he first thought. She had been trying to copy the words. As he progressed page by page the words she had written became more and more legible. He cried silently as he read on. He had never heard of the author, but it was a sweet book about sharing, told through the eyes of little Sugar Gliders, the illustrations were top rate. After finishing the book he tucked it away into his bag. “Well Keira sweetie I hope you don’t mind, but I want to hold onto this a while.”

He found a nice place to park in the front lawn of an enormous house, which seemed out of place in this little town. He pulled under a weeping willow tree and slept soundly for over ten hours. He ached when he woke, “Bronco’s may be wonderful off road vehicles, but they make crappy bedrooms.” He said.

He noticed almost at once how bad he had begun to smell, he relieved himself behind a bush in this nice big yard, he felt silly hiding. Who would see him? But yet he hid all the same. He had brought toiletries from his house, he used bottled water to brush his teeth, but was desperately in need of a shower.

He tried the outside faucets then remembered the power was out. Then he walked around the house and saw this house had a swimming pool, it was covered still for the winter, he pulled the cover back and saw it was still filled and relatively clean. He ran back to the bronco grabbed his soap and shampoo, he knew it was gonna be cold, but figured the chlorine would be good for cleaning the gash on his head, painful yes, but still helpful.

He cleaned the gash as best as he could without starting it bleeding again, he soaked it in the chlorinated water, it was cold and his head ached, but it felt wonderful, he thought it was the best bath he’d ever had in his life.

He bandaged his head using the first aid kit from John’s camping supplies. He was amazed at how good he felt, the world was dead and he felt great. The old feelings of guilt started creeping in, and aloud he admonished himself. “Fuck that, you dick you’re not gonna feel bad for being alive.” At his command the guilt faded.

He wandered around Burlington, still looking for survivors, but still as before, had no luck. He was looking around thinking of all the places he liked to go with his parents. He remembered the little air field used for RC planes that was beside where the old Lowes had been. Then it popped into his head, just down the street from there was an armory.

He turned around haphazardly, well not so much anymore when there are no other drivers on the road. As long as he didn’t hit any parked cars and the rain didn’t come back it would be smooth sailing.

He found the armory just as he had remembered it, a large fenced parking lot with a large decommissioned artillery cannon in the front. The building was plain and aside from the cannon had no other remarkable attributes. The fence was locked, he attached the Bronco’s wench to the chain and threw it in reverse, and he was stuck in a game of tug of war with this big fence. It finally gave, not the chain or the lock, but the gate hinges gave way with a loud crash.

There were eleven different military vehicles here and a few passenger cars. He prayed the owners were not inside rotting for him to stumble across. He looked over one of the largest vehicles he saw, it was a six wheeled drive vehicle he had heard referred to as a five ton. This was what he wanted. He looked at the little Bronco and said, “sorry old girl, you have been out classed.”

He walked towards the building surveying the doors, there was a steel door solidly locked. Even with all his strength he couldn’t make it budge. He went back to the bronco and found a crow bar. It was rough going trying to pry the door, with his injured hand. After a half hour of cursing and a few scraped knuckles, he opted to try the bay doors. They too were solidly built and he couldn’t budge them. He was growing increasingly aggravated, he didn’t know what he expected to be inside, but he felt the need to check. He emptied his gear from the Bronco and slowly backed up to the door at an angled, trying to force the door in with the rear bumper.

He felt the door begin to give. He stopped pulled forward and got out to check his progress, the door was not giving, but he saw the block around it was cracking. This time he put the Bronco in four wheeled drive and hit the door at maybe 5 miles an hour, the thud jolted his entire body rattling his teeth. The block cracked a bit more. He looked and saw blackness through the left side of the door way, just a bit more, one or two more thumps ought to do it he thought.

He got back in and repeated this several times, cursing the fact he couldn’t get the door open. He had in fact made a large enough hole to get the wench cable through, he tried winching the door back out, twice the cable came free flying at the Bronco one attempt had cost him a headlight, another had caused the heavy steel hook at the end to smash the windshield. His progress was slow and he was on the verge of giving up when he remembered the heavy equipment rental place about two miles away. He drove there smashed out the glass in the office door and found the keys to a Caterpillar bulldozer, he smiled. “This is going to be fun.” He spoke to the collection of oversized Tonka Toys.

It took him a while to get the monster started, even longer to figure out what all the controls were and how they worked. He had once driven a much smaller version of one of these, so it wasn’t too long before he was plowing down the street at a nerve wracking five miles an hour. He slowly made his way back towards the armory. He drive right up to one of the large bay doors, the bull dozer tore through the metal like a hot knife through butter. He reversed out and shut down the behemoth.

He grabbed a flashlight and crept slowly inside. He first felt relief because the air stale as it was did not have the smell of death in it. Had he smelled anything he would not be able to go in for fear of getting infected by a corps.

He immediately saw why he wasn’t able to get in, they had barricaded the doors. Upon realizing this he began jerking the flashlight around the room to see if he were about to be killed for breaking into a government building. In the corner he saw a man in a white hazmat suit. Assault rifle by his side, he did not move or even acknowledge he had been found.

“Hey buddy you ok?” Asked Alex thinking maybe he was just asleep. Then dismissing that thought, only a deaf man could sleep through all the noise he’d just made.

There was no answer, Alex came closer, and saw through the face mask this man had died like all the others. At some point he had donned this suit and barricaded this place believing it would save him.

“I guess any hope is better than no hope at all.” Alex said to the dead man.

He looked around and saw why he couldn’t get the doors open, the dead man had driven several jeeps inside and had parked one just inside each of the doors. Alex continued through the building careful as he entered rooms, and turned corners. The dead man was the only body he found.

In a large plain room with shiny concrete floors he found what he had hoped he would. There were guns, lots and lots of guns. There were hundreds of cases of ammunition, crates of grenades, all sorts of things he didn’t know anything about.  He spent the rest of the day loading one of the large trucks, with everything he could lift. He had enough to fight a small war if needed.  He found cases of MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) his buddies dad had bought these at the PX for camping trips when he was a kid, they weren’t gourmet, but they were actually pretty good. He made sure he got all of these, he wanted to be prepared.

He camped that night in the parking lot of the armory, built a nice fire and spent hours using the CB radio in the truck. Just before he logged off he was sure he heard a voice in the static, he was tired so he wasn’t sure if it were real or imagined. By the time sleep took him he was convinced he’d imagined it.

Eulogy Post VI

blue skull

Mark 9

Mark woke in an ambulance listening to all the commotion around him, he didn’t open his eyes. He was recounting the events of this evening. Had it all been a dream? He felt groggy and he hurt all over. The pain in his head had only increased. He saw that he was now shirtless, with a long bandage across his chest. His nose was a blazing inferno seemingly consuming the face around it.

“Did you hear that recording the kid made?” Asked one officer to another man, who must have been a detective judging by the suit he was wearing. The officer seemed agitated like he didn’t want to be there, and was just trying to make conversation to pass the time.

“No, what you got? I just arrived on scene, this place is a madhouse. I was in the area, and heard the call, I just stopped to see if I could be of some help.” The man answered.

“It seems the kid here caught his Mother and Stepfather planning to kill him on tape. The kicker is he got his mom to willingly confess, I dunno if that will be admissible, she is half unconscious on God knows how many pills. She also admitted to planning her late husband’s murder, but claimed that he died in an accident before they had the chance. Also some stuff about them embezzling money from her late husband’s company.” The officer paused trying to remember what else he had heard.

“What about the kid, does it look like self-defense?” The detective asked.

“Looks like it, but the kids in shock, he didn’t say much when the first officers on scene arrived, handed them the CD and passed out. He‘s been out about two hours.” He answered.

“Why in the hell is he still here and not at the hospital, he looks terrible?” The detective asked, as he turned to survey the boy in the ambulance with great curiosity.

“Look you didn’t hear this from me, there is some kind of outbreak at County, and the Regional Medical center is reporting cases now. Whole damn place is locked down. National Guard is on the way in.” Solemnly spoke the officer.

“What do you mean, what is it?” Asked the detective, Mark could hear a slight change in his voice, and it bothered him.

“They dunno, but the rumor is, it is something real bad, as in something they can’t fix.” The officer’s agitation was growing more obvious with every word. This troubled Mark.

Mark thought a moment, that’s not agitation, that’s fear. Mark knew fear.

The detective even seemed to be moved by the changes in the officer’s voice. “Hey Sal, I’ve known you lots of years and I haven’t ever seen you this shook before, your starting to worry me.”

“Ted this is between you and me, I could lose my pension over this. You know my sister in law, Eva, is dispatch supervisor, well she called me and told me maybe I should call off today. “He paused a moment gathering his thoughts.

“Yeah I know Eva, you know that, she and my wife are friends, you know that Sal.” The detective knew weather the rumors were true or not, Sal believed them to be.

“Yeah Ted, I dunno, my minds been running all over the place since I talked to her today.” He answered.

“Maybe you should take some time off, take a vacation.” The detective offered.

“That’s just it, from what Eva told me, we might all be taking a vacation, but not willingly.” He stammered.

“Come on now Sal, you’re starting to worry me man, it can’t be that bad, whatever it is the government will step in and fix it.” He was looking at his old friend with great concern.

“Eva said the day started out normal, but by 5pm the phones were ringing off the hook, they didn’t have enough drivers or EMT’s to handle the calls. Thing is all that aside, one of the EMT’s been working in this county twenty years, man named Gerald. He’s fifty seven, picture of health, this guy. Eva says he is in better shape than most of the twenty-something’s they got on the crews. Well he came on duty this morning, she saw him, and he was perfectly fine as always. He came by dispatch at lunchtime like he sometimes does, unless calls have him busy. Well Eva said he looked bad, like he had aged twenty years in four hours.

She said it is the first time in her fifteen years she ever heard him say he didn’t feel well. He tried eating his lunch, but he got sick. She advised him to take the rest of the day off, he refused, didn’t want to leave the rest of the guys in the lurch. Well she says his partner called in saying that he was gonna have to take Gerald to the hospital, he had collapsed on a call and he couldn’t get him revived.” He had to pause; the words seemed to be hurting him.

“Well Sal, they figure out what was wrong with him, he ok now?” The detective asked. He hadn’t so much as blinked while hearing this story.

“He was dead by 4pm, and he died from whatever it is they have the quarantine set up for.” He was shaking, speaking the truth and trying to deny the facts in his own head.

“My God man, why hasn’t there been an alert put out?” Ted demanded.

“That’s just it, a fed came to dispatch and ordered them to not breathe a word of what was going on to anyone, they said if the story leaked the person who did so would be charged with treason. They gave them a list of symptoms, and anyone calling with any of those symptoms were to be reported directly to them, and that was it, no more sending out ambulances.” The officer seemed to be on the verge of a panic attack.

“My God Sal, this is either a terrorist attack, or somebody was playing with the wrong test tube somewhere. Why in God’s name would they hide this from the public?” He demanded to no one but the early morning sky.

“I spoke with Eva an hour ago, she and everyone else who came in contact with Gerald are all sick.” The tears in his eyes seemed to be lost; they didn’t belong on this man’s face, a man who had seen so many years in the line of duty.

They didn’t notice when Mark slipped out the side door of the ambulance and into the darkness. He was already in the garage at the rear of the house before the alarm was raised. He was grateful for the police and although he came across as someone who disrespected authority, he truly didn’t. He verbally attacked anyone online he saw talking bad about cops. He would go on long rants about how if they had ever been beaten, raped, or robbed, they would change their tune, but this usually fell on deaf ears.

His true fear was of the government, his mother had seen him in terrorist chat rooms; she saw his fear as he watched the news. She’d laughed and said, “Your just paranoid, stuff like that doesn’t happen here, those bombings were a fluke, we are perfectly safe now.” How foolish she had been.

Mark had been an avid reader since his early child hood. He had read so many books but whenever something happened he could almost always relate it to a child’s story he had read at one time or another. This situation reminded him of the story about a grasshopper and an ant he had read so long ago he had forgotten the title; he pondered this as he grabbed his back pack he had stored in the garage and jumped on his father’s favorite 4 wheeler. How he had loved riding with him when he was small.

The grasshopper he saw as America, the ants were who ever had done this, “terrorists” if that’s what you want to call them, pretty general term to use he thought. The grasshopper spent all it’s time playing in the sun never concerned with the oncoming winter, he laughed at the poor ant who worked all day getting ready for what was to come. The grasshopper ate when he was hungry, he napped when he was sleepy, but all the while the diligent ant kept right on working.

Then the inevitable happened, winter came and the grasshopper was cold, hungry, and had no place to live that was safe. Luckily for the grasshopper in the story the ant was a nice guy; he gave him food and shelter.

He hit the button to open the garage door. The door was barely high enough to clear the handle bars when he shot out into the night. With a flash he was gone, they had no chance of catching him, he had been planning his escape route for over a year now, he knew that when he turned 18 he would have access to his trust fund and had been taking money slowly but surely from the safe in his dad’s office. He had just over five thousand dollars in his bag, and a few changes of clothing. They had never expected him. Roger would often be piss drunk when he’d take money out of the safe and he spent it like he was printing it. He never actually paid attention to how much was in there.

He knew the place like the back of his hand, there were large estates, he didn’t have to cross many streets, he was taking the extremely long way to avoid running into the police. It took him over two hours to reach the park he and his father had spent so many summer nights in camping, he choked up as he saw the place.

Dawn was quickly approaching and he had made it, he hid in the deepest part of the park he could find, covered the 4 wheeler with branches pulled his bedroll out of his back pack curled up and fell fast asleep. The only thought in his head before he fell asleep was, How nice are these ants gonna be?

He dreamt of his father, they were riding slowly around the back yard on his 4 wheeler, he saw himself laughing unabashedly, the way only a happy child can. He smiled in his sleep.

He woke around 11am that morning. He walked out of the park, it took him nearly an hour to get to a pay phone, where he called a taxi, then thinking of the ambulance driver called right back and cancelled it. He would have to walk, or find a bike. He walked nearly a mile and he saw sitting in someone’s yard a 10 speed, he wrote a note on a small slip of paper he had in his pocket. I needed your bike, was all it said, he folded two one hundred dollar bills into it and placed the note in the mailbox. He never knew, the note was never read, and the money was never spent.

He thought it odd that there was so little traffic, he guessed maybe there had been a warning at last, and people were staying home. The disease spread far faster than anyone could have guessed; Mark tried not to think of the repercussions. He just wanted to get some supplies and go back and wait till whatever this was blew over.

He had ridden six miles when he found the store his father used to bring him to for camping gear. He had been worried it wouldn’t be there or would be closed, Lucky for him it was, the owner lived upstairs. He went inside and began grabbing things he needed, he had nearly fifty lbs. of stuff before he was finished, insulated coveralls, long johns, several pairs of boots, 4 large packs of insulated socks, cooking utensils, a new larger pack, tent, sleeping bag, and a fishing pole and a small foldable fishing kit with lures, pliers, sinkers, flies, and hooks, pretty much a bit of everything.

The proprietor, an elderly gentleman said, “I remember you son, haven’t seen your or you dad in a long time. Over two years if it’s been a day.” He was smiling warmly at the pile of things Mark had assembled.

“Yes sir, my father died in a wreck a few weeks after we were last in here.” He was remembering as he spoke, tears stung his eyes thinking of their last camping trip.

“Well son I am sorry as I can be, your dad was a good boy,” said the old man sympathetically, Mark thought it funny how the old man had referred to his father as a ‘good boy’.

“Thank you, he loved this store.” Mark said politely.

“You know I guess your dad was about your age first time he came in here, he was buying a sleeping bag so he could go fool around with some young lady I imagine, but he kept coming back after.” The old man reminisced with a smile trying to cheer the boy.

Mark vaguely remembered his dad telling him about coming here since he was a boy, it never occurred to Mark the same man had ran it all these years. Mark started talking with the old man about their camping trips and things they had done. It felt good to talk about his dad with someone friendly. It lifted his spirits considerably.

The old man after a while looked at him more seriously, “now you don’t have to tell me son, but for your father’s sake I feel I need to ask, why you buying all this stuff, you running away, are you in some kind of trouble?”

Mark simply answered, “Yes sir.”

The old man, looked at him a moment then added, “Well I ain’t no rat, so I won’t be calling the law on ya.”

Mark liked the old man, and he needed to tell someone what happened, a kind ear to vent to, so he told him everything that had happened the day before. He had one of the CD’s still, but the old man didn’t have anything to listen to it on. It took him nearly thirty minutes to get it all out, at times he began to cry the old man gave him his dignity and found something interesting on his shoe to look at during these times.

The old man had listened to everything he had to say and decided the boy was not trying to pull his chain. He looked stricken when Mark had relayed the conversation that took place between the two police officers. “I thought something funny was going on, now mind you I don’t do much business during the week and all, but cars still drive up and down this street quite regular. Hasn’t been 10 cars passed this morning, half of which were police cars.

The old man came out from behind his counter and started grabbing things handing them to the boy, “take this stuff out to my truck parked just there.” he pointed to an old jeep pickup half rusted through parked on the curb just in front of the store.

The boy did as he was told. By the time he was through, the bed of the truck was nearly full. Finally he asked, “what’s all this for?”

“Son this is for you, can’t have you sitting out in the woods doing without, wouldn’t be Christian of me.

“I have money,” he tried to say.

“If it’s finally happened son, money isn’t gonna do nobody any good.” The old man gravely spoke. “Some of it’s for me, my boy’s in Iraq, and his wife and my grandbabies are all sitting alone in North Carolina, I’m heading that way after I drop you off.

They didn’t talk much, the old man drove right into the park and into the woods where Mark directed him to his little camp site. When all that he had given Mark was unloaded he said, “Listen son, you’re a smart feller, and I owe you a lot for telling me what ya have, It’s my own fault I got so tired of waiting on the news to tell me we were under attack I just stopped watching. Maybe I have enough time to get to them. Your Daddy would be proud of you boy, you keep that in mind. You stay right out here in these woods till that radio says it’s safe.”

“Thank you sir, I don’t know how I can repay you.” Mark returned.

“No need, you just stay safe, and if this mess is as contagious as that cop feller said, you need to steer clear of everything and everybody. “ He shook the boys hand, gave him a brief smile hopped in his truck and drove away.

Mark would often think if he’d known his grandfather, he would have been just like that old man, stern but fair, and very kind. Mark turned on the radio thinking he would have to hunt for the news, it was all that was on, every station.

“It is confirmed there is a viral outbreak, worldwide!” Came one reporter’s voice screaming over a huge crowd, “Shots have been fired by guardsmen.”

Reports like this were on every station, but although there were reporters everywhere telling what they saw, there were still no real explanations. There was just confusion and death. The reporters were nothing more than the crowds they were reporting, screaming crying, sick, and dying without a clue as to why or how.

Red 10

They convened at first light by Phil’s RV as planned.

“What shall we do?” Sherry asked.

“Well, first we need to find a working phone, maybe the land lines still work. Neither of our cell phones work out here, we can call the police and see if they can tell us what to do. For that matter we could probably just go to a store buy a paper and ask the people working what the hell is going on. It’s not like it’s the end of the world, damn stupid kid was playing a prank that’s all.” Phil chuckled with no humor, his words had given him and everyone else listening chills.

“If there was a virus they would have quarantined the sick, wouldn’t they?” Beth asked hopefully.

“I’m sure they did what they could,” reassured Sherry.

Red thought to himself, maybe the kids radio show was a prank, but the emergency services message was surely not a prank. The note on the managers door was no prank, and for damn sure the power being out is definitely not a prank. He then spoke after a brief silence, “well we’re sure not going to find out anything sitting here slapping our gums.” He smiled at Beth and Sherry.

Sandra seemed to be trying to block Phil from their view, hogging him all for herself. She did not speak, even after they had all piled into Red’s Jeep.

They slowly drove the fifteen miles to a small town nearby where Red and Sherry liked to go and eat breakfast sometimes when they were here. They had a small café that served giant fluffy pancakes with every-flavor syrup you could imagine. It was a quaint place that no matter where you were from, you felt at home.

They all noticed except for Sandra who was off in her own little world that they passed not a single car or saw a single soul the entire trip. When they entered the town they saw the gas station which had always been open at this hour before, was closed. Sherry quietly pointed this out to Red. A little further on at the town center was the town’s only stoplight. There had been a huge crash. There were cars in all four directions, seemingly waiting for the light to change.

Sherry, a nurse jumped out of the Jeep and headed for the crash, Red closely followed her. He glanced into the window of a nearby minivan and froze, “Sherry honey, stop.” He sounded nothing like himself, as quietly as he spoke Sherry heard and it chilled her.

She turned and asked, “what is it honey I’m just gonna see if I can help.”

“You can’t help them sweetie. They are all gone, each and every one of them are gone.” His tanned skin had gone very pale.

Sherry approached him, concerned. She then saw what had caused this sudden change in her husband.

Red as many people who lived a while, had seen dead people, now even children had seen pictures of war victims dead in the street of foreign countries. He had never seen anything like what he was looking at now. The couple appeared to be in their late seventies, they looked as if they had died in great agony. Had Red known these two were both in their early twenties, he would have been shocked him even further.

They had died on their way to pick up their baby from daycare, they got stuck behind the crash and died waiting for the rescue workers they and everyone else had taken for granted for so many years.

The virus had hit so fast that most never even knew what it was; only the healthiest made it to the final stages. Most died, or went into comas long before they even realized it was the cause of a terrorist attack. The lines of communication fell quickly, watching the news only confused people. No one knew what was happening. By the time the first outbreak warnings went out, it was too late, the damage had been done. As the millions of Americans fled the cities they carried with them this disease, contaminating every store, every gas station, and every rest stop along the way.

No one would ever know the truth about those who had planned this mass annihilation of the human race. Their plan had worked so well in fact, that it even wiped out villages in third world countries that had no access roads. This to, no one would ever read about, or have a vigil for. There would be no more concerts to feed the starving, there would be no more earth day, and the earth was already healing from centuries of pollution and the carelessness of mankind.

As Red walked back to his Jeep he glanced back one last time at the van, on the bumper was a sticker that read, in bold green letters: Save The World, Kill Yourself!

The others had been watching Red and Sherry raptly, Phil spoke first. “What did you see?”

“They are all dead, everyone. I’m afraid our worst fears have been realized. This may not be the definitive end of the world, but it most surely is the end of the world as we know it.” Red had an unusually serious edge to his voice.

“How could this be?” Sandra screamed. “It’s not possible.”

“Look we have to face facts, as hard as they are to deal with, we must. We are in the middle of nowhere. This is a real small town so we are surely going to find this same sort of thing in the bigger cities.

We should search for other survivors, but keep in mind we are dealing with an extremely deadly and contagious disease. “Red reached out and took Sherry’s hand.

They drove around for four hours looking for someone alive, but their search was fruitless, as they neared the highway they saw long lines of stalled cars filled with bodies and their things. It put Red in the mind of the Pharos; they were entombed with all their most valuable worldly possessions and their families.

Red noticed after passing several grocery stores that troubled him, they were empty; the stores looked like they had been closed and cleaned out of all their wares. Finding food somewhere that hasn’t been contaminated will be a chore he thought as they drove. He decided now wasn’t the time to raise any more bad news.

Beth had silently cried when she heard the news that what the kid on the radio had said was true, and remained silent the entire day, only answering yes and no when spoken to. Sandra was a blubbering mess, it seemed she had reverted to some lower form of functioning, Phil tried to talk to her but all she was capable of were grunts and squeals. Thankfully she was quiet for the most part. Red caught a glimpse of Phil feeding her some sort of pills. They had not noticed him watching.

They returned to the campsite, and at Reds urging all decided to leave together, “strength in numbers.” he had said.

Beth rode with Sherry and Red, and to their dismay Sandra and Phil had to join them only an hour into the trip. The roads were impassible for Phil’s RV. Sandra had fought like a tiger to not leave the comfort of her rolling sanctuary. Phil fed her more pills Red was sure, because in a very short span of time she went from a hellion to a zombie like state.

With all his experience Red wash almost positive Sandra was schizophrenic. It was hard to tell because Phil kept her full of pills. Red wondered how she would be once the pills ran out.

They camped on the side of the interstate that night. Red took Sherry and Beth with him and set out to find a second vehicle, claiming they needed more storage space. This was only kind of true. What they truly needed was more space between them and Sandra. Phil had agreed it was a good idea; he didn’t care what the vehicle was, as long as he could navigate this strange, new age graveyard they had been driving through.

They spent the next few days driving from town to town Red, Sherry, and Beth riding in red’s old jeep. Phil and Sandra followed close behind in the SUV Red had found for them, it was all they could find, it came off a used car lot, and it was the only thing with four wheel drive.

They drove through numerous small towns and back roads always sticking close to the interstate. After two days of this they decided to just keep heading west and hoped anyone else alive would see them on the interstate.

On the third night they were still well east of Raleigh when Red’s CB stopped scanning and for a brief second he thought he heard a voice. He listened intently as they crawled at no more than fifteen or twenty miles an hour, He assumed most of these people had been heading to the bigger hospitals in cities like Durham and Raleigh, and even further west to Burlington and Chapel Hill.

He began to think the voice was a product of his imagination, and his so desperately wanting to meet other people. This would prove that they were not a fluke that his few travelers were alive. He knew that if they were alive there must be others somewhere, but he had to see for himself.

Red had noticed something peculiar happening to himself, the shock of seeing all those dead people passing thousands a day now, was fading away. He had read of such things happening to people in war torn countries, and to soldiers. How sad it must be to see senseless death and feel nothing.

Lost in his thoughts, Sherry was fast asleep beside him and Beth had dozed off in the back seat, he swerved involuntarily when a muffled voice came through on the CB. “Hello, anybody there?”

He picked up the receiver and answered, “Hello, I hear you, can you hear me?”

Sherry and Beth had both been startled awake, then saw Red with the CB, and remained quiet.

They all waited in silence then five minutes later they heard. “Hello, my name is Alex, is there anybody out there. I am in Burlington at the National Guard Armory. Please respond if you can hear me”

“Yes we hear you, we are east of Raleigh, we are headed in your direction,” Red yelled into the handset.

They waited, and again five minutes later they heard the same message. “He can’t hear us Red said aloud, he must have a much higher powered CB transmitter than mine.”

They left it on and listened to this man’s message repeating every five minutes or so, sometimes the same sometimes a bit different, when finally about an hour later after hearing virtually the same message he came through with an entirely different message.

“My name is Alex; I grew up in Yanceyville, North Carolina. I have been alone for over a week, I am not infected. I had been searching for survivors, out in the country near where I grew up. I got lost and saw a store and stopped to see if I could find a map. I was sitting in the parking lot when a man began shooting at me.

He said things that made no sense. Talking like he was in a war, at first I thought he was crazy or sick. I was hiding behind my truck on the ground that’s when I saw that this man had murdered a young woman and had also shot her six year old daughter. I could see that the girl was still alive.

I was forced to wound him, so I could get to the girl. I disarmed him and just as I reached the girl she died right in front of me. There was nothing I could do. I then discovered he had shot another kid maybe about thirteen or fourteen years old, in the back as he ran away. He had set up an ambush, and had six guns loaded and waiting for anyone unlucky enough to pass by.

None of the three people he shot and killed were sick. I did not know what to do with him. I questioned him and he confessed that he was not crazy. He admitted to only killing them because it was his store, and that was his stuff, and they weren’t gonna get him sick.

I shot him with the same gun he had shot those people with. I am not sorry I did this. Criminals are sorry when they kill people. I am not a criminal. I buried the mother and child together and I gave the boy his own grave. I left the murdering son of a bitch to rot there in his parking lot. I don’t know why I am saying this, pretty stupid eh? I feel it’s only right to let anyone coming my way know what I have done.

“I don’t know if anyone can hear me, I am signing off, I will be checking this channel regularly tomorrow. Goodnight.”

Red, Sherry, and Beth all sat in silence. They found a relatively empty section of road and stopped to camp. No one spoke about what they heard, nor did they tell Phil or Sandra. None of them had even heard Sandra talk since the day in that small town. When Sherry had asked Phil how she was, he rudely brushed her off, saying. “I can take care of her!” Sherry let it go without another word.

The Ogre and the Little Red Haired Girl

(another story I am working on based on someone I love dearly. I hope you enjoy – JM)

One

It was cold when she woke with her hair all a mess. It was still dark and she closed her eyes tight willing away the chill in the unwelcoming morning air. She dreaded the thought of getting dressed much less the thought of actually leaving the peace and warmth of her bedroll. The unforgiving world which was begrudgingly forced upon her in some new hellish way with each new day had grown dull; most days were even boring to her despite her vocation. She needed so much more.

The need for her services in this realm was fading. She had destroyed many of their kind these last ten years and it was time to move on to something new and exciting she mused. “What excitement do you believe you’ll find you daft girl?” Chere’s imitation of her long dead mistress from a school she couldn’t quite remember the name of anymore echoed through the thin fabric of her tent and through the barren valley below where she had set camp.

She heard a squeal somewhere on the far side of the valley and their big feet marring the dead ground as they began to flee from the sound of her voice. “No wonder I am running out of things to do. At least in the old days they tried to be sneaky. Now they run like, hmmm what were those things called?” There were none to hear save the fleeing damned which she stalked, predator to prey. She was a hunter skilled beyond measure. “Are they called beer?” At that she burst into laughter, “not beer, deer. They are like deer running from an old car from one of those old picture discs.”  She laughed sarcastically and loudly knowing the fleeing creatures she hunted would leave a much easier trail if they were terrified.

She was dressed and ready for the hunt which took only minutes. She was well practiced and very efficient in her purpose. Wake, kill, sleep, it was a mantra she sometimes recited when she drew near her prey. Many had seen her haphazard style of hunting and trapping and believed they could go out all on their own in search of riches and fame. She had burned more than a few former helpers’ corpses after liberating the bulbous growth which had once been a head from their warped and twisted shoulders.

She was a true beauty in every way. The old timers said she reminded them of what they called, “movie stars.” When asked her height she would always say “five foot five and a half inches, the half counts too!” Yes she was an extraordinary woman by all accounts. She wouldn’t hear of it and to praise her, one would believe she was actually in pain. Her heart held the world and her shoulders bore the weight and she asked for nothing in return. People did pay her for her services but she never asked nor did she expect it. Most couldn’t afford to pay a hunter and most hunters were desperate men in need of a meal and rarely finished the first day on the job. No, the weight she bore would crush men ten times her size yet she persevered.

Chere didn’t even know why she had survived at this for so long. She thought her luck would have run out by now. No hunter that she had ever heard of had made it more than a few years at best. A good hunter she was told “could bag twelve a year, and that was only if ya never stop hunting. “ Chere in the beginning, when she was hunting fueled by rage and not for the greater good was killing twelve a week or more.  She had discovered they liked to congregate, like people. She spat at the thought of those mindless things acting like people. “People they once were, but not anymore. Quit thinking like a rookie girl.” She admonished herself. “Thoughts like that give you doubts and doubts get you killed.”

Not since the great culling had “The Ogres” been killed in such numbers. In the beginning she left the severed heads on spikes as a warning to keep them away from people. It had not worked; they seemed to be attracted to the places the heads were displayed. So for a time Chere used mounted heads as bait. It would bring them forth in droves and in droves she would slaughter them. Axe and dagger in hand she would charge head long into a crowd of twenty enraged ogres. Their hulking bodies too slow to quite catch her and as they tried she chopped limb and skull until they were no more. This made her famous and feared even by the people she saved.

These creatures had all once been human. It wasn’t voodoo or black magic which had corrupted them so; it had been good old science. Chere had heard fragmented stories claiming an accident and others claiming some psycho religious nut broke into a lab to destroy some research weighing 180 pounds at 5’11” and walked out at seven foot tall and 450 pounds smashing everything that got in his way and eating anyone who didn’t. The story she had been told that seemed most likely was it was an experiment in genetics that had gone terribly wrong. In an attempt to grow lost limbs they completely altered the human DNA strand in such a way that it caused instant mutation throughout the body. These mutations severely damaged the brain and rendered higher brain function impossible. This caused the afflicted to begin behaving on a primal level. She had heard it referred to as devolution.  “The best part is it is contagious like a virus and transmitted like vampirism,” she yelled to the barren valley.

“I wish they were vampires,” she mused aloud to the desolate valley. She hadn’t done much the last few days so she was letting her quarry get a nice head start before she began. These early morning walks and solo conversations were her way of preparing for a long day of killing. Yes she was ready now. All thought cleared from her mind. She drew her axe in her right hand and her dagger in her left and gave chase.

Two

Chere ran for two straight hours on the trail of the lumbering beasts. It had taken a full hour to traverse the valley to where the ogres had made what passed for a camp. There were bits of bone in a pile and divots in the charred earth where they had lain.  She could see there were at least seven in this pack. As she were ready to head out she saw to her surprise a much smaller indention in the ground. Something smaller than the typical behemoths she hunted but much larger than any normal human should be. Chere saw something protruding from the ground half obscured by the falling earth from the monsters earlier flight. She pulled it free and shook the dirt and ash off. It was a little pinkish-purple stuffed animal. It looked like a cat-bear.

As she pondered why such a thing would be found in the camp of mindless beasts such as these and was ready to dismiss it as nothing the smell hit her nose and she nearly vomited. “What in God’s name?” She blurted.  Then it hit her. The smell was ogre, and from the looks of the cat-bear this ogre had been carrying this stuffed animal for a very long time. It had been many decades since something like this had been manufactured. Yes they were sold by the millions but most toys and unnecessary items had been reclaimed and used as stuffing and patches for blankets. Fabric was a highly sought after commodity and even as little as this cat-bear contained it still had value. She had dreamed as a child of finding a house like the ones she had seen in the picture discs untouched by scavengers. She would have been rich beyond all measure with just the blankets from the beds and the towels from the linen closets.

“You were a stupid kid back then girl, being rich in this world is like being the top turd in a toilet bowl.” She chuckled but the uncertainty in her own voice as she had spoken had unnerved her. Then she remembered the little ones she and her sister had tried to protect when the herd had descended on her village. She was born into this life and knew nothing else. She had been taught since birth to never go anywhere alone and that there was strength in numbers. Her village like any other was fortified. A bull ogre fully enraged and hungry could nearly walk through the side of a brick building as if walking through an open door. Each village had built fortifications far beyond what seemed necessary. There were walls built behind walls built behind walls. They used anything they could find to stop the charging monsters and so far it had worked.

She remembered when as many as ten had attacked and everyone including the children would be on the walls throwing stones and spears and anything which may slow the onslaught and even a group of ten with five bulls at the lead couldn’t penetrate the barriers. Her parents were gone and she was thankful that they hadn’t gone the way of most of what was left of humanity had gone. No they had been taken by the fever and as in every village there was a house full of orphans the village as a whole cared for. When the ogres came, it was every man for himself. It wasn’t selfishness that caused this save yourself mentality it was pure terror that even the bravest amongst them could barely contain. Chere and her sister had hidden the children and themselves inside the walls of their make shift orphanage. There were no doctors anymore and these things called hospitals she had heard about in stories as a child. “One day things will be back to the way they once were and you kids will have your own homes and beds and there will be nothing else to fear.” This was the lie all children were told to give them hope.

A single tear fell from her eye as she spoke “yes hope didn’t stop the ogres from coming by the hundreds, no hope had been the sauce they were marinated in before it was time to be eaten.” She tucked the rank cat-bear into her pack and an evil malicious grin crept onto her face. As she set out again she had doubled her pace. It felt like the old days. She wasn’t even able to finish the thought of the night which had forever changed her life before she was in a full on rage. She looked forward to their screams as she slaughtered them and the little one she’d save for last.

As she ran the pictures flooded her mind and she knew this was due to the flashback of the night she had lost her sister and all the other young children of her village. The beasts came at full speed and the barrier did very little to slow them. Those on the wall had been the first victims to succumb to the voracious horde. She lost many friends in the first minutes of the battle. “No, battle isn’t the right word.” She stopped and pulled a small flask containing water from her belt and spat, “buffet, they were a buffet.”

She corked her flask wiped her face on her sleeve and continued her harried pace.  She hadn’t felt the rage of the hunt in many years. She had nearly come to pity the creatures she had mercilessly slaughtered for so long. They couldn’t speak or beg for mercy but the shrieks in their final moments sometimes haunted her dreams. She would wipe the sleep from her eyes and quickly dismiss the shrieks as nothing more than an animal’s reaction to the slaughter. She’d say aloud, “They are no more sentient than a frog or a fish,” and the thought would drift out of her mind.

She could see one of the beasts just ahead leaning against a tree with his back to her. She halted and began sneaking around to confront the massive bull and to her surprise she saw it was already dead. Its head had been smashed in by a rock she was sure weighed at least 200 pounds. She felt panicked and began to scan the dead forest all around her.  There was nothing. She had witnessed bulls fighting before        but something didn’t seem right to her. In every instance when they had fought the loser had been the meal of the group. If she hadn’t known any better she would have thought it some sort of ritual. There was little food left in this part of the world save for fish and fowl. There were no large mammals left. No dogs or cats, which had been eaten by ogre and human alike.

Everyone save successful ogre hunters starved. This left the ogres only two options for food, humans and each other. They weren’t cleaver enough to catch fish or birds and a 500 pound bull could eat a full grown man a day. Some she had encountered had almost looked scrawny to her. If a thing man shaped and 400 pounds could be considered scrawny. These were the most vicious of them all. A starving ogre wouldn’t try and kill his prey first he’d try and eat you to death. Chere had witnessed these gruesome acts more times than she cared to remember. Those screams she couldn’t wipe away or dismiss so she continued to hunt.

Three

As Chere ran more and more visions from her past ran through her mind. Her body was strong and she could keep up this pace all day and still be able to fight at the end, but these memories were beginning to take their toll on her agitated mind. She hadn’t allowed herself to fall into such a state as this while she hunted in years but today was not a day like she had experienced before. There had been times when things had seemed odd or even organized about the creatures she hunted but the cat-bear and the tiny indention, by comparison, had her mind racing.

These things had once been human and no one even the biggest and nastiest among them had deserved such a fate. She was fighting a thought which kept trying to break through. “It can’t be,” she blurted and stumbled to a stop. “A child turned ogre? Are they breeding?” She asked the empty forest.

She had been running for nearly four hours it was midmorning and the ogre’s tracks were as fresh as ever. “A blind man could track a frightened ogre.” She had heard boasted by a few brave men here and there freshly returning from a hunt, usually with a bloated rotting head in tow for proof to gain the favor of small villages to get free food and drink and to win the favors of the young women so very grateful to their saviors. In one case she even recognized the putrid head a hunter had put on a spike outside a local tavern. It had been one hell of a fight and that old bull had nearly gotten her. It had seemed to know how to fight. It hadn’t blindly charged but took a defensive position waiting for her to strike.

When she ran in expecting it to lunge forward it side stepped and with a huge swipe back handed her so hard she crashed into a tree breaking two ribs and splitting her head open. She had lain very still until the ogre was close and as he bent to claim his prize he was met with her dagger which she sank deep into its right eye socket. She had left the slain beast where it had fallen knowing she’d be unable to fend off another attack if a group were to find her while she was burning the remains. This too was another reason she preferred burning her kills.

She had returned to the small village where the famed hunter had spiked the ogre’s head outside the tavern only a week later to find the bones of its people littering the streets. A large group had smashed through the barriers and had razed the entire town. Every building and every home had been smashed or burnt. There wasn’t a soul alive but outside the tavern on a spike sat the head of the great hunter. She figured someone had realized he was the cause and reason they had been over run and so she imagined human hands had been at work but now she wasn’t so sure. It was now a widely known fact that using ogre heads as a deterrent was folly and she herself had let it be known to every village she passed.

She decided to take a rest. She wasn’t tired but she needed to settle her mind or she ran the chance of being caught off guard. She had to know. As far as she knew there were no other hunters who had been at this as long as she had. She had spent more time watching them and witnessing their odd behavior than anyone else she knew of. She had always thought it to be pack like. No different than coyotes or wild dogs. There was the biggest and meanest and it would seem that it was the leader. He’d sit howling indecipherable commands which the others followed.  “There couldn’t be any true intelligent thought behind those shrieks and howls could there?” Chere asked the silent trees quizzically.

In the distance a quiet yelp caught her attention. She jumped to her feet as if expecting an onslaught but again the forest grew silent. She slowly made her way towards where the sound had come. “How far off had it been?” She whispered aloud, “and what would have made such a sound?”

Ahead she saw a clearing she slowly encircled it checking for any would be attackers. Even in this world it was wise to be just as wary of man as it is to be wary of ogres. The ogres all wanted one thing and that was to eat. The men all wanted one thing as well, at least the ogres intent wasn’t malicious they were just trying to survive.

Once she was sure there wasn’t an ambush waiting she crept closer.  In the middle of the clearing hanging from a pole rammed into the ground was a fat ogre leg. Beneath the leg was a pit. As she slowly crept closer she heard the yelp issue from below the bait.

She had never seen a wolf before other than pictures. She had been certain all such creatures were extinct. But in the pit below impaled through the neck was a wolf. She felt instant sorrow for this majestic creature. She had seen many pictures on the discs of these beautiful creatures and she was certain that what lay dead just below her may be the last timber wolf. Then she again heard the yelp.

She carefully lowered herself into the pit and nestled against the dead wolf was a single pup. It was a fat ball of fur and even tried to snarl as she pulled it free from its mother’s long dry teat. She couldn’t stop herself from the involuntary “awww, you’re so cute,” which issued from her lips. With the pup nestled in her arms she climbed out of the pit and inspected the work.

“Well little guy this was not built for you of that I am sure, it was just poor luck that your mother landed the way she did.” She pondered a moment. “This is an ogre trap. A pretty good one too but it must have taken four men two full days to dig this. Any ogres in the area would have heard and been on them in minutes and yet they managed to do a pit this large.” The spikes were big and the pit was deep and wide. “Ten ogres would fit in there and if they were charging for food they’d of all fell to their deaths.” The little wolf pup just looked up at her trembling and she smiled down at him and kissed his nose. “Let’s get you out of here.”

“I’ll call you Mojo.” She smiled and left the clearing.

Eulogy

newskull

(This is my first novel, I began it back in 2001 but did not finish it until 2011 so please forgive me if some of the material is dated. Also, and I beg, keep in mind I have come a long way with my crimes against punctuation since I began on this journey. This is the first 30 pages or so. I hope you enjoy. Any critiques would be greatly appreciated. I will post more as I have a chance to go through and make sure the chapters are legible. I have a horrible habit of thinking faster than I am able to type. Thank you. – JM)

 

 Eulogy

The Beginning 1

Riad woke early as he did every morning, brushed his teeth, showered, and dressed. He quietly made a simple breakfast of sliced pineapple and bananas. He was always respectful to his roommates despite his secret loathing of them both.

He had lived here in this cramped apartment for almost two years as he attended NYU working towards a degree he knew he’d never finish. Riad was a peace loving sort who prayed every night that his people would be free of the infidels’ oppression.

At times he found himself wondering if they were as bad as he had been taught. Then he would remember the flashes and explosions so powerful his hearing had been damaged. This he told his classmates was a hereditary problem.

Then with heart crushing clarity he remembered his mother. The memory of her so fragile, dying in his father’s arms took over. She had a wooden beam deeply lodged in her chest; the pictures flooded his mind. The silent eeriness of it made his heart race and spine tingle even after all these years.

The beam had been driven home by the force of the infidel’s mortar round. Whether human error or an act of nature, the round had missed the warehouse fifty yards away and had blown away the entire corner of his family’s modest home.

His mother had tried to speak but could not form the words. It would have mattered little; he and his father would not have been able to hear. They watched her struggle to breathe her last breaths with destroyed lungs.

He steadied himself, fighting the urge to scream. Hatred hardened his heart. “Yes they are that bad.” He muttered softly under his breath.

He noticed the time and hurried himself. He finished his breakfast and set out just as he had done every weekday for the past two years. It was only five in the morning when he hit the frigid New York streets and he felt revitalized by the brisk air, he kept a quick pace.

He followed his regimen to the minute. He met his train at the usual time, exited at his usual stop. He was known for being one of the first to arrive and last to leave at the school’s massive library. He enjoyed learning and it kept his mind from his most feared enemy: doubt.

He began to study as he had always done but today was of course different than any before. He wondered to himself, will I live through this? He quickly shook this thought off, knowing it wasn’t important. He had a mission and he would do what he was asked no matter what it was.

It was a quarter till seven when the messenger arrived. Riad didn’t know what to make of this man. He was dressed in a canary yellow windbreaker, bicycle shorts, helmet, and gloves, all of which were covered in reflective strips. Riad hadn’t known who would show up, but to trust such delicate information to just any bicycle messenger shocked him.

He signed for the envelope and nonchalantly opened it, feigning interest for the benefit of the nosy librarian who had pointed him out to the messenger. He acted happy as he pulled the card from the envelope.

He said, smiling, “It’s my birthday.”

“Happy birthday,” replied the librarian who went back to her work, disinterested.

Riad had no problem acting; he had been doing so for years. He was after all on the frontlines of the war. He had to do what was expected of him. He had sworn to his fallen mother and the ailing father he had left behind to complete this mission.

The card was one of the musical types and as he opened it he had been afraid it would blare music into the silence of the early morning library, but it had not. It read “Happy birthday son, Love your Mother and Father.”

This made his heart ache. His father had died a year after his arrival in the US. He had been unable to go back for the funeral, fearing it would jeopardize the mission. He scanned the library, making sure no prying eyes were on him. He flipped over the card and saw that where the manufacturer logo should have been, there was instead a fictitious brand name and an address. He gathered his belongings and casually left the library.

He made his way outside, hailed a cab, and went to the address. The cab ride took a long time, which was fine with Riad. He had casually opened a book containing the birthday card and using his thumbnail, tore open the part that normally contained the little device which played the music. He saw that in its place was a small silver key.

“Clever,” he said under his breath.

“Huh,” barked the groggy cabby who looked as if he hadn’t had a day off in weeks.

“Oh nothing, sorry, I was just thinking out loud,” he replied, without a trace of tension in his voice.

He arrived at the address at eight thirty. He paid the cabby, giving him a nice tip.

“Thanks Bub,” retorted the cabby with a grin, “need me to wait on ya?”

Riad replied, “No thanks. I have business to handle here.” I don’t know exactly what business that is, he thought, as the cabby sped off.

He approached the building, which was a plain brick structure with a faded sign that read Jones’s Short Term/Long Term Storage. He entered. There was a reception desk with a grumpy looking old man dozing in an old cushy lounge chair in front of a set of double steel doors.

At the sound of Riad entering the old man looked up and snapped, “Key, where’s your key?”

Riad produced the key. The old man looked it over and handed it back wordlessly, buzzing him through to the storage area. The old man leaned back and began snoring immediately. Riad found this amusing and was grinning as he walked down the narrow corridor towards the locker that matched the number on his key.

The locker was small and the lock made quite a bit of noise, as if it hadn’t been opened in a very long time. Riad imagined it had not been. He knew little of what he was involved in, but he knew that he was not alone. He was comforted to know that many other people just like him, warriors on the front line of this epic battle were following messages this very morning all on different paths driven by faith.

All he knew about what was to come was told to him by a mysterious figure in a dark room four years earlier. “There will be many, and not one of you will know the others involved. This plan was set into motion after the invasion of Kuwait by the Infidel Americans and their supporters. We have been placing people and equipment all over the world since 1993.” He knew that this plan had cost lives, hundreds of millions of dollars, and sixteen years of hard work. He would not fail.

He slowly entered the small storage unit and was convinced there was some sort of mistake. It appeared to be filled with nonsense junk. There were boxes of old clothes, toys, and books. His heart sank. Was this all for nothing? Did someone fail at their portion of the mission? Are we found out? He began sweating, expecting armed assassins to come bearing down on him in a hail of bullets.

He waited a few tense minutes and when nothing happened, he began digging. He inspected box after box and just as he was sure there was nothing of use he saw a box labeled Riad’s Junk tucked away in the back corner. All his fears faded and he knew that once he opened this box there was no turning back. He was filled with strength, knowing that his faith was about to be tested.

As he moved the cardboard box, he found it was bigger than the rest and very heavy, though still manageable. He was very careful with it, not sure what he would find inside. It could be anything, as he had no idea what had been planned for him.

He imagined explosives. That was the simplest way, he had long thought, strap on a bomb and blow myself up somewhere densely populated. He always hoped it wouldn’t be explosives but that was irrelevant. He would do what he must.

He held his breath and opened the box. “Balloons?” He choked. The box was half full of deflated balloons. They were the nice ones you buy for birthdays and anniversaries and such. Pulling the balloons out slowly, looking for some form of instruction, he found a small note taped to the inside of the box which read:

Riad you are a great man and your name will echo through the halls of history through all the ages to come. Keep your faith my brother and you shall be a hero. Fill as many of these as you can carry around with you, release the gas on buses, trains, anywhere the infidels congregate. Do this all this day until you are caught or killed. If you are blessed with one more day, be in Time’s Square at nine am tomorrow. God be with you my friend.

He didn’t know who had written the letter, but it did not matter. He understood secrecy was important so that the architects of this great mission could live on to formulate new scenarios for exterminating the enemy.

He removed all the balloons and saw four helium tanks beneath. He filled and sealed a large bunch of balloons, then tied them in a bunch and added a bow. The old man did not stir as he left and he was careful not to let the door slam.

He waited at the bus stop and whistled Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. He was quite fond of classical music. As the lumbering bus approached, his whistling ceased and his lips expanded into a warm smile for the driver as the doors opened.

He sat in the first open seat he came to, he was all smiles to the other passengers but his insides were churning. He noticed a beautiful blond women sitting nearby. He caught her eye and she smiled sweetly at him. He let his mind wander for a moment, imagining her holding him, telling him how much she loved him. He saw their children being born and growing. He saw their future house and their blissful happiness.

The woman noticed he was still watching her as he was lost in his thoughts and her smile broadened. Just as quickly as he let his mind wander he snapped back into reality. Just for a moment, the woman saw the vicious intent in his eyes but he recovered with a quick smile. The young woman did not look at him again and exited at the next stop.

He admonished himself silently. How could you be so foolish, she is as bad as any of them, she may as well have launched the mortar that killed your mother!  They are the enemy and they are not to be trusted!

With that he punctured the first balloon. He went from bus to bus and train to train, careful he did not pop more than one in front of the same people, in order to avoid suspicion.

He traveled all over the city, visiting parts he had never been to before, often feigning disdain if anyone noticed one of his slackening balloons. He returned eight times that day each time carrying away a fresh bunch of balloons and a box of junk to make it appear he was just emptying the storage unit. The people running the place did not seem to care one way or the other.

Riad mused at how easy this all was more than once that long day. They don’t care enough to notice what is going on around them. These people deserve whatever they get.

In the afternoon he stood in a busy subway tunnel releasing balloon after balloon filled with what, he did not know, nor did he care. He had developed a cough that was mild at first and progressively worsened. At first he thought that it was being out so much that day that was making him sick, but then it occurred to him that it was most likely what he was unleashing upon the unsuspecting infidels. They are so prideful, they believe they can attack us in our homes but are safe to come and go as they please.

He spent twelve hours doing as his instructions had bade him until he was too sick to even think of continuing. He had noticed a great deal of sneezing and coughing much like his own during the last few hours.

He returned home at nearly eleven that night. His roommates were both home but did not greet him. They were already asleep. He thought this to be strange, considering neither of them ever went to bed this early. As he dozed off in between his own coughing and sneezing fits, he could have sworn he heard the same sounds of sickness coming from both of his roommates’ bedrooms.

When he woke the next morning he was surprised to see it was already bright outside. He had never overslept in the two years he had lived here. He had trouble getting up and getting to the bathroom. He was running a high fever and sweat poured from his body. There was no sound in the apartment except the wheezing coming from the other two bedrooms.

The gravity of what he had done slowly began to set in. It was obvious that both his roommates had the same symptoms as him and neither of them used the bus or subways. He began to wonder just what was in those helium tanks.

He took a much longer than usual shower, trying to let the steam clear his sinuses but to no avail. He got dressed, but did not eat. He left without waking his roommates. Despite years of acting as their friend, they were nothing to him, just two more enemies that needed to be dealt with.

He left the apartment at seven am and it took him an hour and a half to walk to Times Square. This walk would normally take him no more than an hour but he was very tired this morning. He didn’t want to ride the bus or to take the train so he just walked. He noticed even for this hour there were fewer people than normal. Another thing he noticed were the amount of sirens he heard. More than half the people he did see all seemed to be in the throes of a horrible flu just like him.

Riad found an unoccupied bench in Times Square and waited. He prayed silently to himself. He could not stop coughing but from what he had seen this morning he had done his job well. He smiled despite the fever and pain in his chest. At five minutes to nine a man sat down beside him.

“Riad?” The man asked.

This startled Riad and he slowly replied, “Yes.”

“I only received your name this morning in a note I found with this briefcase, it said that you would be here by nine and that if you had done your job well you would be very sick. My friend I know you did your job well because I am very sick also.”

“I thought this was all to be secret?” replied Riad, a bit shocked.

“I know, my friend. The note told me to explain that I was to meet you before the end because true warriors like us deserve better than to die alone with nothing but the company of infidels.”

Neither of the two sick men spoke again, they just sat and prayed silently for their remaining moments. Each man knew that at exactly nine am they would be at their god’s side. They both sat sickly smiling as the small nuclear device detonated. Times Square was vaporized.

Simultaneously in major cities all across the world similar situations unfolded. Any country allied with the US was attacked, but none to the extent of the US. There were attacks in thirty states. Within minutes the news spread around the globe. Fifteen minutes after the detonations there was a broadcast accepting responsibility.

The static cleared and the familiar face of Osama Bin Laden appeared. The message was short and disturbing. “American Infidels, you and your allies will all be destroyed. The first phase of our attack was more successful than we could have dreamt, the Infidels shall fall!”

The world was thrown into a state of panic. The highways and interstates around the world became jammed with panicked people fleeing for the safety of the countryside. They believed they were escaping certain nuclear death if they left the cities.

Their plan could not have worked better. The millions of people fleeing carried with them a death sentence far worse than they could have imagined. The virus spread like wild fire. There was a complete collapse of emergency services, crash victims died in their vehicles, house fires burned unchecked, and all semblance of order collapsed.

The National Guard was ordered to block all interstate traffic but it was futile. In many cases the guardsmen were over powered by armed civilians. When they tried to defend themselves with force, they were gunned down. There was no stemming the flood of sick from swarming the rural countryside. It was hope that drove them on, and it was hope that sentenced millions more to a horrific death.

By the time the government knew what was happening, it was far too late. The president issued a plea to cease all movement, warning that traveling was only going to spread the virus faster and increase the mortality rate. His plea went unheeded. It seemed none would be spared.

The virus acted fast. Anyone who contracted it only believed they had the flu at first. It progressed so rapidly that by the time the sick realized it was something worse than the flu they were already in the throes of a fever-induced delirium. This aided in the spread of panic. The infected, suffering from diminished mental capacity, resorted to the most basic instincts: fight or flight.

Riad died without knowing what he had released on the American people, but knowing there would be casualties. He believed these casualties would be localized. When the stranger with the briefcase arrived he understood there was a bomb inside but he had not realized that it was nuclear.

The thousands of people he imagined dying were only a miniscule drop in the ocean of deaths that he actually caused. Not even the architects of this intended genocide could have truly grasped its scope.

The bombs had killed hundreds of thousands, being detonated simultaneously at the beginning of the work day in dense areas as they were. The true genius of the plan was made evident during the following days after the explosions.

Within three days American losses had reached 50 million people. These numbers were impossible to substantiate because the infrastructure had all but collapsed.

There were vague stories before the networks went off the air that this was an accelerated form of the Ebola virus. These stories raised more questions than answers. Millions more died each day. In a healthy adult it took three to four days from infection to death. Within two weeks, ninety percent of all human life was snuffed out. This dramatic turn of events was something no one could have foreseen.

2

 

He stood proud, even as imminent death approached. Slowly with great effort, “As you can see no one is immune to these, most unholy of events. Millions of our friends, neighbors,” briefly he paused, choking back tears, “and loved ones have already fallen to the disease that is spanning the globe.”

The last words he had spoken seemed to add weight to his withering frame and he fell to his knees. The podium obscured the view, but it was more than obvious the President was vomiting. The dying man gasped for air, unable to catch his breath. Uniformed doctors, most of whom appeared to be in no better condition than their prestigious patient, rushed to his side. Suddenly without any warning the network feed was cut, ending the last Presidential speech ever to be given.

Alex sat silently hanging on every word. Teary eyed in disbelief he vaulted off the couch towards the TV, aloud he said, “This isn’t real, this is like that comedian, yeah that’s it, the crappy comedian who does the presidential impersonations. That’s not really the President there; this is some sick bastard’s idea of a joke. How could I have been so stupid, it’s obvious he’s a fake, he’s too small, doesn’t have the right skin tone and the voice is way off.” Self-assured this was nothing more than a hoax he changed the channel.

Alex checked all 8 of the stations his television would pick up and was horrified to see that every channel was either static or an emergency services message. His assurance fled him as quickly as they had come. His hope waned, only to be replaced with despair and confusion.

Shaking violently, as he was known to do when reason had begun to fail him, Alex screamed, “This is America, this shit doesn’t happen here!”

He jumped to his feet and half ran, half stumbled to the rear of the house. He stormed into the cramped bathroom grabbing the door to the medicine cabinet, knocking over a ceramic vase which shattered as it hit the tank of the toilet. Ceramic shards rained down around his bare feet, slicing the exposed skin. Oblivious, he continued his search. All that was going through his mind was that he needed his pills.

He had taken himself off these pills as he had done every other time they put him on something new, always giving him the spiel about how he needed to give them a few months to start working properly. He gave it a few months, went as long as four on these. They too, only seemed to aggravate his symptoms more than help. The only good side effect, he could see, was that they were capable of causing him to sleep for extended periods of time. He once slept thirty-six hours after taking only four. At this moment, all he wanted was to go to sleep and forget the world. He would work this all out when He woke up.

They were not where he remembered leaving them. He slammed the medicine cabinet so violently the mirrored door shattered raining even more razor sharp projectiles down on himself. This to, he seemed not to notice.

He tore back towards the front of the house. He over turned furniture, smashed holes in the walls, and launched any inanimate objects which dared be in his way.

Entering the kitchen he began slinging the entire contents of cabinets onto the floor with one sweep of his broad arm. To him the time spent searching seemed more an eternity than the 20 minutes it actually was. He jerked the microwave away from the wall with more force than was necessary. It flew nearly to the other side of the kitchen.

He found what he’d been searching for behind the microwave. “How in the fuck did you get there?” He yelled at the bottle, which he then opened and dry swallowed six 300 mg. tablets of  Seroquel.

Alex, still very much in the midst of a psychotic episode, calmed down considerably, “More than enough, I will sleep a full day, two if I’m lucky.” Talking to the wake of his most recent destructive outburst, he continued. “Just enough time for a smoke,” he told the ruined kitchen.

He righted the overturned couch and sat down. He then noticed that the emergency services loop had gone to static. The pills had begun very quickly to do their magic. He hadn’t eaten in days so there was nothing in his stomach to slow down his digestion. He got up, nearly falling over the battered coffee table and clicked off the TV. He made his way back to the couch, dropped onto it, and with cigarette and lighter in hand passed out.

He dreamed terrible dreams, but the one that He was having now seemed too good to be true. It was real to Him as His dreams always seemed to be. He was with his brother in Cleveland. His brother, a guitarist was on the road and would have been in Cleveland that very night.

There were no diseased people here, everyone seemed happy to see him. In his dream he was thrilled, the concert was packed and going great. Everything felt fine to him, which was quite unusual. At that moment he was happier than he had been in years. It had been a very long time since last he had dared going into a crowded place. It had been two full years since he’d last even been inside a grocery store, but this night, this concert, everything was perfect.

He began to notice that the crowd was all people he knew. These were all the people he cared most about in the world, all his friends, and loved ones were gathered here. Then for a second he thought he glimpsed His Grandmother, who had raised him since he was seven years old.

At first, it didn’t seem very odd to him that she’d be amongst all those he cared about. It struck him suddenly, his stomach dropped as if he were on a roller coaster. “She’s dead, been dead five years now. That was just my imagination.” He blurted. As if on cue, she appeared before him, an apparition breaking through the crowd. She was all smiles and warmth.

“GET OUT!” She screamed. He stumbled backwards towards the bar, blindly landing on a bar stool. She had changed; he was in shock to see the woman he had most admired was now a grotesque rotted version of herself.

The band stopped playing; this drew his attention in the direction of the stage where he saw what he feared more than death itself. His brother was there holding his guitar in a state best described as living death. “Rick, oh God, Rick, what has happened to you?”

“It is ok little brother, I’m ok now, but you need to go,” said the animated corpse of his brother.

They were all dead all around him, everyone he knew. It was not fear that welled inside him, it was sorrow and shame that they were all dead and he was not. Even in his own dreams he had no sense of self-worth.

He began to cry, and the rapidly decomposing crowd all gave sympathetic looks. They began to fall apart silently with no signs of discomfort or even sorrow, as if they were all resigned to their fates. Most were still smiling when their legs crumbled under the weight of their torsos.

The floor appeared to be no floor at all but some benevolent entity greedily swallowing up all he loved. They fell into the all-encompassing darkness. The darkness was spreading. There were no sounds other than a giggle which he was sure had come from his long dead sister. She died along with his parents in the crash, which altered his waking life forever.

Now there were only four remaining. Still on the stage were his brother and the only three other people he had spent any real time with since leaving High School. He began to cry harder looking at these four people he was now sure he’d never see again.

Rick spoke, “Alex you have to leave, you can’t stay in this place, all that made it home is gone. It’s a new world for you now. Live, you hear me? Live.”

“I don’t understand, what happened to you, why are you dead,” He begged.

“That’s how it has to be,” Rick had tears in his eyes but his voice never faltered. “It’s now the perfect world for you Bro, no people,” at this the three people who knew him best standing just behind his brother laughed.

In unison the three said, “Love ya man,” graciously they stepped off the stage and into the darkness before Alex had to witness their decomposing any further.

“I have to go, I love you Brother, take care of yourself, and no matter what, don’t forget to leave,” Said his dead brother. He added earnestly, “It will be hard, but I know you can do it.”

“I…I… don’t understand,” he was cut off as his brother cranked the volume on his guitar stack and started playing a song Alex knew well, Seasons In The Abyss, by Slayer. Still playing with a last look at his brother and a nod he jumped into the darkness.

He was falling. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been falling, but usually he had panicked at this feeling while dreaming. This time it was different, as if he were comforted by his own weightlessness. After the dream and the sensation of falling ebbed away he slept peacefully for 8 more hours.

It was a day like any other day, the sky was visible through the smudged windows of his little room. The somber grey clouds were motionless. With effort, he rolled on his side to see the time and to find a cigarette. He wasn’t sure how he’d made it to his room, but that was normal. He often found himself in different places than he’d fallen asleep.

Seroquel sleep was his favorite sleep; he often woke with his mind a blank slate. He rubbed his temples, trying to remember. “What happened last night?” Then as in answer a sharp pain tore through his head starting at the nape of his neck continuing around to his eyes. As his eyes blurred and tears began to form it all came back to him. “How did this happen?” He yelled at the ceiling.

He remembered the dream with perfect clarity, his brother, grandmother and all his dead friends trying to warn him away, he whispered, “But from what?”

He got up stumbled through the house towards the living room, all the while surveying the damage from the previous night’s rampage. He turned on the T.V. and searched the channels, all were gone. Static is the only reward his search provided.

“How could this be?” he asked aloud.

“No one to run the stations you goof ball,” he heard his brother say in the back of his head.

Checking the stereo He only found an emergency services loop, “By order of the President of the United States of America, all citizens are to cease all movement. The United States has been attacked by terrorists using small nuclear devices, as well as biological weaponry. The only way to stop the spread of this virus is to cease all movement. If you believe yourself to have been infected, do not seek medical help. Find a secure location and quarantine yourself. Seeking help will only spread the disease further. There is no cure; I repeat there is no cure.”

“FUCK YOU!” He yelled, which freshened the unbearable pain in his head. He paced from room to room trying to grasp what had happened. All his thoughts were confused glimpses of horror fantasy coated in a thin layer of reality.

“I’m going crazy”, he chanted to himself under his breath. He walked through the house, looking in every closet, every cabinet, and drawer, as if searching for some lost artifact of sanity, he collapsed on the couch.  The pills he had taken the night before had not yet run their course. He dozed fitfully.

Half asleep he heard a loud bang from the rear of the house. Alex jumped off the couch in a run, tripped over the over turned coffee table and slammed into the TV stand knocking the television to the floor. Stunned he regained his footing and picked his way to the front door.

Silently he begged God that the noise had been His brother. “Rick, Bro is that you?” No answer came as he stood on the porch looking around. Then he heard it again, this time he heard breaking glass.

He couldn’t contain his excitement, “Bro where are you?” he ran, nearly falling as he rounded the corner at full speed. To his disappointment, the yard was empty.

It was cold out; the calm was eerie this early March morning. Alex was grief stricken; in that moment it occurred to him he would never see his brother again. Then he remembered the noise. He slowly continued around his house, near the rear there were three hard cover novels on the ground.

“Alex, over here,” Issued a raspy voice he nearly recognized.

“Who is it?” He asked startled as he turned slowly around.

There in the window of his neighbor’s house, was what looked like a zombie. The once robust family man looked like something from a late night sci-fi marathon. The discharge appeared green in the early morning light and steamed as his neighbor leaned out the window to vomit. It oozed from his nose, ears, and mouth. The eye sockets seemed empty from where Alex stood. He needed to get closer to see if this man were really alive. Being prone to hallucinations, as he was, he wasn’t sure if what he was seeing was real.

Alex had known John for five years and was sure this wasn’t his neighbor. This was not the man he had sat with and watched his two little girls play in the yard. Alex remember watching, longing for a family of his very own. He thought this is someone else for sure. I just saw John last week; this poor guy is at least 50 lbs. lighter. He began to walk closer.

“Stop,” yelled His neighbor. The exertion obviously pained him; he groaned and began dry heaving.

“I, I,” stuttered Alex, realizing his folly, but could not think of what to say.

After gaining his composure, as well as he was able,”Alex is your phone still working?”

“I don’t know, I have a dial tone but I haven’t talked to anyone in several days. My brother is out of town,” answered Alex. “He should be calling soon.” He added.

“I’m going to call you in a minute, I need to talk to you, it’s important.” He wheezed. There was pity in John’s voice; he knew what Alex was denying. The chances that his brother was still alive in all this were very unlikely.

Alex was back on the couch where he spent most of His time, “waiting to die,” he had mused to a friend of his and his brother. He had laughed at the time, but all the while, in the back of his mind, he believed it to be true.

After about five minutes the phone rang, “Hello John?”

“Yeah, how you holding up Alex, I would have called sooner but I thought you left with your brother.” John was having trouble catching His breath.

“I’m sorry, are you guys ok?” He felt like such an ass for not checking on John and his family.

“We were all infected, my girls and my wife died earlier this morning.” John’s voice had diminished to the point where Alex had to turn the volume up on the phone to full just to hear him.

Alex was stunned, again he thought of how he had envied this man for all he had. Now this same man, his only friend beyond the members of his brother’s band, had lost everything. He was now losing his life. Tears began to fill His eyes, as he thought of John’s daughters and how young they were.

“John, I am so sorry,” Alex felt that to be inadequate to tell a man who just lost two children and His wife, but was at a loss of what else to say.

“Thank you,” John was weeping, and just holding the phone up was more than a task for him, but he needed help so he continued. “Alex, how are you feeling, are you showing any symptoms?”

Alex thought a minute, his head was pounding. This was more than he could deal with, he thought, yet he was here. “I have a bad headache, but that’s normal. Other than that I feel fine.” He felt foolish complaining of a headache to a dying man.

“When was the last time you were around anyone? Try and remember, even if it was just a quick trip to the store.”

“It’s been at least 4 days, the day my brother left. I went to the store for smokes.” He answered.

“That’s great Alex, you have been spared.” John choked. Although his entire family was dead, and he too would be following shortly, he meant it.

Alex had always been kind in their brief talks over the years. John knew he was troubled, he drank too much, and listened to heavy metal music to loud. John also knew that if ever there was a problem; Alex was the first one at his door to help. He thought of the time his wife was hospitalized for two weeks due to complications with her pregnancy. Alex had done all his yard work, made sure his trash was taken out, and came by at least once a day to see if he needed anything. He thought to himself, not everyone would agree, but I couldn’t have picked a better person to survive.

“But everyone else is dying, what am I supposed to do?” Alex was trying to stifle his audible sobbing.

“Listen to me Alex, God doesn’t make mistakes. You have been spared for a reason. There will be other survivors, not everyone will die. The people who survive this must ban together and help each other. You must go and seek them out.” John spoke, as reassuringly as his failing health would allow.

“What about my brother, I can’t leave, what if he comes back and I am gone?” Alex began to feel dizzy, thinking he would surely pass out. He closed his eyes waiting for it to pass.

“Alex, you should write him a letter and tape it to the door, tell him you have gone to find other survivors and that he should do the same.” Replied John, he then added, “He will find you, if he makes it, he will find you.” John thought this is not the time for sugar coating.

John began to throw up uncontrollably, he fell to the floor with a bang, leaving Alex feeling hopeless, not being able to help. Alex waited for quite a long while, but could still hear John gasping so he remained on the line.

“Alex, you still there,” gasped John, winded but still alive.

“Yeah, I’m still here,” relieved to hear John’s voice, even as desperate as it sounded.

“Alex I want you to take my truck. Grab my camping gear from the shop and get out of here,” he then hesitated, before saying, “but I need a favor first.”

“Anything John, just ask,” quickly replied Alex.

“I want to be with my family in heaven. Suicide is a sin, being merciful is not.” John had more despair in his voice than Alex had thought possible before now.

“OK John,” he answered before what was asked, had had time to sink in.

“Out in my shop is a gun safe, take everything in it, if not for protection, you will have to hunt.

“Are you sure this is what you want,” praying he would say no.

“There is no one else to ask, all our neighbors are either dead, or they left.” Then as an afterthought added, “those that left are most likely dead as well.”

“I will do it,” God only, knows how, he thought.

“Alex after you are finished and ready to leave, set fire to the house. I can’t stand the thought of my family rotting away like this. The fire will kill the virus.

“John, I wish this hadn’t happened, I am scared, and I am so sorry for what has happened to you guys.” Alex cried.

“Listen Alex, you will be fine, and what happened was not you’re doing. The signs were there all along, but no one thought it was possible. You are a good man; I want you to get away. Go west; get somewhere where there are no buildings and no people. Take all you find with you and start over, but don’t forget us. Tell your children what happened, so they will know better than to do what we have done. Alex, remember this was an attack. Sooner or later the ones who did this will show up, if they survived.” John was becoming delirious from the pain, and was barely audible now.

“John I will never forget you and your family, you had what I’ve always dreamt of having.” Alex was crying again as he said this.

“You will go on to have beautiful children, and you will be a great father,” whispered John through his own tears.

John gave Alex the combination to his gun safe, and told him where he had his spare key to the shop hidden. After telling him where he’d be in the house, he hung up the phone. He could no longer breathe without serious pain and talking was something he’d never do again.

Alex went into the shop. He felt as if he were dreaming all this, for surely this couldn’t be real. He opened the safe, took out a rifle. He loaded it with bullets from a fresh box stored neatly at the bottom.

He found the spare keys to John’s truck. On the key ring was a picture of John’s little girls, forever frozen in time. Their smiles encased in the plastic picture holder his wife had given him. The sight of those little girls, so happy, so far away from where they were now made fresh tears well in Alex’s eyes. Maybe it was John’s words, but at that moment Alex felt a strong desire to be gone from this place.

He only took one gun, he’d come back for the rest of the things shortly. He had something to do. He went into his house and got a cigarette and walked back outside. Slowly he skirted the lifeless bushes, it was still very cold and they had not yet awoken from their winter slumber. He slowly approached his neighbor’s home and made his way around to the master bedroom’s window.

Clearly he could see John through the window kneeling on the foot of the bed praying over the bodies of his wife and children.

Alex slowly raised the rifle to his shoulder; looking through the scope he targeted John’s head. He knew that if he hit him anywhere else or merely wounded him that John would lay there suffering even more than he was now. There would be no way to enter to complete the task without getting infected. The rifle shook in his inexperienced hands. He was sweating despite the cold, he attempted to steady himself, then prepared to fire.

“God help me please,” he squeezed the trigger expecting this to finally be over. Nothing happened; he went weak in the knees nearly falling to the ground. “You gave your word to your friend, now do this!” He demanded of himself.

Surprised at the authority in his own voice he checked the rifle and realized the safety was on. He raised the rifle once more sighting his friends head and slowly squeezed the trigger. As if he knew it were time, John raised his hands towards heaven. The report was deafening, it appeared to Alex that in death John had embraced his family as he fell forward. His friend would no longer suffer.

The sound had scared Alex; he stood for a moment with silent ears ringing. Suddenly he became stricken with the fear that he must be having a psychotic episode. If he had hallucinated all these events, that meant he had just murdered his neighbor. He waited barely breathing like a deer in headlights. He was expecting at any moment for his neighbors to come running down the road screaming, “Murderer! Murderer!” This he even pictured in his mind.

After five minutes or five hours he did not know, there were still no sirens, no police, nothing at all. He was all alone.

Aloud he said, “This is such a small town, if everyone here is dead, then everyone must really be dead.” His own words chilled him.

He stood frozen a few minutes more then slowly walked back to the shop. He began packing what he needed into John’s truck.

He checked every house on his block, yelling from a distance but there were no replies. In a few windows he saw that the corpses of the old and young were indistinguishable from one another. We are all the same in death he thought, just bodies. He could see from the distorted faces that several had died in pain, he felt a twinge of guilt. Then he whispered, “What was I to do shoot everyone on my street? A sane person wouldn’t be able to handle that.”

He wrote his brother a lengthy letter explaining what had happened, and detailing where he planned to go. Then he burned every house on his street except his own. He climbed into John’s truck and drove to the end of the street and just sat and watched the fires. He hoped and prayed someone would see the flames and come, no one did. After an hour of waiting, he left the place he had called home for over twenty years. He never saw it again.

New Love Allergic to Your Fur Babies?

People love their animals, but what do you do when the new man or woman in your life requires a respirator five minutes after walking into your house? Do you dump “the one” for your fury bundle of love or is there another way?

I am one of those people who are loved by all animals big and small, regrettably many of these great and small creatures will have me wheezing and sneezing and coughing until I collapse. I met an amazing woman and she loved animals, all of them, each and every single one it seemed. She loved picking up strays and claimed that’s how she got me; I was one of her strays. She had the occasional houseguest in our home until she could find it a safe place. She had a dog, Roxy, and two cats, Punkin and Gobby.

I knew she had pets before I moved in so I prepared, or so I had led myself to believe. I stocked up on Benadryl and Zyrtec but neither had any effect on the fat ball of fur known as Gobby. He followed me everywhere I went. These animals worshipped the ground I walked on. I’d give them tuna every now and again and I’d make the dog and I scrambled eggs.  When I’d wake up Gobby would be wrapped around my head in such a way his front paws would be resting in my left ear and his back paws were resting in my right. Roxy would be sleeping with her head on my chest and shy Punkin would as always be posted under the bed. These three were quite the characters and had I not been gasping for air even I would have found it comical. The Zyrtec seemed completely ineffective and by the time I took enough Benadryl to stop the symptoms I’d be knocked out from the medicine itself.

If you find yourself in a similar situation whether you be the owner or the new love interest don’t be hasty or rash in your decision making. Yes it can be hard especially if it’s directly affecting your health but there is no need to ruin a happy relationship over even the most beloved pet.

If you’ve tried over the counter remedies and met with similar results as me, then I suggest seeing an allergist and asking to try the allergy shots. There are many alternative treatments available now in this area.

If you are the pet owner don’t be discouraged by your new loves literal irritation to your pet’s dander. Keep in mind they willingly moved into a situation where they knew you had animals they were allergic to just to be with you. If you are the allergy sufferer don’t be too hasty demanding the removal of your new flames fur babies, because that’s what they are. They are their babies. People develop attachments to animals in much the same way as they do with other people. Losing a pet is very much like losing a family member so a little understanding is warranted.

You can restrict the offending critters movements to certain areas of the home and no, please don’t lock the poor kitties in a closet. Simply keeping the cats off the furniture and out of the bedroom helped me a great deal. Bathing and brushing your loved ones on a regular basis will help as well as an air purifier. Ultimately it was a trip to the doctor and the allergist that got me straightened out.

I implore you do not run away simply because your new love has pets. You never know they might be the one you are someday celebrating an anniversary with listening as your grandchildren raise their glasses in a toast hoping and wishing they will have a life as happy as the two of you.

-jm vogel

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