Title: What in the hell!?
Description: a story by Soul
Kazimaru - May 16, 2011 01:41 AM (GMT)
“Why the hell is my car on it's side...” was the first thought that came to my mind as I woke up to find myself, battered, bruised, bloody, still strapped into the driver's seat of my old 2002 Ford Explorer.
It didn't register at first what exactly had just happened. Maybe I was in shock, but I doubt it, or maybe I was just in too much pain now to really care. All I was aware of was that my head hurt like hell, as did my chest, waist, mouth, and my left hand.
Speaking of left hand, as I reached up to brush some of the glass from my face and hair it see a large bite mark, like something you'd see in a decent zombie movie, just real enough to be believable, which this was...real I mean.
“Who the hell bit me?! Who the hell bit me, and why am I sideways!?”
My ex always told me I sweated the small things too much, that I never looked at the bigger picture. From her point of view I was worried more about the fact that the paint was peeling off the walls, not the fact that the house was on fire.
Forcing myself to calm down I take a deep breath, and as I do so the cold autumn air hits my mouth, coming in through what used to be the front windshield, and I yelp, like a dog being kicked. I yelp because the cold hurts my mouth, and then I put two and two together and get four. In whatever had just happened to me, a wreck apparently, now that I could see thing more clearly in my head, I had somehow managed to bite my own hand.
Cursing myself, quietly this time...yes, I can do that...I reach down, or perhaps in this situation I'm reaching back, and undo the buckle of my seat-belt, which in turn causes me to slam down into the shattered glass that was once my passenger-side window. Pulling myself up as much as I can in the now cramped space, I wipe as much glass as I can from my face...again, wincing as I feel it cutting my face.
After shaking my head a few times I get on my knees, my blue jeans keeping most of the glass from shredding my legs, as I grab hold of the driver's side door handle and shove.
Reluctantly, and with a few good grunts thrown in for good mix, I manage to get the door open, which then falls off the hinges and to the ground below, where it then proceeds to slide down past the SUV. Now I knew where I was. Where I had crashed.
I was on the bank of a rather steep hill along the northbound side of Old 27, or maybe it was New 27, I had never actually been aware of a difference between the two, but older, less wiser people had always assured me there was one. The problem is, I was headed south.
Have you ever been in a room filled with smoke?
You open a window, and yeah, slowly the smoke will go out the opened window, but it takes too damned long, and so you turn on a fan. Suddenly you can see the other side of the room. You see it, and suddenly everything else becomes clear.
This is what happens to me as I climb out of my baby, my first car, now just a crumpled heap on an embankment on the northbound side of Old, or maybe New, 27. Of course I don't know cars, not much, so perhaps if I could manage to flip it back onto the wheels... Shit, that ain't happening... but this is what happens, the smoke clears and I remember everything that happened, that lead to my crash.
Kazimaru - May 16, 2011 01:55 AM (GMT)
Everything had started off normally. I woke up way too damned early to go to a technical school, the kind of place that calls themselves a collage, but in reality it's about ninety-percent filled with middle-aged men and women who were forced to come back to school just so they could keep their jobs.
Names aren't important. People are important.
Places don't matter much either.
So a normal day really. I go to school, I'm twenty years old and I'm going to school because I couldn't find a job, where I more or less sit in the same room, in the same chair, in the same spot, for a good three hours a day, five days a week, and learn something. This time it was criminal justice, last time it was how to run a restaurant.
I dropped out last time.
That's why I wasn't waking up and driving to my restaurant instead of going to school.
After the three hours of sitting, occasionally talking to some of the people I kind of know, sipping on a one liter of Dr. Pepper, I exit the school, go to my baby, my first car, my now ruined 2002 Ford Explorer, and climb inside. I crank it up, and I sit there, letting the fan blow the warm air in from the engine as look around, watching people leaving, giving them their space so I can swing my big ass out.
My time comes. I leave the school. I get on Old or New 27, headed south, and I get up to speed.
The legal limit is 55 mph, but I always go 60. No real reason, not really. I just like driving fast.
I'm going 60, instead of the legal 55, miles per hour south on 27, and everything seems like normal until all of a sudden this cat runs out in front of me. Now, I love animals, so naturally, I swerved into the free lane, the one used for people who want to drive faster, who like to weave in and out of traffic when they get in a hurry. I swerve, and suddenly there's another car headed right for me.
This guy, in his little sedan...the English call sedans saloons...has to be doing at least 70, and he doesn't even bother to try and swerve around me. He keeps plowing up 27, in the wrong lane, in my lane.
I hear the sounds of metal creaking, then giving way. I hear glass shattering, spraying my face, cutting it, getting lodged in my hair. Then there is a thunk, and a sort of smack as my head slams into the steering wheel, then as the airbag deploys, launching me back. As I am shot back, my hand rises up off the wheel and this is when I bite it.
The rest is a very short history lesson I don't care to repeat.
The rest, in short, is I wake up and ask what the hell happened.
Kazimaru - May 18, 2011 12:02 AM (GMT)
After I climb halfway back into the wreck of my sports utility vehicle, just to grab my jacket and my satchel, I make the short hike back up to 27 and look around. There are the black rubber marks scarred into the tarmac, or whatever they make roads out of, leading from one set of lanes to the other. And there, in the median, having come to rest in a bed of those red flowers they plant along the road to make it look nicer, is that little silver car, which had once belonged to some asshole.
“Hello?” I call out. Then wait for a moment, no response. “Hey, anyone alive in...I guess not. Damn...”
Leaning down and looking into the car I see a splatter of blood and gore that had, I assumed, once been a body. Pulling myself back I'm actually surprised that I don't blow chunks all over the grass and the red flowers...red, now with blood.
I take deep breaths, gulping down the air like it was water, then, eventually, I don't know how much time passed me by, I straighten myself up and run a hand through my dark hair. Another wince, and I can see why. My scalp, my face, my hands, probably even my knees and much more. All covered in blood.
Some wet. Some dry.
“Thank God there's no sharks around here,” I murmur into the wind, “Or tigers.”
Reaching into my pocket I pull out my cell phone. It's one of those cheap, and I mean really cheap cell phones that are just a wad of plastic with some number buttons and a screen. I dial 911 and hold it up to my ear.
Just before I hear a tone that tells me my call cannot be completed at this time I recall a story I read once. Something about cellular phones making people go crazy, sort of like zombies, but without the undead, 'I'm gonna eat your brains!' kind of thing going on.
“Huh...no service? But I always get service here. I mean, there's a tower right...over...there...”
There was, in fact, a cellular tower, just a few hundred yards down the hill from where I had crashed. However, it was on fire.
“Well...that cannot mean anything good...” was all I could think to say at this time.
I maybe should have been asking myself how a tower made of metal was on fire. Or maybe I should have been asking why no one can come across this wreck by now and done anything. A glance at my cell phone now showed the time, and a good three hours had passed by while I was dozing in what could easily have become my large, dented, dark green coffin.
Instead, I was just thinking that none of this could mean anything good.
In hindsight, maybe that was a good enough train of thought to be riding at the time. After all, what could I really do? The guy in the little silver car as long dead. My own vehicle wasn't going anywhere. I had no water, nor any means by which to get said theoretical water to the aforementioned burning metal tower.
And so, with a small huff, I turned and walked across the road.
Unconsciously, well, without meaning to, I looked both ways. That's always a good idea, I suppose, thanks to my mom always preaching it to me it just became second nature in a way. I walk outside, over to the sidewalk. Look left, right left. Run. Or maybe it was right, left, right...
In any case I make it across all five lanes of 27, two northbound, two southbound, and the middle turn lane. It takes me halfway across to realize that there's no one coming, from either direction, and that makes me a little nervous. Not much, but a little.
It isn't like this section of road is ever really all that busy to begin with, but there is normally at least one or two cars headed somewhere, north or south, the I either pass or that pass me by. Today, nothing. It is as if the world were dead, the people at least. Well, there was that one fellow in the little silver car.
Finally making it over to the far side of the road it sit down on the side of the hill. This is the side of the road where the hill begins, and so it is higher, and so I get a better view as I sit there, bleeding from too many small cuts to count, digging tiny shards of glass from first my arms, then my legs. By the time I get done with all of that I look even worse.
Covered in blood, clothes in tatters.
This is when I remember I had left my hat.
It is a simple hat, and all black, 100% wool fedora, like the gangsters used to wear and the assholes of today wear. I'm not an asshole, I just like it. I've had that hat for something like six years, maybe seven...maybe five.
Times isn't important.
Standing up again I pause and glance back across all five lands of 27, back towards the burning metal tower, and I finally wonder,
“How the fuck is that thing burning? I mean, isn't just metal and wires...maybe the paint on it. Do they paint it?”
I didn't know.
Sometimes people paint metal things like that in some sort of special weatherproof paint to keep it from rusting. Maybe if the metal got hot enough, the paint would go up. If I could remember, I'd ask someone later.
Kazimaru - May 18, 2011 12:31 AM (GMT)
Half an hour later, after having retrieved not only my hat but a few other personal belongings from the Explorer; my collection of CDs, an umbrella, a half empty two liter of Dr. Pepper, I am southbound once again and headed for home. I have still yet to see a single car, even in a driveway, or on the side of the road. Hell, let's face it, at this point another wreck would be a comforting site to behold.
There is no one else around.
For a half an hour all I pass is the litter on the side of the road. An occasional splatter that might once have been an opossum. Once I saw a dog, he didn't have a collar, and he looked scared.
Not angry, not lonely, but scared. He had the look in his eyes that all those pets do on those sappy save the animals commercials that some on later at night, at just the right time to make you feel like shit about yourself, in an effort to get you to spend some money. But this dog, he ran from me, and I didn't bother to chase him.
I had the feeling things were going to get worse before they got better.
Finally, my suspicions were confirmed after another ten minutes or so of walking. I had been walking in silence, listening to...silence. There had been no bird calls or songs, no barking of dogs or turning over of engines. The world was dead, and so was the air now apparently.
My omen of bad tidings came to me in the form of a police car, Georgia State Patrol by the look and color of it, abandoned on the side of the road.
Cautiously, I make my way over, the driver's side door is wide open, and I look inside.
No sign that anyone has been in the car in a while. There is a cup of coffee in the cup holder that's gone ice cold. Given, in this chill autumn air that could have happened rather quickly, but my gut told me otherwise. And it said otherwise even more when I noticed that there was a shotgun in the passenger-side seat, along with some shells, looking as if someone had begun to load it, then stopped for some reason.
Not a good reason.
If you feel like you need a shotgun, you don't start loading it then leave it behind.
Leaning in closer, reaching across the seat for the gun and the shells, something yells at me, suddenly and with a pitch that could shatter glass.
I leap back, forgetting the shotgun and her shells for the moment, my heart pounding, and look at the back window. There, seated inside, arms behind his back is a tall, thin man, bald and covered in tattoos. Normal enough, right? Yes. Except that his eyes were solid red, no pupil, no iris. And he had eaten his own lips off.
Another horrifying yell and I stumble back and fall.
This is like something in a book or a movie. Surely there has to be someone around, hidden with a video camera, ready to pop out like a jackass in the box and tell me I'm on one of those stupid reality shows.
There has to be, but there isn't.
Shaking my head, I jump back up to my feet and run over to the police car, exciting the red-eyed man, causing him to yell again, but I ignore it and grab the shotgun. Then I lunge back in to grab the shells, and when I do I find the box, nearly full of buckshot shells, spilled out over the floor. I grab those too, stuffing them into the pockets of my jacket.
I look the gun over.
I've never fired a shotgun before.
BB guns, pellet guns, a .22 rifle. Never a shotgun. Never had a reason to really. I don't hunt, I don't collect guns, sometimes I would take the .22 out and fire a few rounds at some tin cans with my old man, but it's been a while since the last time that happened.
What am I thinking? What am I going to do, shoot this guy? Why?
Because he's insane... a small voice in the back of my mind says, He's insane, and if you don't take care of him now, there'll be trouble...
“How can there be any more trouble than there already is?” I ask myself, “I'm not going to kill him...not unless I have to...”
And so I, once again, for what might be the seventh time now, make my way over to the police car, but this time I don't worry about the front. Instead, I focus on the backdoor. Shotgun raised, leveled, and hopefully ready to be fired, I snake out my free left hand and open the door.
Crazy-lipless-man roars and leaps out, knocking me over as if I were just a bag of groceries left sitting on the corner. He roars and charges...and keeps going. He takes off right across 27, headed for the woody hills on the far side opposite of me. Doesn't even look both ways before crossing the road.
Any other day, he'd probably have gotten hit by a semi-truck doing the above legal 60 miles per hours.
“Any other day,” I think aloud again, “And I'd be home by now.”
Kazimaru - May 18, 2011 02:50 AM (GMT)
“Hello? Anyone in here?” I ask as I walk into a gas station, a Texaco to be exact, “Hello?”
The lights are still on, the bell chimes as I walk in, and it seems fairly normal. No blood splattered all over the floor or counter, no dead bodies collecting frost with in the beer coolers. Just like the police car it seems like no one has been here for a while. A few hours anyway.
Reaching into my pocket I take out a silver pocket watch, the case dented from the wreck earlier. There's no chain, it broke a while ago. Pressing the little button it pops open to reveal that the time is now 5:34 PM. Looking back out the window I can see it will be getting dark very soon.
I make my way over to the counter, look around, then walk around to the little entry way and move over to the phone. Lifting it from its cradle I hold it up to my ear.
I press the button a few times, maybe that'll help.
The movies are right, I suppose. When a phone is dead, it's dead. Pressing the button doesn't help a damned thing. However, smashing it against the counter in a fit of rage...that helps a lot.
“So the world is dead, and everyone in it is gone. Except for me, the crazy-lipless-man, and that poor dead fellow in the little silver car. Great.” I say, wiping away the shards of phone from the counter before I walk away.
There are several aisles of good in this little place. There's the usual ones; chips and cookies and other snacks you can keep fresh for a time after opening. There's the Little Debbie's and candy. Along the back wall there's beer, wine, and all kinds of drinks that I can't pronounce the name of. They must be good though, judging by the prices.
Then, finally, I get to the soda, tea, milk, and energy drink section.
Pulling out my wallet I see that I still have a twenty dollar bill, the one I was going to use on gas in what seemed now like another lifetime ago. Shaking my head I put my wallet away and then get to work picking out drinks and snacks. It was thirty five miles from the school to my house, and I was maybe, maybe, halfway there now. My half a liter of Dr. Pepper was long gone. I was thirty and hungry.
Twenty dollars worth of snacks?
Sounds like a plan to me.
I take two one liters of Dr. Pepper, a couple bottles of water, and an energy drink...I don't drink energy drinks all that much, so I just grab one. They all look alike to me anyway.
After this I take up a few snack cakes, a bag of chocolate chip cookies, a small loaf of bread, and of course, two king-sized packs of Reese Cups.
'Munchies,' a guy I used to know told me once a long time ago, 'cannot be gotten rid of without Reese Cups. They just can't!'
Well, munchies or not, I was starving, and they were always a good idea in my opinion. If I died today, or tonight one, I wanted Reese Cups and Dr. Pepper in my stomach.
Back at the counter now I lay my twenty on the counter and bag my good myself. I get the last snack cake in the bag and I happen to notice, out of the corner of my eye, that the bathroom door is open. Not the public on, this little store doesn't have one for the public, only for the employees who have to stand there all day and deal with the bullshit of others.
Inside that little bathroom, nailed to the wall it seems, is a small white box with a red cross on the front. Along the top it says FIRST AID.
Soon after this discovery I found myself in the employee only bathroom, wearing just my boxers. It was cold, too, like someone hadn't turned the heat on at all for some time. I mean longer than the, say, four hours since everyone died. Disappeared. Whatever.
As I had thought, my wounds weren't all that serious, just small cuts mostly, a few deeper ones here and there, mainly on my right side, from the fall out of the driver's seat. With a set of tweezers from the first aid kit I pull the small shards of glass from my wounds, surprised at how many they are.
In the clear water of the employee toilet, they make an odd, sort of bloody rainbow at the bottom of the bowl.
A short time later and I've used up all the band-aids on the small but deeper of the cuts. The shallow ones I leave open. Shaking my pants I get rid of all the loose glass and dirt that had been clinging to it all this time, then I slip them back on and fasten my belt. They, they pants that is, are in relatively good condition. My shirt, however, is ruined. Shredded from the glass from the impact, stained red with blood...
I hear a noise, and suddenly I realize why I took that shotgun in the first place.
Then I realize I've left it on the counter with my bags of munchies...
Kazimaru - May 18, 2011 03:19 AM (GMT)
Suddenly there is another noise, this one closer, and I recognize it from every action movie I've ever seen. The click of the hammer of a shotgun being pulled back. I had finally figured out how to put the safety on and off, now it was off again.
Ducking, before it even happens somehow, the hundreds of small metal balls miss me, mostly, bu only inches. One of them lodges itself in my right shoulder, but I don't know it yet. Adrenaline is pumping through my veins, my heart is racing a mile a minute.
Now I know what Fight Club must have been like.
Except this fight is, or will be, for my life.
“Don't fire again!” I yell, huddled in the corner of the bathroom, bleeding again, metal first aid kit now raised like a shield. “I don't have any money, I just paid for my snacks!”
“Who the hell are you?!” a male voice calls from the other side of the room.
“Why the fuck do you care? You just shot at me!” I call back.
“I want to know the name of the crazy fucker I'm going to shoot.” he retorts, and I once again hear the click of the hammer.
“You shoot many crazy fucks with their own gun today? Or am I some special kind of crazy?” I call back.
There is a long pause, then, slowly, as if someone were playing one of those old CDs of Halloween sounds on slow, I hear the click of the hammer being let back, then a louder click as he opens the double chamber and take out, then replaces the spent shell. Another click, then he speaks again.
“You got your pants up yet, Crazy Fuck?” he calls back.
And I can't help but laugh.
“So, what happened to you?” Shaun, that was his name, the guy who nearly shot me with my own shotgun, asks, looking me over as he pops open one of those drinks I couldn't pronounce and takes a long sip.
“Car wreck, if you can believe it...” I say, shaking my head, turning up a Dr. Pepper. “Must be my lucky day, huh?”
“Nope. You'd be better off if you had died in that crash, in my opinion anyway,” Shaun says, then at my look he sighs, “You don't know what's going on, do you?”
“No. Like I said, there was a wreck. I was out of it for the better part of something like three hours.” I say, then set my drink aside and look out the window. “That shotgun...I took it from an abandoned cop car. And there was...”
Don't say it. There's no reason to mention that crazy guy. that voice in the back of my head says, and I can almost feel it grin, After all, he might think you were crazy yourself...
“Don't sweat it man, he wasn't using it anymore,” Shaun says, then adds, “The cop, I mean. He was just gone, wasn't he? No sign of a struggle or anything?” at my nod he nods as well, then continues on, “Yeah, it's like that everywhere I think. You're the first person I've come across in a while now...well, yeah a while. Like five or six hours now...”
He pauses, and I think he's going to continue on, but he doesn't and the look in his eyes tells me two things.
He won't speak anything else about it.
I shouldn't ask.
“So...what is happening?” I ask after a long silence, where we just sat there, drinking an snacking.
“No idea, to be honest, but does it really matter? Whatever the hell happened, there's nothing we can really do about it now, right?” Shaun says more than asks, “There's two of us around now.”
“Us?” I ask.
“Us,” he says, “Sane people.”
Kazimaru - May 19, 2011 02:17 AM (GMT)
Sane people? Yeah, maybe that is a stretch, I mean, if you think about it. After all, I just crawled out of a car wreck with only a few scratches, wandered down 27, stole a shotgun out of a police car, let crazy-lipless-man out of the back of said car, wandered into a convenient store, and nearly got shot with said gun.
Sane is a relative term now.
But, sane or not, Shaun and I sit in the Texaco and talk for a while, trying to help one another piece everything together. Which was proving to be quite difficult if I’m to be honest.
Both of us had lost a few hours, and when we woke up the world had passed up by, so to speak.
My new friend, who, admittedly, had already insulted me and tried to shoot me once by this point, explained that he worked at this store, or used to anyway. His house was only about a twenty minute drive away, on one of those hundreds of small streets that branch off from 27.
“I was supposed to clock in at five,” he had said, “I work the night shift you see, five to midnight during the week.” his alarm had stopped, and when he woke up he was already late.
The little blue car he drove, parked outside his small house, seemed fine enough as he walked out the door to go and get it started. But then, for no real reason at all, he decided he should grab the 2x4 leaning against his steps before proceeding.
“It was like...have you ever had something happen to you, and as it happens you think, hey, this has already happened? But you can't do anything about it?” he had said at his point, in an almost defensive tone, “Well, anyway, that's what it was. But this time, I changed it. I grabbed the 2x4 when I was supposed to just walk over to the car and...”
“And what?” I asked, curious not only because of his random decision to grab the hunk of wood, but because I had had such dreams before.
Deja vu they call it.
“And, in my dream thing, I walk over, open the door, and the kid from next door, the little bastard who's always trying to play tricks on me...I open the door and he leaps out and tears my throat out.” Shaun says, then pauses, then adds, “At least, something like that. It never got further than him leaping out at me...”
What happened in reality wasn't much different. The kid lunges at Shaun, who with his wooden club in hand, bashes the kid upside the head without a second thought about it.
“He had red eyes, didn't he?” I asked.
After he had finished this part he walked over and grab another drink. This time the look he held on his face said that he did in fact what to keep going, but something was keeping him from it. My question, however, seemed to do the trick.
“Red eyes? Yeah, how the fuck did you know that?” came his response.
I then proceeded to recall my run in with mister crazy-lipless-man. I had kept it from him before because I had thought, for a time, that maybe it hadn't really happened. But now, I was painfully sure it had. And I was also sure now that there were more of the red-eyed people out there...if they could be called people anymore.
Again there was a long silence after the tale had been told.
I was starting to get used to all this silence. Never had I really been much of a social person, so I was somewhat used to it anyway, but in this new time...I saw new time because, like it or not, the world hasn't changed any, the the people in it...in this new time the silence was almost a living thing. Silence walked beside you everywhere, whispering in your ear but never actually saying anything at all.
Like a book.
Like a book, in the sense that just having it there, just looking at it from time to time, would tell you nothing.
One has to open the book to gain the knowledge within. And so the question is, how the hell do you make Silence speak?
I'm sure the two of us could have had a long discussion on the subject, and it would have been very odd, maybe a little scary, but it was dark out now, and from all the movies I'd seen, all the books I'd read, I knew not to go out in the darkness.
Shaun agreed. And so the both of us decided that the gas station was the best place to be right now. At least, as long as we were alone.
“They're out there...somewhere...” Shaun said, “They're out there, and they probably want us dead.”
“Crazy-lipless-man didn't seem to want me dead.” I interjected.
“That was a fluke,” came Shaun's response, “I came across that kid, remember? He wanted blood. And just down the street there was another red-eye, an old man, the kind of guy that sits on his porch and yells at the kids, you know? Well, this old timer chased me down the street...”
“Think we should turn the lights out then? In case, you know, they're like moths?” I ask.
“Drawn to the flame you mean?” standing up he walked around to the other side of the counter and hit a switch. “This might help...some...”
Have you ever been the to mall, but you get there either too early or too late, and some of the stores have that gate over their doors? Well, after the switch was hit, the same kind of set up creeped down the glass store front. There were little places here and there that let the light shine through, I was sure, but I said nothing.
If they wanted blood, they would come.
And so far, all we had was a shotgun and a 2x4 in the way of weapons.
Kazimaru - May 22, 2011 04:35 PM (GMT)
The night wore on and nothing much happened. We spoke little, partly because of how awkward everything was, and partly, no, mainly, because we were two men alone at night and locked in a room together. You see in the movies and you read in the books where the two main characters meet in some desolate place in a world long since forgotten by the order of man and they instantly become friends.
I laid awake in my aisle, with the candy to my left, the beef jerky to my right. I stared up at the ceiling, trying not to look directly at the lights as I do so, and I think. I think if my parents and wonder if they're alive or if they disappeared.
Shaun lays a few aisles away, between the canned food and chips.
I'll be honest, I don't know what was going through his mind at this point. Maybe he was thinking of that kid, or maybe he was thinking of his own loved ones. But from what I had already gathered, he was probably just counting the ceiling tiles.
The lights were still on, hanging over our heads so bright that if you looked directly at them you were blind for a few minutes afterward. Neither of us had offered to shut them off. There was an unsaid fear we both shared, a simple fear of the dark.
It isn't the dark you have to fear...it's what might be hiding in that darkness.
And then, as if the voice in my head was actually some sort of demon, the lights flickered, then went out.
Shaun's word echoes for just a moment in the confines of the gas station like the voice of God...admittedly a drunken, pissed off God. I know this because shortly after the last reverberation of that single word, I can hear bottles clattering around, and I was suddenly aware that my new friend had been getting drunk this whole time.
“Calm down...I saw some candles on one of these aisles.” I call back, getting to my feet as well, still from the cold hard floor.
Five minutes later and the store was filled with dancing shadows from a dozen emergency candles, those cheap, plain, white ones you can never find when you need but that last for a year when you finally get them lit. A dozen was the amount of two new packs. Shaun had insisted on lighting more, but I finally talked him out of it, knowing we might need them later.
“If the power's gone out, that means things have gotten worse out there, right?” Shaun asks.
“Yeah, I think so...” I say, reluctantly.
I surprise myself by just how calm I am. Sure, you think you'll be calm, that you'll be able to handle whatever life throws at you, but most of the time that isn't how it works. So far, though, I had kept my head.
Except for me...
Except for that fucking voice...
By the time the sun began to rise, I didn't bother to check my watch because time doesn't mean anything anymore, I was already up and had the candles blown out. Just like I had thought, they were only halfway melted down after the entire night of burning.
Shaun was still sleeping, and I let him rest as I made my way back to the employee only bathroom to change my bandages.
Everything was looking better. Most of the small cuts had scabbed over, and the deeper ones looked well enough to not need anymore band-aids. The bite on my hand, however, was looking a little green. Luckily Shaun had failed to notice it before now, but I wanted to make sure he didn't know it was a bite. The last thing I needed was for a gun happy guy with a hangover fearing I was a...
The word felt odd, even though it was only in my head.
Sure, everyone talks about it...or they did, anyway, but it was never supposed to happen.
Shaking the thought from my head I grab a roll of bandages from the first aid kit and wrap it around my hand after washing it good in water, peroxide, and alcohol. Along with the rest of the bandages, I didn't think he'd notice it.
An hour or so later and we were on the road. Somehow the gasoline pumps were still working, and so after we had loaded down Shaun's little blue car with snacks and drinks we filled it up, leaving behind a twenty dollar bill and an IOU. In total we were making off with at least a hundred dollars in junk food alone.
“So where are we headed?” I ask.
Shaun was driving, which I had at first thought a bad idea, but on second thought I found I didn't really give a damn.
“Does it matter?” was his reply, “Into town. Further than that, does it really matter right now? It ain't like we got a date to get to on time or anything, right?”
“Yeah, right.” I add in, looking back out the window.
Because there were no cars on the road, Shaun was driving as fast as he could, which I guessed was hovering around a hundred miles an hour. I'd gone ninety-five in my Explorer once, and it seemed like this, so I doubted it was much more than a hundred but not less than ninety.
I knew the town were were headed for. I'd lived there for a short time as a child, back when my parents had been married for the second time, for the three years before their divorce. The name didn't matter, which was good because right then I couldn't think of it to save my life. What mattered was that it was a small town, and usually bursting at the seems with traffic and people and noise...but today it was dead silent.
Again I had the feeling that the invisible force known as Silence was hovering around me.
“Mind if I turn the radio on?” I ask as we enter the town.
“Go for it,” Shaun says, “Maybe one of those nuts with an underground station knows what the hell is going on.”
“Or at least a little more than us...” I say, pressing buttons and flipping from one station to the next.
There's a whole lot of nothing comes through, with the occasional hiss of static. It was as if the DJs had all just stepped out of the room without remembering to set the next music set to come on.
The lights are on, I think to myself, but there's nobody home.
All of the stations were like that.
“We should head out west,” Shaun says suddenly, startling me.
“West?” I ask.
“Yeah, west. You know, the opposite direction as east,” he says, “I mean, isn't that what man first did when they got here? They got off the fucking boat and moved west...then kept going til they reach the other side of the country...right?”
“Um...yeah, I guess so.” I say, shaking my head because I feel like an idiot for letting all this creepy shit get to me.
“Hey, does that look like smoke to you?”
Looking forward now, instead of at Shaun and questioning weather or not he might still be drunk, I do see smoke, and a lot of it. As we get closer I can also smell meat cooking and burning, and my stomach churns because I have a bad feeling I know what it might be.
Cannibal barbecue anyone?
The scene which unfolded beyond us was...odd...to say the least. What we found on the next corner was one of those cheap, generic liquor stores, you know, the ones with all the neon signs and beer adds in the window? From where we now sat I could see that the glass doors had been broken, then boarded up, or blocked, or something, so that the 'zombies,' for lack of a better word, couldn't get in.
And there were a lot of them.
The smell? That had presumably been created by a lone figure on the roof who had a clear bottle in his hand. After taking a long drink from whatever fire water might be inside, he stuffs a rag down inside the bottle, and a moment later a Molotov cocktail falls from the roof of the liquor store and onto the head of the zombies below.
“Dude...look at that!” Shaun says, shaking my elbow.
I had been caught up in watching the figure on the roof since we arrived, but now my attention was drawn back to the ground by my friend to a gruesome scene.
“Is that zombie eating a dead zombie?” I ask, again, surprisingly calm. Although I do note, on some level, that I hold my shotgun a little closer.
“Yeah, I think he is...shit...” comes the answer, just before Shaun floors it.
Kazimaru - May 22, 2011 09:54 PM (GMT)
“GOD DAMMIT SHAUN!!!” are the first words out of my mouth as, for the second time in twenty four hours I start to climb out of a car wreck.
“What? It seemed like a good idea at the time.” Shaun says before coughing a little, “Least I hit him.”
“...true.” I had to admit, he had done a good job.
His little blue car had gone from a stand still to about forty in the ten yards or so between us and a group of zombie cannibals, which, to be honest, seemed a lot faster until just before the impact. The impact, which by the way, had turned three oncoming zombies to turn into rotten flesh cannonballs hurtling back towards the rest of them.
“I think I ruined the car though...” He says, opening the back door then reaching in for his 2x4.
“Don't worry about it!” a voice calls down from somewhere above us, “I saw a Camero down the street!”
“Nice!” thwack “I'm Shaun by the way, and this is,”
“I don't give a shit!” the man on the roof called back, tossing another flaming liquor bottle into the mass of zombies, “Just kill those assholes so I can get out of here!”
Shaking my head for a moment I then look over at Shaun and nod.
Raising my shotgun I fire without even aiming. There's no need to now because we're surrounded, so as long as I don't aim for the sky or the ground, I'm good to go. The first shot hits one of them in the gut, and down it goes, but it starts to crawl onward. Another shot and he's out of the picture for good. Looking over and Shaun is having a field day, bashing the mindless beings in the head, nearly every hit taking one down, for a time at least.
I make my way over towards him, and together we move over to the doors. A few more shots and I'm out, so as I reload Shaun covers me. The bodies are piling up at our feet now.
There is a steady stream of what I only assume to be cursing in...Russian maybe?...then several bottles of alcohol rain down on the zombies. Nearly all of the smash, spreading their liquid insides all over the horde.
“Stand back comrades!” says the man above us before another Molotov cocktail drops.
The next moment a wave of heat washes over me, and I raise my arms to keep from looking into the sudden flames, and to shield my face.
As it was I was wearing just my jacket at the time, with nothing under it by my bare chest, and I was now glad I had decided to button the damned thing, otherwise all my chest hair would probably be on fire right about now.
“Load the gun you idiot! Don't just stand there!” came the mad Russian on the roof.
Heeding his words, however, I fumble for a moment, then begin to reload the shotgun. I make clumsy work of it, but eventually it's full, and I start firing once more, though now I have to take aim.
The fire had caused most of the zombies who hadn't been engulfed to run off, screaming in some off tongue that might have been crazy talk, or perhaps redneck. At the time, I didn't give a fuck either way, because I had a shotgun in my hand and there was a Russian yelling at me from a rooftop. This was getting to be way too much like a no-plot, B-movie action flick to me.
Three more shots, and all that was left in the parking lot of the liquor store was dead, dying, and the smell of burning flesh.
“I'm starting to get hungry,” Shaun says with a laugh, “Maybe this jackass didn't eat all the beer-nuts...or whatever kinda snacks you can get in a place like this...”
Kazimaru - May 26, 2011 05:21 AM (GMT)
The inside of the liquor store was much larger than it appeared to be from the outside, and the walls, the bits that could be seen from behind and between bottles and boxes of strong drinks, was a dark blue color.
“I like that color,” Shaun says after I mention it to him, “A little odd for a place like this, but I like it.”
I agreed. More importantly I liked that this place was made entirely of, as far as I could see, cinder blocks. The walls looked to simply be blocks, probably filled with cement and rebarb for support, painted blue with a solid cement floor and a sturdy roof. This place could be used for a fortress.
“We're out of vodka,” comes a vice from the other end of the store.
A tall, thin man with long dark hair, wearing all black, steps out from a doorway, closing it behind him. There is a trace of some sort of accent to his voice, but I'm not sure what it is. Maybe Russian, or some other European dialect.
“Mostly anyway, I managed to save one crate of the stuff.” As if to prove himself he nods over to the counter, where an untouched case of clear glass bottles sit, filled with their powerful, clear liquid, “That's the good stuff too. I used the rest on those bastards outside, was just about to start on the whiskey actually...might have thrown one of it as well if you two idiots hadn't shown up.”
“Idiots?!” Shaun nearly yells at the man, raising his 2x4 as if to strike a blow, “We're the ones who just saved your narrow ass from starving to death or getting eaten by those zombies outside.”
“They're not zombies,” the man replies, taking out one of those old metal Zippo lighters, “They're still human, just insane. They don't feel pain and don't fear anything except fire,” with a flick of his wrist he opens, then tosses the flaming lighter onto the floor at Shaun's feet, and a ring of fire lights up around him, “Which make me think they're something wrong upstairs, that they're running on pure instinct.”
Shaun only stands there, lowering his weapon, careful not to let it catch fire. I only stand there, knowing that in just a few seconds the alcohol, or whatever was used to make the ring of fire, will burn itself up soon enough.
Which is does about ten seconds later.
During those ten seconds the three of us say nothing. We just stand there, and in the back of my mind I can see us all dressed as cowboys, revolvers at our sides, ready to draw. Perhaps I'm the deputy and Shaun is the sheriff, leaving Mr. Mad Russian the role as the outlaw. At any moment I can picture the two of them drawing on one another, then falling to the ground in slow motion, clutching red spots on their clothes.
But of course, this is not the old west. I am not a deputy, but I am the only one with a gun.
“Anything non-alcoholic?” I ask, breaking the tension.
The man in black simply points to a cooler by the door which I had missed earlier. Inside there are bottles of soda and water and a few cans of beer as well. With a nod I walk over and grab a drink. We have supplies enough in the little blue...now smashed little blue care out front, but I don't feel like walking out there.
“How long have you been in this store?” I ask, opening the drink, holding it away are is spews out.
The man laughs at me.
“You don't know anything about it do you? Either of you?” he says, walking over to a small bar in the back, carrying a bottle of something with him, “The government finally screwed us over, royally. At first it was just a couple of sick people, the next thing you know the hospital's gone mad, then the whole town.”
“But the hospital is a good hours drive from here,” I say, after taking a short sip, “I wasn't out of it for more than about three hours, and before that everything was fine. No way things could just...die...”
Even as I spoke those words I regretted it, because I knew, somewhere in the back of my head, that it could have easily happened. After all, 27 went from somewhere like Michigan down into Georgia, then west into Alabama, maybe further, I didn't know. That highway was no more than a chain of people from there to here. There were two main hospitals down that way.
I played a game once, where you had to send send germs from one cell to another so that they could take it over. As you played you made more infected cells, which connected to make a large web. 27 was that web, the people all along the way were just cells to be infected.
Whatever this was, it was playing the same game, just in easy mode.
“There were reports, on the radio and on the television, for a short time after it happened, maybe for about an hour. It caused a panic, people began to run. I stayed behind. I figure if it's my time, it's my time, but it's not going to come from some God damned sickness.” the man says. “Those bastards out there, they won't get me either.”
“And yet you walled yourself up in this hole,” Shaun cuts in, walking over and taking the bottle from the man, “You got yourself stuck in here and we had to come and rescue you.”
The man said nothing.
I was tired of calling him that, the man, but I so far didn't care to learn about his name. All I knew was he was normal, mostly, and that was good enough.
“It's still early,” I say, giving Shaun a look, trying to tell him to give back the bottle, that this odd fellow needed it more than he seemed, “We should get moving. You said you saw a Camaro? How far away is it, and will it run?”
“Just a block or so away,” the man said, taking the bottle back, and then a long drink from it, now holding a look in his eyes that said he had been knocked down but not defeated, “I think it'll run, but I can't say for sure.”
“That's good enough for me,” Shaun says, walking over to the counter, cutting me a smile when the man couldn't see it, “Let's see what we got back here.”
A moment later, Shaun stood up from behind the counter, where he had knelt for a short time, and when he did, he revealed what he had found.
In his left hand he held his bloody 2x4.
In his right, he held a .45 revolver. One of those big mother fuckers you always see the good guys in the movies wielding.
Nodding, the three of us made our way outside. The bodies were still burning, the air still stale with the smell of them, and the smoke. Ignoring this we made our way over to the little blue car, now dead and bloodied. Here I opened my satchel, filled with my CDs, my school books, everything that had once meant a great deal to me in my everyday life, and dumped them out on the seat. They were useless now, as useless as the car, as the television in the liquor store. With it empty, I stuffed as many supplies inside.
“You can call me Victor.” said the man in black, as he turned and started off towards the supposed Camaro.
Kazimaru - May 28, 2011 02:36 AM (GMT)
The Camaro in question, as it turned out was a 2002 model, and a convertible. Shaun had been rather disappointed, and I had to agree. When I think of a Camaro I think of the muscle cars that dominated the roads back in the 70's and 80's, back when cars both looked and sounded like beautiful monsters.
It was a nice car though, and with half a tank of gas left in it, along with the keys. The roof was down, and thankfully whoever had been driving it didn't seem to have been killed inside. Shaun was eager to get in and behind the wheel and to get it going, but Victor wasn't going to have this. He had been given the 2x4 rather than the revolver, and so he decided he would drive.
I didn't care.
The Camaro was a stick shift, I'd only ever driven my Explorer, which was an automatic.
“Let me check the trunk,” I say, walking around to the back as Victor got inside and closed the door, followed by Shaun, who simply leaped into the back seat without bothering with the door.
Victor gave Shaun a look of contempt, then reached for the keys.
“Hurry up,” he said.
Nodding I hear a click as the trunk is unlatched by a button up front, then I reach out with one hand, holding the shotgun steady with the other, and open it up.
A moment later, I was on my knees.
I don't throw up. I haven't thrown up since the third grade, when I got the bad stomach virus. I threw up all night, and whenever I did that I couldn't breath, so I had trained my body not to do it anymore. That training was almost for naught, but I held it.
Shaun must have heard me drop, because I could hear him talking, but not what he was saying. This was partly because I was in a daze, but partly because of the buzzing of the flies.
“I'm fine...” I finally manage to say, “Fine...”
What I had found in the trunk of that car would haunt me, all the way to the end of things.
At some point, in the last couple of days, it had been a person. It had been alive. Now, it was rotting meat. I had seen enough to know it had been a man, and his throat had been torn out, maybe worse than that had been done. He had probably hidden in the trunk and bled to death.
Victor and Shaun helped me move the body.
I laid a cheap table cloth made of plastic over it, one I had picked up from the Texaco, thinking to use it like a poncho or something later on. I paused for a seconds there and looked at my two companions.
None of us were religious, I could see. Not enough to suggest saying a prayer anyway.
We left the body like that, and we drove his car out of town, headed south. I didn't know where we were going, or why, or if it mattered in the least.
Mankind was dead.
But you can't die, not just yet, the voice in the back of my head told me, You can't die yet. You haven't seen Hell yet, and you've got to see Hell before you really know anything at all.
“Shut up,” I say, a little louder than I had meant to.
“Shut up about what?” Victor asked.
I was sitting in the passenger-side seat, in the front, and Victor was at my side. Shaun was laid out in the back seat, his head on the seat and his legs crossed, feet out over the edge of the thing.
“Sorry, nothing. I just fell asleep, just a dream.” I say, starting to rummage through my satchel, “Huh, guess this one got caught...”
Reaching down to the bottom of the bag I pull out a CD. It was one of the dozens of mixed ones I had made a year or so ago, with a bunch of random songs I had once cared about for one reason or another.
Victor takes it from me, puts it in the player in the dash of the Camaro, and suddenly The 59 Sound, by the Gaslight Anthem begins to blare through the speakers, and as the verse I wonder, were you scared, when the metal hit the glass? plays, we turn off 27 and onto one of the many backroads.
Because now, the main roads would be filled.
Filled with dead cars and dead people.
Kazimaru - May 30, 2011 05:24 PM (GMT)
“You know, with it being so late in the year and winter right around the corner, north makes more sense than west.” Victor was saying as we drove.
Shaun was asleep in the backseat still, his 2x4 cradled under one arm, the .45 gripped in one hand. He slept using his jacket as a pillow, and now had the crate of vodka under his feet to prop them up even more. I was still awake, still shaken, and sitting beside Victor up front.
“The cold you mean?” I ask, “Let it kill them off?”
“Exactly. If we make it up north, say into Canada eventually, maybe just the upper states for now, then we wait for a few months, make a sort of fort, and the cold will kill them off.” He says, eyes forward, as if they were just discussing the weather.
“What then?” I asked simply.
“What then? Then, if we survive the winter as well, we make a new home. We move on.” He replies, simply.
It was a fair enough point.
At thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit water freezes, and the human body is something like eighty percent water, so you can see how moving north sounded like a good idea. The thing was, and this is one of the things I had been thinking about for a little while now actually, the thing is, a lot of people know that little fact, and I said so.
That shut Victor up for a little while.
Now, normally, I would have kept my mouth shut simply because I'm not one for talk, but that day I kept going.
“We move west, way out there...well, maybe to Texas, Arizona, Nevada, one of those huge deserts. We go through a big town, get up some supplies, maybe have another barbeque,” at this Victor managed to smile a little, though if it was because he was thinking of killing more of the zombies or about almost cooking me, I wasn't sure, and didn't really want to know, “But we gather the supplies, then head out into the desert, into the middle of nowhere, at least three days from anywhere. We'd be alone, yeah, but in three days a man can die of thirst.”
“Good plan...if they're still man...”
And that was another good point.
What exactly were these zombies?
When you think of zombie, to be honest you think of the living dead, people who die, come back to life, and for whatever reason have the tendency to munch on the living. How it gets started is usually unclear. In this case we knew a little bit more I should think, or hope.
The people were, in a sense, still alive. Still walking around like normal, breathing, so on and so forth. Going on what Victor said, some type of sickness, a virus or maybe a bacteria, was eating away at their brains, but that mattered little. If it was a sickness, it would spread, so it didn't matter if they wanted to eat you or not because any injury inflicted by them could prove worse than fatal.
“How come we didn't get sick?” I asked suddenly, so suddenly it woke Shaun.
“I'm awake!” came Shaun from the backseat, sitting up so suddenly he knocked the case of vodka onto the floor.
“Careful with that stuff!” Victor was keen to shout, swerving a bit as he looked to see if anything had spilt. “There's no telling when I'll get something that good again, so don't waste it!”
Meanwhile I was thinking again, and started to talk as well.
“If it was a sickness...and it was able to go from one end of 27 to the other in just a handful of hours, and we were along that path, how come we're not sick? I mean, look at me, I was in a wreck, I'm covered with cuts, and yet I'm fine.”
“And we all got their blood on us too...” Shaun adds in, rubbing his face, then looking at the sleeve of his coat, at the dark, dry stains.
“I didn't,” Victor adds, “But...I did breath in the smoke from their funeral pyre for a good hour...”
“Maybe it's like in that one movie...you know, where the whole town is exposed to an illness, but after so long if you haven't caught it you're safe? Maybe that's what this is.” As he spoke, Shaun began to lean forward and talk a bit faster, getting excited at his own words, “That means there has to be other normal people out there, and that even if they did bite us-”
His words were cut off as we hit a deer, of all things...