Chapter 22-1: Almost Dead

Posted: January 15, 2016 in Apocalypse, books, creative writing, drama, Free Online Novel, free zombie books, Horror, horror fiction, killing zombies, living dead, monsters, mystery, novels, serial novels, Survival, suspense, thriller, Uncategorized, walking dead, zombie books, Zombies
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~~~

Two days after leaving the vineyard home, they arrived in the quiet village of Jefferson, remembering all too well the last seemingly dead place which nearly got them killed.

Gina sent Frank and Greg to scout ahead while she stayed back with the others near a pileup of cars at the first intersection into town.

Marcus and Amanda were sent to guard the rear while Stephen, Meredith and Gina watched the nearby windows and rooftops for any signs of suspicious activity.

“Anything, Meredith?” Gina asked.

“We’re okay,” she said. “I don’t sense them getting any closer.”

“Are you sure? I don’t want another Harpersfield on my hands.”

The older woman looked at Gina and smiled. “The only reason I was caught off guard, honey, was because I’d never encountered anything like them before. The grey-eyed ones are different from the others… and they made me sick. That won’t happen again.”

“They’re coming back,” Stephen said, pointing toward two shadows creeping among the cars.

When they returned, Greg said, “We didn’t see anyone.” He added with a sad look on his face, “This place always had an air of age and strength… now it just looks like it’s on its death bed.”

“We didn’t get very far before things started to smell really… bad,” Frank said.

“Bodies?” Gina asked.

“In the high school football field, back behind the town square,” Greg said. “Looks like whoever was left alive was collectin’ the dead and burnin’ them for a little while. The piles are still being used. The bodies are still smoldering and you can smell them. It’s like walking into a crematorium.”

“That’s the last thing anyone needs to see. Okay, we’ll skip the football game and head straight through the square,” Gina said. “Did you see anyone?”

Greg and Frank looked at each other and shrugged.

“No people and no things with grey eyes pretending to be people,” Frank said. “Whoever’s around is staying out of sight, or they’re already gone. Maybe they burned the bodies and jumped on top of the piles when they were finished… opting for the Joan-Of-Arc suicide route.”

Gina scowled at his shit-eating grin and said, “I’m having a hard time believing that you still think you’re funny.”

Frank blew her a kiss.

Gina looked up the foreboding street, sighed heavily, and then waved Marcus and Amanda over.

When she had them all together, she said, “Everyone keep your eyes open. If we see even one recently mowed lawn, or Meredith so much as sneezes, we’re fucking out of here.”

They started up the street into the village.

Jefferson was once the proud historic seat of Ashtabula County. It was founded in the early 1800’s with many of the original structures maintained while the rest of the village had grown up around it, merging old architecture with modern day shopping plazas. Now, it stood quietly as one of many places where the living once thrived, turned into another ghost town as litter blew across deserted streets and the dust of neglect and former humanity settled on dried up pools of blood.

Signs of panic and chaos were evident everywhere as shop doors swung absently open and closed. Cars sat abandoned in the middle of intersections, awaiting the order to stop or go before blacked out traffic lights. Windows were shattered in a number of buildings. Ghosts haunted every corner, but they continued to remain silent.

As they approached the downtown area, Greg pointed out the old red brick courthouse building rising above the tree line like a relic from another time. “That’s the oldest part of town. If my memory serves me, there should be a supermarket and a few more Mom-n-Pop shops just past the village square.”

They could all smell the burnt corpses now.

Once they entered the downtown area they came across an old red-brick three-story elementary school, which had been converted into an apartment building—a bit of historical ambience for people willing to pay for it. On the roof of the old school stood a newer structure mostly concealed behind a tall picket fence.

“Must be the penthouse,” Frank whispered to Greg.

Greg shook his head and said, “It’s hideous. I remember that school. Damn shame when they closed it down. The original architects would be rollin’ in their graves if they could see what was done to it.”

Frank laughed. “I think they’d be rolling in their graves even if they didn’t. That’s kind of expected these days.”

“Hey,” Gina said, stepping up beside them and looking up toward the roof, “why don’t we keep the nostalgic sightseeing to a minimum… as well as the chatter.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Greg said.

Frank leaned in and whispered, “She sounds just like one of them old hens who probably taught there… you know, the ones with the huge paddle-bats hanging on the classroom wall, which read, ‘Spare the Rod, Spoil the Little Bastard’… or something like that.”

Greg covered his mouth to hide his amusement.

Gina glared at them and said, “Something to add, Frank?”

“No, I’m good.”

Greg chuckled.

She rolled her eyes and looked back up at the apartment roof.

There was an open portal in the fence they hadn’t noticed before. Someone was looking down at them through a pair of binoculars.

“Shit! We’re not alone.” Gina nodding up toward the roof. She spotted a green Cadillac parked along the opposite side of the street. She motioned the others toward it and they quickly moved around the big car and ducked down.

Greg already had his rifle out, using the scope to investigate the rooftop.

Whoever was up there was gone. The portal was now closed.

“See anything?” Gina asked anxiously, as she checked out every nook and cranny along the street, expecting an ambush.

“Roof’s clear,” Greg said.

“The front door to the apartment building is opening,” Marcus said.

“Get ready,” Gina said.

Everyone had their weapons out and aimed toward the building.

A man in what looked like a walker, accompanied by a teenage boy, appeared in the dark doorway. The man was waving a white shirt in the air.

“Wait,” Stephen said. “It’s just an old man and a kid.”

“Could be a trap,” Frank said. “Maybe they want our attention on the frail old man while they sneak around behind us.”

Stephen shook his head. “We can’t keep living like this—distrusting everyone. At some point, we’re bound to run into some ordinary people like us who are just trying to survive. He’s waving that shirt like a surrender gesture. I’m sure they’re just as frightened by us and all these guns pointed at them.”

“Good,” Amanda said. “I’ve had enough with trusting people.” Her sharp tone did not escape Stephen’s notice.

“What do you think, Gina?” Meredith asked. “Should we just turn around and leave?”

Gina’s heart raced. She was so damn tired of living in a world where every time they saw another human being, her anxiety level shot through the roof.

The old man stopped waving the shirt and said something to the teen. The teen shrugged his shoulders and held his arms out.

Greg was checking out the windows of the apartments/school. “I still don’t see anyone. No guns aimin’ back at us, anyhow.”

The old man waved a hand in the air toward them. He moved his walker to the edge of the porch steps, cupped his hands together, and yelled, “Oh, for crying out loud, do I have to send you an engraved invitation? Put your guns away and come on over. You’re attracting all kinds of unwanted attention with all that skylarking! You can’t be walking around out here this close to dusk!”

Frank turned to Greg, raised his eyebrows and asked, “Skylarking? Did he just say that?”

Greg smiled and lowered his gun a little.

Gina ran her hand through her hair. “I don’t know whether to say, ‘Yes, sir’ or just shoot him.”

Frank and Greg both gave her a look.

“I’m just kidding,” she said with a smile. “The old man seems harmless… and Stephen’s right. They can’t all be bad people. Let’s go see what he wants before we’re scolded again.”

They cautiously stepped out from behind the car and approached the front of the school.

The old man had a tangled mess of thinning white hair atop his head and he wore thick glasses, which made his eyes seem much larger on his face. His clothes looked like they were thrown on in ten seconds with no regard for appearances. He reminded Gina of an ancient looking bum she’d seen once in a park who had conversations with himself.

Standing beside the old man was a lanky looking teen with long curly brown hair wearing a concert T-shirt of a band she’d never heard of. He looked seventeen or eighteen. The teen wore a pained look which showed he’d rather be anywhere else but here.

The old man leaned on his walker with his hands locked together, giving them his best, ‘I don’t have all damn day’ look. He studied them, shaking his head, until his eyes fell on Frank. “So is this your whole group, or should I expect one of my boys to wake me up again when the rest of your sorry bunch show up?”

Frank, realizing that the man was addressing him, said, “The rest of our group is camped just outside of town. We’re the advance scouting party.”

The old man laughed. “Nice try, big man. But you can’t bullshit me. I suppose you’re the leader of this outfit?”

Frank looked to Gina with an amused expression on his face.

Gina rolled her eyes and said, “That would be me.”

The old man laughed in surprise. “Little lady, you are a long way from the beauty pageant. How does someone like you end up giving the orders?”

Some things will never change, she thought and smiled. “It’s a long story that I’m far too tired to get into at the moment. My name’s Gina-”

“Hold on there, prom queen.” He looked again at Frank. “Where did you all come from?”

Frank smiled and said, “Crazy Town.”

Gina shook her head and clarified. “We came through Harpersfield. I don’t recommend a visit. There’s nothing but death in that town. Then we headed southeast from Austinburg until we arrived here.”

“And what’s your business in Jefferson?”

“We’re just looking for supplies… maybe a roof over our heads for the night to feel normal for a few hours. After that, we’ll be on our way. We want no trouble with you or your people.”

The old man gave her a scrutinizing look and finally said, “We haven’t seen anyone passing through town since the beginning… when all hell broke loose… and even then, folks were in a big hurry to leave. It was chaos. And now, we see the first signs of humanity other than ourselves, and it turns out to be a group of looters with guns acting like this were the damn Wild West, strolling into town to pick the place clean. Back when things were still civilized here, you would have never made it to the square. Old Sheriff Baggins would’ve had you locked up by now.”

Gina frowned. “Again, we’re not here to cause problems. We just need a few supplies and we’ll be on our way. The guns are only for our protection.”

“And I’m just a silly old fool who’s supposed to believe that nonsense… hmm?”

“Honestly, I don’t blame you for being suspicious,” Gina said. “I’m sure we look nothing like the people we used to be… hell, I don’t look in mirrors anymore because I sometimes jump at the stranger staring back at me. We don’t expect you to trust us. Just let us go our way, we’ll stay well clear of each other, and you’ll never see us again.”

“I’ll tell you what you look like… Gina, is it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You all look desperate. In fact, you reek of it. Desperation is a dangerous thing. It makes people do crazy things they wouldn’t normally do. I’ve been pretty desperate a time or two myself.” He looked them over again, rubbing the stubble on his chin. He turned to the teenager and asked, “What do you think, Tommy? Should we offer up our home to these strangers with guns, or turn them away?”

The teenager appeared embarrassed that he was thrown into the conversation. He shifted uncomfortably, gave them all a brief look and mustered up his best false bravado. “They don’t look so tough to me. The big guy’s probably the only real muscle they have. Shit, anyone can find a gun these days… doesn’t mean they can shoot them.”

“Watch your language, boy,” the old man quickly corrected. “Just because people are going extinct, doesn’t mean good manners have died as well.”

Tommy immediately looked down at his feet.

Frank was trying his best to hide his amusement.

Gina shot him a look. She then sighed and said to the old man, “Tommy’s right. We’re not tough. We’re just people trying to stay alive… just like you. The guns help us sleep at night, but the nightmares keep coming anyway. Are we desperate? Hell yes. Are we desperate enough to kill the first real decent people we’ve come across just to score a can of beans? No, sir. We’re just… exhausted. And I for one am tired of being afraid of both the living and the dead.”

“I see,” the old man said with a nod.

“They seem alright to me,” Tommy added. “Might be nice to hear what’s been going on outside of town.”

“Good point, Tommy.” The old man smiled and said, “You can call me Rusty. Last names don’t matter much right now so we don’t bother using them. Reminds us of all the folks we’ve lost. This is Tommy. You’re all welcome to have supper with us tonight. We can chat like Tommy said and we’ll grant you that roof over your heads to get what sleep you can. In the morning, we’ll give you some supplies for the road and see you off. I’d rather you stay with us tonight than have you wandering around town and getting the dead all excited. We’ve taken care of most of them downtown, but there’s still a few stragglers roaming about. Is this acceptable, Gina?”

She tried her best to fight off tears. Knock it off you weepy bitch! Some leader you are. You’re ready to cry like a baby at the first mention of a real sit-down meal. She smiled and said, “That would be wonderful, Rusty. Thank you.”

Rusty felt uncomfortable by the woman’s gratitude. He looked past Gina’s group and whistled toward the street.

From the trunks of four cars, placed strategically about the front of the school, four more teens stepped out of their hiding spots, each one holding a hunting rifle.

“Damn, I didn’t think to check the cars,” Greg whispered, shaking his head. “Looks like they welded gun ports in the trunks. Smart.”

Frank leaned in and said to Gina, “I hate to say I told you so…”

“Bite me, Frank,” she said.

“It’s going to be dark soon,” Rusty said, drawing their attention away from the gunmen. “Let’s get inside before we show the whole damn world where we are.” He turned his walker around and entered the school.

Tommy picked up an axe which sat discreetly behind him in the doorway and followed the old man in. He turned around and waved for them to follow.

Gina and the others walked up the steps and entered the school while the remaining teens escorted them from behind.

~~~

Next Episode 22-2

Previous Episode 21-8

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 22-1: Almost Dead” Copyright © 2014, 2015 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book One: Southbound Nightmares”.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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Comments
  1. Zaca says:

    I’ve go to say that I’m impressed with Jefferson.

    Like

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