Chapter 33-3: Detour

Posted: October 10, 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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numbers

~~~

“Get out of there! Stop fucking talking to me and move! Meet us at the back-up rendezvous point. Don’t bother responding back… just go! If we don’t make it by nightfall. You lay low for the night and head back to The Wastelands and tell Stephen what’s happening out here. Going radio silent… now.”…

…Nine fumbled with the radio after Gina’s last transmission, almost dropping it several times before catching it in his sweaty hands. He turned off the radio and quickly stuffed it into his backpack.

“Just keep it cool, kitty cat,” he reminded himself and took a breath.

Going against the grain over everyone else’s choice of dark and inconspicuous winter clothing, Nine continued to wear his favorite purple Jimmy Hendrix headband around a mop of thick black hair, a pair of cheap black sunglasses which were much too large for his face, and an old beat-up jean jacket with all his dead older brother’s favorite rock bands’ insignias stenciled in with a now faded black Sharpie. His faded jeans were ripped in both knees (of course). He had compromised… a little… agreeing to wear an ugly black turtleneck sweater, which Gina provided, beneath his jacket.

“Look… if you want to bring back the fucking ‘80’s and start a new apocalyptic trend, that’s your call, Mr. Retroactive, but you will wear something warmer on this mission. So put on the fucking sweater!”

He had almost called her Mother Hen to her face that time… but even stupid gets it right once in a while, opting for the classic, “Yes, Ma’am” instead.

Nine dared another look over the high grassy hill at the edge of the woods opposite the stables and closest to the bad man’s one-lane private drive approaching the ranch. From here, he had a clear line of sight over the whole property as well as a partial view of the main road where they’d entered from.

A couple of hideous looking yellow-eyed ghouls who looked like they’d escaped an Iron Maiden live show had broken away from the perimeter ring and had stared over in his direction. They began sniffing at the air, a tell-tale sign that they’d caught the scent of something fresh.

“Time to go,” he told himself. “Two’s okay, but three’s a crowd. Two… three… twenty-three… thirty-two… yeah, we’re still okay. They cancel each other out.” Nine quickly strapped his pack on his back and retreated toward the woods.

He had an idea. Or as Diane might say, he had a really stupid idea.

“I’m gonna be that girl’s Superman today.” When he’d given himself enough running room between himself and the ghastly field horde, Nine retrieved the flare gun from his pack and the five flares.

He looked up, found an opening between the trees and fired the first flare. He quickly reloaded and fired a second flare. After reloading the third, he fired prematurely, accidently launching the flare sideways into the face of a yellow-eyed man who was twenty feet away from finishing his frantic charge and catching the young man by surprise.

“Shit!” Nine yelled as the man’s head caught on fire, momentarily stunning the sickly creature. Directly behind the first, another hater was closing the gap, panting and growling as if its body could barely keep up with the intense hunger that drove it.

Nine quickly gave up on flare number four as he grabbed his pack and bolted through the woods toward the main road. The second zombie who had caught his scent was already sprinting after him, quickly closing the gap.

The monster was almost within arm’s reach when Nine counted seven steps, refusing to look back, and then took a sharp left turn and managed to duck just in time as he sprinted head on toward a large overturned tree, the space beneath just tall enough for him to slip beneath and continue running.

The yellow-eyed hater turned clumsily after him, striking the tree, and then it fell to the ground.

Nine could hear several more of them giving chase as he weaved in and around trees. Low branches clawed at his face and arms as he refused to slow down, afraid that if he did, he would realize how out of breath he was and then they would have him.

All at once he cleared the woods, nearly stumbling into the road as the ground beneath his feet shifted from brush to blacktop.

He continued across the road, jumped a ditch, and landed on his knees at the edge of another section of forest. Struggling for breath, he looked back. Nine could still hear the monsters rustling through the woods behind him. They had momentarily lost sight of him but once they made it to the road, it was all over.

He desperately looked around for anywhere to hide. Running was no longer possible if he didn’t want his lungs to explode. He looked into the new section of forest, toward the right, and smiled.

Twelve of them! Doesn’t get any better than that!

“Get up, Chuck! You’ve got just enough left to make it there.” The young man struggled to his feet. He pushed with all that he had left and entered the copse of thick pine trees… twelve in all.

He crawled beneath the thickest, tallest tree and as quietly as he could, began to climb.

The dead had reached the road, six in all, but appeared confused when they could no longer smell their prey.

Nine was halfway up the tree when he finally collapsed between two intersecting branches. He couldn’t see them through the thick foliage of pine needles, but he wanted to laugh when he realized his good fortune.

“Thank you, God, for every pine-scented tree I ever made fun of hanging from some poor shmuck’s visor,” he whispered.

The yellow-eyed beasts disbanded, returning to the bad man’s field.

~~~

The house is so very cold.

He is watching snowflakes fall from the window in his older brother’s room. Brian’s old jean jacket, the one he’s coveted since his brother’s band started playing live gigs on the local bar circuit, provides no warmth as he wraps his arms around his chest, trying to control his shivering. He can see his own breath it’s so cold.

For a moment he forgets the cold, the barricaded bedroom door, the bloody hallway walls just outside the door where Brian died trying to protect him…

He focuses on the gentle, drifting flakes which serve as a white numbing sheet, slowly covering his shock and grief. He can’t help it… he begins to count them. Each number in sequence flowing through his head is like a soothing balm across his devastated thoughts.

There are no more sounds of the violence which invaded his home two days ago–when the savages finally came and stormed through his neighborhood slaughtering everyone.

He wonders if the monsters are really gone or if they’re only pretending to be quiet… waiting for him to move the barricade and step out into the next room where his mother’s corpse continues to rot after the first yellow-eyed beast broke in and ripped her open before she could get up from the living room sofa.

He is puzzled when he wonders if his father, the man he hasn’t seen in years, not since the nasty divorce, will come and rescue him. He knows that no one is coming and is not surprised when he realizes that he doesn’t care if his father is alive or dead.

The young man knows he must move. He can’t continue to hide in his brother’s room if he intends to survive, but the fear holds him there, locked in a self-imposed prison of uncertainty and terror, as the temperature continues to plummet.

If the monsters don’t get him, like they got his brother, the cold will kill him just the same.

Perhaps that is better.

He is torn from his trance by the sound of footsteps coming from the hallway.

The monsters have returned.

He tries to move but discovers that he has no strength from not eating or drinking in two days. It’s only then that he realizes how close to death he is.

Something tries to push the door open, slamming it on the dresser barricade instead.

And then a voice: “Is someone in there?”

It’s a woman’s voice… a real, living, human’s voice.

He’s tries to speak but his throat is sore from screaming and for lack of water.

He hears a man’s voice now: “Got something?”

“I don’t know. Door’s stuck,” the woman answers. “Might be old news.”

“There were no windows breached. Someone has to be in there,” the man says.

There is a pause.

To the young man, the silence feels like an eternity.

Don’t leave! his mind screams. Don’t’ leave me alone!

“Maybe we’re too late,” the woman finally says.

The sound of footsteps again, moving away from the door.

The young man takes a deep breath and desperately tries to shout. Nothing comes out. He see a lamp cord, reaches over, and yanks it, hard.

The lamp falls from the nightstand and shatters.

The footsteps stop.

Please, God, don’t let them leave! Please…

The footsteps resume. They are fading away.

No! Come back! I’m in here!

He tries again to speak, but fails.

In tears, the young man turns back toward the window to count before his thoughts fall into a pit of hopelessness he can’t return from.

Instead of snowflakes, he sees a young woman standing at the window. She is looking in… looking for him!

The young man lifts a heavy arm and starts to wave toward the window.

The woman sees him and smiles.

She is so beautiful… almost angelic, he thinks, as the snowflakes falling behind her only accentuate her radiant smile.

The woman turns and says, “Someone’s in here… he’s alive!”

The footsteps are returning.

This time the man shouts through the door: “Hello. Is anyone in there? Hey, don’t be afraid. We’re here to help.”

He still struggles to speak. Tears of sorrow, frustration and joy merge until he manages one weak, “Help!”

“Okay, okay,” the man says. “We hear you. Just sit still, I’m going to push this door open. If you’re armed, please don’t shoot us.”

He nods and then realizes they can’t see him. He turns back toward the window.

The angel is still there, watching over him.

Suddenly, the dresser is pushed inward as a brute of a man manages to push the door open enough to peek in. The man smiles at him and says, “Hey, you’re going to be okay now. My name’s Tony.”

He manages a weak smile and collapses into a weepy mess.

Tony enters the room followed by the first woman, who he later learns is Gina.

After they give him water and he’s able to speak, the young man turns to the window. The young woman is gone. He turns and asks, “Where… where is she? Where’s the angel at the window?”

“Who do you mean?” Gina asks. He turns to Tony, “Did he say ‘angel’?”

Tony laughs as a brown-haired woman steps into the room.

“Hear that, Diane?” he says. “You’re this kid’s angel.”

Diane gives Tony a strange look. “Run that by me again.”

The young man sees her, smiles, and says, “My name’s… well… just call me Nine… that’s short for Nine Lives.”

Diane gives him a queer look. “Like the cat food?”

Gina starts laughing. It’s infectious as the big man starts to laugh.

Even his angel begins to laugh as Nine believes she is the most beautiful creature he’s ever seen after the worst few day of his life.

He is caught between laughing and crying as his body aches for the effort. Nine looks into the faces of his rescuers, his gratitude clearly evident.

Three. Three’s a good number, he thinks but keeps to himself.

“Thank… thank you,” he says. “Thought I was the last one… you know… the last one alive.”

Gina smiles and then falls on her knees from exhaustion. She puts her head in her hands, and says, “Yeah, I know the feeling. Bet you’d rather be dead than leave this room alone, right?”

Nine nodded. “Exactly.”

The big man is openly weeping. He doesn’t appear the least bit ashamed for doing so. “Yes, well, ‘alone’ can suck a dick today… and it’s great to meet you Mr. Lives.” This causes another burst of laughter.

Nine turns back to the one named Diane.

She tries to hide it better than the others, but even she is moved by the moment as her eyes water up. She quickly turns away, pretending to examine the room, and quickly wipes a hand across her face.

“Thank you… Diane,” he says.

She turns back.

“Thank you for being my angel today.”…

~~~

…Nine woke abruptly. The disorientation struck him before he realized he was still in the tree. He jerked to the right and rolled off the branches holding him in place. He struck several branches on the way down, slowing down his descent, until finally landing on his ass at the base of the tree.

“Shit! That sucked!” He ran his hands through his thick hair, removing pine needles. Some had scratched his face on the way down. All at once, realizing he’d barely escaped the dead to almost get killed by a fucking pine tree instead, he started laughing uncontrollably.

He quickly covered his mouth. Good one, dumb ass. Why don’t you wake the whole damn forest!

And then a sober, panic-inducing thought:

“Fuck! I fell asleep!”

He carefully poked his head out from beneath the pine. The area appeared safe. He studied the sky. “It’s not dark yet.” He then remembered his watch. “Shit! I lost an hour napping! Gina’s gonna be pissed.”

Nine quickly gathered himself, brushing more pine-needles off his clothes, and then moved toward the road. Once he was certain it was clear, he started jogging north. He couldn’t remember how far away the rendezvous point was from here, but he had to hurry. The longer they waited on his sorry ass, the longer he put Diane in jeopardy.

“I’m never gonna get off that girl’s shit list by taking naps in the forest.” He started jogging faster. “Some fucking hero you are. Okay, Mr. Dumb Ass, it never happened,” he scolded himself. “No one falls asleep in a fucking pine tree during the apocalypse! Yeah, we’ll just omit that from your future obituary.”

~~~

Once he reached the graveyard, formerly Whaler’s Cove, Nine started longing for the pine tree. As he moved in between the houses looking for signs of his group, a torn curtain from an open window caught wind and waved down at him causing him to fall backwards on his ass. Before he could scold himself, the sound of a distant screen door banging restlessly caused him to jump. “Christ… is this an abandoned neighborhood or a damn haunted house?”

The sound of his own voice in the open silence made him immediately regret speaking.

Just get a grip, you big baby, and find them already, he reminded himself. Nine slowly got to his feet. All his senses were fixed upon every little sound. He tried to ignore this dead place as he continued to scan each house for his friends.

He spotted a tall structure up ahead. Nine reached into his pack and retrieved a pair of binoculars. He moved quietly out of cover between two homes and squatted down behind a silver Buick with its driver side door left open as if the car continued to wait for its owner to return…but never did.

Nine peeked over the hood of the car and planted the binos on the hood to keep them still. He scanned the tall structure and began to smile when he saw a red spray-painted message scrawled across what looked like a bell tower:

ONE IN TEN… GOOD ODDS

Nine laughed lightly. “I knew it! I guess absence does make the heart grow fonder… or something like that.” He had no idea what he was talking about. Nine was relieved that he’d found his angel again, and that she was alright. He put the binoculars away and then checked his appearance in the Buick’s side mirror. “No worse for wear,” he observed, trying to hand comb his mop hair.

“First impressions still mean everything these days… especially with the ladies.”

The voice startled him from behind. Nine turned and bumped the back of his head against the mirror.

Before he could register the pain or the stranger, a tall man with half his face covered by a bandana, moved in like lightning, grabbed Nine by the hair, and then slammed his head into the open car door three times.

The young man fell in an unconscious heap.

~~~

“Time’s up, Gina.” Hagar kept pacing back and forth near the front of the chapel, stealing glimpses out the narrow windows and into the sky as though he expected the sun to suddenly drop to the ground at any moment. “We can’t keep waiting here for a dead man to meet us. We’re losing the light.”

Gina glared at the impatient man and then took a deep breath. She gave Tony a weary look.

“Whatever you want to do is fine with me,” he said. “If you want to wait… we wait. Just don’t kill yourself thinking we’re leaving him behind. Diane won’t like it, but she knows the score. Besides, we’ve given that kid ample time to get here. He might already be back at the compound.”

Gina nodded and looked up at the big wooden cross. God, please let Nine be alright, she silently prayed. I’m tired of losing people. Seems all I do is lead people to their deaths.

Diane and Marcus joined them in the chapel.

“There’s no sign of anyone.” Diane answered the unspoken question. “It’s damn freaky to be in a place with so little movement. After a while, you start seeing things move that aren’t there.”

“We have just enough light to make it back to our woods… if we’re lucky,” Hagar remind them.

Alright, Gina. Suck it up and make the fucking unpopular decision already. She gave them all a sweeping look and said, “Time to leave. Remember your training everyone and don’t get complacent. Just because we saw nothing on the way in doesn’t mean we’re alone here.”

“We’re definitely not alone,” Tony muttered a little too loudly.

She looked at him.

“Sorry, just more ghost thoughts,” he clarified.

Gina nodded. “We’ll stick close to the ponds and then cut back over to the main road once we reach the entrance.” Her gaze fell on the hunter. “Sorry, Diane. But we really can’t wait any longer.”

“I know, Gina,” she said, feeling everyone’s eyes on her and not appreciating it. She moved toward the front door, raised her rifle to the low-ready position, and waited for Gina’s final word.

Always the professional, Gina thought. I wish I had half of her steel-plated resolve.

“Okay, let’s move,” Gina finished.

They all fell into their tactical positions as soon as they were outside. Marcus took point with Diane filing in behind him. Hagar and Tony followed next and Gina took the rear.

They were half-way to the first of the two ponds when Marcus motioned for them to stop.

They all squatted down as Marcus came back. “Diane, I’ll need the binos,” he said.

She quickly handed them over.

After scanning across the large pond, he handed the binoculars to Gina and pointed. “They’ve found us.”

Gina looked across the pond with the binos. “Shit,” she said. “There’s more of them this time.”

A large mob of yellow-eyed haters were standing on the roadway between the two ponds. They appeared to be waiting for something… or someone. They almost looked like they were sleeping in the standing position, shoulders hunched over dirty naked flesh, rising and falling in line with their rapid shallow breaths.

What was more disturbing was that they appeared calm and orderly, and not the usual hunger-driven scattered frenzy they were used to.

“What the hell are they waiting for?” Hagar asked.

“Maybe they went dormant,” Tony offered.

Gina shook her head. “No… this is something different.”

“Agreed,” Marcus chimed in. “Their actions seem very… deliberate. By stopping exactly where they did, they have effectively blocked the roadway at the center of the figure eight. Unless they move on, there’s no way they won’t see us in passing, unless we risk cutting through the woods and trying to maneuver around them.”

“Are you saying these fuckers can think tactically now?” Hagar said. “That’s ridiculous. If they-”

“Wait!” Tony cut in. “Give me the binos!” He took the binoculars and aimed at one lone zombie at the head of the horde. He spotted the remains of a blond-haired woman, raising her arms and appearing to direct the mob. “Holy shit! She’s there! The bad man’s wife, Helen! She’s… leading… them.”

“No fucking way.” Hagar refused to believe it.

Suddenly, the yellow-eyed monsters broke rank and started spreading out around the second pond. They started busting into the houses… systematically. Helen remained in the road… watching them.

A chill ran up Gina’s back as she watched the dead charge into each home, destroying everything in their path with their intense rage.

“There’s nothing random about what they’re doing,” she said. “They are actively searching each house… they’re searching for us.”

“Fuck me,” Diane whispered.

“I strongly suggest we relocated,” Marcus said. “It’s only a matter of time before they move to the second pond and find us.”

Gina turned toward the chapel. “We’ll head back around the chapel and re-enter the woods. I don’t care if it takes all night to get back around. We’re going as far as we can in the opposite fucking direction.”

Before they could move… they were thrown off guard by a horrifying sound.

From within the chapel, someone had begun ringing the bell.

~~~

Next Episode 33-4

Previous Episode 33-2

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 33-3: Detour” Copyright © 2016 Scott Scherr. All Rights Reserved.

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. nashmcgowan says:

    Awesome entry as always.

    Like

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