Chapter 33-5: Detour

Posted: October 17, 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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forest-fire2

~~~

“Gina! Wake up!” Tony anxiously shook her until her eyes popped open. He had turned on a flashlight but was keeping it cupped, allowing just enough light to see in the dark.

She immediately smelled smoke. “What’s… what’s going on? Have they found us?”

“Somebody’s set the fucking forest on fire,” came the gruff voice of Hagar. He had the look of a claustrophobic man trapped in an elevator. “We need to get the fuck out of this damn tree!”

Everyone was scrambling to get a better view in the tight space. Diane had her rifle out the slot facing the direction they were headed. It was still dark out which made the flames stand out clearly. She was using the flames as backlight to filter out any moving silhouettes. “We can’t go forward,” she said. “The blaze is ahead of us. I don’t see any deadheads out that way.”

Marcus had binoculars out, scanning the opposite direction. “There’s nothing to see behind us. Not enough ambient light to know who or what’s out there.”

Gina’s brain was quickly filling up with all sorts of dreadful possibilities. And then one thought dominated all else: “Diane, are those flames bright enough to attract the dead?”

Diane looked back gravely. “If they’re out here, that fire will bring them running like moths to a fucking flame.”

“Unless our yellow-eyed friends are way more intelligent than we first thought, I think we can safely assume that this is the work of our mysterious bell-ringer,” Marcus said.

“Then that means-” Tony was about to say.

“That means some sonofabitch has been following us the whole fucking time and knows exactly where we are!” Gina finished. “We need to move… now… before he leads the dead right to us!”

“Gina!” It was Diane. “The woods are burning ahead of us and to our west now! Someone’s trying to cut us off. Looks like he’s setting pines on fire. Those are the only trees that could blaze up so quickly.”

“Fuck this!” Hagar was already moving toward the tree ladder.

“Hold on!” Gina said. “We have to be smart about this or we’ll end up running exactly where this fucker wants us to run.”

“Into the fire,” Marcus suggested.

“What?” Diane gave him a crazy look.

Marcus sighed, showing his incredible patience. “We’ve been left with two choices: Head east toward the main road or back the way we came. Either way presents peril. We should take our chances with the fire. The smoke might even provide us cover. ”

“If we don’t get burned alive first,” Tony snapped.

“No, he’s right,” Gina said. “Someone obviously wants to corral us… we need to do the unexpected.”

“Do want you want, you crazy bitch,” Hagar was moving down the ladder. “I’m headed toward the road.”

“Wait! You’ll break your fucking neck if you don’t slow down and listen-”

Gina’s words fell short as Hagar was half way down the tree when his foot slipped off the wooden ladder. They heard him fall the remaining distance to the ground. “FUCK!” he shouted from below.

“Let’s get down there before he makes matters worse,” Tony said. He carefully descended the tree, leaving his flashlight on and hanging from his hip until he reached the ground. He quickly checked on Hagar.

“I’m okay,” he said, lying on his back. “Just knocked the wind out of me.”

Tony shined his light up the tree ladder, “Let’s go!”

“Diane!” Gina said. “Provide cover until we’re safely down!”

“On it!” The hunter swung her rifle around until she could see everything beneath the tree, using Tony’s light to target any approaching shadows.

Once the others were safely down, Diane came last, nearly slipping herself trying to manage her gear.

Tony quickly turned out the flashlight, momentarily masking them in darkness… and anything else lurking nearby.

Their eyes quickly adjusted to the growing fires, providing them enough light to see.

Tony reached down and offered his hand to Hagar. “You’re one stupid man,” he said.

Hagar reached for his hand begrudgingly, got to his feet, and then winced the moment he put pressure on his left foot. “Fuck! My ankle’s shot!”

“That’s just perfect,” Diane said, scanning the forest with her rifle. “Now what?”

Gina was quickly assessing their limited options.

That’s when the forest erupted to the south, back toward Whaler’s Cover, with the sound of beast-like howls.

“Those aren’t the yellow-eyed devils,” Tony whispered. “I’ve never heard that before.”

Gina and Marcus recognized them immediately and exchanged a worried glance.

For her it was the boxcar. For him, the home of Janet Schuler. Both of them remembered the bone-chilling sound of their nails scratching across steel and linoleum:

Rat-a-tat-tat

“Nightwalkers,” she said. “They’re nocturnal… and fucking deadly. We can’t out run them.”

“Especially since Hagar can barely stand.” Tony’s frustration was peaking.

“What can we do?” Diane asked. “Take our chances in the fucking tree?”

“Good luck getting this asshole back up there,” Tony said.

Marcus ignored them all. He was calculating. “Gina,” he finally said. “Nothing’s changed. Head north for the fire. I’ve dealt with these things before the boxcar… and I’m pretty sure they don’t like fire.”

Gina simply nodded. “Let’s get Hagar up before they get here-”

“Shit! Mother-fucker!” Hagar cried out as soon as Tony tried to move him. The pain was immediate. “It’s no good! I can’t even move like this!”

“Gina! They’re getting closer!” Diane backed up a few steps. “I can hear them scrambling through the brush… they sound fucking fast.”

Gina was desperate to move. She gave Hagar a final glance and then said, “We leave him. There’s no choice. We’re out of time.”

Tony gave her an incredulous look. “Fuck that,” he said. “We don’t ‘leave’ people.”

“I’m sorry… but we either leave him behind or we all die right here.” Gina loathed herself for every word… but it changed nothing. Hagar was a liability now. “Let’s move.”

“See! See! I was right all along about you!” Hagar accused. “This is what you do, Gina. This is how you lead when your precious ass is on the line! Fine! Fucking go! But mark my words, everyone will finally know who you really are now!”

Gina refused to look back. She was staring ahead toward the flames. Tony, I will not lose you for that piece-of-shit. I don’t care if that condemns me forever… I will not lose you!

She started north, then stopped when no one followed. Gina could feel their eyes on her.

Marcus rescued her. “Leave. All of you. Right now.”

Gina turned.

“I mean it, Gina,” he said. “Get them out of here. I’ll stay with Hagar and get him to the roadway.”

“You’ll never make-”

“Go!” Marcus’s intensity rivaled the pending flames. “You are far too important. I’ll hide Hagar and then lead the animals west toward the second fire. I can manage them from there.”

Gina tried to resist.

“Get out of here… NOW!” Marcus shouted.

She stared into his eyes and saw something truly frightening and unwavering.

“Damn it!” she swore and turned.

The others reluctantly followed.

Tony turned and said, “For what it’s worth… you’re a good man, Marcus.”

Marcus ignored the compliment and retrieved his machete and hunting knife. “Keep her safe,” was all he said.

Tony nodded and followed after the others.

When Hagar and Marcus were alone, Hagar said, “You know we’re fucked, don’t you? You don’t have time to get us both-”

Marcus jammed his knife into Hagar’s right thigh. The pain was excruciating.

Hagar cried out and then looked at Marcus. “What… what are you doing?”

Marcus smiled. “You’ll need to scream much louder than that if we want those things in the woods to find us sooner.”

Hagar was horrified.

“Let’s try this again, shall we.” Marcus stabbed him in the other leg and then twisted the knife repeatedly until Hagar’s screams were as loud as the howls of the animal-man hybrids.

“You’re fucking crazy!” Hagar shouted through tears. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

Now that, boss, is the million dollar question, the other one mocked.

“Shut up,” he absently said.

He could hear them all now. They monsters would reach them in less than a minute.

“I’m sorry… but you’ve outlived your usefulness a long time ago,” he told him. “However, your death will serve to advance a most noble cause. Besides, I know you intended to take Gina out. I’ve watched how you look at her when you think no one is looking. There’s hesitation as well, but clearly, you have been plotting her murder for some time now.”

“What the fuck are you talking-”

Marcus began stabbing Hagar multiple times in the chest until his screams were cut off by the blood in his mouth.

Oh, why do you tease me with these little excursions, boss? Especially when there’s no time to savor it. By that way, that’s your fuckin’ cue to get the hell out of Dodge.

“Noted.” Marcus got up and rolled out of sight as the first of the Nightwalkers came into view. He hid behind the Oak tree, leaving Hagar’s bloody remains spread out on the forest floor like some sick offering.

What he saw made him smile, despite how close he was to becoming another slaughtered feast.

Two monstrosities, comfortably traveling on all fours now, stalked up a low hill toward the hunter’s blind. They seemed hesitant as the light from the flames ahead struck their sensitive eyes. The hybrids looked much different now, more animal than man, but with those same predatory red eyes. Like before, their original human frames had been twisted and distorted in various grotesque shapes and sizes to accommodate their abnormalities, namely, their exaggerated razor sharp teeth and claws.

Marcus waited patiently for the beasts to discover Hagar’s corpse while taking in every detail of these creatures to stow away for a future tactical advantage. He couldn’t outrun them, but he might be able to out-maneuver them through the trees long enough to reach the fires to the west.

Well… look at that, the other one side. There was a genuine note of admiration in his voice.

Marcus raised his eyebrows in surprise as the beasts suddenly stopped and the yellow-eyed devil who pulled them back on the now visible chains appeared over the hill. It used to be a man, perhaps a farmer judging by his girth and soiled coveralls.

Now how about that, boss. And they said you couldn’t domesticate the dead. When they open their first pet store… I want one!

Marcus ignored him.

The red-eyed monsters caught the scent of fresh blood and immediately descended on Hagar’s remains with a tenacity which Marcus admired. The yellow-eyed former farmer momentarily lost his hold on the chains as the beasts pulled free.

Marcus took advantage of the moment to slip deeper into the woods and toward the flames to the west. When he felt confident he could reach the flames, he turned and threw his knife directly into the side of the Nightwalkers’ yellow-eyed master.

The farmer registered the knife sticking into his side with what appeared to be annoyance. It turned, spotted Marcus, and howled at him.

I sure hope you brought your fuckin’ runnin’ shoes, boss. You’re gonna need ‘em.

Marcus turned and began to sprint through the woods.

The farmer and his beasts gave chase attracting the attention of the rest of them which quickly joined the hunt.

Marcus hoped the beasts were still affected by fire and bright lights. If not, he was already dead.

~~~

Gina, Tony and Diane could barely see the flames directly ahead as the smoke enveloped them, stinging their eyes and making them cough.

“Try to stay below the smoke,” Tony managed to get out. “Keep your heads down as much as possible.”

From somewhere behind them they heard Hagar’s screams.

“Shit,” Tony said. “They didn’t make it!”

Diane coughed and said, “We should go back.”

“Keep going!” Gina shouted. “There’s nothing we can do for them now.” Fuck, Marcus! Why didn’t you just leave that piece of shit behind? At one time, she might have felt a hint of guilt for such a thought. But no longer.

Tony and Diane couldn’t argue. They could barely take care of themselves at the moment. If the monsters didn’t get them, the smoke inhalation would.

They were beyond the worst of the fires as Diane found a clear path, leading the others through. Now they just needed to escape the smoke.

And then all at once they were through, as fresh air and darkness replaced filmy gray billows of death.

They all fiercely sucked in the air, stopping long enough to regain their bearings.

“That truly sucked,” Gina said, wiping tears from her burning eyes.

Once Diane stopped coughing, she started scanning the darkness ahead of them with her rifle while the fires behind still provided some light.

Tony put his hands on his knees, bent over and dry-heaved.

“You okay?” Gina asked.

“I’ll be alright in a minute. Just sucked in too much smoke.”

Gina turned toward the fires. They couldn’t hear Hagar anymore. I’m so sorry, Marcus. I’m so fucking sorry it had to come to this. She was furious with herself, with the world… with everything. She suddenly wanted to kill something. She couldn’t hear whether the beasts were still pursuing them but the crackling and hissing of the fires could have been drowning out their sounds.

“Gina!” Diane hissed. “Get over here!”

Gina turned in time to see the decrepit remains of the woman named, Helen, watching them from twenty feet away from around the side of a large tree. She… it… simply stood there, shoulders hunched over, sniffing at the air.

She seemed particularly interested in Tony.

Diane raised her rifle, prepared to take a head shot.

“Wait,” Tony urged, raising a hand toward the hunter. “It isn’t attacking.”

“Kill it, Diane! Now!” Gina insisted.

“Stop, Gina!” Tony stepped forward just close enough to speak to the dead thing. “Helen, right? Your name is Helen. Do you remember me? You saved me on the road.”

The creature cocked its head, her mouth hung open, her eyes were a radiant yellow.

Gina already had her hand gun pointed at Helen’s head. “Tony, back away. This isn’t Helen anymore. This thing isn’t anything anymore.”

“Gina, stay that fucking weapon!” Tony moved in a little closer. “Can you… understand me?”

“This is fucking madness,” Diane said. “Why hasn’t it charged yet? They always charge immediately as soon as they smell our blood.”

Tony kept trying. “My name’s Tony. We mean you no harm. You or your… friends. Just let us go our way and we’ll never bother your kind again.”

Gina stared at him. I can’t believe he’s trying to communicate with it! This is insane.

Tony took one more step closer.

This seemed to bother the woman-thing as it raised its right arm and pointed at him. She uttered a horrendous scream and then ducked behind the tree just as both Gina and the hunter fired their weapons.

“Shit!” Tony backed away. “It’s a trap!”

From behind the tree came, two large animals with reddish eyes. Their once human and naked bodies were almost beyond recognition as the beasts screamed at them and charged, revealing razor like claws and sharp teeth.

Diane took the first one down before it reached Tony. The second one knocked him over with a massive swing from its right arm, the nails just missing his flesh.

“NO!” Gina screamed as she charged the second beast, firing her handgun.

“Gina move! I can’t get a clean shot!” Diane was trying to find a better position while watching both the tree and the second beast.

The second monster charged straight toward her as Gina emptied her magazine into its rotting flesh.

Tony was already up. He slammed into the creature from the side with his shoulder, knocking it just out of range of swinging its massive claws across Gina’s face.

She fell backwards, feeling the air from the clawed hand brush against her shoulder-length hair.

Fuck me! That was too close!

Tony rolled out of the way before it could come for him.

But it stopped moving. Black blood was oozing from several bullet holes in the monster’s chest.

“She’s gone!” Diane said. “The woman… whatever it is… she’s gone.”

Tony didn’t care. He reached down and helped Gina up. “Are you… injured? Did it get you?”

“I’m okay.”

“We should go,” Diane encouraged. “Before she brings more of her friends.”

Gina nodded.

They fled further into the night, desperate to find a place to hide until dawn.

~~~

The Nightwalkers were relentless, easily outdistancing their masters, as they maneuvered through the brush with the skill of any animal.

Marcus’s only advantage was their size and the fact that they still possessed human attributes that did not work in sync with their animal parts. This made them fast… but very clumsy in tight spaces.

He dodged and weaved, jumped and rolled, barely avoiding their clawed attacks as they howled in frustration at the dense forest trees.

Just like old times, boss, the other one jested. Seems like we never catch a break from these fuckers.

Marcus ignored him. He had enough to contend with, using every skill he possessed to outwit these predators.

He estimated that there were eight of them, staggered about the forest to his left, right and just behind him. Should one manage to come around and cut him off, the hunt was over.

Also, as they had clawed hands, Marcus sill held on to his machete, hacking and slicing at their arms, faces, legs… whatever became an immediate target… anything to create distance between them.

He was quickly running out of steam as he dared a glance back in mid-run and was puzzled that the creatures were slowing down.

“That’s odd,” he said.

Boss, you fucked up.

“What?”

Look!

Marcus looked dead ahead. “Damn.”

He turned just in time to watch the forest floor shift downward beneath his feet. Before he could stop, his forward momentum caused him to stumble as he lost control and started rolling down a steep hill.

The trip was brief as the hill ended abruptly, propelling Marcus off the edge of a quarry cliff.

~~~

Next Episode 33-6

Previous Episode 33-4

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 33-5: 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. Gylion says:

    That Cliff though.

    Like

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