Chapter 33-6: Detour

Posted: October 19, 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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crying

~~~

They had escaped the fires and the beasts. Their accidental savior–a storm that brought rain as well as a gusting breeze which eventually extinguished the fires behind them and hid their scent from the deadly Nightwalkers.

Shortly before dawn, Diane had led them up a hill which emptied into a small ravine on the opposite side where the remains of a long dried-up river bed once ran. This provided them some concealment as well as shelter from the chilling winds as the three of them huddled up and tried to stay warm.

Words among them were sparse as they each privately fought off their conflicting emotions and exhaustion. Their mission had failed, saving no one from the bad man’s prison house. The world was still full of monsters which had evolved into deadlier predators. And finally, they had lost four people.

“We never should’ve left our hole,” Diane said, staring dismally at the ground. “We’ve gained nothing from hiding all winter and trying to wait all this bullshit out. Things are much worse now… and everywhere we look is an open grave waiting to claim the rest of us.”

Tony, who was once full of optimism, refused to comment as he simply stared at the shivering red-head who wore a mask of stone which barely concealed her rage beneath. He desperately needed to find a way to reach her before Gina finished her evolution into something dark and unrecognizable. But he was tired… tired of covering for her and defending her while she continued to make brutal decisions that challenged her own hold on humanity. He began to wonder in his tired state, if Gina was slowly sucking the life out of him, too.

She looked up and caught his probing stare.

Tony quickly turned away.

“As soon as it’s light enough to see, we’ll start moving east, get back to the main road, and attempt to make it… home.” The last word fell from Gina’s lips with contempt.

“We should try to find the others,” Diane said. “I know they’re probably dead… but even a body… or what’s left of a body… ” she was too tired to finish. Instead, she lowered her head into her hands and began to weep, exposing a rare crack in her armor.

Gina and Tony stared at the emotionally drained hunter, and for once, saw only a young woman trying to keep her shit together in a world which wouldn’t allow her to be… normal… whatever that used to be.

Tony was unnerved by Diane’s rare breakdown. He slowly got to his feet, feeling every muscle in his body ache, and started looking around.

Gina simply returned to her dark thoughts, the empathy well within long dried up.

Tony nodded his head at the uncertain morning and gave it a wicked smile. “We’re still here,” he whispered to no one. “Don’t know what that amounts to now… but we’re still here.” He turned toward the hunter. “Diane, when we get back, and if Nine isn’t there waiting for us, I’ll head back out and look for him. That’s a promise.”

The young hunter looked up and smiled gratefully. “Thank you.” She wiped the tears from her eyes, feeling foolish. “Sorry about that… and for that hopeless shit I said a few minutes ago. That’s just my tired mind talking bullshit. It’s like you just said, Tony, we’re still here. That’s more than most people have these days… and it takes more than just breathing to understand that.”

Tony smiled. “We have each other. That’s reason enough to keep on fighting. Sometimes I forget that, too.”

The hunter nodded and smiled back.

Gina wanted to object to Tony’s absurd promise, but wisely remained silent. Tony, Tony, Tony, why give this poor girl false hope? You know as well as I do that if Nine isn’t at the compound than he’s already dead. It doesn’t matter now… none of it does. You two can talk yourselves into whatever hope-filled lies you need to hear, if that’s what it takes to keep on surviving, but in the end, we’re all just standing in line and waiting for our turn to die. She was surprised by her own bleak thoughts. They would be better off if I just stayed out here and they went back without me… all of them would be better off. She closed her eyes.

“Gina,” Diane started, “with all due respect, I think it’s light enough to move now. I’d rather be pointing my gun at shadows than sitting here with stagnant thoughts.”

Gina looked into the hunter’s pleading eyes. She forced a smile. “You make a great point. Let’s get the hell out of here. If the dead are still waiting for us this morning… well… they can have a crack at us. But I’m a real bitch before my first cup of coffee.”

This caused Tony to snicker.

She glared at him and he quickly looked elsewhere, trying to hide his grin.

This got Diane giggling. She covered her mouth and said, “Sorry. Everything’s much funnier without sleep. I’d laugh at that fucking tree over there if I didn’t think it would make me look nuts.”

Even Gina cracked up at that one, causing a chain-reaction of laughter which helped release all their pent-up tension.

“What was that your old friend, Doug, used to say about laughter?” Tony asked.

Gina’s face lit up at the fond memory.

Diane waited. She was familiar with most of the stories from Gina’s first trek south down the railroad tracks. They’d all had time beneath the ground to share them, but she hadn’t heard this one before.

Gina looked at her and said, “While we were on the tracks fleeing the power plant a thousand years ago, Doug said the most curious thing. He told me, ‘Laughter’s the best weapon we have to keep us from killing each other.’ Then he compared it to temporary insanity.” Gina snickered. “And then he said, ‘That’s why there’s always room to laugh, no matter how fucked-up the circumstances get. Insanity doesn’t play by the rules or act in accordance with expected behavior.’”

Diane nodded. “Makes perfect sense. Your friend must have been very wise.”

Gina laughed. “No… he was mostly just a bossy-prick… but a good man.” She looked away with a frown. “Seems like all the good ones died early. I’ll never be able to figure that one out.”

“Hey, what are we? Chopped liver?” Tony smiled.

Gina laughed. “Oh come on… you both know that only assholes own the apocalypse now.”

“I resemble that remark,” Diane teased.

“Shall we go?” Tony asked.

Gina stood up. “Let’s go be the assholes that ruin a perfectly good morning… somewhere.”

This got them laughing again as they gathered up their gear and then climbed up out of the ravine.

Once they scanned the area and spotted no immediate threats, they started east. They had a little light but not enough to dispel last night’s shadows. Hopefully, this would help them move unseen and not hide the enemy.

“What the fuck is that?” Tony asked, holding them up. He was pointing farther east at what appeared to be something hanging between two trees a short distance away. “Is the damn twilight messing with my eyes or am I seeing something ahead of us?”

Diane aimed her rifle at it and examined the object with her scope. “No…” she whispered.

The others watched her face go pale as the hunter lowered her rifle and closed her eyes.

“What is it?” Gina asked.

“It’s… it’s a body… hanging down from a tree… looks like it was suspended beneath the arms because… because it doesn’t have a head.” Tears were streaming down her cheeks.

Tony took a deep breath. “Is it Hagar? Marcus?”

Diane could only shake her head as she tried to collect herself.

Gina quickly retrieved the binos from the hunter’s pack and pointed at the suspended corpse. “Oh… God…”

The body was wearing a familiar jean jacket.

~~~

Tony was the first to reach the body as Gina lagged behind and tried to stop Diane.

He was so distracted by the headless corpse that Tony almost kicked the woman’s head which was neatly placed on the ground beneath the body. “Fuck me,” he said, stepping back and covering his mouth.

The woman had blond hair, a long dark bruise running down one side of her face, and no eyes. Someone had cut them out before removing her head entirely. He looked away from the head with a shudder and examined the rest of the corpse. He could now tell that the figure, although dressed in Nine’s jean jacket, was clearly much slender than the young man.

There’s that at least, he thought, and then felt guilty for thinking it. This woman had clearly been tortured.

He turned and said, “It’s not him. It’s a woman… or what’s left of her.”

Gina and Diane came over.

Tony stepped back and turned away. “Poor thing. Who would do something like that?”

Gina stared at the head of the woman and felt an unnatural chill seize her. “It’s just like back at the ranch,” she said. “Remember the jar of eyes?”

Tony turned back. His face went pale.

Diane was trying to remove the jacket from the woman’s body with little success. “He’ll want this back,” she said with shaking hands. She seemed to be in a state of shock. “It’s his brother’s. It means the world to him.” She unbuttoned the jacket and gasped as the woman’s bare chest popped out, revealing a message carved across the top of her breasts.

Gina stared at the message with wide eyes. She looked over at Tony. “What does it mean?”

Tony was frozen in place. He read the bloody words carved in flesh again and again:

CAN’T SAVE
THEM TONY.
NEVER COULD.

He closed his eyes and finally said, “He’s taunting me. That fucker knew how hard I tried to keep them all from giving up in that basement. He knew. One by one, he slaughtered them… until I was the last.”

Diane’s eyes lit up. “You mean the bad man, that son-of-a-bitch that we’ve been looking for, has been out here screwing with us the whole time?”

Gina nodded. “Makes perfect sense. The bell. The shooter. The fire. He must have seen us leaving the ranch, must have seen Tony specifically, and then decided to have a little fun at our expense.”

“I’m the one that got away,” Tony said despondently. “I was the fucking ‘prize’ he was saving for Helen… and then I screwed up all his plans.”

“And then we invaded his home, killed off his people, and now he’s one pissed-off psychopath,” Diane finished, letting her shoulders hang. “This little mission keeps getting better and better.”

Tony couldn’t look at the woman anymore. “Help me get her down. Whoever she was, deserves better than this. They all did.”

They silently worked together and brought the corpse down from the tree.

Diane started removing the jacket, feeling like some damn grave robber, and then noticed that both the woman’s hands were missing. She gave the others a ‘what-the-fuck?’ look.

“Just like the house. The hands and feet were removed from the old man upstairs,” Gina said. “Fuck if I know why. Probably some sick fetish. Just like when he put their heads in the refrigerator.”

Diane quickly finished removing Nine’s jacket and then stepped back. She considered the woman’s modesty, although she no longer needed it, as she removed her own jacket and laid it gently over the corpse. She then put Nine’s jacket on and immediately addressed the elephant in the room. “So… this asshole… he has Nine.”

“Yes,” Gina responded.

“So what does this mean?” she asked.

“It means we can’t leave yet,” Tony said. “This fucker’s always been about sending broadcasts… and he wanted to make damn sure he sent this last one loud and clear to me.”

“What does he want?” Gina already knew the answer.

Tony looked at her grimly. “He wants me.”

“This is bullshit, we don’t even know where he is!” Gina was clearly not happy with where this was heading.

Tony let out a nervous laugh. “We know exactly where he is.”

“Where?” Diane asked.

“He’s where this poor girl ended up… where they all ended up when they heard it and thought they were rescued.”

Diane was confused. “Are you saying he went back to the ranch?”

Tony shook his head and then recited the latter half of the bad man’s broadcast from memory, “ ‘…We will send someone each day, at noon, to pick up survivors at the local Waffle House located at 8177 Terrance Road, just east of Ashtabula, Ohio. Again that’s 8177 Terrance Road just east of Ashtabula, Ohio. Good luck. We hope to see you soon. God bless.’”

“Son-of-a-bitch!” Gina snapped. She turned to Tony. “I’m not just going to hand you over to that prick! You do understand that, don’t you? We’d just be playing right into his fucking hands!”

Tony looked over at Diane who was unconsciously playing with the buttons on Nine’s jacket. She caught his gaze and then turned away, not wanting Tony to see her desperate expression.

He looked back to Gina. “I made a promise, Gina. I said I would go after Nine, and I intend to keep that promise.”

“Fuck your promise!” Gina said. “For all we know, he’s dead already!” She immediately regretted her harsh words as she looked over at Diane. “Sorry. I… I shouldn’t have said that.”

“It’s okay,” Diane said. “I’ve already had to consider the same thing.” She turned to Tony. “You don’t owe me anything. You don’t owe Nine anything. We both knew the risks coming out here. We’ve lost too much already. I’m not prepared to lose you, too. Especially playing by the bad man’s rules. We should head back.”

Gina was shocked by the hunter’s words.

Tony smiled at both of them. “Look, just because he’s got leverage, that doesn’t mean he has the advantage. What this fucker doesn’t know is that while he’s been preying on the weak all this time, we’ve been neck deep in shit since this world went to hell. The three of us can end this… right now. And who knows, maybe we can still save that young man in the process.”

He then gave Gina a hard, uncompromising look that rivaled her own. “Besides, payback has been long coming for this sadistic prick. And I can’t think of anyone better suited to deliver it than us. I don’t know what we’re going to do, but I have every confidence that we’ll figure it out before we get there. We can do this… together. Are you with me?”

Gina saw the fire in Tony’s eyes and couldn’t help letting it infect her. She smiled and said, “Fuck it. There’s no talking you out of it anyway. Not when you get like this.” She turned to Diane. “Let’s go get our friend back and take down one more fucking monster in the world.”

~~~

Next Episode 33-7

Previous Episode 33-5

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 33-6: 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:

    Called it :P .

    Like

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