Chapter 4

“A siege! the wicked waves, attacking
Climb thief-like through the windows; backing,
The boats stern-foremost smite the glass;
Trays with their soaking wrappage pass;
And timbers, roots, and huts all shattered,
The wares of thrifty traders scattered,
And the pale beggar’s chattels small,
Bridges swept off beneath the squall,
Coffins from sodden graveyards–all
Swim in the streets! ….
And contemplating
God’s wrath, the folk their doom are waiting.
All will be lost; ah, where shall they
Find food and shelter for today?”

~Waclaw Lednicki
The town lay cloaked around them, ringed by shadowy ridges and distant peaks, writhed in mist, barely visible as the last of the light fled the horizon, and darkness swallowed the world completely.

“ Gives me the creeps” Jill said as she peered out into the dark streets of Lafayette, “ cant see a thing out there, and those things are so silent they can just walk up on you in the dark and chow down.”

“ how about those cubs” Logan said from the back trying to change the subject. earning a chuckle from the rest of the team.

Jared didn’t respond, he was watching the green tinged streets, thru his NVG’s, driving carefully around wrecks. Finally he saw a small non corporate gas and Convenience store.

The building, situated at a corner, was maybe forty feet long, with an old metal awning covering the gas pumps. A 1964 ford pickup lay on its side in the ditch, a Cadillac, sat half buried in a the ice machine out front. A sign advertising Coca Cola hung on one corner and swung gently in the wind that sighed mournfully through the ruins.

He slowed, thankful that Rob had disconnected the brake lights, to keep undead from noticing, and watched the parking lot, for a moment but saw nothing moving.

“What are you doing “ Jill asked as the van slowed almost to a stop, and then turned bouncing over a curb.

“Convenience store” Jared replied absently as he concentrated on getting around the wreck in the parking area.

“why?” she asked.

“Phone book” Steve and Ronny chorused from the back laughing softly.

Jared came to a stop, near the doors and scanned the area once more. “ Daws, keep an eye out but stay in the Land Rover, Im taking my people inside” Jared said over the radio.

“ Ready,” Jared asked, then opened the door and slid out into the warm late July night. not waiting for an answer, he scanned the area one last time to make sure that no zombies had just popped up from behind a wreck or a bush. Or one was standing there pretending to be statue.

Jared approached the door, cautiously in a crouch , tomahawks ready. Rob had finally gotten enough silencers made for the weapons they carried, but Jared was to worried about the amount of Ammo they still had. Which was quite a bit still, but they had been involved in way to many major dust ups lately, so he preferred to stick to hand weapons when the numbers of undead were low.

The darkness was deeper under the cover over the gas pumps, but to the men and one woman wearing NVGs it didn’t matter. Jared eyed the glass door for a moment then pushed it open with his foot peering into the room beyond.

To the left was a counter, with the usual cash register, hot dog and pizza warmers, three rows of shelves ran the thirty feet length of the store on the right side. Jared move inside followed by Steve, as soon as they were clear of the door, Ronny and Ori came inside and moved right to cover the shelves and cooler area.

Signs and advertising that hung from the ceiling swayed, as the breeze from outside stirred them. paper and other items that littered the floor rustled. Jared barely glanced at the bloody wallet laying on the floor by the counter, or the dropped baby bag, he was to used to seeing things like that. Things that threatened to send his mind to daydreaming about the items owners and the horror they endured.

He left Jill and Logan Covering the front door, since neither were experienced at using NVGs in combat and Jared didn’t want put them in the front line till they were comfortable using the units.

In a single supple move Jared leaped onto the counter landing in a crouch, and peered behind it, just as a zombie began to stand up from the darkness that would have hid it from sight if not for the NVG’s, Jared lashed out, hooking the tomahawk on the back of the zombies neck and yanked it towards him, pulling it off balance and smashing its head into the counter as it started to slide to the floor, he whipped the tomahawk around and brought it down.

The tomahawk designed for the US military, might appear to be similar to the native American weapon it was based on, but its function had been expanded, in this case, this particular type of tomahawk had been made to cut thru thin metal, like that found on home and business doors, or car doors. A skull barely slowed it down.

Jared stepped down behind the counter, stepping down into the scattered candy, cigars, and other items that had once sat on the counter and eye’d the door that must lead back to the managers office. He waited till Steve had joined him behind the counter, then moved towards the door. A office meant a phone, and where a phone was there was usually a phone book.

I wonder how many survivors, regretted going digital with almost everything, hard to look up numbers on the net when there’s no power, or look up how to repair, a truck or a generator, or anything else. What a bunch of total tools we were. He thought as he reached for the handle.

Ori, less comfortable with melee weapons, kept his crossbow at High Ready leading the way down the last aisle towards the short hallway where the bathrooms and the door to the stock room was located.

The first bathroom was the women’s bathroom, Ori indicated the door, and Ronny moved up in a very low crouch and twisted the knob. Paused a hearbeatthen pulled it open. Ori gave him the all clear then pointed to the next restroom. .

The mens bathroom door was locked, and they could hear something bump against the door from inside the room. Ori shook his head and pointed to the stock room door. Ronny nodded and moved to the door.

Ori gave a sharp nod to tell Ronny he was ready Ronny didn’t hesitate he pulled the door open. three feet past the door, two zombies stood their heads already turning towards the door.

Ori, having used a crossbow almost as much as a rifle for hunting, was no slouch with his weapon. His bolt took the closest one in the side of the head and it folded over and fell to the floor, the one behind it tripped and fell, Ronny flowed forward, Grabbing it by the hair and yanking the once pretty face up and driving his Sykes Fairbain combat knife into its eye and up into its brain. ‘
He didn’t wait, he was already moving back to the doorway, and out of reach of anything else that might be in the room,. by the time he got there Ori had cocked and locked his crossbow and had another bolt ready to go.
Jared opened the door quickly and moved straight through with explosive force and found himself in an empty office, Steve filled the door behind him.
He smiled as he sheathed one tomahawk on his belt and rifled thru the cluttered desk till he found a phone book. “ got it “ he said turning and knocking a picture frame off the desk, he looked down despite himself and saw a pretty girl of about ten with a gap toothed smile staring into the camera.

“Then lets get the hell out of here” Steve said, turning. Just as a loud crashing noise, like metal shelves and glass hitting the ground, filled the night followed by rifle fire.

Steve ran and leaped the counter, he could see Jill and Logan were still at the door, He pounded across the store, and almost slid into the small hallway that led to the cooler and bathrooms, just as Ronny came through as if thrown, his arms outstretched as he tried to catch himself. Then somehow got his legs tangled with the weapon he had center slung and hit the floor and slid almost to Jared’s feet.

Ori backed thru the Cooler door, his crossbow gone, his AR up stabbing jets of flame erupting in the darkness as he fired. One handed he grasped the cooler door handle and slammed the door shut.

“ go “ he yelled, as he helped Ronny up. The door shook as something hit it on the other side. “ it aint going to hold Steve, Get out” Ori said as Ronny got his feet under him and his weapon in his hands. He and Ori moved just past Steve who kept his weapon on the shuddering door.

“What the hell is it” Steve asked, he had never seen a zombie able to do that. maybe that thing from resident evil, but not a real zombie.

“Worlds biggest zombie and seven other zombies, they were locked in the cooler.” Ori replied, looking down the line of cooler doors along the wall. .

“Lets go, I have the damn phone book and those gunshots are going to bring more company “ Jared commented from Behind Ori.

“ I agree lets go” Ronny said still shaken and rubbing his shoulder, “ damn thing came a hair from biting me.

The door pushed out again as the zombie on the other side hit it once more. It was definitely hungery, or really pissed off ,Steve decided, trying not to think about the nightmare he had last night. there were things that really didn’t need to be thought about after waking.

A plastic clock above the cooler, its batteries long dead, its hands frozen at 1 O’clock fell clattering to the floor. Vibrated loose by the steady pounding on the door to the storage room.

Steve backed up, as Ori and Ronny headed for the door, when the stock room door burst open. That’s just damn cheating he thought as he saw the zombie. Ori wasn’t lying, that thing is fucking huge, and wearing a helmet no less.

The thing, was a zombie who almost had to turn sideways to get thru the door, dressed in ACUs, with a full combat load out. Including a helmet. Luckily it was so large the ones behind it couldn’t get around it at the moment. But that didn’t really matter, in the face of if. The one was big enough to pose a threat to all of them.

Jared Grabbed Steve by the shoulder. “ haul ass, now” he shouted as the thing took two lumbering steps forward, its head brushing the Employee’s only sign as its dead white eyes focused on them.

If it smiles Im going to freak out, Steve decided as he backed up then turned and ran for the front door with Jared right on his heels. Jared heard glass shatter, and a crash, and looked back to see the thing had followed them and knocked over a store shelf, sending it toppling into one of the cooler doors. Old sodas, bags of chips, pretzels spilled all over the floor.

The other seven zombies were spreading out and come towards the front door, Jared slid to a to stop and grabbed a shelf and flipped it over in the path of the huge zombie, then flipped the opposite shelf into the path of four more.

The huge zombie stumbled as it hit the fallen shelves, then managed to step over it with out falling. God I hope they aren’t getting smarter Jared thought as he backed away.

The thing charged him, maybe not a run but fast enough to actually be pretty damn terrifying, its flailing arms tore down a hanging sign with two of the Bud girls on it.
Jared turned and ran for the door, he didn’t want to waste bullets on the thing, and they had what they had come for anyway, he d ran thru the front door, urging his people into the van.

Would have been an epic fight, Jared told himself, though I would probably gotten my ass kicked. He decided. Alls well that ends with us hauling ass out of the area.. he thought as he piled into the drivers seat and turned the key. “ lets go” He said over the radio as the motor roared to life, the huge ugly undead monster emerged from the door way.

“holy shit” Daws said on the open channel with out even realizing he had spoken. He had never seen a man or zombie that big, and didn’t want to see one now he decided as he reached for the ignition key.

“ Roger that and Copy holy shit” Jared replied as he put the van in gear, the Land rover cranked up and the two vehicles drove across the parking lot down into a ditch and back up onto the road, Leviathan and his buddies hot on their tails.

“ go up two hundred feet more and stop “ Ori called out as he pulled his sniper rilfe from its case. “ I want my cross bow back”

Jared shook his head in almost disblief and grinned as he slowed then stopped. “Stopping for a minute Ori wants to retrieve his cross bow” He told Daws. Besides the fact that Ori was damned attached to the thing, Jared didn’t want to lose a good weapon that could help them save Ammo for the firearms.

Ori opened the sliding door and stepped down, Ronny, still breathing hard, and favoring his left side, climbed out to cover Ori’s ass. Except for the wind and the shuffling, stumbling steps of the zombies it was a quiet night, a dead quiet night really.

Ori, turned off his NVG unit and pushed it up onto the top of his head, then snugged the M24 to his shoulder and turned on the scope. Leviathan was still coming on, pounding towards them like a unsteady power walker.

Ori took his time, picked his spot and laid his sight on it. then gently like he was squeezing his wife’s tit he pulled the trigger. The .308 round broke the sound barrier with a sharp crack, and raced across the short, for it, distance to its target where the bullet struck less than an inch below the lip of the helmet. It blasted thru bone, and brain., before hitting the back of the helmet and rebounded into the skull again. The huge zombie stumbled to a stop and collapsed; Ori had already worked the action, shifted targets and began to service his targets till the last one fell twenty feet in front of him.

“Damn fine shooting” Ronny said “now get inside I see a few more heading this way”

They were no sooner in the Van than Jared whipped around and raced back, stopping only long enough to strip leviathan of his gear, before continuing on to the store.

Jared, Steve and Logan ran inside, and in less than a minute had recovered the cross bow and Ronny’s Sykes Fairbain combat knife, which all things considered was still a rare blade. Logan stopped and grabbed three six packs of Bud from the cooler, and then followed them out.

“Biggest zombie in the world’ Jared said laughing as they drove out of town, leaving the darkened buildings to the undead.

“Don’t even, you’re the one that’s scared of clowns” Ori commented. “ besides I killed the damn thing.’

“I am not scared of clowns, I hate clowns there’s a difference.” Jared replied.

“What you piss your pants with one, quake with fear on the other.” Ori asked, as Jill stifled a laugh. “ you leveled two or three city blocks to kill some clowns not a few months ago” Ori pointed out.

“That was to destroy the road, to slow down Mikhail” Jared said as the drove up the low hill where they had set up camp.

“You set it up in front of a circus, and painted clown killer on the side of the tank” Ori said smugly.

“I’ll grant it was poor choice of words, but the location was sound,” Jared said as they pulled into the fenced parking lot of Highway Department maintenance yard.
Steve laughing leaped out and closed the gate and locked it.
It was after 0200hrs, Steve noted as he sat in the darkness of the master bedroom of his RV, outside he could hear the wind blowing, and rather than be comforting it added tu his fears.

He kicked the sheets off his legs and sat up on the edge of the bed, fumbling around for a moment before finding the switch and turning on the small bedside light. The darkness fled but only to the corners and to the other side of the bed, where it was safe from the touch of light.

He didn’t want to sleep, not now, maybe not ever again. he picked up the digital picture frame and turned it on, watching as pictures of Bridget, Sharon, Sharon and Mark, and the others slowly appeared and disappeared. Finally he sat it aside, and rested his chin in his hand as he stared at the wall, where a picture of the smoky mountains had been hung. It had been one of Bridget’s favorites, and she had gotten shit for taking the time to pick out pictures while gathering things they needed, he smiled at the memory.

I wonder if I would be having these dreams if she and Sharon were here now, he asked himself. He didn’t understand it, and didn’t know how Jared had dealt with them with out going insane. Zombies were one thing, things and people haunting his mind, were something else entirely.

He should tell Jared, but then he would have to admit to his doubts and fears, and the certain knowledge that Kyle, Steves brother was dead. And the thought of losing Jareds trust bothered him more than going slowly insane did. Tonight he had almost leaped on that huge zombie, just hoping he would be killed to escape this shit,. And when it came out about his dreams, he would lose that trust.. he suspected Jared already knew something was up, but hadn’t pushed Steve into talking about it. Yet. But sooner or later he would and then … and then I lose my Brothers, that’s what they are really my family.
“Then tell them” Kyle said from behind him. “ its simple really Steve, tell them in the morning.”

Steve whirled around, shocked, he was awake this just wasn’t possible. “You can’t be here, you’re not real” Steve said.

“Sorry, but you fell asleep staring at that picture, right now your laying there snoring you hairy ass off.” Kyle said sitting on the bed. “and your wrong, some of us, can show up in the real world. A very few at the moment, but most of us are working on it. it just seems to be easy for little kids, and for those with really strong emotions for a location or person. “

“ Im asleep, shit.” Steve said with feeling. “ don’t worry, at least not tonight. that thing is a bit busy somewhere else. What I cant believe is, you have two wives now. man I had a problem with just one girlfriend, and you have two wives, one pregnant and the other one just gave birth a few months ago. No wonder your hit the road to find me, its quieter and probably safer.”

“Why is that thing after me” Steve asked hoping to get an answer and to ignore the baiting of a dead man.

“Well you’re alive and breathing for starters, and your friends with Jared. both of which are enough to well and truly piss that thing off” Kyle said, falling back on the bed and cradling his head in his hands.

“ but truth is, and I can say this with out breaking any rules, you and your buddies really pissed of the Dark. It might have ignored you for awhile if you had stayed at the fort, but you folks came toodling back out here into the wilderness, and right smack into his plans again. so your now targets again, big target’s too “
“What plans” Steve asked, hoping for once to get an answer that would help.

“Spoilers brother mine, spoilers, honestly I cant tell you rules and all that. and yes we have rules over here, on this side. Funny thing though, I figured you being the rough and tumble type would die long before my nerdy comic con ass. And here we are, an even more dysfunctional family than before. I have issues like being life impaired and you are starting to wig out from stress and tension.” Kyle said smiling. “ next thing you know youll be dressing up as a storm trooper or something,”
Steve woke up sprawled across the bed, he felt groggy, disoriented and sat up slowly. He could hear Jared getting ready to go out and spar, Jill said something to low to hear and giggled. Im still asleep, Jill does not giggle, he told himself as he looked around and saw his pants hanging from a light fixture. He shook his head slowly, then retrieved his pants from the fixture and tossed them where they belonged on the floor in the dirty clothes pile. Thank god today is wash clothes and waste fuel day he thought, as he rose and opened the small closet and pulled out the last pair of clean Cargo pants

He hated cargo pants, only because back before all this, any time he wore cargo pants some one would always walk up to him, no matter were he was at and ask “ are you vin diesel” Like I look like the man, he thought as he ran a hand over his scalp and felt stubble today is shave your head day too. He told himself as he dug out a razor, depressed I might be, but if Jared tries to polish my head again with a rag Im going to kick his ass.

They found the Semi that afternoon, parked in a lot next to a home, a peterbilt with a custom sleeper, considering the truck was for Rob, Jared found the brand name amusing, getting it back to camp was easy, most of the undead had gathered around the convenience store three blocks south they had hit last night.

If there was a RV in town, they didn’t find one which was all right as far as Jared was concerned, if nothing else he and Jill could sleep in the van, it was already set up as a mini motor home in its own right complete with a built in silent generator and air compressor.. They would find a motor home in Springfield for sure. He decided.

The parts stores were empty, thought, they didn’t even have to enter to check, the doors were propped open, and they could see from the outside there was nothing left inside but empty shelves.

Disappointed they headed back to camp; they had an early day tomorrow. As they drove out of town, none of them saw the single man, who stepped out of a doorway, watching as they rolled past the city limits.

The Stranger smiled and turned and trotted to the Jeep he had parked half on a stack of cinder blocks with a body underneath the chassis, he pulled the body out of the way, just park to look like crash, throw a few leaves over the thing add in a body and viola now all he had to do was leave a few surprises, and the ball would start rolling nicely.

*******************

The weather finally broke as Amy turned down S. main and sped north, the wind picked up whipping the tops of trees from side to side, and battered at the truck.. a wall of rain marched into the town from the south hammering on roofs. she passed 9the street, then 8th, seeing few zombies. Leaves, trash and other debris were blowing across the road, add in the gore splattered across the windshield she couldn’t see much and then the rain rolled over her.

She slowed and finally spotted a large building to the right, and more to the point no zombies, she pulled up, and realized it was a Carmike Cinema. Not a place you want to hide, no food she thought. And not a lot of time, the rain pounding down out there will cover the sound of the motor, and I cant use headlights. Maybe I should drive back, see if every one can get out safely.

She put the truck back into gear and almost screamed as she saw a zombie staring into the drivers window, she took off and turned right on 7th street barely able to read the sign of the business on the corner, some kind of Tea shop. At Hill street she turned right again, this should be the street that runs right along side the repair shop.

By now her vision was severally restricted by the rain, and all the windshield wipers were doing was smearing the goo across the windshield. She was already going slower than she would have liked because of the storm and abandoned vehicles she was trying to weave around. Mike was going to shit a brick when he saw all the dents, gouges in the truck.

Then thru the rain and gloom, as lighting flashed and thunder rumbled, she spotted a sign on the left HG Hill foods, yeee haaa grocery store she thought as she pulled into the parking lot, she might as well stop here and wait for the storm to weaken before trying to make her way back to the Pharmacy to get every one out,

Out of no where, zombies appeared out of the rain, dark shapes in the grey day. she ran them down. “ three points” she whooped, then angled to the left and pulled the truck up onto the covered sidewalk of the store, one of the poles that supported the porch roof, snapped off the right side view mirror.

She shook her head, knowing she was going to hear shit about this later. She parked the truck across the double doors with only inches between the side of the truck and the doors.

Turning off the motor she turned and leaned between the seats, and locked the doors first, and then began to pulled some of the gear bags out of the back and tossed them into the passenger seat. Spotting her own bag she sighed in relief and unzipped the pack and pulled out the pistol she had kept hidden inside, it was her back up weapon, in case she lost every other weapon. She ejected the clip, no mike and Steve both say they are called magazines, she corrected herself as she made sure it was fully loaded. Then placed it back in the pistol grip.

Pulling a blanket from her pack, she stretched out on the back seat using her pack as a pillow, then covered herself with the blanket. She lay there hearing the rain pound the porch roof, and the parking area, and was asleep in moments.

********************************

“ we need to do something” Arthur was saying from where he was sitting with his back between two metal storage shelves.

“ like what exactly, run outside, and try to start a vehicles that’s been sitting for a year.” Lee asked as he sorted thru some of the things they had picked up from the front of the store.

Mike was at a loss as to what to do now, they had spent the last hour getting as much food and other products they might need from the store, trying not to be seen by the zombies that were clusterd around the door and the windows. But now that they were done. People were beginning to dwell on the fact they were stuck here.

And getting the medicines to Sandy to try to save Steve had been the whole point of this little exercise. Mike looked up as the building shook under a boom of thunder. The rain was drumming steadily on the roof with out let up.

He realized every one was looking at him. “ for now we wait, Amy was trying to draw them away from us when she left. She will be back, she probably pulled over to wait out the rain, and will show up as soon as the storm has passed and the undead are thinned out enough for us to get out of here easily. “ he said, trying not to look at Carrie. He really hoped he the look of satisfaction he had seen had been all in his mind. He wasn’t sure if he could deal with the carrie having become that callous that she enjoyed seeing Amy almost killed just because she didn’t like the girl.

“Well if Amy …. “ Ily started to say but Carrie cut her off.

“I don’t give a shit about Amy, she ran out on us, we need to find a way out of this ourselves” Carrie said stunning every one.

“Its not like she had a choice in the matter” Lee pointed out earning a glare from Carrie..

“She could have pulled that truck right up to the door, she ran with all our stuff, leaving us here, she’s probably halfway to the coast right now.” Carrie responded hotly.

“ you think she just stole our stuff and bailed on us “ Mort asked incredulously staring at Carrie.

“ shes probably been waiting for the right moment, and today was it” Carrie replied, turning to look at Mike, who thought for a second he saw her lips quirk like she was about to smile, it was gesture he had seen many times before when she had tried to pull jokes no him.

But this was no damn joke, she was smearing a girl who had done nothing but help, a girl who had survived on her own for six months before they stumbled on her. What the hell had happened to his wife, he wondered not of the first time.

“ we have weapons and ammo, we can rush out and find a vehicle that will start Lee over there is always saying he can fix anything, well its time for him to put up or shut up” Carrie stated, and for a moment Mike thought she was going to stomp her foot for emphasis.

“ No” he said suddenly, “ we wait, I don’t know what your trying to do Carrie, and I don’t care. We are going to wait here for at least two days, wait quietly let the numbers outside drop off, then if we have to we go out in small groups and try to locate a ride. Probably next door, if nothing else Lee can use the tools and the parts in the repair shop to get a vehicle over there running. “

“ why wait Michael,are you scared, we could leave in an hour or at least by tomorrow if we tried now.” she hissed at him shocking everyone with the hatred in her voice. Mike stood his ground his hearbreaking as he saw the naked fury on her face, and it was all directed at him.

“ yes I’m fucking scared bitch, every one of us is scared, we have been scared every damn day since last June, only a total idiot isn’t scared. But that’s not the damned reason, we wait because theres at least forty or more just outside the front door, god knows how many of them are on either side of the building or out back. If we ran out the door right now, some of us are going to die that don’t need to. And then the storm cuts down on our vision, we wont be able to smell them and we wont be able to hear what little noise they make over the storm. So we wait till things are in our favor, and if you don’t like it I don’t care, Ill tie your ass up and gag you till we are ready to leave.” Mike chopped himself off right there, he almost had said the unthinkable, I regret hauling you out of the hospital to save your life he felt a deep burning shame for the thought, but it had been boiling away on the back burners of his mind for a while now.

she stared at him for a moment then stomped over and sat on a pallet of dog food, glaring at him.

“ okay then, lets get this stuff bagged up and set by the back door, when we leave, we might have to load fast and I want it ready to go” he said as if nothing had just happened between him and Carrie, every one else rushed to comply, just to have something to do to avoid thinking about what had just happened.

“ Lee “ Mike said motioning Lee over to, “ is there anything you can do, that might help us out here.” He asked as soon as Lee was by his side.

“ Like what, pull a McGyver and build a truck from straws, some gum and Aspirin.” Lee asked, then shook his head. “ sorry like every one else Im twitchy”

“ no problem, I was thinking about ways to deal with the zombies or something to keep peoples minds off whats going on for a little bit.”

Lee looked thoughtfully for a moment, then nodded. “ I just might, I need to go out in the front though.”

“ Ill go with you “ Mike said, Lee nodded thankfully. The two men headed for the heavy door and the front of the store.

Carried watched them go, glaring steadily. “ guess since he cant get between my legs he is going queer “ she said nastily and laughed. A few people gave her a go to hell look, but remained silent. Ily shook her head, and rose to her feet. She wanted to punch that bitch out so bad.

It was going to be a long damn wait she thought.
* * *
Drake Ferguson, stomped down on the head of the zombie, not even flinching as the skull cracked like a melon. “ son of bitches “he muttered looking around at the bodies sprawled around he and his five men.

Five nine, dark haired, he was compact and solid and a very angry man as he took in the fires still burning in the ruins of the two building he and his people had used to live in.

In the rush to get out, he had lost seven, seven fucking people, two of them kids to the zombies that had been drawn to the blaze. He turned to Allen, the skinny wild haired man was just as furious as he was.

“ it was those men you saw yesterday, well we are going to hunt them down and make them pay” he snarled, Allen started to protest, but thought better of it, angry he was, but he didn’t think it had been the men he had seen. He could swear that the fire in his building had been set inside, but he knew better than to argue with Drake when he was like this.

“ get the vehicles ready” Drake snarled running a hand angrily thru his thick dark hair. More zombies were already starting to appear, staggering and lurching towards the fire and the people outside.

All the food, all the parts, tools and supplies they had laid up to try and make it thru this shit, and now some shit heads, destroy it all for no reason. Well buddys you just opened a can of whoop ass you aren’t going to like much. He vowed.

He glared at the closest undead, and wasn’t even bothered by the fact he recognized the man. Carl miller, father of three, divorced, owned furniture store. Always a bit overweight, and now he didn’t have to worry about his weight or getting a date again.
Drake lifted his rifle and dropped him at a hundred yards. “ sorry Carl, wish it could have happened differently” Drake said as he lowered his rifle.

The first truck pulled up, followed by a school bus. He stood there guarding the survivors as they boarded the bus. At least he had thought ahead enough to store some supplies in each vehicle. That at least would keep them fed for a week, week and a half at most.

He climbed into his truck and looked back at the burning church complex that he had called home for almost a year, the fire had spread to the actual sanctuary

As they drove away, the sullen glow of the fire behind them grew brighter as it spread to another building. By dawn the fires would rage across several blocks of the town. Driven by a fitful wind and old buildings that were just waiting for a spark to send them up in flames.

“ first thing we need to do is find out where those bastards went” Drake said looking out the window as Allen drove. “ then we go hunting.”

Allen remained silent, if he was right, then who ever had set those fires was with them now.

* * * *

the highway, was in bad shape, better than expected all things considered. Which was a good thing since they had gotten delayed in leaving when the Deuce had failed to start. Rob had leaped into the task, but he couldn’t get it running again till around 1200hrs. It had taken only four hours to reach Portland Tennessee, home of the strawberry festival, a not so quaint town, depending on your point of view, if you consider the thousands of zombies that wandered its streets quaint then it was the top of the quaint list.

Jared was willing to risk the highways and interstates now, maybe it was the building anxiety he felt as the drew closer and closer to Fort Campbell, maybe it was the need to get this over with so he could start a new life with Jill. Regardless, he was taking chances they had avoided before, and so far it was paying off.

As they came down the off the Highland Rim, Jared felt some relief. For all the years he had spent in hellholes, and as a wilderness guide, he had never experience the isolation that he experienced now that the world was almost empty of living folks.

He shook of the gloomy thoughts As they turned off of, Tn 76 on to Tn 49, 10 miles from Springfield. sheets of rain cut their visibility to almost zero. It was dark by the time they rolled into the town, catching occasionally glimpse of homes, business’s and zombies with each flash of lightening as they neared the town center.

“Need a place to stop for the night, last thing we need is to plow into the back of a wreck or something and get stuck out in the open for the zombies to find.” Steve commented from behind the wheel of the Van. Lightening was flickering wildly, and almost regularly across the sky.

The weather in Tennessee had been kind of rough and wild the last few years, so much so that storms like this were, if not common, not all that unusual either. Jared pulled the Topo map out of his pack, and saw Logan shaking his head slowly. “ where in the hell did you get all the maps, it seems like you have a map for everywhere we go”

Jared grinned in the darkness. “Well, honestly. Partly its because of doing guide, work. We’ve ran trips up into the Rim before, but the other reason I collected maps, mostly topo maps, but I had some really good ones I didn’t bring, that though old wouldn’t have been much use to this situation.” Jared said.

“ thank god you didn’t collect star wars figures or something,” Logan said and started laughing no one saw Steve’s face in the darkness as he clenched his jaw, but the anguish he felt vanished almost as fast as it had come.
“ speaking of star wars I wonder how our very own Crusty Yoda is doing “ Ronny called from the back, where he sat with Mary between his legs. “ Last time I saw pappy he was threatening Linda with wrinkled sex.”

Jill burst out laughing tension forgotten. “ you pill pushing pussy licking lesbian, you need your self some good old wrinkled loving, come sit on my lap and find out what a real man is like” she said mimicking Pappy’s raspy voice. Ronny burst out laughing she did such a good job.

“ you half crippled, foul mouthed, lice ridden, Petri dish for unknown veneral diseased, old fart Id rather sit on a jack hammer and have my brains pushed out my nose than see that old shrivled penis of yours” Steve said suddenly, quoting Linda, having been there when it happened. “ Pappy sat there for a minute then looked at her, you were doing pretty good with that come back till you used the word penis, Dick, cock, or schlong would have been a much better choice, Linda damn near turned purple”

Jared surprised himself by laughing with the rest of them, as he studied the map under a dim blue light. “We are on fifth street, or 49, go one block, then turn left after that keep going there should be a hotel down that road, not exactly sure where, its just a notation I made on the map.”

Steve nodded, as silence fell in the van again broken only but a peel of thunder that shook the van. Spotting the turn he turned left and slowed down to almost a crawl. He and Jared peering intently thru the rain trying to find the building,

“ why a hotel” Jill asked. “ because its on the map, and it’s a motel which means a big parking lot for all the vehicles. And it’s the only place I know of with out getting a phone book.” Jared said.

“ fuck the phone book, you remember the last phone book.” Ori said from the darkness in the back.

“ he wasn’t that big” Jared replied, half smiling.

“ he was twice as big as Steve, hell his arms were as big as steves legs, that thing couldn’t fit thru the door with out going at an angle. It wasn’t natural” Ori replied.

“ the dead walking isn’t natural. Or do you think he, might have been working out at Golds gym in between eating people” Jared asked.

“ laugh it up now, but when a clown shows up, just remember this moment” Ori said with a laugh of his own. “ Bozo the cannibal clown, and you know they always travel in packs, unless it’s a walmart clown. Those are the loners of the clown world.”

“ screw that fucking mimes are creepier “ Mary said, snuggling against Ronny, “ way creepier”

“ she had to shoot one in Nashville before I got there” Ronny said wrapping an arm around her.

“ never liked mimes” she replied.

“ speaking of we are only about forty minutes from my house” Jared said, then leaned forward as he saw something to the right in a flash of lightening “ Steve did you see that” he asked.

“ where?” Steve asked, “ to the right, slow down. Oh shit” Jared said as the saw the zombies ahead, no more than dark shapes in the rain even with NVG’s on, and they were all heading the same direction.

“look at that, there’s somebody over there,” He said pointing, Steve didn’t need to ask, he knew Jared to well, he turned and ran over the zombies in front of them, the van bounced over a curb, he twisted the wheel and drove around two police cars and into the parking lot. Jared was passing instructions to the others.

****************************

Amy woke to thunder and lightening, the temperature had dropped and it was actually cool in the truck. Which was welcome, since rolling down the windows to let some cool air in wasn’t the brightest thing to do all things considered.

She lay there, in the dark and only slowly became aware of a scratching noise coming from the passenger side of the truck. She sucked in a breath, refusing to look.

Thunder shook the truck, and as it faded she heard something thump against the side of the truck. Oh fuck, she thought as she pulled the blanket down from over her head and looked.

Lightening flashed outside, and that flash she saw something looking in the window at her. She only barely managed not to scream, as she scrambled up and put her back against the other door. as the light faded and now all she could see was a shape darker than the night, peering into the window. It knew she was there.

it tilted its head, almost as if studying her from the other side of the glass, and at the moment another flash of lightening illuminated the area and she saw it had a narrow triangular face, with a huge beak nose, and high checkbones. Its eyes glittered like white marbles in the shadow cast by the bowler hat it wore, but it was the cold mocking smile, that chilled her blood. zombies didn’t smile, ever.

The light faded again, plunging her world into darkness. She fumbled around in the dark and located her pistol half under her pack and immediately felt better. As fast as she could she shoved her stuff back into the pack. And then tossed it into the front passenger seat on top of the other things she had moved up there. She snaked between the seats and slipped into the drivers seat.

As she reached for the key, she heard three rapid taps on the front passenger door window, and a voice as cold as ice and sibilant hissed in her mind or maybe in real life, I see you it said, she almost sobbed with fear, as her skin prickled so badly it hurt.. she grabbed the key and twisted, the truck tried to start but that was it.

Coming for you Cheerleader, strip the skin from your flesh, and eat you alive and screaming. The voice seemed to echo in her skull.

Fuck you” she shouted as she tried the key again and got nothing but cranking. Lightening flashed again and she saw the whole parking lot was full of undead, standing there shoulder to shoulder watching the truck.

No fucking way she thought wildly, she had no idea what to do, she had never seen this kind of zombie action.

She could sense the weird zombie at the window, staring at her, smiling but she refused to look. She took a deep breath, think girl think they are zombies, stupid slow, and to damn many of them. stop that, your not helping.
Her eyes fell on the grocery store, doors and a plan formed, it wasn’t much of one, in fact it was dumber than hell. But it was all she had, she could stay here in the truck, and probably be safe. But she would starve to death sooner rather than later. So no thank you Senor. So running was the only option, if she could reach the back of the store. And get out the rear doors, then she might be able to make it. if not, well, she always had her pistol.

Now that’s fucked up, Im still a teenager and I have to think about eating a bullet so I don’t get eaten.

She ignored the tapping from the passenger side, except to flip the bird at it. might as well act brave even though I might have search the aisles for some depends before I make my escape.

She was so glad she was normally organized she decided as she dug into a side pocket on the pack and pulled out a green military flashlight, shaped like a j, that she had picked up while searching a surplus store. And then a small LED three bulb light that clipped to the brim of hat. Stay calm ignore them. she told herself as her eyes drifted up to see zombies pressing up against the hood of the truck. She muttered curses under her breath shaking with fear as she dug thru some of the other gear bags and added some of what she found to her own pack.

She pulled on a combat harness, and then clipped the green light to the harness on her left shoulder, checked to make sure all the pouches were still secured to the harness. All but one of the pouches were fill with survival stuff, spare batteries, and a first aid kit. Her dad had insisted on her having something with her in case of Emergencies, though she doubted zombies eating the world had been on his list of possible emergency sitatuations. .

She took a deep breath, turned the key in the ignition and rolled down the drivers door window. Turning she leaned over the seat, and duck around till she found the tool box mike had insisted they keep in the truck. She pulled into the front seat, and almost panicked as the truck jerked as the crowd of undead lunged at the truck.

She opened the tool box, flipped on the dome light, which seemed to really excite the dead folks. It only took her a moment to find a flat head screw driver and lever the stores sliding door open enough to get her fingers inside and pull. After a year, the door was hard to open and she was sweating and cursing by the time she got it open wide enough to slip through.

She turned off the key, who knows maybe if there is no light they cant see me go in. she tossed her pack into the store, then slipped out after it. she landed on the tile floor and peered into the darkness, for a moment she debated on shutting the store door, but decide against it, just in case she needed a place to run.

All she could see were shadows of rows and rows of shelves, she didn’t dare turn on her light just yet. She waited for the next flash of lightening and saw the aisle directly ahead of her was clear and started down it. once she was far enough away, she turned on the red lensed light, and crept down the aisle, pausing only long enough to grab some cans of soup from the shelf and shove them into her pack, nervously looked both ways trying not to gag at the lingering smell of rotted food. But no stink of undead which was a plus she thought. She looked back at the store front and wished she hadn’t. the zombies had moved up and were pawing at the plate glass windows now.

Shit she thought, but Im here and I need stuff, she thought feeling braver now that she was out of the truck, she stepped out of the aisle at the back of the store where the freezers, coolers and meat section ran across the back of the store and looked both ways, not seeing any thing she moved carefully checking each aisle for zombies then the signs above the aisle to see what it contained.

Wasting to much time she told herself, as she gathered up some of the feminine hygiene products she had needed desperately, some cheap make up, you never know when you might met a hot living guy, even one of the small bottles of M10, in the tea and mango flavors. That stuff was magic, she loved it. just a couple of drops in a water bottle or a glass of water and instant Tea or mango juice. God she was going to miss science and technology when they ran out of stuff like M10. now feeling like time was running out she grabbed every box and box of Beef Jerky and beef sticks. And then headed for the doors into the stock room.

It was silent in the store except for the thuds and pawing of the zombies at the front. She moved as silently as she could but each foot fall sounded hollow on the tile floor as she drew even with the stainless doors, that seemed to grow in her vision till the filled it. there should be a sign that reads, abandon all hope all ye who enter here she thought, the palms of her hands slick with nervous sweat. Her hearbeat pulsed loudly in her ears. The sudden feeling of being watched made her yank her head around from side to side, but she still saw nothing but deep darkness that could hide the hordes of hell.

I need a pair of garden shears and a banjo she told herself, if it was good enough for woody its good enough for me. She thought as she pushed the door open slowly with her off hand and peered into the stockroom.

The red light didn’t go all that far, but she preferred it to the bright white light of the LED hat light. Believing that zombies might not notice the red light,she might as well go get a bottle of BBQ sauce strip naked and invite them to eat if she turned on the LED light.

She moved quietly past half full shelves that rose into the darkness above, eyes straining into the darkness. Suddenly the room lit up, as the lightening that flashed outside spilled thru a skylight set high above. Her heart thudded in chest as the stark actinic light revealed a three zombies, one no more than ten feet in front of her, slowly shuffling towards her in.

She also spotted a door, twenty feet down past the three zombies. Their behind me too, she thought panicked, as she realized the smell of the undead was partially masked by the smell of long rotted food that still hung in the air. She didn’t look behind her, not this girl, she knew the rules, look back and you get eaten. She reached up and flicked on the LED light.

The zombie, a tall lanky, partially devoured, sandy haired stock boy, opened its mouth wide, and lifted its arms as it started to lunge at her. Amy side stepped and darted past it, running for all she was worth past shelves of goods, plastic covered pallets, stacks of dog food and a ton of other things she couldn’t see well and wasn’t going to take the time to check out.

She saw the next zombie staggering towards her, when it was close enough to lunge at her, Amy threw herself into a slide, and was past. She scrambled to her feet and barely avoided the clutching hands of the third zombie.

She ran for her life towards the back door, spotting yet another zombie, half her face ripped off, stagger out from behind a corner of shelves. Amy saw the crashbar on the door and sobbed in relief as she hit it and burst out into the rain.

Oh my god She thought as she saw all the zombies, she still had a chance, they were spread out, and if she didn’t fuck up she could run around them, it wasn’t a great chance. But it beat being trapped in the store.

She ran, the storm crashing and rolling around her, towards the field and woods behind the store, beyond that she could see Highway 41.

She burst thru a stand of trees and fell into a creek, blinded as white light reflected off the water and struck her in the eyes. Oh shit, the light, ive been broadcasting where Im at, she thought as she clicked off the light. The storm tossed night embraced her.

She floundered thru the creek, then up the other side, then ran for the highway. At least there would be cars she could use for cover.

She was just even with an abandoned truck and two cars, partially obscured from sight, when lightening flashed again, and she saw ahead of her, on the highway, a zombie standing between two cars.

It stood there lashed by wind and rain, staring into the night, its bony shoulders hunched forward, long arms dangling by its side, as its oddly shaped head turned to and fro, searching for its quarry, as the wind tugged at the bowler hat it wore. It was looking directly opposite her position. As soon as the light faded she but on a burst of speed for the line of vehicles she had seen just ahead, she would use them to keep out of sight as she kept heading towards the CVS.

The ground was saturated, water squelched up with ever footfall. She was soaked to the skin and cold as she almost slipped and fell in mud reaching the cars. She caught herself by grabbing at the side of a car, and then using the vehicles to help she kept moving.

She looked back as lightening flashed and wished she hadn’t, that thing, was peaking around the back of the last car in the line on the shoulder, her eye sight seemed preternaturally sharp, she could actually make out the sharp pointed teeth revealed by the quivering smile it gave her.

A voice cold and sibilant whispered in her ear, or her mind, she couldn’t tell and didn’t care she only wished she couldn’t hear the words “ I see you “ that struck ice in her veins.
.
“ Fuck you” she shouted back at it and put on speed and then had to run towards the highway Veering away from the large group of undead that stood in the street. She was breathing heavily, as she ran onto the road. and only the red light from the military flash light kept her from running into the car that was suddenly in front of her, she ran around it, then screamed as a zombie came from the left. She leaped up on the trunk of the car, and almost slipped and fell on the rain slicked metal. The wind tore at her, but she scrambled on her hands and feet up on to the car roof that sunk under her weight with a soft noise, Then leaped onto the road between her car and the next and took off running south, deeper into the traffic and the town.

The actions of the closet zombies called to others, who turned and began to shamble after their fellows, who had alerted them to prey, soon Zombies from all over streamed towards the area where new prey had been spotted, they splashed thru the water soaked streets, surging towards the young girl like a flood of putrid rotting flesh intent only on feeding. Urged on by a shadowy, half seen shape that was neither prey nor like them. it capered in the rain, enjoying the game as the undead flowed past it in the raging storm.
This was its time, and it would enjoy it for eternity.
Amy seeing all yet more undead ahead of her turned to the left and ran across the highway to the other side, slipping and sliding into a parking lot. Her only thought was to get out of sight of the zombies so she could hide, if she started shooting it would only draw all those that hear the shots and that was a lot of zombies.

She turned back north, and ran across the parking lot past the building, over a divider into another parking lot. She wove around the cars and trucks, realizing that quite a few of the vehicles were sheriffs Department cars. She ran for the doors of the building, if she were lucky there were no zombies inside. Her luck hadn’t been up to par tonight as is, she was due a turn.

She was running for the doors, when the frosted glass door with the county seal and Badge opened and she saw something dark emerge. She backpedaled trying to stop her forward momentum, and slipped and fell on her ass. She scrambled up sobbing in fear, and finally pulled her pistol, as she looked back behind her, and saw in a flash of lightening, zombies coming from the building next door, and from the direction of the highway. Another flash and she saw more emerging from the Sheriffs office and from across the street, she was surrounded.

She drew her pistol, she had fourteen shots to waste on zombies, the fifteenth was for her, now that she knew she was going to die, she felt calm. She shot down the first zombie that had emerged from the Sheriffs station. Then the next, those were the closet to her. She couldn’t do anything about the wall of zombies that encircled her, there were to closely packed for her to slip thru and get away. And at the moment to far to reach her in the next minute or so.

It was just slightly possible that she could shoot ever zombie that had come out of the station and escape inside, but maybe not. As long as she didn’t get eaten alive and come back as one of those things. There were way to many zombie cheerleaders out there, she refused to be part of the crowd, anymore.

She fired till the knew she had one shot left and then drew the big knife that Lee had insisted she carry, she charged the next zombie, and actually managed to skewer it thru the eye socket, but her knife was twisted out of her hand as it went down. Unarmed she faced the last three zombies. “ well Dad, guess I’ll be seeing you in a few moments” She said backing up and placing her pistol under her chin, tears ran down her cheeks, but they were washed away by the storm.

And then bright white light filled the night and a sound like the god of war hammering filled the air. The heads of the three zombies in front of her exploded one by one as they turned confused towards the light.

And then a mans voice “ your okay, come on we have to hurry” a large hot hand touched her shoulder urging her to follow, the machine gun was still hammering away at the still growing crowd of undead. Bodies tumbled and fell, many of them to mangled to stand again.

Suddenly the rain stopped as she was lifted and put into a vehicle men piling in around her, and then some one slid the side door shut. And the van was in motion. “ about to be eaten our intrepid cheerleader is kidnapped from under the teeth of the cannibals, will she survive her kidnapping, tune in next….. Amy said never finishing her comment, as she passed out.

“ to many damn romance novels if you ask me” Ori said.

* * * *
The storm rocked the area, spawning a couple of tornadoes that tore across some farmland, and a trailer park. In town, the wind damaged rooftops, up rooted trees, sent limbs and other debris flying to break windows and litter the roads, here and there some signs toppled over. A light pole came down blocking 8th street on the west side of 41, lightening struck a warehouse in the industrial park and set it ablaze, the sullen orange glow of the hot burning fire could be seen for miles.

Under the glare of the lightening that danced across the sky and the rolling boom of thunder the undead moved thru the streets in masses that swarmed up and down streets, the noise of the storm and the pouding debris causing them to try find the source of the noise and the moving items. Sound and movement meant food and the undead swarmed seeking the living.
* * *

Amy awoke in a bed, a real honest to god bed, with a light, a real electric light. She sat up and realized she was wearing only a tshirt. “ your safe” a woman said. Amy turned and saw a beautiful dark haired woman, sitting on the corner of the bed. Dressed in a thick black leather outfit with a high collar. That she was stacked was pretty obvious to Amy who felt a twinge of jealousy. Not that Amy had anything to be ashamed of. But it was an automatic response to a woman she felt was superior to her in looks, get shallow much she thought.

“ thanks, I … where am I” she asked looking around the room, which wasn’t all that large come to think of it.

“ a motorhome that belongs to a friend of mine. And before you ask, I was the one who got your soaking wet clothes off and got that Tshirt onto you. And I made sure none of the dogs, I mean men were in the room.”

Amy tugged at the tshirt noting the brigh silk screend emblem of the marines and almost lost it, her Boyfriend had been planning on joining the Marines, so they could get married. The lights, the room and the damn shirt threatened to send her off into a crying jag.

“ thanks for that, but how do I know your not some pervy lesbian who got off to undressing me” Amy asked, more to take her mind off the memorys than any real desire to hear an answer.

“You don’t, but trust me when I say My husband would love for that to be true so he could watch.. I’m Jill by the way” Jill said with a warm smile trying to set the girl at ease.

“Amy, Amy Weiss.” Amy replied.

“Nice to meet you Amy, your damn lucky we were passing when we did.” Jill said as she unzipped her jacket and pulled it off.

“The storms passing “ Amy said suddenly as it registered the noise from the rain had lessened considerably.

Jill nodded “probably blow out by dawn.” She said, smiling at the Girl.
“We have to get my friends they are trapped in the CVS store “ Amy said suddenly, concern and fear in her voice. “ we came into town to try and get medicine for one of our people who was sick..” Amy told the story quickly, all relaxation and the wonder of electric power gone now.

Jill eyed her for a moment then rose and walked to the door. “ Jared, We need to talk “ she said as she opened the door.

* * *
Paul sat listening to the storm slowly wind down. He sighed, he loved storms, always had. Loved them even more now, they helped mask a man from the zombies.
Hopefully his windmill hadn’t blown over, he would have a hell of a time rebuilding it.
His back still hadn’t recovered from the putting the dam thing up.
And he wasn’t quite ready to lose lights and other conviences just right, not at his age,
“ I brought you some tea, “ Mariah said entering the basement room that served as their living room.

at sixty eight, she was still slim and beautiful, even with the extra lines., she had also donned the long white dress he loved so much. God had been kind when he had come across her late last year. They had spent days just talking and slowly, fell in love.

He eyed her body, which looked twenty years younger than her age never failed to excite him, he grinned, she made him feel like a teen ager again. between her personality, her looks, her body and that soft Scottish accent, he couldn’t get enough. Neither of them expected to live to much longer in this world. A few years if they were lucky, but not much more than that before some kind of health problem took them away. So they lived for each and every day, since it might well be their last one.

“ thank you “ he said accepting the mug, she often said she was going to go into Springfield and find proper china tea cups, it was blasphemy to serve proper tea in coffee mugs.

She nodded, and sat down with her own cup, and looked at him over the lip through the steam. “ its almost over isn’t it” she asked, nodding towards the ceiling.

“ the storm yes, and then its haul my creaky old ass outside and see what the damage is” he said, then sipped the steaming tea. “ this is excellent thank you” he said smiling.

“ I had to make my own blend out of what we had around the house, but I agree its very good.” She said. They both fell silent as something crashed upstairs.

“ you don’t think, one of them got in” she asked looking towards the basement door.

Paul got up faster than he normally would have driven by fear, he moved quickly to the door that gave access to the stairwell, he engaged the dead bolt and slowly and more importantly quietly lowered the cross bar into place. From the other side he heard something thump on the stairs on the other side of the door.

Beside the door, was a panel he had built and installed on a roller track. The panel was composed of sound dampening material. The rest of the basement apartment was essentially sound proof, the door how ever wasn’t, which was what the panel was for. He slid the panel into place across the door, and then piked up the pistol he kept close by the door before moving back to his chair and his cup of tea.

He settled himself back in his chair and smiled reassuringly at her. “ it will be okay, if it doesn’t hear anything it will move on.” He explained quietly. “ the storm must have taken down a section of fence. It will be fine he said pointing to the double doors that led the ramp up to the surface, the double door up on the ground were carefully concealed.

At one point years ago he had planned on using half the basement as a garage, the ramp had been dug and its walls lined with cinderblock before he decided against it. so he had locked the heavy metal doors up top, placed a tarp over it, covered it with a thin layer of topsoil. Every couple of years he had to replace the tarp, but he had felt the need to keep potential thieves from knowing there was an easy access to the house.

When the zombies had come, he had carefully removed the tarp, with out disturbing the top soil and the grass that grew in it to one side, then opened the doors, and began to carry things he thought he might need down into the basement from the barn and his work shop. Once he had that completed he backed his jeep down the ramp and parked it, before closing and relocking the doors, and covering it again with the tarp to conceal it once more.

In a pinch he planned on unlocking the doors, and using the jeep to push them open and leaving. In truth he doubted he would ever leave. He was to old to hit the road and scavenge to survive. No, hopefully there was only a couple of zombies in his yard and he could quietly kill them off and repair the fence with out giving himself a heart attack in the process.
Mariah looked nervous, he leaned over and patted her hand. “ it will be alright” he assured her.

She nodded mutely then gave him a smile and rose smoothly. “ well I think this calls for a good dinner don’t you “ she said. He nodded appreciating the view, she turned and walked into the small kitchen he had built down here when he had thought of turning the basement into an apartment and renting it out. So may ideas had come and gone, for years I had chided myself for getting started and then changing my mind, but now, every thing I did back then has benefited me now. makes a man almost believe in the guiding hand of God, he thought.

But of course he did, and the other side was well. Mariah might doubt, and all those still left in the world might doubt it, but some few knew better. The devil walked the land these days, and his servants proceeded him.

But he could be beaten, his only real weapons, were the undead, fools who believed his promises, and despair. The last one was the most deadly in many respects. But there was more so much more to the whole situation, that no one not even himself knew. Suspected yes, but over the thousands of years of the history of man, much had been lost, or possibly even destroyed by the tools of Evil. So that only hints, myths and fragments remained.

He rose and walked over to the large book shelf that spanned the twenty foot southern wall of the living room, taking it down he considered the book in his hands, his journal actually.. He moved slowly to his desk and lowered himself into the chair. Then ran a hand slowly over the leather cover. years of research had gone into this, the book that he had once been determined to publish, so that all the lost knowledge he had gathered would be there for those in the future.

But it had become more than an academic exercise, more than passing on lost knowledge for future studies, it had become real to him. He had come to believe in Evil, that walked the earth at certain points of history. Let loose, or uncontrollable by good he didn’t know. But there had been so many legends, hidden away in small remote tribes, so many manuscripts rarely seen by western scholars, or any others for that matter that had hinted of it. ancient cities and cultures swept away with no trace but myth to mark their passing, the grim reapers that had stalkedthe world during the black death a thousand and one legends and myth that might just have a basis’s in reality.

He patted the thick book as gently as if it were his child, in a way it was. He thought then smiled as he heard Mariah sofly humming in the kitchen. The smile faded slowly as the temperature seemed to drop in the room.

The lights seemed to dim ever so slightly, Paul sighed, he was almost too old for this sort of thing. What was that line from that movie “ gods gunslinger with his prayer book at his side” he said aloud. “ I think I prefer a gun”

It was here, more shadow than reality, but the evil that clung about it was like a putrid stench in his nose. He was almost to terrified to look around, and then he knew it was standing behind him, smiling that bloody smile he had seen in his dreams.

“I know you” Paul said softly,” what you’ve become” his voice trembled, his heart thudded in his chest. I will not die of a heart attack He told himself.
His eyes were fixed on the cluttered desk top, his old clunky laptop, bills that never needed to be paid now, books and papers dealing with his research. And then his eyes fell on one book, Prayers and poems from Mesopotamia. And memory stirred,

“Seven are they, seven are they!
In the channel of the deep seven are they!
In the radiance of heaven seven are they!
In the channel of the deep in a palace grew they up”

His voice was weak with fear, but it grew steadier as he spoke.
He didn’t know if it would help or not but the words of the charm to ward away the seven demons of ancient myth spilled from his lips. But he could sense the anger of the thing, once human who mocked all that lived and was decent.

“Male they are not, female they are not.
In the midst of the deep are their paths.
Wife they have not, son they have not.
Order and kindness know they not.
Prayer and supplication hear they not.
The cavern in the mountain they enter.
Unto Hea are they hostile.
The throne-bearers of the gods are they.
Disturbing the lily in the torrents are they set.
Baleful are they, baleful are they.
Seven are they, seven are they, seven twice again are they.
May the spirits of heaven remember, may the spirits of earth remember.”

The lights flickered and began to glow brighter, and if anything the hatred that radiated from the thing grew stronger even as its presence seemed to fade.

He finally turned his head, and his hearted slammed into his ribs, as he saw the spindly limbed evil thing. Its shoulders hunched forward, and white eyes full of malice glared out of from under the brim of its old bowler hat. And the smile of blood stained pointed teeth that slowly faded from views and words so faint they could have been no more than a sigh “ Im coming for you old man”

“Maybe you are, but they will get here first” Paul whispered.

Mariah appeared in the door with dinner, fish sticks and mac and cheese he smiled at her, as something else from Mesopotamia occurred to him. A line from a poem about the Seven Demons, the drinkers of blood,

The high enclosures, the broad enclosures like a flood they pass through.
From house to house they dash along.
No door can shut them out,
No bolt can turn them back.
Through the door, like a snake, they glide,
Through the hinge, like the wind, they storm.
Tearing the wife from the embrace of the man,
Snatching the child from the knees of a man,
Driving the freedman from his family home.
Whether the seven actually existed, or the legends were based on something like what had just been in his home, he didn’t know. But something he had discovered was important enough for it pay special attention to him. Got you scared don’t I, well good. He thought. If his dreams bore out, he would be having guests before long. And then he could pass along his lifes work, and after that, god willing he and Mariah could be left alone to live out their lives.

* * * *

Lee had spent most of the time, looking over the building, it was of modern design, which meant a lot of wasted space, but most of it was of little use. in the stock room there was no drop ceiling, and nothing to up there to sit on but beams and duct work which wouldn’t hold a mans weight.

The only bright point was the access ladder to the roof, so if the damn things get inside, they could retreat to the roof. Starving on the roof, was at least better than being torn apart and eaten alive in his book.

The only other options they had short of the roof of the building was the roof of the office area, halfway up the ladder a maintenance guy would get off on the interior roof to work on the Evaporator units not that he considered the interior roof strong enough to hold all of them, but in a pinch it might be worth a shot.

The sun should be up soon he realized, and the storm was fading in intensity. Which was damn good, having a once in a existence zombie event couple with a once in a century storm was a bit much, as far as he was concerned. Bright side the wind hadn’t sent something smashing thru the window.

Beyond that there was nothing he could really do beyond stacking the heavy metal shelves to block off the doors to the interior and Mike and a couple of others were already doing that. he wasn’t sure if it would hold for long, but if it kept the undead from seeing them escape it would be worth the effort.

He turned to see Carrie, standing at the far end of the stock room, since her screaming fit no one wanted much to do with her. Especially me, who seemed to be her constant target for sex. Even if he had been inclined, waking up and seeing her sitting there in the light of a lantern watching Mike sleep with so much malice in her eyes, he would have lose the urge that very moment.

No he didn’t trust her, and though he couldn’t explain it to any one else there was something about her that bothered him. Something dark and dangerous, till earlier, no one else had seen it, they had only seen only the bitchy side. But earlier today, had been something else. And now every one was on edge.

He turned his head to glance at Mike, when he stopped and saw, that three bottles of charcoal lighter fluid were missing from the shelf. Immediately his eyes went to Carrie at the far end of the stock room.

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