This story, Featuring Jasper Brown, is not mine but written by T.Greening and posted with his permission.
Bob stood looking at the body at his feet feeling a bit confused, not for the first time since he hooked up (no, not in that way) with his companion. Companion being not much more than a description of convenience since the relationship they shared couldn’t really be described as companionship. In all reality it couldn’t really be described as a relationship either. It was more along the lines of two people heading the same direction…. for the time being. He was a big man. Bob figured somewhere close to 6’5″, broad shouldered, narrow of hip, and long legged. There was no doubt in his mind that if not for his big friend he’d have been dead long ago, either from starvation, the straight up Rat Bastards that seem to permeate what was left of the world these days, or from the never ending horde of undead that roamed the landscape. He let out a little snort at the tail end of that thought. “Face it Bob ol’ boy, you wouldn’t have lived long enough to starve, it would have been a toss up between death by sudden loss of body mass or death by Rat Bastard”. He knew his friend had been hunting the oddly dressed thing at their feet, though he didn’t know why. He knew because it had begun to invade his dreams shortly after he had started tagging along with the big man. It seemed very interested in finding a way to stop Bobs friend from hunting it down, and had been terrorizing Bob trying to force him to help. The one major problem there was that even if Bob had been interested in helping, as far as he could tell he didn’t even exist in the eye of the person he’d been traveling with. He never looked at Bob, never spoke to him, never had any direct interaction with him at all. Bob survived because he existed within the bubble of safety his companion created around himself.
He brought himself back to the here and now with a shake of his head. He might not be especially survival savvy, but he was smart enough to know that lack of focus these days could make you not quite very dead, but get you there very quick. Glancing around his surroundings he couldn’t help but notice the place looked like a small scale war had taken place, which stood to reason since the outside grounds looked like a large scale war had taken place. Burned out buildings, vehicles… bodies everywhere, both the dead undead and the regular dead dead, and of course packs of the forever hungry.
Bobs companion suddenly finished his silent contemplation of the body at their feet and stunned him by doing two things he had never done in all the long months they had been traveling together. He looked directly at him….and he spoke. “I need you to do something for me”.
Bob Mathias couldn’t have been more average if his name had been Joe Average. He was an average looking man, with an average job, and an average family living in an average home in an average neighborhood in Average Town, USA. Unfortunately his average life went all to shit shortly after arriving at work, and it was all downhill from there. The radio reports he listened to while on his usual commute only half grabbed his attention. Those people were simply sick and would be handled by the government, of this he was quite sure. This was the good ol’ US of A after all. It only took a moderate amount of effort to delude himself that some of the scenes he witnessed on his drive to work were not what they appeared to be, and besides, there weren’t all that many of them. Bob parked in his usual spot, grabbed his breifcase and headed into the little office complex where he worked, ready to start another exciting day of insurance adjusting. The office was just one of a number in a little single level building, which itself was just one of a number of buildings in one of those small industrial complexes some marketing genius decided to call a Business Incubator. Like most the one he worked in was located on the outskirts of town in what would be considered a semi-rural area. Land was cheaper out there.
As he headed to his cubicle he noticed that what coworkers had beat him into the office that day were all gathered around one desk, watching news on the net. They weren’t “supposed” to be able to do such things on their company computers, but when you employ tech savy people and sit them down in front of a web connected computer…..well, things happen. He was about to comment about things like bosses, the economy, and job security, when the back of one head turned into the front of a head that happened to belong to The Boss. “Bob, getcher ass over here, this is important!” He hurried over and looked at the monitor everyone was gathered in front of. On screen was a local news cast being given by your typical newscaster. Wax face, hair that didn’t move, and the best dental work small town news caster money could buy. He was doing his best to maintain a professional front, but his eyes betrayed the lie. He actually looked relieved to utter the standard “now let’s go live” phrase used by his type everywhere.
As it turned out, when the feed switched to the field unit, live was something of an overstatement since very little on screen actually was. The cameraman had either beat a hasty but well advised retreat, or turned into the special of the day, because the camera was on the ground and the view was of some poor schmuck that was literally serving as a buffet for a couple of very hungry but damaged beyond all ability to live citizens. Around the monitor were a handful of silent open jaws, and a number muttering Jesus Christs and oh shits. One particularly creative individual said holy screaming eagle shit, stood up and bolted for the door. Bob stood up in something of a daze and headed to his desk, his mind trying to process what he had seen on the monitor and put it into some form he could deal with. These things just didn’t happen in his world. The fear developing in the office finally started to punch through the fog in his brain….”think Bob, think”! The only thing that came to mind was to get home to the wife and kids, and with that thought he grabbed his keys and along with most everyone else headed for the door.
Outside was surprisingly normal, except for the crowds of people exiting the various businesses in the park. Sirens could be heard off towards town and by the smoke visible it was obvious there was more than one fire going. Sudden gunfire off in the distance, a lot of it, brought everyone outside to a stop, but not for long. Getting out took on a renewed sense of urgency and people began to panic. Bob watched the cute blond from the office next door doing her best to hurry in high heels and a skirt, disappear under the bumper of her bosses car as he shot back out of his parking space. He either didn’t notice, or that point didnt’ care, because he drug her all the way across the lot as he swung around to point himself at the exit, and then shot out into the street without so much as a look back. The fact that a human being had just been run down in front of them actually registered in the brains of a few and they hurried over to help. Unfortunately help was way beyond necessary for the young girl who was now not much more than a mauled and mangled mess. One leg was broken to the point shattered bone had pierced the meat, her once pretty face was badly mangled, and the flesh from one side of her head had been pretty much scraped away from being drug across the rough concrete lot. He had started to walk over to join the small group of her co-workers gathered around her, for what he wasn’t exactly sure since it was quite obvious she was beyond help, but it seemed like the normal thing to do. He was only about 3 steps away when the girls eyes suddenly popped open and latched onto a young woman kneeling at her side. Everyone had frozen in place, completely unable to fathom what they saw, until the girls arm shot out, grabbing onto the kneeling womans throat and drew her down close enough to rip off the side of her face with snapping teeth.
To say that chaos erupted would have been a gross understatement as any semblance of civilized behavior disappeared in a flash. As Bob backpedaled towards his car it occurred to him that the only thing going through his mind at the moment was “shit! Shit! Shit!”. Get OUT Bob he thought, finally turning around and sprinting for his car, along with every other soul in the lot. He hopped in and managed to fumble his key into the ignition and get it started without turning into one of those horror movie cliches. He started to head for the exit but noted right off that rules of the road had gone out the window right along with with the rest of civilization…it was already plugged up with fender benders, and he noticed that the two female “victims” from mere minutes ago had somehow already turned into four victims and they were making their way to the accidents, whose participants seemed unaware. Bob watched in morbid fascination as a man who was reaching into a drivers side window, apparently in an attempt to help another man trapped behind his wheel, was taken down from behind. The trapped mans screaming terror stricken face disappeared from view as one of the earlier victims leaned into the window. Bob decided hanging around to see the outcome of that encounter might not be entirely good for his health, so he pointed his car towards the nearest path that didn’t have anything in it, and hit the gas. Lucky for him the industrial park builders hadn’t thought it necessary to pour any actual concrete curbs so getting out didn’t take much more that putting some ruts in some grass, and then he was on the road and headed for home. It hadn’t occurred to him yet that what was happening was likely orders of magnitude worse in the city, and his average home was situated right smack in the middle of your average suburban neighborhood. “Susan!” he thought and fumbled his cell phone out of his shirt pocket, thumbing the speed dial. Each unanswered ring caused his fear to rise, till finally after the 6th he heard his wifes voice.
Bob?, said her fear laden voice. Relief washed over him for only a moment as the next thing he heard was the sound of breaking glass and a horrified scream…..
The Last Day:
Martinn was something of an enigma to all his co-workers. He rarely spoke unless spoken to, and whenever he did speak it was short and to the point, never evolving into just “conversation”. He was never rude, just….uninterested. He always did his job without question, comment, or failure. From all appearances Martinn was thee model employee. Normally this might elicit some negative attention from his co-workers, but his mild manner not withstanding, his sheer physical size gave pause to all but the most dull of the clueless. He stood 6’4” tall, not a giant by any stretch but quite a bit taller than average, and he was 245 lbs of muscle. Broad shouldered, narrow hipped, and long legged, he was built very much like a football player and to top it off he was that most irritating of muscular athletic people, the kind that didn’t have to work at it. The one time Martinn was in a “fight”at the company, it’s conclusion was somewhat anti-climatic, and unknown to him at the time it came on his last day of employment. His assailant, for lack of a better term, had been with the company about 5 yrs and considered himself someone of seniority, if not especially quick wit. That latter not being what he thought, but rather everyone else. Being a not small fella himself, and quite willing to leverage that fact to get his way, most people kept their opinions to themselves. Joe( though “Bubba” would have been a more fitting name) had taken an immediate dislike to Martinn, feeling him to be a threat to his workplace dominance.
As usual break time in the employee lunch room was all about the Joe Show. The subjects were Joes, the jokes were Joes, most of the talking was done by Joe. To say that it was generally low-brow would be an insult to people with low brows. Martinn walked in and headed for the coffee machine and would have taken his usual solitary spot at a corner table but for whatever reason, Joe had chosen today to push his dominance. The rest of the guys at the table could tell today was different by the way Joes eyes followed Martinn from the instant he walked in. That and the fact that he let his play by play recount of the prior nights activities with “that bitch he was bangin” drift to a halt. Dale, an older man in his early 60s and the closest thing to a friend Joe had, shook his head almost imperceptibly and said “leave it Joe. Just let it go”. No worries Dale, I’m just going to have a little pow-wow with my friend over there. Dale had known Joe since he was kid, and while he wasn’t especially impressed with how he conducted himself as an adult, he knew that for the most part he was just a harmless loudmouth with a little too much bully mixed in. Dale had been around the block more than once, seen a lot of dust ups in his day, and watching Joe head across the room he was fairly certain he was getting ready to write a check his ass had no chance to cover.
Hey Tree-top! Martinn, coffee cup in hand, slowly turned away from the machine to face Joe. Like almost everyone he knew, he had to look down at the man standing before him and he could tell this irritated him. He could see by the look on Joes face that today was going to be the day and he sighed inside. He was only vaguely aware of what the man was saying as he contemplated his options. Fighting was the last thing he wanted to do. He wasn’t entirely sure why, he just had a vague feeling that to do so would be extraordinarily bad and he wanted to avoid it at all costs. Martinn knew the other guys all felt he was a bit odd but he had never figured out a way explain to them, or anyone else, that the reason he came across as enigmatic to them was that he was pretty much unknown to himself. Literally. Prior to 7 years ago he remembered nothing of his life. No childhood, no family or friends, no employment, nothing. His first memory was standing in an alley in New York City, looking down at a pair of hands with way too much blood on them. He hadn’t been injured in any way that he could see, his clothes were run of the mill business casual… shirt, tie, trousers. Not Walmart specials but not especially high dollar either. Other than the blood on his hands the only unusual thing about him was the complete lack of… detail would be a fair description. He had no watch, no rings or other jewelry, no wallet, money, or identification of any kind. He was like a store mannequin that wasn’t quite ready for display. Martinn Bishops life began on that day 7 yrs ago.
The droning sound in front of him brought him back from his mental reverie in time to notice the angry red face, and spot the right hook headed for his chin. Apparently Joe wasn’t extremely happy with Martinns apparent lack of attention to his insults. Way faster than anyone could have expected, especially a surprised Joe, Martinns left hand had snapped up to catch Joes fist on it’s now aborted journey. Joe looked at his suddenly immobile fist, and then back up at the face staring down at him, and realized that he had made a very bad mistake. He was still trying to grasp the expression on the face he was looking at when he noticed his fist was sending him a message, message being “get me the hell out of here”! His fist hurt and it was getting worse. Gritting his teeth he grabbed the hand holding his and tried to make something happen, but the only thing that appeared to be happening were the popping and grinding sounds coming from his knuckles and finger joints. Red faced (and teary eyed) for an entirely different reason now he looked back up at the man slowly turning his hand into so much skin wrapped ground powder and wondered if he’d be lucky enough to have it end there.
“Hey Martinn!”, hollered Dale from across the room. You only got about another 5 minutes to finish that coffee before breaks over. Martinn slowly looked up from the face in front of him to glance in Dales direction, and casually released Joes hand as he sat down at his usual table. He began to sip his coffee while picking up the day old paper in front of him, for all appearances as if he had completely forgotten about the man who only moments before had been attempting to punch his clock. Joe opened his mouth to speak but one of gods guardian angels must have been pulling overtime that day because he suddenly thought better of it, shut his mouth, and simply walked back to his table. “Smart move” Dale said as Joe sat down.
What in the hell is happening to me? Martinn only vaguely remembered his actual encounter with Joe. He remembered thinking about that first day of his new life, and he remembered sitting down to drink his coffee, but the in between was a bit like he had been someone else, watching over his own shoulder. He’d been having a vague uneasiness for a couple weeks now, nothing he could put his finger on, just a feeling that something wasn’t quite….right. Martinn gave himself a mental shake and decided all he really needed was to get home to his wife and young son and everything would be fine. His wife and son meant everything in the world to him. They were his anchor in a life that had begun without any, and he could not imagine continuing in a life that did not include them.
His house was the last one on a dead end street in an older development far enough outside the city to be considered almost rural. The homes were on fairly large multi-acre lots instead of the micro lots found in most developments. This and it’s fairly secluded location is what drew Martinn and his wife. He wasn’t very comfortable around strangers and the lack of close neighbors suited him just fine. Plus they could raise their son a bit removed from the city lifestyle. As Martinn pulled into his drive that vague uneasiness was creeping back in. He tried to pass it off as just a case of the nerves stemming from the events at work, and continued on with his normal routine. He parked, walked down the drive to check the mail and headed on up to his porch. As he stepped through his door his uneasiness exploded, just before the bomb in front of his eyes……
The first thing to reenter Martinns awareness was pain, excruciating pain in the back of his head. That explains the explosion in front of his eyeballs he thought. The next thing was the realization that he was bound to a chair, with the leather belts from his closet of all things, gagged with a rag and duct tape, and buck ass naked. Before he thought better of it he tried a shake of his head to clear his thoughts and the resulting exploding bomblets told him in no uncertain terms that a repeat performance would not be a good idea. His groan elicited a laugh not his, and caused him to freeze. Slowly looking up he realized that he was in his darkened basement workshop, and he was not alone. He could see an odd figure across the room from him, a figure that didn’t look quite right. It had long-ish arms, somewhat spindly legs, and seemed be oddly dressed. When it turned to face him his blood ran cold. It had a pale triangular face, with an extremely large hooked nose, a very pointy chin, and wore an odd little hat. He could see that the man in front of him was indeed oddly dressed, like some strange extra from a silent movie. But the thing that grabbed his attention was the eyes. It was immediately obvious that whoever was standing across the room was Stark. Raving. Mad. The thing in front of him (he couldn’t think of it as anything else) grinned, and doing an odd little dance, scampered to the side. Martinns heart almost exploded in his chest….
Jasper Evan Brown was beside himself with anticipation at the work he had before him. The husband had come home right on time, just like always. Jasper appreciated punctuality. Besides being something he prided himself on, it always made his work easier when his subjects stuck to his plan. He had almost passed on this family. Something about the husband had bothered Jasper but the look on his face when he saw his wife caused Jaspers grin to stretch even wider and those doubts faded to the rear of what passed for his mind. He had prepped his canvas for the work to come, and had it suspended in front of the back doorway of the basement workshop. Jasper thought Diane Bishop looked beautiful the way she was displayed, and he couldn’t wait to release the incredible beauty still hidden within. This was going to be pure hobby for him, unlike a lot of the work he was doing for that bastard cop. Most of that was businesses, and when he was done toying with him he was going to kill him in the most delicious way.
He pulled up a cart that contained the tools of his art, in preparation for the work to come, and when the husband saw them he began to struggle. He couldn’t scream because of the gag but Jaspers experienced ears had no trouble translating the muffled groans and whimpers into the sounds that so pleased him. It was his music while he worked. There were no worries about the frantic man getting lose from the chair since it was now bolted to the floor. The artist knew his business. He adjusted the work light he had placed for the job, picked up something shiny and sharp and got to work, inspired by the muffled screams coming from before and behind him. Music is always better in stereo he thought….
He stood back to admire the fruits of his labor. The wife had only just gone silent. Jasper was an expert at what he did and he knew exactly what to do in order to keep his canvases fresh until the very end of his creative process. All the excess material he had placed in a plastic tub. He did like a neat work space. The husband behind him had been reduced to hoarse sobbing for some time now but he knew that as soon as he revealed the final result of his latest sculpture the cries would develop renewed vigor. But they would be nothing….nothing compared to the music that would be played when he revealed his grand finale. Jasper danced to the side and with a grin, a bow and a flourish of his arm presented his first masterpiece of the day. His reward was the strangled gurgle that gushed forth from the husbands tortured throat. Perfect! Perfect he thought. He’s ready for the grand finale! Jasper moved his tool laden cart and turned on the light over the work table that had been in the shadows of the darkened work room. Three year old Martinn Junior was staked out naked, spread eagled like an X, his hands and feet nailed to the table. Jasper was disappointed the little boy had passed out while he was being prepped…he had missed the transformation of his mother from the dime a dozen beauty she was into the work of art she had become, but he knew from vast experience the boy would wake up as soon as his own transformation started. The boys father was almost broken. He had begun making would could only be described as “mewling” noises, his face screwed up in absolute agony, his eyes begging the thing in front of him. The boy awoke screaming into his gag as his artist used one of his favorite tools to ensure that his little canvas would never be able to reproduce…..
Ah Jasper thought, almost finished. He had taken his time, enjoying the agony on his table and the agony behind him as well, but for the first time he could remember he was looking forward to being done. Throughout his work he had begun feeling increasingly apprehensive, and he had no idea why. His work was going well, the music was good, and as far as he could tell the final result was going to be exemplary. He moved around the table to the boys head, placing himself in a position to be able to view the father as he completed his final strokes. Jasper was impressed with him. His voice, muffled as it was, had found renewed strength. The man fairly howled as the next stroke was made, twisting and turning in the chair as he struggled. Jasper suffered a momentary worry that he might go completely insane before it was his turn. He hoped not, the music was much better when the player was functioning properly. He grinned wider as he completed the next step in the fading, but still conscious boys journey to living work of art. The man was bucking and howling in the chair like some sort of crazed animal at this point, making the artist in front him glad that he had taken extra care in bolting the heavy chair to the floor. Jasper grasped his final tool, ready to complete his final masterpice of the day. The animalistic howling in front of him reached a new height, and Jasper brought his tool down.
The sudden silence as the boy gurgled and died concerned him. He was afraid the man had passed out and missed the completion of his young sons journey. He sighed inside and looked up at what was going to be his next piece…..and froze. The man had not passed out at all. He was sitting straight up, perfectly still, and was looking Jasper Evan Brown straight in his eyes. The apprehension Jasper had been feeling came crashing in on him in a rush, and he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the man looking at him. The boys father was completely immobile, staring at him with a face totally devoid of emotion. This doesn’t happen Jasper thought, the music never stops at this point in the performance. The thing that transfixed him though, the thing he couldn’t comprehend, was the mans eyes. He looked at Jasper with….nothingness. Not fear, or anger, or disgust. They couldn’t even be described as “dead”. Never in his adult life had he ever viewed anything, or anyone, that he couldn’t understand, until now. Never taking his eyes from Jasper the man in front of him slowly clenched his fists, and then his arms began to strain, then his chest, and then his whole body. Muscles began to bulge and veins began to swell, but the face of the man who hours before had been a husband and father never showed any indication of the physical war that had begun in the body below it. The leather belts binding the body to the heavy wooden chair bolted to the floor began to creak. The ones across the chest started to give with a deep ripping sound.
For the first time in the adult life of Jasper Evan Brown he experienced and did something he thought impossible. He was terrified… and Jasper ran.
The man in the chair watched the thing in front of him scamper through the front door of the work shop and up the basement steps. As the door to what had been his home banged open the remaining bonds on his body gave up their struggle, and ripped away as he stood up looking at the empty doorway.
The man who had been Martinn Bishop for the last 7 years was feeling a lot like his old self. And he had something to do…
“I need you to do something for me”. Bob stood dumbfounded for a moment, but gathered himself as best he could. Uhm. Uh, yeah, whatever you want. Just name it. Without looking at the oddly dressed, strangely misshapen body on the floor, Bobs companion pointed at it with one arm and said, “that took something from me and it’s not getting away”.
I need you to kill me….