Category Archives: FEATHERTON II

Scars

May 1, 2011

I was looking at my scars today. For the first time, I felt a sense of detachment rather than horror. I wonder if I am ready to move on. I’d like to tell myself that it was only my flesh that was stripped away, only my bones that were broken–but I would be lying.

Then again, we’ve all suffered our wounds, be they physical or spiritual. No one has come out of this outbreak, apocalypse, rapture–whatever you call it–without their scars.

Sarah and her husband, Travis, made it out safely. Their child, however, did not. Luckily, it died shortly after it was born. If it was a stillbirth, the child may have torn apart her insides while still in the womb. She still hasn’t talked, even to Travis. He tells me that she’s always been afraid of the dark, but now she scratches at the walls and weeps, making animal noises from her throat. He confessed to me once that he thought about just letting her cut her own wrists one night. When they were first reunited, I felt such love and relief brimming from the man. Then, when he saw her, I think it dawned on him rather suddenly that he had lost the wife he knew that day she was kidnapped. I visit him from time to time. It was hard for him to accept my help at first. He’d believed for over a week that I had kidnapped her. But now I visit regularly to check up on him and Sarah. I believe he used to prefer being left alone. When I think of fortitude and perseverance, Travis comes to mind.

I see Toby from time to time, but he’s not doing much better, I’m afraid. The day after he found Sarah and I locked away, he looked for the bodies of his friends and buried them. Sometimes I see him passed out at their graves with a bottle of homemade brew in his hand. I’d give him blankets, food, the shirt off my back. He saved my life, after all. But Toby never accepts any of my gifts. He just wanders about town, completely lost. If he doesn’t find a purpose in his life, I fear he won’t stay alive much longer. I feel responsible in a way.

The zombies left town as quickly as they’d entered. I can’t explain it. They don’t follow any kind of a feeding pattern. Rather, they act somewhat like they did in life. The dog zombies hunt in packs; the people zombies stick to each other. I once told Eric about the novel Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. He’d never read it before. It’s about a man raised by Martians. He brings their philosophies to Earth, including a practice/concept called “grokking.” To grok someone is to understand them completely. To the Martians, this includes consuming that person, taking them into your body. I almost think that the zombies feel incomplete, that they want to take humans inside themselves to… become human again, I suppose. Of course, this is all just speculation, barely even a theory. I wonder, but I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll never truly know the answer. The only thing I know for a fact is two truths: (1) nowhere is safe anymore, and (2) we must cling to the living if we hope to brave our dead.

~ Dr. Z

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Filed under FEATHERTON II, Flash Fiction

Blood

Jerm used to be scared of crossing bridges when he was a little kid. Their mother told them stories about the three billy goats Gruff and Jerm was always afraid there was a troll hiding in the creek, waiting to eat them. Micah practically had to drag him across the bridge.

“I’m the biggest billy goat gruff!” Micha would cry at the foot of the bridge, imitating the fairy tale. “If you come out, troll, I’ll poke out your eyes and crush your bones!” With that, Micah would say to Jerm. “There! Now the troll won’t bother us. Come on!” And they would cross the bridge together to go pick peaches.

Micah felt like the troll now, skulking about in the dark, searching for the reverend. The guards were all leaving to the entrances to block off the incoming zombies and refugees. In spite of it being an emergency, he took the elevator to avoid notice. This was a zombie attack, not a fire, after all. Not yet.

“I have two spears,” the biggest billy goat Gruff said. He was dressed in a guard’s uniform, courtesy of the man on the first floor. Nobody would recognize him, and there was blood on the shirt, but a second’s hesitation was all he needed. The guards were all at the door with their rifles. Like fish in a barrel. Micah walked toward the group, ranting about the infestation below.

“Hold there. You need medical attention, brother.” Micah shot him in the chest, as well as the two other guards. Then, each in the head. He breathed heavily. If the zombies had not attacked, he would be dead. There should be more guards than this. Perhaps this really was God’s intervention that he was able to get this far. Micah took one of the dead men’s rifles. He kicked at the door, backed up and shot at it. He kicked again. Again. The door began to bust apart. He shot again at the door handle, picked up another gun.

“I have these stones to crush your bones,” said the eldest billy goat Gruff. The door gave way and Micah’s bullets sprayed the room. He blinked once, knowing that he should be dead now. He looked around. These men were all unarmed, shot in the back. had been praying, most likely. Micah tried to swallow down the horrible bile of guilt that threatened to tear apart his guts from the inside out. He closed his eyes and all he saw were corpses. Be strong. This is for Jerm. Cut the beast off at the head.

“Oh, God…” a man breathed, frightened. Did Jerm beg for his life? Did Micah’s brother know the reason why he had to die? This man had been standing at the pulpit, higher up than the others. Micah had only shot out his legs. Perhaps he was consoling them, fortifying their faith in God and his “angels,” the zombies.

“Father, you have sinned.”

“God!” he shrieked. Micah butted the man in the face with the rifle. He surveyed the room, looking for surivors. There was an adjacent room, a kitchen, most likely added by the Rapturists when they moved in. The staff was still there. Micah unloaded his rifle into the room. They were going to die anyway and Micah already had blood on his hands. Better now than in the fire. This is what he told himself as he re-entered the main room and dragged the wounded reverend into the kitchen.

“Father, you have sinned.”

He prayed for forgiveness, deliverance, forbearance. There would be no escape. He would not know why he had to die. He would merely suffer and die. Micah decided the only mercy he would give the man is that he would kill him before his corpse came back life.

Micah began by cutting out the reverend’s eyes. “I have two spears,” he said. “To stab out your eyes.” Micah started up the food processor, sticking the reverend’s hand into it. Then the other. “I have two stones,” he said, “to crush your bones.” The troll hiding under the bridge. Micah would have to kill him to protect Jerm. To protect Jerm, so they could cross the bridge together. The bridge, across the creek with the troll. The troll kept screaming. Micah dragged the troll to the meat slicer and slammed his face into it, setting the machine to auto slice. Micah fought with all his might to keep the troll there as the machine sliced him away, a little bit at a time. Finally, the troll stopped struggling. Micah turned on the gas stove and threw him on. He dragged all of the bodies inside the room, corpses to fuel the fire.

Micah walked back into the main room, up to the podium. He looked out the window at the sky.

“The sun is so close, Jerm,” Micah said, tears streaming down his face. “Why’s the sun so close when it’s so damn cold up here? I don’t understand…” He closed his eyes and put pistol to his temple. Jerm would have to cross the bridge alone.

* * *

Josh and Theo rode in through the stampede of people and zombies. A horde of people stood on the car, trying to break their way inside. Vera jumped off the table and ran for the car. She was lost in the sea of people. Tobias unholstered his dad’s old revolver and inhaled deep to keep from trembling. These were people. Tobias could try to shoot to maim, but then they’d be dead anyway. Zombie chow. Either way, they were going to trample Vera.

“Damn it!” he growled, squeezing the trigger. The outburst caused him to shoot too high, clipping a man on the shoulder instead of piercing his chest. “Thank God.” Tobias spoke too soon. His firing into the crowd had done nothing to scare the crowd away from Vera. They were already too panicked, like animals. In his peripheral, Tobias saw Theo jump out of the car.

Theo! Damn it!”

Tobias’s heart seemed to slow. Vera’s body was lost in the stampede. Theo, who had flung his door open to save her, was quickly taken by the crowd, which seeped into Josh’s car. Josh was thrown out and crush under the wheel as the car crushed everyone in its way, driven by a hysterical creature bent on safety. Vera was dead. Josh was dead. Tobias fired off a few rounds into the crowd around Theo, but he was too late. The wave of zombies crashed in like the ocean tide. He aimed at Theo’s head to save him the pain of being eaten alive, but a large body crashed into Tobias, his gun flying from his hands. The wind had been knocked out of him, but he managed to keep his footing and keep from being trampled. Somehow, he was able to pick out Theo’s death cries.

Tobias ran with the crowd to keep himself from being crushed under frantic heels. They were trying to break into the Rapturist compound. He crouched low and covered his head. Gunfire was spraying the spearhead of this phalanx. The guards were making a futile stand to keep the populace from entering the cathedral. The gunfire quickly died out as the unstoppable wave of people and zombies crashed through the windows and doors. It was like being caught in a flashflood. Tobias’s clothes were torn, bruises smashed all over his arms and middle. He gained a reprieve when the large lobby fanned out and he was crushed a little less. The crowd was headed upstairs, for the most part.

Tobias remembered Raj saying that zombies could fall down stairs, but they had trouble climbing up. Still, Tobias had to go with his gut and get away from the stampede before he was killed. There were a few people that trickled downstairs. Tobias followed this tributary of lost souls down into the basement. The hallway ended in a locked door: “employees only.” The people at the door were ramming into it with their shoulders, trying to push it down.

“Out of the way! You!” Tobias grabbed the arm of the largest man at the door, a man he vaguely recognized from his time in the militia. The man was thick, weighted down with almost as much fat as muscle. He’d do fine. “On the count of three, we kick at the same time! Okay?” The man nodded.

“One. Two~! Three!” They took their rear legs and shoved them into the door. For a second, Tobias thought it was going to give. “Again!” They kicked again and hinges began to give way. A final time  and the door was ready to be tossed down by the mob.

“Let’s go! Let’s go!”

The place they entered was pitch black and reeked of piss and blood. “Light switch! Find it!” The fluorescent lighting flickered on. Tobias almost wished someone would turn it off. People were pinned or chained to the walls, dying or dead. It was some kind of dungeon. The crowd walked through the room, dazed and fearful. Tobias spied a young woman in fair condition, if a little shaken up. It was Sarah Scarborough.

“Sarah!”

She writhed, as if the name gave her pain. “You’re Sarah Scarborough, ain’t you?”

“She won’t talk. She’s been raped too many times to respond to anyone anymore.” Tobias jumped at the sound of the man’s voice; he couldn’t have been sure that the man hanging there on the wall was actually alive or not.

“I was hired by Sarah’s husband…” Tobias started to say. It sounded strange now, as if it had happened to him in another life and he was just remembering. “To find…” His friends were all dead. He paused, staring into space, remembering that sound that could have been Theo. No. It had unmistakably been Theo screaming for death.

“What’s your name?” the man asked.

“Toby.”

“I’m Hermann. Dr. Hermann Schulz.”

This brought Tobias from his more painful memories. “You’re Dr. Z.”

“Some call me that.”

“Let me try to get you two out of those chains.”

“It won’t matter,” Hermann said. “The zombies will come down here any minute. It would take a miracle to keep them at bay.”

“Don’t worry about that now.”

The crowd, suddenly aware of themselves and their safety, began acting like humans again. They tried their best to break or pry the chains from the walls. Following this, they all waited for the zombies to arrive. There were many loud and strange noises, but no zombies. After what could have been 5 or 10 hours (nobody was certain), Tobias left to check. The building was scorched and collapsed in places. There had been a fire.

“Well, Dr. Z. I guess this is our miracle.”

“I don’t suppose the kitchen burned down?” Dr. Z croaked. “I’m starving.”

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Filed under FEATHERTON II, Flash Fiction

Mass

***Author’s note: this is actually the 1st revision. I accidentally erased the original and replaced it with this. Oops!

I was walking in with Vera, plan running smooth as a greased handjob when my bastard of an informant came cruising by. He said he’d find me. Guess I was wishing he was a liar.

“Oh, rapture! Tobias, my friend!”

Micah. I hated the guy since I met him. The gun to the back didn’t help much, either.”Oh, hey! It’s my good buddy…”

“Ebenezer,” Micah jumped in. “Tobias here saved my life, you know? Did he tell you?”

“No,” Vera shook her head. “What happened?”

“When I came here, I was without a home or a penny,” Micah began. Cue the violins. “I sold off my car, my belongings, whatever I had. I had reached my destination, after all, so I didn’t need any of these things. Unfortunately, before good Tobias found me a communal home, I was sleeping on the streets. Some rough characters found me and were ready to murder me just for being an immigrant.”

“What happened?” Vera glanced from Micah to Tobias.

“He beat them up, sent them on their way. The canals can be a dangerous place, but Tobias here is my savior,” he grinned wide. Tobias shivered. There were a few men found dead in the canals the other day. Not that it was an unusual event, but it usually wasn’t rich-boy locals who ended up being the corpses. The murders caught the attention of police and vigilantes alike.

“I’m glad you’re okay, Ebenezer. I knew Tobias was taking up bounty work, but I didn’t know you were a superhero.” She laughed, nudging at my ribs.

“Yeah.”

“Don’t be so modest, Toby! Ebenezer! Where are you from?”

“Little Rock.”

“Arkansas?”

“That’s the one!” Micah smiled. I cringed. Arkansas was a dead zone, from the stories I’d heard. What kind of Hell had this man been through to get to this point? Well, whatever. His little revenge plan was going to get them all killed.

“Here. Take some money, bud. Happy to help.”

Micah Tobias’s palm around the money and pushed it back. “Thank you, but I won’t need money where I’m going.” His eyes were two dying embers. The police have a saying: “suicidal is homicidal.” Basically, it means stay the fuck away from crazy people.

“Where are you going?” Vera asked.

Micah pointed to the Rapturist building.

“There. But I don’t think the Rapturists would let a bum like me inside that fancy building.”

“Nonsense! We’re all equals here. The Rapturists welcome all who need guidance.”

“Well, that sounds mighty nice, Vera.”

Tobias felt like he’d been thrown into The Wizard of Oz. But what did that make him? Tin man? Scarecrow? Maybe he was Todo and just along for the ride. They checked into the Rapturist building, filled out forms, got the grand tour, seeing the chapel and the gallery of Native Alaskan art they inherited. After the tour, they would never again be allowed in these places without cause. Which is another way of saying that they’d never be allowed in these places. They were all ushered into the common room, a teething mass of bodies shuffling around, eating grey slop. Lunch time. The food was a sort of gooey matter. This kind of infiltration was going to be tedious. It was good that Micah was a virtual no-name and Tobias, at least, had a clean slate.

“Where’s Ebenezer?” Vera asked.

Tobias looked around… gone. He must have slipped away in the crowd.

“Zombies!” someone cried.

“What?” Tobias asked, as if being shaken out of a dream.

They all looked outside the window. The streets were flooded with people running away. In pursuit, a writhing mass of corpses, toppling over each other to get to their food. Tobias took Vera’s hand and pulled her up onto the table. The stampede at floor level was fatal for many.

* * *

Micah said a prayer for his brother. The guards were allowed to keep guns, which was a huge mistake. Anywhere the oppressors keep weapons, the oppressed are sure to take them. Trickle down.

“Where’s the reverend?” Micah could hear the screaming masses trying to escape from the blood and from the death. Micah rode a chariot pulled by both beasts.

“I don’t know.”

There’s a hair of a second as the trigger his being pulled when a man knows he is going to die. It’s at that moment that men are their at their purest. Better they die rather than live and become monsters.

Blood and Death carried him to the elevators.

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Outside

Tobias waited outside with a cigarette, glancing above the headlines of the Juneau Empire: “Zombie Casualties Record Low.” The politicians are getting better at hiding the bodies. At least the Dr. Z kidnapping story has finally gotten off the front page. The Rapturists have the media in their back pockets. Who even knows if that “Micah” is right about this Sarah girl being  alive? They’d have no reason to keep her in there, as far as Tobias could figure. The old Sealaska building was originally a heritage and research center for the region’s native peoples. When the outbreak occurred, the big wigs all ended up getting eaten or turned. Like many other buildings in the area, squatters began taking the building as their own. Though it should have belonged to the native tribes by principle, Reverend Taddeo and his church provided a good amount of money to the mayor and the police. Many of the people inside were converted and given a place to live. Others were kicked from the premises. Some rumors say that a few people just vanished, but nobody knows that for sure. On the outside, the building looks like a normal place of business and worship. Go deeper into the belly and that’s another story. The place is a fortress unless you have an in with the Rapturists. And Tobias’s “in” was just heading around the corner with her groceries.

“Hi, Vera. Can I help you carry those in?” Vera pulled her bag away. Tobias squeezed her arm hard. “I don’t want to make a scene, Vera. I just came to see what became of a friend.”

“Shit, Tobey! You can’t scare people like that!”

“Sorry,” he sniffed, throwing his cig into the gutter. “It’s the detective schtick. I’ve gotten good as skulking around.” He released is grip but stared her down. “I need your help.”

“With what?”

He shifted his gaze to the Rapturist building. “I need to get inside.”

“Why?” Vera moved the bag to her other arm to put something between her and Tobias. “What’s going on, Tobey?”

“I should be asking you the same thing. Heard you wanted to go to Guadeloupe of all places, but I find you closer than I think.”

“I wanted to go somewhere safe. Theo figured we could raise a family in that hovel, but how can we with all of that crime and zombies.”

“Nowhere’s safe from crime, Vera. And especially not zombies. You think the Rapturists have God’s protection from the undead or something?”

“What if they do?”

“Then I’d like to sign up. Think you can get me in?”

Vera gave him the stinkeye. “I thought you’d be mad after what I did to Theo.”

“I don’t follow the “bros before hos” policy, Ver. It’s a pretty archaic custom. You’re my friend, too. So…” he gives his sweetest smile. “Can you help a friend out?”

Vera shifts her bag back to her other arm. “Sure. Let’s see what we can do.”

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Threshold

As Travis walked out of the Rapturist church and into the frozen streets of Juneau, he began to doubt whether Sarah was even alive. For almost two years, neither of them had felt safe, but they were alive and together. Now that they were “safe” among civilization, they had let their guard down. He remembered how things used to be, back before the zombies. They used to spend nights making love with only the light of her favorite lavender candles. He’d hated that smell back then, but what he wouldn’t do to bring back that night, and to bring her back. Even living in the truck for over a year, afraid of everything outside their doors, at least they had each other. There were times during the morning twilight, in that threshold between night and day, when they would cling to each other and never let go. Now he might never see her again…

* * *

He’ll never see him again. Jeremiah, his only remaining flesh and blood, in an unmarked grave in the dry plains of Texas. They had grown up together, taking turns on the slide. They massacred their entire family before leaving home. Even though they were already dead, what they did wasn’t any easier. If there was any blood on their hands, that would be it. Even though it sounds crazy. Even though they were already dead. They did what they had do.

Lost in his own thoughts, Micah bumps into that man, Travis. They pause for a moment but neither says a word to the other. They just keep moving. In that moment, Micah hates him. What did he lose? He may not know it, but his wife is alive, at least. Micah awaits at the threshold of the Rapturist building. Micah could burn this place down, but he wouldn’t know if the heads of the operation would be dead. The gumshoe would find a way in. It was a matter of pride for a man like that. Micah would have his pound of flesh. Then they would burn…

* * *

“Burn him again.”

“I think he’s reached his threshold, Reverend.”

“Very well.” He laid hands on the hammer and the chain.

“You will thank me later, Dr. Schulz. We are baptizing you, preparing you for the rigors of the new age where only the just are spared from God’s angels! We must all prepare for what is to come…”

* * *

“We have to be prepared. You guys are ready?”

“Hells yeah! That’s my girlfriend getting brainwashed in there!”

“Theo, she could just be there of her own free… never mind.”

“So, what’s the big plan?”

“We need a decoy to get past the threshold of the Rapturist compound. Josh, I was hoping you could help us with that.”

Josh exercised his strange ability to crack every bone in his body. “I was born ready.”

“Good. We make our move tonight…”

* * *

The zombies milling clumsily about gathered at the threshold of the forest. They began marching toward the squatter camps set up around Juneau’s walls. The guards stationed at the turrets reported a wall of the dead that rivaled that rivaled that of the living. In the end, refusing new immigrants to the city only added strength to the zombies’ unstoppable tide.

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Detective

“Lucia… Sarah. I know where she is, but how do I get in? The Rapturists. This has gotten suicidal.” Tobias was talking to himself again, a habit his roommates had gotten used to.

“You need to relax, dude. Want some pou?” Josh offered the gravy fries topped with cheese curds.

“Don’t you ever get tired of going to that stand?”

“No way! My boy Felix hooks me up! Man, you used to be fat and happy too, Toby. What happened?”

“Zombies.”

“Ohyah. Dat,” he said with a mouth full of fries.

“Yeah, that. I’ve had zombies on the brain lately, and if you say ‘you better get them off,’ I will pull your goddamn eyes out with a spork!”

“I didn’t say anything, dude. Cool your jets!”

Tobias sighed, thumbing his temples. “I wish Raj was here. He’s the reason any of us are alive in the first place.”

Josh lowered his food to his lap, his face somber. Theo walked in to grab a drink from the fridge. His eyes were red from crying.

“And here’s our mystery man,” Tobias said. “You ready to tell us about what happened between you and Vera?”

“Don’t be so callous, dude,” Josh glared. Tobias wasn’t sure if he meant about Raj or Vera.

“It’s okay. She left me.”

“We got that much,” Tobias said. Josh cleared his throat. “Sorry. Go on.”

“I don’t know. She just doing dishes and reciting poetry. Then she was all like ‘I want to go to Guadeloupe’ and I was like ‘you a crazy ho’ and then she left.”

“You did call her a ho, bro,” Josh pointed out.

“I didn’t really,” Theo whimpered. “I was just trying to sound tough.”

“Does she usually recite poetry when she’s doing dishes?”

“I never thought she was a fan, but I guess she was really into that one dude.”

“Who?”

Josh rolled his eyes. “Here comes Mr. Detective.”

Tobias held out a hand to silence Josh. “Theo. Who?”

“Uh, it was the one about Tigers. They had it in a Hellboy comic.”

“William Blake?”

Theo punched his beer in Tobias’s direction. “That’s the dude!”

Tobias had worked the beat enough to know the Rapturists’ different code words. That poem was one. This was his in!

“What is it, Tobe?” Josh leaned forward.

“Theo. I got good news and bad news for you. I don’t think your girlfriend’s heading to Guadeloupe.”

“You don’t?”

“I think Vera’s joined a cult.”

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