Tag Archives: Josh

Fire (Revision of “Blood,” part 2)

Josh and Theo drove in amidst a shrieking stampede of people and zombies. Given the overwhelming mass of flesh in the streets, it got to the point where they couldn’t tell whether they were running over people or avoiding zombies. A horde of people stood on the car, trying to break their way inside.

“Just step on it!” Theo screamed. Josh closed his eyes and did as he was told.

Vera stumbled out of Tobias’s reach, jumping from the table and running for the car. She was lost in the sea of people. Tobias, his father’s revolver in hand, aimed his sights into the crowd. He 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. Something grabbed Tobias’s leg, ‘causing his shot to fire high. He hammered his foot against the creature’s face, not sure if it was among the living or dead. Face bloodied the thing let go of his foot. He stumbled back up to locate Vera in the crowd. No sign of her. Or Theo.

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. Maybe not this second, but it hardly mattered whether they were dead or dying. Tobias fired off a few rounds into the crowd around Theo, but he was too late. A wave of bodies crashed in like the ocean tide. He aimed at Theo’s head to save him the pain of being eaten alive, but a crashed into Tobias, throwing him from his perch, his gun flying from his hands. The wind was crushed out of his lungs out of him, but he managed to keep his footing and keep from being trampled. Somehow, he was able to pick out Theo’s dying cries.

Tobias ran with the crowd to keep himself from being crushed under frantic heels. They were trying to break into the Rapturist compound, a place where they could get cover from the horde. 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 like a storm hammering against a crag. 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 dispersed and Tobias went with where his section of the flood carried him.

Tobias remembered Raj saying that zombies could fall down stairs, but they had trouble climbing up. Still, Tobias was just as afraid of the people as he was the zombies. There were fewer people that trickled downstairs. He pushed his way down, following this tributary of lost souls 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 built like a linebacker, 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, panting from exertion.

“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 cracked partway off its hinges, 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. Though her hair covered her face, he thought he recognized her.

“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 croak of a 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.”

His chuckle sounded like sandpaper. “Not by birth, I assure you.”

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

“It won’t matter,” Hermann said. “The guards will be down here. They’ll kill us all.”

“The guards are dead. The city’s being attacked by zombies.”

“You act like that’s a better way to die.” Sarah began wailing. Dr. Schulz lowered his head.

“Somebody shut her up!” a man yelled and pounced on Sarah’s throat.

“Brady!” Tobias remembered the big man’s name. “Help me out!” Tobias tried to pull the man off Sarah. Brady took his hair and cracked his head against the wall next to Sarah’s head. This didn’t help her screeching. “Help me get them free, Brady!” He wasn’t sure if the man was dead or not, but it didn’t matter, as long as they could control the crowd.

The crowd, suddenly aware of themselves and their safety, began freeing the prisoners as well. Whether they were remembering their humanity or whether they just needed something to do to fight the fear, it didn’t matter. They all tried their best to break or pry the chains from the walls. Some worked on the barricades, stacking shelves and the shattered door up before the zombies arrived. There were many loud and strange noises, but no zombies. Instead, a thick smoke began crawling along the ceiling.

“Stay low!” Tobias yelled. “Stay! Low! The smoke won’t reach us down here!”

“Hell it won’t!” someone yelled.

“You want to run up there and die, go ahead! If you’re gonna stay here, just shut up! We need the air!”

They squatted down, staying silent for a good twenty or thirty minutes before Tobias noticed that the man was right. The smoke was still getting thicker.

“I’m going to go scout it out! Stay low!” He wrapped his coat around his face. Brady helped him clear part of barricade. “Thanks, Brady. I’ll be back.”

“Live and let die, brother.” It was one of the mottoes the militia spouted off to get themselves pumped up for raiding homes.

“Live and let die.” He clasped Brady’s hand and slipped out.

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Threshold (revision)

Travis began to doubt whether Sarah was still alive. He glared at a stranger, daring the man to tell him that she wasn’t alive. He quickly got out of Travis’s way. Why now? For almost two years, neither of them had felt safe, but they were alive and together. Now that they were among people, they had let their guard down.

Before the outbreak, before the zombies, they used to spend nights making love with only the light of her favorite lavender candles. He always thought the scent was overpowering, but he’d grown to love it. 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. Dr. Z: if he ever found him, he would kill him…

* * *

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. He and Jerm had done unthinkable things, but they’d done them to corpses. But even telling himself that didn’t make it feel right. They’d massacred their entire family. If there was any blood on their hands, that would be it.

Micah waits at the threshold of the Rapturist building. He 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.

Ever since that day, Micah had always told Jerm “We did what we had to,” even if he didn’t quite believe it himself. Well, there was just one more thing Micah had to do. This country is a cess pool, all stemming from this booming city of Juneau. He would purge it with a bath of fire…

* * *

“Burn him again.”

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

“Very well.” He laid hands on the hammer and the chain, simple devices of torture, used as an artist would use a paintbrush.

He hung against the wall, like a piece of rotting meat. Reverend Taddeo wanted to dance at the sublime beauty of it all. He had grown up never really believing in God or the afterlife, feeling guilty about it but not knowing why. Now that the dead had come back, Taddeo knew that there was a divine presence passing judgment on us all. The Rapture had come and God had spoken in his ears: “Thou art hath sinned. Convert the masses and thou art shalt be redeemed in the eyes of the Lord.”

“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?”

“I have a plan. Josh, we’ll need to borrow your truck. You ready?”

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

“Good. We make our move tonight…”

* * *

The zombies gathered at the threshold of the forest, seeming to have purpose and direction. They began marching toward the squatter camps set up around Juneau’s walls. They guards rang the warning bells, too late for the huddled masses clawing at the gates to be saved from the flesh-eating masses. The undead horde’s number tripled that night. The victims of poverty and overpopulation now hammered and clawed at the threshold, slavering and dreaming of blood.

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Filed under FEATHERTON III, 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

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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Filed under FEATHERTON II, Flash Fiction

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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Filed under FEATHERTON II, Flash Fiction