Tag Archives: Micah

Road Trip (Revised) and North (New Chapter)

I’ve been changing around the zombie novella a bit. In particular, I’m doing an overhaul of the Jerm/Micah story arc.  Here’s a revised chapter and a new teaser chapter to whet your appetite:

ROAD TRIP

Jerm keeps pushing the CD into the Buick’s deck.

“Micah… hey Micah!”

“What?”

“CD player’s busted!”

“Shouldn’t be. Just got it installed last year. It’s probably the CD.”

“Well, keep better care of ‘em, jackass. I keep telling you that you need one of those books to keep all your CDs in it.”

“Hey, if you want music, then just sing something. Give me a break there, man. I’ve been drivin’ since Oklahoma.”

“Hey. Don’t worry about it, boss. Yer doin’ such a good job innyway.”

“Fuck you, man. Take the wheel. I gotta take a piss.”

“Ahh, bullshit. We should open a lemonade stand, we got so much stored back there.”

“You know we can’t take any chances openin’ the window, Jerm. One bug flies in and we could be zombies, too. So just take the wheel and shut yer trap for a sec.”

“Man, yer paranoid.”

“You gonna take the wheel or do you want to hold my junk for me while I go?”

“Yeah, yeah. I got it.” Jerm sighed, awkwardly switching over to the driver side and almost taking the car off the road.

“Careful, man! Keep it straight while I’m going or this car’s gonna smell even worse than it does.”

“Yeah, okay, Micah. Whatever, man… hope we can get to New Mexico soon.”

“Desert’s the place to be, Jerm. Not enough life around there to be zombie food.”

“Speakin’ of, we got ourselves a hitchhiker.”

“Just drive by.”

“But she’s hot.”

“Dammit, Jerm! Just drive!”

“What are you, gay?”

“At least let me put it back in my pants. Hand me the gun.”

“What? She ain’t a zombie.”

“She still has teeth, don’t she? We don’t know if she’s turning or what. Just hand me the gun.”

Without opening the windows, Jerm signalled for the woman to crawl into the passenger side.

“You guys are life savers. Name’s Jaclyn.”

“Jeremiah. This one’s my brother, Micah.”

“Kinda queer bein’ stuck all the way out here,” Micah said.

“Only one queer is you,” Jerm mumbled.

“My car ran out of gas a few miles back. I’m from Odessa, but I hear North is the way to go right now. I still can’t believe it, the dead walking around and everything. It’s crazy. I mean, I keep thinking it’s all just a bad dream I’ll wake up from… thanks for picking me up, guys. I was worried I wouldn’t see anybody out here.”

“Me an’ Micah are both comin’ outta Little Rock. Damn skeeters are turnin’ people into flesh eaters! Desert’s dry enough so they don’t breed at all, but Micah’s still paranoid. That right, Micah?”

Micah fishes through under the back seats for water bottles with actual water in them. “Yeah… so, Jaclyn. You up here all by your lonesome?”

“Well, I have some family headed up to the Northern states, see if they can get into Canada. I took longer getting out ‘cuz my boyfriend wouldn’t leave. I don’t know. Guess I was bein’ dumb wanting to stay with him in zombie country.”

“Naw. We were the same way. We all heard about it in other places but we thought we could all just shoot ‘em all dead and have a few beers to celebrate. It wasn’t like the movies, though. Even covered in DEET and holed up with boxes of ammo, we knew we weren’t gonna last against a third of Arkansas.”

Jaclyn pulls her sleeve down over her arm. “It’s terrible out there.”

“Here’s some water,” Micah offered.

“Thank you.”

“That rash on your arm… that’s from the heat?”

“Oh, yeah. It’s nothing much.”

“I can take a look at it.”

“No. Don’t worry about it.”

Micah pulled out his gun. Jerm swerved the car over to the side of the road. “Whoa, Micah! Holy shit! Quit playin’ with that thing!”

“I ain’t playin’. That’s a bug bite.”

Jaclyn shook her head. “No. It’s not–”

“Don’t lie to me, bitch. Our daddy had a bite like that before we found him gnawing on one of ma’s arms.”

“It’s just a little bite! I mean, it probably wasn’t even infected. Most bugs are just normal bugs, okay? I mean, if I start gnawing on people, you can shoot me.”

“Yeah, Micah! Maybe it’s not the end of the world. Just hold off for a sec!”

“Can’t take any chances. You and I both saw what happened to Little Rock, how fast it all happened. Jaclyn, please get out the car. You can keep the water. Here’s a few extra bottles, too. It’s not water, but you’ll thank me when you get thirsty enough.”

“You can’t be serious. Please! Just drop me off in the next town.”

“Micah–”

“Shut it, Jerm. Just step out of the car and there won’t be no trouble. You’re better off than when we found ya. Just be thankful for that.”

Jaclyn removed herself from the car, sobbing and cradling bottles of water and urine. When the door slammed, she dropped the bottles and put her hands on the windows. “Please!” she wailed through the glass.

Jerm looked straight ahead, not starting the car.

“What?”

“I ain’t talkin’ to you, man.”

“Just drive, Jerm. No more hitchhikers.”

A bottle of piss hits their back window as Jerm pulls away.

NORTH

“I’m gonna turn this car around.”

“Jerm, we did what we had to.”

“I’m not talkin’ to you.”

“You already said that.”

“I don’t like it, man. I come back home from fightin’ in one desert and now I’m out here in another. What the Hell, man? I’m back home and the killing just don’t stop. I don’t want to keep murderin’ people, Micah.”

“It wasn’t… Jerm. Listen to me. Back in Little Rock… that wasn’t our family out there. They were tortured, man. We had to put them to rest. And that girl was as good as dead, too.”

“Does that make it right?”

“They were already dead. We did what we had to.”

Jerm slams on the breaks.

“But she—Jaclyn—that girl back there? She was a human goddamn being! She was still alive, you jackass! You, me—we’re gonna have to live with that so don’t try to hide what we did with pretty words. It’s an insult to her and everyone else we left behind.”

“We did what we had to.”

“You already said that, Mikey.”

Jeremiah clicks on the only FM station running in the area and starts driving again. He keeps his eyes on the road; Micah stares out the window, looking at the barren landscape and the pink sunlight fading into the horizon. James Taylor is singing about fire and rain.

After about fifty or sixty miles, Jerm clears his throat. Micah looks ahead to see a buzzard with only one wing hobbling across the road. With the high beams on, they can see it only has one wing and its beak seems cracked and hanging slack.

“That thing dead?” Micah asks.

“Looks like it.” He starts to swerve toward the bird.

“Don’t… I don’t want to be scrapin’ bird parts off my car.”

“Whatever, man.” Jerm turns the while a little and they can hear the beak scrape along the side of the car.

Micah gives Jerm a look like he’s chewing on old gum and wants to find somewhere to spit.

“What? Just paint. Don’t worry so much, man. Take a nap for a while. We’ve both been up for a day and a half at least.”

Micah still has trouble sleeping but he’s able to fade away after not too long.

“Wake up!” Jerm swats at Micah. “It’s five in the morning and I think I’m seein’ things, like zombies outta the corner of my eye.”

“What the Hell’re you talkin’ ‘bout.” Micah rubs his eyes and stretches in his seat. It’s pitch black out but it will be morning soon. They awkwardly crawl around the seats to switch places. Micah grunts as he rolls the seat back up to the steering wheel. It sounds like a spine cracking.

“Where are we?”

“We just hit Colorado about thirty minutes or so back.”

“All right, Jerm. I got it.” He starts up the vehicle again and starts back down the highway.

The sun had just started peaking on the horizon. Something shadows were moving on the horizon. “Uh… Jerm?”

“What? I was just starting to drift off.”

“You know how  you said you were seein’ things?”

“Yeah?” Jerm took a second before he bolted upright. “What? Zombies?”

Micah pointed his finger toward the side of the highway. A large group of people were stumbling along the road, though it became increasingly obvious they weren’t people at all. They all had working legs, but some had chunks missing from them in most other places, maybe from the buzzards. The silhouette of a woman and child tripped over and pulled themselves back up to follow the group.

“Where the Hell do they think they’re going?”

“I’d reckon same way we are: North.”

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Filed under Session XXI

Blood (revision of “Blood,” part 1)

Jerm used to be scared of crossing bridges when he was a tyke. Their Ma 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.

“Hey you troll. I’m the biggest billy goat Gruff!” Micha would cry at the foot of the bridge, imitating the fairy tale. “If you come out, I’ll poke out your eyes an’ shit in your brain!” Micah always liked to give his threats some color. “There! Now the troll won’t bother us. Come on!” And they would cross the bridge together to eat the best peaches and bring home the second best.

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 would say. Micah 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.

“Hold i–”

“I’m not a zombie!” Micah shouted, raising one hand in the are. He pulled the trigger three times. The last man clipped his shoulder. The blood ran heavy and dark down his arm. Grimacing, he shot them in the head, one by one. He’d heard one of the local boozers call it “buying zombie insurance.” He breathed heavily. Normally, security would be tighter than a hawk’s ass in a nosedive. 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. 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 painted the room red. He blinked once, knowing that he should be dead now. These men were all unarmed, shot in the back. They’d probably been praying. 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. He must have been preaching. That makes him…

“Father Taddeo. 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.

“Father, you have sinned,” Micah said with tears his eyes. He reached out, wiping a bloody palm on the man’s face. “Pray for forgiveness.” He dropped his gun, using his good arm to drag the wretch to the kitchen.

“Forgiii-!” he cried in pain.

“What did you say?”

“Forgi-hiv me! It hurts!”

There would be no escape for this wretched man. He would not know why he had to die. He need not know. He would merely suffer and die. The only mercy he would grant him was the gift of not becoming one of the undead.

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… those peaches tasted good, didn’t they? Bet you’re enjoying one right now, you bastard.” He closed his eyes and put pistol to his temple. Jerm would have to cross the bridge alone.

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Filed under Flash Fiction

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

Mass (revision)

Vera and I walked to the front doors, plan running smoother than a greased handjob, when my bastard of an informant came cruising toward us. 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 Micah to the elevators.

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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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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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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