Tag Archives: Toby

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

Outside (revision)

I waited outside, cig slack in my jaw, glancing above the headlines of the Juneau Empire: “Zombie casualties record low,” it read. The politicians must be 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 diddling their front pockets. Who even knows if that “Micah” is right about Sarah being  alive? They’d have no reason to keep her in there as far as Tobias could figure. Then again, why would Dr. Z be alive and kicking? Maybe I’m being used, but I was hired to see this through. Hired by a man who wants to see his wife again and see his first child born. Doesn’t sound so unreasonable to me.

I wasn’t part of the group that cleared out the Rapturist building, so I can’t say where they would likely be held. They say the old Sealaska building used to be a heritage center for the natives Indians. 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. A lot of dirty rumors have circulated around that new-age cult, but nobody knows for sure one way or another. But it didn’t matter. He’d never seen the inside. He needed someone who could take him through.

“Toby! What are you doing around here?”

“Oh, you know,” I sniffed, spitting my cig into the gutter. “The whole detective schtick. I’ve gotten good at skulking around. Need some help with those groceries?”

“No. I’m okay. Look, about Theo…”

“Don’t even worry about it.”

“You don’t care that I hurt your friend?”

“I care, Vera. But you’re my friend, too. And Theo’s kind of a whiny cunt sometimes anyway.”

“I’m relieved. I was worried for a second that you were going to try to get me to come back.”

I shrugged. “We miss you, V. You know that. But, no, I’m not here to break your balls are carry you home or anything. Actually, I wanted to ask you what got you so obsessed with these Rapture guys? Thought you were going to Guadeloupe.”

Vera switched her grocery bag to the other arm. “I wish I could. There’s just no money for me to do it, not even with my cut. And what would I do if I got there? I don’t know anybody. The Rapturists support me. Brother Vance tells me there’s a place we can go, a utopia where people can live free from fear.” Must be the guy she’s banging now. “Theo always likes to stay inside where he thinks it’s safe, but maybe it’s not safe in there. Maybe it’s not safe anywhere. So, you know, I always wanted to travel, see the world. I want to go somewhere that’s not… here. You know? Theo would never go for it. He’s okay with the same fear and seclusion. I want to go somewhere and do something. I probably sound crazy.”

“No,” I chuckled. “I remember one time he used to play this old computer game, Warcraft. Sometimes he’d just take the microwave out of the wall, put it in his room, and play for days. The man loved Hot Pockets. See, that’s crazy. You’re just a delusional dreamer. There ain’t no promised land. Wherever you go, there’s gonna be zombies. Death.”

“And people. Life.”

“Exactly. Same thing.”

“When did you get so cynical, Toby? You used to be such a sweetheart.” Vera blew her hair out of her mouth, switching the grocery bag to the first hand.

“Still am,” I argued, snatching the bag from her. “Now, let’s go meet your new family. I’m curious what the appeal is.”

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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

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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Filed under FEATHERTON II, Flash Fiction