Teraphobia- Within the walls of hell stood heroes.

A Speaker is a traveling storyteller, an ancient tradition brought back by a tragedy. An event disguised as an infection. That infection spread toppled the crippled US government but under the hood of the infection was a revolution. This was a bloodless coup. An explosion of a new population of humans. The new population split into three types Taur, Vampire, and Magicians.

Eric Carson is a Speaker, quite accomplished and quite old now. At seventy-plus years old he travels less but he has more stories than all the other Speakers. He lives in the Northeast Territory which contains the former States of New York, New Jersey, and West to Wisconsin.

Speaking at the Fox theater in downtown Detroit, Eric removes a heavy coat and adjusts a stool. He begins his story with a smile.

“So happy to be in this grand theater. Certainly, a privilege to be invited to tell my story here. You recall the Creature Revolution started with a pigeon, brought back to life, then an explosion of creatures that overwhelmed the world order.
This change caused fifty years of anarchy, authoritarianism, and finally peace.

Human ethics has always ebbed and flowed. We do what we want but unpredictable tragedy turns up the dial. We are not all 100% human anymore. Human on the inside, Taur on the outside, or vampire. Some of us are magic and that’s always unpredictable.
Wars and battles drag on for years in an attempt to establish a dominant species. Can we all agree we are now in a good place? Mostly?
I was an alcoholic. I was angry. Drinking was an excuse to be angry.

At the time I lived under bridges. I had no money so I stole to survive and drink. Every time I went out I risked exposure and local enforcement. I sat in a drunken stupor, one night. Nothing like a baseball bat in the gut to sober a man up. After the guards bloodied me up, to sober me up, they claimed.

There was no drunk tank back then. All the “undesirables” were sent to the zoo. I’m sure you all have heard of zoos. Large walled cities they dumped the undead, criminals, and drunks into.

They caught me under a bridge a few miles West of Central Containment Facility. West was home but I had lost my wife and daughter so barely a home. I was captured, shackled, and transported to the Central Containment Facility, or zoo as I like to call it. Men dressed in black pulled me from the car and chained me to a wall outside the zoo. I stood with a large diverse group of humans, no other creatures.
A machine gun would go off every few minutes. Scared the crap out of me. Drunken ears were always so jumpy.
Regarding the zoo, we all knew what was inside. We knew the guards didn’t have to care what happened to us. Escape would only prompt cruel beatings outside the wall. Inside the wall, the Resurrected would dispatch us in painful, brutal ways. The once human monsters were once thought a moment of scientific miracles. Death is avoided and a new life is given, they said. The Resurrected were nothing but unbridled rage.

The guards were happy to count down the time as we prisoners waited. Anxiety drowning us. All those years ago, the kindest words… “the automatic guns gave us 500 feet before they would overwhelm us.”

Those zoo walls towered over us. The guards unchained us and pushed us through the opening gate. I was near the center of the group as we approached. A pair of infected slipped out from the gates. They attacked the first prisoner, tearing clothes and violently pulling his head to the side. A second prisoner turned and ran. He was quickly captured by the guards. The gate was closed. Multiple additional guards rushed forward. They stabbed the Resurrected multiple times, which did little to stop them. The super strong Resurrected threw several guards. Gun fire erupted and the Resurrected fell to the ground but were not still. They shook and struggled where they fell. They wanted to move but physically were unable. Around the mound of disabled Resurrected was blood and bodies. Three guards lie motionless, their bodies broken. Two additional prisoners were dead. The distraction prompted a few prisoners to flee but they were captured, beaten, and pushed to the front. The guards opened the gate a second time and pushed us through.

The machine guns above the wall fired a final time. Several hundred feet away some Resurrected collapsed to the ground. The noise prompted the attention of a group from the right. They moved forward en masse toward us. The guards, the wonderful human beings they were, began to fire in front of the group. Attempting to lead them to the prisoners faster.

The mob of Resurrected approached. The guards increased their taunting. Tried what they could to move the inevitable faster. The nearest infected begin to growl as the scent of life came closer. They listened to slight movements. Shuffling feet, panicked breathing, screams. A funny thing about the group of men and women I was imprisoned with, the men were the screamers. The scream erupted suddenly. It scared the crap out of me. It split the group immediately. Half the group ran in all directions. The other half froze or tried to get back through the gate. That gate wasn’t going to move.
The runners sprinted through a tall field of grass toward a paved road nearby. The Resurrected stood in small groups, within the grass. They were motionless, sleeping. waiting to tear us to pieces. Several runners sprinted past and into the grass ahead. I’ve never been athletic. My running lasted maybe 50-100 feet. After, I tried to just avoid the groups of Resurrected. I found a path beaten into the grass when two runners collapsed beside me. They stumbled and disappeared into the tall grasses. After the fall, I stopped and listened. I wish I hadn’t because the sound was horrific.

“There was something in the grass. I can hear it grunting.” I remember saying. I also pointed this out to one of the Baker brothers behind me but we were all kinda paralyzed. The thought of death waiting to take you without you seeing it. There were monsters waiting for us in the grass and they could be anywhere. We couldn’t just run through the field now… but there was this path.

“Follow the path,” said a voice from behind. “The Resurrected are easier to see within the path. You want to go that way and do it now.

The man had been through some horrific things. The left side was covered in scars and the right a mask.
“We call them Crawlers,” he added as he pushed us gently to the path. “They have broken or missing legs. They crawl through the grasses. They are very slow.”
“Pale, sickly things. You don’t want to run into them or see them.”

I lead the group. The brothers behind me then the masked man. Behind him was a gaggle of others following farther away. I approached the location when a young man sprinted past me and through the grass. Behind him was a Resurrected, thin but strong human monster, running after. Gawd, I didn’t even know they could run. The only advantage we runners had was that the Resurrected were blind. Cancerous tumors blocked their sight. The masked man turned and swept the monster off his feet. The creature hit the ground hard and tumbled into a Crawler. I saw its pale limbs and stretched unnatural jaw. To my absolute shock, it was a disabled vampire.

I turned back to the runner but he had disappeared. The masked man urged us to move forward. The mob of remaining prisoners fell in behind the four of us.
We approached a curved glass building, atop the glass was a sculpted wooden red slab. A second slab covered a large neglected parking lot. Beneath the second slab was a city bus. The bus lay, its tires deflated, across the bus carport. The masked man pointed us toward the bus, specifically the closed folded door.

To the right, two large centaurs milled within the lot. Their human forms leaned forward, barely able to stay atop their equine host. Behind us was the Resurrected. The barely-human monsters targeted the stragglers in the human mob.
The attacks sent the mob into a panic and they pushed forward and past us.

The masked man pointed toward the bus. I noticed this was a school bus. Its rear tires had been shredded and it sat against the front door of the bus station. The entrance to the bus was closed.

Knowing the noise from the mob would attract everything in the area I ran as fast as I could to that door. I slapped the center of the folding bus door, hoping it would open but it did not. I continued to bang on the door as the others in the group searched for a different entrance. I looked to the masked man for guidance but he had suddenly become as panicked as the rest of us. He fumbled through his pocket till he pulled out a radio.

“Tweety, open the door, now!” He shouted into the radio.
“Ai, Scotty… I’m on my way,” was the eventual reply.

Infected approach from the rear and the human forms on the Resurrected Taur woke. The large human-horse creatures pawed at the grass-covered concrete. Both centaurs bolted toward a runner, that has passed in a panic. They gained on the poor woman as she screamed. I watched as the monsters plowed into the woman and she stumbled into a building wall. I remember being unable to move. Unable to help the woman at all and really wanting a drink.
“Remember, they can’t see us,” the masked guide named Scotty said to me. “If you are quiet, you should survive if they surround us.”

I turned to repeat this to the brothers, they had stuck very close, but they had disappeared. I looked back toward the woman and I see them trying to figure out how to fight the centaur to save the woman. The two men had thick beards and a suicidal attitude, my opinion- of course.
I looked back at Scotty and he signaled I hit the door again so I did, only harder. The door stayed shut. I heard him curse under his breath.

“Tweety, get this damn door open,” he shouted only to regret it when several Resurrected rushed us and shoved us into large piles of trash surrounding the bus.

That masked man bounced to his feet like a rubber band. He ducked and swerved, finally planting a foot-long blade into the Resurrected’s head.

I was not so lucky to know a damn thing, let alone karate. I wrestled with the brute. Trying to deflect blows and possibly forcing the thing to hurt itself. It grabbed my throat and squeezed. I felt my breath disappear. I gasp for what was no longer there. Any plans I had were gone. I fought with the energy I rarely had but with the lack of strength, I had always had.

My arms went numb and I stopped fighting. I stared up at my attacker. It was a young fifteen-year-old female child gifted with upgraded strength, upgraded anger, and pale, lifeless eyes.

I watched as the young child, so focused on my fall and collapsed after Scotty stabbed his large knife through her head. Painful memories of my own daughter lost years prior, reappeared. The resignation… the darkness returned with a gasp of air.

Scotty pulled me to my feet. My head spun and I stumbled into the open bus door. I recovered and looked to move forward.

I heard them before I saw them. The swearing and the gruff cackling as the Baker brothers approached and stepped inside the bus.

That was until we saw a little girl standing in the chaos. She stood pipe straight and silent as Resurrected passed by to attack panicking adults.

“I understand why we are here,” Sean Baker said to me. “Why is she her?”

The only thing I could think of at the time was the girl refused to leave her family.

“She must have lost her family,” I said and began to push past the two large men.

“You are in no condition to fight these Resurrected,” Sean shot back and he was right. I had not fought anyone but myself in several years. I demonstrated my skill just a few minutes prior.

“…but this girl can’t die.” I protested. “We have to save her.”

“Listen, man” Sean replied. “You ain’t saving anyone. Leave the saving to the Baker boys and Phantom of the Opera masked man out there.

The Baker brothers, Sean followed by Andrew stepped from the bus, past Scotty, and into the mess of panic and monsters.

They dodged and weaved through the crowd of Resurrected, careful to avoid many of the survivors who were increasingly unpredictable. Without their sight, the Resurrected relied on their hearing but with the mass of bodies and screams, I imagine it was hard for them to pinpoint anyone individually. They would attack en mass any loud noise, which prompted an idea. The rear of the bus was shoved inside the bus station and served as a door into the shelter. I ran from the door through the back of the bus and into the station.

I ran to the far end of the station nearest the mob. There was a glass door, locked. I jerked the door closed in an attempt to make a noise. That only worked to catch the attention of the nearest Resurrected. It didn’t clear any from the survivors. I banged upon the glass of the station all along the side. I managed to distract a half dozen. I went back to the door. Three angry men slapped the door with their malnourished hands. They attempted to pull the door open but it was chained thoroughly. I screamed profanities as loudly as I could to try to draw more and it was moderately successful but I wasn’t thrilled with my attempts at heroism. I pulled a couple more but I watched as several more survivors fell and the young girl had disappeared from the silent island she had successfully created within the center of the mob.

Andrew and Sean Baker continued to navigate through the crowd, attempting to find this young woman. They pointed to the remaining survivors that would listen to the bus door.

I continued my mostly fruitless distraction to pull away 50-some angry, vengeful Resurrected and I continued to pull only the closest.

A door opened behind me and a quartet of guards, dressed in the same armor as the ones outside the fence, rushed from the door. Within the hands of the lead, the guard was a crude cassette and radio. This radio played a symphony of screams as loud as I had ever heard. The guards rushed past me and shoved the radio into the crack in the doorway. The noise drew a least the crowd of Resurrected to the glass walls of the bus station. I admit in the end it wasn’t the greatest idea after they began to shake the entire building.

I ran back to the bus, climbed inside, and to the bus door. Scotty, his mask gone and his face monstrously scarred stood at the door. A pair of women and a man sit on the seats of the bus. I recommended, with some choice words, that they move from the bus to the station and they obliged. I stepped out of the bus door to see the brothers, bleeding and bruised walking toward me with the young lady. Behind them the remaining two survivors. Five survivors and I stepped onto the bus and the driver closed the sliding door.

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